grayscale photography of people walking in train station
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Ambition means different things to different people, but in the capitalist framework I am talking about, I think its defining feature is its linear trajectory. Think of all the highly driven and ambitious people you know working long after their basic needs are met: Are they ever “done” or satisfied with where they’ve ended up and ready to call it quits on achieving? Of course not. Ambition is an unquenchable thirst.

Since the Industrial Revolution launched a large subset of humanity into the illusion that we could conquer nature for our own purposes, linear ambition has been a kind of survival strategy. In recent decades, that’s certainly been true for privileged, knowledge-economy workers like me: We’re always trying to keep up in a world of work that seems to constantly get faster and expect more of us, leaving us too burned out and apathetic to deal with anything that doesn’t directly affect us or our families.

This is a wonderful read and a good reminder of lessons from the pandemic, that we have already started to forget.

Read article on Rosie Spinks

As a man who has always had the wand'ring ways
Now I'm reaching back for yesterdays
'Til a long-forgotten love appears
And I find that I'm sighing softly as I near
September, the warm September of my years.

The September of My Years, Frank Sinatra 

I love this song by Frank Sinatra – a reminder that even the very best of us can’t escape the tick-tock of time. We all eventually accumulate enough knowledge through the life lived to appreciate the days after summer. I, for one, love September — it is a gateway to the visual charms of Autumn. 

It points to cooling temperatures that are tempting enough to visit my parents: the holiday season, and hopefully a chance to take photos somewhere of snow-covered landscapes. Whether all this happens, this year remains to be seen. Lies are still costing lives. And America is hoarding toilet paper again! The smoke from the California wildfires will soon waft its way to our city as well. 

As the sun breaks on the second day of the month, I am thinking about August, specifically my blogging. At the start of the month, I challenged myself to write every day.

“I find that all the research and information I gather is put to good use if I write it down. More often than not, I tend to write my notes in longhand in a private journal. However, I am sometimes overcome with an urge to blog.”

Looking back, I am actually not that “overcome” with the urge to blog. I ended up writing 24 posts though I didn’t write a post a day. Somedays, I just wrote more than once, and other days I couldn’t get inspired to type away. 

It is not that I was short of ideas. It was a hectic month of learning — everything from security, crypto, biomaterials to new developments in physics was on the menu. I talked to quite a few interesting people. Those conversations sparked quite a few thoughts. I just found it easier to write more privately in my journal. 

After giving it more thought, I have concluded that since I don’t have a deadline (and it certainly isn’t my job), I prefer to fully marinate the ideas before putting them out for public consumption. It is not that the world is short of words these days anyway. 

See you around, somewhere erratically. Have a great month ahead, everyone. 

September 2, 2021.

San Francisco undercover. Made with iPhone 12 Pro Max

What’s so great about summer? Quite a few things, but for me, it is Fogust: the foggy month of August that we get to enjoy in San Francisco. August is the perfect staycation month for me. 

First of all, I am extra cautious about the emergent strain of the virus — and see no reason to take any risks by traveling. Secondly, I’m not too fond of hot climes. While most of the northern hemisphere enjoys hot days and balmy nights, I much prefer my backyard—daytime highs of 65 degrees and nights that dip down to the low 50s. 

The fog is also a chance to exercise my camera. And spend a lot of time reading — long articles, books, and of course, research papers. I hope that with the arrival of the new month, I will find my writing rhythm. Over the past two weeks, I have probably scribbled more notes in my journal than on the old blog. 

Anyway, this being the weekend, I thought I would share some gems I found on the Internet to make you smile. 

A short recap of my Tweek (aka my week on Twitter)

July 29: Every earnings report is a reminder that year-over-year percentage growth numbers are pretty much worthless, except they do make for pretty graphs, nice headlines & hide reality. Good thread to follow. 

July 28: “Yup, he’s a great leader! He motivates us to do great work.” Who is “he?” 

July 27: The most interesting thing about Apple earnings for Q3FY2021: About 1/2 of the customers who purchased a Mac or iPad in the quarter were new to the product. Mac and iPad grew 16% and 12%. The last 4 Mac quarters have been the top 4 quarters ever for Mac.

July 27: Hello Twitter friends— which Is your favorite Weather app on iOS. I currently use Dark Sky. But hoping for something different/better. (So many great replies in the thread. I am trying out the Carrot app.) 


August 1, 2021. San Francisco

It was an unusual week. Unusual in part because of how normal it felt, like the days before the pandemic. And yet, by the time the weekend rolled around, it was clearly anything but ordinary.

My schedule was packed to an extent it hasn’t been in quite a while. I had a couple of board meetings (still completely on Zoom). I did quite a few everyday pre-pandemic things, like getting a haircut and a straight razor shave. I even visited my local tailor, because I lost enough weight in the pandemic to get my pants taken in. I have had enough of living in easy pants at home. I want to wear grown-up trousers, proper leather shoes, and shirts with collars. 

I popped over to have lunch with Brad Stone of Bloomberg Businessweek and talk about his book, Amazon Unbound. I am halfway through the book, and I find it much more interesting than his previous effort, The Everything Store. I am finding it more revealing and informative, mostly because I lived (and covered) the world of Amazon in the early phase of the company’s history. As a civilian, I find the new book to be chock-a-block with new details, stories, and insights about a man who has surpassed success. I am sure I will eventually write a full review. 

We talked about billionaires in planes — sorry, in rockets — and how many people from far-off places recently pinged me about the “space economy” and space stocks. Nothing like hype from the king of hype to get the normals betting their dollars on rockets — which, by the way, come down as fast as they go up. We will be talking about Bezos in a couple of days when his rocket takes to the skies.

Speaking of books, it took me less than two days to finish The Ugly Truth, Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang. I will be posting my review shortly (though, now that I’ve alluded to two upcoming reviews, I should admit that I am not very good with the book review format). Generally speaking, at this point, I am getting a little tired of technology books. They all seem to stick to variations on the same theme: tech is evil. I happen to disagree with this premise, but perhaps it is what sells. On Twitter, Eric Newcomer highlighted his ever-growing list of forthcoming books, and they all seem to be grasping at opportunities to spotlight the bad apples. I mean, do we really need a book about WeWork? 

Next on my reading list for this summer will be a real work of fiction: The Vanishing Point by Elizabeth Brundage. This should provide a good break from the heavy diet of technology-centric nonfiction books. 

As I sit here in my apartment on a relatively warm Sunday, I wonder if this past week will come to feel like the beginning of my return to normalcy or — more likely, I fear — an oddly pleasant blip. Despite leaving my apartment multiple times, I feel the anxiety triggered by thoughts of yet another wave of the deadly virus. Local governments in parts of California (including San Francisco) sent out health advisories. The virus is starting to infect even those who are already vaccinated, an unwelcome development.

A handful of friends and acquaintances have recently been infected by the new Delta variant. It is not as commonplace in my closest circles — most of us are still wearing masks and avoiding indoor gatherings. Nevertheless, the uneasiness still lingers. And if you believe the experts, there isn’t going to be a clear, easy end to this pandemic. It really is a permademic!

July 18, 2021. San Francisco

Fog over Pacific. Made with iPhone 12 ProMax. Apple ProRaw enhanced with Adobe Super Resolution.

It is reopening day in California — and to finally call it summer. It has been a long time since we have been able to do things that can be deemed normal — mundane activities like walking out without a mask and look at each other’s smiles. Or get a cup of coffee at a cafe. I celebrated the comeback from the pandemic — at least in our part of the world — by getting a haircut and a straight razor shave from my favorite barber. It is such a simple thing, and yet the only thing I could think of that could give me such immense joy. I hope this mundane normalcy comes your way — and even if it does, wear a mask in crowded places. I hope you get a jab (or two) soon.

I don’t have any travel plans. I like the cooler confines of San Francisco, which is often wrapped in a blanket of fog, even as the rest of the west burns with record high temperatures. I know it is a brief respite before the wildfire season returns, and we are forced to use masks again. But for now, this is a gift I want to enjoy. And today, I am officially ending the use of the tag, Pandemic Chronicles.

June 15, 2021. San Francisco