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The Rot-Com Bubble

So many good bits in this piece; I don’t even know which to highlight:

Ed ZItron:

The tech industry can no longer rely on the idea that every year (or couple of years) somebody will find an idea that will create 200 more startups or trillions of dollars in market capitalization. It must reconfigure both venture capital investment and public tech companies to a more sustainable, profitable and useful model where — get this — existing products are made better and more profitable with the understanding that we’re approaching Max Internet, and that products cannot be built with the assumption that more and more users will always exist.

Learning and blundering in chess and life

  • Life

Looks like this year is an actual year of learning, because I decided to pick chess up on a whim.

A real whim, or a procrastination technique from doing up my portfolio? You decide.

I knew how to play the basics of Chinese chess (象棋), which just meant I knew how the pieces moved, so there are some parts that now feel familiar. I mean, am I calling the knight a horse (馬), because that’s what the Chinese piece is and they move in the exact same way in the L shape, except there are more restrictions on a Chinese horse?


Also, no flying King, which is something the General can do, which makes it a little less exciting for 5 year old me who wanted that General to fly every single time.

I can’t say enough great things about Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf, which is structured enough that I feel like I’m learning something new every time I open the app, but also gamified enough that I want to open the app. Some dialogue made me laugh outright, especially when I blunder — and I am blundering so much.

One important thing that I’m learning is just how many blind spots I have. There’s that analogy to the decisions I’m making not just in playing a match, but in real life. I’m not someone you can call impulsive, but in games, I can see how my inexperience and lack of focus make my decisions a liability. Sometimes I’m too eager to win pieces, but I end up losing material instead because I failed to see that the piece was protecting another more important one.

A bigger issue that I’m still working through is not being able to instinctively see when a move leads to a stalemate. I think this is slightly worse than losing pieces, and again, analogously to life, have I doomed myself to a lose/lose situation instead of one that would be beneficial on whichever metric I frame it with?

I’m excited to learn more, both about chess, and about how it feeds back into my life.

(Also, yes, I speed-watched Queen’s Gambit because I missed that boat in 2020 and only saw it for the first time last weekend. I love complex competent characters 🥰)

On skiing and trying things for the first time

  • Life

I’m generally risk-averse, I learned about myself a long time ago. I’m overly cautious, frenetically anxious, and incessantly worry about the unknowns. (Which, yes, is an issue in itself, and something I’m trying to manage, to varying degrees of success.)

Yet, in the last week, I found myself strapping into boots and skis that made my body cry in agony. I fell no less than half a dozen times on the first day. And the second, and the third. I wished I didn’t have that much churning in my amygdala, as I chanted “oh no, oh no, oh no”, both in my head and aloud as I skidded, stumbled, and skittered across an icy landscape so unfamiliar to me.

In contrast, my nephews — who turned six today! — took to the sport so naturally, unfazed by falls and bumps. And it wasn’t like they had a lot of practice before this vacation either; just perhaps a combined five days of skiing ever in their lives as of yet. I envy the fearlessness, and the ability to embrace learning something new and making themselves better.

The fun scale

There is this concept about different kinds of fun, defined as:

  • Type I: Enjoyable while it is happening
  • Type II: Enjoyable in retrospect
  • Type III: Not enjoyable at all

I’m a few days removed from burning up under my layers in the freezing weather (a really interesting dichotomy I had never experienced before). My wide feet ached, my thick shins hurt (partly because of my rookie mistake of wearing my base layer under my socks), and I reeked of cigarette smoke because my instructor was smoking at a rate of a pack per hour, not helped by the fact that he had to wait patiently for me.

Day one —

Him: You won’t fall.

Me, with skis shifting under my weight and not being able to do anything about them: I’m SLIDING!

Him, laughing: Yes, you are on ice.

Me: falls

Spoiler: I really enjoyed myself.

If Day 1 was me terrified and obstructed by my mental barriers, Day 2 would be about turning my disbelief into confidence. At the start of the day, I was still scared of everything — sliding on the snow, going onto the magic carpet, hanging on to dear life on a rope tow, and then falling while going up on a surface lift.

I wouldn’t say something clicked, but I’d even managed to steer myself by imitating the instructor in front of me, who did very leisurely turns very slowly for my benefit. In 6 total hours by the end of the second day, I was much, much more in control, and that definitely built my confidence.

I’m really proud of myself. I’m proud of embracing the learning of something new, and for not succumbing to my anxiety and managing to push through. I hadn’t realized it explicitly before then, but I hadn’t felt like I was trying something new for the first time in a very long time. (I guess the GMAT attempt didn’t count in my head!)

+ random observations

  • The incredible mountain views did some healing on my ruined city psyche. We’ll see how long this high lasts as I slide back, unfortunately not onto the snow, but work instead
  • I want to continue to strengthen myself: I know what my limiting factors are (broken back, weak core, and weirdly-shaped feet), so I might start doing specific workouts to focus on movements that would aid in my next skiing experience
  • Direction is more important than speed, but to shift, you still need some speed. How’s that for inspiration?

2023: Year in review

  • Life

Once again, I’m looking back on the year that’s passed. (See: 2020, 2021, 2022)

It seems a little tougher this year — and I won’t say whether it’s because I haven’t been consistently and habitually writing on this site — but I’m always happy to reflect and introspect on what has gone well and what I could’ve done better with.

What went well:

Learning and growth: Last year, one of my goals was to try and figure out whether to take my MBA aspiration more seriously. To that end, one of the hurdles was taking the GMAT. After some on-off studying for half a year, I scored a 645 on the GMAT Focus, which clears that 700 barrier on the classic GMAT.

It’s a score that I’m pleased with (and proud of, considering I hadn’t taken a standardized test for more than half my life at this point), but it is also a score that I think I can improve on if I studied and grinded for a little longer. I haven’t started doing that, but maybe — let’s see where I’m at with applications in Q1 of this year.

Reading: Surprisingly, even with studying taking up all/most of my free time, I still managed to read 25 books in 2023. The last book that I read was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, and oh, boy. One of my favorite books is Replay, which deals with a Groundhog Day situation but with an entire life (almost), and Harry August turned that up a notch. I might re-read it now.

Traveling: This was almost a given, given how we’re recovering from the pandemic and figuring out what that looks like with traveling. I’ve not traveled as much as I wanted to as an adult, so I’m happy to get back into this and train this muscle of experiencing other cultures, environments, and weathers.

New hobbies: I’m slowly getting into completely new things, like appreciating matcha (and the art of making a cup), and watches (I got a Seiko Presage in Tokyo, and it’s one of my favorite purchases). On the other hand, I’m also… (Author’s note: I forgot where I was going with this, and left this dangling.)

What could’ve gone better:

Fitness and health: Sigh. With the stress of studying, fitness got wildly deprioritized. Even then, I managed 116 workouts in 2023 — nearly 1 in 3 days, which is a complete shock to me as I spent all of December not working out at all. Definitely something to push on in 2024!

I’ve also spent most of the day in a haze; my asthma coming back the last week of the year.

Finance: I only hit a 59% savings rate. I don’t know — can I partially justify that by saying I didn’t get a raise (not even a salary adjustment to inflation) this year? I don’t regret making the purchases, though.

Work: Ah, something that is a mainstay through the years. It’s a pattern that I don’t like, but it’s not something I can shake easily. In 2023, my corporate life was rocked a little by layoffs and restructuring, and though I kept my job and stepped (the fuck) up to several positions beyond me, it’s been a mostly thankless endeavor and I’ve even got my promotion case denied, so…

I guess I’m evaluating a lot about what work, and this workplace, means to me. There is some cognitive dissonance here with my pursuit of a potential MBA, given the implication of working hard and elevating myself career-wise. But we’ll see.

Themes from my gratitude journal:

  • Space for me to try my best
  • My nephews being happy
  • Being excited about possibilities
  • Time away to travel and think

What I want to do in 2024:

  • Learn to drive and obtain my license
  • Apply for and get admitted to an MBA program
  • Evolve my style beyond Uniqlo and t-shirts
  • Travel even more (this is shaping up quite excitingly with a trip to Germany/Austria in January!)
  • Figuring out my skincare routine

As always, I hope the next 365 days (leap year!) are going to be kind and good to all of us.