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Internet Culture Politics Preparedness

289 and Apocalyptic Aging

Millennials are aging, but that doesn’t seem to have kicked off the midlife crisis handwringing of popular culture yesteryears. The first millennial are edging towards 40 but it feels like no one is a day over thirty on social media. Maybe because it’s hard to feel like you’ve hit midlife when the traditional markers of stability like children and mortgages feel more like luxury status symbols.

Maybe no one is craving red sports cars and the open road because no one has the security of a home life from which to break free. A midlife crisis seems like an almost comically indulgent thing that our boomer parents did. Imagine having kids and a home and thinking that you wanted to go back to the insecurity of your twenties? And boomers have the balls to call millennials spoiled. You had to have have stability to throw it away first.

I’m an elder millennial and a reasonably comfortable even wealthy one at that. But I don’t have kids or own a house. I frozen my eggs when it seemed like having kids wasn’t financially feasible. My husband and I lived in Manhattan at the time and we both had early stage startups. It seemed like a wise idea to put off the decision at the time. And we never even considered buying an apartment. Tying up all that wealth into a one bedroom apartment was for trust funders not the professional class.

Now it’s clear we can afford children and a mortgage on a house, but it seems crazy to commit to either. No one has a clue what life is going to be like in ten years so why would you anchor yourself and innocent progeny? It almost feels immoral to consider.

I don’t really understand how one can age gracefully when so much of life feels casually apocalyptic. Maybe millennials aren’t acknowledging aging because we live in the stasis of the long now. If there is no future then we aren’t moving into it. Each passing year is just a lucky bonus when nothing builds towards stability.

Not being able to afford children and houses is a blessing if you don’t believe in the future will be better. We’ve rationalized that the basics of the American are luxuries only for the wealthy. The wealthy can afford to live with rising tides and six figure college tuitions. Everyone else is thrilled to have enough cash to buy prepper supplies and pay their health insurance deductible.

And in some horrifying sense it is rational. I don’t trust the political system in America. Which means I don’t trust we can solve pressing issues like climate change or rising debt. So when new and exciting issues like the pandemic destabilize life even further it makes committing to a future even less appealing. There is absolutely a part of me that stopped believing in the future sometime in 2016. Everything went Hobbesian. Millennials are aging but we aren’t growing into a future.

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Preparedness

Day 277 and Supplies

I’ve been watching the supply chain cascade issues for several weeks. Ports are backed up across America, the cost of a shipping container from China has gone on average from $4000 to $19,000, and there is a national shortage of truckers to get goods moved even if they reach American shores. If you are interested in the topic and the possible impacts, my favorite site for preparedness The Prepared has a synopsis without the panic or bullshit.

I reached out to my mom suggesting to her if she had any major purchases or repairs to do so now. She’s been intending to get the shocks replaced on her husband’s truck and moved up the appointment to get it scheduled today. I went through my various preparations for emergencies and realized I was in very good shape. Maybe I could upgrade a pair of boots or consider a new winter parka to upgrade from Uniqlo to LL Bean.

But there just wasn’t much I needed to do. If we had food, fuel, or medication shortages or delays like Britain is experiencing, I am prepared for that. I’m not in a place where I can sustain a full civilization collapse (I haven’t convinced my husband to move to a homestead yet), but I’d definitely be fine if we had a month or two of cascade issues. I am thinking of scenarios like a big winter storm knocking out the power grid and impacting downstream systems like water treatment. Or I-70 gets blocked for a week or two and we have shortages at stores because truckers cannot get over the pass. I mention those two because both happened this year calendar year. These issues are it as rare as you think.

And it struck me how incredibly lucky I am that I can consider something like a supply chain crunch and rather than struggle to afford things like a car repair or a winter coat I can simply buy them. The privilege I have to be a prepper (or a doomer) is significant. And I really genuinely don’t think that should be the case.

America makes big claims to exceptionalism but we regularly have disasters that make us look like we’ve barely achieved a stable economy with functional infrastructure. So if you can prepare for a disaster please do so. The life you save may be your own. But in reality it’s probably more likely to be your neighbors. And we owe it to each other to take the strain off the system so when a disaster hits so we can do better together.

Categories
Internet Culture Reading

Day 271 and Correspondence

I love writing to others. I had some pen pals as a child but it wasn’t until as a teenager that the Internet gave me the chance to correspond with practically whomever I liked. And it’s been one of the great joys of my life to reach out to others for conversation.

I developed a habit of writing to journalists, authors and academics whose work I admired. Many of them maintained email addresses and personal websites even back before social media. If you are ever worried that someone will find it odd or unsettling to receive a note from you, don’t fret. I can share that if you are polite and sincere outreach is almost universally appreciated. Most people want to be seen. If you feel you’ve seen someone then you should share it with them. It’s a kindness to you both.

While I particularly like short form correspondence like Twitter, there is no substitute for a more in-depth and layered letter. I’m personally a fan of the threaded twenty response deep email chain. I think of it as like the letter writing of our forefathers. Maybe it’s a bit less satisfying to our heirs than discovering a box of letters but I’ve got a fantasy that the Ken Burns of the future will make excellent use of email and chat logs.

If you aren’t convinced of the benefits of reaching out through writing feel free to test it out on my before you write a letter to your favorite author or thinker. We just might become pen pals.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 261 and Game Drama

I have been playing a mobile massively multiplayer online game for a couple of years. It’s a pay-to-play game that mashes together every mechanic and trope into one stupidly expensive pile of unoriginal comfort. I absolutely love playing it. It’s called Lords Mobile. It is entirely worth playing if you appreciate the craftsmanship and conversion marketing. It doesn’t gave any unique creativity but that isn’t the point. It’s just perfectly executed to be an engaging game. I cannot recommend this game enough if you want a soothing “everything and the kitchen sink” social game.

Because it asks so little of the gamer intellectually, the appeal of the game is in the community of people. You work in teams of 100 called a guild. This can be a very low key camaraderie situation or the kind of bond where people spend tens of thousands of dollars to compete together in their chosen hobby. Needless to say if you are in the group that really spends real money and time you get to see human nature nakedly on display. It gets wild.

Ive seen guilds explode because a guy was cheating on his girlfriend with another player. That mistress then destroyed 30,00 worth of gear and destroyed the guild. I’ve seen people steal maxed out gaming accounts worth over $100,000 with no recourse. Just poof you trusted someone with your keys. Ooops!

And today I saw three dudes try to convince their guild that the leader of the group was stealing from the guild because she’d allegedly been in sexual relationships with all of them. It doesn’t sound like she stole anything from anyone but they resented that they had spent money on gifts for her account. The guild didn’t believe the dudes. It’s their problem if they want to buy gifts was the general consensus.

The level of human drama is probably even more enthralling than the game. And the game is designed to be very engaging. I don’t watch reality television but I have to imagine it has a similar “oh no she didn’t” spirit. If you enjoy watching the depths of sorrow and the purity of genuine human connection it’s worth a try. Just be warned that you may become emotionally attached. I definitely have. I’ve met some dear friends in these guilds. But I’d recommend you not give anyone your credit card. Or if you do don’t go whining about it to me.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 241 and Other People’s Disasters

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana today on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Watching disasters in other cities has the sad side effect of making me go through my emergency gear. After living through Hurricane Sandy in New York I felt it a civic obligation to be prepared for emergencies. Ready yourself so you can help others is my philosophy of prepping.

I spent the morning doing a complete overhaul of my go-bags pharmaceutical set up. It has been a while since I had rotated out some medications and I wanted to add in more drugs for situations where it might be some times before we could reach a hospital or medic. Worst case scenarios crossed my mind.

Disasters often get portrayed as these dramatic events but more often it’s just neighbors helping each other through a bad time. That means I stock a trauma kit along with shit like anti-diarrhea drugs and cortisone. More likely to be itchy and have an upset stomach than a trauma bleed so prepare for the basics first.

But I’ve had the basics down for a while. I’ve been prepping now for several years with increasing seriousness. So sometime this year I decided to prepare for worse. I thought it wise to have a stash of prescriptions for situations where doctors aren’t coming, maybe at all, including antibiotics, steroids, antihistamines, NSAIDs, caffeine, and an array of drugs that are, well, controlled substances and I swear I have legitimate prescriptions for all of them and am monitored by several physicians who work in coordination. But you know, the good stuff.

I say that as if it is remotely recreational to break a leg and require an opioids or be suffering from shock. If someone is having a panic attack because their world is coming down around them I think fuck it this is why it’s good to have an Ativan. No judgements.

Plastic baggies filled with medications.

Disaster hits a little different when you have a chronic disease. You have to think about scenarios where you are actually in the most vulnerable groups. That those worst case scenarios you see on TV could actually happen to you. Shit hitting the fan would actually mean your life if you didn’t prepare. And so I’ve scrapped together a small pharmacy over the past few years. I’ve rationed doses and asked for extra refills. I’ve squirreled away a dose here and there between insurance coverage and extra days. It’s actually quite hard to be able to have as many additional drugs as the CDC recommendation for an emergency. No seriously they suggest 7-10 days of extra medication. Can you imagine most Americans affording that? It’s a fucking slow moving American tragedy we are told how to survive but hobbled in being able to enact any of what the Fed suggest. It’s no wonder Americans don’t trust the government for anything.

The pandemic has solidified this sad truth for me. So I’ve learned new skills. I worry that it’s hard to rely on community when most communities are struggling already. It’s an impossible ask. And so we are forced into another circle of individualism and personal responsibility because really what other option can you imagine having. Because next time it won’t be some other persons disaster on the TV. Next time it might be yours.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics Startups

Day 232 and Human Being & Citizen

There is a famous line from Plato’s Apology that sums up the central dilemma of human organization. It’s also the title of my favorite college course at UChicago.

Who is a knower of such excellence, that of human being and citizen

Socrates asks us to consider how an individual’s highest calling conflicts with the group. We actually haven’t made a ton of progress on resolving the issue since antiquity.

I’ve been watching crypto struggling with the Human Being and Citizen Problem as governance in decentralized systems because a pressing issue. Much of crypto doesn’t really have philosopher kings, despite startup land’s affection for the willpower driven CEO, because a lot still happens in the commons. Open source and all.

I’ll be curious how we proceed and resolve these issues of individual versus group intensives as DAOs get explored. The corporation with its board and executive structure is being pushed back. But we haven’t figured out how to coordinate yet.

Vitalik has been exploring moving beyond coin voting for decentralized projects in recent posts. The incentives for public goods has generally been economic in the crypto space. We coordinate on commons by being driven by selfish incentives.

Gitcoin is working through shared governance structures beyond itself with a DAO of DAO concept emerging out of Kevin Owoki’s Egregore metaphor. Though I’d personally avoid using occult old Enochian terminology (egregore is a shared manifestation come from the minds of multiple people) as no one wants to accidentally manifest an elder god

Speaking of elder gods, we are all fighting Moloch the god of coordination failure. In popular imagination Moloch is usually defeated by a world historical great man. We love the great man theory of history. One visionary dude leader slays Moloch. Humanity gets coordinated! Hooray! Historians generally agree that great man theory is too simplistic. So however these problems get solved it’s probably not going to be one great savior.

Categories
Emotional Work Politics

Day 229 and Under the Anger

They teach you in various therapy and 12 step programs that anger isn’t a real emotion. Anger is steam rising from true emotions like hurt and sadness. It’s easier to feel anger than to plumb the depths of our deeper vulnerabilities. It takes courage to admit we’ve been hurt.

I’ve experienced anger over the entire covid pandemic as it turns endemic. I’ve avoided looking too closely at what is underneath the anger all year. It turns out it was hurt. I feel abandoned by my fellow Americans. I’m hurt you didn’t make the choices to protect me. I’m hurt you chose you over me. Even though I recognize and believe in your God given right to do so. I’m still hurt.

Reconciling my hurt with my belief in freedom has been an exercise in faith. I’m a Calvinist. I basically believe that God is the set of all sets. I do believe in predestination, in that there exists the possibility that something, we can call it God, can and does know all possible outcomes. The infinity of choices is knowable to God.

A number of people find this fatalist. We have no free will if all possible outcomes have been seen. I don’t see it that way. We chose every moment in our infinite outcomes. It only looks fatalistic because humans live forward in linear time. God does not. God lives in all instants all at once. I alas and living each choice forward in time. I experience causality. God does not. Time isn’t real, it just feels real to humans.

Let me try to explain. I ate a ham and cheese croissant instead of yogurt this morning. I had a latte instead of an espresso. I’ll never know what the other me who had a different breakfast got up to but it’s possible to know. That’s God to me. Knower of all outcomes.

We literally have infinite choices and are ever in the process of refining our paths. This does not contradict that God has already seen every version of me. It is my responsibility to make the version I want. I believe we can make better choices. Turn ourselves into the person we wish.

Or we can hate ourselves for poor choices. We can chose to be victims to ourselves. At any moment we can make a new choice and branch into infinity again. That’s free will to me. Calvinism accepts that we live in linear time but God does not.

I’m also a libertarian because I believe each of those choices to be a sacred individual responsibility. It’s up to us to make a good choice. We own our failures. We own our successes. But that isn’t the narcissism of a childhood ego assuming everything is our fault (or our doing) but rather everything is our responsibility. We don’t chose the forces that act on us, but we do chose our response to it. We make every choice in freedom even if we perceive ourselves to be bound by forces outside our control.

The moment we lose sight that we own all our actions and decisions, we give up our free will. We abandon the project of becoming our infinite selves. This is why I am reticent to have prescriptive rules for our behavior.

Legislating behavior is fucking Old Testament nonsense. Jesus did not die for our sins so we could continue to feel guilt over a rule book about hygiene and how to prepare pork. He freed us to own how disgusting and sinful we are and how we can continually chose to overcome it.

As a Calvinist and a libertarian, I think we must chose to do the right things. We’ve been freed from rules, which in turn makes the freedom to chose better all the more crucial. Every mandate from an outside authority is just an excuse for us to victimize ourselves and abdicate the freedom we’ve been given to pursue infinity. We don’t need rules to behave well.

This means I get fucking pissed when societies need laws and mandates for basics civility be enforced. American shouldn’t be a Hobbesian war of all against all. I think shit like vaccine mandates and masking rules shouldn’t need to exist. You should be capable of choosing how you want to balance your responsibilities to the community and your freedom to make infinitely bad choices. Our society has given you the freedom to make those choices yourself. Our civilization is meant to be an experiment in free will and democratic society.

I’m not saying law isn’t important nor that humans won’t fail to live up to our higher selves. We fail at this every second of every day. We are sinners after all. It is easier to be a victim than to cope with the burden of freedom and responsibility. So sometimes we grasp at burden of free will and become nihilist. It becomes too much.

Fuck Jesus for freeing us. Fuck God for knowing that we could chose to toss back our free will. Fuck everyone for seeing our frailty. We have a God given right to be a an indulgent irresponsible baby that takes no responsibility. A lot of us are spending time coping with our freedom to make an infinity of bad choices. We’ve all got coping mechanisms. But we’ve got to stop acting like free will means there are no consequences.

You want to know what happens when you fail to live in civilization? Your neighbors lose faith in you. I feel abandoned by society. And I have abandoned society too. We offered ourselves complete freedom in liberal society, we left behind Old Testament thinking of rules & regulations and now we are struggling with that freedom. Instead of rising up to our freedom from rules we are sinking. And maybe that is our karma for this lifetime. To discover the full extent of our frailty. To live as a sinner. Only God can judge. But we all have a right to our feelings about how the bad choices of others impact us. And I am sometimes hurt by it.

I’m struggling to see how many of us have choices and don’t live up to that freedom. How shameful of us. How human. To be human is to hurt. I know that is the cost of freedom. That is salvation.

But I’m having a hard time forgiving my fellow citizens for making bad choices. I know we are all sinners. I am too. But good fucking Christ I want you to own that. Be truthful that you chose yourself over me. We gave each other that freedom. In the balancing act of human being versus citizen we chose the individual. What progress we’ve made that this was a choice. But own your fucking choice.

And even though this all sounds very philosophical. I’ve laid out my entire theology and political foundation which I’m sure will be handy in the future. But it’s important to note that this is all my stuff. I’m reactive because it’s my trauma. The feelings of hurt are grounded in my own childhood. I only explored this philosophy of freedom as my inner child remains angry my father chose his individual path over the community of his family. I wanted him to chose me.

And when he didn’t, I felt abandoned. Because even if he had chosen me, my little child knew he didn’t want to chose me in freedom. He chose himself over the family.

I’ll forever carry that wound to my inner child. In his infinite choices, my father needed to chose the individual over the community of his family. And that was his call. And I am not a victim to his freedom. I forgive him. I chose to believe there is a reason he was my father and I needed the lesson that sometimes others chose themselves over you.

I want you to chose the better infinity for us. But I cannot prescribe it or mandate it. You must choose it in freedom. The grace of God has given us that right. Anything less isn’t human. Anything less is making us a victim to infinity.

This is why I don’t believe that a flourishing human society should mandate our choices. It stunts our branching to infinite Godhead. It throws away the freedom to chose to be better even though at every single turn we could chose to be worse and that God has seen that we have. But we don’t. Even in the face of predestination of all possible choices we don’t give up on our responsibility. We continually, in every moment, work to own every choice we make, good or bad.

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Finance Internet Culture

Day 220 and Crypto’s Publicist Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about my proposal to create an activist DAO to engage in public relations for crypto. The goal of the organization would be to create a groundswell of support for the space, it’s values, and opportunities as well as engaging in support for a more positive regulatory environment.

If you would like to hear more about why I think it is time for the wider decentralized crypto community to engage in a public relations and media campaign please see my post yesterday. Today I am putting down further notes on what I think our values and priorities might be. As always, this blog is a work in progress so consider this my thoughts as of now that are open to being edited and changed.

What kind of values are crucial in a PR or communication DAO or interest group?

  • Open
  • Participatory
  • Trustless

It’s important that whatever we do on behalf of crypt it must be done in the spirit of the space and why so many disparate types of people believe in its values. While there may be structures like executive teams, core teams, board members and studios and contractors to execute on our mission we want to use the tools and transparency of crypto.

But to what purpose are we organizing? We will create content and engage in conversations to shape media narratives and public sentiment aimed at promoting the positive elements, potential, and impact of crypto.

How will we do this? We will hire publicists to promote our stories in mainstream media along with commissioning content meme-ers and creators to share opinions. We will engage with spokespersons to share talking points created from the priorities of the community. We will place our content, from memes to editorials, on our own properties as well as in supporting communities and member publications.

I expect I’ll be doing quite a bit more note taking and research. If you want to be a part of this effort I’ve started a shared Google doc for collaboration. Email me Julie @ chaotic dot capital or DM me @ AlmostMedia. This won’t be built in a day but together we can push it forward.

Categories
Aesthetics Emotional Work

Day 178 and Looking So Normal

On the surface I’m basic. But my aesthetics are lying to you. I’m a fucking weirdo. But I don’t look the part. I think this gives people a bit of cognitive dissonance. I’ve noticed it’s particularly acute in more personal social or familial settings. Because I look like a pretty regular white woman with a pretty regular life, folks assume I have pretty regular social mores. They want me to hew to what normal people do because that’s less cognitive overhead for them. I look normal so I should be normal. No reason their pattern recognition should be failing them so badly.

So when they discover I’m incredibly introverted, very reluctant to socialize, and do not prioritize any traditional social or family structures it’s confusing. “But she looks so normal!” It’s like if I had any of the aesthetics of a social outlier or a recognizable community outside of cultural norms, this would all make sense. Heck even if I had short hair and some tattoos it would all track. Their pattern recognition would work.

“Oh she’s counter cultural” or maybe “she is kind of a hippie” or even “ slutty weirdo” would all make more sense. But I don’t look as weird as I am. Why don’t her aesthetics match her lifestyle? Instead they see a kind of regular brunette who wears Ann Taylor. I kind of like conservative clothing. This doesn’t mean I’m a conservative person. I had a terrific boyfriend who had a thing for women in suits because he liked the idea of a woman who was into power. It was a bit of a letdown to learn that I’m a bit submissive.

The reason this is even a problem is because humans want to be understood. According to Psychology Today we all require a bit of external validation to feel like our reality lines up with others. Feeling like we are understood apparently even makes us happier. I often struggle to feel like I’m understood. I worry I’ll be judged for not living up to other people’s standards because they need to extend more cognitive effort to understand me. I often don’t feel like I have a right to ask for that from people.

The thing is I could make this all a lot easier on myself. If I telegraphed more of my idiosyncrasies visually I wouldn’t get put into the normal bucket. Then I wouldn’t disappoint people when they learn I don’t meet expectations for middle of the bell curve socially. If I talked about my sex life or my preference for alternative family structures I’d need to match that against some leather or kinks or hell even some bright lipstick or it’s just going to seem fucking weird.

Nobody registers me as an outlier no matter how much I say it out loud. But I have to be honest I’m just not that interested in making it easier for folks with my looks. If you want to get to know me I’m an open book. The only catch is you have to get to know me.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 154 and Mixed Feelings

I’ve been in a hazy “did that happen place” emotionally after the news that Stack Overflow, where my husband spent 8.5 years, sold for $1.8B. Obviously it’s a lot of money to just appear into our lives. It’s not the first exit for Alex Miller or me. I’ve had 2 acquisitions for companies I have founded & he’s had an IPO for a company he was early to join. I also lived through multiple exits, financings IPOs & bankruptcies as a kid as I’m the child of a startup family. So why does this hit different?

I think part of it is that our other wins tended to come from “faster” companies. My first acquisition came within 2 years of founding. It wasn’t a lot of money but let me pay off student debt & get more stable. Alex was with Yext for a comparably shorter period and when it IPO’d he’d long ago left for Stack Overflow. And that was only a win because he was lucky enough to be able to borrow money to exercise his Yext options or it would have meant nothing. That happens a lot to early stage employees. They cannot afford to exercise and get nothing when a big exit happens. It happened to me when the company that bought mine exited to someone even bigger. I couldn’t afford to exercise. I never had the heart to calculate how much I would have made.

We’ve had secondaries over the years. Sometimes equity gets taken off the table in later stages financings and it benefits early employees. Those changed our calculus a lot when it happened to us. We put together a financial plan and a future as a family with our startup earnings. We made decisions based on whose turn it was to risk & who to run downside. Being a startup spouse means a constantly balancing act of supporting years of low salaries, long hours and stress. And while it’s not easy to be the wife of an early stage employee it’s probably even harder to be the husband of a founder. Startup families live through a lot together.

Stack Overflow was “the” company in many ways for Alex where he spent the better part of a decade and the majority of our marriage working to build the company up. He was employee 32 when he joined as chief of staff. When he left it was over 300 employees and he was the GM of the SaaS business.

When he left Stack we didn’t expect a payday beyond what salary he had earned and perhaps a bit of secondaries. He’d done good work and built amazing things but when you leave you don’t want have the emotional capacity to think about things like big acquisitions or IPOs. When Alex left Stack it was a deeply emotional process for us. A lot of therapy for both of us. Because startups aren’t just the person it is their family that consents as well to these long journeys. Remember that every executive team member or founder has a family that will live through this startup experience too.

After 8 years I knew Alex needed a change. He had given Stack his all. His absolute best. But leaving was hard. In order to leave a company where you invested your whole self (and your family’s) you have to come to terms with how you feel. We cried. We worried. But Alex made the choice. And we didn’t look back. It’s too painful in some ways. You love your startup

You keep in touch with everyone. Alex remains friends with the entire team. We share hobbies & interests and a million group texts with topics as varied as hydroponic tomatoes m, our crypto portfolios and hunting season. We stay at each other’s homes. The bond is deep in startup teams.

Given that bond it’s almost funny how when you leave your imagination on big outcomes can stop. The thing you dedicated yourself to for years is now growing and thriving without you. It never leaves you even if you need some distance.

When we got the call the number was overwhelming. The distance we had created suddenly evaporated. Alex burst into my room where I was meditating and told me the strike pierce. We did some calculations. We checked them. It couldn’t be? It was. The startup had finally delivered the check. We’d done it. Another startup made it.

I want people to know that this kind of largess is mostly random. Everyone works hard in Silicon Valley. Startups are a choice & a state of mind and those of us that chose to do it willingly go into ideas doomed to failure. Or meant for the stars. And it can feel like a crap shoot. Idiots get enormous paydays and brilliant innovators barely make enough to scrape by. The meritocracy isn’t as real as we think. This isn’t to suggest that the Stack Overflow team doesn’t deserve every penny. They do. We earned the payout. The bad years were hard. Miserable. But everyone believed in the community & the power of software developers. But also no one earns these big paydays. It’s a gift. And we are grateful for it.