JScott's Monthly Missive: June Edition

My monthly list of resources, life hacks, and life lessons. Hit reply and tell me what you have been up to and what neat stuff you have discovered !



  • Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game. Making elections issues "fun" is a god-awful task. Believe me, I've tried. Others have as well, some going so far as to write children's books explaining everything elections, from how "The People Pick a President" to the specifics of the Help America Vote act of 2002 (I accidentally ordered this book in 2003, thinking it was for an audience older than 12).

  • I just backed a Kickstarter project that might turn out to be a fun way to understand Gerrymandering. Perhaps not the type of game you will play with your family for hours on end; although Brianna L might (look out Scott and Ryan). But this might be a very useful tool for starting a conversation at public forums and conferences. From the inventors:

  • In Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game, you are a mapmaker, which means you make maps... and determine who wins elections. Can you crack and pack voters? Can you scheme and strategize? Can you create unfair, lopsided, strangely shaped districts that will guarantee your party's victory? Gerrymandering with friends and family (when it doesn't affect real voters) is a whole lot of fun!

    1. Pledge $70 or more and we'll send you 1 copy of Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game. We will ALSO send 1 copy to your governor or a state legislator. For every extra $35, we'll send another copy to another legislator in your state. We'll add your name (if you want) to the Gerrymandering Is Not a Game proclamation, included in every box.

    2. Kickstarter Link: Mapmaker

  • This quote on twitter from Simon Sinek (@simonsinek)

  • This quote reminded me of my friend Juan F., who generously takes the time to connect his colleagues with each other on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Making an introduction can be powerful; several of the introductions I have made turned into new projects and some great collaborations. Making introductions can seem like a distraction from your own work, but when you look at your contributions to the world an important one will be sharing your connections.

  • Cardano. This comes from a student (Canuto S) interested in blockchain, who I met on a Tapas tour in Granada Spain. Cardano is a new blockchain designed specifically for smart contracts. "Cardano is a decentralized public blockchain and cryptocurrency project and is fully open source. Cardano is developing a smart contract platform which seeks to deliver more advanced features than any protocol previously developed." Like everything blockchain, it seems to hold a lot of promise but only time will tell. Link: Cardano


  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou.

  • This excellent book details one of the biggest scandals in startup history: the rise and fall of the blood-testing company Theranos. Theranos's founders (and perhaps a few engineers) crossed line after line trying to make it appear that their new system for blood testing worked as promised. But it was all a big fraud. And defrauding their investors of over $800 million was not even the worst part. They also put peoples lives in danger. This scandal is still playing out with criminal and civil charges filed.

  • Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday.

  • I listened to this book rather than reading it. Either way you get it, this is an awesome book. It will challenge what you think about the suit by Hulk Hogan against Gawker. The story unfolds like a Greek tragedy or a tale from the House of Medici. Flawed characters and tragic missteps abound. Holiday sets out to present the facts without editorializing (and does a great job). He also weaves his substainial knowledge of Greek and Stoic philosophy into the tale.

    1. Amazon Link: Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue

  • Live Work Work Work Die, by Corey Pein

  • Funny at first, then just an opinion piece about how bad tech is for our society. No real analysis just cherry-picked stories. I know or have lived through most of the stories that Mr. Pein repeats and there is more to the story than what he presents.

    1. However, there were some great quotes and Pein is a good writer and has many clever digs and quotes:

    2. "Billionaireship is easily the most desirable career of the twenty-first-century, with numerous advantages over fast-growing occupations like serfdom...You may scoff now, but you’ll definitely wish you’d taken the time to become a billionaire when the robots have taken over your profession and you can’t afford financing for the new fuel-efficient car you need to make your tiresome hours driving for Uber pencil out."

      1. "Seat of disruptive innovation and home to the heroes of high tech, the Valley calls out like an alluring siren to ambitious, skilled, and forward-thinking people from all over. Its singular approach to wealth creation—let’s call it “the Silicon Valley way”—was endorsed by former president Barack Obama himself. In a State of the Union address, he pledged to support “every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.” Really, shouldn’t we all be in the top one percent?"

      2. Simone was bone-tired. I didn’t blame her. She was the model of a twenty-first-century microentrepreneur, which is to say she was a grossly exploited worker. She lived in Oakland but woke up early to drive to central San Francisco, where she picked up two shifts as a public school bus driver. She drove for Lyft on her lunch break and again after work until bedtime. Both employers classified Simone as a part-time independent contractor, and neither seemed at all concerned about her level of fatigue behind the wheel.

    3. Amazon link: Live Work Work Work Die

  • Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang.

  • Promised titillating details about the sex lives of the rich and famous in SF, but quickly moves to stories about the PC, Internet, the careers of various women and founders, etc. All of which has been told before and better. The big insight is that the "Bro" culture has to be corrected early on in a company's founding and during periods of high growth. Instead, I recommend Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao. And if you are interested in the history of tech read The Innovators or Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson).

    1. Amazon Link: Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley


  • One of the best LifeHack of the past year is a simple idea but counter-intuitive: lowering expectations.

  • Exercise is one example where this has worked well. Previously I would plan to exercise every day. I had high expectations for what that meant: 6 miles on the elliptical, swim for 40 minutes, or some equally hard and unrealistic metric. Of course, when it came time to do the exercise, the bar I had set would seem too daunting and exercise would get pushed off until the next day, the next next day, next week or next month.

    1. But when I started to lower my expectations, I started to exercise. I now define exercise as: Put on exercise clothes and shoes. Go to the gym. Even if I get to the gym and then turn around and go home or to work, I consider that I have completed exercising for the day. Of course, just making it to the gym makes it 99% more likely that I will exercise. So far, I have only turned around twice in the past six months.

  • Using the phrase "You are Smart, You can figure this out." when replying to students.

  • I love teaching but it gets frustrating when I have posted all the resources a student needs to complete an assignment and instead of reviewing that information the student emails or sends me a text message that they "Don't know where to start!"

    1. Instead of replying back pointing them to the resources (RTFM!) or walking them through it again, my first response is now "You are Smart, You can figure this out." This puts it back on them, and also shows that I have confidence in their abilities.

    2. So far, it seems to be working out well. Several students have responded back with pride in the fact that they did figure it out; confirming my statement that they are smart.

    3. I stole this from somewhere, but I can't find the source. Thanks to the brilliant person thought of it!

Must Watch/Listen

  • Should you quit social media? Kara Swisher talks with Jaron Lanier on the Too Embarrassed to Ask Podcast.

  • Lanier is first known as a pioneer in the field of virtual reality, but he is also an excellent critic and observer of technology. Lots of good stuff in this podcast, but one insight from Lanier that I am still pondering is about the big technology companies: Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have all managed to diversify their profit centers and income streams, and don't rely solely on advertising. Facebook and Google, while successfully diversifying their costs (oculus rift, self-driving cars, etc), have not been successful in diversifying their profit centers and solely rely on advertising for their tremendous income.

What I'm looking forward to

  • Getting responses to this month's missive from you all, hearing about the cool stuff you are doing and the resources/lifehacks you are using!! (just hit the reply button and fill me in!)

  • The ComoCypto conference, September 21st and 22nd.

  • Call for speakers: comocryptocon.com/

    1. Signup get updates about the conference: http://eepurl.com/dAtjYn

  • The local PMI (Project Management International) chapter's first regional conference. Explore The Universe of Project Management, Lake of the Ozarks Tan-Tar-A Resort - October 18-19, 2018. More information at: https://pmimidmo.org/pdd-2018

Take care,