A Man and His Watch (Iconic Watches & Stories From the Men Who Wore Them) by Matt Hranek (Part 2)

Eng Tay. He is an artist. His favorite watch is the Panerai Reference 3646. I always liked vintage items, like cars and watches. In Asia, I loved to window shop for watches. I bought my first Pam from a friend (it originally belonged to a Navy officer). The story of how I got the PAM21 was more interesting. I actually flew down to Singapore and paid crazy money for it. That is just me, I am very passionate about Panerai.

George Bamford. He is the founder of the Bamford Watch Department. His favorite watch is the ‘Popeye’ Yacht Master. I started the watch customization business. I loved cartoon characters like Popeye since young. Because of that, I wanted to put Popeye on a watch. The sales of the watch were a massive success. It’s like paying homage to these character characters, but also adding a twist to it.

Everything you buy has a soul to it. You remember the details: exactly when you bought it, how much you paid for it. You want to think of that item as exclusively yours – unique to you. – George Bamford

Mark Cho. He is the co-founder of the Armoury and Co-owner of Drake’s. His watch is the Grand Seiko 61GS Very Fine Adjusted. When I first saw a Seiko that costs 8k, I was shocked. I decided to research extensively on the Seiko and really how significant the watch was. I loved its history. I even visited the Seiko museum in northeast Tokyo. To my surprise, the watch I purchased was also being displayed in the museum. The quality of finishing can rival their Swiss counterparts. Seiko is known for their big flanked lugs, lots of planes and is very angular. One day, Seiko will really live up to their reputation.

I love the Japanese attitude, the dedication to trying to be the absolute best you can be, to really push the envelope even given your own constraints. – Mark Cho

The Grand Seiko is a subtle watch, not really recognizable for what it is, but I like that. It’s a lucky watch for me. – Mark Cho

Holger Thoss. He is a photographer. His watch is the Breitling Chrono-Matic GMT. My dad gave it to me. I loved it very much. All along, I believed in the Buddhist tradition and belief in the temporal nature of things.

It’s also important to cherish the things you have and – this might seem weird to say – to have a relationship with them. You have to honor each object and, at the same time, be ready to let it go. – Holger Thoss

Eric Ku. He is a vintage watch dealer. His watch is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm. He had an obsession with mechanical objects. When I was younger, we often looked forward to get the full-color catalog in the mail. I kept following this JLC watch, but the price increased over time, and I regretted not getting it. I eventually bought it for $35,000, which I over-paid. However, to me, it was okay. This was really a unique watch because of its rich history. I paid a huge premium for it.

Watches are very personal things – expressions of who you are. And what you’re willing to pay all comes down to perception of value. – Eric Ku

James H. Ragan. He is a former aerospace engineer at NASA. His favorite watches are the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatches. Watches were the backup instrument to test flight time. 4 companies bid. However, the Omega was the most durable. Wally Schirra and Gordo Cooper had worn Omega Chronographs for their mercury days. NASA kept using Speedmasters thereafter. The speedmaster professional came in useful during the Apollo 13 mission. These Omegas really meant a lot to me. The Omega Speedmaster Alaska Project aimed at triple protection. However, it never flew into space

Omega Archives. I got the chance to visit the Omega archives. I photographed the second-generation Omega Speedmaster ref CK2998. It was Wally Schirra’s watch. I also got to see John F. Kennedy’s watch, which he worn when he was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States.

Alessandro Squarzi. He is a fashion entrepreneur. His favorite watch is the 1968 Rolex Submariner Reference 5508. My dad gave me the watch when I was 18. To me, it looked very modern. It’s a priceless piece.

Gabriel Vachette. He is the founder of Les Rhabilleurs. His watch is the Universal Geneve Compax. The watch was handed down from my grandpa to my dad and now to me. My dad was a watch collector too. The chronograph movement was amazing. I fell in love in watches because of my dad. Later on in my life, I created a watch blog, which was lifestyle focused.

Kenta Watanabe. He is the co-founder of Buaisou Indigo Studio. His watch is the Indigo-Dyed Casio G-shock. I kept soaking the watch in Indigo dye. It turned out to be amazing.

Hamilton Powell. He is the founder and CEO of Crown and Caliber. His watch is the Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer. It has a running second hand. It was made by Heuer, for A&F. Back then, A&F was a cool adventure outfitter. It was both for adventurers and for guys who likes beautiful things.

I also like that it’s a manual-winding watch. I believe we’re alive for a brief period of time; whether it’s fifty years or a hundred, in the scheme of things, that’s a short blip. And it’s up to us to use that time intentionally. So taking a moment to wind my watch means giving myself 20 seconds of the day to create a sense of purpose as to how I’m going to use my time- to ask myself, Am I going to live today with intention? – Hamilton Powell

Josh Condon. He is a writer, editor and author. His watch is the Movado Moon Phase. The idea of heirlooms are a big deal. I have been handed down things from my grandpa etc. My dad loved to give me things too. My dad bought a Movado moon phase and I started writing about it. On my 36th birthday, my dad bought it for me. He also gave my brothers the same watch. I haven’t taken the watch off since. Every time I wear it, it reminds me of my family.

Geoffrey Hess. He is the CEO of Analog/Shift. His watch is the Rolex Eagle Beak Tropical Submariner, Ref 5512. It’s the story behind the watches that is important. I met my wife because of this hobby. I love vintage Rolexes. Often, I go for collector events overseas. We are almost like brothers. People like vintage because of the tropical dial, serial number matches the box, lume on dial match the hands etc, crown guards look like an eagle etc.

But to some degree, the world of vintage Rolex is a science; we collector always have a loupe, and we’re examining the colors, the serifs on the fonts, the way the Rolex coronet is printed. It’s a grown-man science. – Geoffrey Hess

Michael Friedman. He is a historian at Audemars Piquet. His watch is the 1938 AP. This watch would be included in an auction. My dad was impressed by the history behind it. I studied time through the different time periods and realized how interesting it was. My dad used to encourage me to explore the world. It was a moment which I shared with my dad forever.

Tom Sachs. He is a sculptor. His watch is the ‘New Bedford’, customized Casio G-shock DW-5600. I hot-glued a metal cage around a digital watch in the past. The Japanese created the Casio with the concept of status and of a low price. I have worn the same G-shock for the past 20 years. I engrave every Gshock I buy.

I like the idea of something that costs $40 that you own, versus something that costs $4,000 that owns you. – Tom Sachs

People wear watches for their associated value. You wear an Omega Speedmaster and you’re Neil Armstrong. Or you wear whatever watch James Bond wears, or Sir Edmund Hillary wore, and you become that person – even if you work in an office, at least your watch is the same as that hero’s. – Tom Sachs

Bre Pettis. He is the founder of Bre & Co. His watch is the Bulova Accutron Spaceview and Origami watch. I am impressed by the Stonehenge because of its accurate astronomical alignments. Watches represent a worldwide contract and are incredibly interesting. My dad gave me this watch. It’s a transition between a mechanical and quartz movement. The tuning fork was like the gear-train of the watch. Watches actually make great gifts to others and encourages friendship building. I created the origami watch.

Stephen Lewis. He is a photographer. His watch is the paper cutout of a HP calculator watch. I used to like cutting watches out from famous watch magazines. I was impressed by James Bond when he checked the time on his Pulsar digital watch. Nowadays, I wear a Rolex submariner, which was a present from my wife. I have been able to dig myself out of a hole with little imagination.

David Coggins. He is a writer. His watch is the JLC Reverso. Reverso was a gift from my parents. In the past, polo players could flip the dial as it was necessary to protect the watch crystal. The way the watch flips is also very purposeful. I also like Art Deco numerals.

I want a watch that’s well-made and designed with purpose – just like a suit, for that matter. And I like to wear a watch every day. – David Coggins

I think you can tell a lot about a man from his watch, and I prefer one that errs on the side of discretion. – David Coggins

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Annual Conference and Global Internal Audit Leadership Summit 2017 (27 Oct)

Managing Cyber Risks. (KPMG) Cybersecurity is one of the top 5 risks as rated by CAEs. Cyberattacks are one of the top 3 man-made risks which can be addressed. In a survey, Asian CEOs aren’t as well prepared as their US counterparts when dealing with cyber risks and cybersecurity. There is a need for cybersecurity risk assessment. Sometimes, insiders can provoke a cyberattack too. Due to the widening of the digital footprint, it can lead to greater cybersecurity threats. External threats like new technology, technology change, regulatory compliance and changing market forces will continue to affect the cyber landscape. The new cybersecurity bill by CSA is slated to be released in Feb 2018. The Bill will affect CIIs from 7 different industries. The cyber risk gap needs to be plugged through the use of specialist reviews and audits. Some of the losses that an organization could face are theft of client information, IP, corporate date, DOS attacks etc. Nowadays, it is quite common for the attacker to attack your service provider (since there are less strict internal controls) and get information from them about your company. Some of the staff from your vendor might not be well screened also. Usually, there is no point trying to figure out who the cyber-attacker is as it is hard to prosecute if it’s not in Singapore jurisdiction. Some of the tactics that cyber-attackers use is ransomware, key loggers, phishing, insider data theft and man in the middle attacks. Do not give away passwords at any cost. Training/education is important, more so that IT tools at times. As auditors, we can audit the data classification in an organization. Cybersecurity is a growing factor and needs to be included as a risk indicator. There needs to be a detailed response plan after being attacked. There is also a need to link the cybersecurity threats to your business. One can read the ISO27000 series, MAS TRM Guidelines, NIST, COBIT and others.

SAP Case Study. (SAP) SAP is a German company. Maintenance costs is a big part of the implementation costs of having such an ERP software. For SAP itself, some of the risks facing the organization are acquisition risks, cloud computing etc. Within the audit team, they use the SAP Audit Management Software, which is automated from the end to end auditing process. One will be able to see clear audit plan overviews and also real time status updates of the plan. There are also resource management tools in place which will help improve the global resource transparency. In addition, there are audit executive dashboards in use. All these lead to better cost savings, user satisfaction and faster audit cycles for the organization. As a result, during quality assessments, the IA function scores better. Analytics helps in audit sampling for auditors.

Internet of Things. (Microsoft) The Internet has shifted from the Internet of content to service to people and now to ‘Things’. Internet is very commonly used nowadays as it is more efficient and has led to increased productivity. It has brought the whole world together through Skype. There is data in chips in our everyday devices and such data can be harnessed for decision making. Some of the benefits of IoT are that it leads to 1) safety, comfort and efficiency; 2) faster decision making; 3) revenue generation. Some of the risks of IoT are 1) privacy, security and legal (types of data collected can be collected and should be collected etc). The major challenges that will be faced are to obtain the business and IT buy-in and also the fact that data magnitude can be huge and complex and hard to interpret. It is important for IA to stay ahead of the changes and understand the risks emanating from IoT. We need to be trusted advisers to the business. CAEs need to determine the skillsets required, like from data scientists, private specialists etc. IA needs to recruit the right people. We need to change our approach to how to audit etc. The process flow is like this: device connection -> data sensing -> communication (access rights) -> data analytics (queries etc) -> data value -> human value

Data Analytics at MAS. (MAS) Data is the new AIR that we breathe. Insight is the new storage of value also. There are a few Vs we need to be aware of: Veracity, Value etc. We have approached the other departments, like banking, insurance and capital markets, to understand what are the pain points of these departments. We have moved from rule based (AML + STR) to machine learning. There is a strong need to enforce data quality and to move from just big data to smart data. Labels must be given for supervised machine learning in order for it to work more efficiently. However, there is also such a thing as unsupervised machine learning etc. For data, there is a need to achieve generalisability. An important question to ask is whether your model can work on future data? Or just past data? Ensure that your data can be interpreted and cleaned before it can be used. The process is as follows: 1) know the question; 2) understand the data; 3) find the right algorithm; 4) be aware of the limitations; 5) be sceptical; 6) automate; 7) experiment. It is important to share insights across the different departments. Machine learning is a programme which automatically improve its performance through learning and experience. Culture is hard to change and in fact, culture is more important than the application of an algorithm.

Cybersecurity Lessons Learned. (SWIFT Asia Pacific) SWIFT is a co-operative that is based out of Belgium. Nowadays, cyberattacks are tailored for a particular institution and that can be really scary. Hackers are now able to perform multi-stage attacks. There is a hacker collaboration space in the dark web. Cross-border banking usually requires the use of SWIFT. Hackers have different motivations for committing crimes and it is difficult to predict. Cyber must be managed from the top-down. One needs to understand that spending money doesn’t make you more secure and there is a need to evaluate cost-benefit analysis. At times, it could be the client servers which have issues. There is a need to dictate how the client runs their programmes in order to secure their environment. There needs to be a cyber-response plan in place to address attacks and to recover. In future, SWIFT would make it compulsory for banks to report on their compliance to SWIFT’s assurance framework. This will certainly help to improve transparency.

Ethics in a Digital World. (Avande) Avanade is a cloud service provider and is a partnership between Accenture and Microsoft. In this digital age, there is a debate between Personalization vs Privacy. Facebook tried to have two bots chats with one another, but they turned racist and eventually had to be put down. Although AI development is swift, it might be necessary to put the guardrails on AI and curb its growth in view of ethical considerations. What is morally acceptable in today’s society? What is lawful? Digital is becoming a way of life and ethical behaviour is vital in this day and age. Is there a need for a framework to manage ethical dilemmas? What are the possibilities of digital tech? Core ethical values are embodied by leadership and there needs to be a good tone from the top.

IA in the Age of Transformation. (Asia Pacific Black Sun, Sofitel Singapore, UOB, NTUC, EDB) What are the elephants in the room? This refers to important issues that are not being addressed by IA. IA needs to keep themselves relevant. 43% of jobs in Singapore can eventually become automated (mechanized, robotized, digitalized) etc. However, there are still many opportunities in the audit space to add value. IA needs to be high tech, high touch (build strong relationships with management), and high trust. IA’s job is to highlight exceptions to management and in order to do so, they need to be loud and courageous in the boardroom and not shirk from difficult conversations. IA needs to avoid getting on the newspaper. IA needs to familiarize themselves in the area of sustainability reporting and professional scepticism. IA needs to constantly update themselves through attending training etc. Industrial domain knowledge is also important and this is usually learnt on-the-job. People retention is important and there could be a risk of knowledge loss without people. There is a need for IA to provide inputs on controls for IT projects right at the start. If there are no audit findings, it is possible for IA to issue a clean audit report. IA should gradually take on a more advisory role for the business.

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Annual Conference and Global Internal Audit Leadership Summit 2017 (25 Oct)

Audit Committee’s Expectations of the Chief Audit Executive in an Uncertain World. (Singapore Institute of Directors) We live in an uncertain world with plenty of technological advancements and digitalization. The world can be termed as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). The advent of tech companies like Uber, Airbnb have caused the downfall of many traditional businesses. One thing is for sure, technology is here to stay and it will continue to disrupt economies. The Financial Reporting Surveillance Programme by ACRA revealed that there is still work to be done in terms of complying with FRS for listed companies. The surveillance programme also reaches out now not just to companies with qualified audit opinions, but those with unqualified audit opinions. ACRA has stated 8 audit quality indicators which will be important for IAs to follow. The recent enhanced auditor report format requires the key audit matters and other information to be disclosed (notes to FS). In Jan 18, companies will need to comply with the IFRS 9 on Financial Instruments and the IFRS 15 on Revenue. Also, in general, there is a move from SFRS to IFRS convergence in Singapore. In addition, for listed companies, it is mandatory for them to produce sustainability reports. This is an area where auditors need to equip themselves with more knowledge. From the above, it is imperative that one unlearns, relearns etc. In addition to provide better assurance, IA can leverage off other assurance providers and work closely with ISD or consider performing co-sourcing etc. The 5 Ls that Internal Auditors need to possess are Learn (lifelong learning on data analytics and how to audit IT etc); Leverage (other assurance providers for AML, cybersecurity etc); Lead (lead the risk management, lead the combined assurance framework/Governance Risk Control framework etc); Live (treat Internal Audit as a form of meaningful work and be passionate about their work); Love (treat IA as a vocation, continue back to the IIA).

The Cyber Resilience Challenge. (RSM, DHL, Datalogic, CSA) To tackle cyber threats, there needs to be a good governance system in place. RSA has a GRC framework and business driven frameworks to address such risks. In addition to cyber risks, an organization must never forget the operational/financial risks and how the cyber risks linked to such risks. Due to the skill of hackers, it is likely everyone will be hacked and it is just a matter of time before it happens. There is a need to weigh the pros and cons of anti-cyber threat measures. In the audit space, IT auditors have a lot of potential to upscale and re-learn. For complex environments, it must be even necessary to develop a hacker mindset in order to perform vulnerability and threat testing. It is important for an organization to have a good risk culture. It is never wise to be naïve when it comes to cybersecurity. There is a need to consider the single points of failure as this might break the organization (for example: a lack of business continuity planning or the drawing up of DRP). In such cases, it might be better to build some form of redundancy. Ask yourself: if you were the CEO, what is the thing that keeps you awake at night? Do not ignore the threat of cybersecurity breaches in your organization.

Auditing at the Speed of Risk in the Digital Age. (DHL) Due to digitalization, IA needs to keep up to date with the latest market developments and update their risk assessments more frequently. Technology is the biggest game changer. Some of the threats that will be surfaced during a threat assessment would be things like malicious software, hacking attempts, unencrypted information, hacking and data theft. It is important to test the disaster recovery plans (DRPs) and BCPs. Ask yourself what do you fear? One should believe in lifelong learning.

Do one thing every day that scares you. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Maximising Value from the Three Lines of Defence. (DSTA) The first line is the management/ internal controls. The second line is risk management/safety/compliance functions. The third line is internal audit. IA has to move away from traditional assurance to advisory and advocacy work. However, do remember that the core IA work is still in still in assurance. Although advisory work is important, CAE should not take on roles that lead to conflict of interest. CAEs must remember that they do not endorse business decisions. The 3 lines of defence can be linked to the COBIT framework (IT governance). COSO framework also supports the 3 lines of defence model in an organization. Some of the attributes required for a successful 3LoDs are strategy, shared values, system, structure, staff and skills. IA could use dashboards and DA to make their work more efficient. Some are proposing a fourth line of defence for the financial industry (external auditor + MAS banking supervision). Internal Auditors must always fall back on the IPPF. KPIs like competency of procurement staff could be introduced.

The Customer Centric Audit: Learn How to Audit What Customers (and Your CEO) Actually Care About. (Proximity Risk and Assurance) How does one go about auditing the customer experience?  It is important to do so as it concerns the revenue area of the business. One can start by mapping out the customer journey. Identify the brand touchpoints with the customer and also assess the environment. Poor customer experience could have a negative impact on the business, like the United Airlines passenger who was thrown off the plane. IA needs to audit the risk of poor delivery. IA can indeed and should audit the customer experience. Avoid excessive controls as it might stifle the customer experience and affect the quality. Customer experience is something that will keep the CEO awake. IA can sometimes even pretend to be a mystery guest/customer to examine the quality of service. As part of documentation, IA can build up a customer journey matrix and add in the relevant departments responsible for the various sub-processes. Next, IA can test the expected journey vs actual feedback received from customers. If it’s the first audit report on this area, it would be advisable not to grade it. Always remember the importance of good customer experience as it is essential for customer retention.

Panel Discussion: Leading to Make a Difference. (Deloitte, Citi, MOHH, Olam) MOHH IA managed to evolve from a mainly compliance function to now one that fully incorporates DA. It has been a painful process but it has really helped to boost efficiency. IA is now moving beyond compliance. IA needs to adopt a pragmatic approach and look through the lens of the business. It is necessary to get the right strategy. The CAE must be able to engage the senior management well and also explain to them what IA is all about and how we can meet your expectations. In order to be able to influence management’s behavior, IA must have a deep in-depth knowledge of the business. IA should be seen as being impartial, but not be neutral. As the CAE, it is crucial to state one’s opinion and not sit on the fence. Although it may not be a right opinion, an opinion must be based on facts. To be seen as successful, IA needs to be seen as a growth enabler, and not slowing down the various processes. One such way to achieve this is that IA can get involved in the process design stage and give inputs and recommendations on controls. Olam has many e-learning modules to help IA team improve their competencies. Citi has a Chief Auditor for Innovation and they use many tools for analytics in their work. It is now very common for IAs to use data analytics to audit and now 100% sampling is possible. Due to the rigour of MAS’ inspections, banks like Citi needs to step up and comply. This forces the IA team to improve their quality. Instead of simply adding controls, auditors can remove controls to get rid of legacy issues which slow down processes. In order to stay relevant, Internal Auditors need to be passionate about their work and always remember their core job is still assurance.

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil Degrasse Tyson (Part 2)

The Cosmos on the Table. How did the Earth’s crust acquire the materials? The answer is astronomical. Only 3 elements were natural in the big bang process. The table is a cultural icon for humanity. The periodic table is very interesting indeed as each element has different characteristics. Hydrogen has only one proton in its nucleus, and is the lightest and simplest element. It also forms the core of Jupiter. In the sun, hydrogen collide to form helium. It is not so combustible in nature as hydrogen. It is the second most common element in our Universe. On average, it is about 10% of all atoms. It has 92% of hydrogen’s buoyancy, but without its explosive characteristics. Lithium has 3 protons in its nucleus, and was made in the big bang. Carbon is found in all kinds of molecules and is very abundant. This is the basis of chemistry and all diversity of life. Is it possible to have life forms based on silicon? Sodium is a common glowing gas in street lamps. Aluminium occupies 10% of the Earth’s crust. Titanium is twice as strong as aluminium. It is mostly used for military aircraft etc. The number of oxygen atoms exceed that of carbon. Excess oxygen might bond with titanium to form titanium oxide etc. Iron is one of the most important elements in our universe. It has 26 protons. Gallium is a soft metal that has a low melting point. Technetium is radioactive in nature and is artificial. The book features other interesting metals, like osmium and iridium. It is very dense indeed. Most atoms actually come from Greek names, like Phosphorus, Selenium etc. Ceres and Pallas are asteroids found in the asteroid belt. Uranium is a radioactive element named after Uranus. Neptunium is named after Neptune in 1940. Pluto was eventually dismissed a planet. Plutonium is named after Pluto and was used by the US to bomb Japan in WWII.

On Being Round. Most objects are spherical in nature. It is affected by surface tension. Due to gravity pulling at every area, the Earth is largely spherical in shape as the mountains are very low compared to how big the Earth is. Olympus Mons on Mars is 65,000 feet tall and 300 miles wide at its base. The weaker the gravity on an object, the taller the mountains can form. Non-spherical shapes on Phobos and Deimos form because of the low surface gravity. Stars are near perfect gaseous spheres. However, if it is too close to a massive star, some material can be stripped away. Our Milky Way galaxy is more flat, than spherical. It used to be a spherical, but collapsed at its poles as it spun faster and faster. The Milky Way is neither collapsing nor expanding. It is a gravitationally mature system. Saturn looks like a hamburger and is flattened because of its fast rotating speed. A pulsar is like squeezing the mass of a Sun into a ball the size of Manhattan. The pulsars are the most perfect spheres due to their huge mass and small space. Different galaxy clusters have different shapes and there are no fixed shapes. The entire observable Universe seems like a massive sphere as it is receding in every direction we look. However, as the Universe is expanding faster than the speed of light, there will be some galaxies whose light will not reach us and we will know nothing about them.

Invisible Light. Not all light is visible. There are 7 different colours to the visible spectrum. Different colours have different temperatures. Herschel was the first man to discover infra-red light. UV light was also discovered soon after. Low energy and low frequency to high energy and high frequency is radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ROYGBIV, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays. There are countless applications for such different spectra of light. Eventually, we built telescopes to detect parts of the EM spectrum. The Universe is actually sending light that our eyes cannot see and we would be dumb not to see it. Even long after supernovas explode, infrared red and radio waves get emitted. There needs to be different mirrors and detectors to detect all light bands. Radio telescopes are extremely large. China has built the world’s largest radio telescope, ranging over 30 football fields large. Humans also developed interferometers. We have 66 large antennas of ALMA to detect microwaves. There are high frequency, high-energy gamma rays with wavelengths measured in picometres. They are measured using a scintillator and we can pump out electrically charged particles that collide with gamma rays and produce light. There were frequent flashes of gamma rays near the Earth which could not be explained. Radio telescopes can detect gas among stars in the galaxies. The different types of light can tell us so much about star formations etc.

Between the Planets. There are plenty of chunky rocks, pebbles, charged particles in between planets. A lot of the small meteors burn up in our Earth’s atmosphere. This helps to protect Earth from such impact. Long ago, a lot of debris hit the Earth, causing our hot and molten core. A lot of junk led to the formation of the moon. Many of the other planets like Mercury, Mars received bombardments, as per the craters in the ground. When a meteor strikes, the impact can cause rocks to emerge up as well. Some of the Moon’s rocks also hit our surface. The asteroid belt is between Mars and Jupiter. Some of them are really large and might destabilize the Earth if it hits the Earth. The Kuiper belt is located after Neptune. Halley’s comet is from this belt. There are some comets between our solar system and the nearest star. These are known as the Oort cloud. The magnetic force on Jupiter is simply tremendous. Some of the planets’ moons are really interesting to study. Io is tidally locked and interacts with other moons. It is the most volcanically active place in our solar system. Pluto and Charon have tidally locked each other. Moons are named after Greek personalities. The sun releases solar wind, which is a release of material from its surface at a rate of a million tons per second. These causes the beautiful aurora on Earth. Jupiter is our big gravitational shield from comets as it helps to defect them away. We also exploit their gravitational field when we launch probes to space.

Exoplanet Earth. There are plenty of beautiful things on Earth. You could probably observe many structures from up in space. Natural scenery and hurricanes, volcanic eruptions should be visible. Earth is just a pale blue dot from Neptune, 3 billion miles away. Earth appears blue due to two-third being covered by water. Once there is liquid water, there will be a stable pressure and temperature. Aliens can notice our weather patterns and even see our polar ice caps. The nearest star is Alpha Centauri, nearly 4 light years away and often visible at night. As Earth is not bright, it will be hard to detect via visible light. However, if you notice a star jiggle, it could mean that an object/planet has just orbited around it. The Kepler telescope is meant to detect other Earth like planets. It detects stars whose total brightness drops slightly and at regular intervals. From this, it can detect multi-planet star systems. Aliens might be able to detect the multiple radio waves that we emit. Light, throughout the Universe, behaves in the same way. Hence, it can be detected through a spectrometer. Methane is a molecule which indicates life stock. The alien’s best bet would be to detect oxygen in our atmosphere. Oxygen bonds readily with other atoms. We have discovered more than 3000 exoplanets.

Latest estimates, extrapolating from the current catalogs, suggest as many as 40 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way alone. Those are the planets our descendants might want to visit someday, by choice, if not by necessity. – Neil Degrasse Tyson

Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective. Learn to enjoy the pleasure of intellectual pursuits. Despite all the cosmic wonder, there are still horrible things happening on Earth. Some people are also selfish and do not help others. The world is big, but so should our hearts and minds be. Some adults feel that the world revolves around them and are very self-centered. People hold an expanded view of the cosmos. Humans experience a sense of smallness and insignificance after watching a show where they see Earth in the grand scheme of the Universe. However, I feel large and important. Human beings are not the most important thing in the Universe. Powerful forces make us susceptible. We are all part of this stream of human consciousness. The air and water you consume might have come from ages ago. We are largely made from the same atoms as when the Universe was formed. They are hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. We have to remain open to the concept of multiverses. The cosmos are humble, spiritual etc. They allow us to be more open to knowledge and to accept new ideas. There is no air in space, but yet we can admire its beauty from afar. Astronomy is good because it makes us more curious, and hungrier for knowledge.

Of all the sciences cultivated by mankind, Astronomy is acknowledged to be, and undoubtedly is, the most sublime, the most interesting, and the most useful. For, by knowledge derived from this science, not only the bulk of the Earth is discovered…; but our very faculties are enlarged with the grandeur of the ideas it conveys, our minds exalted above low contracted prejudices. – James Ferguson

Time to get cosmic. There are more stars in the Universe than grains of sand on any beach, more stars than seconds have passed since Earth formed, more stars than words and sounds ever uttered by all the humans who ever lived. – Neil Degrasse Tyson

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The Telomere Effect by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel (Part 2)

Renewal Lab. Learn to reduce ‘ego threat’ stress. Tell yourself that your identity runs wide and deep. Write down the goals and values that matter most to you and stick to that. This has been proven to help reduce stress responses. When you understand that no one big event can hurt you, you become less stressed over the negative occurrence of any one event. Learn to distance your thoughts from your emotions. Use the third party pronoun and not ‘I’ too frequently. One can also apply time distancing, this means you imagine whether an event will affect you in 10 years’ time. One can also apply visual self-distancing. Imagine that you are viewing an event from afar. Pretend to be a third party witnessing yourself act. This technique of mentally stepping outside of your body can work well.

Mind Your Telomeres: Negative Thinking, Resilient Thinking. Thought suppression isn’t healthy and good for our telomeres. Negative thinking isn’t good too. Try to learn about your style of thinking. Cynical hostility isn’t good at all. A lot of these thoughts are actually automatic. One strategy is to learn to laugh at your negative thoughts. Hostility is associated with anger and thoughts that people cannot be trusted. Pessimists typically predict that a bad outcome is going to emerge. Pessimists are also associated with shorter telomeres. Pessimists tend to hate stressful situations and worry that they are not up to the mark. The human mind tends to wander and not focus on the task at hand. However, activities like sex, engaging in conversation and exercising produce less mind-wandering. If you are not fully engaged in an activity, you tend not to be happy. Multi-tasking actually is a source of noxious stress. To do something effectively, it is better to only do one thing at a time. It would be wise for you to try to eliminate distractions and to focus on the task at hand. Rumination is about rehashing your problems over and over again. Instead of finding a solution, people feel worse in this process. People who ruminate experience more depression and anxiety. Thought suppression is about pushing away unwanted thoughts. The more you try to push something away, the more it will call for your attention. This is also known as ironic error. Scolding yourself when negative thoughts emerge is unlikely to work. One can use resilient thinking, which is based on acceptance and mindfulness. Exercise thought awareness and loosen the grip of negative thought patterns. This is not thought stopping, but simply viewing the thoughts with more clarity. Meditation and long distance running can help with thought awareness. Stand like an observer and witness your thoughts passing by. A lot of the thoughts are repeat of thoughts that came before. Understand that thoughts will fade after a while. It is advisable not to believe everything that you think. Mindfulness is really about training the mind to focus. Now, I can focus better on whatever I do. Close your eyes and breathe once you experience negative thoughts. You do not need to go for a long course on mindfulness to be good. Meditating also increase your sense of purpose in life. A stronger life purpose can definitely give you better resilience in life. Being happy and having a purpose are often closely linked. Having a purpose is associated with eudaemonic happiness. This is associated with a strong sense of values and purpose. Volunteering to help the community can certainly be very rewarding. Volunteering can produce 2 to 3 years of reverse aging. Being conscientious is a good trait for your telomeres. These people tend to have long term goals and longer telomeres. Having good impulse control is important. Self-compassion is also another technique and it means kindness towards yourself and not beat yourself up. Be patient and be tolerant towards others. When you fail at something, do you berate yourself? It is good to be high in self-compassion. Developing self-reliance helps towards building stress resilience. Start your day with gratitude and say ‘I am alive and I will seize the day!’. Learn to understand your habits of thinking. When encountering something stressful, try to take a self-compassion break. Tell yourself that suffering is a part of life and also say ‘may I be kind to myself’. Be wary of the internal critic inside of you. Think about what do you want people who to remember you as in a few words as possible. Articulate what are the more important principles in your life and write them down. If your life is too boring, engage in cognitive exercises and do something out of the ordinary.

We push away our bad feelings, which inevitably roar back, and then we feel bad, and then we feel bad about feeling bad. – Elizabeth Blackburn

The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all. – Leo Rosten

When Blue Turns to Gray: Depression and Anxiety. Some people suffer from a panic attack, an intense episode of fear and anxiety. Depressed people feel that there is no possibility in life. If you have depression, the onset of more serious illnesses will come faster. Anxiety is characterized by dread/worry. Some people have anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are associated with shorter telomere lengths. Women who are depressed have shorter telomeres. Sometimes, people whose cells experience telomere shortening have cells producing more telomerase. However, this attempt at producing more telomere fails. Telomere length can also increase if the anxiety goes away after a while. Mice who are subjected to a lot of stress develop an excessive number of mitochondria. Depression is a dysfunctional response to stress. Negative thoughts are not signs that you are unworthy, but are substances of depression. If you are anxious, you will need to learn to face the fear of the item and deal with it head on, in a brave manner. Depression is chronic in nature. There is a sense of contentment of focusing all your attention on a small task. Take a 3 minute breathing break. Breathe and become aware. Gather your attention by breathing and exhaling slowly. Paced breathing can help to lower blood pressure.

Instead of frantically striving to change things, you can choose to do little things that bring you pleasure, and things that help you feel masterful and in control. – Elizabeth Blackburn

When we breathe in, our heart rate goes up. When we exhale, our heart rate goes down. By having a longer exhalation than inhalation, we can slow our heart rate more, and we can also stimulate the vagus nerve. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Master tips for renewal: Stress-reducing techniques shown to boost telomere maintenance. Meditation has a lot of benefits and has been shown to be able to improve well-being. People who meditate tend to have longer telomeres. Staying at a retreat has a powerful effect as you are unplugged from tech devices. Those without meditation experience can try the mindfulness based stress reduction programme or MBSR. MBSR is good for those who want to reduce stress. There is much literature on the health benefits of yoga. It improves the quality of life and mood for many people. It can improve spine bone density if practiced long term. Qigong is part of the wellness progress for Chinese medicine. Qigong reduces depression and may improve diabetes. Qigong exercises are easy and can give you a sense of calm in minutes.

Help your Body Protect its Cells. Stressful long-term events have the potential to contribute to telomere shortening. Do you suffer from mood disorders? Try to figure out how much social support do you have? The more physical activity you do, the better it is for your body. One should engage in aerobic activity at least 150 minutes per week and engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. Exercising more can increase your telomerase levels too. Do consider your nutritional needs as well. Eat food with antioxidants and vitamins and avoid sugar carbonated beverages. Choose an area to focus on where you have weak scores. Choose one area to work on at a time.

Training Your Telomeres: How Much Exercise is Enough? Try to avoid being a weekend warrior when it comes to exercise. Do not overtrain or over-exert unnecessarily. Over-training is characterized by sleep changes, fatigue, mood swings etc. Telomeres do not need extreme fitness regimes to thrive on. How does exercise work wonders for your body? There are cellular benefits of exercise. Ideally, our cells should have enough antioxidants. When free radicals build up, it is bad for our body. Exercise is very valuable in the short term, as it stimulates the body to produce more antioxidants. When you exercise more, your body produces less cortisol and you feel calmer. People who exercise regularly have a more robust immune system. Exercising regularly can help to delay the onset of immunosenescence. Exercise also helps to maintain your telomeres. Both moderate aerobic endurance exercise and HIIT are useful. Those who increased their aerobic fitness the most experienced growth in telomerase activity. Strength training helps to improve bone density and muscle mass. Fitness is one of the keys for telomere health. Even though you might be naturally fit, exercise will still help you keep your telomeres healthy. Is too much exercise bad? The benefits of extreme endurance do not seem to be useful. It is important to start exercising when you are young, and never be discouraged. Learn to read the signs of over-training and avoid them as much as possible. Even if your schedule is packed, find time to slip in some exercise. In addition to your exercise regime, it is still important to keep moving throughout the day.

People who exercise live longer and have a lowered risk of high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And they avoid dementia for longer. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Exercise can improve your mood for up to 3 hours after working out and can reduce stress reactivity. Stress can shorten telomeres, but exercise shields telomeres from some of stress’s damage. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Tired Telomeres: From Exhaustion to Restoration. How can we get more sleep? Cognitive changes and mindfulness will enable you to get more sleep. If you feel sleepy during the day, it is a clear sign you need more sleep at night. Poor sleep will definitely affect your well-being in life. Insomnia is associated with shorter telomeres. Sleep is the most restorative activity that you can actually perform. REM sleep helps to regulate your appetite as well. Poor REM sleep results in higher level of cortisol and insulin, stimulating your appetite. Sleep helps us to refresh emotionally too. Longer sleep results in longer telomeres. 7 or more hours of sleep is the key. Sleep quality matters a lot too. Going to bed at regular hours help in your cell’s ability to regulate telomerase. When you suffer from insomnia, you tend to worry as you are afraid that you will not be able to function after a poor night’s sleep. When such thoughts come to mind, learn to challenge them instead. How can someone suffering from chronic insomnia get better sleep? Avoid engaging in mind-sapping activities just before bed-time. Avoid light sources like phones/laptops. One can consider some light reading/ some classical music. Blue light can supresses melatonin. Minimize light from windows and digital clocks, if possible. Tune out your environment from light and noise distractions. Always try to eat and sleep at regular times. Sleep procrastination is a big problem in modern society. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, go for a check-up. Learn to adopt the following 5 bedtime rituals. The first is to spend 5 minutes in transition. The next is to listen to soothing music. Set a mood for relaxation Brew warm herbal tea. Perform bedtime stretches (gentle rolling of the head and neck, forward bend, child’s pose).

When you are well slept, you are better at learning and remembering. Tired people just aren’t as successful at focusing their attention, so they don’t take in new information as well. – Elizabeth Blackburn

If you feel terrible without 8 or 9 hours of sleep. Don’t try to scrape by with 7. Get those extra hours. And remember that rule of thumb, which offers highly customized sleep advice: If you feel sleepy during the day, you need more sleep at night. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Telomeres Weigh in: A Healthy Metabolism. Belly fat is something that must be avoided. It is a good idea to bring a salad to work as it is healthy. Some people find it hard not to think about food. Eating too much does affect your telomeres, but not as much as depression. Weight is a not very accurate measure of metabolic health. Dieting is not the only way to get healthier. You can be of a normal weight, but if you have a belly, it doesn’t bode well for you. Belly fat, high cholesterol and high blood pressures are key risk factors for diabetes. High belly fat might indicate poor glucose control or insulin resistance. Globally, 9% of people have diabetes. People with diabetes find that it is more difficult for glucose to enter the cells. People with belly fat tend to develop shorter telomeres. There is a connection between short telomeres and diabetes. Weight cycling (increase and decrease) is very unhealthy and should be avoided. Constantly thinking about eating less also produces a cognitive strain. Instead of dieting, one could be physically active and eat nutritious foods. Reducing sugar can lead to metabolic improvements and simple carbs are bad. There is mixed research on caloric restriction. Learn to measure your insulin sensitivity by testing your fasting insulin and glucose. Cutting back on sugar will work wonders for your body. When you crave for sugar, surf the urge. Sit down and close your eyes and imagine the snack and the flavour, but do not eat it. Understand that the cravings will pass and dissipate. Stop eating when you are moderately full, at around 7 or 8 out of 10.

This idea – that improving your metabolic health is more important than losing weight – is vital, and that’s because repeated dieting takes a toll on your body. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Our body has a set point that it defends, and when we lose weight, we also slow our metabolism in an effort to regain the weight (metabolic adaptation). – Elizabeth Blackburn

Dieting can create a semi-addictive state, and it’s also just plain stressful. Monitoring calories causes cognitive load, meaning that it uses up the brain’s limited attention and increases how much stress you feel. – Elizabeth Blackburn

To Be Continued 🙂

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Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 2)

Taking Back Joy. When I listened to a happy song from childhood and started dancing, I felt happy. Survivor guilt can rob you of your joy. After his passing, I tried to have fun with my children. We took things that reminded us of Dave and made it part of our lives. Allow yourself to be happy and be kind to yourself. Joy has to come your within yourself and no one else. How you spend each day matters more than only the big moments of joy. Do the small things that make you happy. Write down the moments of joy each day. Happiness does require work. Humans are wired to focus on the negative as compared to the positive. The cool breeze could be a positive moment for gratitude too. Happiness can equate to peacefulness too. Try to engage in something challenging and engrossing that can give you that flow state. Exercise can help you to achieve that flow state quickly. Joy can give us strength too. You can find joy in the small moments that you seize and create for yourself.

Raising Resilient Kids. One way is to respond to embarrassment with humour. It is wise to just announce the sad news to your kids directly. We owe it to our children to make them as happy as possible. Early intervention is critical. The school needs to protect a safe environment for kids. Disadvantaged families should be provided with home visits and counseling. Resilience is a lifelong project. Children must develop these few beliefs: they have some control over their lives; they can bounce back from failure; they matter as human beings; they have real strength. It is important to help them understand that they are in control of their lives. Pre-school has a huge role to play in this. Allow your kids to share their dreams with others. It is important to get an education. Kids should adopt a growth instead of fixed mindset. Sometimes, complimenting too soon doesn’t work. Rather, one should comment ‘I’m glad you tried your hardest’. Adults need to tell the kids that they matter. In Denmark, children are encouraged to share their problems in class. Help your kid identify his strengths by making him pick up skills. For instance, you could encourage the kid to pick up a musical instrument. Respect your feelings and try not to suppress them. Sleep matters even during times of adversity. Learning how to forgive is also extremely important. Do not afraid to ask for help and encourage your kids to do so. Sometimes, I still talk about Dave as it helps to keep Dave’s memory alive. If your kids can have a strong understanding of your family members and their parents, they have been coping skills. Nostalgia is usually good as it reflects a pleasant state most of the time. Make the most out of Option B. Keep photos and videos of your loved ones as these help to create happiness.

Finding Strength Together. Hope is the key to resilience. It is possible to bond over hope and create a shared identity. People can pray together. It is important to change tragedy into a miracle. Keep your faith at all times. There is unity in strength. Collective resilience is also dependent on shared experiences etc. Attending support groups can also help you deeply. It might be wise to join a community after a tragedy. Asking for help is actually not a sign of weakness. Shared narratives can play a big part. It is also useful to be lifted by positive ‘stereotypes’ right at the start. Support circles help to build collect resilience. It can certainly be difficult to forgive a gunman who killed so many people. As a community, we can gather together to tackle the tough problems in life. Empowering communities can be the key sometimes. As a community, we can learn to support vulnerable groups.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. – Martin Luther King Jr

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. – Martin Luther King Jr

Failing and Learning at Work. I took my kids to visit SpaceX. We need to learn from our failures. Often, we are too proud to admit that we made a mistake. The majority of things that people regretted was the actions they failed to take. Move fast and break things. At Facebook, we go for teambuilding and often fail at challenges. Failure must be seen as a learning opportunity. You could ask colleagues what their biggest screw-up is and everyone could compete to see who the biggest screw-up is. Resilience is needed in all organizations of all sizes. We need to all focus on learning from failure. Ask for feedback on how you can improve. Learn to gather and act on negative feedback. We all have our own blind spots but often ignore them. Feedback is hard to take. Sports teams often learn from their mistakes. Learn to take suggestions from a coach too. Try not to treat the feedback personally. People are afraid of criticizing others. Everyone should have at least 1 hard conversation in the past.

The more times a government or company had failed, the more likely they were to put a rocket into orbit successfully on the next try. Also, their chances of success increased after a rocket exploded compared to a smaller failure. – Sheryl Sandberg

When it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people are more likely to report errors and less likely to make them. Yet typical work cultures showcase successes and hide failures. – Sheryl Sandberg

To Love and Laugh Again. Being alone can be an empowering decision indeed. Getting married increases one’s happiness just by a bit. I wanted to find love again after Dave passed on. If you date too soon, people may judge you. Men are more likely to date after their spouse has passed on. The responsibility of caring for children and aged parents seems to fall on the women more. Widows in some parts of the world are cruelly treated. Do not listen to others. When your heart feels like you should date, you should go ahead. However, dating does not erase the grief and that is perfectly fine. When we fall in love, we have a great sense of energy and euphoria. Dating helps brings back the humour. Eventually, one will even learn to joke about death. Joking about Dave now helps to break the tension. Humor makes situations less stressful. It is still very much possible to love someone even after they have died. It is crucial to pay attention to the everyday interaction with our partners. You must turn towards their bid. One way to re-ignite the spark in a relationship is to try new activities. Partners have to be able to overcome conflict. You can’t control whether you fall in love. There is always Option B and we can still find joy.

Resilience in love means finding strength from within that you can share with others. Finding a way to make love last through the highs and lows. – Sheryl Sandberg

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Schiit Happened by Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat (Part 2)

Isn’t the Symbol for USB the long flat rectangle? We transited from a headphone amp to a DAC/amp company. We are like both a hardware and software company. The problem with hardware are manufacturing while software is about service. A restaurant has both of these problems. When you talk hardware, you are talking stock. You will need capital upfront and also the added costs of personnel, facility, testing, shipping etc. For software, it’s about the salaries for programming staff, admin costs etc. However, distribution is easy. However, you must make sure your software can work with the existing OS. It is an ongoing business, where you need to keep upgrading. There are too many things that can go wrong with a restaurant. With Bifrost, we are a software company. We wanted 24/192, which needed Windows support as driver installation was a must. Firmware is not expected to change much. Software usually requires constant upgrading. Try not to allow pre-orders as if you can’t deliver on time, Schiit happens. The Bitfrost shipped out late. It was a nightmare as we ran into problems, one after another.

Although I’m a foodie, I have exactly zero desire to ever open a restaurant. Why? Because restaurants combine the problems of manufacturing with the problems of service with an extra problem of the stock actually goes bad. No thanks. – Jason Stoddard

Technical Help via Time Warner, and the World’s Most Irritating Failure Mode. Tony was our second employee and our first technician. It was late 2011. We have 4 products, Asgard, Valhalla, Lyr, Bifrost. Mike recommended Tony. He was laid off. He was a fast learner. The problem with employees are that they only do things by the book, have a stunning lack of initiative, prima donna-it is. It would be better to ask why and how they did something, rather than what. Tony was a great employee. However, one day, he pointed out that the Lyr was popping. The problem only happened with the back chassis on. We used brute force to fix the problem. However, that was the only batch of equipment with that issue. We might never know what the problem is.

Because people can’t be distilled down to a 2 page resume and a 1 hour interview. There are a ton of candidates skilled in the art of looking good on paper. There are plenty who can be friendly, intelligent, and make all the right noises in response to the standard interview questions. – Jason Stoddard

Selecting people with potential and ambition beats experience every day. – Jason Stoddard

DAC in a Toilet Paper Roll. One day, Mike showed me a USB card, which had RCA jacks on it. It was a USB DAC. Although Mike wasn’t fond of USB, this was an excellent device. We could get the chassis cheap and sell it for USD 99. This is for people who really want portability. It would be simply plug and play. Modi and Magni showed up in Dec 2012. Developing simple products take a lot of time. Modi needed a new chassis design and had to be simple as possible. It required huge production time too. Most companies would have just iterated on existing products to milk the cash out of them. We’re not like that. We set a price target on the chassis. Assembly would be simple at all costs. In the end, we only used 7 screws instead of 16. Modi was built in a steel case. We chose to save our own money rather than borrow money to grow. It might not be the best, but that’s the direction we took. We decided on a Schiit stack, a little DAC that was less than $99 or less too.

Assembly time is a function of chassis design. The simpler the chassis, the lower the assembly time. – Jason Stoddard

Growth, Garage Style. We mostly worked from our garage too. I was a conservative businessman and did not take funding. People thought we were stupid. My plan was to grow organically. By being picky and conservative, we avoided the web bust and managed to thrive. Even in 2011, I didn’t lease office space. Understand what a lease means. Note the lack of any outs. Subleasing sucks as any issue with the property is your fault. You’ll have surprises, and they won’t be good. There’s less space than you think. If you don’t pay, the landlord will chase you to no ends. We ran out of stock very quickly, and that was good. We didn’t need a lot of space. Mike were planning Mjolnir and the Gungnir. These were balanced amp and DACs, higher end things. It was the start of 2012 now.

The lease doesn’t give two craps if your business is in the toilet, if your cash flow sucks, if your sales forecast was wrong, or if you’re late on your mortgage as well. Pay us. Every month. Until the end. – Jason Stoddard

Leasing a space is very much one of those invisible lines in business. Once you do it, you won’t go back. Nor will you back out. So you’d better be damn ready to do it. – Jason Stoddard

Resurrecting the Circlotron and Other Mid-Centuryisms. This chapter is highly technical. Designing a balanced amp was ambitious. Some people argue for single-ended while some prefer balanced. There are pros and cons to both, just like everything in life. Whys, wherefores and design goals. Every car has its disadvantages too, there is no perfect solution. There are trade-offs. Single ended has lower noise and easier to connect. However, high rail voltages are required for high power and balanced input is problematic. Balanced has 4 times the power for the same rail voltages. No us, balanced offers better sonic performance. First law of audio: you can never have too much power. Second law of audio: see the first law. More power usually means higher noise, greater need for protection and paralleled output devices. I have a soft spot for circlotron designs for amps. There were none in the market at the moment. Our company is contrarian and I liked it. Some of the designs include JLH, Lin/ Blameless, CFA/ Current Feedback, Supersymmetry, CSPP / Circlotron, Chip / Integrated. Circlotron uses only P channel, however, it requires a complex power supply. We focused on the high-voltage VFT front end and the MOSFET output. Class A amplifiers run on the time and never turn off. They are hot and big and heavy, and no more than 25% efficient. Class B isn’t used for audio, the output transistors turn off as soon as they cross zero, because they are completely unbiased. Class AB, with bias on the output transistors so they run Class A sometimes. This is the most popular audio output stage and more efficient, with good performance. Class D are switching or PWM amps. Class H are class AB with voltage rail switching. Mike challenged me to include single ended option in the amp too.

Today, orthodynamics are actually becoming more efficient, so the need for extreme power is abating. The headphone amp power war, which never really existed, will probably seem silly in a few years time. – Jason Stoddard

The Pinch-Off Problem. We were developing the Gungnir analog stage. We ran into problems of our prototype boards. We had a pinch-off problem. We chased down the source of the distortion. Swapping parts didn’t help. Analog isn’t the real story. It is important to segregate the analog and digital sections carefully. We needed to look at clock regeneration too. We use one stereo DAC per channel, giving balanced hardware. However, the components cost twice. Digital music has to be stored. There are different formats of music. Lossless audio preserves the original bits. These use the PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) format. DSD encodes using a pulse width modulated datastream (PWM). The DAC wants to see the bit clock, word clock and data. That means 3 or 4 BNC cables. However, nowadays, we only use 1 cable because the clocks are buried in the data. This is SPDIF. Optical is a flavor of SPDIF. However, it has its limitations and can sometimes can only accommodate up to 24/192. Coaxial is another flavor of SPDIF, however, it usually performs better than co-axial. USB is not a SPDIF, but a packet-based system. Bandwidth is no issue with USB 2.0 and up. There is a reception to process the signals. Some manufacturers choose to upsample everything to a specific data rate, this eliminates clock management. However, asynchronous sample rate conversion (ASRC) is not bitperfect. For a bitperfect DAC, clock management is needed. For digital filters, bit-perfect transfer dies. 99.9% of DACs use delta-sigma technology. It can support up to 24 bit or even 32 bit. However, it is not bit perfect either. Some DACs are analog also. Philosophy is the most important (why you do something). Without knowing your why, your company is rudderless. Therefore, there is a need to ask the why and there is a need to be very specific over your answer too. At Schiit, we want to make fun, affordable products that are as true to the musical source as possible. For delta-sigma, the best you can do is to reduce the jitter.

Every Road is a Dead End, Early Adventures with Magni. There is value in starting all over. There is a need to always be adaptable when coming up with new products. We wanted the amp to versatile for almost any headphone. We wanted an aggressive price point too. We planned a simple topology and a switching wall wart. We didn’t want Class A as there was too much heat for the chassis. The noisy power supply was killing my ideas. The Lin amp would work well with an AC supply. I turned to Alibaba for supplies. The AC wall warts were cheap enough. I played with many PC boards and found that they worked.

The HOA Problem. We were working on Magni, Modi, Gungir and Mjolnir. We were growing bigger now. HOA means Homeowners Association. The HOA prohibited operating a business out of your home. They would start complaining. We cracked 7 figures in sales. When you have your own business, you can’t say ‘That’s not my problem’. You have to deal with every problem. Everything becomes your problem when you start a business. It’s a ton of work, but it can be satisfying. We need to look to rent a space. I tried a space, however it was not meant for manufacturing due to zoning rights. Valencia, California is master-planned. It was zoned as a commercial space, not industrial. We are now in Valencia Industrial Center. However, I managed to convince the guy to let us look at his space.

We started this with $10k. 18 months later, we’re into 7 figures annually. In a garage. This isn’t interested to be bragging. This is intended to be inspiration for you. Starting your own business is absolutely doable – without taking loans, leasing tons of space etc. – Jason Stoddard

But don’t start a business because you think it’s going to be easy. Or because you think you’ll have more freedom. Because, if it’s your business, it’ll always be your problem. Until you decide to sell it and get out. And when you’re small, everything is your problem. – Jason Stoddard

You Catch a Cold, We Die: Bigger Products, Bigger Problems. It was the second quarter of 2012 now. Our supplier screwed up and couldn’t make the Gungnir and Mjolnir chassis. We had to learn to number the parts. We had to give specific revisions for the metal parts maker to edit our stuff. It is important to set up a parts numbering system that covers at least every custom part. You will also have to document your changes and revisions made. The chassis was too deep and they couldn’t bend it. Eventually, we settled on a three-piece chassis. Instead of pre-orders, we wanted to do an interest list instead. The metal was crap and the supplier disappointed us. They did a rush job but the quality was not good. The Mjolnir launch was delayed because of the metal supplier. Even with a big bugger between announcement and scheduled ship date, things still screwed up. We were not planning to do pre-announcements anymore.

When your vendors catch a cold, you get sick. When they have a problem, it’s your problem. Your customers don’t care about excuses or The Reality of Making Things Today. They want their stuff. When it was promised. Period. – Jason Stoddard

Introducing the Schiithole. We took a bit of risk in the commercial space. We got the space. In Feb 2012, we moved into the office. There are many hidden expenses in running a business which can bite you. DIY might be cheaper, but it is definitely different from production. When you run a business, there are expenses like liability insurance, facility lease, upkeep, equipment cost, bookkeeping, tax, sales or VAT. We needed to spend on renovating the new space. We were afraid that the city inspector might come. The place was incredibly dusty and messy. The place we leased was a Schiithole. Once you spend a lot on rental, it will kill you. You should only spend on the things you need. You need a functional space, effective places to work, equipment for your work, right connectivity for your business. Don’t buy high-end office chairs. Learn to pick the tolerable and cheapest chair. You must control your spending, or you won’t last long in business. Start-ups shouldn’t have private offices. I was burning out from doing 14 hour days. We needed to hire again.

The moment you build a palace is the moment you die. Now, it may take many years for that palace to kill you. You may end up with some very good years there. But the moment you start focusing on business wants, rather than needs, you’re dead. – Jason Stoddard

And that’s why we ended up with a space that was really nothing more than a large production floor, with no offices, in an ugly, run-down building. Because it had what we needed. And nothing we didn’t. And it was cheap. – Jason Stoddard

And I was quickly burning out from the long days. You can do 14-hour days for a while, but they’ll eventually kill you. – Jason Stoddard

‘I didn’t know people in the private sector were as lazy as incompetent as the people in schools’. We wanted to hire our first manager. Some level of management is necessary. You can’t do everything and you shouldn’t do everything. You can’t outsource everything enough. You still need to oversee some aspects to ensure things are going well. Hiring a manager will incur overheads. Why do companies have too much management? It is because of the 20/80 rule, where only 2 people are doing the work and the remaining 8 are hiding. Some people also think it ‘ain’t my job’. There is also a problem of title inflation. We needed to hire an operations manager. Rina’s own business was taking off and she had less time to focus on Schiit. Rina suggested Alex, Jen’s husband. I decided to give him a shot. He seemed smart enough. However, he worked in a school and I thought these people were lazy. Alex worked hard and suggested improvements and didn’t complain at all. He was the perfect candidate. Alex was an example of good management.

Management layers in a business is a necessary evil. Extra layers should be avoided at all cost. Like nuclear waste, you don’t want to get too much management on you. – Jason Stoddard

And that really is the challenge, more and more: not letting your company fall to the 20/80 rule, where a handful of good people do most of the work. Not letting the bozos on the bus. – Jason Stoddard

You can’t tread water. You can’t stand still. You have to sacrifice your babies. You need to look straight-on at cannibalizing your own products. You always have to be asking, “What can we do better, less expensively?” Even if it lays waste to your entire lineup. Because, you know what? If you don’t do it, someone else will. – Jason Stoddard

Getting Our Schiit Together. It was the summer of 2012. We now try to predict demand and buy ahead to meet it. The landlord wanted to spruce up the place. He suggested that I get the whole building. It was a reasonable and cheap price. I used to haggle in the past, but it has its disadvantages. To know whether someone is charging you fairly, you must know the general price of the product you’re looking for. You should do your research if you don’t know the general price. You should be aware of what is too good to be true. You have to be upfront too. I said yes to renting the whole building. The renovator hired by the landlord did a shit job. Finally, the space was ready and we were acting like a real company. Our space looked decent. Alex improved the business in the some aspects: 1) planning and scheduling; 2) facilities layout and production flow; 3) Shipping logistics and relationships; 4) General operations and vendor communication; 5) employee management, specifically hiring and training. However, on the planning front, we ran into some difficulties.

Dead Media Ain’t Dead: NYT Strikes. Learn to push the limits, common wisdom and experience. The Internet was a big push for Centric. We ignored much of the conventional press when we were at Schiit. We got money to do Adwords. Social media seemed like the leading edge of marketing. For an entertainment company, social marketing is definitely a must. However, if you are not, social marketing is dumb, with little returns. To capture your customers, you need a memorable brand and fast responses to queries. Invest in AdWords and constantly improve your product and not spend too much time on social media. If you are B2B, you need to focus even less on social media. You rather spend your money on advertising and PR. If you want social media, ask yourself, who’s going to create the content? Who’s going to respond to comments? Who’s going to decide what’s okay to say? Who’s going to measure and manage it all? Most of the content are posted by bots nowadays. It is more about crowd-sourced advertising. Paid advertising in big-name venues is here to stay. I said yes to the NYTimes, who wanted to review my product. After the article on NYT, customers posted a lot of newbie questions to us .It hit the print. Because of it, our Bifrost sold out and was on back-order. We had a huge backorder because of this news article. Old media isn’t dead, by any means. The mass media can be really powerful. The Magnis and Modis are targeted at first time audiophiles. One audio magazine gave a glowing review, but it didn’t bring much sales. Always stay open to traditional marketing.

Nobody is perfect. No matter how many degrees they have, no matter how high they scored on their IQ tests, no matter how many years of experience, no matter how many companies they’re launched. Period –  Jason Stoddard

And, while I’m absolutely for introducing everyone to great sound, we’re going to meet plenty of people who don’t care. And we have to be careful not to be tiresome proselytizers. – Jason Stoddard

Well, call me biased, call me old-fashioned, but I believe it will be done in only one way: with quality products made at a price that’s fair for its performance, construction, and looks. – Jason Stoddard

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