spenser's life

🌎 What's going on in my world.
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Scandinavian Swimmers
Hello from Norway 🇳🇴 (Bergen to be exact)!

Alex, Miles, and I just got in to Norway last Sunday (from Helsinki). Miles got 'confiscated' at the Norway border for not having a specific worm treatment and had to be in isolation for 24 hours. As unfortunate as that whole situation was, the people involved at the border were really patient and friendly and I have yet to run into an unpleasant person in Norway (yet). The number of electric cars here is pretty amazing - a likely glimpse into the future.

Finland was also really chill - it seems like a lot of people were out of Helsinki for the summer, so it was pretty empty. It just so happened there full-blown amusement park like a block away from us, so we spent an amazing day there (I confirmed that I'm still terrified by ferris wheels fyi). There was no security at the park, so we just walked in and had to ask people where we actually pay, which seems to sum up the very trusting culture they have there.

People's English in these parts is amazing and I continue to feel like a buffoon for only knowing one language. We're missing the Berlin food prices fo sho (our pizzas the other day cost of €60 (shame on us for getting the side salad and garlic bread)).

📘 I read through the Wisdom of Insecurity (by Alan Watts - a short read and well worth the time). In addition, I've stumbled upon SO many interesting things since the last newsletter so here are a few:


Btw, I'm now sending this newsletter out via neobub.com (a small web thing I built a few weekends ago). It's still in the experimental phase (as far as features go), but If you want to start a newsletter or blogthing of your own, feel free to use it. I'm also using this new platform as a way to try and improve my writing skills through a nearly-daily blog/newsletter/thing I'm calling Maybe I'm Wrong (here's the first video review hot off the press).


Hope everyone is staying cool! Let me know what's going on in your neck of the woods.

❤️Spenser
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Sun Sun Go Away
I hope everyone is doing well!

Berlin is starting to get warmer, and the sun is rising at 5AM and going down at 9/10PM which is wreaking havok on my sleep (is that how you spell wreak? or havok?). Alex's parents just left town after traveling around Europe a bit and we're gearing up for a small visit to Norway, Finland, and a few other places for June/July to escape the NON-AIR-CONDITIONED heat in Berlin.

I've been spending most of my weekends working on Ooze Saga (my 'game' project) and exploring some new (to me) games (Elder Scrolls Online is stunning and Risk of Rain is painful) in an effort to intentionally slow down and be less obsessive w/ productivity (we'll see how that goes).

I finished two great books since the last newsletter.

The Body Keeps the Score was one Alex showed me. It covers a lot of ground related to psychology, physiology, and trauma - it continuously shocks you with amazing information and brings a broader understanding of how trauma effects our culture and society. I  highly recommend it.

David and Goliath is an old one I just got around to. Most interesting was the big fish little pond topic - how the worse students at the top colleges tend to drop out/change majors because they're comparing themselves to the best students of the world (resulting in fewer science/math majors, despite clearly being capable). Of course, this makes me think that the internet is a REALLY big pond so we're drawing comparisons and setting expectations for ourselves compared to everyone in the world, simultaneously. All of Malcom Gladwell's audiobooks now remind me of extended episodes of revisionist history, which is a cool podcast he does, if you're into that kind of thing.

ALSO I'm not a regular listener to this podcast (Alex is), but Armchair Expert had on Esther Perel, who is an author/therapist who deals primarily in romantic relationship? I had never heard of her before but DAMN ITS SO INTERESTING. It's long, but covers a TON of ground, bringing up ideas and concepts I hadn't thought about before - it's absolutely worth a listen.

Rad links
- How Mr. Rodgers wrote for kids (a case study on copy refinement)
- The trap of turning hobbies into hustles
- What changed my mind about climate change
- The internet might become a series of dark forests
- Neurofeedback can zap away our fears (The body keeps score talks about this 'treatment' method and the results are kind of insane (but you can't wrap it up in a recurring pill you sell so maybe it'll stay under wraps))

Let me know what's going on in your neck of the woods!

❤️
Spenser
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Chopsticks and Nudity
It’s been a few weeks since I got back from Japan. Alex and I were there for two-ish weeks with Silas (my brother) and Izzy (his gf). We visited Tokyo, Hikone, and Kyoto.  Our Hikone visit included staying in a traditional Japanese lodge (ryokan) with shared bath houses using buckets and natural spring water (the nudity was weird, but the baths were awesome (I felt like those hot spring monkeys)).

Overall, Japan was an incredible experience and an awesome (and alien) place. When you mix Japan’s level of automation/technology/modernity with it’s cultural isolation and history you get something very special.

A few things stood out to me:
1) The adherence to rules, which resulted in spotless and safe public places, unlocked bikes everywhere, and extremely polite interactions might cultivate a darker side that visitor’s aren’t privy to (hikikomori, Japan’s suicide rate, and their seemingly antiquated  relationship with gender). “There are too many rules” was something I heard from locals a few times. We can't really know what that's like through the lens of tourism.
2) The cost-benefit calculation, as it relates to automation and business investment, operates on a different time scale than we’re used to in the US. You get the impression that the early investments in business (and public) infrastructure is not expected to pay off in a 10, 20, or maybe even 100 year timeframe. They’re playing the long game and you can see the pay off clearly with their public transit and general physical quality of life. Doing things right the first time around is not an ethos we’re familiar with in the tech world 😂.

TLDR; it’s worth the trip if you get a chance.

We also just got back from Amsterdam, which was a cool trip except that my bag got stolen on the train from the compartment right above my head (2 laptops, bose headphones, glasses, etc.). The police woman at the Amsterdam police station said it happens a lot (AND, by the way, the amsterdam police station was a great experience).

📚 I just finished Lost and Founder, which is an absolute must-read for anyone in the startup world (ESPECIALLY if you’re a founder).

Now, I’m off to figure out how taxes work while working in the EU - wish me luck and let me know what's happening in your world!

Spenser
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Happy New Year
I hope everyone had a happy new year!

The last half of this year has blown by at the speed of light. Alex and I stayed in Berlin for the holidays and had pizza, potato soup, and a lot of long distant facetimes. So far, the winter hasn't been that bad (famous last words, I'm sure) - I'm looking forward to the new year as the startup hires more and things get a little less hectic. We have some awesome friends stay with us (who were also from the states) for New Years and we experienced the absolute insanity that is Berlin new years on the streets. I haven't watched The Purge, but it felt like what I imagine it to be like.

I'm giving up on new years resolutions because they don't seem to work for me, but I'm excited to see what the new year ahead has to offer. I've been working recently on a weird multiplayer web collectible game thing: oozesaga.com(it's kind of like a massively multiplayer board/card game), which has a few hundred people signed up so far.

Also, we're going to Japan in Feb so send me recommendations and/or connect me with english speaking helpers!

Rad links:

https://newworldeconomics.com/what-a-real-train-system-looks-like/
Poland in the 80s
NY in the 30s


Here's to the next 3 months of adjusting to writing/typing 2019 on everything. Let me know what's happening in your neck of the woods!

Spenser
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Fall in Berlin
Fall is officially here - the weather is changing and the trees are changing colors. It's quite beautiful, and this will be my first 'real' winter as a California kid (my coworkers can't wait to see my misery 😂).

I don't think I've wrote since we took our trip to Venice, which was amazing. It's an unreal place, so it makes sense that it would be swamped with tourists. We got a chance to talk to some locals and find out more about the history through some tours and exploration, which is incredible. Best of all, the trip was a super cheap/short flight from Germany.

Still working lots - another developer and I have been working to relaunch the product for over a month and it's not alive and in the wild - always a satisfying experience. I'm working on a handful of other projects when I find the time.

I've also got back into podcasts now that I have a commute (about 30-40 minutes door to door, but living here makes it hard to imagine not having an amazing public transit system). Lots of How I Built this and Hidden Brain (this episode is a good one).

PS - If you find yourself in Venice, try the Almond cake at Rio Maria.

Hope all is well in your world - let me know what you're up to.

❤️ Spenser
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Nothing of Interest
I have nothing particularly interesting to report this month - still getting adjusted to the life in Germany, which shifts from exciting to daunting on a daily basis (although things are generally much easier and more normal as of late). The unbearable heat wave has ended - they don't put air conditioning in anything here because they aren't used to the heat, which makes it worse.

The new job is the smallest startup I've worked at so far (4 people) so there are a lot of moving parts and there's a lot of hard work ahead to grow the business. It's been most interesting to get to know locals on a closer level and see how folks grow up to see things differently which permeate through society and day to day life (home buying, the economy, social welfare, money, politics, etc.).

Also, we went to a screening of Harry Potter with a live orchestra playing the music, however we didn't think to check what language the movie was in, so our German skills got 1% better (Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens, if you were wondering 😂). You can tell they tried to get voice actors that mirrored the OG actors, but Alan Rickman's voice cannot be replaced. It's interesting to think about the translation process for something like Harry Potter, which is a world already made up of non-real things (for example, they translate the word pixie, but not all of the spells).

I finally caught up with 2006 and finished Freakanomics, which is rad of course, as well as Outliers and Tipping Point.

Hope all of you are doing well.

❤️
Spenser
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In Berlin
I'm officially settled in Berlin! Alex and I made the journey a little over a week ago now, stopping over in Connecticut at a friend's place to cut down the trip and get some much needed relaxation from the chaos of packing up your life in a few duffel bags (the pets appreciated it too). Their family house in CT was amazing - we got to visit their new bb and NYC while we were there (my first time)!

Our jet lag is just now wearing off and we've both started our new gigs (I'm on day 2 at loanlink.de (rebrand incoming)). The company is doing online mortgages for Germany, which isn't really a thing yet (which seems to line up with the larger trend of digitizing services that have been digital for some time in the US). I almost have my subway commute figured out without the aid of google maps. I've lucked out in finding such a great set of folks to work with.

We also were able to land a great apartment in neukolln. Everything in the city and, to a lesser extend, in the way people live is still net new to me, which is exciting and almost overwhelming at times. We're still acclimating to the language barrier, which hasn't provided any huge challenges so far and Berlin is currently going through an unseasonably hot heat wave (so we're told) which has been no fun without an air conditioner (A/Cs are apparently pretty uncommon here). Also, the food is SO cheap!

All in all, it's been a super exciting adventure so far and I am excited to see how it shapes up.

What I'm Consuming:
- 1944 (Just a coincidence that I'm reading this breakdown of WW2 events, some of which happen to involve Berlin)
- Grand Designs (Netflix)
- Derren Brown: Miracle (Netflix) Derren Brown got a Netflix special. Every show of his I watch seems to top the one previously, and this is no exception.

I also recently discovered Libby, which is this super rad app that takes your library card from anywhere in the US and allows you to check out ebooks for your kindle and also includes audiobook!

I saved some stories from the trip to Berlin on instagram, so feel free to check them out.

❤️ Spenser
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European Adventures
I just got back form Europe! Alex, Silas, Zoe, Nick and I spent about a week in Berlin and then a week in Amsterdam. The trip started by us showing up at SFO to be told we couldn't fly because Alex's passport was expiring 90 days from the return (which is a rule we didn't know about). Meanwhile, the others were en route and needed to get into an Airbnb we booked and use a train ticket we had! The next 24 hours were a frantic whirlwind of doing research, printing documents, and standing in line at the SF passport office at 6AM (which was a surprisingly great experience (nothing like the DMV)). We flew out that night and eventually made it in time to meet the others.

Berlin was an amazing place which I can only describe as a strange European wild west. The city is covered in graffiti (some beautiful, some not), people drove like maniacs, you'd hear 4 different languages getting off the subway, and parents were shockingly carefree with their children. It was a really special place (and very unlike most of Germany, I'm told), and of course the history, both new and old, makes it even more interesting.

Amsterdam, in contrast, was VERY different. We trained there through some beautiful countryside. Everything was extremely clean (and expensive) and the parks were absolutely incredible. I've never seen more bikes in my life (and no helmets in sight and mopeds speeding by them in the bike lane). The city seemed to have this pristine and polished side, which was disrupted by a more wild sort when night fell and the red lights turn on. It wouldn't be the full Amsterdam experience without checking out the coffeeshops - it was interesting to compare the cannabis sales/product experience with that in California/Oregon, where everything is meticulously child-protected and documented (which I'm personally on board with).

A small highlight of the trip was watching European MTV on a cable connection with so much static you'd think the signal was coming from the moon. It comforts me to know that MTV provides intellectually bankrupt programming everywhere in the world.


📷Photos from the trip!


Before Europe we went whale watching, which was amazing and we got extremely lucky by being able to observe multiple orca pods right near the boat (did you know they can live up to like 50 years in the wild and have different language dialects between pods!)



📚 Some recent reading recommendations:
Unfuck Yourself for anyone who wants to get motivated
Spelunky for any indie game geek (some of you may know I'm a spelunky fanatic)
Utopia for Realists for those interested in the effects of automation, universal basic income, open borders, etc.
Sapiens for EVERYONE (it's seriously incredible)


Thanks for subscribing to my newsletter btw - feel free to reply and let me know what's going on in your neck of the woods!


❤️
Spenser
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