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I'm pretty good at a lot of things. I'm a good programmer, a good blogger, a good writer, a good poker player and so on. Am I one of the BEST programmers in the world? Nope, not even close. Best bloggers in the world? Again, no. Writer? Not within miles of it. Poker player? Middling.
There's a type of bet in sports called a parlay. If you don't know what that is, it's a bet on multiple events. To get paid off, you have to be right on all of them. So maybe the 49ers have to win their game, the Patriots have to win theirs, and the Steelers have to win their game. Even if every event is pretty likely to happen-- say fifty percent to make the math easy, the odds of all three happening are pretty slim. One in eight. Because it's rare for all of the events to happen in the same way, you get paid off proportionally well.
In the same way, combinations of skills are extremely rare and valuable. I may not be the best at any of those things, but I doubt you can find someone who is as good at all four combined as I am. That's not because I'm amazing, it's just because we've all picked a handful of things that we specialize in. You might be the best juggling / running / physicist in the world.
Luckily very few things in this world require only one skill. Even things that seem like they do, like painting, also require storytelling, marketing, social skills, etc. In the infinite world of possible paths, we all have the opportunity to use our set of specialties and change the game so that the winner is the person who has those skills.
I slept most of the flight from San Francisco to Vancouver. I was up until one thirty in the morning the night before, and had to wake up at five in order to get to the airport on time, so I was exhausted. Upon arriving in Vancouver I shuffled half-asleep to the customs station, which I had to go through even though I was only connecting through Vancouver, not stopping there.
The agent asks my name, where I'm going, all the usual stuff. I reply, giving short answers. I always give short answers in customs because first, I'm sort of offended at how they treat you as though you're some kind of criminal, and two, because I figure the agent just wants to hear a succint answer and get on with her day.
"Where are your other bags?"
"I don't have any."
(Note: if you haven't read last year's post, you may want to read it first, since this is only the gear that is different)
During South by Southwest this year I was lucky enough to see the Kanye West show (thanks to my brother, Devon, and Colt Woody). Kanye had about a million different guests with him, ranging from Jay-Z to people I'd never heard of before.
Mos Def opened up the concert dressed in a suit, wearing a sequined mask. Rihanna came out with a futuristic halter top that looked like it was made out of seatbelts or something. Halfway through the set, I notice something strange-- a stagehand dressed in all black is singing one of the choruses. Kanye does his verse, and then the stagehand starts singing again. What's going on?
It turns out that the stagehand was actually Bon Iver, but unlike the rest of the artists in the set, he was dressed in boring clothes. Ahh, I thought, maybe there is some function in fashion after all. This guy is at a huge concert, on stage, singing, and I STILL thought he was a stagehand just because he was dressed so plainly.
EDIT: I have no idea why this post is so popular. People love to read about it and flip out because I said that I am "basically a vegan" even though I used to eat raw fish every couple weeks back when I was a raw foodist. A few things to make clear:
I love doing stuff that normal people don't do. Especially stuff that seems crazy but is actually really good for you. Let's add another one to the list - eating raw eggs!
Being a raw foodist, the only "meat" I eat is the occasional fish. That basically makes me a vegan. The biggest problem with being a vegan is that you naturally don't get enough B12.
Once upon a time, hundreds of years ago, there existed a species called homo sapiens. They had an enormous amount of processing power, an excellent ability to match patterns, and a level of consciousness and self awareness that had never existed before.
They understood many of the things they saw in the world, but others were mysteries. It wasn't that they couldn't process what was around them, but rather that they hadn't developed the context for it. Seeing giant bolts of lightning strike down from the sky must have been terrifying. Nothing in their experience could begin to explain such a thing.
If we can simplify a bit and say that scientists' jobs are to figure out all of the causes and effects, it could be said that we've always been scientists, albeit bad ones. Cave men started noticing correlations and assigned meaning to them. Maybe they saw a white bird, and the next day it rained. How could they know that the white bird didn't cause that rain?
Some phenomena didn't seem to have direct causes, or maybe sometimes the correlations spotted didn't line up anymore. It rained, but no one in the tribe saw a white bird. Searching for meaning, our ancestors imagined supernatural beings, and nonsense was born.
Whenever I pass by a Home Depot in the RV, one thought pops into my mind: are there any projects I can do? I love working on my RV. Since the last update, where I put in maple and marble floors and improved the kitchen, I've done quite a bit more. Following is a list of some of the improvements, along with notes to help you if you decide to do something similar. Check out the video walkthrough first:
Super Classy Kitchen and Countertops
Let me attempt to fend off the inevitable criticism that this upgrade is excessive by saying this: I agree with you. I have a tendency to go overboard when it's only marginally more expensive, especially if it's going to be fun. This is a really good example of this.
Some cities I love because they're full of things I like to do. Tokyo, Shanghai, and Budapest, for example. Others I love because of how they feel, but I don't always know what to do with myself there. Amsterdam is one of those cities. I love walking along the canals, I love seeing people biking, and I love the great art, but those things don't necessarily fill my days.
This morning my friends were going to the museums. Great choice, but I'd been to the Rijks and Van Gogh museums recently and wasn't particularly excited see the modern art museum. Most western European countries don't have much for tea, but I figured I'd take a shot in the dark and see if there was anywhere I could go sit and have some nice tea while writing or pondering my future.
One place stood out: Formocha. It wasn't clear whether it was actually a tea house or somewhere that just sold tea, but it would be a nice one-mile walk along the canals regardless.
The sun was out, which I noticed only because I hadn't seen it the whole time we were in Budapest. I walked along the sunny side of the canals, enjoying seeing the drawbridges and houseboats. But when I arrived at Formocha, it was closed.
When I tell people I ride a motorcycle, they're either really excited (because they ride too), or horrified that I would take such careless risks with my life. Just how dangerous is motorcycle riding, though? Before I bought my first bike I did some research and came to the conclusion: not very.
Let's look at the data.
In 2006, there were 35 motorcycle deaths per 100 million miles of distance traveled by motorcyclist. That means that, on average, for me to die riding a motorcycle, I'd have to ride 2.8 million miles, assuming I'm an average rider. Last year I rode somewhere around 1000 miles, giving me a .035% chance of death.
That's a lot of riding, and not a lot of death.
For new readers to the site, or old readers who haven't been paying attention, I live in my small RV. I bought my first RV in 2007, and except for short term travel rentals, I haven't lived in a house or apartment or any other non-wheeled dwelling since then. This sounds rather extreme, but I honestly don't feel like I live in a car.
When I'm parked my RV feels like a small house, complete with all of the comforts of a stationary home. Of course, these niceties haven't come easily-- I've spent hundreds of hours working on my RV, coming up with new ideas and implementing them in the home depot parking lot. Because I actually live in this thing and the improvement process is ongoing, it's never possible to say that I'm done. That said-- I can't really imagine too much more that I can do to this thing. I only have one or two big ideas left, and no immediate plans to implement them.
Here's what's new this round:
1. Painted everything. For a long time I've been hesitant to paint the RV, because I worried that the paint wouldn't stick to the disgusting fake-wood walls. Luckily an all purpose primer did the job. My RV is only 20' long, but it took me fifteen hours to mask the whole interior, prime everything, and then layer on two coats of paint. It was the first time I'd ever painted anything, and most of the time was spent dealing with all of the weird little angles and protrusions. As I mention in the video, I was hoping to get a grey color, but somehow ended up with blue. I'm not entirely sure how that happened, but I do remember saying, "I'm sick of picking colors... let's do this one."
I first heard about Vipassana from Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer for Weezer. He was explaining that despite being a rock star, he was celibate because of Vipassana. Powerful stuff, I guess. He raved about the benefits of it, although I don't remember exactly what he said anymore. It stuck in my mind, and over the years I thought about signing up, but something always seemed to be in the way of me leaving society for ten days to learn how to meditate.
The idea is simple and extreme, both of which appealed to me. You go to a meditation center in the middle of nowhere, agree to be silent and without any contact with the other world for ten days. Then, on a donation only basis, they teach you how to meditate, which you do for ten hours each day.
Finally, after knowing about it for five years, I signed up and went to a course. No notepads were allowed in, so this is reconstructed pretty faithfully from memory.