Budapest (Hungary) in Two Days

Budapest, pronounced Budapescht, consists of two cities, hilly Buda in the west, and flat Pest in the south. The city structure is similar to Prague.

Day 1

Start your day with a walking tour. While there are many specific ones like focusing on Jewish quarters etc. I chose the generic one which covers the history and the culture of the city. After the tour, spend time checking out the castle before heading down to the Hospital in the rock. It was a hospital built during the cold war to survive a nuclear attack. The guided tour at this place is subpar though.

Castle

Buda Castle

Chapel at Buda Castle

Chapel at Buda Castle

Bunker Hospital

Bunker Hospital

Check out the Mansfeld Peter Memorial and Zero kilometer Stone while going down from the castle.

Peter Mansfield Memorial

Peter Mansfield Memorial

0 KM

0 KM

And then before crossing over to the Pest side, take a bus to Citadella for a few more views of the city.

View of Budapest from Citadella

View of Budapest from Citadella

Day 2

Start the day with St. Stephen’s Basilica. There is a hand of Stephen, the first king of Hungary, inside. It is illegal to construct a building taller than this in Budapest. The Hungary Parliament building is precisely the same height.

St. Stephen's Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica

Stephen's hand

Stephen’s hand

Next, head to Shoes on the Danube Bank, which are placed by Hungarians in the memory of the Holocaust victims.

Shoes at Danube River

Shoes at Danube River

Later at night, check out Szimpla Kert and Red Ruin, the two famous ruin bars among many others.

Szimpla Kert

Szimpla Kert

Red Ruin

Red Ruin

Note that Budapest is famous for the thermal baths as well. I felt that they are glorified hot water pools with high prices and decided to skip them.

A short guide for MBAs looking for a job in the tech world

Why Tech

In the past decade, interest among MBA grads towards tech companies has drastically gone up. If you are one of those, take a pause and ask yourself “why”. Of course, there are upsides; the tech sector is growing faster, pays well, has a much better work-life balance than finance, private equity, or consulting. But at the same time, do remember that you spend almost 50% of your waking hours at your workplace, so, you must as well enjoy it. If you enjoy flashy presentations, regular travel, or an opportunity to think about big M&A deals, then these things come much earlier in your career on the east coast than that on the west.

Why Product Manager

Product Manager is the dominant choice for an MBA grad. That does not mean this is the only possible role. Anecdotally speaking getting into a PM role at Google is harder than a Software Engineering role. And if you are an international student looking for visa sponsorships, then some tech companies are not willing to do that for the PM role. Lastly, if you are not from the Computer Science/Electrical Engineering background, it is harder to get shortlisted and clear interviews. My goal is not to discourage you from applying but make your expectations realistic.

Beyond Product Manager

Facebook, Google, Apple/Amazon, Netflix (FANG), and Microsoft are big businesses. They deal with a wide range of functions such as real estate to supply chain to short-term/long-term cash management. There are all sorts of finance-world equivalent roles beyond the PM role. I won’t be surprised if Google pays more in real-estate rents than say, WeWork. All big companies engage in regular M&A as well and have a full-time team staffed for that. Cisco, Apple, and Google, in particular, are known for M&A. Also, many companies have roles like Product Strategy and Product Marketing Manager. These roles are similar to Product Manager but attract much less attention since these titles do not look as coveted as the Product Manager. You can use these roles to get in and then can transition to a Product Manager role later.

Beyond tech companies, many venture firms, both domestic and foreign (like Rauketen and Softbank), invest in US tech startups. And for that, they hire analysts, principal, and associates. The job responsibilities range from scouting to deciding on the deals.

Does company size matter?

I like quantifying companies in three stages – stage 1 (pre-product market fit), stage 2 (post-product market fit, growth stage), and stage 3 (mature companies like FANGs). Do note that in a big company like one of the FANGs, you will find products which are in stage 1, stage 2, or stage 3.

If you need visa sponsorships and have loans to pay, then stay away from stage 1 companies. The risk-reward ratio is more skewed towards risk here. If this succeeds, even a small acquisition can net you a million-dollar or two easily.

In a stage 2 company, the likelihood of broad responsibility is higher. You could be doing inside sales one day and scouting for a new office lease the other. If you are willing to take the risk, then the long-term financial rewards are much higher here. If you need visa sponsorship, then you should join a stage 2 company with a non-US office as well. So, in case you don’t get H1-B before your OPT expires, the company can move you to one of the international offices. Confirm this after getting the offer letter and before signing it. Some companies like GitLab have a strong remote culture; this can be extra beneficial to someone concerned about the visa sponsorship issues.

In a stage 3 company, your role is going to be much more structured, narrow, and focused. The company won’t die overnight and would likely have international offices to move you to in case the visa situation does not work out. One caveat for those looking to apply for permanent residence (green card), join a company which did not do layoffs recently and is not planning to do in the next year. If a layoff happens than the permanent residence applications from that employer are usually rejected by the USCIS.

B2B, B2C, and marketplaces

B2C, Business-to-consumer startups, in their pure form, was thriving in the valley till about 2015. The users have swayed away from installing new apps, and more prominent companies have become good at making the whole startup a feature in their product. So, in 2019, software-only B2C exists, primarily, inside FANG and Snap. Two exciting classes have emerged beyond software-only B2C. One is prosumer (professional consumer) companies like recently-IPOed like Slack and startups like Savvy. The other exciting direction is the D2C, direct-to-consumer, startups like allbirds and brandless.com. D2C, in my opinion, requires a lot of operations and marketing experience. I notice more B2C startups focused on India, Latin America, and China than the USA these days.

B2B, business-to-business, are all in rage today. From Google cloud/Azure to small companies like Narmi, a lot of companies are capitalizing and building products for other businesses. While B2C is about understanding consumer psychology, B2B is about understanding the needs of another business.

Two-sided marketplaces are hard to grow. Most of them, in the US, are trying to build pieces of Craigslist, and some are doing well.

How to apply

Don’t apply directly for an off-campus opportunity. Go via a referral. The referral route ensures that you will get a response, even if it is a rejection. A lost of time direct applicants never get a response. And you don’t need to find someone you know. You need to find someone willing to spend 5 minutes submitting your resume internally. Culturally, it is not frowned upon to submit referrals for acquaintances. And if you get hired the person referring you will make referral fee which is usually a few 1000$.

Where to find stage 1 and stage 2 jobs

  1. Angel List
  2. Breakout list
  3. Y Combinator startups
  4. Hacker News’s who is hiring threads and a bit more readable version

Vienna in two days

Vienna is a historic city. First, a pivotal battle between the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe was fought in 1683 and then, during the second world war, significant support to Hitler came from Vienna.

Some tips for the first timers

  1. The dominant spoken language is German, but it is not hard to find English speakers.
  2. Public transport is great and a 24-hour pass costs 8 Euros.
  3. Most of the good spots are near the city center, so, don’t stay too far away.
  4. Toilets inside shopping malls, big grocery stores, and restaurants are usually free. Outside ones charge 0.5 Euro.

Which museum to see

Vienna is full of museums, and one can spend a week just checking out the museums. Entry cost varies from 4 Euros to 20 Euros. I would recommend deciding what you want to see and make a decision based on that. I was not interested in checking out natural history or art museums since they are similar to the museums I have seen before. Therefore, I picked “Museum of Art Fakes” and “Museum of Abortion and Contraception.” Both unusual and unique to Vienna.

Day 1

Start your day with a tip-only walking tour which gives you a good understanding of the history as well as the culture of this city. After the tour, spend time checking out St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a 13th century 444-ft tall Church which was the tallest building of its time.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

An old Nail Tree with nails nailed in for good luck is nearby and easy to miss.

Nail Tree

Next, head to Danube riverfront for a walk, it is a bit overhyped, so, feel free to skip it as well.

Danube Riverfront

Then head to the Open air market, Naschmarkt, prices are competitive, and it is a great place to grab fresh fruits.

Naschmarkt

Next, head to the Museum of Abortion and Contraception. It is small, it takes about an hour to see the full museum, and it has a good audio tour in multiple languages. Most writings on the wall, unfortunately, are only in German. The museum covers the legal, technological, and social battle fought for birth control rights.

Day 2

Head to the Republic of Kugel Mugel, a micronation inside Vienna. There isn’t much except a ball, so, don’t raise hopes.

Kugel Mugel

Then head to weird houses designed by Hundertwasser.

Weird house; weird design

And next door is the Museum of Art Fakes which covers the art forgery in great detail. The museum is small but has an unusually high-quality collection of both samples and anecdotes to learn from.

Museum of Art Fakes

Cryptocurrency trading

Background

There are three major types of financial exchanges

  1. Stocks and bonds
  2. Commodity exchange
  3. Foreign exchange (Forex)

Stock exchanges, where stocks and bonds are traded, are highly regulated and don’t transcend national boundaries. The listed companies have to follow disclosure protocols decided by the government and the exchange. The stocks that are traded on these exchanges are mostly unique to the exchanges. For example, Google is only listed on the American exchange of NASDAQ. So, to buy Google stock, you need to conform to American laws. Also, you can only sell these shares back on NASDAQ and that too only within certain hours of the day. Therefore, these exchanges have some monopoly power.

However, commodities can be easily resold and delivered on other domestic exchanges and with some effort across national boundaries as well. Therefore, unlike stock exchanges, commodity exchanges do not have a monopoly over what’s being traded on them. The only advantage they can offer to the traders is a marketplace where they can find counterparties to take a position against their trade. Traders don’t have to arbitrate, that is, buy from one market at a lower price and then sell to another at a higher. Just the fact they can do it ensures that prices differences are minimized. Crude oil is the most actively traded commodity in the world and unlike Google stock, a trader can trade in crude oil, practically, in any commodity exchange in the world. Some other commodities could be traded in exchanges specific to a country.

Foreign Exchange (forex) markets are different. In theory, one can be run a US Dollar – Euro foreign exchange in Nigeria. Therefore, these transcend national boundaries. Most forex markets, however, are regulated. Forex markets are practically 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Since major currency pairs like USD-EURO can be traded in any major forex exchange on the world, these markets practically never close. This distinction is subtle but important. For example, consider Apple Inc. which is listed on NASDAQ in the USA. If some bad news related to say Apple is published in media on Friday evening after NASDAQ is closed for trading then the traders cannot trade their Apple stocks till the Monday morning. But if Britain’s exit from EU (Brexit) is canceled on a Friday evening then the forex market will react immediately to the news.

Another subtle distinction is that big stock exchanges can enforce their rules and if a trader behaves badly then they can ban him/her for life. Getting banned from a major exchange is career suicide. A trader who, say specializes in tech stocks or healthcare stocks of a country cannot simply move to another country and learn the rules there. Commodity and forex markets are different. One can simply register in a different jurisdiction and start trading. Thanks to the Internet, being registered in Malta does not require one to live in Malta.

Type Monopoly Restricted to a country 24-hours a day
Stock exchange Yes Yes No
Commodity exchange No Partially Yes
Foreign exchange No No Yes

Crypto Exchanges

What’s traded on crypto exchanges is not unique to those exchanges. Just like USD can be purchased on pretty much every exchange, one can buy Bitcoin from any exchange, 24-hours a day. But while Forex markets are trading on the optimism or pessimism around a nation’s economy, commodity markets are pure speculation around demand and supply of a commodity. Therefore, cryptocurrency exchanges are akin to commodity exchanges. And since the goods are virtual, they easily transcend national boundaries. Therefore, inter-exchange trading implies price arbitrage will be rare in the longer run. So, what decides one exchange will win over another? Given that an exchange does not have the monopoly over what’s being traded, the only major barriers I can think of are either regulatory or higher liquidity.

Diet action plan from “How not to die” book

Checklist for Good Health

  • 3 servings of Beans
  • 1 serving   of Berries
  • 3 servings of other fruits
  • 1 serving  of Cruciferous vegetables
  • 2 servings of Greens
  • 2 servings of Other Vegetables
  • 1 serving  of Flaxseed
  • 1 serving  of Nuts
  • 1 serving  of Spices
  • 3 servings of Whole Grains
  • 5 servings of Beverages
  • 1 tablet of Vitamin B12 supplement
  • 1 workout session

Read More

Book Summary: How not to die by Dr. Michael Greger

The book is a detailed introduction on how what we eat can kill or save us and how the modern diet is making people sick. This book’s companion website is NutritionFacts.org.

This book and its summary are pretty long, I extracted the useful advice in a shorter article.

Salient Points

  1. Major killers in 1900’s USA were Pneumonia, TB,  and Diarrhea that are pathogen based while major killers in 2000s are heart diseases, cancer, and lung diseases that are lifestyle diseases. The developing world, which has shifted to a western diet, is seeing the same fate.
  2. Aging is tied to Telomeres, a tiny cap at the end of chromosomes, which prevents DNA from unraveling. Some amount of it is lost on every cell division. So, shortening of Telomere indicates aging. Smoking triples that rate. Meat, soda, dairy, fish, and refined foods are associated with shorter Telomeres. Plant diets with rich antioxidants are associated with longer Telomeres. Plant-based nutrition is the only intervention which helps in growing Telomerase, an enzyme which helps in regrowing Telomere.
  3. Vegetarians transitioning to meat once a week experienced a 146% increase in odds of heart attack, 152% increase in odds of stroke, 166% increase of odds of Diabetes, and 231% increase of odds of weight gain. India, despite a low increase in per-capita meat consumption, is facing high lifestyle disease rate due to an increase in refined foods like white rice. So, don’t just go for a vegetarian diet. French fries + Coke is vegetarian but not healthy. Go for an evidence-based diet. The current evidence suggests a whole plant-based diet is healthy. Calories in junk food are cheaper but when you take nutrition beyond calories into account then junk food loses out to whole plant-based diets. Moreover,  farms with animals are associated with a higher rate of cancer. Plant-only farms are not. Poultry farms are the worst. Pet companionship is associated with lower cancer rate though.
  4. A healthy lifestyle is key. Not smoking, not being obese, 30-mins daily exercise, and a plant-based diet is sufficient to wipe out 80% chance of chronic diseases. Non-genetic factors account for 80-90% of the major diseases today. For example, colon cancer rates were 1/5th in Japan compared to the USA in 1950. Now, due to increased meat consumption, they are almost the same. Diet is a gradual process and not all or nothing. If you eat Pepperoni Pizza once a week, going down to once a month is better than not giving it up at all.
  5. Thanks to dairy and meat lobbies, you will hear “eat more veggies” message but no “eat less meat” message. The latter message will be made more cryptic by saying “avoid saturated and trans fat”. But in reality, no amount of trans fat is safe as it always leads to a risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). However, trans fat is unavoidable in a non-vegan diet. Order of nutrition quality: Unprocessed plant food > Processed plant food = Unprocessed animal food > Ultra-processed plant food = Processed animal food.
  6. Patients regularly overestimate the benefits of drugs. Doctors are hesitant, to tell the truth since no patient would take a drug which has only a 5% chance of success. Big pharma spends a lot on advertisements. They advertise drug, not diet changes. Drugs make money for them, diet changes do not.
  7. Washing vegetables remove 50% of pesticides. Washing in 5% vinegar (expensive) or 10% saltwater (cheaper) is much more effective. Rinse again after saltwater though.
  8. After consuming acidic food, rinse the mouth with water to avoid enamel decay. However, don’t brush since that will damage the already softened enamel.

Daily Dozen checklist of Good Health

  1. 3 servings of Beans
  2. 1 serving   of Berries
  3. 3 servings of other fruits
  4. 1 serving  of Cruciferous vegetables
  5. 2 servings of Greens
  6. 2 servings of Other Vegetables
  7. 1 serving  of Flaxseed
  8. 1 serving  of Nuts
  9. 1 serving  of Spices
  10. 3 servings of Whole Grains
  11. 5 servings of Beverages
  12. 1 workout session

Read More

Prague in Two Days

Prague, or “Praha” in Chezch, is probably the most famous city in Eastern Europe. The city boasts medical castles, museums, and quite a few quirky attractions.

Read More

This website was compromised

For 6-months, this website was compromised. I am not sure what exactly happened, but it was most likely password-reuse, which lend itself to this problem. The problem became apparent when I first noticed an unusual link to a ride-sharing service. Later, I saw more of those links. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t merely sit and scan every blog post manually and decided to write a small interactive link checker tool. This tool whitelists the starting domain and allows you to whitelist URLs on a per-domain basis. The whitelist is persisted at the end of execution and will be used next time you use the tool.

Say, your website is example.com,

The tool starts from the starting URL and scans all the links on the page. If any of those links are in the domain, they are scanned further. If they are not, then they are checked against the whitelist, the non-whitelisted domains would be prompted back to you for whitelisting.

Using the tool, I caught quite a few more such bad links.
Note: The tool does not execute Javascript. Thus, it will miss any dynamically generated links.

Nationality

He is living in Europe.
He is an American citizen.
His parents are from Mexico.
In Europe, he is an American.
In America, he is Hispanic/Mexican.
In Mexico, he is a Mexican of European descent.

Stanford CS251: Cryptocurrencies, blockchains, and smart contracts

Lectures

  1. Introduction
  2. Creating a Digital currency
  3. Bitcoin Overview
  4. Bitcoin Blockchain
  5. Bitcoin Mining
  6. Bitcoin Miner interactions and Game Theory
  7. Cryptocurrencies: Community, Economics, and Politics
  8. Alternative Consensus
  9. Wallet & Anonymity
  10. Anonymity on Blockchain
  11. Altcoins
  12. Ethereum
  13. Ethereum
  14. Ethereum Governance
  15. Bitcoin Side-chains (guest talk)
  16. Bitcoin Payment channel
  17. Guest talk on Legal by Ben Lawsky  – does not seem worthy of transcribing
  18. Advanced Topics – Quantum Computing, Threshold Signatures, and storing secret state on public chains
  19. Advanced Topics – Smart property, publicly verifiable randomness, and prediction markets
  20. Guest talk by Adam Ludwin (CEO, chain.com) – does not seem worthy of transcribing

The notes are based on the 2016 version of the course CS251