Eyes Wide Open

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Palo Alto after 20 hours of travel from Hampshire, England.  Amy and I took our Q3 vacation in the English countryside at the Hampshire Four Seasons where we had a glorious week off of the grid.  I find myself really wanting to be tired, but I am so far beyond tired that I’m wide awake well past midnight California time.

Our Q3 vacation was dynamite.  I would have never thought to choose the English countryside, but Amy loves horses and our Q3 vacation is near her birthday, so we go wherever she wants to go.  The weather cooperated in some sort of pleasant karmic-recovery from our abysmal Alaska weather (yes, I know they are uncorrelated events, but one can fantasize), my runs along with Basingstoke Canal were awesome, and the food surpassed expectations.

We were off the grid – mostly.  I had a few work related things that reared their head during the week – none required a lot of time but each harshed my mellow a little bit.  I was typically agitated for the first few days, which is a sign that I really needed a total disconnect to recharge my batteries.  After four days of sleeping more than 12 hours a night, I started to calm down.  The daily runs, swims, tennis, massages, books, and adult activities helped.

During our Q-vacations, I turn off my computer and cell phone.  My assistant Kelly reads my email and calls me if there is something I have to pay attention to.  However, we do watch TV – mostly movies – as we lay in bed before we fall asleep.

This week, the best movie on TV was CNBC Europe as our bed time correlated to the last hour of the market in the US.  I never watch CNN / CNBC / MSNBC / Bloomberg / local news so it’s a rare treat to watch a chunk of it.  Last week was a doozy.  If we hadn’t turned the TV on at all and just checked the Dow Jones index on Friday when we left for Europe and Sunday a week later when we reconnected, we would have noticed a measly 30 point drop in the Dow.  Instead, we got to watch talking head after talking head analyze, speculate, prognosticate, fluctuate, pontificate – basically everything except masturbate – while chart after chart appeared with radically spikey looking graphs that changed every few seconds.

In the midst of this noise, we watched a few movies (I finally saw Ironman – yes – the first half was much better than the second half) and I reread Nassim Nicholas Taleb’ brilliant book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.  I reached a very simple conclusion – everything that I was watching being discussed on CNBC was probably incorrect and, more importantly, likely irrelevant.  The actual events that occurred would take me less than five minutes to read the following week when I skim BusinessWeek in the bathroom.  The commentary was just noise.

But I knew this already so this wasn’t my key insight.  Over the weekend, we ended up watching Davis Cup Tennis (Andy Murray is going to give Nadal and Federer some trouble) while avoiding the endless Ryder Cup coverage.  I tried to understand cricket (still no luck), watched some rugby (or is that Australian football?), and watched the soccer highlights (why suffer through a game when you can watch the highlights.)

And now for the insight.  During the week, we have CNBC.  Over the weekend, we have ESPN.  They are exactly the same – just with different uniforms and commentators.  As Taleb would suggest, the only way to keep your eyes wide open about what is going on is to turn off the TV and stop reading the newspapers.

I just yawned, so it must be time to end this "welcome back" post, close my eyes, and dream of fields of golden retriever puppies.  I wonder if that’s what Hank Paulson is doing.

  • http://digitaldocuments.debenu.com/ Rowan

    Rugby and Australian football are two different things, though we play both.

    Australian football highlights from 2007:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-PFRrJQtew

    Much more exciting than Rugby.

  • http://blog.ninthyard.com Damon

    I used to watch the news a lot. Then one day I realized that it was depressing me and generally increasing my anxiety levels. So I turned it off. No local news, no CNBC, no politics, no nothing. And you know what? Not only did my mood improve, but my knowledge of what is happening in the world increased. Funny how you can find real information if you shut off the noise. I now watch about 5 minutes of the news per month, mostly by accident, and I'm better for it.

    But ESPN? You'll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers. I will continue to drink college football 'til the white lines on field are burned into my retinas and I'm drunk with happiness. Go CU!

    Now if we could only get rugby on the tube…

  • http://www.electricitycycles.com kip

    Welcome back and happy vacation.
    Long live ESPN! Viva TV coming from the Nutmeg State.

  • http://www.ashimmy.com alan shimel

    Brad – how do you know they weren't masturbating while watching those spiky charts? I put nothing past those folks. I read this just after Bonnie informed me that I am no longer allowed to watch CNN in bed at night before going to sleep. She says it depresses her. Luckily I Tivo all of the old star trek series and will switch to them instead ;-) Welcome home

  • Kyle S

    Welcome back, Brad. Congratulations on IntenseDebate's exit – I love the product, and I think the fit with Automattic should be great. I'm looking forward to the future of blogging.

    • Kyle S

      Also, I don't think Chris Dodd has read “The Black Swan” (also one of my faves and an absolute must-read these days). Check out this quote from a NYT article today:

      –Senator Dodd called the crisis “entirely foreseeable and preventable, not an act of God,” and said that it angered him to think about “the authors of this calamity” walking away with the usual golden parachutes while taxpayers pick up the bill.–

      • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

        Yes – unfortunately with this statement Dodd demonstrated his complete and total cluelessness.

  • Adil

    Brad, being the member of the VC community, you must have some input to share on this crisis.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I really don’t have any input. I’m not entirely sure what’s actually going on and I’m 100% sure I have no clue what the solution or presumptive outcome is.

  • Tony Casson

    Here's what you need to know about the financial happenings. Over the last 10 years banks started replacing things (houses,cars, stocks,bonds, currency) that they used to hand out as collateral when they borrowed from other banks with black boxes containing pieces of all of those things. As long as all of the banks in the entire world were comfortable with the value of those black boxes everything was working fine – even though no one knew what they were actually worth. Over the last few years, the black boxes became so wildly popular that banks had no more real things to hand out as collateral. The perceived value of the black boxes was sky high. Now due to shady lending practices and a rash of foreclosures in the US housing market, there is no more confidence in the value of the black boxes and since this is all the banks have left to collateralize their debts to each other, they are no longer willing to lend.

    The government is offering to buy up all the black boxes with taxpayer money so that banks can lend on things again. Over time, the black boxes may prove to be not as bad an investment as people think they are now, or they could wind up being a tragic waste of money for the taxpayer.

  • vasa

    Brad,

    If you ever need a primer in Rugby or Cricket.. ping me.
    We have plenty of rugby here in Boulder and on TV.

    Vasa

  • Rowan

    Rugby and Australian football are two different things, though we play both.

    Australian football highlights from 2007:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-PFRrJQtew

    Much more exciting than Rugby.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/alan_shimel2002 alan_shimel2002

    Brad – how do you know they weren't masturbating while watching those spiky charts? I put nothing past those folks. I read this just after Bonnie informed me that I am no longer allowed to watch CNN in bed at night before going to sleep. She says it depresses her. Luckily I Tivo all of the old star trek series and will switch to them instead ;-) Welcome home

  • Damon

    I used to watch the news a lot. Then one day I realized that it was depressing me and generally increasing my anxiety levels. So I turned it off. No local news, no CNBC, no politics, no nothing. And you know what? Not only did my mood improve, but my knowledge of what is happening in the world increased. Funny how you can find real information if you shut off the noise. I now watch about 5 minutes of the news per month, mostly by accident, and I'm better for it.

    But ESPN? You'll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers. I will continue to drink college football 'til the white lines on field are burned into my retinas and I'm drunk with happiness. Go CU!

    Now if we could only get rugby on the tube…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kyle_s10731 kyle_s10731

    Welcome back, Brad. Congratulations on IntenseDebate's exit – I love the product, and I think the fit with Automattic should be great. I'm looking forward to the future of blogging.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I really don’t have any input. I’m not entirely sure what’s actually going on and I’m 100% sure I have no clue what the solution or presumptive outcome is.

  • kip

    Welcome back and happy vacation.
    Long live ESPN! Viva TV coming from the Nutmeg State.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tony_casson5682 tony_casson5682

    Here's what you need to know about the financial happenings. Over the last 10 years banks started replacing things (houses,cars, stocks,bonds, currency) that they used to hand out as collateral when they borrowed from other banks with black boxes containing pieces of all of those things. As long as all of the banks in the entire world were comfortable with the value of those black boxes everything was working fine – even though no one knew what they were actually worth. Over the last few years, the black boxes became so wildly popular that banks had no more real things to hand out as collateral. The perceived value of the black boxes was sky high. Now due to shady lending practices and a rash of foreclosures in the US housing market, there is no more confidence in the value of the black boxes and since this is all the banks have left to collateralize their debts to each other, they are no longer willing to lend.

    The government is offering to buy up all the black boxes with taxpayer money so that banks can lend on things again. Over time, the black boxes may prove to be not as bad an investment as people think they are now, or they could wind up being a tragic waste of money for the taxpayer.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Yes – unfortunately with this statement Dodd demonstrated his complete and total cluelessness.

  • vasa

    Brad,

    If you ever need a primer in Rugby or Cricket.. ping me.
    We have plenty of rugby here in Boulder and on TV.

    Vasa

  • Adil

    Brad, being the member of the VC community, you must have some input to share on this crisis.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kyle_s10731 kyle_s10731

    Also, I don't think Chris Dodd has read "The Black Swan" (also one of my faves and an absolute must-read these days). Check out this quote from a NYT article today:

    –Senator Dodd called the crisis “entirely foreseeable and preventable, not an act of God,” and said that it angered him to think about “the authors of this calamity” walking away with the usual golden parachutes while taxpayers pick up the bill.–