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.

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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

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!

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]