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Thiel Fellow. On leave from Harvard. Makes Sprayable Energy. I’m slightly back!

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Collaborative Writing, Etherpad, and FTL Fanfiction

I was talking with Ryan Hoover the other day and he mentioned if I’d ever considered collaborative writing, with a tool such as Etherpad.

I hadn’t, but it sounded like fun, so I ended up staying up all night with my buddy Travis writing the following piece of FTL fanfiction. I’ve sworn off games and have been clean for 110 days, but he’s still an addict and raved about this rogue-like and it sounded like fun, so we did it.

 Surprising discoveries

Collaborative writing did not actually turn into the shitshow I was certain it would. It worked remarkably well. Neither of us would have written this piece on our own - it was about 2am when we got started, and Travis was pretty much ready to hit the sack, but thanks to peer pressure I got him to stay on board. And at about 5am or so, I was ready to crash, but he carried us through to the end.

We also wrote much more than either of us would...

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The Strenuous Life

Today’s post is inspired by one of my greatest heroes. He wasn’t a perfect man - he shot his neighbor’s dog just because it snapped at him once (his father had just died and he was a bit angry). But he was a passionate, vigorous man, and it’s on this aspect of his life I’m going to focus today.

But first, he says it best himself.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high...

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Meeting my cofounder in Antarctica

As a result of this story, I’ve come to be a big believer in the notion that doing interesting things that I like generally end well, even if they at first glance appear to have nothing to do with the rest of my life.

This particular story begins when a mentor of mine from the Thiel network that I had just met mentioned offhand that he was putting a trip together to go to Antarctica, ostensibly because it was Antarctica and why the hell not. Unfortunately, the trip was full, he lamented; otherwise, it would have been cool if I came along. I thought much the same thing and thought nothing more of it.

A couple days later and I met him again for whatever reason. This time, he told me that someone had just canceled the trip last minute and he’d be able to give me their spot, but I’d have to decide right then and there to go. Made a split-second call, thought about it - when would I ever...

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Thiel Fellowship Closing Ceremony Speech

I have come to the conclusion that I suck at blogging on demand and that if I make myself write a post on Monday I will generally tend to wait until the last minute to write it. To counter this, I’m going to try writing every other day and only posting the best two pieces on Monday and Friday. If that still fails, I’ll try every day and Tynan can tell me I told you so.

Anyway, in the meantime, as it’s midnight CST here on Monday, here’s the short semi-prepared speech I gave this weekend at the Thiel Fellowship Closing Ceremonies (we all gave a two minute quip about our two years).

There were a lot of surprising things I learned as a Thiel Fellow, but one of the most striking is how quickly two years go by. Most of my life’s seemed interminably slow, and when I accepted the fellowship two years seemed like forever. But here I am, two years later, and it feels like it’s gone by in the...

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There are no shortcuts

The sparking foundation for this belief is the tech startup I tried to found with no technical background. It failed, I learned lots of ‘lessons’, and I realized I needed to get technical and bring something to the table before trying again.

A while later, I chanced upon the You and Your Research talk by Richard Hamming, and it made a lasting impact on me. I’ve been thinking and referring to it for probably over a year now.

Main takeaway: Oak trees come from acorns. In the talk, Hamming goes on to note the ‘Nobel Prize effect’ - the fact that no great work is generally done by a recipient of a Nobel Prize or similar distinction after receiving the award.

When you are famous it is hard to work on small problems. This is what did Shannon in. After information theory, what do you do for an encore? The great scientists often make this error. They fail to continue to plant the little...

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Today was a 40 hour day for me. Literally - I’ve been stuck in April 8th for 40 hours. 24 hours everyone faces, but I got an extra 16 hours thanks to the time difference between Tokyo and San Francisco.

For the first time ever, my train from Shibuya Station to Nippori Station in Tokyo was late last night, and I missed the last train from Nippori to Narita Airport. I spent the night huddled in a small 24 hour McDonald’s before taking a 5:07 AM train to Narita early this morning to make my 8:55am flight. I made it, and was soon on my way to Seoul for a connection to Los Angeles. From LA, I finally made it up to San Francisco, where mostly exhausted from jetlag and a general inability to get any quality rest for the past few dozen hours, I pumped out some much needed work before rushing through my daily checkin post so I could finally go to sleep.

But wait - my daily checkin tells me I...

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My new favorite foreign place on Earth

Next to San Francisco, because everything is next to San Francisco, Tokyo is now officially my favorite place on Earth.

Admittedly, I’ve only been here for five days so far, but I’ve never been so sold on a place so quickly. Decided fairly unequivocally that I was in love with this place on the train ride to our apartment from the airport.

This is coming in without too much prior bias. All of my friends who have been to Japan without exception are direly in love with the country, but I’ve never had any particular desire to come here. The only reason I’m here is literally because a friend of a friend tweeted about a RT ticket being $314 from LAX to NRT. Managed to snag RT tickets from SFO to NRT for $345 everything included, so just jumped on it on a whim last July. Literally no prior planning.

What’s to like about Tokyo/Japan? Some of it’s personal, some of it’s just objectively...

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That time I climbed Kilimanjaro (and got carried down in a stretcher)

So this is just a short recounting of the time I decided to go to Africa and climb Kilimanjaro. I may decide to flesh it out once upon a future, and I may not.

I’m also not sure what the moral of the story really is. It’s either ‘don’t be an idiot’, or, ‘even if you’re an idiot all things usually turn out alright, so just go with the flow and wait for the stretcher’.

How and why I went to Africa and what I did in the few weeks preceding my Kili climb is another story in itself. For now, suffice it to say that one day I suddenly found myself on a bus driving along the long road from Dar Es Salaam to Moshi. The story begins with my tragic choice of bus.

The night before my hosts in Dar Es Salaam had thrown a huge party (aka Bingo at the Indian Restaurant Down The Street) celebrating their departure on the morrow for Sri Lanka. As a consequence, I stumbled to bed sometime around 2am. A...

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I’ve been thinking all day about something to write about. At this point, it’s enough of a detriment to my other work that writing about nothing has become the right call.

I’m obligated by my self-imposed rules to make a post every Monday and Friday. But today, there’s just nothing that particularly strikes my fancy as a suitable subject.

I think it’s important to keep in mind why rules were originally imposed, and not lose track of the fundamental goal. In my case, I’ve imposed various rules on myself to ensure that I stay productive.

Today, I find my rules conflicting towards that end. I’m trying to push out revisions for my provisional patent on Sprayable Energy as tonight is the deadline for filing - tonight, US patent law historically changes from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system.

Yet attempting to find a topic for this post is taking enough of a cognitive load...

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The importance of structure

For the longest time, I struggled between deciding how to best be productive. Should I rigorously confine myself to a fixed schedule, or should I give myself maximal freedom to be creative and let serendipity run its course?

Somehow, possibly with laziness as a underlying motivator, I deluded myself into thinking freedom was the way to go. I certainly didn’t want to compromise my ability to be imaginative and stumble upon wondrous new worlds by putting on blinders.

While I know it to not be entirely true, my general feeling is that I failed to get anything done for about a year after making that decision and entering the free world as an entirely autonomous being devoid of any external impositions. Certainly, I failed to accomplish anything tangibly significant.

In my misguided attempt to preserve all opportunities for creativity, I precluded myself from actually creating anything.


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