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My Ideal Retirement Plan

I know that money wouldn’t make me happy, but I still had dreams of being an early retiree. I dreamt of being that person who quit their job, moved to Hawaii, and sipped margaritas while I cashed my dividend checks. But as I got older, I realized that it’s not about the age of retirement but the quality of that retirement.

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Whose Life Do You Save?

These days, people are having to make really hard decisions. With the  COVID-19 virus overwhelming Italy, doctors are having to make decisions about who lives and who dies. It raises the great moral question, “Given limited resources, who do you save?”

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Coronavirus Prevention – Everything Great is Bad for You

Summary: All the things that make a great social event like large groups, diverse groups of people, and close connections also create a great environment to spread coronavirus. After the pandemic is over, it’s worth using the coronavirus prevention guidelines, and going against them, to find great events.

What makes a great social event? Lots of people from all over the world are sharing their ideas and meeting new people. Some people are new, drawn there because they’d heard this is the place to be. Others are old friends, hugging and kissing each other hello. Everyone is interacting intensely, going out for drinks and dinner. Maybe they even share some appetizers or try each other’s drinks.

If you’re been paying attention to the news this week, these are also the things that spread coronavirus: lots of people, close contact, diversity, and sharing. This makes sense because viruses piggyback on the social nature of humans. When we get together and interact in a community, viruses are shared as well.

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That Time I was Catfished by a Robot Secretary

 

Catfish: To trick someone into a relationship online using a fictional persona and/or photographs.

I was trying to set up a meeting with one of my friends. He has his own venture-capital firm so he runs a lean shop. Also, as a venture capitalist, he likes to leverage new forms of technology.

I sent an email and said, “Hey, let’s meet up.“

He writes me back, “That sounds great! Clara, can you set something up?” and CCed his secretary Clara.

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Guest Post: Blake Schlaff on Fortnite Friendships

Guest Post: My 10-year-old son Blake is an avid Fortnite player who often plays with his friends. I thought it would be good for him (with my help) to tell everyone about the world of social gaming. 

Fortnite is not just a game about fighting. Yes, there is a lot of shooting, collecting guns, and exploring the world. The most exciting part isn’t about fighting it’s about spending time with friends online. Even though my parents only let me play Fortnite with people that I know, playing Fortnite with them is different, and in some ways better, than playing with them in the real world. Playing Fortnite is a lot like being in a virtual world together with my friends, like the Oasis in Ready Player One.

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Cloud Banking 101: Technology Exists to Support the Business

Summary: In the beginning, computers were expensive and complicated machines and needed a cadre of high priests to cater to their every beck and call. However, as computers have become cheaper and more ubiquitous in business, technology processes need to become business processes. While many businesses know they have to do this, old habits and processes die hard. In order to be successful, technology needs to be fully integrated into the business, like any other function.  

In the early days of enterprise computing, computers were giant, room-sized machines. They spoke an arcane language and ate specially formulated punchcards. They were complicated and finicky, broke frequently and needed an army of technicians to keep them running.

The Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Computing power was the most scarce resource in the company. A mistake in a punchcard could cause the business to waste thousands of dollars in lost processing time. In order to run these machines at peak efficiency, a cadre of high priests of computing grew up to tend to their every need. Much like ancient gods, these priests’ main goal is to make sure that the machines were kept happy with their daily supply of punchcards.

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Thomas Heatherwick, Designer and Master Builder

Great design combines a strong artistic vision with the fulfillment of a real-world need. Thomas Heatherwick, the builder behind the Vessel, exemplifies great design. The first time I saw the Vessel, I was biking along the West Side Highway and saw this wonderful staircase being built. Two things went through my head at the same time: “This staircase would be amazing to climb” and “There’s no way that I’ll be able to climb it because it’s going to be part of some new building.” When I learned that this was going to be an interactive sculpture that you can walk through, I had another two thoughts: “This is so amazing! I’m going to be able to climb those stairs!” and “What kind of person would spend $200 million on a bunch of stairs?!”

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When a Book Gets Caught Up in the Story. The Art of the Book in the Digital Age

When I was in college, David Foster Wallace (DFW as he was affectionately referred to) was a literary powerhouse. He was the author that all of the literature fanatics loved to read (or at least said that they loved to read). He wrote books like the thousand-page tour-de-force Infinite Jest that were too long and complicated for science geeks like me. DFW gave exactly one talk about his philosophy on life, addressing the graduating class of Kenyan College in 2005. The talk was titled This is Water.

After he died, that speech became a holy relic to the worshippers of DFW. But how do you take that speech and make it into something more, both as a homage to DFW and a way of preserving and extending the insights of the author? You create a book.

I loved the speech and was curious about how it could be transformed into a book. The speech is only 25 minutes long, so it needed to be something special. When I was in college, there was a room in the library for special books called The Art of the Book. It displayed books for their craft and construction, not just their content. The book This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life reminds me of the books in that room. It is a beautiful little volume with DFW’s speech split up over pages, complementing the cadence to the author’s writing.

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Capture Better Memories Without a Camera

I’m always looking to better capture the special moments of my kids growing up. While having an iPhone in my pocket at all times lets me document these experiences, I feel like I’m not capturing the essence of those moments. I started thinking that technology was part of the problem, and if technology was causing the problem, more technology won’t fix it.

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When Millions of Eyes at Amazon Were Wrong

Disclaimer: I worked at Amazon Web Services as the Head of Banking Business Development. This writing does not represent the views of Amazon and opinions written here are strictly my own. Also, I’ll admit that this post wouldn’t be very interesting if it wasn’t about Amazon; however, it does highlight some key things about the company: 1) Amazon, like every other company, makes mistakes 2) Unlike many other companies, Amazon doesn’t view itself as infallible 3) When mistakes are discovered, the company quickly fixes them.

Amazon has a very strong culture. At other places I’ve worked, culture is an aspiration at the senior level but took a back seat to more pressing concerns like making as much money as possible. Amazon embeds its culture in its 14 Leadership Principles. This is a common language and framework that forms the basis of everything the company does, from interviews to everyday decisions.