I'm Part Neanderthal

08/08/21

When I was 18 my dad walked up behind me, put his hand on the back of my head, and audibly freaked out. He felt a protrusion on my skull. To feel a strange bump on your child's head is understandbly concerning, but I'd had it my whole life and assumed everyone else did too.

To explain, he let me feel his skull, and so did my mom. They were smooth.

As a kid this thing always kind of pissed me off because I couldn't rest my head on flat surfaces like the floor, or the window on the school bus. The pressure of my weight all on that point is painful. It made a lot of sense to learn this was uncommon, because I'd never heard anyone else complaining about it.

Turns out it's called an Occipital bun, a bulge at the back of the skull characteristic of the Neanderthal genome. The Neanderthal subspecies is extinct in certain terms, but some of its genetics survive in humans.

I definitely seem to be a mix, because on the other hand I'm just over six feet tall. I don't know my exact genetic breakdown because I refuse to give my DNA to the glowies a testing firm like 23andMe, but I also have deep set eyes, an unusually hairy neck, and my wife complains I have a thick skull. So I've got a few giveaways.

I've made peace with my cave-dwelling ancenstry, and still identify as homo sapien. Over time though, I've observed I have tendencies in addition to my physical traits.

For one, I love cooking food over a fire. I don't mean a propane grill - I'm talking charcoal at least but even better just a dirty fucking fire pit. Meat, root vegetables, chilli peppers, blistered and charred. This is my happy place. I enjoy few things as much as just sitting next to an open fire and babysitting some food I have cooking over it.

I also am very fond of cozy cave-like settings in harsh environments. I really like video games where you are trying to shelter and survive near a fire like Minecraft and The Forest. And I also like living in places with a harsh winter. I enjoy the feeling of "surviving" in my cave (house). I can't imagine living somewhere with 70deg weather year-around, I would go crazy.

Finally, I really love sticks. I like to hold them and wave them around and shit.

My Coinbase Interview

04/16/21
My kid smearing boogers on a glass conference room at Coinbase HQ

It was fun watching Coinbase go public this week, and it conjured up some fun memories. I got to interview at Coinbase in February 2015, one year after I launched Cryptowatch. I’ve never written about it and I figured I should before I get old and forget everything.

The company invited me to interview and eventually flew me out to San Francisco to endure their famous work trial, which lasted for a week. Despite being paid for my time, I found the request a bit awkward because I had to take a week off my current job at Codecademy in NYC. I decided to fess up and tell them what I was doing, and they were really cool about it.

The work trial also felt awkward because you’re in a brand new social environment where you’d like to fit in, but you only have a week to do so (and everyone is understandably busy dealing with their own stuff). It usually takes more than a week to integrate into a new community or workplace. In the work trial I started to do that, and then it was over.

Overall it was kind of a wild experience. You are suddenly in their office, sitting among them, with access to their git repos, group chat, everything.

I was paired up with an unnamed JavaScript dev who had basically created GDAX single-handedly. He was an eccentric guy who walked around the office barefoot. He threw me into the GDAX code base and asked me to make a bunch of improvements to the front end. I think I added the SMA lines to their chart code, and some other data views.

My partner fit the stereotype of opinionated JavaScript dev; the GDAX UI was written in some custom framework he had developed himself, which I had to learn on the job. He was clearly a move-fast, high-output type of dev.

I toiled away for a week on his code, which I remember not enjoying. I also sat in on some unrelated architecture discussions and got interviewed by a couple more guys. The team tried hard to include me in stuff and get my opinions.

The company culture overall was what you'd expect from mid-2010s Silicon Valley. One unique thing about the place, besides its high concentration of early Bitcoin enthusiasts, was that they took security extremely seriously. They had senior staff working only on systems security, and gave a technical security-related presentation at an all-hands meeting. It was clearly a key part of their company culture. Being a Krakenite for almost 5 years I now know that this is a do-or-die requirement in crypto custody, but it was pretty new to me then.

Brian and Fred both sat down to interview me one on one, which in hindsight they really didn’t have to do considering the size of the company and the fact I was just a dev with 2 years of industry experience. They were really smart guys and I enjoyed those interviews.

I also had to present my week’s work to Brian, Fred, Charlie Lee (lol), and some others. Brian said it didn’t look like I had gotten very much done, and he was right. I probably had a pretty bad answer to that. In hindsight I find his comment painful and funny at the same time, now knowing how Brian was an engineer and built the first prototype of Coinbase by himself.

I also remember telling them I thought it was a mistake to try building their own “pro” UI for GDAX, and that they should focus on being competitive with their exchange’s API, features, and liquidity. I argued that third party aggregators like Cryptowatch would be able to focus hard and build a better UI than exchanges can all build for themselves.

While I was out there, I also hit up Jesse to see if he wanted to meet up. We had never met but emailed back and forth a few times. He invited me to visit the Kraken office, which was a lot more modest than Coinbase’s. I came by after I was done at Coinbase one evening. Most people had gone home already. Jesse was there with a few other guys, and we shot the shit for about an hour. It was very casual. Compared to Coinbase, Kraken was a scrappy underdog startup, which I liked.

After I flew home to NYC the Coinbase recruiter called me and politely rejected my application. I was not really surprised, and didn’t much feel like working there. Life went on. I stayed in touch with Kraken, and ended up joining the following year.

All in all, things seem to have worked out for everyone. Congratulations to Brian, Fred, and everyone else at Coinbase on going public. I look forward to experiencing that from the inside at Kraken.

No pressure

Impressions of the Model 3

12/15/18

I rented a 3 for a couple days using Turo, just to try it out. The one I had was the performance version. Pic related is me enjoying a beautiful Colorado sunrise while zooming down an empty road. Here are my impressions of the car:

Pros

  • It's fast as hell
  • It's really quiet, and the sound it does make when accelerating is like a sci-fi spaceship
  • Its clutter-free interior has a certain zen to it
  • The regenerative breaking is very weird at first, but once you learn how to use it it's a nice way of conserving range. Often I don't need to use the break pedal at all until the car is basically stopped and I just want to go into "Hold" mode. It makes a lot of sense for driving in town.
  • The ability to configure driver profiles with things like steering, acceleration, "creep", is really nice
  • You can idle guilt-free
  • You just feel cool driving it
Cons
  • When going 60mph+ the dash sometimes makes creeky noises that indicate something is loose; it feels a bit cheap
  • "Easy entry" is, in my opinion, awkward and annoying... and I'm 6ft tall. I guess it's more for people like Shaq.
  • I did miss having physical buttons for certain things, like climate controls and opening the trunk. I think they took the touch screen thing too far. It's not possible to use the screen without looking at it. You can't just use tactile feedback + muscle memory.
  • The car allows equally strong acceleration when in reverse; this surprised me when I was parallel parking and I almost went onto the curb. I guess this isn't an issue if you're not a noob. It only stunned me because the car had "creep" disabled so I had to use the accelerator.

I suppose some of these points apply to all of the Tesla models (or even all electric cars), but this was my first experience with any of them.

I was considering buying a Model 3, but after lugging two kids in car seats around in it my conclusion is it's not a good family car. It's perfect for a commuter, or perhaps a couple with older kids. For us, since we're aiming to be a single-car family I think it would have to be Model X (or perhaps Model Y, depending on what that turns out to be).

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