Short imagined monologues: Glengarry Bob Ross

Okay, I’m just gonna use that same old brush, its working so well. Gonna tap that corner into a little bit of yellow ochre. Just tap the corner, I want very little paint.

What am I painting? Fuck you, that’s what I’m painting. You know why, mister? You drive to the store to get your paint supplies in a Hyundai, I drive an $80,000 BMW. That’s what I’m painting.

...

Read the whole hilarious thing at McSweeney's

BCG predicts unemployment in the US to remain high for decades as Germany, others experience labor shortage

BCG reports recent findings indicating US unemployment will continue to be high for decades:

The surplus in the U.S. presents a starkly contrasting picture. Again, we modeled labor supply and demand using the same two sets of assumptions: GDP and productivity growth rates for the past 10 and 20 years. In each scenario, the supply of labor in 2030 will exceed demand. In the best case (the 20-year demand scenario), supply will exceed demand by at least 7.4 million people. 

...

Of the six unemployment measures used by the U.S. Department of Labor, the one commonly reported in the press is U-3. The broadest unemployment measure(U-6) has hovered around 14 percent since late 2012 and mid-2013, versus the 8 percent rate that is generally reported.

There's an obvious and huge mismatch in what the economy needs, and what our education systems are training people to do. Meanwhile, politicians juke the stats, and the mainstream US media makes like the US labor force and economy is doing just fine. 

The Louis CK 70% decision rule — if you're 70% happy with it, just go with it

From GQ's recent cover story on Louis CK:

These situations where I can't make a choice because I'm too busy trying to envision the perfect one—that false perfectionism traps you in this painful ambivalence: If I do this, then that other thing I could have done becomes attractive. But if I go and choose the other one, the same thing happens again. It's part of our consumer culture. People do this trying to get a DVD player or a service provider, but it also bleeds into big decisions. So my rule is that if you have someone or something that gets 70 percent approval, you just do it. 'Cause here's what happens. The fact that other options go away immediately brings your choice to 80. Because the pain of deciding is over.

"And," he continues, "when you get to 80 percent, you work. You apply your knowledge, and that gets you to 85 percent! And the thing itself, especially if it's a human being, will always reveal itself—100 percent of the time!—to be more than you thought. And that will get you to 90 percent. After that, you're stuck at 90, but who the fuck do you think you are, a god? You got to 90 percent? It's incredible!

What happens when ambitious dreamers get a hold of a giant spigot of cash?

In Slate, The Untold Story of Larry Page's Incredible Comeback (Hat Tip Jeff Lonsdale):

"Page recognized that Google’s search-advertising business, with its insane profit margins and sustained growth, was exactly the kind of cash-generating machine that his hero, Nikola Tesla, would have used to fund his wildest dreams."

This is a pretty powerful idea. There are two sets of people in the world - those who are ambitious dreamers, and those who have capital to allocate. 99.999999% of the time, those two things don't really meet. Sure, there are VC's, and sure there are forward thinking people who invest, but that is still not enough. 

Every so often, ambitious dreamers get their hands on giant spigots of cash. The Google founders are some of them. My friends at Airbnb (Brian, Joe, and Nate) are a few more. At YC, we hope to fund a lot more.

What can you build? Well, it turns out, there's a lot. Self driving cars. Urban renewal. We'll see what happens. This is why I'm still fundamentally bullish on Silicon Valley. The media can mock it, but you can't ignore it. There's still something fundamental happening right here on the Internet. 

Don't drink your own kool-aid

Israeli electric car startup Better Place ate through $900M in funding and died. In his coverage, Max Chafkin writes this gem:

Entrepreneurs are frequently told not to drink their own Kool-Aid--which is to say, to remember that the stories they tell about how their products will save humanity are just that.

Privately, they are cautioned to focus on the small things; to make more money than they lose; to cut costs when needed; and, when necessary, to pivot to a more promising business. The caution seems especially important in a culture that increasingly celebrates startups, threatening to confuse their mythmaking with reality. 

This is very true, and startups die every other day of some form of this. The money comes tomorrow only when you perform. Even if it's easy now, it won't be easy forever.

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn on separating good and evil

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

One simple fix for American Express ReceiptMatch

It's always great when a big company innovates, but just like a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a little innovation can be that way for creating a million paper cuts of user pain. 

Here's one paper cut by American Express's ReceiptMatch service, that can take posts by email. But unfortunately, when its servers are down (and they are down often), the service just starts instantly rejecting email.

This simply isn't the kind of thing a normal software engineer would do. Emails queue by default, actually — and receipts are rarely so mission critical that I need 200 millisecond response times on my receipt emails. So just leave the email in the queue and process it when you can. 

A rare case of addition by subtraction — it's actually more work to send a rejection email than it is to let it sit in an email queue. That's the easiest thing in the world to do, and infinitely better than what they do now.