Weekly Update (21w06)

Rescuing friends, buying cryptocurrency, a new publishing regimen, and skiing.

This is my first weekly newsletter—where I tell stories from the past week, to keep family and friends in the loop, to practice my storytelling, and to have a record of what’s happened in my life.

Each “week” is from Sunday to Monday, following the US week-numbering system. This first update will cover week 6 of 2021, from February 7–13. (Don’t worry, I’ll omit the logistics in the future).

I. Rescuing 5 people from the salt flats

The week really got off to a bang. Around 10 AM, Mattea & I heard some pounding on our bedroom door. Groggily, I got up—”what is it?” “Some people went out for sunrise pictures on the salt flats, and Will’s car broke down! Can you go rescue them?”

Some context. We’re in a community house called Edyfi, north of Salt Lake City, with 14 people total. And for those 14 people, there are two cars: Will’s and ours. So, we basically needed to do this—otherwise, they were stranded. Fun stuff! Okay, where are they again..? One of the stranded people sent their location.

Huh. At least it was a beautiful day! We pillaged a few armloads of snacks from peoples’ rooms, hurried to the car, and got there 10 minutes before the tow truck.

All the rescuees fell into our car, then fell asleep as we followed the tow truck (who averaged 80 MPH (!!)) back into town. Fitting—they woke up 6 hours earlier, and were sitting on the side of the cold windy road for an hour or two after that.

II. Cryptocurrency, and how banks can’t do their single job

[January 29th | BTC $34,275 | loss 0%]

Right after the GameStop boom, I realized that all the Bitcoin I was holding on Robinhood wasn’t real; I couldn’t transfer it out or send it to anyone.

“Oh, crap,” I thought. “I better move this to a real wallet, so that I own it!”

So I sold all my Bitcoin, at a price of $34,275/BTC. Then I initiated a transfer of that money to one of my bank accounts, from which I planned to wire it to Coinbase (a clearing-house-of-sorts, where you can convert USD into cryptocurrency).

[February 1st | BTC $35,524 | loss 3.5%]

The money, after three long days, arrived at my first bank.

“Great,” I thought. “All I have to do is wire it to Coinbase now, and it’ll be safe! Sure, I lost ~3.5%, but that’s a pretty normal fluctuation for a few days.”

So I went onto my bank’s website. Oh wait, you can’t send wires online. Um, okay, that’s a totally normal feature to not have in 2021, right?!

So I gave them a call. Nope! Can’t send a wire via phone unless you have your “phone banking PIN.” How do you reset that? You visit an office, of course! No, sorry, we can’t let you do outrageous things like resetting your PIN code online either…

Disgruntled, I initiated a transfer to a second bank that I knew could send wires through a web form.

[February 8th | BTC $46,509 | loss 26.3%]

The money, after another *checks notes* WEEK, arrived at my second bank, the one that can send wires. Good thing Bitcoin was still around the same—wait, what?!

Okay, great. The day the money arrived at my bank—at which point my money had been in USD for 10 days, against my will—Tesla bought $1.5 billion of Bitcoin for its corporate treasury, sending the price through the roof. Hooray! But what’s done is done, so I sucked up my ego and sent the wire request anyway.

Around 11 AM, I’m in the middle of work and get a call from an unknown number. I deny it, obviously—don’t have time for spammers right now, I’m busy programming.

Then, I get an email. It’s from my second bank. “Please verify that it was you who sent the wire request online! We just called you, but you didn’t answer because the year is 2021; thanks for understanding.”

Okay, crap. There’s still two hours before same-day wires have to be submitted, at least… so it’ll probably go through today. I call them… and get placed on a 25-minute hold. Just great.

I get through the hold. Phew. A human voice breaks through the tones! ”Hello, thanks for calling [second bank]. We’re currently experiencing a planned system outage for a technology upgrade, so unfortunately we can’t do anything banking-related, despite being a bank, and this being the middle of the day, and all that,” they say. “Please call back in, idk, an hour or two and we might be able to do our job.” I just hang up silently.

I call back later. Confirm that yeah, it’s me who requested the wire (such a shame that it’s impossible for security questions to pop up as a form on a website, right?). “Just so you know, it’s too late in the day for your wire to be sent—it’ll go through tomorrow.”

[February 9th | BTC $47,611 | loss 28.0%]

The wire goes through. I buy. I’ve lost 28% in 11 days, because banks live like it’s 2002.

To make sure my Bitcoin are safe and can’t be hacked, I spin up a private “wallet” (account for cryptocurrency, basically) and click 2 buttons to transfer money to it.

Seconds after initiating the transfer, I refresh my wallet—and the money is there.

III. A new publishing regimen, for real this time

Those who know me know that I like to say I’ll start putting content onto the Internet every few months (“for real this time”). Sometimes I even last long enough to publish a YouTube video about my newfound commitment, which I inevitably unlist in shame:

After the first few times, I even started being self-aware about it:

Anyways, last Wednesday evening, I had a fantastic new idea: what if I started publishing content onto the Internet?!

For real, though. I’ve noticed that in my past attempts, there are three failure modes:

  • I vastly underestimate the amount of work needed—and commit to stupid things, like “publishing a video every day.” (For those unaware, even the simplest videos often take HOURS to film and edit.)

  • I don’t diversify, so I get burnt out.

  • I don’t have any sense of accountability, so as soon as I’m tired of it, I’m done!

I’m addressing these problems by publishing a different sort of content each day, varying high- and low-effort (for me) productions, and publicly broadcasting what I’ll be doing so that I feel bad if I don’t follow through. (Part of that is charging $5/month to have access to these weekly summaries (except for friends and family, of course.))

Here’s the regimen that I started on Thursday—it’s already my longest-lasting ever—and how it will repeat each week. Each thing goes out at noon PST.

  1. Sunday: I publish a weekly reflection for the previous week; just a few stories.

  2. Monday: I publish a podcast (some valuable conversation with friends).

  3. Tuesday: I publish an essay here, on my blog.

  4. Wednesday: I publish a book review on my YouTube channel.

  5. Thursday: another podcast (here’s the first, from last week).

  6. Friday: another essay (again, here’s the first one).

  7. Saturday: I stream myself programming on Twitch.

I don’t know how hard or sustainable this will be; so far, it’s been manageable but taken a lot of my free time. That’s a good thing, though: it gets me producing. I’d been thinking about exponentials for MONTHS before my schedule forced me to sit down and write that post on Friday… but had never put my thoughts together. The forcing function of “people feeling bad if you don’t deliver” is, I’ve found, my most powerful motivator. (I discuss this on the podcast that’ll be out Friday; make sure to follow! 😊)

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I’m optimistic, and it’s already been a win! The current plan is to reevaluate at the end of February, which should give me a sense for it.

IV. Skiing, for the first [serious] time

Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re suddenly aware that certain muscles exist—and that yours are weak as spaghetti?

What about suddenly realizing (later) that you’ve completely burnt those muscles out, as you try to stop yourself while sliding at 15 MPH down a hill towards a tree?

[insert picture of Mattea & I skiing here]

I’ve gone skiing before, but not really. I basically just failed the bunny hill for two straight hours, completely unable to control any basic movements. So when a group of Edyfi people decided to go “night skiing” at Brighton this Friday, Mattea & I signed up enthusiastically!

3:45 PM. We’re supposed to be leaving at 4. Three participants are still in meetings.

4:00 PM. We’re supposed to be leaving at 4:15. Two participants are still in meetings. Nobody has put anything in any car. Two people (including yours truly) are dressed in winter clothes, sitting on couches, trying not to A) fall asleep or B) get heat stroke.

4:15 PM. We’re supposed to be leaving… well, surely by now, right? I go back inside to check. Two participants are playing ping-pong, one of whom is in shorts and a t-shirt.
“Oi, what’s the deal here? Are you coming to ski?”
”My clothes are in the dryer!”
“When are they going to be done?”
*checks phone* “15 minutes, maybe?”
”Go get them now, they’ll finish drying in the car.”

4:25 PM. We start driving to the ski rental shop.

5:30 PM. We all have skis and helmets from the rental shop, and are standing outside the two cars. “Wait, where are [three participants]?” They walked over to the McDonalds and Starbucks drive throughs, apparently. The other driver tells Mattea & I that he’ll loop around and grab them and be back in “2 minutes.”

5:40 PM. No other car in sight. (We learn later that one of the 2-minute rescue party members decided that he should get something from Starbucks, too, which “took an eon.”) We stop waiting and head for the mountain.

(9:00 PM: The lifts will close.)

Turns out, two and a half hours of skiing was more than enough for yours truly.

See, I’m not a very athletic person—and don’t think I’ve ever used the leg and ankle muscles that “rotate backwards with force” before. So I wasn’t very quick to learn how to stop—and by the time I figured out what I needed to do, the muscles had died.

Around 8:15, I was chasing Mattea & Will down a steep slope between courses; I started going way too fast, my legs just stopped working, and I ended up doing a double somersault that ended when I hit a big snow pile throat-first. (It’s still hurting, two days later, which is why I thought to include the anecdote.)

…and then I promptly decided to go up the biggest lift again.

Another time (I think this was after the second lift ride), we were at the top gaping at the cliff-like entrance to a double-black-diamond run. “How could anyone possibly do that?!” was the common sentiment… so to demonstrate, Will (who was supposed to be guiding us) promptly did a spin-jump right into it, leaving us to sort of just “figure it* out”

* “it” being a blue-square run (remember, this was after our second lift ever)

I love this graph—you can see that we went up the life precisely three times, and that I was around precisely 170-180 BPM the entire rest of the time. At the end, I had burned over 2000 calories in just over two hours. Did I mention I hadn’t eaten yet that day?

It was a great experience, overall. Mattea & I will definitely go skiing again while we’re here—and probably get our own decent skis, to save money and actually be able to maneuver our legs too.

Hope you enjoyed! That took me a lot longer than expected—and I still only got through half the stories I wanted to. Would love any feedback on my writing you’re willing to give—I’m just trying to get better at storytelling and communication in general.

Hope you have a great week 7!

- Brennan