4,000 Kilometers Through My Own Country – An Engineer’s Viewpoint

5 years ago, I went 4000 Km-ish on motorcycles, trains, planes, and buses through India.
I hadn’t been back to India in over a decade.
If you were to travel my country as an systems engineer, you would be well accustomed to infant mortality, coal skies, lignite coal plants, distillation towers that were unmaintained, power grid failures, medical triage, and how India has become a country that’s unable to cope with its growth in a healthy way because of a lack of access to clean Nuclear energy.
By 5/6, I witnessed the first farmer suicide. Dead bodies still don’t shock me. I’ve seen so many at this point.
At 7, I was making ice cream with rock salt, sugar, and vanilla during power outages.
At 11, my Uncle died from lung cancer.
I wanted to do something about it.
At 14, I supported a corrupt US congressman in the hopes of manipulating US political tectonics to expedite Nuclear policy in India’s favor.
Tom Delay was indicted and now re-elected. He didn’t do anything, he was just trying to lock down the Indian American vote.
At 24, I coughed my way asthmatically through my own country pissed off at the fact that even decades later, we still didn’t have Nuclear energy at the scale that would make a difference.
At 27, I sat depressed as I read the reports of soil where I grew up for periods of time being polluted with high salinity, lead, chromium, nickel, zinc, arsenic and cadmium.
If you ever ask yourself why doesn’t X country have Z.
The answer is almost always primarily —- Energy. Energy is the source code for Nitrogen and Steel, the base chemical feedstocks of progress and scaling. 
It is not religion, or that we are ass-backwards, or that we don’t have the intellectual capital. It is almost always a pure and utter lack of energy.

Proteins, Sugars, and Fats: A Quick Rule of Thumb

My friend Alexander Girau at advanotech gave me a quick primer on Proteins, Sugars, and Fats. I found this relevant as I began exploring ketosis and veganism last year out of curiosity.

Figured I’d share it here:

Proteins (amimo acids):

8/9 (one is isomeric) essential (for humans) amino acids associated with making proteins.

20/21 common amino acids associated with making proteins.

250 general amino acids that compose other biomolecules.



Can be separated in several ways but mainly by chain length (monomer, dimer and poly)and structure (linear, cyclic).


Fats (Lipids):

Dietary fats are triglycerides separated based on hydrogen content (saturation) and isomeric stricture (cis-trans). However, they are generally known as a lipid.

Other lipid-like molecules include: steroids, phospholipids, waxes, fatty alcohols, fatty acids.


Kaepernick’s Protest and A Hugely Addressable Issue: US Debtor’s Prisons

tldr: There are highly addressable issues that would move the needle for the Black Lives Matter movement. I outline one here: Debtor Prisons.

The American Football Star Who Protested Racial Injustice
Colin Kaepernick recently kneeled at the national anthem to raise awareness of social injustice toward black people in the USA and at large.  He’s a National Football League star in the USA.


Our Current Point in History and News Cycles

Right now, the USA is going through a time where we’re extremely concerned with social justice and race, specifically as it relates to black people. Have a look through Blavity and observe their meteoric rise through internet search rankings. The content about social and judicial injustice is ripe and on everyone’s mind in the USA.
Can Colin’s Action as a Celebrity Move the Needle on the Issues that Matter?

But alas, I digress. Back to Colin…..

It’s hard to clarify whether or not Colin Kaepernick’s actions actually make a relevant difference to social/racial injustice.

I’m not necessarily sure this type of action has the strong impact that would drive a meaningful systemic change. As a growth marketer and engineer, I’m always concerned with how to make a protest or fundraiser extremely high ROI.

A Side Story About Effective High ROI Protest:
One of my favorite protestors is @sinak, he’s the reason you can unlock your cell phone from carrier to carrier in the USA without paying fees. He used his tech skills to drive over 100,000 petition sign ups and change US Laws around telecom companies.

Focus and Sequence matter. He identified the pressure points and applied pressure appropriately to move the needle for 300M Americans.


Read his story here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/08/15/heres-how-cell-phone-unlocking-became-legal

As an engineer, I always want to see how the levers in any system move, shake, and resonate to achieve the desired effect.

Moving the needle in a significant way on issues of social justice usually requires more tactical sophistication than simply kneeling at the anthem and making a donation to a non-profit. But Kudos to Colin for raising awareness and getting more people to think about the issues and ask questions.

What Kind of Things Would Advance Society Toward More Equitable Justice?

I spent some time thinking about activities that are high ROI and would be more likely to move the needle on social justice. I immediately thought of  Debtors Prisons.



Nearly two centuries ago, the United States formally abolished the incarceration of people who failed to pay off debts. Yet, recent years have witnessed the rise of modern-day debtors’ prisons—the arrest and jailing of poor people for failure to pay legal debts they can never hope to afford, through criminal justice procedures that violate their most basic rights.

State and local courts have increasingly attempted to supplement their funding by charging fees to people convicted of crimes, including fees for public defenders, prosecutors, court administration, jail operation, and probation supervision. And in the face of mounting budget deficits at the state and local level, courts across the country have used aggressive tactics to collect these unpaid fines and fees, including for traffic offenses and other low-level offenses. These courts have ordered the arrest and jailing of people who fall behind on their payments, without affording any hearings to determine an individual’s ability to pay or offering alternatives to payment such as community service.

In response, since 2009, the ACLU and ACLU affiliates across the country have been exposing and challenging modern-day debtors’ prisons, and urging governments and courts to pursue more rational and equitable approaches to criminal justice debt.

Debtors’ prisons impose devastating human costs. They lead to coercive debt collection, forcing poor people to forgo the basic necessities of life in order to avoid arrest and jailing. Debtors’ prisons waste taxpayer money and resources by jailing people who may never be able to pay their debts. This imposes direct costs on the government and further destabilizes the lives of poor people struggling to pay their debts and leave the criminal justice system behind. And most troubling, debtors’ prisons create a racially-skewed, two-tiered system of justice in which the poor receive harsher, longer punishments for committing the same crimes as the rich, simply because they are poor.

Ultimately, debtors’ prisons are not only unfair and insensible, they are also illegal. Imprisoning someone because she cannot afford to pay court-imposed fines or fees violates the Fourteenth Amendment promises of due process and equal protection under the law.

Samuel Brooke- Modern day hero and high ROI social justice warrior.

Debtors Prisons may be the single most addressable lowest hanging fruit of the social inequalities in our justice system today that can be solved within 12-24 months of decisive action/protest/and coordination.

Samuel Brooke: Enter Modern Day Hero
I say 12-24 months because that’s about how long it took Samuel Brooke filed lawsuits against all the private probation companies in Alabama and basically ended the practice in the state. He created a domino effect and municipalities started parting ways with all the private collections and corrections companies. Samuel Brooke is basically the equivalent of Batman.

Debtors prisons, filled with poor people of multiple races, are predominantly black.

Debtors prisons and our system for them in the States is totally ungepatched, messed up, adulterated, and corrupt. If we’re concerned about the judicial system or social justice as it stands today, a great starting point is debtors prisons.

Currently, we have 9 states in the USA that will jail you for failing to pay legal fines. I’m not even talking about legal fines for violent crimes, we’re talking about things like traffic violations and not painting your roof. In 9 states, the inability to pay for violations like these, means an arrest warrant and you going to jail.

The Geography of Our Discontent

The States where people can be jailed for inability to pay fines can occur: New Hampshire, Washington, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri.

We should lobby tactically for an end to privately controlled municipal courts. Part of me wonders if this can be done by the boycotting and coercion of businesses that fund local/state representatives.

Each of these 9 states will jail people for failing to pay legal fines. Traffic violations and quality of life ordinances are causing poor black people in the States to be indentured into a life of paying off the judicial system for freedom.

If you have 15 minutes, and care about these issues, please have a quick read through of this paper: http://03a5010.netsolhost.com/WordPress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ArchCity-Defenders-Municipal-Courts-Whitepaper.pdf

It describes in detail some of the issues at hand.

The Lack of Substance in Liz Parrish’s Bio-Viva Claims

I’ve gotten about 60 messages about Liz Parrish’s outfit and the test on herself to lengthen her telomeres.

I don’t think there’s any substance to any of her claims and life extension.
(Her article: http://bioviva-science.com/…/first-gene-therapy-successful…/)

A few very critical questions:

  1. What if anything does telomere lengthening have to do with life extension? (It’s multi-factorial) Correlation is not causation.. See:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25862531
  2. Why did she use a lab that’s on quackwatch to do the tests? (http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRela…/…/nonstandard.html)
  3. Haven’t we already proven telomere lengthening and muscle hacks in animal models?
  4. What type of AAV is she using to transfect her cells with telomerase? (Take a look at the animal studies:http://www.nature.com/mt/journal/v18/n3/full/mt2009286a.html,http://virologyj.biomedcentral.com/…/10.1186/1743-422X-10-74)
  5. How many cells had their telomeres lengthened? (I bet you it was a petty amount…..100 to 1 says they’re not all that good at actually delivering genes)

There’s actual chemists/biologists busting their ass at places like genentech and top research universities to solve missing mendelian inheritance the long difficult way.

They’re true pioneers staring down the barrel of a gun loaded with the world’s most difficult NP-Hard problems. This Parrish outfit steals their thunder.

Aging isn’t something you can simply disrupt with a silicon valley mindset.

I’ve met organic chemists who have spent upwards of 30 years developing drugs and haven’t put a single drug on the market. Their work was still super valuable.

What College Taught Me- Realizations Post Graduation

What College Taught Me- Realizations Post Graduation

tldr: After college, I learned a few lessons about the world, work styles, happiness, persistence, and grit.

I went to Georgia Tech, a difficult engineering school in the Southeastern United States featuring a highly competitive batch of international students. IMHO, the difficulty of a school is proportional to the number of international students.

School Was Hard.

By no means was Georgia Tech easy, trivial, or a cakewalk coming from a US high school education. It gave me persistence that I didn’t know I had. I studied Industrial Engineering & Polymer Engineering. I blogged about the curriculum of Georgia Tech Industrial Engineering here.

I got to work on exciting technologies, meet incredible people, and eventually find other consummate creators. I learned a lot along the way.

Lessons I’ve Learned.

The lessons below continue to guide the way I think about how to treat teammates, being analytical, the best way to make a viable impact, and how I spend my time.

Context Switching Costs are High.

Prior to being out on my own and starting LeanBelts, I was literally working 5 jobs. Each semester I’d take 5 different subjects.

The mental and physical toll of taking several different subjects was huge. I’d gained weight, looked unsightly, and had Al-Pacino bags under my eyes.

After leaving college, I lost weight, felt healthier, and had a lifted mental acuity. It was only after college did I appreciate the high costs of context switching. I also noticed that this high speed switching between subjects and organizational systems had an effect on the LTV(Life Time Value) of the knowledge I was studying).

In short, do not look at life after college under the same lens of self-scrutiny. After college, you should have a greater capability to dive deeper into the things that are meaningful to you. As well, you might find yourself actually enjoying learning in some scenarios.

Retention is Low.

The end result of high switching costs was very little of the knowledge I studied in college was immutable. For the most part, it was forgettable, and I found this to be true for many of the top GPA’- scorers in my class as well.

I noticed that very few of the Engineers who left engineering school will be the real sort of engineers with the skills, chutzpah, guts, and the tenacity to tackle new problems. What’s more shocking is the number of engineers who graduate who probably aren’t able to score at least 50% on the ABET examination.

The best engineers I’ve worked with include Rob Rhinehart and Hunter Scott whom I founded LevelRF with a few years ago, today it is pivoted into Soylent, a major revolution/pivot. Hunter & Rob are both consummate engineers, builders, tinkerers, creators and it’s evident in their projects. They are both undeniably the engineers’ engineer and have ravenous curiosities. (http://hscott.net). It is rare for me to find such high quality engineers.

I found that contingent upon the engineering discipline, the number of engineers worth their weight in engineering skill was surprisingly low.

Clearly, subjective data based on looking through my LinkedIn.

  • ISyE — 1/30
  • ME — 1/25
  • ECE- 1/10

I’m sure engineering schools would be mortified if they were measured by pseudorandom ABET examinations of graduates who have a 3.5 GPA or higher. In other words, the chips are in favor of students who are great managers of time, but potentially awful engineers.

GPA is a false proxy.

Progress of the World is a Function of Technology. To be Relevant, You Must Embrace it.

The sole benefit of being human as opposed to another species is that we are capable of recording and repeating information. This has changed the way we progress as a species.

The schooling curriculum in the USA never adapted to the following realities.

The only constant in technology is change.

The cost of memory:

1950- $10,000/mb
1990- $30/mb
2004- $1/Gb
2011- $0.035/Gb

The cost of Internet Bandwidth:

1999- $1245 / 1000Mbps
2012- $23 / 1000Mbps

Transistor cost:

$222 / 1M transistors (30 years ago)
$0.05/ 1M transistors (Today)

Talk is Cheap. Analysis is Valuable.

In short the above numbers mean that the search for data, storage of it, and recall of it is not worth nearly as much as it used to be.

The ability to comb and analyze data is most valuable.

The source code for the future of humanity is built upon an understanding of math and science.

IMHO, to be relevant, you must understand math, science, communications, and human behavior. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be relevant without these skills.

There’s now a micro-generational gap between people who are as few as 4 years apart. Look at the mobile apps of 26 year olds and 22 year olds. The differences will shock you.

In short, learn a science, and if you struggle to do this, then at the very least obtain scientific competency.

Sleep Schedules are not Humanistic.

Humans didn’t start sleeping 8 hours a day straight until the late 17th century. This pattern of behavior is born out of electricity and the lightbulb.
In other words, don’t be surprised if you don’t hit your peak productivity at the same time as everyone else.

All of us have high performance and low performance modes contingent upon the type of work, rest, and play that we engage in.

Commute Time is a Huge Factor in Work Happiness.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 00.57.51

I can’t underestimate this. Commuting is a grinding waste of time in many cases.

Don’t Waste Time with Doryphores.

In life, you will encounter people who issue non-constructive critiques to your efforts. As soon as you encounter these people, identify the situation, and constrain your communication and listening.

The definition of Doryphore is “a pedantic and annoyingly persistent critic.”

Simply walk away from the table when you encounter one of these pests. This extends to meetings too—- if they waste time, leave. Some companies today have policies that meetings are optional, and you can leave when you feel that they no longer effectively use your time.

Measure of Persistence is Proportional to Low-Performance Mode.

A person’s persistence is best measured by their ability to get over seemingly indomitable tasks and hurdles by sheer will and effort. Grit is directly proportional to the extent to which one is in low-performance mode in a task.

A horrible example: I love Nutella and eat it all the time. Measuring my persistence by the extent to which I eat Nutella would be a false positive.

Greatness is Born of Obsession.

I write about this in more detail here. Many times in the US Education system there’s a lot of emphasis put on ‘diversity’ and the importance of being ‘well rounded.’

This is mostly bullshit. I’m curious to hear opinions and views on this.

Everyone I’ve ever met who is interesting in life pursued their craft with ambitious zeal and sometimes an unhealthy level of it.

What is Power.

People often talk about power and nepotism in Silicon Valley, where I live.

I’ve come to understand that social power is a function of 3 things.

  • The extent of one’s ability to not give a fuck what other people think.
  • The ability to work relentlessly for what you want in life.
  • The ability to call upon people for favors. Likeability isn’t a must, but the ability to call on favors is huge. As well if you’re highly likeable, people will offer to do you favors.

Emotion vs. Logic

The ability to decouple emotion and logic to solve problems is a tough one to have. It’s an evolution in development for many people that may or may never happen.

An Egyptian Chip designer gave me a great analogy.

Your emotion is an animal.
Your logic is an person.
The person rides the animal.

Some people have a wounded tiger of emotion.

This means jostling the tiger or saying something remotely offensive will jostle their emotions and kill the person.

How do you Know if You’ve Reached Them?

To find out if you’d like to work for someone, slap their emotions with a simple phrase, and see if their logic keeps their emotions in check. Drop a line like “Why did you do things that way? That doesn’t look like a good solution.”

The reaction 1 minute, 10 minutes, and 60 minutes after this question is key in understanding how far down the line they are in this evolution of decoupling of emotion vs. logic.