Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 304 and Higher Resolution

I finally watched the new Dune today. This post probably has spoilers. I liked it a lot even if it breaks no new aesthetic ground. It’s just a higher resolution envisioning of David Lynch. I’m no film critic. I don’t give a lot of thoughts to cinema. I prefer TV. But it’s fascinating to see just how much the Denis Villeneuve version matched it’s predecessor. It’s got the same muscular Christianity that tosses up messiah myths in the desert but this time with Baudrillard’s hyper reality.

It’s fantastic to see really. Dave Bautista is a great aesthetic match for the grotesque petrodollar plutocracy. You love to see it. Timothée Chalamet is a terrific white savior. Zendaya is Pocahontas. Also great gear fetish work too. Apocalypse fashions are functional just like in cyberpunk. But now with water filters!

It’s all a look and I’m so glad the director of the Fifth Element isn’t being asked to break any new ground on his own aesthetic brand. It’s even got pandemic masks baked in! And the best villains are as always environmentalists. And just like Star Wars it’s mostly a movie about trade policy. All our best movies are about money in modernity. End of empire is our favorite romance. The death of empathy is about seeing numbers in humanity because going from authoritarian to communitarian must involve proud patrilineal martial men.

If you walk without rhythm then you won’t attract the worm!”

I felt the same way about Mad Max Fury Road. Everyone was raving about it as an aesthetic achievement and all I could see was that it had simply polished up the mood board of the original. It’s a miracle it got made said the reviews. And I’m like no this seems like the system working as designed.

Of course we get to consume a new hyper reality. We get a better version of our childhood beamed back to us. Also parables about feminism because someone feels guilty about all those princes movies that rotted our brains.

South Park called it ‘memberberies and made fun of the culture of nostalgia. It’s astonishing how much of our current entertainment is just better versions of what we’ve already had. We are so spoiled for choice and it’s all the same.

Baron Harkonnen is still fat and flying over rooms. It’s just all a lot slicker than on the first go. It’s all sexier and smoother and utterly absolutely the same. No wonder none of us can imagine the future anymore. The future’s aesthetics haven’t changed in two decades. We stopped in the aughts and went hard into refinement culture. Skalla the Lindy Man got this aesthetic nuance just right and I feel like I’m only just noticing how much I hate it.

It’s enough to make me want to stop wearing clean lines just as some desperate attempt to break free from the inexorable horizon of the long now. Ben Hunt points out that we’ve broken ourselves off from investing in our future so we never get there.

And it’s all very good. And it’s all well executed. And I enjoy it all. But it’s just a fraction off from being authentically good. It’s not quite the reality you’d hoped for but it’s somehow crisper than you’d imagined. It’s polished and it’s boring. No wonder Gen Gen Z is over all this shit. Crystal clarity in all our media makes the soul despair. I say let’s clutter up the web with financialized jpgs. At least the vibe is different.

Everything else feels decadent and rooted in the cannibal consumption of the late empire’s transition to capitalism. And I mean America not Arrakis. The slice of people commenting on any of this are necessarily removed from the reality of day to day life. My asshole take on shit is just the most removed crap and it’s comical I even take the time to signal it into the abyss. That’s excess labor value in the form of a social class. It wouldn’t be any surprise if we brought on our own apocalypse because we couldn’t face a future with consequences. The spice must flow.


Day 303 and App Pressure

I refused to give in to peer pressure as a kid. I was way too much of a handful to ever let anyone else tell me what to do. Sadly this led to being constantly on the shit end of the girls in my classes because I didn’t like to play their games. I was terrible at respecting authority, and this included any kind of peer power structure.

Thankfully we moved every two years so I never had the suffer the consequences of being headstrong. Probably why I was so eager to thumb my nose at power. I didn’t think it was going to last for very long. So I never had to solve for it.

It turns out I should have learned to cope with peer pressure when I was younger. Instead of reflexively being against all kinds of authority, I should have learned when to accept (and when not) the input of people and systems who have power over me.

Why? Because now I don’t know when to say no. As an adult I am extremely susceptible to pressure from my applications. I opted into letting them have power over me and I have no idea how to say no to them. I’ve got a problem with application pressure because I didn’t learn how to deal with it as a kid. Ooops!

As part of my quest to regain my health I have become an avid biohacker. I track tons of metrics. I wear both an Apple Watch and a Whoop. I’ve use half a dozen different applications daily. But what I didn’t appreciate until recently is that the nudging state of my wellness apps is functionally just peer pressure.

My “Health” folder on my iPhone

And I give in to it every damn time. Welltory says I need to be active 10 hours today? I better go walk around the house. Apple Watch trends say I have fewer active minutes? Fuck I must be lazy. Gyroscope is reminding me I didn’t meditate? Oh no I am not zen enough! My applications are bullies and because I opted into it I feel like I’m a failure if I don’t say yes to everything. I guess it turns out you cannot escape life lessons.


Day 302 and Lights Out

I’ve been a proponent of napping and mid day resting throughout the course of my recovery from chronic illness. Sometimes the only thing that stops inflammation is stopping your entire system. Rest and recovery is part of peak performance. But I was not expecting the sheer force of my desire for sleep to overcome me today. I was absolutely lights out.

I had a busy week with two major deadlines for portfolio companies along with a project for a friend who is a fellow investor. I’ve also been slowly restarting weight lifting again as I miss it as a hobby. Mix in a little frantic appointment frenzy and I’ve been busier than I’ve been since the before times. And by before times I mean before I crashed and burned with my ankylosing spondylitis not before times like before the pandemic.

Around 11am I went out for a hike to stretch my legs after my morning meetings. I only made it about halfway through when I realized I was tired. I came home and practically inhaled my lunch. I had planned to run errands and take calls but I could barely keep my eyes open. I got into bed at 12:45pm and I didn’t wake up again till around 4pm.

I’ve had this idea that wellness means I’ll never be tired again. I find myself incredibly indignant when I realize that healthy people get tired too. My fantasy that I’ll be able to work long hours and not pay any price for it remains a fantasy. Which makes me wonder if the rest of the world is exhausted all the time and I’m just unrealistic. Perhaps the norm is being on the brink of lights out all the time.


Day 301 and Squads

So this is sort of cheating, but I did write the press release, so I am going to count it as my writing for the day. Today one of my favorite investments of the year Squads announced its seed round. Their vision is simple. Make starting a DAO as easy as making a new group chat.

I was the first yes on the round after meeting Stepan their cofounder and CEO through a cold DM on Twitter. I’ll write a whole post about it at some point I’m a little tuckered from the excitement. So I hope you enjoy the stylings of my extremely formal for normies press release. Any typos are my inability to copy pasta from mobile browser pdfs.

Squads, a DAO creation & management application that makes setting up a Decentralized Autonomous Organization as easy as starting a group chat, announces seed round with Collab+Currency

Squads, an application for Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAOs) creation and management built on the Solana blockchain, is pleased to announce a $1.5m seed round led by Collab+Currency with participation from Reciprocal Ventures, Volt Capital, Chaotic Capital, 6thman Ventures, Republic Capital, 8186 Capital, Solana Capital, as well as angel investors Ryan Selkis, Ryon Nixon, Chris Hermidaand Julia Lipton.

DAOs have already profoundly changed social coordination and put pressure on traditional corporate vehicles by expanding within the wider DeFi and NFT ecosystems. However, existing solutions in the market are costly to deploy, have cumbersome management features, and are focused only on web 3.0 power users.

Squads is here to simplify the DAO framework and make it accessible to the majority of users who either already firmly exist in web 3.0 or are just discovering it.

Squads wants to make starting a DAO as easy as starting a group chat,” said Stepan Simkin, Squads CEO & Co-Founder.

Squads combines all key DAO legos such as deployment, treasury / vault management, on-chain voting, and chat in one simple interface so anyone, anywhere can create and run a DAO. By combining these primitives under one platform and building it on a fast and scalable layer 1 blockchain like Solana, Squads will become a social hub for web 3.0 coordination. 

Squads founding team consisting of Stepan Simkin (CEO), Deni Ershtukaev (COO) and Sean Ganser (technical lead) comes from diverse backgrounds of software development, law and finance.

While one of the biggest value propositions DAOs can offer is an experience of spinning up a “company” from a command line without any friction or intermediaries, the Squads team firmly believes that “complicated user interface implementations and high fees have made setting up and running a DAO prohibitive for the majority of even sophisticated crypto users. Squads is here to take DAOs to everyone by bringing accessibility to DAO set up and management.”

“Smart contracts are a significant evolution in human organization on par with the invention of the corporation. The recognition by the state of corporations as a single entity composed of multiple actors drove significant economic growth. DAOs are poised to initiate progress as important as the corporation once did,” said Julie Fredrickson, Managing Partner at Chaotic Capital.

“The fiction which we have called the corporation has relied on legal & judicial layers to enforce distribution of resources. With a DAO, the management and allocation of resources is enforced by code, not lawyers or judges. This frees individuals to put their trust in an entity regardless of its geographic jurisdiction. DAOs allow individuals to collectively form complex contracting relationships and operationalize the movement of resources between individuals and organizations for any number of collective pursuits. As Brian Armstrong the CEO of Coinbase noted “the new jurisdiction is online’” said Stepan Simkin, Squads CEO & Co-Founder. “As human collaboration moves online, so too will our organization and tools.”

While DAOs have shown their utility in early use cases in DeFi & emergent NFTs communities, Squads wants regular people to enjoy their benefits. Colloquially known as web 3.0, mainstreaming access to the benefits of blockchains or decentralized networks of many peer to peer nodes, has been slow as few apps provide simplicity and utility.

“Squads envisions a web3 for regular users. A group of freelancers can band together for contract work. A homeowners association can use a DAO to manage and disburse funds. Investment clubs can pool resources. A gaming guild can coordinate accounts. A group of creators can protect their earnings and intellectual property. A sports league can manage equipment and budgets. According to the Squads team vision: “A DAO should be an easy vehicle for groups of different sizes and budgets to easily organize to achieve common goals.

Squad’s is at the forefront of web 3.0’s next iteration: social coordination. Squads is also positioned as the first mover of DAO tooling within the Solana ecosystem, giving Squads considerable growth potential. “Squads is the team to bridge the huge gap in the Solana DAO tooling ecosystem by building this critical infrastructure and we are delighted to support them” said Soona Amhaz, General Partner at Volt Capital.

“We’re excited to back the incredible vision of Squad’s founders,” said Stephen McKeon, Partner at Collab+Currency. “Squads sees a future where DAOs become a commonplace structure for organizing economic activity. We believe that rather than working for a corporation or nonprofit, many people will work for a protocol someday. So does the Squads team.”

The funding will be used for the beta release of the core product with a mainnet release to follow. Users can look forward to a Squads v2 release with advanced treasury functionality as well as a mobile application for both iOS and Android. Users of other layer 1s can look forward to multichain expansion in the future. The team will be hiring mobile developers, product managers, a network administrator and a designer.


Day 300 and Accomplishment

When I first started my practice of writing every single day I had the goal that I would do it for 30 straight days. I started on New Year’s Day and we all know how most resolutions end for people. But I figured one day at a time right? Sure I wanted to start a practice that would go further than a month but I didn’t want to jinx myself so I didn’t set a goal of reaching any fixed number on January 1st.

So today ten months later on day 300 of writing every single day I’ll admit I have ambitions for this space that I don’t want to say out loud. I want to enjoy the moment. I want to note the occasion. And maybe I want to feel a little not accomplished.

Which was a theme I also explored on day 100. And again on day 200. I suspect I’ll say something if I make it to one full year of writing daily. Maybe I’ll have the pleasure of noting every 100 days again. Perhaps it’s human nature to notice the markers but to be a little afraid to make a big deal out of them.

We know in our hearts the accomplishments we seek but we dare not same then out loud. No inviting in evil spirits right? Even though I suppose we might be inviting in the angels just as easily. So maybe I’ll just say that I would love to make it day 1,000. The idea of having a record of my thoughts for years seems like a heady ambition.

I don’t want to opt myself into something that may not serve me in the future. One reason I’ve loved this exercise is because I felt like I opted into it every single day. It was always a choice and I always made it. It has been an enjoyable experience and a daily discipline. So I hope it’s one that continues to serve me. And I’d it doesn’t that’s ok too. May we make all choices in freedom.

Finance Media Startups

Day 299 and Hiring An Assistant

I’ve been thinking it is time to hire an assistant. Obviously I need help and the job would be working with me. But I want to train up someone who would like to acquire my unique set of skills. I’d like to mentor someone up on the startup ecosystem that I’ve spent the last fifteen years working through as a founder, operator and now venture investor so they too can take advantage of the incredible network of people that are building today.

I’m looking for someone that would like to get exposure to all the areas where I have expertise. You don’t have to know or even like all areas, obviously this would depend on the candidate, but what makes me an unusual player in startup and venture land is the weird mashup of specialties. So if you want to learn:

1. Angel & seed stage investing analyst skills
2. Media & hype (call it public relations if you must)
3. How one keeps your head on straight in a discourse laden zeitgeist chaos landscape

Then you might enjoy working with me. The goal of this assistant or analyst position would be within 2 years you’d go on to do what I do somewhere else & I’ll sensei you through that journey. I am where I am because of mentors and bosses that taught me the ropes.

As I work closely with my partner and husband Alex Miller you would get exposure to the operational and logistical side of investing as well as startup operations. He’s actually my inspiration for this job. His first job out of college was for Jason Calacanis. Without him none of the other jobs and connections would have been possible. And we owe him big time as without Jason we wouldn’t have Stack Overflow in our life.

I’ve only every met one person who has my particular weird blend of growth, media and investing. I do some traditional public relations and would love to pass that on to someone that could leverage it well for their own startups. But it is entirely in service to my investing and portfolio with the occasional other favor, so it’s much more portfolio services for our investments than a PR shop. But you’d learn our portfolio from the inside out as investment decisions and then figure out how to take these seed stage companies to market with the media. Which is a pretty unique thing so not a traditional gig.

Non traditional backgrounds are awesome. No degree requirements. No credentialism or social signaling. Disabled folks welcome. I’m also disabled so we do accommodations. There is no set schedule as I don’t work one so whenever you work best is great. Any location or geography is fine. Any time zone though I work on mountain. Degen anons with anime avis welcome (encouraged as I’d like someone fluent in crypto). If you are an anon avi who wants to get into crypto investing and figure out how to work the zeitgeist for your meme magic I am here to be your mentor. And then I’m an ideal world I’d be the first check into your startup as this is about the ecosystem. So if this sounds fun slide into my DMs on Twitter and tell me what the one thing you do better than anyone else.


Day 298 and What You Don’t Know

I work with a lot of first time founders as a seed stage investor. Or rather I enjoy working with first time founders so I slowly became a seed stage investor as moving from advisor to angel investor. When you are a founder yourself, as I once was, you get a lot of inbound from others in the startup ecosystem as the bias has been that “only other operators can ever understand” so it breed insularity.

This has generally meant that there is a significant body of knowledge on best practices in startups that doesn’t get codified in writing it’s passed on as an oral history from one founder to the next. Maybe if someone published their Gchats and emails public we’d have a searchable wiki. But even with the trend towards startup communities, explainer Substacks and operator podcasts there is still a substantial portion of unspoken knowledge that no one will tell you. You literally don’t know what you don’t know. And the people that know have forgotten what it’s like not to know.

It’s easy to forget this as you assimilate norms and conventions over the years. I have been working with a portfolio company’s CEO to prepare some press and go to market work recently. Something I take completely for granted about media outreach wasn’t in fact obvious or intuitive.

But it was so obvious to me I never thought to mention the detail that tripped us up. And of course, the founder being a first timer didn’t know what they didn’t know. Why would they! That’s why they work with more experienced investors and advisors. It was my fault. I knew the thing but in my “water is wet” mindset didn’t even consider that the founder might not realize they were swimming in water yet. And that was entirely on me.

I find it somewhat comforting that startups are constantly introducing new founders who don’t know what they don’t know. Because maybe they will be the one to discover a new way of knowing that changed it for all of us.

The best is old timers can do is pass on what we think we know and the newbies can assess that using their fresh eyes. Sometimes (ok probably most times) we save you from making dumb mistakes that we once made. But maybe what I think I know for sure is just me not realizing I’m a fish in water. You can learn that from experience sure but also from having a totally new lens.


Day 297 and Day of Rest

October has been a whirlwind for me. Or maybe it just feels busy getting back to a normal pace of life. I had a shitty end of summer as part of an effort to decide if and then when to take me off my immunosuppressive medications to get me vaccinated so I could develop antibodies. Maybe anything would feel busy after that.

I lost about six or seven weeks to the whole vaccine situation. Thankfully nobody cared since it was August. But I cared. I didn’t do anything for weeks from all the side effects and management of the process. I only bring this up (and I should write a full post about getting vaccinated as I wrote one about the decision and its risk management) because it’s been a while I needed to actively rest.

I had nearly two months where I didn’t couldn’t pursue any strain like weightlifting or even hiking because I was under enough strain from my own body. And I know this because I used a Whoop to track recovery and strain. Biohacking is a bit of a hobby. I had low strain scores and virtually no activity. I spent all my time in what Whoop calls recovery. But not this week. This week I had strain. And then I learned what a poor recovery from too much strain looks like.

A Whoop recovery score of 32% based on a terrible HRV of 13. Plus I’ve got tachycardia.

This week in addition to a significant workload (ask me about my rolling fund if you are into that sort of thing) I decided to pick back up my powerlifting hobby. I changed up my diet to eat enough protein and calculated out new one rep maximums for a basic starting strength routine.

It felt awesome. Squats are the best. And my overhead presses were better than I imagined. I had this moment of hope that maybe I was well enough to train again after several years of health trouble. I felt empowered. I was working through the delayed onset muscle soreness with a Theragum (something I normally cannot tolerate with my past inflammation levels). I was doing range of motion restoration work. I thought I had it all under control. And then on Friday I saw my resting heart rate variably or HRV start to drop.

I thought oh shit I must be getting sick. Normally a dip in HRV is a hint that my inflammation in my spine will kick back up and all the exciting secondary health stuff like fatigue (from pain) and migraines (from the shitty circulation from the inflammation) will go in circles.

But it turns out that I’m not getting sick. My symptoms didn’t flare. Instead I was tired.

Honestly I’m a little pissed. Normally I only take rest days when I feel sick. I only feel tired when I am sick. This being tired and having my heart be strained because I was overworked physically is bullshit. Normally if I am tired it is because I am fatigued. I mean that feeling you have when you are sick because your system is going haywire. It’s not the same thing as tired. Being tired isn’t debating. Being tired is actually great. I just need to take it easy today because I did too much. Not because I’m sick. Thank god it is Sunday so that day of rest is well timed.

Emotional Work Startups

Day 296 and Under Budget

One reason I’ve been comfortable working in startups my whole life is I’ve never been a big spender. My biggest expense is probably takeout, as I find cooking to be a waste of time. As long as I can afford medical insurance (I’d get a job somewhere with socialized medicine if it came to that) I’m pretty happy with a one bedroom and Chipotle for dinner. Some people get used to their lifestyle as they make more money. I just haven’t yet.

If I go bankrupt (and sadly I lived through that emotional roller coaster as a teenager with my family) I could find a way to live within new means again. I don’t have to be in the top 10% to have a good life. I only need that for health care costs and sorry America but there are other options. I’ve got skills that could earn me stability if I wanted to make that choice. Hear that Canada I’m recruitable!

But I do need to learn to live comfortably with my current means. It’s alright to live within your budget. Sometimes budgets bigger and you can easily spend more on disposable income. And this was a year where my means finally got comfortable. And I’m still sort of afraid to use it. I had to really talk myself into a chair that that was functionally a workplace accommodation. Instead of just jumping at a chair that lets me work comfortably for longer hours I spent several years just not working as many hours.

This tendency to live under budget comes everywhere. I wanted something I considered fairly lavish for dinner. But I thought how ridiculous to spend an extra $15 on dinner. I got a little worked up trying to think of other options that I wanted as much and my husband said “fifteen bucks isn’t going to make a difference get the damn thing.” And so I did and it was fantastic. I’m super happy about my evening and the spending will have no impact on my total budget. Anyone who tells you that money or privilege can’t buy you happiness are lying. Happiness is a choice and it’s an easier choice when you can make the choices you want.

I had mental upper bounds on what I think it is responsible to spend for years. I ran an Airbnb side hustle out of an underpriced two bedroom in Chintatown while I had a six figure salary, because I wanted to live so far under my means I could take risks if I wanted. That under budget mentality let me save up 70,000. It’s also how I met my husband but that’s a different story.

That kind of thinking let me enjoy startup failures for the priceless learning that they are. But now I realize I’m afraid to live on my budget. Unless I’m living massively under budget I’m a little uncomfortable. So I’m going to try to let that one go. I can just live on budget.

Internet Culture Media Startups

Day 295 and Long Game

I think most people dislike media because it’s hard to understand where a narrative came from. If you aren’t in the business of telling stories the natural braiding of emotions, motivations and public opinion can seem foreign. It’s like the weather. It’s completely comprehensible how different patterns emerge but you cannot predict precisely how it will play out. There is a science but the specificity of the modeling isn’t so accurate you can predict the course.

This is why I encourage startups that work with me to think about the long game. Give context about your space and your opinion of how it will change and grow. Don’t be afraid to state clearly and in specific why something is the way that it is when talking to a journalist. No one is out to get you.

Journalists just want to show a story that makes sense to regular people. A cohesive truth that can be proven with outside and objective fact still matters to virtually everyone outside of very specific Murdoch outlets (never give a quote to the NY Post).

So much of being covered in the media is not about having a publicist or being trained but is rather about interacting with the 4th estate as if they are human just like you. A reporter will happily tell your story if you can make a case for why it’s true. And no one is coming to “gotcha” over some secret. The Internet may roast you but that’s just the crowds. No one has control over public sentiment. You too may one day become the main character on Twitter. But that’s probably your fault and not a journalist’s doing.

So if you want to live in public think through what the long game might be. And work on convincing others that the future you see is not only good but inexorable. And repeat it with conviction. It’s ok if you get some shit wrong, cancel culture won’t demolish you. Probably. I mean some of you deserve to be canceled but somehow it never seems to happen to the assholes who really deserve it.