Friday, December 07, 2018

So About My Prediction Last Year That Bitcoin At $16,000 Was Ripe For A Crash

A year ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "Bye Bye Bitcoin Bubble", in which I compared the popular cryptocurrency to prison mackerel, and wrote:

"As I write this, Bitcoin just past (sic) $16,000 in value.  I would bet any amount of money that on December 7, 2018, the price of Bitcoin will be below that value."

The blog post made the rounds on HackerNews and Twitter, and a variety of people sprang up offering to bet me money.

I frantically tried to find a lawyer to help me structure the bets, and finally found a Las Vegas firm with expertise in gambling law AND cryptocurrency to confirm that I could do so legally.  At that point, I went back to the people who said they wanted to bet me.  This was weeks later, and Bitcoin had already dropped to around $13,000.  No one was willing to place any bets, though no one cited the price of Bitcoin for their decision to not follow through.

Sadly, rather than being $50,000 richer (the amount I was willing to bet) all I can do is take an Internet victory lap and say, "I was SO right, and you were SO wrong."

Here were the people who responded to my original tweet with Bitcoin bullishness and criticisms of my intelligence:
@BitcoinBhoy @Hodlayheehoo @dbrizzy80 @georgepf84 @tracyarciaga

Here are people who expressed interest in betting but never followed through:
@qihu00 @ericsports @Bitcoin_Shill

Here are people I DMed with about betting, but never actually was able to bet with:

  • @jimmysong, who went the farthest towards making a bet with me, but ultimately didn't
  • @cryptocharlesh who was willing to make a longbets.org bet with me (which I was unwilling to do because I wanted to make money, not donate to charity)
  • @haralabob, who was game, but who is really rich and wasn't interested in a mere $10,000 bet.

Same for @scottwalker99, who immediately offered to bet me $1,000,000, but wasn't interested once I capped bets at $10,000 per person.

I want to give a special final mention to @allnewsfor, who wrote: "Btw the internet will remember if you are too scared to back up your empty words with action"

I hope that applies to those who refused to bet me as well!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How I Think About Christine Blasey Ford's Accusation Against Brett Kavanaugh

I have witnessed a lot of men (and curiously enough, no women) in my social circles, including a number of good friends, saying that the Senate should not consider Christine Blasey Ford's accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh held her down, groped her, and tried to take her clothes off in 1982, when she was 15 and he was 17.  To save some time, I'm going to lay out what I think here in what I hope is a balanced and open-minded manner.  Of course, this being social media, I suspect things will go off the rails, but I feel an obligation to try:

1. The core issue here is the question of whether or not to believe a claim of attempted sexual assault. (Note that the accepted legal definition of sexual assault includes groping, even through clothing; penetration is not required for sexual assault to occur.)

2. Research indicates that the rate of false accusations of sexual assault are between 2-6%, roughly in line with all other crimes.  (Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/false-sexual-violence-assault-rape-allegations-truth-rare-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-a8077876.html)  So the baseline is that allegations of sexual assault should generally be considered credible.  This is not a presumption of guilt; clearly, crimes should be tried in a court of law.

3. I have had at least one friend who was false charged with sexual harassment; fortunately, he was able to prove that the allegations were false, concocted by a male professional rival who wanted to harm his career.  I have had a number of other friends who were charged and admitted to their behavior.  I feel badly for them and their families, because these admissions severely impacted their finances and careers, but the charges were true.  One friend is currently accused I think the acccusations are exaggerated and likely false, but he did employ others who may have acted in ways that were borderline at best.  My personal experience is, that even in Silicon Valley, which is about as left-leaning a places as you can find, the majority powerful men who are accused of harassing behavior tend to end up confessing.

4. The circumstances of the current situation magnify the stakes.  Any woman who charged a potential Supreme Court Justice with sexual assault could expect to face a gantlet of private investigators, attacks from the press aligned with whatever part the nominee belonged to, not to mention deranged attacks and death threats on social media.  Note that this kind of partisan attack is employed by both sides; the liberal press allowed Bill Clinton to get away with sexual assault because he was on their "side."  A number of so-called feminists defended behavior on his part that they would otherwise mercilessly attack, simply because of political expediency and partisanship.  Given the high costs of making such an accusation, it doesn’t seem likely that a woman would do so lightly.

5. The fact that the accuser is an anti-Trump activist, wore a p---y hat, and marched against Trump, simply puts her in the majority of educated women in the Bay Area.  I doubt that many of those women would be willing to lodge a false accusation simply for political reasons.  Conversely, if those characteristics would lead a woman to lodge a false accusation, why is there only one accuser?

6. The fact that there were two boys in the room and both denied the incident doesn't mean that it didn't happen.  It doesn’t seem likely that the alleged criminals would be eager to confess.  This logic would seem to imply that if a woman is alone with more than one man, and she accuses them of assault, and none of the men confess, that the world should consider her testimony false simply because 2+ > 1. I don’t think that is a logical or persuasive argument, and it is also the plot of the movie “The Accused”.

7. It’s also important to note that the other man alleged to be in the room, Mark Judge, is a conservative writer whose work has appeared in The Daily Caller and The American Spectator, and who wrote a book, “Wasted” about his life as a teenage alcoholic.  From a political perspective, this means he would tend to support conservative causes, and that as an alcoholic, his memories of those times could be considered suspect.

8. Christine Blasey Ford described the sexual assault during a session with her therapist in 2012.  Those notes record that Blasey Ford described being attacked by students from “an elitist boy’s school” who later became "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington."  Her therapist’s notes from 2013 indicate that Blasey Ford felt she was still dealing with a “rape attempt” from her teenaged years.  Blasey Ford’s husband Russell Ford has said that in 2017, she named Kavanaugh as the main perpetrator, and expressed concern that he might someday be nominated to the Supreme Court.  In other words, there is written evidence and corroborating testimony that Blasey Ford had been talking with others about the incident long before the nomination process.

9. Some people criticizing Blasey Ford for not reporting the incident to her parents at the time.  That strikes me as the logical action for a gilr to take in 1982.  She managed to escape, and she had little to gain by admitting to her parents that she had been at a party with older boys who had been drinking.  In 1982, reporting that a drunken boy held you down, groped you, and might have eventually raped you had you not managed to escape, would be unlikely to prompt any action by law enforcement.  Today, things are different, and I think that is a good thing.

10. Some people are arguing that the statue of limitation on sexual assault has expired in this case.  They are correct.  The statutes of limitations for sexual assault in the state of Maryland are as follows: before an underaged victim turns 25 for civil actions, 1 year for misdemeanor sexual assault, no limit for felony sexual assault.  Unless this was considered felony assault (which it doesn’t seem to be under Maryland guidelines) there is no basis for criminal action.  However, Brett Kavanaugh is not being tried in a criminal court, and is not facing punishment or jail time.  The question, rather, is whether he should be confirmed to a lifetime appointment as a Supreme Court Justice.  Statutes of limitation do not apply.

11. Blasey Ford contacted the Washington Post, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, and Senator Dianne Feinstein in July.  She had already decided not to come forward for many of the reasons I described above when the story leaked that Feinstein had a letter which she was not sharing with her fellow Democrats.  After her accusations became public, she decided she had nothing to lose from coming forward.  Her actions are not "last minute."

12. It is possible that Feinstein held on to this letter to unveil it as a “September Surprise” to derail the nomination.  That is uncivil, but not illegal, and does not have any bearing on the validity of the accusations.  It’s a cynical but savvy political power play, much like the nuclear option (first invoked by Democrats during the Obama Administration), or refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland (Mitch McConnell's action, which allowed the appointment of Neil Gorsuch).

13. Kavanaugh had 60 people write in support of his character.  The alumnae of Blasey Ford’s school are producing a letter in her support with even more signatories.  Neither is dispositive; they are simply PR moves.

To summarize:
• Yes, Democrats are playing politics.
• However, the base rate on sexual assault accusations, and the circumstances involved, lead me to conclude that the accusation is credible
• The Senate should hold hearings on this topic.  If the administration doesn’t think it can get Kavanaugh confirmed, it should pick a different nominee (probably a woman).  This accusation is about Kavanaugh; the administration has the ability to nominate other candidates and get a different Federalist Society-approved justice confirmed.

The core questions I’d ask those who want to ignore the Blasey Ford accusation are the following:
• If the accusation was true, would you vote to confirm?  If so, say so publicly and explain your position.
• Do you believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Blasey Ford is lying, especially given the prior written notes?
• Do you believe that, in general, sexual assault accusations against men in America are generally truthful?
• If your daughter was 15, would you leave her alone at a party with an intoxicated 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh?

I think there’s enough doubt here that either the Senate should hold hearings about the Blasey Ford accusation, or the Trump administration should pick another nominee.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Just Start

The following two arguments are both plausible approaches to accomplishing something:

1) Just start working, and figure it out along the way.
2) Make a plan, and work on the important things.

There are times when "just start" works best, and there are times when "make a plan" works best.

But I'd be willing to bet that in the majority of cases, "just start" delivers better results than "make a plan."

We all have a natural tendency to procrastinate, and "make a plan" feeds into it.

How many people have you known who make careful plans about how they're going to start going to the gym or change their diet to lose weight?  And how many of those people succeeded?

It's far too easy to look up yet another article on the internet, or to spend time researching which tool to buy.

If you can clearly articulate why making a plan would be better, and it's a airtight case, go ahead.  But make sure you set a time limit on your planning.

But in most cases, you should just start.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Awareness, Control, and Acceptance

We're often tempted to ignore our animal nature.  In our hubris, we believe that our culture and habits trump the billions of years of evolution that have led to this point.

That's a mistake.

As individuals, we're better off acknowledging our animal nature, not to blindly accept it, but to make conscious decisions about how to manage it.

For example, our modern life is very different when it comes to awareness, control, and acceptance of the world around us.

For most of human history, we lived in small bands.  The only people we ever encountered were the people in our immediate surroundings.  This meant that awareness, control, and acceptance were clear and aligned.

Awareness: I'm aware of the things I can see, smell, and touch in my immediate surroundings.
Control: I can control the things that I can reach with my hands.
Acceptance: The things I can't reach with my hands, like the clouds that bring rain, are the province of gods and spirits, over whom my control is limited, and whose vagaries I must simply accept.

Contrast that with our modern world.

Awareness: I'm aware of everything I read on the Internet or see on television.  I know the intimate details of the lives of people I'll never meet, and events in places I'll never visit.
Control: I can communicate with anyone in the world, and can theoretically influence far more people than I could ever meet face to face.
Acceptance: I have the ability, and hence the responsibility, to be aware of every thing that is happening in the world, and to express an opinion and take action about it (even if it's just a hashtag).

The issue is clear.  In comparison to the world for which we've evolved, our awareness is vastly greater, and we have the possibility of control, which means that unless we consciously think about it, we lack acceptance.

This may be one of the reasons that the religious tend to be happier in modern society; they at least have a doctrine that leads them to greater acceptance of the world around them.

But leaving everything in the hands of spirits and gods is also a suboptimal approach.  As George Bernard Shaw put it, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."  (Per our modern society, I should note that a contemporary version would say "reasonable man or woman")  Progress often depends on a lack of acceptance, even though in most cases, that lack of acceptance causes discontent and unhappiness in those who feel it.

You should make conscious decisions about what to accept, and what to attempt to change.  For example, if you oppose the actions of the Trump administration, you don't have to accept it, but you do have to make a conscious decision about what you will do if you attempt to change it, whether it is donating to get out the vote efforts in battleground states, or a more personal effort.

Even when you make these conscious decisions, you may end up disappointed.  The world doesn't guarantee that it will fix all your problems (even if presidential candidates sometimes do).  But you'll be able to soothe that disappointment by knowing that you evaluated your options and chose the course of action that had the best chance of effecting change, rather than blindly accepting the world as it is, or simply feeling discontented and not doing something about it.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Doing the Impossible

I'm a realist.  I only set out to do the impossible when I know, based on past experience, that I can do it.

What amazes me are the people who set out to do the impossible without any basis for their confidence.  They usually fail, but on those few occasions when they succeed, they can change the world.

To quote the famous Apple commercial, "Here's to the crazy ones...."

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Trump Cheat Code

Old-school videogames often had a cheat code--a special sequence of actions that, when entered, would make your game avatar invincible.  Cheat codes weren't particularly sporting, but they made it much easier to win a game.

Donald Trump has found a cheat code for our current national politics, and he seems content to use it every week.

Here's the cheat code:

Donald Trump has targeted a specific group of voters who resent and distrust the mainstream media.  This means that when that media criticizes him, those voters loyalty to him increases.

The reason this is a cheat code is that while it is very hard to get good publicity, it is trivially easy to get bad publicity.  All it takes is a single threatening tweet to spark several days of critical covfefe--er, coverage.

When Donald Trump threatens North Korea or Iran, or seems to offer sympathy to white supremacists, he sparks a wave of (justified) criticism that just seems to make him more popular with his base.

The side effect is horrendous geopolitical risk, but that doesn't seem to deter Donald Trump one iota.

I believe that the best way to invalidate this cheat code is to focus the criticism of Donald Trump on concrete, pocketbook issues that directly affect his supporters.  It is easy for them to support Donald Trump when his actions harm others, or cause harm in the future.  It will be harder for them to support him when, say, his trade war with China causes massive layoffs in their town.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Trust Makes Our Lives Better

On America's Independence Day, it's worth considering the role of trust and distrust.

Distrust caused the British government to pass laws to better control its colonies.

Distrust caused a political contest to turn into a shooting war.

Trust allowed the various states to come together.

Trust allowed the Americans to grant George Washington the power to fight that war...and Washington repaid that trust by preventing a mutiny by his underpaid, underappreciated army.

One of my wishes for my country is that its various factions find ways to trust each other...and live up to that trust.

When we don't trust each other, opposing sides become extremists.

To me, this is clearest when it comes to the issue of gun control, but the same applies to abortion.

In the case of gun control, the pro-gun-ownership forces try to fight almost any regulation, fearing that any compromise will eventually lead to gun confiscation.

In the case of abortion, the pro-abortion forces try to fight any restriction on abortion, fearing that any compromise will weaken Roe v. Wade and lead to prohibition.

The same dynamic applies to the opposite side of both these issues.

I think that many, if not most Americans, like me, would prefer compromise to extremism.  But the more the opposing sides distrust each other, the more extreme their rhetoric and actions, the more they distrust each other, the more intractable the problem becomes.

I don't believe that polarization inevitably increases.  In American history, we have often been at loggerheads, including the Civil War, but we have always come back together.  As we celebrate Independence Day, I think a worthy way to honor those who have fought and sacrificed for our freedom is to try to build a nation that they would want their heirs to live in, rather than engaging in behavior that ends up trying to pull it apart.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Principled Argument for 2nd Amendment Rights

I tend to be a supporter of increased gun legislation.  I don't own a gun, I didn't grow up with guns, and I don't believe I've ever even held a gun or been present when one was fired.  So from a practical and personal standpoint, I would prefer to minimize private gun ownership.

However, I also recognize that there are other legitimate points of view.  I've often engaged in conversations with friends who are staunch defenders of their Second Amendment rights.  These are smart, thoughtful people, and their arguments go far beyond the standard arguments that I find easy to discount (e.g. guns make us safer, guns are necessary to prevent a totalitarian government).

One of these friends, who has to remain anonymous because expressing his opposition to gun control threatens his livelihood (he has lost clients and business over such political disagreements, and thus his wife has asked him to refrain from jumping into the fray), recently made a very compelling argument, which I will share here.

This argument hasn't persuaded me to change my mind about my preferences, but it illustrates how it is possible to have a principled and rational argument for Second Amendment rights.

Every day, an average of 10 Americans die because of a wholly preventable evil.  That's about 3,500 unnecessary deaths every year.  About 1 in 5 of the victims are children, aged 14 and under.  This affliction disproportionately kills African-Americans, who are affected 5.5 to 10 times as frequently as whites.

What is this plague on our society?  Water recreation.

Most of these deaths occur in swimming pools, though a majority of adult drowning deaths occur in rivers, lakes, and oceans.  Aside from am extremely small number of deaths attributable to those with seizure disorders drowning in bathtubs, these deaths were the result of people voluntarily deciding to put themselves in harm's way.

Amazingly, water recreation likely accounts for the loss of more innocent American lives than guns.

In 2015, the CDC recorded 13,286 gun homicides.  This is much higher than the number of drownings, but doesn't account for the little-reported fact that the vast majority of victims of gun violence have a criminal record.

There isn't a lot of research on this topic (partly due to the NRA's efforts to de-fund such research), but I was able to find a couple of articles from mainstream sources (e.g. not right-wing propaganda) that cite the homicide data recorded by the City of Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission is a non-partisan government organization that includes community organizations on its executive committee.  Its goal is to identify and recommend ways to reduce the homicide rate in Milwaukee, and where implemented, its methods have been shown to reduce homicides 52% (versus 9.2% in control sites).  Its Founding Director, Dr. Mallory O'Brien, is an epidemiologist who has worked on violent injury prevention for nearly 25 years, including at Harvard and Duke, and has received awards from the FBI and Department of Justice.  In other words, if we can trust any data, it is the MHRC's data.  You can read more about the organization, including its detailed reports and data, here:
http://city.milwaukee.gov/hrc

The MHRC data shows that between 2012 and 2015 (the most recent four years of data), between 76% and 85% of homicide victims had a criminal history (2012: 80%, 2013: 76%, 2014: 86%, 2015: 83%).  In 2011, 62% of homicide victims (gun or otherwise) had at least six prior arrests.

While Milwaukee is not necessarily representative of the entire country, the general narrative is that innocent victims of gun violence are more likely to live in urban centers where they might get caught up in a criminal crossfire.  For the sake of argument, let's just simplify and assume that 75% of gun homicide victims have a criminal history.

It's important to note that no one "deserves" to be killed, and that some people who have criminal histories are the victims of biased or otherwise flawed police work.  According to the FBI, 73.5 million Americans have been arrested for a felony at some point in their lives, which represents a little under 23% of the U.S. population.  I doubt that all of those people are career criminals.

However, it is also the case that the majority of Americans have never been arrested (including me, and probably you).  If we apply the 75% figure to the CDC gun homicide data, we can extrapolate that about gun violence claims the lives of about 3,300 "innocent" (i.e. no criminal history) Americans each year.

In other words, if you are an American that does not have a criminal history, swimming pools and water recreation are probably a bigger threat to your life than gun homicide.  (Unfortunately, I do not have data on what proportion of drowning victims have a criminal history to make it a true, apples-to-apples comparison.)

One could reasonably make the argument that if we are willing to tolerate about 3,500 drowning deaths per year as a necessary price to pay for enjoying swimming and other water recreation, that we might also be willing to tolerate the 3,300 innocent gun homicide victims per year as a necessary price for Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

I still support reducing the prevalence of guns in the United States (our gun murder rate is 25X that of a basket of 22 similarly-wealthy nations), largely because I don't have any personal reason to value gun ownership, but it's worth considering how you would feel if you heard that the government was going to criminalize swimming pool ownership, or prohibit the use of recreational boats?  Would you fight for your rights, even though you knew that exercising those rights led to additional deaths each year?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Why America Is Lucky Donald Trump Was Elected President

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of President Donald Trump.  I think that he is lazy, ignorant, incompetent, and as a result, a danger to our country and our world.  But I think it is entirely possible that we may someday look back upon his election as lucky accident that strengthened the United States of America.

What do I mean?

In a word, Donald Trump is cowpox.

In the late 18th century, smallpox was one of the deadliest plagues that humanity had ever faced.  Smallpox was so deadly that it is estimated that it accounted for 10% of all deaths, and over 20% on cities where it more easily spread.  Even those that survived were often disfigured for life.

Oddly enough, however, one group of people seemed to be immune: milkmaids.

The British physician Edward Jenner hypothesized that the milkmaids were resistant to smallpox because many of them contracted cowpox, a much less virulent and deadly disease, from the cows that they milked.

In 1796, he tested this hypothesis by inoculating his gardener's eight-year-old son, James Phipps, with cowpox pus from a milkmaid named Sarah Nelmes, who had in turn had been infected by a cow called Blossom.  After Phipps developed, then recovered from a mild fever, Jenner exposed him to smallpox and found that he too had become immune to the disease.  To prove the efficacy of his approach, Jenner made 20 different attempts to infect Phipps with smallpox, all fortunately unsuccessful.

Being used as a guinea pig for experiments with the most deadly disease known to man seems like it would be beyond the call of duty for a doctor's gardener, let alone his young son, but Jenner did end up giving James Phipps, then grown, and his wife and children a rent-free lease, so there is that.  When he was 34, Phipps attended Jenner's funeral in Gloucestershire.

Donald Trump is cowpox--a messy but non-fatal infection that may end up inoculating the country against a far greater threat.

Donald Trump is a terrible president, but thanks to his remarkable incompetence, he has inflicted relatively little harm on the country.  Yes, he has encouraged racists and bigots, discriminated against Muslims, wreaked havoc on long-standing bipartisan projects like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, largely because of his complete lack of understanding of and regard for truth and complexity.  He has had a corrosive effect on political discourse, both because he has no regard for traditions and norms, and because the hatred he has engendered in his enemies has caused many of them to become deranged themselves, and to traffic in the sort of hyper-partisan truthiness that ought to inspire disgust in all.

But, at least to this point, he has not caused irreparable harm.  The only actions he has taken which cannot be undone by a future president are to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (a fact, which, while maddening to Democrats and constitutional scholars alike, should rightly be attributed to Mitch McConnell) and to sign a tax bill (which should rightly be attributed to Paul Ryan).  And these actions are both actions than any Republican president should be expected to take, and which Trump did not assist, but rather generally hindered.  As for his various executive actions, one might disagree with his chosen appointees (many of whom are incompetent and/or corrupt) or policies (many of which seem to ignore reason), but he is well within his constitutional rights to make these choices.  Our republic works because we should all respect the process, even if we disagree with the results.  Many of those who rage against the imperial presidency as wielded by Trump were conspicuously quieter when Barack Obama made policy via executive order, a tradition which stretches back to the dawn of our nation.

If you want to see a true case of smallpox, turn your eyes to Russia, which is holding its presidential election today.  After the inevitable results come in, Vladimir Putin will have won another six-year term, which means that A) Putin will have ruled Russia for this entire millennium to date, having taken over for Boris Yeltsin on December 31, 1999 and B) he will be in striking distance of Josef Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union from roughly 1927 (when he removed his rival Trotsky from the Central Committee) to his death in 1953.  And while the Russian constitution prohibits Putin from running again, I will happy bet money that when 2024 rolls around, if Putin is still in power, the Russian constitution will be amended to remove that barrier.

In comparison to Donald Trump's cowpox, Vladimir Putin is true smallpox--virulent and deadly.  Trump blasts his enemies on Twitter with impotent threats; Putin has them assassinated with deadly poisons.  Trump's cronies try to enrich themselves with favorable treatment; Putin simply takes what he wants, and if an oligarch defies him, has him arrested and his property confiscated.

The rise of Donald Trump demonstrates that today's electorate is susceptible to the charismatic appeal of a would-be authoritarian "virus," but his election is the very thing that is producing the antibodies to help us fight off future infections.  I would argue that you can trace a direct line from Donald Trump's election to a host of social changes such as #MeToo and #BoycottNRA and the fall of figures such as Harvey Weinstein.

If we had elected an American Putin in 2016, things might very well be very different.  We should remember that America is far less vulnerable to a would-be dictator than Russia in 1999.  Among other things, America is the world's longest-lasting democratic nation, with a centuries-long history of rejecting would-be tyrants like Huey Long and Joseph McCarthy.  In contrast, Russia has experienced roughly eight years of democracy during its entire existence.  But I'd rather not take that chance.

America is lucky that Donald Trump was elected president.  He has exposed the hidden racism, sexism, and authoritarian leanings that have always been there, and the country will be stronger for it long after he has left the Oval Office, thanks to an energized and activist citizenry.

Background Reading:
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Jenner
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Putin

Monday, January 29, 2018

Be Civil

Regardless of where people lie on the political spectrum (graph?), one thing I find remarkably unappealing is when people treat those who disagree with them with angry contempt.

Since doing so doesn't persuade or change minds, I fear that people behave that way because deep down they don't believe in their own worth, and feel the need to belittle others to make those feelings go away.

This is a vicious cycle; pretty soon, the only way people can feel good about themselves is to fight with others.  And that means, paradoxically, that someone who behaves in this way craves two audiences: Those who agree and reinforce their bad behavior, and those who disagree and provide fodder for a self-esteem boosting fight.

If you agree with my take, I believe the right response is to model civil behavior, even when you are attacked.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Selfish and Giving

One of the paradoxes of my personality, which I think is actually a strength, is that I'm selfish and giving.

I'm selfish in that I'm quite aware of my self-interest, and frequently take actions to better my self-interest.

I'm giving in that I genuinely want to help people, and are quite happy to share my good fortune with the people in my life.

This combination may seem paradoxical, but I would argue is stronger than either trait alone.

The purely selfish are experts at losing friends and alienating people.  The purely giving are often pushovers who destroy their own lives.

By balancing selfishness and generosity, I seek ways to create massive value, but am then willing to share it with the deserving.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Email Product Ideas: Inbox100 and InboxNow

Random Product Idea #1: Inbox100.  It's an email inbox where it has a hard upper limit of 100 messages.  Once you hit 100 messages, until you archive or delete some current messages, no new emails come in.  This forces you to deal with emails rather than allowing them to pile up.  And the instant you deal with emails, you get the positive reinforcement of seeing new emails appear.  You would probably still need to allow the user to search emails, even the ones not being shown, so that the user could look for super-important, super-urgent emails.

This leads me to Random Product Idea #2: InboxNow.  It's an email inbox where it only shows messages that are less than 12 hours old (because presumably you have to sleep).  This forces you to deal with emails rapidly, or they disappear.