The post is about the transition period from being a student to running a scrum team and building new products as a product manager at a tech company. Pretty crazy transition and I feel like nearly three years later I can say a few things.
It has been a minute! Somehow we last chatted nearly 8 months ago when I was still living in Her Majesty’s kingdom. After completing my tour of duty, I was meant for a quick two-week stint collecting myself. However, for absolutely absurd reasons that I won’t dive into right now, the State of Israel was slow to approve my visa application to work in the Holy Land and I spent over 2 months in San Francisco.
If you read this blog occasionally, you probably know I have a complicated relationship with my home city by the bay. I will be the first to say that my first year in San Francisco was not the happiest for me. While my first year of work went better than I could have imagined, the 2-3.5 hours commuting to the Silicon Valley every day were absolutely soul- sucking. Despite being surrounded by some of closest friends and family in the world, something always seemed to be missing or broken, and I couldn’t escape the sense that I wasn’t growing as a person. It was easy to chalk this up to “real-world transition syndrome”, and this characterization is not wholly inaccurate. Still, the net-net was an inward struggle while outwardly thriving and no guaranteed improvement on the horizon. So I left.
One cool aspect of Brexiting was how clearly and quickly it illuminated some of the outages in my former situation. Reinforcement of the idea that stark contrast is a powerful tool for finding clarity. While it was painful at times for a variety of legitimate reasons, nine months in London was one of the best situations I have ever made.
All this is to say that the time I got to spend in San Francisco upon returning this summer, brought contentment in a way I was convinced I was not meant to have there. While crashing on friend’s couches for the first month (thanks again @Nick@Julian@Charlie@Garrett!) was certainly not easy, the overall experience and getting to spend time with the guys was great.
This was followed by a month living in a flat on Market smack dab in the middle of the Castro, Mission, Tenderloin, and Hayes Valley was amazing. Summer weather and long days in the park were wonderful. Climbing trees with Charlie was wonderful
. OSL and BFD (music stuff) were wonderful with favorite people(s). Goon-squad fourth of July at the Mackie house in Santa Rosa was wonderful. Family time was wonderful.
Weird Israel limbo state aside, summer was good. Eventually though, weird limbo state was resolved and it was time to climb the next mountain; life in a new country with a new project and new people, a strange culture with wild social dynamics and some of the craziest political undertows on the planet. I am not going to cover it in this post to keep things focused, but I promise it will be less than 8 months before I do. In fact ill have something by next week.
While the adventure continues, I can’t believe this chapter is ending. While it may not have been sunshine and rainbows all the time, overall it has been everything I could have possibly asked for and I am genuinely sad to say goodbye. I just did the classic nostalgic move and went back and read through my pre-London post. Trying to get back in that mental place is funny, such a blank page ahead of me. In retrospect I am pretty pleased by how that story turned out.
I made a bucket list at the time and wanted to check in to see how I did. It really isn’t that important since you really can’t know what will be exciting in a new country until you get there, but fun to see if it played out or not.
1. Join a handball team: The best sport we don’t have Ok I definitely did not do this one.. Handball not as big as expected. However, I played on two different 5v5 footy (soccer in cages) teams, including Intuit F.C. So I passed this one.
2. HARRY POTTER MUSICAL: I know it’s sold out.. Ill figure it out. Don’t be negative. DID IT AND HOLY DUMBELDORE IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Really amazing show in so many ways. See previous post on this subject.
3. Become a Premiership hooligan for a random team While I never went full Hooligan, I am pretty happy to say I am now a Fulham supporter. They are currently in the second division (which makes it cooler right?), but they have a great support base, culture, and an excellent stadium. Plus, they consistently sign Americans so it makes sense. Jersey purchase imminent.
4. Afternoon tea at a fancy hotel with reservations Cuz monies did not go to a fancy hotel, but we definitely did fancy tea (see previous post) on our visit to Windsor.
5. Shakespeare Play at the Globe (Shakeys theatre) ok I failed outright on this one. Maybe in the next week? Lots of musicals living in the West End, but none at The Globe.
6. Morning run on the Thames More than I can count. Honestly made me like running. Such a beautiful way to start or end a day.
7. Harry Potter set! I did it twice! Completely blown away by how cool this is.
8. Michelin Star restaurant (I will likely have to fly somewhere else in Europe for this but I am doing it.) Did it in London! Beautiful (actually like art) meal for dad’s birthday.
9. Buy something at Harrods Food counts right 😃?
10. 3 last minute weekends in random cities Berlin, Edinburgh Copenhagen .. All planned within 3 weeks of going. Judge counts this one.
11. Notting Hill Carnival: The weekend I get there! Biggest Carnival outside Rio in the world. Skipped it. Was sleepy. I regret nothing.
12. St. James Church Lunchtime concerts Failed. Turns out leaving work at lunch doesn’t make much sense.
-West UK This weekend!
Overall.. Pretty happy about this. Combine it with the majority of great stuff I couldn’t possibly have planned in advance (3AM Duck and Waffle, countryside hiking, dodgeball tournament, The BoatRace, Windsor, Berlin, Chamonix, Paris, countless weird bars and restaurants, Hampstead Heath, etc etc etc) and I definitely think I passed London 102. Definitely will say more this week.. but now need to sleep.
It’s 2:15 AM on a Wednesday. Back in London. Awake from a combination of jet lag and frantic mind I can’t turn off sometimes.
Back from another amazing Coachella. Probably the best music weekend I have ever had. Stacked lineup from morning until night. Always great to get home and see the people i care the most about, but also painful because of how fleeting the time is, and how the music festival can overshadow quality time.
So last post I promised I had some news. You might know I am on a 9 month rotation in London. That ends at the end of May. The plan was then to head back and do my final rotation in Mountain View. Then life happened and the plan changed. So.. drumroll….. Starting in late June, I will be heading to Tel Aviv, Israel for 8 months building for the Mint Team. Intuit Mint is a personal financial management application that does budgeting, shows your credit score, and pays your bills. Obviously this was an agonizing decision, so a few weeks ago I wrote down the pros and cons. Today I updated them and posted them below. I am still not sure if I made the right call, but I thought I would lay down my thinking…
Why it could be the right move:
Ive been desperate to work on an product that I actually use. I couldn’t say enough good things about my current role, but the best PMs are the ones who can empathize best with users because they are users themselves. It makes it more real, and dramatically improves decision making. I have always dreamed of working on something I love outside of work, and I get excited just thinking about it. Builder Kyle is uber pumped.
Figuring life out. I’ve alluded to it in previous posts, but a big part of my Brexit motivation was a dissatisfaction with how things were going in SF. Something always felt off and I have spent a fair amount of time here trying to unpack that and figure out what was wrong. Some of it became clear immediately upon my move, while most has taken me time to really figure out. Trust me when I say my notes file is full of jumbled and often contradictory thoughts/beliefs/decisions that I have been sorting through. In this time most of what has been troubling me has become crystal clear, but I still am not quite there. With answers often comes more questions, but I can tell I am getting close to a place of understanding. I can’t know for sure, but I think Tel Aviv will be exactly what I need to get there.
It’s just an unreal opportunity. I know that life doesn’t give everyone these sorts of chances, and I am grateful to be in a place in life where I can take this chance. One of the guiding principles for my decision making until I am thirty is to go where I can learn the most. This checks that box times a million.
Israel itself. While I have visited once on birthright, I am thrilled by the idea of trying to figure out the most complex region on the planet and understand all the history and perspectives that have made this land such a global flashpoint in human history. Plus, I think i will gain a much better understanding and appreciation of my own Jewish heritage by exploring the holy land of the Jewish people.
The Middle East. FUNDaFIELD is looking seriously at what small work we can do to help children impacted by the inconceivably devastating Syrian crisis. Being close to the impacted areas will unquestionably help push this work ahead.
Why it could be the wrong move:
People.. If you read all of those pros above, they basically all revolve around Kyle Weiss. One of the things that has become obvious to me recently (see point 2 above), is that I haven’t really thought about everyone else when making these decisions. In the confusing time that is life immediately after Camp Claremont, it becomes easy to focus on just figuring your own shit out, but that can be dangerous. Tel Aviv means I can’t be there for friends and family if they need, missing birthdays, and all the big and small moments that give things meaning. Having already been gone for a while, this is hard. Really hard. While some relationships are obviously resilient, some rely on proximity and shared experience, and I hate that I am putting those at risk. This is something I am working on in life overall, and is definitely the biggest reason I still have doubts about this.
Really different. London is the perfect city for me. It’s a music haven. I get to interact with so many different types of people from so many different places. I can relate to new friends enough to have common ground, but it still feels new and exciting. Art is everywhere. People have nailed work-life balance. The time change isn’t THAT bad, and there is always more to see. While Tel Aviv has some of this, it is definitely a significant degree more foreign. Intense culture forged in a land surround by hostility, a completely different language that I know almost none of, differently values, different entertainment and priorities etc.. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I am.
Leaving London. See above but I really love London. I have made some great friends here and leaving them is going to be painful. It has taken time to build up a life here, and now that things feel normal, the idea of walking right back into another life where I don’t know anyone and live alone is tough.
There is a lot more to it, but thats where I ended up as I thought about the decision. In the end I decided to go for it, while being acutely aware of the cons and prioritizing working extra hard to minimize the negative impacts. I am scared, no doubt, but I comfort myself with the thought that I will be able to visit, have visitors, and be back in the homeland in early next year. Seems manageable. Stay tuned. I suspect I will be writing a lot in the next few months.
con muchisimo amor
Kyle David Weiss.
P.S. Check out Mint in the App store. It is free! I will be working on helping users with their bills, but any thoughts on the app overall are incredibly helpful for us.
In a perplexing twist of events, it is currently Sunny in London. The last few weeks have warmed up and it is fantastic. The parks are full of people, rooftop bars are opening, and Kyle’s Vitamin D levels are normalizing. Anyways, it has been a crazy and wonderful few months, and I wanted to share some of the highlights with my six loyal readers.
Windsor Castle: One of the most spontaneously fun days I have had in London. Went with the lads to explore the Queen’s current residence (royals don’t live… that’s for mortals.. they “reside”) and the surrounding area. Getting out of London is always a breath of fresh air (literally http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/01/24/air-pollution-london-passes-levels-beijingand-wood-burners-making/) ), and a day of mucking about in Windsor was just what the doctor ordered. Best part was that Queen Lizzy herself was in the castle that day, and while we didn’t see her, her standard flew above for all to see.
After exploring the castle, we did what is known as the long walk.. Basically the trail that is a few miles long leading to the front of the castle. Very fairytale-esque to walk up to the castle through nature and see it get bigger and bigger in front of you. We eventually took our worn out selves to a gastropub for lunch, and then headed to a local shop for tea time. In the words of one of our British friends, “This was the most British day of my entire life.”
The biggest adventure I have been on in a while, we rented a huge house in the French Alps. <— sentence I thought I would never say.. Chamonix is a town surrounded by a bunch of the most beautiful mountains I have seen in my life. The town is small enough that you can walk to any of the gondolas up to the Mountain’s from your doorstep. Very chill. This trip introduced me to the wonder that is apres ski; basically after you finish on the slopes (during for some), everyone congregates before dinner for a drink or twelve. Crowds are huge, live music, and a ton of fun.
Then at night, the town turns wild (and Chamonix is one of the more conservative alps towns), with bars and clubs galore. Being France, the food was painfully delicious and rich. Even on the slopes, one of our lunches was a fully seated, French feast. The snowboarding was amazing, and the crew was a blast. From wearing wigs about half the trip to having snowball fights during runs, I couldn’t have asked for a better long weekend.
I visited Oxford. See: Cambridge. Amazing place that would be incredible to study at. At some point I will likely be headed back to school, so visiting different schools and seeing the programs they offer is a good time.
5v5 footy… basically indoor soccer outdoors.. Intuit F.C. was off to a hot start with 3 straight wins to open the season. As of this week we have now been promoted to the first division, and while we lost our first game 9-7, the energy is amazing. Feels great to work these muscles again. I love this game. The Brits get way too intense about it, and near-fights and actual fights are surprisingly common, but that makes it even more intense. Sidenote: one of my favorite bands, ‘The XX’ played 7 nights straight in Brixton. I got a last minute ticket to one sold out show and went straight from a match, all by myself.. Worth it. Amazing show.
Other than that, life has been pretty amazing lately. Work is engaging and fun, friendships are what I would assume to be lasting, and running on the river in the mornings is more pleasant than ever.
Weekends are spent exploring new areas, eating good food, having wild nights out, drawing, and having Hygge time at Sunday BBQ, one of my favorite weekly traditions.
Really appreciate all the homies here who have welcomed me, and shown me the ropes. I am beyond stoked to head home for my favorite weekend of the year on Tuesday, and am already sad thinking about the end of my rotation. As of 12 hours ago I know where my next role will be, and spoiler alert, it won’t be London. Stay tuned world.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.. What to say? What to say? Is it fair to say it was one of the greatest (maybe the greatest), thing I have seen or done in the last few years? Maybe.. To be honest, I went in with pretty low expectations. While I purposely avoided reading the screenplay, those that did were not all too impressed by it. More importantly though, I have learned to lower the bar with Potter in general. Both the original eight movies, and the newer Fantastic Beasts story are alright, but for me were always a bit of a letdown. I enjoyed watching them and was in line at midnight like everyone else, but they never quite captured the magic of Harry Potter in a way that came close to the complete suspension of reality that J.K. Rowling’s books had. This show did.
The plays themselves were outstanding (it is two full shows that can be watched in one day), the acting was amazing, the stage design and special effects were absolutely surreal, the story line was completely engaging, and in general, all the boxes that separate a great show from a good one were ticked. This is me basically saying that your cousin who never read the Harry Potter books (why oh why :((((? ) could walk into the Palace Theater in London, and be blown away.
All that is well and good, but I didn’t refresh the ticketing website for months in order to just see a great show. No, this show was the number one item on my London bucket list because of what Harry Potter represents to me, and what this production had the potential to create. As many others did, I first discovered the boy who lived when I was eight years old, and was lucky to be able to grow up alongside him. While I read plenty, these books were unquestionably the refuge I kept going back to. When the real world felt unfair, when I thought I would never be very good at anything, when I didn’t understand how to interact with people, when things were bad in general, I escaped into Harry’s world. This world made sense for little Kyle, good and evil were distinct and obvious. Even when things seemed bad, the heroes figured out a way to keep the darkness at bay. Plus, as most people probably know at this point, Rowling’s world building is as good as it gets. The attention to detail and consistency across all seven books is hard to fathom at times. It creates a setting so intensely vivid that one can escape completely into the pages for hours on end. So, it isn’t shocking that the prospect of a Harry Potter tale on stage has enticed me and everyone else on the one-year long ticket waiting list. I essentially had low expectations, but a high potential bar.
To my pleasant surprise, the show captured the Potter magic in a way I thought would never happen again after finishing book seven. It managed to stand up as a new story (that of one of Harry’s children and his friends), but a new story that delved into the ramifications of the old story and paid constant homage to the originals. While other stories (the new Star Wars), can slightly lose themselves trying to placate their original fan base, The Cursed Child does so in a beautiful, unforced, and poignant way. More importantly, the story was completely believable. The ramifications and implications of being born Harry’s children, of unavoidable deaths that occurred in the books, are all are explored at length, and they feel genuine. The character’s personalities still shine brightly into their adult-selves, and the humor and warmth comes through even in the darkest parts of the show, just like the books. The two shows run over five hours (with dinner in between), and after the initial wow factor of seeing unexplainable magic happening on stage wears off, we were completely engrossed for the duration. Through the final act, it was pretty clear that much of the theater was in tears. All in all, I am still processing how fantastic this production was.
At this point of any review I would normally be pushing anyone who got this far to go see the show as soon as possible. In this case I realize that is a rather cruel thing to do. The Palace Theater will never hold a fraction of the Potter fans in the world, London is far from most people, and the insane ticket prices will be a barrier for many, even if they weren’t sold out. So I guess I would just say that if you are a HP fan and ever get the chance to see the show, do everything in your power to make that happen. You won’t be disappointed. It will hit you in all sorts of ways, and let you lose yourself in the wizard world all over again.
Note: This is a brief meditation on my thoughts on information and education. I think anyone who follows the news understands how this issue has put the very foundations of western society, values, and progress at risk recently, so it has been on my mind pretty constantly.
I’ve been thinking a lot about information. Where it comes from, how much exists, how we access it, how we process it etc..
According to IBM Marketing Cloud, 90% of the worlds data was created in the last two years, and that growth rate is accelerating. Currently about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day. This is generally a good thing. Data allows us to further academic research, predict patterns and trends, create better products and generally improves our lives in countless ways (we can talk privacy another time). So while on balance I would argue that the data explosion is a positive trend, I think it has a few particularly dangerous consequences:
More data existing means more objectively false or generally misleading data existing
More data increases our reliance on the gatekeepers/gateways through which we access that data
The sheer magnitude of available data makes getting a fair sampling of information nearly impossible.
The first point is a relatively obvious one. I easily could have completely made up the IBM Marketing Cloud fact I gave above. I didn’t, but very easily could have, and when I published this piece, that complete fabrication would exist in the world’s cumulative database. With the world population now having unprecedented access to information and technology, not only can most people consume this information, but they can contribute it. Through stupidity, human error, and of course, through nefarious intentions, inaccurate or misleading data is being created at an equally unprecedented rate. Even if the proportion of accurate information increases, the overall amount of false information will continue to skyrocket.
The second point is where the real danger is. Historically information was funneled through a select group of gatekeepers, and while these gatekeepers were not always accurate, they were generally held accountable by their constituents. There certainly were purveyors of bullshit, but the well-defined gateways meant that people had greater exposure to more accurate information. So ya, I might get some wonky views from my pastor, or creepy Dave down the road, but those were well balanced by the news each night, the newspaper the next morning, the public education I received, and various other information sources.
The problem today is not that there is not enough accurate data and information accessible to me, it’s that there is far greater exposure to the ever-increasing sources of inaccurate information. So while I may now have access to evidence backed academic research on almost any topic, I am more likely to be exposed to a random blog, a FB comment, a marketed study with financial incentives to create a certain viewpoint, or worse, talk radio.
Worse still, the third point means that even if we had perfect information, the sheer quantity of information that exists means it would be nearly impossible to filter it appropriately. This problem is exponentially compounded by the tailored content that FaceBook and Google have perfected. When the main pillars of our online lives have business models that rely on serving us content we are likely to click, then it’s pretty safe to assume that content is not representative of reality. We all know online echo-chambers, and the biasing reinforcement that comes from being surrounded by those that agree with you. While historically those were just communities of similar interest that you opted-in to, today you don’t have a choice and it is impossible to opt-out.
I don’t need to even get started on the devastating impact this is having on the world. The tools that were meant to create an ideal state with perfect information and accountability are being used to manufacture fear, spread hate, distort reality, prioritize profit over truth and on and on.
I believe that fixing this problem is going to take a concerted effort from the technology industry, our major media players, our legislators, and our executive branch. However, in the long run I believe we need to radically redefine our education system in a way that combats this issue:
Remove focus from rote memorization and regurgitation of information
Focus on understanding how to query the specific information needed from an unlimited set of potential sources
Focus on critical analysis of sources and evaluating the quality and biases of sources
Today, I can do every calculation I will ever need and find almost any information on any topic that exists in seconds from my bed. The winners in this paradigm are not those that can store the most data in their heads, but those that know how to filter through the noise and find what exactly what they need, as instantaneously as possible. Doing so requires deep training and subsequent understanding of the information landscape, in order to avoid confirmation bias and evaluate the strength of one’s source. Whether that means understanding of who funded the research that ran a study, understanding assumptions made in a report, or being presented with strong counterpoints, this will be a critical and potentially transformative solution to the information accuracy issue.
Now to figure out how to make this a reality.
Thanks for indulging me. Please shoot me any thoughts, disagreements or corrections!
Note: If you read this and concluded that this issue is the cause of CNN, the NYT etc creating fake news, you are part of the problem and should reevaluate where you get your information.
I am a big advocate of New Year’s resolutions. We are creatures of habit, and we don’t often reassess those habits against goals or priorities. So NY resolutions are a cool way of analyzing ourselves, and then committing to behavior changes that align with our goals. While I have a few things I want to focus on this year, the two biggest are; learning new skills, and creatively expressing myself.
New Skills: I am going to write a whole blog post on my philosophy on learning, but suffice to say I feel like I am a bit lacking in the ‘developed skills’ department. Learning new skills and trying new things are pretty important to me (good liberal arts student), and I feel like I am finally at the place in life where I can think about things I want to try, and then put some effort into a select few. Someone I look up to in this area is my friend, Max Deutsch. Max is a fellow Product Manager at Intuit, but also a serial entrepreneur who does more cool projects in a year than most will in their whole lives. One of Max’s current projects is called ‘Month to Master’ where he is learning one new skill a month, at a ‘master’ level, for a whole year. So far he has learned to; memorize a shuffled deck in 2 minutes, draw a photo-realistic self portrait, and solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 20 seconds. This month he will be learning to land a backflip. You can follow his progress with daily updates here: https://medium.com/@maxdeutsch. While I don’t currently aspire to any master level skills, Max shows the power of some sustained effort in areas you might not be comfortable. Flexing new muscles helps expand our mind, and keeps things fresh and exciting.
Creative Expression: Blogging is great, but at the end of the day can feel a bit limiting. It’s perfect for summarizing a time, sharing photos, making arguments, expressing opinions etc… However, it is not great for capturing really strong emotions, feelings, thoughts in the moment, abstract concepts etc… On a personal level, living alone in a new place with all new people, naturally leads to a lot of novel thoughts, feelings, perspectives. It’s a lot to keep bottled up, and so I have been eager to figure out new ways to analyze these things, and express myself. Something about the creative process is extremely cathartic and something I could benefit from.
So drumroll….. I decided to experiment a bit with drawing! I have been spending about 30 minutes a day just looking at images of whatever I randomly decide, and trying to figure out how draw it with charcoal and graphite pencils. I definitely was not born with artistic inclinations (coloring in the lines was for suckers), so this is a very new space for me. The current goal is just to get comfortable with the process, and learn some basic techniques. Once I get to a place I feel good about, I will start thinking really hard about what I want to express and get a bit more creative with it. In the meantime though, I have been surprised by how relaxing I find the process, and how engulfed in the task my mind becomes. It has been strangely therapeutic, and a nice change from being in front of a screen all day.
As you can see, definitely a big work in progress, but I am actually happy by how some have turned out. I don’t really trust my hand yet, so there is definitely a shakiness to everything, but the hope is that I will get more steady over time. Next step is learning how to properly shade, and then to start working on human figures. Note: in general I am attracted to darker themed art.. not sure why, but I am particularly interested in darker, fantastical imagery.
Images from Porter Robinson’s live show^.. (seeing him Tuesday in London:)
If last week was one of my larger deviations from the trusty travel blogger formula, this week will be an enthusiastic overcorrection. Count on lots of cute pictures in front of noted landmarks with fun captions, hunger-inducing foodie pics in honor of Kira Weiss, and a steady stream of hygge (if that word does not compute, read blog from beginning), and good times.
So in order to make the most out of my time here, I decided to stay in London town over the holidays and was lucky enough to have a bunch of the team head this way. In the last Month, I’ve had Nick Weiss, E Choy, Chanteezy, Kira (Chippy), Papa G, G Weiss, and mom all in the casa. Thanks for coming everyone!
Since Nicky came before everyone else, him and I did three days in London, and then four in Paris with some of the CMC crew. We did three days of London; one in the east, one in the center, and one in the west.
I like Paris but honestly it all looks the same so I have trouble remembering individual events that take place (disclaimer: I really like how Paris looks.. it just all looks the same).
Strange story in Paris: Leaving a club at around 2AM.. get in Uber.. 2o angry men surround car… start screaming…. open doors… throw us out of uber… realize we are tourists…. stop yelling at us…. yell at driver…. say “uber.. no” while gesturing to their throats…. us shaken… walk around corner….. call uber… go home feeling victorious… Seriously strange experience though. While I feel for anyone who is replaced by an unregulated industry, harassing customers and drivers is definitely not winning you any goodwill.
I will say that there is something magical about Paris. From the parks to the museums to the long boulevards dotted with cafes, the sense of grandeur makes everything feel fairy tale esque. In terms of food, the Hot Chocolate at Angeline was the best thing I have ever tasted. Seriously, everything since has tasted bland. L’As du Fallafel definitely lives up to the hype as best Falafel in Southern Europe, worth the line.Plus, drinking wine late at night with friends on the Seine is always wonderful. Squad finished with an accidental 4 AM night at a Jazz bar we just walked into. Huge Midnight In Paris vibes.
Once everyone left, I decided to go hardo adventure travel guy and see all of Versailles in 4 hours before my flight. So freaking worth it guys.
Amazing history, amazing nature/outdoors, amazing tours, amazing place to throw on your running shoes and just walk for miles. Honestly can’t recommend this enough. One of the rare days 20s Kyle has been completely awestruck (see: Zion National Park, Havasupai Falls, Coachella, Koh Phi Leh).
One week of work.
Kira, Dad, Emmett
Those three all arrived the same day^ lol. Between eating incredible food (Dishoom on day 1), teaching Kira how to order a drink, and late night Shwarma/noodles, this time passed in a hilarious blur. Plus living 100 yards from #ZooBar is my curse and blessing. Christmas Day stands out as one of the most eerie scenes ever.. No trains or busses so we just walked around ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ London. That night we had dinner with one our awesome South African family living in Britain, and took a classic tourist Abbey Road pic.
The next day was another crazy weird quiet London day, this time in Shoreditch where we played Junkyard Golf (minigolf course and bar but way funnier), and ate more good food. We ended up at Winter Wonderland where we may or may not have done 8 rounds each in the Oktoberfest Tent.
Garrett Chantal Kira Emmett Dad
Once Chantal (planned), and Garrett (suprise)showed up, we really had a dreamteam assembled. That night we finally had a MICHELIN STAR DINNER. Take THAT bucket list! I will say no more and instead just show photos of food.
It tasted exactly as amazing as it looks. Happy late Birthday Dad!
Sidenote: Since I am a devious puppetmaster, I suprise secured the flat next door to mine for the break, so we were able to have all these shenanigans at a close distance.
Garrett Chantal Kira Emmett Dad Mom
Next suprise was mom’s arrival, which although was somewhat known, still completed the massive holiday crew. I am incredibly thankful to you all for visiting ice cold London to hang out. Next day, we did some food at Camden Lock, and discovered a ski resort themed bar with an amazing live musician, as well as a massive 3 story rave store? Rave Rave Rave includes live dancers, pulsating beats, baby rave gear, and even a sex shop in the weirder levels. Fun for the whole family!
Dinner that night was a not-so-cheeky Nandos, a British favorite!
The 30th took us to The Brixton another “grungy Hipster Neighborhood” and the worst possible day on the London Eye. Visibility was zero, and still people lined up and went for it. Gotta love tourism.
News Years Eve stands out as another Kyle bucket list item complete. The whole gang went all the way east to the olympic park and took on the worlds tallest and longest tunnel slide. Basically they built this hideous structure for the olympics, and in a stroke of total genius, decided to put a build a slide on it to save face.
Pretty smart actually. The world needs more slides. Dinner that night was a feast at Black Roe. Think 7 types of poke, champagne, and mac n cheese in a lobster. Divine.
After a celebratory meal, Chantal Emmett and I jumped ship and went to a rave.
What we didn’t realize was that the whole thing was a Drum and Bass show.Rookie mistake. 7 hours is a lot of drum and bass. 20 minutes is a lot of drum and bass. At 5 AM we headed home (with a quick detour at Buckingham Palace), got food, and EChoy headed straight to the airport. Legend.
First week of 2017 saw Kyle and Chantal doing some serious Londoning..
The Sky Garden:
All the food, and long walks across London, we did it all.
On the last day we finally made it to Greenwich and having low expectations set by the internet, were pleasantly surprised with how cool it was. Imagine shrinking all of London into one adorable town, throw in a Maritime museum and some scientific legacy, and you have Greenwich. We even had traditional pies and mash at a local spot.
Also maybe the highlight of my tourisms, I ended up going with Garrett and Chantal separately on the Harry Potter Studio Tour in a 5 day timespan. I promise this is one of those things that is definitely worth doing, regardless of your HP fandom level.
What really made this cool was just a look at how 8 films with essentially unlimited budgets get made. Example, thousands of wands were made for the cast, rubber wands for action scenes, Hero wands for close ups, etc etc.. 20,000 props are in the storefronts of Diagon Alley alone, 1000+ different “potions” fill up the potions class.
You get to see the actual castle they filmed all of the castle scene with, etc etc.. Very cool and surreal experience for those of us who grew up with Harry. “It’s like being in a museum where the theme is just your childhood.”-Chantal I really should do a full post on this, but this post alone is taking forever, so just go on the tour yourselves!
Honestly could go on and on forever about the last month of life, in fact I completely skipped the cheeky Copenhagen trip I took two weeks ago, but at some point I need to push the publish button. I finally feel like I have some sense of ownership on London.. Granted I still haven’t seen HUGE portions of the city, but have definitely now hit the main spots. The fact that I got to spend this time with my favorite people on the planet, exploring such a wonderful place, is something I am beyond grateful for. Thanks to you all for making it out here! Ciao.
Tune in next week for your regularly scheduled program.
One quote from each:
“So I want one night out to be themed around my love for Jaimie XX, and one night for The Smiths… Can you do that?”- Nick
“Does anyone else listen to hardo trap music to help them fall asleep?”-Emmett
“Buckingham Palace… tehe”-Chantal
“Officer I only had one butterbeer… I’m fine!”-Garrett
“Oooooh I should make a new Instagram for that!”-Chippy
So unless your internet access was out until today, or your Facebook feed isn’t just music blogs for some reason, you probably know that last week the Coachella 2017 Lineup dropped. Playlists were promptly made, and time was wasted. I decided since I was already spending way too much time in dark corners of the internet figuring this thing out, might as well blog summarizing my thoughts and predictions. Spoiler Alert: This is a niche music post.
So first and foremost, let me just say this lineup is good. Very very good. Possibly the best in the five years I have been going (2012 was unreal and I cry each night realizing I missed it). So many awesome names and incredible performers. That said, Goldenvoice basically fired a golden bullet straight into the heart of a couple of genres this year. RIP (for now) Rock, Punk, Trap, Future Bass, and Metal. Instead, they went all in on indie pop, basic EDM, rap (oh my gawd so much rap), and techo. Luckily those aren’t my top genres, but I know that sucks for a lot of people. They also got a wee bit lazy catering to the flower-crown crowd. While I actually am a big fan of most of these; Grouplove, Bastille, Capital Cities, Empire of the Sun, the Head and the Heart, and even Kendrick Lamar definitely come across as sloppy bookings. Coachella prides itself as the fresh and unique lineup to kick off festival season, and a lot of this lineup feels safe and used. Still though, taken as a whole, this is a beautiful and eclectic genre mixing lineup that full of epic shows, and randomly fun acts. Also.. I am not a huge fan, but booking queen Bey herself is a power move that deserves mad props. Beyonce is at such a level of star power that she has absolutely no reason to play chella. In some ways a show like this can only hurt her, so all props to our Coachella overlords for convincing her to grace us with her anointed presence.
Can’t miss live shows
Hans Zimmer: Are you kidding me. This is absolutely legendary and could go down as the most epic and huge set of the weekend. Dude brings his 80+ member orchestra and plays the best soundtracks ever. Hello Pirates. Praying for a sunset slot on the main.
Bon Iver: According to an inside source whose last name rhymes with boy, this show is unbelievable. Bon Iver does not have a single bad song, and 22, A Million is easily one of the best and most unique albums of the year. Come be blown away.
(he won’t even play this live:( )
Porter Robinson and Madeon: If you know me you know this is the electronic show I have been dreaming about. Porter is one of the greatest live shows on the planet, and all reviews of this combined live show with fellow wunderkind, Madeon, can be summed up with; ‘ELECTRIFYING’. Seriously don’t miss this. Porter specializes in slowed down, powerful, storytelling through music and art, and this show is no exception. (seeing it in 3 weeks in London as a warm up:)
The XX: “It feels like they are pulling the notes out of my soul”- Julia K during the XX in 2013. These guys make beautiful, haunting, epic music.
Beyonce: I mean Bey is Bey. A ticket to one of her shows can cost more than your whole Coachella ticket. Only miss for Bon Iver.
Phantogram: One of the dopest groups out there. Fresh off a year long tour and album with Big Boi from Outkast, they will absolutely kill this set. Think indie pop meets earth-shaking, nasty, beats.
(ya we all want Big Boi to come out.. I know)
Other Big Wins
Mura Masa: Fun weird music with a great live show. Sorted.
Future Islands: So much props to these guys. Constantly good jams and the most passionate singer on earth.
Big Gigantic: Do you like fun or dancing? If yes to either one than this is your show.
Glass Animals: Used to be meh but new album is fire and supposedly new show is great. TBD.
Oh Wonder: Great live duo. Basic and I love it
New Discoveries I Hope Kick Ass
SOHN: Abstract electronic beats with soul music. IDK but every song I hear I like. Stoked.
Arkells: Just a good sounding band. Straightforward.
Goldlink: R&B/HipHop with fun beats and vibes.
Kungs: I mean tropical house is tropical house.
Joseph: Catchy folk music will be a daytime delight.
The Avalanches: Took 16 years to make their second album and this sound is fuuuuun.
Honne: This year’s ‘Pretty and pleasantly soft music that sounds like a chick but is actually a dude’ act. See Wet.
Francis and the Lights: I mean you don’t just feature Bon Iver on a track and not be great.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Toots and the Maytals: This years ‘Woah that feels like it is from a different era but will be pleasant A F’ acts.
Honorable Mentions (aka other acts I want to see or have seen and know are winners)
The Head and the Heart
Two Door Cinema Club
Martin Garrix (That one song is so catchy:( )
See you in April world. Also seeing the best live band on the planet Thursday night before Coachella. @SigurRos
Thanks to Intuit being awesome, I got to spend the last two days at TechCrunch Disrupt London. Think Comic Con for startups building next gen products. Amazing speakers showing off everything from robot dogs that can open doors, to a new flight aggregator that can get me home to SF for £200. As a PM, keeping a pulse on innovation is super valuable, but also just fun. For those of you who haven’t, do yourself a favor and go watch Silicon Valley, season 1 ends at Tech Crunch Disrupt in CA.
Wanted to summarize some of things that struck me or stood out to me. Feel free to comment for clarification on anything!
1.Machine Learning is the New Cloud:
Machine learning is eating everything. This conference was basically, “Taking normal products/processes/services and making them infinitely better using machine learning. One of the VC’s who spoke said it best, “You can’t build a company in the next 10-20 years without machine learning and AI being fundamental to your business.” Every single company that presented was using machine learning in some form. It is one thing being told something is important at work, it is quite another to see how every just assumes your product or service should have machine learning baked into it.
So a simple example (which I am definitely not working on 😉 ) Lets say you wanted are headed to Glastonbury/Coachella/Bonaroo or any other music festival, and you were wondering which artists to go see.
The Old Way: The program would look at other various data points to figure out who it thinks your favorite and least favorite artists at that festival will be. The inputs are maybe 30% your age and gender, 30% others reviews of artists, 30% your listening history, and 10% your horoscope. It would then spit out a ranking based on an algorithmic model using these inputs.
Machine Learning Way: First, do everything the exact same as we did the old way.. Then as each user creates a review, the program will alter the model above so that the actual results get closer and closer to the models original output. With enough data (users providing data), the model prediction would not only mirror the actual results, but it would have the flexibility to change as the music scene changes.
AI and machine learning (and neural networks) can get infinitely more complicated than that, and be applied to basically every industry, but that’s as far as this blog will go for now! Super thought-provoking to be in this atmosphere and get inspiration from a ton of cutting edge companies. Thanks Intuit!
2. Will Brexit Ruin Everything?
Brexit is causing quite the stir in the UK Tech scene. Three of the keynotes were based on Brexit and the potential implications on technology in Europe. The biggest area of anxiety for UK tech companies is losing international STEM employees. Of all the tech companies started in the UK in 2015, 42% of founders are not from the UK. The UK has about a third of the Europe tech scene, but it is a fragile hold, and the rest of Europe is becoming increasingly attractive for startups and big companies. The sentiment was not that Brexit will cause companies to leave, rather new companies will just choose not to come.
Best quip here was, “It is so difficult to build a company in the UK, that you actually have to be a more talented entrepreneur to build the same company here as you would have in the US.
3. Live is the New Frontier
Companies are taking a new approach to innovation (backed of course by Machine Learning). Basically, how do we change the content you see based on what is going on or what you need at this exact moment. If you have seen any of FaceBook’s advertisements at the moment, live streaming is a huge priority. In fact, I just whipped out my phone and watched the same speaker I am watching in person at Disrupt, live on the top of my FB news feed.
Another startup that presented figured out how content providers should serve up content to a customer based on their current session and clicking. So imagine if the CNN news application reconfigured the articles it shows you based on the old method (history, search data trends, etc..), but also based on your current 5 minutes spent on the CNN app. CNN can figure out my interests RIGHT NOW, and serve material accordingly. Incredibly powerful/scary technology.
The last example I will give is the founder of CityMapper App. If you live in London you know that this application is by far the most ubiquitous city specific application. You tell CityMapper where you want to go, CityMapper tells you the 10 different ways you can get there, how much they cost, and how long they will take. It uses open government data to tell you with insane accuracy when a bus will arrive, whether the bus or train is a better call for right now, etc… Its not using timetables, it is using actual live data from busses, trains, etc..
“We don’t spend any money on marketing. Running our business is simple. We just focus on finding good people to solve these hard problems.”
Summary: Live Wins.
Other interesting or exciting insights or products I saw:
Welcome our new robot overlords
Open Bionics(https://www.openbionics.com/) showed how they are creating custom prosthetic arms. They have partnered with artists and big media companies (Disney!) to make custom arms. Especially with kids this is incredibly valuable
Olly is a robot (think the voice from ‘Her’) built by Emotech that develops a personality based on you and your interactions with it (http://heyolly.com/) Super useful and strange to see how the personality molds to the user.
FInTech has done a bunch of things really well. Venmo does personal payments better than anyone else, Lending Club does lending better than banks etc etc. That said, anyone in banking will tell you that startups will never do everything together as well as they do.. Well N26 (won the startup competition at another TechCrunch two years ago) since then they have expanded their millennial focused bank to 17 countries in Europe. The kicker is their value add is basically building a platform that brings all of these decentralized fintech products together in one consistent phone banking application. (https://n26.com)
Jukedeck is wonderful
No specific point here, these guys are another previous winner of the startups competition at Disrupt. This app is just amazing.. https://www.jukedeck.com/ They basically use artificial intelligence to create a soundtrack to your video for you. The crazy part is the songs are VERY good and sync with the tempo and events going on in the video. Combine this with someone the crowdsourced/AI video creation apps, and you could theoretically create an incredible video or advertisement without actually recording anything. Unreal.
I honestly could keep writing for a while, but I have to catch a train home to do some actual work 😃
So about last week.. That post got more traction then I would have expected and I got a bunch of good feedback. I think people are still in a crazy emotional place over the election, but slowly calming down. That’s not too say it is all not still terrifying, but at least now, the initial shock is going away. Before just returning to normal blogging, I will say that while Donald has made some encouraging statements, his appointments have been nothing short of terrifying..
Top Adviser: Steve Bannon.. White Supremacist and one of the figureheads of the alt-right.. Google him. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing,” he said in an interview published Friday
EPA Transition Leader: Myron Ebell… Famous for Climate Change science denial despite not actually having an scientific training or expertise. We can only assume it has nothing to do with the fact that his major lobbyist funding comes from the energy industry. It’s like picking a KKK leader to lead the NAACP. Good timing after the two hottest years on record too.
Mike Pence: Ya ok I get he is the VP and all… Lets not forget when his website had this on it though, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions: Homeboy was deemed too racist for federal judgeship by the freaking GOP senate. Google this guy.
Anyways.. Life goes on. So normal blog post I suppose.
24 tomorrow. That’s weird. Age is a funny thing. Within the CMC/UNI world 24 feels unspeakably old, but in the work/London world everyone still makes fun of me for being a ‘baby’. Ready for 24 though. 23 was a slow starter, but ended at an all time high.
To that point^^ The last week has been insanely great. Finally saw the Book of Mormon Tuesday! Incredible production. 10 of 10 would recommend.
Thursday spontaneously went and saw Flume at a massive venue called Alexandria Palace. 10,000 person venue. While not Flume’s best show ever.. Super fun night.
Then to close it out went and saw Fantastic Beasts last night. Almost melted when the WB logo came on the screen. While the story was simpler and not the level of depth Potter might be known for, the new world translated super well into a movie. Magic in America is good news for everyone. Also finally had, Nandos, the most British meal ever..
Weird how settled everything feels now. London is just home and cold fog is standard. Couldn’t be happier though. I enjoy the work I am doing, the people I work with, the place I live, my commute and my weekends. Miss everyone terribly but also cool building up a new life in a new world.
Shell-shocked.. I set an alarm to check results around 1:00 AM, but fell asleep feeling good from the promising early results. Needless to say I haven’t slept since. I wanted to try and organize the mess of thoughts cracking my head open right now.
First.. to my friends who immigrated to the US to better your life, to those in marginalized communities, those with disabilities, sexual assault survivors, the LGBTQ community, those born with the deck stacked against them, the Muslim community, the Hispanic community: Take strength from the fact that the result of this election will not set back the progress that has been made. The rights of you and your loved ones that you have fought for over the last hundred years will be defended with all this nation has. I understand how easy that is for me to say.. I am a straight white male who is probably insulated from most of the negative ramifications of last night. Still, for whatever my voice is worth, understand that I (and much of America) will do whatever it takes to support you
(Edit: I was given some advice saying this section came across as a bit insensitive. Fair point. Things are scary and promises have been made that would clearly make things worse. I only mean to say that the majority of voters who voted against Trump and what he stands for will do everything they can. Apologies. http://www.cracked.com/blog/dear-white-people-stop-saying-everything-will-be-ok/ Illustrates what I mean)
Having said that, this dementor-esque darkness is not likely to lift any time soon. The fact that a man can admit proudly to sexually assaulting women, spit on fallen war heroes and their families, evade his taxes, stiff small business owners that work for him, dismiss the contributions and value of the scientific community, insult everyone who doesn’t look like him, treat women like objects, and all the rest(and there is a lot more), was just elected with absolutely no experience or subject matter expertise to the highest office in the world is nearly incomprehensible. Our national dialogue has turned toxic and I can’t even begin to imagine what parents everywhere are telling their children (especially daughters).
Worse still is the fact that the GOP held on to the House and Senate. If any of the horrific legislation that Obama has vetoed over the past eight years (defunding Planned Parenthood, teaching creationism, slashing environmental protections etc), is close to what we can expect, this is going to be a huge step backwards for the US and the world.. The final nail in the coffin being the potential impact on the supreme court that will likely last decades.
For the first time, young people, the “optimistic idealist class”, genuinely feel like the world will not be a better place 30 years from now than it is today. Our vision of the future was ripped apart by a coalition of mostly rural, old, white men. To those who voted for Trump or a third party (same thing), either as a big FUCK YOU to the “political elites”, or as a rejection of Hillary, all I ask is that your try and understand the real life long term damage you have likely just caused for millions of Americans. Sadly, you will probably only show regret when this impacts you (it probably will) directly, but I would be wrong for not asking.
As a person who spends all day thinking about how technology can improve people’s lives, this election also serves as horrible wake up call that the dark side of the technology we create can dramatically outweigh the benefits of technological progress. Similar to Brexit here in the UK, misinformation and misleading propaganda were used to create hugely influential, and overtly political,online echo-chambers that have no accountability or standard for accuracy. It is shocking how quickly these tools were used to disseminate what previously would have been considered extremist opinions and bring them into the mainstream. This could be a full post by itself, but the instability this creates should be terrifying to everyone.
I’ll admit that finding anything to be hopeful about this morning is tough. A long night of panic has left me feeling like throwing up, and at the risk of sounding dramatic, feeling somewhat hopeless. Still, there are some things worth acknowledging. First, as tough as this is, I do congratulate many folks who feel like Donald Trump was their only chance at having a voice in a world that had basically left them for dead. My whole personal political philosophy is built off the simple idea that a person has no control over the situation they were born into. While this is the foundation of the relatively liberal political views I have, it applies to all people, including those in America who globalization has not lifted up. While there is no question that much of this campaign has been the result of xenophobia and playing to people’s inner fears and prejudices (Note: Illegals are not stealing your jobs..), we can’t just sit back and assume that half of our country are racists/rednecks/etc. While open borders and free trade create substantial overall economic benefit, some areas will lose badly as a result, and the disenfranchisement that this brings can be absolutely devastating. This combined with the feeling that your voice is irrelevant in a system where one’s influence is directly correlated to one’s wealth is enough to make Trump’s angry populism appealing. So, I am hopeful that we can use this moment to bring opportunity to all those who feel forgotten.
Second, against my better judgement I am hopeful that Donald the President will be a better man than Donald the Candidate. His victory speech was uncharacteristically reasonable, and he genuinely appeared to want to work for all Americans.. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL_wh-d1pP4) This might be naive of me, given everything I laid out above, but I hope some part of this was an act and that Donald in the White House will be a different sort of man.
Third, I am lucky to know so many people on all sides of the political spectrum who will do everything in their power to create the right future. Despite the dark side I discussed, I believe technology will empower us with accurate information and enable us to demand accountability in the long run. If we play our cards right, this will enable permanent progress downstream. The passion that so many of my friends and acquaintances have shown this election is not going away because Donald Trump was elected president.
So maybe I am being an insensitive optimist, but I still have hope that things will be ok. In the words of our President, “Whether your chosen candidates win or lose tonight, let’s all agree, not only to stay engaged, but to push ourselves to do even better.. no matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.”
Keep fighting everyone. Love You.
All the best from London. Time to work.
Feel free to reach out to me to discuss anything I said above.. I know I am barely scratching the surface of the feelings of many, but I had to get something down on paper. Happy to talk with anyone who needs it.. Close friends or not, let me know.
I wrote this quickly after a long night of stress, apologies if I worded anything wrong or missed key points 🙂