Author Archives: Justus

To Imply vs To Infer

Say you ask a friend, “Are you going to the party on Saturday?” and she replies, “I work the evening shift.” Your friend is implying that she can’t be in two places at once, so you then infer that she won’t be coming to the party.”

Google Design Documents on Conversational UIs

What a great example of an important distinction! To imply is to give meaning between the lines. To infer is to take meaning from between the lines.

How often do we confuse these two?

How often are our words muddled with disinformation? How often do we fail the truth?

I listened to Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson argue over The Truth. Two of the most admired intellectuals of our time cannot even arrive at basic agreement over what Truth is.

Maybe, like Pirsig suggests in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Truth is unspeakable. Our words will always form a fractional representation. The model is always flawed.

Another way to say it, is that we can only imply the truth in our speech. Further, we can only infer the truth from others.

Peterson thinks of Truth pragmatically. It’s only True so far in it provides for the advancement of Life. He calls it “Darwinian”. I like his version of Truth, but the model seems to be lacking for me.

Harris is more materialist. It seems to me that his Truth is deterministic and objective.

They might agree that Truth encompasses the human experience and is greater than human experience.

Of course, I can’t say for certain, because I may not be perfectly inferring The Truth from their words and I might also not be perfectly implying The Truth to you!

We are caught in a web of existential information, trying to create harmony between our models of the Universe and The Truth.

Nobody can directly inject wisdom into your mind. You must mine the texture of your experience. Between the folds you will find veins of gold.

I imagine the Grace of God is to have a conception of reality that is perfectly tuned to Truth. That momentary lapse in imperfection that seems to last forever. What a gift.

Thanks for reading. Hope you may have inferred some wisdom from this.

Feel free to leave a comment below or tweet at me (@justuseapen).

Commitment and Compulsion

I have a theory.

Most of the things we do are the result of our commitments, or our compulsions.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I wake up at 4am because I’m committed to making the most of my mornings.

I sleep in until 8am because I am compelled by insomnia and laziness.

If I eat a healthy breakfast of greek yogurt and berries, it is because I am committed to a healthy diet. If I eat a bowl of cereal, it’s because I’m compelled to by disadvantageous economics or a sugar addiction.

I go to work because I am committed to paying my bills. I slack off because I am compelled by Facebook and email and every other distraction.

I work out because I’m committed to peak physical performance. I skip leg day because I’m compelled by my ego.

There is almost no grey area.

Commitments are interesting because they are purely personal. You might be committed to a group or a religion. But that group or religion cannot force your commitment. That would then be a compulsion. Like taxes.

Inversely, compulsions are usually externally driven.

I am compelled by carbohydrates. All of them. It’s rough. The wheat plant has evolved to get me hooked. How am I to compete with millions of years of evolution? I can’t. In fact I need a miracle of God’s grace to get over my addiction to carbohydrates.

Commitment is that miracle. We must commit ourselves to good if we are to see good committed unto us. That’s why people commit to giving things up for lent. To see what fruit commitment will bear.

No time.

Between work, the gym, and dance, I had no time to write today.

Or better said, I did not prioritize writing today. I prioritized work, the gym, and dance.

What are you prioritizing? It’s a simple question, because the answer is — inevitably —  what you actually did.

We always have time. The real problem is that we rarely have our priorities in order.

Prioritization is an eternal and universal problem. Time is a gift and only becomes a problem when you’ve used it unwisely.

Sow No Discord

Proverbs 6:16-19 states

16 These six things doth the Lord hate, yea, seven are an abomination unto Him:

17 a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

19 a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Personally, I have struggled with all of these — Pride, deception, violence, depravity, destruction, duplicity and antagonism.

Some are probably more pronounced than others.

If the serpent represents danger in the chaotic unknown, then the serpent is present when discord is sown amongst the brethren. When you “play devil’s advocate” in an adversarial way, you are inviting Satan into the conversation.

You could take it literally or figuratively, the end result would be no different I think.

Words are powerful.

I have a habit of passionately arguing points. The problem with this habit is the “passionate” part. Passion is struggle. Passion is pain. Human interaction doesn’t need to be painful. It ought be comforting, full of grace.

Debate can be had. And it is critical that it be had in the interest of deeper understanding. If debate is had in the interest of mutual understanding, no discord is sown and satan is nowhere in the matter. There is no threat of violence or chaos in the search for truth. That’s because the search for truth is essentially the act of extracting order from chaos and bringing balance into the world.

I’m writing this as a reminder to myself. Speak first to understand. Listen to understand. Seek truth, not prestige or status. Seek understanding and reconciliation. This is the way of Christ, the Buddha, and universal wisdom.

Amen.

It’s *really* easy to make some extra Bitcoin on NiceHash

Yesterday, in a matter of minutes. I spun up a NiceHash on my Nvidia 1080.

This morning I woke up, and as I was going about my morning routine I looked at my return. I made .000016916BTC!

Wow. So cool. Much excitement.

Basically, what NiceHash does, is sell your computing power on a market place.

You download their client from their website (https://www.nicehash.com/).

Then you put in a Bitcoin wallet to receive payments. And voila, NiceHash will begin using your computing power to mine cryptocurrency.

The way that it works is fascinating.

Computation “buyers” go to Nicehash and pay them to mine various currencies. They’re billing themselves as “honest cloud mining”.

I get that some people don’t like cloud mining. I haven’t yet developed a strong opinion on it. Maybe someone can convince me.

I’m going to let the client run for a while and earn me a few extra shekels.

Let’s see where this baby goes.

HOT TAKE: Elon Should Manage Uber

Hear me out:

A) It’s a transportation company that needs a new CEO. Elon is a transportation entrepreneur who is CEO’ing a few companies already. What’s one more?. He’s the best in the world at it. Many of us love the service Uber provides and the industry it created. Who better to shepherd that company into the future than the man shepherding humanity in general to a sustainable future?

B) We can trust Elon (he’s the only one we can trust imo). He’s much more palatable than Travis Kalanick anyway. Imagine the influx of new talent at Uber with Elon Musk at the helm.

C) Uber is a massive threat/opportunity for Tesla’s business. In the future, no one will own cars. We’ll just use a network of privately owned automated vehicles at an extremely low cost. By controlling Uber, Elon can keep the massive competitor from becoming a strategic threat to Tesla by turning the company into a strategic partner and long term customer.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Resources for Developers (or anyone “technical”)

Artificial Intelligence is the single most important endeavor ever under taken by humanity. If you care to learn the technical side of this venture, I’ve put together a short-and-growing list of resources to look at for introductory learning and exploration purposes.

Please enjoy and suggest additions.


Artificial Intelligence (MIT 6.034)

from the course description:

“introduces students to the basic knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning methods of artificial intelligence. Upon completion of 6.034, students should be able to develop intelligent systems by assembling solutions to concrete computational problems”

Deep Learning for Self-Driving Cars

MIT 6.S094

from the intro:

“an introduction to the practice of deep learning through the applied theme of building a self-driving car. It is open to beginners and is designed for those who are new to machine learning, but it can also benefit advanced researchers in the field looking for a practical overview of deep learning methods and their application.”

Develop Your First Neural Network in Python With Keras Step-By-Step

Introduction to Neural Networks on the high-level ML platform Keras.

Fast.Ai

trying to make AI less “exclusive”. Practical courses and tutorials. Cool branding.

Gitxiv

from the about page:

“GitXiv is a space to share collaborative open computer science projects. Countless Github and arXiv links are floating around the web. Its hard to keep track of these gems. GitXiv attempts to solve this problem by offering a collaboratively curated feed of projects. Each project is conveniently presented as arXiv + Github + Links + Discussion.”

Machine Learning with Andrew Ng on Coursera

This is the definitive college-level course on Machine Learning. It has nearly 12,000 reviews. I’m working through it presently. Includes a great intro/refresher to linear algebra (that I needed).

Thanks to Stanford for providing the material.

Machine Learning is Fun!

The world’s easiest introduction to Machine Learning

There’s also a video course on Lynda.

Recurrent Neural Network Tutorial for Artists

from the post:

“This post is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of recurrent neural networks. It is intended for readers without any machine learning background. The goal is to show artists and designers how to use a pre-trained neural network to produce interactive digital works using simple Javascript and p5.js library.”

Simple Reinforcement Learning with Tensorflow

Introduction to practical application of Q-learning and neural networks using TensorFlow.

TensorFlow for Poets

How to build an image classifier in TensorFlow for poets.

Why I Produced a Podcast from Scratch

My outline and notes from episode 1 with Michael Alexis

I love talking to people. When a good friend suggested doing a podcast to market my skills, he sold me on the following points:

  • You will learn a lot.
  • You will build deeper relationships with your guests.
  • You will improve at the art of conversation.

These aspirations were so motivating to me that I immediately started scheduling episodes and planning a show around these ideas.

This is how I planned and executed a 14-episode podcast featuring my friends and mentors.

Learning

Throughout Season 1 of Hacker Practice I interview creative people engaged in entrepreneurial ventures. I interview engineers and scientists and growth hackers. I interviewed my coaches and mentors, friends and inspiration.

These interviews have taught me:

  1. Novel marketing tactics for this podcast
  2. What Big Data is
  3. Breathing exercises for strength
  4. About this Haruki Murakami fellow
  5. How to build a nuclear power plant in my backyard
  6. How to find a technical cofounder
  7. A new method for learning complex topics from scratch
  8. The basic elements of photography
  9. To ask for feedback after every “no” in sales
  10. How steel quality is measured
  11. A new strategy for generating leads online
  12. A strategy for being more productive and getting fit at the same time
  13. How successful residential real estate investors consider investments
  14. Which hormones make you hungry
  15. and much more…

Further, the process of organizing, recording, and editing a podcast has taught me a variety of technical skills. I now have an understanding of basic audio recording and editing technologies. To be specific, Season One of Hacker Practice was recorded using Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype and edited on the open source audio editing suite, Audacity.

The show will be published and syndicated through Libsyn. I use the $50 / month tier because the show averages an hour and is published one season per quarter. You’ll find syndicated feeds on iTunes and YouTube as of March 15th.

The Craft of Conversation

Listening to myself interview someone has been like watching game film: Occasionally embarrassing, always enlightening.

How easily do you produce a concise question or decisive analysis?

If you’ve never recorded and reviewed yourself having a conversation, you probably have no idea.

Interviewing my friends and role models has given me an outside view of our dynamic. The perspective gives you a quantum of self-awareness otherwise impossible to achieve.

How many people really see themselves as they are? An easier question to answer is: how many people see themselves at all? The answer is probably close to 0%. Which basically makes self-examination via audio/video a power move.

I’m not saying I’m suddenly a meditative zen master. I’m saying that I’ve now listened to myself have 14 different long-form conversations with people I like and admire. In the process, I’ve begun to eliminate verbal ticks and conversational faux pas (“begun” being key here).

Relationship Building

The people I interview are my friends. I’ve done business with many of them. I respect each one of them for their accomplishments and character.

They have so much to teach me. Normal social calls don’t allow for the kind of invasive questioning possible in an interview format. Interviews can be like conversation on steroids. The act of being recorded engages you. It forces you to listen actively and question incisively.

It’s an intimate act. Both parties cannot emerge without having developed the relationship. This is why I interview people I admire and want to have long-term relationships with.

Because: friendships matter.

How I’m producing, editing and publishing my own podcast.

Here are the steps to producing your own podcast.

  1. Get convinced
    1. It takes some confidence to get started. Commit to doing at least 7 episodes or a season. I started off planning to record and release six episodes. Those six episodes quickly turned into a 14-episode season.
  2. Start scheduling
    1. Call the people close to you first. Everybody I interview in season one is a friend that I admire for some reason.
    2. Choose to interview people you’re comfortable talking to. My nervous ticks smooth out toward the end of season one because I get more comfortable talking to people.
  3. Record a test call
    1. Do a call with a friend that you don’t intend to publish. This is just to get the hang of the mechanics.
  4. Write outlines for interviews.
    1. This is optional. At first I wrote thorough outlines to plan our conversations. I quickly realized that they could be a negative constraint. Great conversations are often non-linear. Most people don’t learn in a strictly linear fashion. Outlines, however, are notoriously linear. If you stick too closely to an outline you will miss big opportunities.
  5. Start interviewing
    1. Use a checklist:
      1. Is your outline printed? Do you have pens and paper and water and coffee?
      2. Call the person. Is the connection solid?
      3. Do you have enough storage?
      4. Are both parties comfortable? What is everyone bringing to the conversation in terms of mental space? Is their expectation in alignment with yours regarding topics of conversation and duration.
      5. Phones and notifications turned off?
      6. Deep breath.
      7. Hit record.
      8. Few moments of silence.
      9. “Hello Michael, thank you for being on the show, how are you?:”
      10. When it’s done, take a few minutes to debrief. Thank the person again. And let them know.
  6. Packaging the recording
    1. Edit the podcast
      1. I add an intro and an outro and that’s it
    2. Take notes
    3. Find links.
    4. Write summaries
    5. Find pictures
    6. Send all materials to the guest for review
    7. Change anything they want changed
    8. Schedule the post
  7. Publishing the recording
    1. Use libsyn to syndicate to iTunes and Youtube
    2. Apple takes a couple days to review and publish your podcast.
  8. Post-publication
    1. Promote on social media
    2. Send to your email list
    3. Thank the guest again
    4. Invite them back on the show (about to start working on Season Two!)

And that’s it!

Conclusion

Starting a podcast like Hacker Practice hasn’t blown up my business. It hasn’t gotten thousands of downloads (hundreds though, not bad). It hasn’t turned me into Tim Ferriss or Oprah.

It has taught me a lot about conversation. It’s taught me about my friends and mentors and the work they do and what they find important. It’s deepened my relationships and strengthened my soft skills.

I’m glad I did it and I hope that this might help some of you do the same.

Good luck!

Optimizing the Human Experience with Chris Schelzi

Listen to this episode on iTunes today!

A lot of this conversation has to do with getting ripped. Chris Schelzi knows a bit about fitness.

I met Chris in early 2015. He was working at BlackRock, Inc. at the time. The startup I was working on at the time poached him. I guess he liked the team…

Chris helped that startup raise more than a quarter of a million dollars in a crowdfunding campaign.

Now, he’s working at AppSumo, bringing you great deals on cool tools for your company.

In our conversation, Chris and I dive deep into:

  • Coffee
  • Hedonism
  • Diet and Exercise
  • Ideas for the next great health tech startup
  • How AppSumo is empowering entrepreneurs

Please enjoy this episode of Hacker Practice with my good friend Chris Schelzi.

Notes

[02:00] French Press vs Chemex

  • French Press = Full immersion, full body
  • Chemex filters do a lot of heavy lifting

[06:00] Justus’s favorite cup of coffee

[07:20] BOOKS

and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by John Meacham

[16:00] Coffee as a vice. How to best enjoy vices in general.

[17:30] Why you shouldn’t be afraid to return things to the store

[18:30] Zen Roaster. Roasting your own coffee. Moving meditation. Coffee rituals. Chris built himself a side-table.

  • Designing and building things by hand is zen af.

[23:30] We talk about axes and camping for a bit

[26:30] Our mutual interest in health and physiology

  • Diet – How to get shredded like Chris?
    • Low carb, high fat.
  • Exercise recommendations?

Frozen Fatty Coffee Drink

Chameleon Cold Brew

[39:00] How to teach anti-science people a better way.

“Show them a cleaner glass of water”.

Bulletproof Coffee gets mentioned about a hundred times.

[43:00] Intermittent fasting. Strength training + Tabata Sprints

Diet scheduling. Fasting from protein can improve protein utilization. Lift heavy things and sprint. Keep it simple.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” – Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

[46:00] Isometrics workouts to build strength without putting stress on joints. On grass or in the pool. “Jack your heart rate up”.

[49:00] Chris’s $10,000 offer for a health technology product for monitoring various biological markers

  • The state of health monitoring is abysmal for the average or even extraordinary consumer
  • Idea – Implant that continually measures important biomarkers. Measure in real time.
  • Dutch testing for cortisol and other hormones
  • This idea could change the way we interact with dieting and health in general
  • What would a version one of this tech look like? Measuring the following:
    • Sex Hormones
    • Stress Hormones
    • Cholesterol
    • Fat Soluble Vitamins (A, E, D, K)
    • Glucose and Ketones

[1:02:30] What is Chris working on now?

  • AppSumo – Groupon for Geeks
  • DesignBold – Design made easy
  • SerpStat – All in one SEO tooling
  • The cult of the “Sumo-ling”

[1:05:30] What kind of company works with AppSumo

  • GREAT tools for small businesses
  • Validated by some users
  • Startups that have Product Market Fit and are looking to scale to the next level

[1:10:00] Chris’s role at AppSumo

  • Operations and Marketing
  • Focusing on retention in 2017

[1:13:00] Final requests

Conclusion

This conversation could have easily been three times as long. I’ll certainly have Chris on the show again.

If you enjoyed today’s episode please subscribe to the show and leave a review on iTunes.