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Archived Posts for June 2023

Jun 23

Weekly Report: June 25, 2023


Hubris and the Deep Sea

The loss of the Titan, the submersible operated by a private company carrying five people attempting to view the Titanic, has captured the world’s attention for most of the week. After a multi-day search, vessel fragments found on the sea floor mean that the Titan had a catastrophic structural failure and imploded. Mercifully, it would have happened so rapidly that the passengers wouldn’t have realized what was happening.

  • “You know, at some point, safety is just pure waste.” That’s a quote from Stockton Rush, the late CEO of OceanGate who was piloting the Titan. A lot of reports now point to Rush confusing innovation with recklessness, having been repeatedly warned by experts in the past. It took several years for the warned-about risks to manifest.
  • “Regulations are written in blood,” is a common saying. In industries where serious injury or death is a real risk, innovation is slower for a good reason.
  • Hundreds are still missing from the disaster off the coast of Greece, where a boat carrying hundreds of people capsized. It is sad, but not surprising, that media coverage of the two news events has been so incredibly disproportionate.

Top 5

One reason attributed to declining birth rates in developed economies is a reluctance to bring children into a world that feels increasingly messed up. I periodically think about what kind of world my kids will be living in when they reach their 50s, by which time it will be the 2070s. Here is what I think are the most significant global generational issues that will dramatically shape how things unfold in the coming half-century:

  1. Climate change
  2. Declining birth rates
  3. Growing wealth inequality
  4. Political tribalism
  5. The U.S.-China relationship (and the question of Taiwan)

Not making the list for me (yet) are AI, dwindling natural resources, interplanetary travel, and the impact of social media. Disagree with the list? Am I missing anything?

Further Observations

  • Welcome to summer. The summer solstice was on Wednesday — the astronomical beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest day of the year. In Australia, the seasons are defined by calendar months, instead (winter runs from June 1 to August 31).
  • It’s been an unusually cool spring and start to summer in the Bay Area, but Texas is experiencing high heat at the moment. The Dallas-Fort Worth area was forecasted to reach as high as 46°C this weekend. And, El Niño is returning
  • The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list was released for 2023. In the past, some restaurants won so much that they are now on a list where they can’t win again. This year, restaurants in Lima have taken out 4 of the places, with Central taking out the top spot.
  • This week I learned: “Wakeup calls are a long-standing tradition of the NASA program. Each day during the mission, flight controllers in the Mission Control Center will greet the crew with an appropriate musical interlude.” Here’s an archive of wakeup calls from one of the Discovery missions. Some of the songs they played include Stairways to the Stars, Defying Gravity, and the theme from Stargate.
  • About the only time I listen to the radio these days is when I drive Susanne’s car to take my daughter to gym class on the weekend. The drive is only 10 minutes each way, but for the last 3 months, I will hear, without fail, The Weeknd’s Creepin’ at least twice, sometimes three times. (My daughter has heard it so much she knows the lyrics 😅.) It’s really annoying, and I recently stumbled across a video that explains why this is: Why radio stations sound the same.
  • Well, the whole Prigozhin thing was anticlimactic. What was the point?
  • The trailer for Dumb Money just dropped. It’s about the Gamestop saga, u/DeepFuckingValue, and comes out on October 20. Seth Rogan plays Gabe Plotkin. Looking forward to it!
  • Not sure if I will write a newsletter next weekend. It’ll be a short one if I do because it’s quarter end, followed by the July 4 holiday.



  • 📺 The Bear (Season 2)
    I hope they renew this for another season. My favorite episodes were Honeydew (a nice interlude in Copenhagen), Forks (nice to see a troubled member of the crew catch a break), and the incredible Fishes (a double length episode with an ensemble cast). ★★★★

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Spotted in San Carlos

Hasan Minhaj interviews Barack Obama:

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Jun 23

Weekly Report: June 18, 2023


  • It’s the Juneteenth long weekend and for the only time in the year, our preschool is open on a holiday, so Susanne and I genuinely have the day off. Unfortunately, her Monday plans were unceremoniously derailed by not one but two clients on Friday who are pushing to sign deals early next week.
  • Susanne and I watched this YouTube video that plays the most popular song in each month since 1980. It’s almost an hour long, but it went by quickly. The 1980s had some amazing music, and I knew virtually every song that decade despite not being sentient (or even alive) for most of it. Studies have shown that people tend to stop discovering new music sometime around 30-35 years old. I started tapping out about midway through 2020, when I couldn’t recognize more than about 50% of songs and artists. It’s probably not a coincidence that this coincides with the start of the pandemic and the last time I had a regular commute for work.
  • My thinking on the Vision Pro has changed. After reading all of the glowing reviews, I think I’m going to buy one when it’s released… but only if Apple’s 14 day return policy applies to it. There are several Apple products that I’ve been indecisive about buying over the years. I ended up trying them out, only to send them back after a few days of use. They include the Apple Watch Ultra (found it to be a net detractor over the 20 year old automatic watch I currently wear that powers itself and doesn’t vibrate on my wrist every 5 minutes), the iPhone Pro 13 and iPhone 13 (I prefer the Mini’s form factor), and the AirPods Pro Gen 2 (I already have regular AirPods and the noise canceling that the Pros offer is unusable from a practical point of view when my kids are around… which is also when I probably most want to use them). I suspect the Vision Pro at home is an itch that will get scratched by trying it out for a few days.
  • The S&P 500 index is almost back to where it was in March 2022, when the Fed started the fastest series of rate hikes in history. Kind of crazy.


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Jun 23

Weekly Report: June 11, 2023


Vision Pro

Apple launched its $3,499 Vision Pro AR/VR headset on Monday. With sales tax, the price will be closer to $3,850 where I live. If you wear glasses, like myself, you have to buy additional lenses that magnetically attach to the device. I imagine those will cost a few hundred dollars.

Nonetheless, as long as Apple decides to continue developing the product, we can expect the Vision Pro to get cheaper and smaller over the years. They’ll probably release a non-pro Apple Vision at some stage.

My take? The Vision Pro probably represents the best shot this decade at seeing whether AR/VR is ready for widespread daily adoption (if it ever becomes ready — I’m doubtful).

As I wrote last week, the promise of AR/VR is mainly hamstrung by the hardware. For example, if I could magically have some of the functionality of the Vision Pro in the glasses I already wear (kind of like a heads up display), without materially increasing their weight or looking dorky, I’d be more willing to stand in line for it.

What we have today with the Vision Pro is the best mass-production headset that you can design with today’s technology. It’s entirely controlled by voice and hand gestures, so you don’t have to lug hand controls (the VR world’s equivalent of the stylus) around like most other headsets. Apparently the eye tracking is pinpoint accurate. The battery has been offloaded to an external battery pack you stick in your pocket, ostensibly to reduce the weight of the headset and thus user fatigue. The screen resolution is the best in the industry. They try to mitigate the issue of being blocked off from the physical world by including a creepy simulated-eyes display in the front, and giving the user the ability to control how much of the outside world they want to see. Because wearing glasses degrades the experience, they require glasses wearers to buy special Zeiss lenses that attach to the device and use those instead. They even have a solid approach to privacy (advertisers can’t do analytics on where you’re looking).

The headset is far from perfect. Reports are that the headset will still starts to feel uncomfortable after some period of use. The corded external battery is still something extra to lug around. But let’s acknowledge for a moment that there is an incredible amount of technology packed into this thing. It’s been pointed out that it represents the culmination of all the different things that Apple has been working on in its other products — from the Apple Watch’s digital crown to the iPad’s Lidar, to the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera for Face ID, and the M2 chip — and then some.

Who knows if it will find meaningful traction? We’ll find out next year.

Some additional random thoughts:

  • John Gruber has a great review of his 30 minutes with the Vision Pro. “Most impressively, and uncannily, the field of view seemingly exactly matches what you see naturally. It’s not even slightly wider angle, or even slightly more telephoto. There is no fisheye effect and no aberrations or distortion in your peripheral vision. What you see in front of your face exactly matches what your own eyes see when you lift the Vision Pro up over your eyes.” Sounds like Apple absolutely nailed the technology.
  • Here’s what Mark Zuckerberg thinks. I mean, it’s what you’d expect him to say, and he kind of has to publicly say that, even if he’s privately sweating. The cost is the main competitive advantage he has today. He points out that Apple’s portrayal of the Vision Pro world feels less social that Meta’s vision of their metaverse. While that may be true today (it’s a little tough to buy everyone in the family their own headset!), that will change if the price becomes more accessible. After all, the social aspect is just software and Apple has a bristling developer ecosystem. The hardware is the hard part.
  • The iPhone was niche when it was launched. But I was totally hyped about it and stood in line at the Apple Store in Sydney when the first one was released in the Australian market. (I had to ask my boss at the time for permission to leave work early for it. He’s one of the best technology lawyers I’ve ever worked with but even he didn’t appear all that curious about it and seemed amused at my earnestness!)
  • The iPhone is everywhere now (at least with the world’s richest 1 billion consumers) and the average price point today is, what, $1,000? When the iPhone was released it was around $600, whereas a BlackBerry could be had for around maybe half that (and Nokias were even cheaper). People will pony up lots of cash if something is good enough and essential enough. Phones are essential in today’s world, but were pretty much essential before the iPhone arrived on the scene too. AR/VR doesn’t have that positioning.
  • The simulated eyes thing are an interesting approach, but I find them creepy. I certainly wouldn’t want to interact with my kids that way. How we look at eyes for feedback is a primal thing… uncanny valley and all that.
  • The scene in the ad for the Vision Pro that I liked the most is where a woman is sitting on a plane and she tunes everything out by watching a movie (at the 0:49 mark). I wonder if the AirPods Pro will pair with the Vision Pro? It needs noise cancelling to be completely immersive. That’s escapism. Maybe a little bit dystopic too. From a practical point of view, it’s probably going to be annoying for people sitting next to you who need to pass by to use the toilet (both to get your attention and to maneuver past).
  • Apple was very careful not to mention the terms AR, VR, metaverse, or headset in its launch. It prefers the term “spatial computer”.
  • If weight fatigue is an issue, I can’t see it being used for more than an hour or two a day by most.
  • Microsoft’s HoloLens has some pretty nice promo videos.

Earning Airline Miles for Interest

Bask Bank offers a savings account that pays interest not in cash, but in American Airlines miles. As interest rates have risen, so too has their mileage rate, and each dollar deposited with them now earns 2.5 AA miles per year. They are currently running a promotion where if you deposit a certain amount of money with them for at least 180 days, they will give bonus miles. $50,000 gets you a 20,000 mile bonus on top of the regular 62,500 miles. So, is it worth it, compared to sticking your money in a 26-week treasury bill?

Here are the factors:

  • Treasury Bill: A 26-week treasury currently pays out 5.483% p.a. when held to maturity. The interest is not subject to state tax. I regard the post-tax interest on the t-bill as the opportunity cost here.
  • Bask Mileage Account: $50,000 deposited for 6 months nets 82,500 miles. Those miles are taxable, and Bask issues a 1099 that values miles at 0.42 cents each, for a taxable amount of $346.50.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • View From the Wing values AA miles at 1.3 cents per mile (cpm). OMAAT values them at 1.5 cpm. That feels about right. Just note that miles are subject to devaluation over time, so they tend to become worth significantly less as time goes on.
  • In theory, a one-way first class partner award booking from the U.S. to Asia can cost as little as 80,000 AA miles… if you can find availability.

Further Observations

  • I have the details of two of my credit cards committed to memory. This can be a surprisingly useful thing to do.
  • Donald Trump was indicted on federal charges on Thursday relating to improper handling of classified documents. “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?” Trump is alleged to have said. Uncharted waters…
  • Both Binance and Coinbase were sued by the SEC this week. The SEC’s complaint against Binance features this amazing quote:



  • 📖 How To Invest: Masters of the Craft (David Rubenstein)
    Interviews given by Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein with investing legends such as Seth Klarman, Ray Dalio, Stan Druckenmiller, Jim Simons, Orlando Bravo, Marc Andreessen and Michael Moritz. Full of intriguing insights — into their backgrounds as well as how they think. ★★★★

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Source: Catalist | By The New York Times
Singlish translator: cbbbbb, cao ni ma

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Jun 23

Weekly Report: June 4, 2023


Apple Goggles

Apple’s long-awaited VR/AR headset is rumored to be launched at WWDC on Monday. Around the internet, it seems that people are skeptical whether the device will become a successful product line for Apple, but no one is willing to rule them out given their track record of taking over markets they enter (see phones, tablets, wireless earphones, watches, etc.). However, the anticipated $3,000 price tag is a barrier that will probably see the first version remain a niche object, kind of like its top of the line Pro Display XDR monitor. Let’s see what they can do with it. (Meta also announced its Quest 3 headset. I bought a Quest 2 during the pandemic but it hasn’t seen much use.)

When I was in high school in the late 90s, I remember being totally hyped for the release of Ultima Online, one of the first massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) that, I’m surprised to see, is still operating today. The promise it held in my mind was a persistent world that I could explore with a bunch of friends. But it was not just about exploring dungeons and killing monsters—you could do stuff like form a guild, trade goods, and even buy virtual property. This meant it could be a place you could just hang out in and chat and “build a second life” in, so to speak, in between all the adventuring. (Second Life came a few years later.) It seemed to be a great place to hang out with real life friends and friends that I had made online.

The reality was decidedly less rosy. The first issue was that things were hamstrung by technology. Broadband in Australia was in its infancy and cost prohibitive, and accessing UO over a dial-up connection led to crazy bad lag. It was unplayable. The second issue, is that even when the connection was tolerable, Britannia (the name of the world in which UO is set) wasn’t a particularly fun place to actually hang out. While clearly there were enough people who the game engaged that it has survived to this day, I don’t remember playing it for more than a few weeks even though I played a lot of computer games back then.

MMORPGs are the original metaverses and they have been around for decades. While VR is tightly bound with the metaverse (as in, a way to fully immerse yourself in one), VR has broader applications. Nonetheless, just like UO, I think the early days of consumer-accessible VR are still pretty niche. Until a few things change, I see things remaining that way (although, with Apple’s reach, even a niche offering involves a lot of people).

First, the form factor is cumbersome. Fabricated mockups of Apple’s headset show a sleek pair of ski goggles which are easier to whip on than the Quest, but there is an external battery pack which I assume needs to be clipped somewhere to your body. This adds quite a bit of friction each time you want to use it, which contrasts to the “instant on” nature of its phones, computers, etc. (I remember the old days where computers didn’t have sleep mode and it could take 3+ minutes to boot up a desktop. That made using a computer a very intentional act.)

Second, current forms of VR disconnect you from the physical world. I imagine the Apple headset will have look-through functionality, but it still involves putting something in front of your eyes—your window to the world—blocking them completely. So it may be great for games and experiencing things that aren’t possible in the real world, but will that provide widespread daily utility?

Third, are there any real world interactions that are genuinely made better by VR goggles? I certainly don’t want to have meetings at work wearing them. Maybe there are some limited applications like doing virtual walkthroughs of buildings in real estate that are more convenient (but still inferior to actually being there).

Fourth, all of Apple’s major product lines are used by all age groups. It will be interesting to see what the uptake is of older age groups. Maybe it’s me just getting older, but the Quest 2 makes me dizzy sometimes.

All that said, MMORPGs have come a long way and some of them have developed very strong communities and are actually places in which a lot of people now hang out and socialize (and sometimes meet and get married IRL). And some people even make a bit of a living through it by selling virtual goods. I have no doubt that VR will continue to evolve and grow, but similar to MMORPGs, I’m not sure it will become something all pervasive, like the smartphone, or this new generation of AI technology that’s currently set the tech world ablaze. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but with Apple I suppose there’s a certain weight of expectation that whatever they do will literally change the world and become ubiquitous.

Augmented reality is probably the more interesting application, but I think it demands a different form factor to find more widespread adoption. But what would that be? Google Glass was an attempt, but it looked dorky. Maybe one day we’ll be able to integrate a chip and power source into glasses that are inconspicuous. Or maybe it will be something like this, where the technology just gets out of your way altogether.

Nonetheless, Apple’s headset is still probably going to be able to do some pretty cool stuff!

Further Observations

  • Every few issues of this newsletter, I will sign up a random friend or two to it. If you’re wondering why you suddenly started receiving these, that’s why. (Funnily enough, no one has ever replied to me asking, “Hey, why did I start getting these?”)
  • A shout out to the Dim Sum WhatsApp group! It was great seeing you all yesterday… and actually eating dim sum together for the first time in ages!



  • 🎬 Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)
    As good an adaption as I could have hoped for. ★★★★
  • 📺 Succession (Season 4)
    First class TV, and they successfully landed the plane with the series finale. ★★★★★
  • 📺 The Diplomat (Season 1)
    Susanne put me on to this one. It’s really good. ★★★★
  • 📺 The Night Agent (Season 1)
    Watchable, but pretty standard spy show fare. ★★½
  • 🎪 Gilroy Gardens Theme Park (Gilroy, CA)
    Took the kids here over the Memorial Day weekend and it wasn’t as busy as I feared, which is probably telling. It’s a bit of a weird, aging, and tired theme park, and two of the rides broke down just as we reached the front of the line (which did not make for happy children). Membership is apparently tax-deductible. ★★

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