And other surprising things about moving from Zoom to the real world

Photo: Getty Images

In March 2020, video conferencing became my new reality overnight. Colleagues that were once full-fledged, living and breathing organisms snuck their way into laptop screens, appearing in their full pixelated glory with kids and partners and plants in tow.

We showed up for each other, day after two-dimensional day, talking and talking and talking, deciding, deliberating, asking can you hear me alright, and are you on mute and Oh, what part of New York?

But then a vaccine arrived in January (thank god we suck at predicting things), and the US started skiing down the bunny slope of case counts…

I listened to popular Trap music from Russia to South Africa for strictly educational purposes. Here’s what I found.

Trap is the new pop.

What started out as a fringe hip-hop subculture in the South has, undoubtedly, taken over the world. If you’ve listened to any radio play in the last five years, you’ve probably heard it’s stuttering kick-drums and synthesizer melodies. You know Trap has gone mainstream when Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift succumb to its alluring, netherworldly bassline and over-autotuned, catchy hooks.

Beyond the unique sound, Trap songs tend to be aggressive and self-aggrandizing in lyrical content usually extolling (or, less often, lamenting) drugs and violence.

There’s also a common visual aesthetic: a nocturnal vibe, pockmarked with…

It’s getting old.

Originally posted on That Damn Optimist, a newsletter of long-form writing on culture, tech and a little bit of hip-hop.

Either Sun Tzu or Mark Twain or Michael J. Fox once muttered may you live in interesting times under their breath to some bad guy and damn, did that stick.

These times feel so interesting that named unprecedented the People’s Choice Word of the Year. I am not sure what the actual award is, but sources say it may involve a lifetime supply of cake for everyone who says it, which may explain why everyone’s saying it. All. The…

And no, they don’t go great together.

Originally posted on That Damn Optimist, a newsletter of long-form writing on culture, tech and a little bit of hip-hop.

I have a theory backed by almost no research.

As we grow older, there is a lot of societal pressure to mature, to become less child-like in our activities.

This leads us to maturing in healthy ways, like developing self-awareness and independence. And in less healthy ones, like losing touch with the feelings of wonder and joy that come easier to children.

Want to read this story later? Save it in Journal.

My theory is that, as adults, we never…

It was a weird year.

Originally posted on That Damn Optimist, a newsletter of long-form writing on culture, tech and a little bit of hip-hop.

Being the paragon of enlightenment that I am, I’ve written a grand total of two articles reflecting on years past.

One was 19 lessons I learned in 2019, which was like 15 lessons too long to be digestible. Another was Some Random Dude’s Top 10 Books of 2017 which, though technically accurate, made it sound like I read far more than 10 books that year and need to cull my list like it’s the damn Pulitzer Prize.

(What happened in…

Why I miss Crazy Frog

Photo: mariusFM77/Getty Images

Before the iPhone, Venmo, or Spotify, there were ringtones. You might remember them fondly as those lo-fidelity sounds we used to communicate our highly refined music tastes every time someone called our cell. But ringtones were so much more than that. A billion-dollar industry silenced seemingly overnight, ringtones laid the foundations of modern mobile consumer technology and set the stage for the app store and mobile commerce as we know it today. And they are proof that even silly-seeming products can have an impact long after their memory fades away.

The rise of the ringtone

The first mobile phone call was not made by a…

Consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional businesses and looking for alternatives to exploitative or destructive practices

Tech workers and others arrive as Amazon Employees for Climate Justice lead a walkout and rally at the company’s headquarters
Tech workers and others arrive as Amazon Employees for Climate Justice lead a walkout and rally at the company’s headquarters
Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images

In the process of creating stuff people want to buy, businesses also create a vast medley of byproducts and aftereffects that are decidedly less good. They add to what feels like a pretty depressing state of affairs: the climate crisis is reaching intimidating, unprecedented heights, millions of people suffer daily from environmental health risks around the world, mental health issues are driving a steady uptick in suicide rates, obesity is on the rise, inhumane working conditions have been normalized for a nontrivial portion of the population, and so on.

It’s clear that something’s got to give. And I believe we…

And how writing down one learning a day became my favorite growth hack (that’s not a hack at all)

I don’t actually know this child. Thanks Unsplash!

Everybody talks about the importance of learning — from experience, from mistakes, from successes.

And there is no doubt we take away something of the many events tucked into our days. Based on the actions and reactions we observe, we develop mental models to navigate the external world.

The more seismic an event relative to others in our lives, the more likely we are to extract its lesson. Being frequently late to the bus sucks but rarely forces us to overhaul how we think about getting around in the way, say, being late to an international flight might.

For most…

And some reflections on my time at Uber

As I leave Uber and take on a new role, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on my time in ridesharing and on why I’m excited about what’s next.

On Uber

My last day at Uber was a few weeks ago, after a little more than a year and a half as an Operations Manager. I joined in August 2016 thinking, I can’t wait to skateboard around the office and shoot nerf guns for a living. That’s what startup life is all about, right?

Turns out it mostly just people eating pie.


I had no way of knowing that I joined the ridesharing behemoth ahead…

This isn’t me. Also, that’s a newspaper. But hey, close enough. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

This year, like other years, I read stuff.

And some of it was pretty good. So I figured I’d share my favorite books of 2017 along with my strongly biased summaries of them. The goal is to give you another data point to consider when choosing what to read next, based on the opinion of either a stranger on the internet or, if I know you (hi!), based on how much you like me (or, more likely, don’t).

I won’t bore you with my struggle to become a persistent reader, or how becoming one made me, as Business Insider promised, one of the world’s most highly effective CEOs…

Gil Kazimirov

A Damn Optimist | Newslettering @

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