Nietzsche and Marriage

June 22nd, 2013 § 8

I’m really not sure why anyone would be interested in the comments on marriage of someone who never married, successfully or not. That covers both Nietzsche and myself. Even my ex has 11 months more experience of marriage than Nietzsche and I do together. Discounting the comments of divorcees makes even more sense (clearly they don’t know what they are doing).

Lou Andreas Salomé, most famous for not having married Friedrich Nietzsche Lou Andreas Salomé, most famous for not having married Friedrich Nietzsche

Still, not having married, one has more time to think about the ramifications and principles of the affair. Once you are in the water, there is naught to do but swim. Unmarried Friedrich Nietzsche had a quiet obsession with friendship in marriage, putting more value on conversation than love making:

Nietzsche and Marriage Continues »

Humanity, Mortality and the Dalai Lama

May 18th, 2013 § 2

stunning nature
nature vs humanity: in the very long run nature must win

When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama answered:

Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

Apparently the Dalai Lama never said this. What a pity if he didn’t. This is our life. We lose our time pursuing matters of little consequence, preening before our peers and dreaming of irrelevant wealth. Long term stress-related cancer claimed Steve Jobs as surely as it will claim you or me, if we don’t live better and balance our lives better.

One of my best friends and my long term creative partner died in a car crash on his birthday a week after mine, just before he hit thirty. My life was changed, his was ended. This is mortality.

On the other hand, since we are all in an inevitable rush to the finish line, what does it matter if we labour out our existence and pushing to the top of the ant pile? If we are going to be dead soon we may as well work hard while you have the chance.

Or to pivot one more time. Since we don’t live long, what does it really matter what we think or feel in our nanosecond?

To put some perspective on matters, life on earth is 450 million years old and has been nearly snuffed out three times before our epoch. Those 450 million years are just a short day in the history of our solar system which is approximately 4.5 billions years old and has another 6 billion years to go before the sun extinguishes itself, burning through all the helium.

Humanity, Mortality and the Dalai Lama Continues »

Tea, Wine and Tannins: Drink Tea and Rejoice

December 9th, 2009 § 1

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with not often being ill. My endurance levels have been high.

Lately, a dear friend of mine has been trying to persuade me that too much tea is unhealthy, especially overly steeped tea. During nearly a decade in Moscow, I became accustomed to good Indian tea Russian style: that is to say, you create a tea concentrate which you drink all day long. Each cup you dilute to taste.

In short, over my life, I’ve drunk a lot of tea, much of it strong and filled with tannins. I’ve also always liked red wine especially cabernets (full of tannins) and natural apple juice (filled with tannin). I think it was my way of my body protecting itself.

My friend has gone so far as to say that tea drunk does not count as liquid, as it is a diuretic and actually dehydrates. To my relief, the British Nutritional Foundation insists tea is not:

"In terms of fluid intake, we recommend 1.5-2 litres per day and that can include tea. Tea is not dehydrating. It is a healthy drink."

Indeed, tea might have played a principal role in keeping me healthy and wealthy. Well at least healthy.

One shouldn’t cite Wikipedia too often in regards to health, but here we go this once on the subject of tannins:

Tannins may be employed medicinally in antidiarrheal, hemostatic, and antihemorrhoidal compounds

The anti-inflammatory effect of tannins help control all indications of gastritis, esophagitis, enteritis, and irritating bowel disorders. Diarrhea is also treated with an effective astringent medicine that does not stop the flow of the disturbing substance in the stomach; rather, it controls the irritation in the small intestine.

Tannins not only heal burns and stop bleeding, but they also stop infection while they continue to heal the wound internally. The ability of tannins to form a protective layer over the exposed tissue keeps the wound from being infected even more….

Tannins can also be effective in protecting the kidneys. Tannins have been used for immediate relief of sore throats, diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhaging, fatigue, skin ulcers and as a cicatrizant on gangrenous wounds. Tannins can cause regression of tumors that are already present in tissue, but if used exessively over time, they can cause tumors in healthy tissue.

They have also been reported to have anti-viral effects. When incubated with red grape juice and red wines with a high content of condensed tannins, the poliovirus, herpes simplex virus, and various enteric viruses are inactivated.[36]

Tannins can also be used to pull out poisons from poison oak or from bee stings, causing instant relief. The tannins help draw out all irritants from the skin because tannin is an astringent that tightens pores and pulls out liquids.

Tea gets even more credit, with lowering stress levels, reducing cognitive impairment, inflammatory bowel disease, bactrial and fungal infections, anongenital warts, stroke, depression and even bad breath. I want some of that.

Apparently green and white tea have a lot more of the good effects of tea with fewer of the side effects. So I will try to stick to a cup or two of black per day but as many cups of white and green as I please.

What is true is that as tasty as coffee is, it’s more or less an amphetamine, with very few long term beneficial side effects. I will start to avoid coffee again (I’ve only given in to coffee in the last few years as the coffee is so good here in Vienna, but it will be considered an unnecessary and occasional luxury again, while tea will take the place of beverage of honour.)

So I’m going to enjoy not having a heart attack, reduced stress levels and lots of good cups of tea and great glasses of wine. It’s wonderful when it turns out the things you enjoy are things which keep you well.

How to Avoid Fights with your Girlfriend about Work

June 24th, 2007 § 0

My girlfriend likes to work hard. She starts at her office between eight and eight-thirty in the morning and works until seven or eight in the evening. I like to work hard as well. But still our schedules didn’t coalesce.

For awhile, I tried getting up at seven-thirty just after her (she would want an extra half hour with the mirror) and walking her to work.

That was the best part of my day. Getting up together, having a cup of tea and walking Eliska to work was a joy.

But when I cam back to my desk, my mind drifted for a good three hours or so while I tried to take advantage of those splendid morning hours.

Unfortunately I have a biological clock inherited from Joseph Stalin – Stalin regularly kept the Kremlin running until 5 in the morning.

So what would happen is the morning hours were at about 25% productivity. Around eleven or twelve I would switch into high gear again and get lots done until about three, but then I would fade. After some afternoon sport, returning to work in the evening I couldn’t get anything done.

Eliska would be back at seven thirty, say, again – and the day would be over. No question of going back to work after a nice dinner with her – I didn’t have the strength.

Left to my own devices a work day looks more like getting up at anytime between eight and nine am. When I wake up my mind is supercharged and just raring to get back to last night’s wars or start in on new big jobs. The employees roll in to the office at about ten but I’m already going at 100% so I don’t have much time for meetings with them and just tell them to get to work. Sometime around eleven or twelve I come out of the jetstream to check in on how they are doing.

Now it’s time for email and mundane activities. Later in the afternoon, it would be sports time again – a time I would use to refresh the mental batteries, to solve problems on my bike, or when on the water – when I came back in the evening, my mind would be at full speed. My body would be eager to get some sustenance (preferably high protein and bio quality raw vegetables) and get back to work.

Between eight pm and one am are golden hours in which any problem could be solved, any paradox resolved.

Paul Graham in his essay on “How to Start a Startup” describes the golden hours thus:

The key to productivity is for people to come back to work after dinner. Those hours after the phone stops ringing are by far the best for getting work done. Great things happen when a group of employees go out to dinner together, talk over ideas, and then come back to their offices to implement them. So you want to be in a place where there are a lot of restaurants around, not some dreary office park that’s a wasteland after 6:00 PM.

To return to the girlfriend problem – she is none too happy to have her man wolf down some dinner, talk with her in a fairly detached way and race into the office rooms (our place is huge). Now would be the time for some real talk, some drawn out lovemaking, watching a film together (she is a cinema buff) – or in the worst case if it’s towards the end of the week and we want to get out or seem other people, walking out to meet some friends for a drink.

More Smiles Like This Please, Dear Eliska
More Smiles Like This Please, Dear Eliska

This way of working clearly doesn’t fit into her world. The solution would be to cut back on the days we see one another – but make them real dates, for which I have to be prepared. As scores of the most delightful women from most of Europe can attest, when my head is in the game, I am one of the best dates around. I listen attentively, am genuinely interested in the deeper side of the other person, have an active sense of humour, am just provocative enough, have boundless energy.

Unfortunately, I like to work a lot. So the girl who is there every day gets the short end of the stick. Not because I like or love her any less – au contraire I adore her – but because I have to get back to work. I also fancy myself building our future, so I have some trouble grasping her impatience. But putting it out on paper like this, it’s pretty clear why.

Anyway getting back to a positive solution, the idea is to cut back the number of days we see one another. So the one or two weeknights are like the most fabulous dates she’s ever been on. Ballet, delightful restaurants, walks under the stars, kissing at the bank of the Danube, impromptu Cuban dancing.

When she’s not here, normally Eliska likes to talk to me on the telephone between 10 or 11pm while she is getting ready for bed. Usually that’s my worst time for a telephone conversation. There are two versions possible here:

  1. Work is going really well and I just don’t want to be distracted. The conversation inevitably does distract me if it goes beyond five minutes. So either I’m curt – a royal piss-off for any woman – or I do get distracted, which in turns either irritates me or sends the work right off the rails. In which case we would have been better to just spend the night together.
  2. Work is going really badly and I am going at it hard trying to get something positive out of what seems a lost day. The telephone call would be a welcome interruption but poor Eliska will get more grief than anyone would ever want as he or she crawls between the sheets.

I tried to solve this problem by forbidding her to call me before she went to bed. She was not happy about this strategy at all. She needed this bedtime talk.

It’s not that I refuse to talk to her at work. Anytime in the afternoon – the noon to three space – is conventional work, the kind done by producers (I used to be one), executives, and master salespeople and managers every day. Talk to this person, explain this problem, make that call. It’s all good. But that evening time is sacred. It’s the second work day which allows me to run two companies. Even when we get bigger and there are more shoulders to carry the workload, those golden hours in the evening will still be precious.

One way I solved this while Eliska was here almost every night was that I would have dinner with her at eight or nine and spend the time with her up until around twelve. After she started to fall asleep I would get back up and work until about three or three thirty. There were three problems with this:

  1. Eliska was none too happy to have me gone. Usually she would get up at two thirty in the morning to tell me time for bed on her way back from the loo.
  2. The quality of the work time was pretty lousy. The golden hours are eight-nine until one a.m. By starting back in at midnight (eleven-thirty to twelve-thirty), there is not enough physical resources most nights to hit a big problem. So I’d be reduced to running through emails and patchwork fixes, rather than targetting anything big.
  3. The physical toll was very high on me. Heading to bed at about two or three leaves me rested like an angel for the next day. When I am playing catch-up until three-thirty or four, even for me that’s not enough sleep. So I’d be a little bit slower the next day.

The two advantages to this system are not small ones. First, our sex life was quite good and frequent. Second, most people sleep much better after a rending fulfilment.

But the winning formula here would be those two date nights per week. For the evening telephone calls, we’d just agree to keep them short and that it would be Eliska’s turn to talk to me and not for me to talk to her. When you are concentrated on something else, it’s much easier and less disruptive to listen than to articulate your own inner state. She says I talk too much anyway and she’s probably right.

How does that scale to living together – the natural and short-term goal – and later having a family?

Part two of that question – having a family – is a bit tricky and I’ll have to wait on an answer to it, I just don’t have enough experience. I have a feeling that it partly involves large houses and live-in nannies. It also involves some compromise on work hours.

But for living together, the solution would be to keep the date nights. On a non-date night, we might just eat together briefly and do our separate things. There would be no disappointment on her end. She’d know that it wasn’t a date night – and she’d know that tomorrow is. On my end, I would also know that – and would be inspired to redouble my efforts to be able to go on the date with a light heart. I’d also know that I was expected to show her a good time and eager to do so. There is nothing more wonderful in this world than making the woman you love happy.

Eliska Mihalikova candlelit
More Candlelit Dinners Then, Dear Alec

On the work nights, if Eliska sees her friends, she sees her friends. If she wants to go to the movies with her friends, she goes. If she wants to have the friends visit, no problem. They can do whatever they want in the rest of the apartment. When I have a free moment, I’ll come out to play for a few minutes but otherwise it would be do not disturb.

Of course, it would be great if Eliska could get a job which would let her start at nine am. At that point, I could certainly just twist my biorhythm to getting up together and kissing the morning together.

Apparently I’m not the only one having trouble balancing work and love in the start-up phase of a company. Paul Graham writes about his experience:

During this time you’ll do little but work, because when you’re not working, your competitors will be. My only leisure activities were running, which I needed to do to keep working anyway, and about fifteen minutes of reading a night. I had a girlfriend for a total of two months during that three year period.

I hope to do a better job managing a girlfriend during the startup phase, than Paul did. I better. Despite my love of hard work, I’ve never been cut out for the monastic life.

When I’ve had startup level projects in the past (making a film isn’t much different), I’ve generally worked together with the girlfriend. Or sometimes the woman I was working with became my girlfriend (can happen in either order). In this case, you are both thinking and talking about the shared project. People tend to get more excited about making films than building companies and/or SEO – so this is not so easily applied here.

Eliska for awhile was really implicated in the company. But given that she was sixty hours/week at her day job, it was a bit much for her. I can’t blame her. What she needs is not more work, but more romance.

Evening Sun | Hemispheres

May 14th, 2007 § 0

Right now the days are getting longer around Vienna and Bratislava. Returning from a bike ride at seven in the evening, the sun is still high. We are threatened with sun until nine in the evening.

I love this time of year so much. I’m a late afternoon and evening kind of person so it’s so invigorating to have sunshine in one’s favored hours.

Everyone always talks about moving somewhere warm like Caribbean or the Southern Mediterranean. I think that’s a bit of a bore. As you get close to the equator, you are never faced with evening which begins at four in the afternoon as we are in winter in Middle and Northern Europe. But you also never have the ten o’clock evening sun.

The ideal solution is to live half the year in the northern hemisphere and the other half the year in the southern hemisphere.

Africa is not my kind of place and I am not Africa’s kind of guy. Although if South Africa were safe, it would be ideal: same time zone, not too distant. Australia is too far away. South America holds promise though. Some place like Argentina.

Nothing better than the evening sun.

The next two months are the happiest of the year.

Something to work towards. Living in perpetual summer.

Sex and Booze

May 14th, 2007 § 1

What is it about women and booze?

I’ve been on a zero alcohol rule for about five months straight – something I do every now and again to clear my mind. I’m not much of a hard liquor kind of guy, although thanks to my time in Moscow, I can appreciate ice cold vodka straight followed up with a zakuska. What I do enjoy is a glass of good wine, whether it be Spanish or French red, or Austrian white.

In any case, enough stress at work these days (too much work rather than too little), I decided it’s time to sleep a little deeper – and to apply the traditional homeopathic recipe, good wine.

Portraitrv2500
Wine, women and song

Leaving the booze and getting back to the women, for some reason I always find that one has more and hotter women in one’s bed when drinking. A teetotal man diminishes his chances of an exciting night or even acquiring a girlfriend by about factor of about four or more.

Happily enough my current girlfriend isn’t much of a drinker so life without booze hasn’t bad to me this round. But now that I’ve gone back to opening a good bottle of wine in the middle of the evening or over dinner, a little surprise was waiting for me.

Even the most conservative women seem to expand their sexual horizons radically when watered with good wine.

So the deal with booze for women seems to be that it

  • disinhibits them physically
  • lets them drift into the lovemaking with more feeling
  • gives them a psychological get out of jail free card

The psychological get out of jail free card is perhaps the most important one. "I did that?," she asks incredulous. "I must have been drunk."

Or in the case of a casual fling. The friend asks "Did you sleep with him?"

Answer: "Yes, but I was drunk."

Friend: "Ah that makes sense."

Well maybe to women it makes sense. Otherwise I’m not sure. Who on earth wants to sleep with people drunk with whom one wouldn’t want to sleep sober?

Sex and Booze Continues »

Mobile phone base antenna radiation and Bees

April 17th, 2007 § 2

I am always lecturing my friends and girlfriends to not spend so much time talking on their mobile phones. I often hang up on them after a few minutes as I get a headache from speaking on the mobile phone. It all goes back to when I had to supervise a set of television commercials in the Moscow countryside but had to prep an expensive hair commercial with the London office of Grey Advertising at the same time. Only a very powerful telephone would hold the signal. A model from Siemens was found. It worked and I was able to talk for half an hour at a time if necessary. Signal clear as day. I was delirious and spaced out afterwards. To my everlasting good fortune that telephone was subsequently lost in the back of a black cab (and no the cabby didn’t return it) while on a junket to London related to said hair commercial.

Curiously cellphone studies with negative results – cancer, loss of brain capacity – for the industry lead to research funding removal and persecution. At the same time the big cellphone and mobile network providers are taking out huge liability insurance contracts. I don’t have the time now to document the above but at one point I did do the research and will stand by those statements.

Sticking a mini-microwave beside your head is not going to improve your health or mind. End of story.

It turns out that cellphones are not only harmful to people but absolutely fatal to bees.

Radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive’s inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London’s biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned….

The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world’s crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left”….

German research has long shown that bees’ behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a “hint” to a possible cause.

Birds and the bees sounds better.

The spread of the problem sounds likely to me. Blanket coverage by cell phone base antennas came first in the United States.

I imagine that the base antenna has to be quite close to the hive (or on the route to food) to cause this problem.

Countries with limited cellphone converage will be fruitful.

Perhaps mankind will eventually learn not to believe big industries claims for healthiness.

Cigarette manufacturers claimed for decades that smoking was good for your health, before finally admitting that it was neither bad nor good. Only after decades of lawsuits did they concede the obvious which is that smoking is bad for your health.

My mother told me this story from her childhood in Vancouver.

They used to go to Woodwards to do their shopping. In the shoe department, there was a very neat machine that the kids liked to play with. Put your foot under a panel and then pulled a lever. On a screen in front of your eyes, you could see the bones of your feet.

You could use it as often and long as you liked. The machine was there to help the shoe saleman scientifically find you the right pair of shoes.

If you haven’t guessed already, the machine was an xray machine. And children were spending whole minutes radiating themselves with no lead protection.

It was only a few years later that Woodwards removed the xray machine. I hope not too many of those children have bone or blood cancer now.

Later in the same article some other cellphone studies are cited:

Blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today’s teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.

If you value the long term health of your brain, don’t use your cellphone for more than a minute or two at a time!

While you are at it, stop believing the claims of major companies that their products are good for you or your dog. They just want your money. As long as your dog doesn’t up and outright die, they don’t mind how sick the pooch might get eating their manufactured poison. But that’s a story for another day.

Hungarian Women Underemployed: Great Economic Opportunities in Hungary

March 27th, 2007 § 16

Anybody who knows me well, knows that my favorites women in the world are Hungarian. Hungairan women are passionate and intelligent. Education in Hungary is first rate. It doesn’t hurt that Hungarian cuisine is the best food in Europe east of France and north of Italy.

Beautiful Hungarian Women at the Budapest Parade
Beautiful Hungarian Women at the Budapest Parade
September 2006 – Photo: Alec Kinnear

It turns out that Hungarian women are not getting the professional opportunities they deserve:

According to an annual study published by the Central Statistics Office (KSH) and the ministry of social affairs and labor entitled “Women and Men in Hungary” (“Nők és férfiak Magyarországon”), while 54% of people participating in higher education are women, only 8% of university teachers are female. Men are also more successful at the workplace, as they still fill most leading positions. In addition, although women are better educated and speak more languages than their male counterparts, they find it more difficult to climb the career ladder, and only 35% of managers are women.

The percentage of women working part-time is much less in Hungary (4.6%) than the European average (25.9%) because of the lack of opportunities for part-time and remote employment.

In comparison to Slovakia and Bratislava where we have 0% unemployment (well probably 1% which is effectively 0%), the situation in Hungary looks promising. Oodles of energetic and intelligent people looking for challenging work. Hungarians have more get up and go than Slovaks (to put it mildly) so the chances of finding people who can really grow in an expanding company are much greater.

Hungarians have 1500 years of history and their capital is 700 years old. Budapest has been one of the top 10 cities in Europe for much of the last four hundred years.

While Hungarian politics are a mess, an underemployed and well-educated eager workforce of beautiful women in a fabulous city looks awfully good.

Budapest Photo
View of Buda from Iron Bridge
Delicious Hungarian Nouvelle Cuisine-
Delicious Hungarian Nouvelle Cuisine-