Blackbox.vc: Interview with Bjorn and Aleksandra

Bjoern Lasse Herrmann and Aleksandra Markova describe the Atherton, CA based incubator-house they live in (called Blackbox.vc), how it sprung out of a global network of youth entrepreneurs called Sandbox, and how a young, rural German came to meet a young, rural Russian somewhere in Washington thanks to a U.S. Government program…

Bjoern & Aleksandra
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Ulrich’s Road Trip (interview)

My (now former) roommate Ulrich describes his epic road trip from California down to the southern tip of Chile in his trusty Jeep, with a kayak mounted to his roof. The trip took over four years and included a three month pit-stop in Guatamala (“an excellent place to learn Spanish”) and six months in Panama, where Ulrich now owns a small retreat center / compound.

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My LASIK Experience: Intralase & Wavefront

Background

I grew up nearsighted pretty badly in my left eye (20/200, or -3.0) – my right eye too, but to a much lesser degree (20/35 or -1.0). I hated the idea of sticking stuff in my eye every morning and glasses didn’t appeal to me much as a kid, so I just went around with everything kind of in 2D. Sports like shotput and wrestling were obviously not too badly affected, and soccer even was not that bad (the ball is big and slow enough that parallax and ball size can give you enough cues with one eye to know where the ball is), but tennis didn’t work out so well for me. Around college I started wearing glasses as an experiment, mainly encouraged by girls who thought they framed my face nicely. And so it went for years – which mainly worked. But sometimes it’d be challenging – like when scuba diving, skydiving, snowboarding, or going to 3D movies and having to wear two sets of glasses at once. Sometimes I like to just let my nose rest and take my glasses off my face. So I started thinking about getting laser eye surgery.

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Philosophies on Living

Because stories are told from a first-person perspective, they concern themselves with the subjective truth of the observer. different observers of the same factual events are recorded as different stories with different truths. many conflicting stories can be created from the same factual observations depending on the perspective of the observers. differences cannot always be resolved through dialogue, because the difference of opinion may not result from factual disagreement but rather from observer bias.

Anger resolves little. we get angry because it suits us to do so; it allows us to express our feelings and we temporarily feel better about having a candid exchange. but angry speech does not concern itself with being understood or with conveying ideas other than pain and guilt. angry speech concerns itself only with inflicting pain. regardless of motivation or provocation then, the presence of angry speech should always be relected as a weakness of the speaker, a lack of ability to seek an appropriate resolution. anger means you’ve lost.

Assume the other is willing to listen, can be convinced, and is willing to change. Assume the other means well and wants to be a positive influence on the world. Assume everything’s going to be okay. Assume you can understand things well enough to make a difference.

Speech for speech’s sake is intellectual masturbation. Do not talk for the pleasure of talking; speak to be understood and have your ideas acted upon.

Seek to have your hypotheses invalidated – ask in all things “how am I looking at this wrong?” and quest for your foolishness as eagerly as hunting for gold. If you look for confirming evidence, you will find it, even if it is weak. If you seek to have your ideas overthrown, however, you will quickly grow in wisdom. If you aren’t regularly seeing what a fool you are, you are probably just not looking hard enough.

You Must Remember

you must remember

that every action matters

that few act deliberately

that much is decided by those who wish to decide

the world is as small as you make it

life is as pliable as you let it be

you are every bit as much a victim as you wish to be

you make a decision to be happy

an absolute decision with real impact on those around you

as a result of a relative feeling

 

you will find everything you look for in this life

you will find beauty and tragedy,

hilarity and joy and loss and bitterness.

and what you see is true, all of it,

but what you choose to meditate on,

what you choose to observe

makes the universe more of that,

so if you see the universe as cruel and immovable

 then it becomes a little more cruel and immovable

 not just for you

  but for everybody

and if you choose to see the wold as lovely and full of promise and hope

then so shall it be

 

 

You have an obligation then to see all things

  (so as not to make decisions in ignorance)

 but to be particular in the matters you reflect upon

 for it is in these things

  that you form the universe whole

   in your mind

    and make your dreams and nightmares a reality.

Premature Thoughts on Weight Loss

I’ve been losing weight for a month and have managed to shed around 12 pounds; I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’ve been happy enough with the results and have received enough good advice about the topic that I thought it would be worthwhile to share. These thoughts are “wildly premature” because hey, I haven’t lost a huge amount of weight yet or kept it off, etc, so you’re free to wholly discount everything here. I’ll post again as I’m further through the process.

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Distillation

The experience itself has a small value, providing tidbits to recall later context for other experiences.

But raw experience cannot be shared effectively – the realtime essence of another consumes and overwhelms the viewer, requiring complete attention and subsumption into the experience of the other.

So there is value in compressing the experience for digestion by others and truthfully most of the real-time is low bandwidth.

One can have several different takes on this.

One is to focus on making the realtime higher bandwidth, to have more vigorous adventures, to have deeper and more moving moments and interactions, to be – in a sense – living a movie.

But this is too much for many.

Another is to consume compressed experiences, to read and listen to stories and process the concentrated essence of the lives of others.

Another option is to accept the low bandwidth nature of life.

Finally, a Zen option is to see that which already exists with in life and pay more attention to it, to perceive it in higher bandwidth.

David’s Two and a Half SSD Bets for 2010

I’ve been following with keen interest the development of solid state drives (SSDs), which are basically really fast and reliable flash memory to use instead of the current rotating magnetic drives. Why does this matter? Well, first and foremost, they don’t rotate, which means that they don’t have any moving parts, which means they could last much longer and consume less electricity. But most importantly, the computer does not need to wait for the read/write head to either pivot to the right place on the disk or wait for the right bit of data to rotate underneath it. These two wait times are usually combined into an average “seek” time. This “seek” time has only very marginally improved in the past 20 years. It’s clear how to improve the seek time – make hard drives rotate faster (lowering average wait times for a piece of data to rotate underneath the head) and make the disk smaller, reducing the distance the head has to travel to get to a piece of data. In the past 10 years, hard drive seek times have gone from ~9ms to ~6ms while storage sizes have gone from 20GB to 1.5TB. So, 30% faster seeks and 100x more data. So we’ve hit a bit of a brick wall in terms of how long it takes to get a piece of data from a magnetic hard drive.

The real answer is to not spin, but it has been just so darn cheap to make high-density hard drives that the cost-per-byte of other solutions has not been able to hold up. And it won’t for some time to come. But, fascinatingly enough, that may not matter. Because about five years ago we hit a magic tipping point where people (generally) stopped filling up hard drives. It seems around 100GB is the magic limit for most regular computer usage. With the demand curve on storage size tapered off, it became inevitable that the solid state solutions would start catching up. And that brings us to today. Or rather, to the end of 2010, which is what my two and a half bold, related predictions address:

1) Hard drives will be gone.

Excluding backup devices, consumer computer devices will not come standard with rotating magnetic hard drives by the end of 2010.

Why? Hard drives will still be larger, but it won’t really matter for the vast majority of people, who won’t use more than about 100GB of data and don’t want to worry about losing it. Like tape, hard drives will still be around as backup media, since our last-mile broadband issues won’t be solved by 2010. At least in the US. (Backups then as now won’t commonly be done to the cloud. Even assuming regular homes will have 2mbps upstream [optimistic!] backing up 100GB of data will still take 5 solid days to complete, versus a USB 3 hard drive which could do it in 17 minutes.)

2) Windows 7 will boot in seconds.

Microsoft is secretly developing an SSD-optimized (log-structured) filesystem for Windows 7 that will allow it to boot in seconds. This will be the principal selling point of Windows 7.

Microsoft has been very clear that speed is a primary goal for their next operating system. Experience accelerating Vista with hybrid drives has given them the start of the technical chops they need to be able to deal with the unique properties of flash memory. Their touchpoints with enterprise customers and storage vendors give them clear visibility into the developments happening in the space where the inevitable domination of SSDs should be obvious. Furthermore, Microsoft would want to keep these developments quiet to avoid spurring on currently-immature Linux flash filesystems like logfs. That way when Windows 7 launches in early 2010 there will be a large performance differential between it and any other desktop operating system. The marketing message will be simple: “The power of Windows, up and running in seconds.” This will be the last straw that gets people to upgrade from Windows XP.

2b) SSDs will come bundled with a Windows 7 Upgrade.

If bet #2 above holds true, since most of the performance advantages of Windows 7 will only be realized on a computer that has a solid state drive, to upgrade effectively requires you to also swap out from XP and your magnetic drive to Windows 7 and a solid state drive. This will be a HUGE driver for SSD upgrades when Windows 7 comes out in early 2010, helping bet #1 come true by driving quantities of scale. Because Microsoft will recognize the importance of SSDs to WIndows 7’s success, they will partner with vendors to offer an affordable “upgrade bundle” that combines an XP->7 upgrade with an SSD and costs less than $500.

Conclusions from this? Short hard drive companies that don’t have an SSD play, go long on the SSD manufacturers, and expect Microsoft to drive an unprecedented number of upgrades to Windows 7 in 2010, blowing the pants off of a (let’s be frank) incredibly lackluster Vista launch.

The 10 Levels of Modern Communication

With so many different ways to communicate; which ways are more important and meaningful than others?

My coworker Joël and I were today discussing the different ways we can communicate and how “serious” each was. From lightest-weight / most innocuous to most intimate and serious, we came up with the following:

  1. Facebook poke, friending someone on Facebook
  2. Twitter @person, Facebook wall post or picture comment, MySpace comment
  3. Twitter direct message, Facebook message, MySpace message
  4. Instant message
  5. Email
  6. SMS / phone text message
  7. Attending the same event
  8. A phone or Skype conversation
  9. Meeting one-on-one
  10. Handwriting a letter
This is hopefully a helpful guide for people deciding how meaningful a communication with another person is. It’s sorted almost directly by emotional weight as well as exposure and intimacy with the other – for instance, knowing someone’s handle doesn’t expose much, but their phone number is a more personal thing (and harder to control), and a home address even more so.
It’s amazing to me that handwritten letters are effectively the most esteemed and valuable forms of communication to our generation. I probably receive a full handwritten letter in the mail about once every other year and it’s always a profound experience. In high school, I’d send and receive several a week.
It may be an interesting reflection to note that I can barely write legibly and my hand cramps now after about a paragraph. I just never use those pen muscles anymore.

MRE Review: Sopakco Chicken Pesto Pasta (5/10)

This is my first review of an MRE from the Sopakco Sure-Pak 12. I got the version without heaters.

The chicken pesto pasta was pretty good. The overall sauce was a little on the thick side and I think could have benefitted well from a little zest, tang, and/or kick. But the quality was good and the chicken tasty. The pasta was not mushy at all and the pesto aftertaste lingered nicely without being too garlicky. 6/10.

The cornbread stuffing tasted alright but the texture was a little slimy on the outside, not at either end of the fluffy (cornbread) or gooey (stuffing) ends of the spectrum. Palatable but not delicious by any stretch of the imagination. 3/10. The “Osmotic Cranberries” were delish (9/10) and the peanuts alright (5/10). The crackers and peanut butter were so thick and pasty I think they immediately corked my duodenum. Yeesh. (2/10) The instant coffee was passable. (7/10)

Overall, this was not a meal I would regularly eat for pleasure. It was passable and would fill, but doesn’t strike any particularly interesting culinary chords, if you know what I mean.

Rating: 5/10