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Thiel Fellow, Harvard dropout, cofounded Stream & Sprayable. Dual present passions are programming and writing.

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Connections Don’t Build Things

This is a rebuttal to the oft-repeated notion that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I’m going to make the somewhat scandalous point that no, it is in fact what you know. Connections are great. But they’re worthless without certain prerequisites in the skill department.

I’m going to journey through some cliches to prove my case. Sure, it can be argued that if Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t met Sean Parker or managed to get initial seed funding from Peter Thiel Facebook may never have become the behemoth it is today, but the fact of the matter is if Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t been able to build Facebook, it definitely wouldn’t be what it is today.

There are thousands of people who have met Sean Parker and Peter Thiel and none of them managed to build Facebook.

Taking another pithy statement that opportunity is the intersection of serendipity and preparation, we can make this point a...

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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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Week 25 - Novel - Dreams Part XIX - November 18-24

She pulled in the entirety of the remaining ruby, then visualized scattering the coalesced energy of the ruby into as many individual splinters as she could, shooting them out from her in every direction before guiding them to arc towards Elvir, surrounding him on all sides with darts of blazing energy.

Casually, Elvir raised a hand and a tiny shield of ruby flicked into existence, then spun around him impossibly quickly, perfectly deflecting every incoming bolt Jo had sent, in many cases appearing to deflect certain bolts into other bolts to throw them all harmlessly off course. When the last bolt sputtered out of existence, Elvir remained wholly untouched.

He raised his ruby. It was barely smaller than it had been when they had started the exercise, whereas Jo’s ruby had been entirely consujmed.

“You may have learned the basics of harnessing, but I hope this illustrates that there...

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Week 24 - Novel - Dreams Part XVIII - November 11-17

When this was complete, she aimed the spear at the wall, and let loose. The spear emerged from her and slammed into the wall with a deafening crash, pelting them all with painful bullets of water, and eliciting groans from Ardin and Tan, and even a low rumble from Elvir. When she opened her eyes again, she saw a huge cavity where the water had pierced the wall, with debris scattered all around them.

“What is it with you humans from Earth and trying to destroy my cavern?” Elvir said. “Try to clean up this mess now, will you?” He handed her another stone, and took back what remained of the indigo stone, the slate having been already fully consumed in her efforts.

She drew in this stone almost instinctively now, and immediately felt an attraction to the stone debris she had created, as well as the rest of the stones constituting the cavern walls. Each of them had what felt like a magnetic...

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Week 23 - Novel - Dreams Part XVII - November 4-10

“I wasn’t sure you were actually coming back. Thank you, Jo.”

Tan came up and patted her on the shoulder too. “Yeah. Thanks for coming back. I, unlike Ardin, don’t hold much optimisim that we’ll be harnessing the Heartstone, or anything close to it, anytime soon, so I’m real glad we’ll have you along for the journey.”

Jo laughed nervously. “Well, I don’t know if I’ll be able to harness any stone yet, so please don’t get your hopes up.”

Elvir took this as his cue. “Perhaps it’s time we finally give that a try, yes? Are you ready to begin with a few stones, Jo?”

Jo took a deep breath and nodded. She’d made it this far. There was no turning back now, and no point delaying any further.

Elvir beamed. “Excellent. You won’t need a harnessing glove. I’ve learned that much. Let’s get you started immediately with a few stones.”

He moved to his stash of stones, removed a few, and returned to...

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Week 22 - Novel - Dreams Part XVI - October 28-November 3

The first thing she noticed was that her belongings did not, unfortunately, appear to make the trip with her. Indeed, she was naked besides the blanket covering her. She looked over and saw that there was a change of clothes lying next to her on the bed. The clothing was simple and plain, similar to what she had seen Ardin and Tan wearing. She put it on in a hurry, terrified of the off chance that someone would come in and see her stark naked.

Now dressed, she stepped out of bed and studied the room. It was clear she was no longer in the cave she had found herself in the last time she stepped foot in Eukaon. The sunlight shining through the windows showed her that she was above ground, at least, and in all other respects the room seemed to be a part of a simple wooden cabin. She made her way to the door at the front of the cabin and opened it, stepping outside.

She found herself in a...

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Week 21 - Novel - Dreams Part XV - October 21-27

Five hours later, she woke up again, this time feeling infinitely better. A quick glance at the clock showed it was about half an hour after noon. Perfect. Time to pack up and get ready. She grabbed her bag and dumped out the contents. She had no idea if she would be able to bring anything with her, and had forgotten to ask, but still figured it couldn’t hurt to be prepared.

She thought for a while about what would be most useful to bring. Food came first to mind, so she put together a bag of trail mix, some cereal, and a bottle of water. Then she packed a handheld flashlight, a utility knife, a notebook and a pen, whcih all seemed like generally useful survival tools. Finally, she packed away as much spare clothing as she could with the remaining space. After giving it some more thought, she couldn’t think of anything else immediately pressing, so she decided to call it a day and...

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Week 20 - Novel - Dreams Part XIV - October 14-20

Elvir pulled another stone from his stash, which looked remarkably similar, if not near identical, to the one he had previously used to show them Tach’s destruction. Soon, this stone glowed and formed an image as well. This time, however, the image was one Jo was well familiar with.

“Is that…The Bean in Chicago? Really?” Jo stared at the image, which unmistakably did depict the iconic massive curved bean-like steel sculpture in the middle of Chicago’s Millenium Park. Jo had seen it several times in person over her tenure in the Chicago suburbs.

“I do not know what you call it, but yes, this is indeed the portal stone to Eukaon. I trust that you know how to find your way to it?”

“Yeah…it’s kind of like the most famous sculpture where I’m from. This is kind of unbelievable. Okay, so what exactly am I supposed to do when I make it there?”

“You will need to harness the stone. While you...

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Week 19 - Novel - Dreams Part XIII - October 7-13

Ardin interrupted, now. “Hold on. Why should we just believe everything you’ve told us? It sounds like a nice story and all, but I have no idea if you just made all of that up on the spot to use us for your own purposes. I’ve never heard of any of this before. What are you getting out of this whole situation? If what you said is true, I want this man dead and will stop at nothing to make it happen…but I need to know that what you said is true.”

As Jo looked over at Ardin, she noticed that his face was red, and she could see tears streaming down his face. She felt a stab of pain and sorrow for him. She could only imagine what it must have felt like to learn, so suddenly and unexpectedly, about the loss of his entire family.

“You may choose to believe me or not. There is little I can do to convince you one way or the other with any more than my words here. However, the truth of what I...

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Week 18 - Novel - Dreams Part XII - September 30-October 6

“I had hoped that that would be the end of it, and determined that perhaps it was best that none ever harness the Heartstone after all. Despite all the immense good it could bring to the world, the risk of irreparable harm on an unimaginable scale was simply too great to chance it for that good. I further bolstered my vault in which I had stored the Heartstone, and placed sentry stones to alert me if its resting place was ever disturbed.

“A few more months passed in relative peace and quiet, but ultimately, the day did come where my worst fears materialized, and I was alerted by my stones to the disappearance of the Heartstone. I know not to this day how it happened and how he pulled it off, but I knew without a doubt that it was he, and that this would not bode well for Eukaon.

 “I set to action then immediately, and desperately worked through my options. With the Heartstone in his...

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