Shooting the lava flows in Hawai’i in 4K HDR

General, Travel

I spent several hours near the volcanic lava flows in the Big Island of Hawaii. I am trying to share those videos in 4K HDR and it’s been fascinating to learn how hard it is to access today as different OSes and devices will render a different variant depending on various factors.

Here’s the 4K HDR version. If you are on a phone, open this in an app as the browser might cap out at a lower fidelity version.

And here’s the regular version to compare. If you see no difference between the two, then you are viewing them both in standard dynamic range.

Trump’s influence trick: simply evaluating a lie can make us believe it

General

If someone was to ask us, “have you ever seen a monkey wearing a pink bikini and red lipstick?”, we’d probably say no.

But to come up with the “no”, here’s the mental process we usually follow. We imagine a monkey, a pink bikini, and red lipstick. Then we check, how “hard” was it to make this association in the head. If it required some mental effort to put it together, we assume that we have never seen this before. And so we say no.

If we were asked the same question 6 months later, “have you ever seen a monkey wearing a pink bikini and red lipstick?”, we may again say no.

Now, if someone asked the same question a year later, we’d do the same mental process. But this time, it will be somewhat “easier” to imagine a monkey in a pink bikini wearing red lipstick. The readiness with which we can “recall” this image will trick our mind into saying “maybe” or even “yes”.

You see, truth requires too much chemical energy to verify. So we have come up with shortcut strategies like “time to imagine”. They mostly work, but can be easily hijacked.

If someone wants to turn us against wind power, and they make the real claims like “it requires a lot of expensive storage”, then they are speaking to our intellectual brain (System II). But this brain often has too much inertia and is harder to influence. But if someone makes an audacious claim “wind noise causes cancer”, it goes to our intuitive brain (System I). This part of our brain has no defense mechanism and offers little barriers to influence. We can’t “unsee” things.

This is how opinions can be influenced. By introducing doubt and creating new associations in our heads. The more outrageous the claim, the further deeper into “enemy lines” it can travel.

We may blame Trump, but this also just shows he really knows how people’s minds work and how media works. The Washington Post, The Hill, Newsweek, are all “working” for him. Every news outlet is actually talking to this System II inside our head and doing Trump’s bidding.

Take your favorite publication and see how they have covered this story. See the headline. If the headline contains the word “cancer”, Trump has totally played them. I am sharing this as a response to his outrageous claim. In some ways I am being played too! I’m reinforcing the wrong association he wants us all to make. This is recursive, inception-type stuff 😂

A year from now, if someone were to ask us, “do windmills cause cancer”, our gut intuitive response might be “maybe”, until our intellectual mind will step in and correct us. Associations form very easily and are hard to undo. “Windmills do not cause cancer” still doesn’t undo anything. If anything, it also reinforces the association.

Reclaiming the gender neutral meaning of “man” and “hom”

General

Today I learned that in Old English the words “wer” and “wīf” were used to refer to “a man” and “a woman” respectively while “man” meant a “human being” or “person”.

This reminded me that in Sanskrit we use the word “manus” or “manav” to refer to “human”.

And then I checked that in Latin, “manus” means “hand”.

In recent times, the generic meaning of “man” has declined (but is still continued in compounds “mankind”, etc.). The same thing has happened to the Latin word homo: in most of the Romance languages, homme, uomo, hombre, homem have come to refer mainly to males, with a residual generic meaning. The exception is Romanian, where om refers to a ‘human’, vs. bărbat (male).

We can make our language more gender neutral by accelerating the distortion of the root “man” and replacing mankind with humankind, man with person etc. We could also make our language more gender neutral by reclaiming the original meaning of the word “man”.

Thoughts?

“Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” – Martha Graham

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller

“The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.” – Jean Piaget

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.” – Confucius

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

Poznań at Sunset

Photo

Labels are very tricky to navigate, especially through the lens of history. Poznań is the chief city in the historical region called Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) which used to be at the heart of the 10th century Polish state. After more than a century of partitions between the Austrian, the Prussian, and the Russian imperial powers, Poland re-emerged as a sovereign state at the end of the First World War in Europe in 1917-1918. By then the capital of Poland was Warsaw and Greater Poland (which had now been under Prussian rule for a long time) was won back in the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918. Following the German invasion of 1939, Greater Poland was again taken over and now incorporated into Nazi Germany. Poznań was declared a German stronghold city in the closing stages of the war, being taken by the Russian army in the Battle of Poznań, which ended on 22 February 1945. Since then, Poznań has been back in what we today recognize as Poland. And this is what it looks like at sunset ☺️

Total Net Worth of US billionaires 2018

General

No real opinions here, none held strongly, just some observations I recently made about the scale of some of the numbers I was interested in, with some quick thoughts added. I couldn’t find this data easily, so I had to compile it from the list here.

US Billionaires 2018

Total Count: 585

Avg Age: 68

Median Age: 68

Avg Net Worth: $5.29B

Median Net Worth: $2.80B

Total Combined Net Worth: $3.096T

US Federal Budget

FY17 Revenue: $3.316T

FY17 Spending: $3.982T

Deficit: $(666B)

To simply put this in perspective, if the all the present billionaires in the US liquidated and gave away their entire wealth, it would:

1) Fund the US Federal spend of 2017 for 9 months

2) Fund the US Federal deficit for 4.6 years

Other things to observe

Most of the increase in wealth of the wealthy comes from investments and capital returns, and these are not subject to income tax. They are subject to capital gains tax, which after 1 yr of holding assets are limited to 20%.

As an example, if you had enough cash lying around that you could bet on cryptocurrencies when they were just a fad, you could’ve made 1000+% return on your investment in 2-3 yrs, yet paid only 20% tax on it. In fact, the average return on a class of crypto investments made in 2017 was a whopping 136,000 percent. Yes, those are 3 zeroes. Yet, you’d only owe 20% capital gains tax on that, regardless of your income level or net worth.

On less volatile assets, if you had $1bn invested in the S&P 500 in 2013, by the end of that year, it would’ve grown to $1.3bn. So you’d have earned $300M in one year, just with the capital you had lying around. And regardless of your total net worth or your income level, you’d just pay a capital gains tax of $20% on it.

These are some ways how the rich keep getting disproportionately richer.

Not leaving things unsaid can be a good strategy

General

We were once stuck in a snowstorm. It was pretty bad. We knew there was a big chance we wouldn’t make it. We had time to confront the situation and talk about it. And we both said that we had no regrets in life, there was nothing left unsaid, nothing left undone, and we were ready for the end if that’s what this was going to be. It was an interesting way to feel validation for the habits and values we have tried to have.

A strategy for always maintaining space for the self

General

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by competing priorities and obligations and when we can no longer find time to reflect we can end up in a reactive mode. I have tried to counter that by creating habits and have lately ended up in a scheduling practice that looks like this:

I block out my schedule for the beginning of the day, the week, the month and the year. Creating that space helps me make sure that I’m listening to myself clearly. And it also gives me the clarity and focus to prioritize and make progress on things that are of the highest value to me.

This ensures that my actions and work come from a place of assuredness and confidence and I don’t feel like I am putting things off that need attention for too long.

E.g I spent the first day of this year alone, by myself, in the Russian Tundra, and got lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. It was a very rejuvenating and energizing experience and the perfect way to start the year!

Offsetting CO2 from flights

Travel

So if you are a frequent flyer types, here’s some quick back of the envelope math.

About 50k miles a year usually corresponds to gold status with most airline programs (star alliance, skyteam etc). I haven’t done any rigorous calculations yet but it appears that flying that much would generate about 13 tons of CO2. Now offsetting your footprint is ridden with a lot of moral questions and arguments that I am not going to get into. But it seems to cost about $10-$25 to offset 1 ton of CO2. So if you fly 50k miles a year, that’s about $200/yr to offset it all, give or take. Put another way, a single San Francisco to London round trip will be about 3 ton of CO2, offsetting which will cost around $50.

So in general, for about 5% of your economy ticket price, you can do some good that kinda seems to even out among some dimensions you choose.

I don’t know of good options to do that but I ended up using GoldStandard just to try it out in case anyone is interested. And if someone knows some other offsetting resources they like, please share!

When I almost lost my hand

Travel

For those who were following along at the time, it’s been 5yrs now since I almost lost my right hand!

For those who came in later, here’s what happened. This may be a little graphic so please only continue if such content doesn’t bother you.

I caught an infection in Tanzania that started developing symptoms on my flight to India. But I went straight to a wedding first, which is the main reason I had flown to India that day ☺️

Next morning my hand was very swollen and it hurt very bad – like a semi truck had just run over it. I also started to develop a fever. Went to the doctor who said I needed to be operated on right away.

8hrs later I was on the operating table inside a hospital in Mumbai, under general anesthesia, and the surgeon made an incision in my hand and drained all the pus and then closed it up. That was the easy part. 🤞

We didn’t know what the infection was and my fever raged on. My hand hurt like hell. And every 6-8hrs they had to remove the bandages, stuff a bunch of gauze and cotton deep into the hand cavity and squeeze out the pus like we squeeze out toothpaste. There was no anesthesia involved in this step. It helped me understand pain, my thresholds for pain and offered me a great opportunity to practice integrating into discomfort rather than fearing it. I remember how traumatizing those days were – to feel the pain, to know that more is coming at regular intervals, and the powerlessness around it. Also in an interesting way, I think my family was affected more by it then I was. I was never shrinking or crying or squirming during the procedure. I had mostly resigned to it and was mostly detached from it. Mostly! 😛

4 days later we got the culture results and the right antibiotic started to work. My fever was finally coming down and I could think again. But my hand still was no where close to healed. I could see raw flesh and the deep cavity every time the bandage was taken out. I didn’t think that was ever going to heal. Funny the narratives our brain can tell us 😆 I had to leave my hand raised in a sling to avoid accumulation of fluids. I started doing my tasks and working on my laptop etc with my left hand. I had accepted a future where I didn’t have use of my right hand and had simply moved on. (And you guessed it right, I’m right handed 🤓)

After a month of daily change of bandages and cleaning, I was amazed at how much the body starts to heal. The cavity was closing in, new flesh had formed. And I was also able to finally close my fist again. It then took me 1yr of physical therapy to get my grip back. And now, after 5 yrs all I have left is a scar and memories!

Lesson learned: don’t pluck feathers off dead flamingoes 🦢 😇

I just took an ECG on my Apple Watch

General

My Apple Watch ⌚️ got a software update this weekend and now I can take ECGs on it. Looks like it’s already saving lives:

“Fine I walk in and sign in. They ask what’s wrong and I’m embarrassed. ‘Ok so there is a new watch feature….hahaha….I’m silly but can we check this?”

“I did not know that this comment was a quick queue pass for Patient First. I’m taken right back and hooked up. The technician looks at the screen and says “I’m going to get the doctor”

“Doctor comes in, looks at the screen, looks at me and says “You should buy Apple stock. This probably saved you. I read about this last night and thought we would see an upswing this week. I didn’t expect it first thing this morning.”

It was so easy to set up and worked so flawlessly. Apple’s still got it 🙂