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 ☺️

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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 🙂

Finding the Beauty in Failure

General, Travel

Elevation: 10,600ft / 3,200m

Standing just below the summit of Mt Hood in Oregon, we are looking up at the climbers making the final approach. This is one of my favorite pictures. This is a picture of me not summitting Mt. Hood in Oregon.

We had been training for the whole season. Mt Hood is an excellent training hike for other higher, glaciated climbs in the area. We drove up from Seattle and arrived at the trail-head at 10pm. Then we slept in the car. We woke up at 2am. It was very very windy and quite cold. We started going up at about 3am. Alpine start. My body was cold. I was very exhausted and sleepy. And every part of my being told me to get back in the car, turn on the heat and sleep till sunrise. But the right thing is often larger than us.

So ice axe in hand, crampons on our shoes, we commenced climbing on the icy incline. It was steep. A very perfect mountain in many ways. If I was asked to draw a mountain when I was 3, this is what I would have drawn. Straight inclined edges. Ending with a nice tip on the top.

At 5:30am we paused for a bit. The light was beginning to break over the horizon. It was beautiful. Surreal.

We continued climbing, and we finally reached this spot. 4,400ft / 1,300m of climbing on full deep snow.

This was just below the bergschrund. It was dangerous to continue. It was too icy. And too busy. Too many people. One slip by you or someone else and you could go tumbling down the gully.

To continue we’d have to rope up. We didn’t have time. We had to get back down in time to meet some friends for brunch at noon in Portland. And we had absolutely no cellular network. So we couldn’t get in touch and let them know we would be late. So we decided to turn around.

We had failed at our original goal of summitting. But we got the gift of extra time to enjoy this spot. It was awesome. You could smell the sulphur mixed with the icy alpine air. It’s an active volcano. And that’s when I took this photograph using my 70-200mm lens.

Coming back down was fun. And we made it to brunch on time. We were exhausted. And had built up an appetite. And the food tasted delicious.

We sometimes focus so much on the end goal, we forget to notice all the gifts we receive along the way. Almost never is a failure a dead-end. It always opens an opportunity for something else. If we can adapt, adjust our goals, then we may end up turning failures into cherished successes.

I am glad I didn’t summit Mt Hood that day. I was able to shoot one of my favorite pictures as a result. The mountain still stands. And I’m still alive.

That time we lost our giraffe at Quickbooks Connect

General

We had our giraffe over at Quickbooks Connect 2018. Everyone loved it and it ended up all the happy hours and after parties as well.

Then one night we lost it an it disappeared. But next morning this tweet helped us find it. It was passed out on the sidewalk 😂

The last night it was back at an after party, making new friends. Last we saw it, it was at the dance floor. And then we lost it again.

This time, it’s nowhere to be found! We decided to offer a reward to anyone that can find it. We are still waiting on leads.

The cost of American Retreat

General
Protests at the San Francisco airport against the “Muslim Ban” in 2016

 

I moved to the United States because it inspired me. No where else in the world did I find the security, equality and opportunity to positively impact the world that the United States provides. Something I still entirely believe today, which is why I have made this my home. When I moved here, I was impressed by the humility of the Americans I met. They were self critical and had the objectivity to focus on continuing to improve the system. This was refreshing. Where I came from, there was not much civic engagement, and people complained without taking much initiative to actually do anything.

However, many of my American friends nowadays have become more cynical than ever, focusing entirely on the negatives and have lost the appreciation for all the good this system has brought to the world. Countless people around the world (including me) have come out of poverty and exploitation because of the American system of liberalism and economics. Yes, the United States has been involved in some really bad situations and has caused great harm in many instances. But there’s absolutely no doubt that it has been a net positive influence on the world as measured by most metrics we all care about.

We may not realize this but cynicism is often a sign of privilege. If we can afford to be cynical, maybe we haven’t experienced how bad and unfair life can be without the imperfect systems we criticize. And maybe we have less to lose regardless of the course we take. Before we promote huge course corrections, or propose booting the current orders in favor of alternative systems, we have to do the research to understand humans, to recognize that we are flawed, acknowledge that no system is ever going to be perfect, and that it’s a function of the fundamental nature of reality itself, not due to a lack of effort or foresight.

Many of us Americans like to believe that we are some of the most ignorant people in the world. This is good self-deprecating humor, but this is actually not true at all. We can’t keep criticizing ourselves while incorrectly idealizing everyone else. That actually makes us dumb. There’s ignorance everywhere. But an ignorant farmer in India has less impact on the world than an unfairly self-critical American. So the burden is very high on us here to understand the harm we bring by our cynicism, and our actions and inactions.

Quotes from the article below:

“The dra­matic change of course af­ter 1945 was not due to some sud­den tri­umph of our bet­ter an­gels or em­brace of En­light­en­ment prin­ci­ples that had been around for cen­turies, nor was it the nat­ural un­fold­ing of Uni­ver­sal His­tory in the di­rec­tion of lib­er­al­ism. Lib­eral ideals tri­umphed be­cause, for the first time, they had power be­hind them. A new player arose on the in­ternational scene: the United States. It pos­sessed a unique and ad­van­ta­geous ge­og­ra­phy, a large, pro­duc­tive pop­u­la­tion, un­prece­dented eco­nomic and mil­i­tary power, a na­tional ide­ol­ogy based on lib­eral prin­ci­ples, and a will­ing­ness, af­ter the war, to use its power to es­tab­lish and sus­tain a global or­der roughly con­sis­tent with those prin­ci­ples.”

“The ar­chi­tects of the new or­der were not utopian ide­al­ists. They be­lieved in the in­her­ent sin­ful­ness of hu­mans, the com­pet­i­tive­ness of na­tions and the ten­dency of all or­ders to col­lapse. They had stared into the abyss and seen the depths to which hu­mankind could fall. They knew the world they cre­ated would be flawed and costly to de­fend, but they be­lieved an im­per­fect lib­eral or­der was bet­ter than none at all.”

“We tend to view the decades af­ter 1945 through the lens of the Cold War, and So­viet com­mu­nism cer­tainly pre­oc­cu­pied Amer­i­cans. Yet the re­sponse to the So­viet threat, which in­cluded the de­ploy­ment of U.S. forces per­ma­nently in both Eu­rope and East Asia and the cre­ation of the global al­liance struc­ture, pro­duced a geopo­lit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion. Within the con­fines of that sys­tem, nor­mal geopo­lit­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion all but ceased. Na­tions within the or­der, in West­ern Eu­rope and East Asia, didn’t com­pete with each for mil­i­tary su­pe­ri­or­ity, form strate­gic al­liances against one an­other or claim spheres of in­flu­ence. Since no bal­ance of power was nec­es­sary to pre­serve the peace among them, as it al­ways had been in the past, they could shift sub­stan­tial re­sources and en­ergy from mil­i­tary to eco­nomic and so­cial pur­poses.”

“Yet Amer­i­can hege­mony was never so in­tol­er­a­ble as to drive other mem­bers out. On the con­trary, na­tions banged on the door to come in. Par­tic­i­pants in the or­der, then and now, have shared the im­plicit un­der­stand­ing that how­ever flawed the Amer­i­can-led lib­eral world or­der might be, the re­al­is­tic al­ter­na­tives would al­most cer­tainly be far worse.”

“To­day many Amer­i­cans seem to have lost sight of that em­i­nently re­al­is­tic judg­ment, and this has hap­pened, un­for­tu­nately, just at the mo­ment when the world is slip­ping back into old pat­terns. Au­toc­racy, not so long ago dis­missed as an anachro­nism, has shown a strength and re­silience that Frank­lin Roo­sevelt’s gen­er­a­tion would have rec­og­nized, while the democ­ra­cies suf­fer from paral­y­sis and self-doubt, as they did in the 1930s.”

[Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/thecost-of-american-retreat-1536330449]