Reverse the Ban on Supersonic Air Travel

With the first hundred days of Trump’s presidency right around the corner, Trump and his close advisors are about to set the pace of their Administration by proclaiming a number of Executive Actions that could become the guide posts of their policymaking over the next four years. One area that is critically important to me is commercial air travel. I believe the US airline industry has brought enormous personal fulfillment and economic benefit to millions of Americans, and I think Trump has a great opportunity to bring even more benefit to Americans by increasing the speed at which we travel.

Specifically, I propose that Trump reverse the ban of supersonic flight over the US. Reversing the ban on supersonic travel over the US would facilitate tremendous investment in the development of new supersonic airplanes, in addition to drastically reducing in-air travel time for American workers and goods. But first, let’s take a look back at why and when the FAA banned commercial supersonic air travel in the first place:

In 1976, amidst technophobe skepticism, the FAA banned civilian aircraft from creating a sonic boom over the US. The ban was due largely because of NIMBY groups such as Citizens League Against the Sonic Boom and the Anti-Concorde project who successfully lobbied the FAA towards creating a ban on civil sonic booms. And despite the baseless fear-mongering, such as claiming the windows in your house will break, the FAA did actually conduct a study with NASA and the U.S. Air Force regarding the effects of sonic booms. The results proved that the effects after 680 sonic booms over one particular testing site caused no significant structural damage. Thus, by sticking the the science, one has to reasonably believe that the effects of sonic booms are overstated, and more broadly, the ban on civil sonic booms is holding back technological progress.

The recently founded aerospace startup, Boom Technology, has recently provided a glimpse of hope as it aims to build a commercially-viable aircraft that is faster and lighter than the Concorde. But what good is this for American travelers if the policy of the FAA does not progress along with the new technology?

For President-elect Trump, whose own campaign was literally and figuratively propelled by a fine American-made jet, reversing the ban on supersonic air travel would be an easy early win towards dismantling needless regulation and bringing America back to the former glory of the Jet Age.


11 2016

Thiel Makes the Case for Trump

For anyone following the U.S. Presidential election campaign over the past two years, it is clear that so many of the events during this cycle are unprecedented and that this country is about to make a vital difficult decision for its leadership next week. Importantly, for the first time in many years, the nominee for one of the two major parties in America is a Washington-outsider, Donald Trump. While Trump’s crude comments and uncouth behavior in his personal life are inexcusable, my beliefs align strongly with Trump and Thiel on the serious issues where government has a large role to play. I agree that, as Thiel puts it, the “happy but misleading consensus about things [in America]” is a dangerous public opinion that will worsen a variety of issues over the next four years. Specifically, the big issues where Trump has spoken truth to the powerful Washington elites include:

  • Questioning the concept of American Exceptionalism.
  • Questioning the force of optimism, “Hope” (e.g. Obama ’08), without hard work.
  • Questioning our foreign trade deals, which have resulted in a $1/2 trillion deficit.
  • Questioning America’s role in fighting five simultaneous wars.
  • Questioning the effectiveness of our immigration policies.
  • Questioning the effectiveness of a government-based healthcare system.
  • Questioning general government bloat and inefficiency.


As Thiel puts it, Trump’s rejection of the misleading rhetoric in American politics over the past 30 years is not crazy, instead it is staring reality in the face and refusing to believe in bubble-thinking. And by questioning conventional beliefs about our biggest problems, we can finally begin to change our government and policies in a way that creates a better life for all Americans, not just the political and social elites.

I understand that the early votes are already being tallied and most of the electorate have made up their mind, but I encourage you to at least listen to Thiel’s voice of reason amidst the chaos in the media:

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10 2016

The Internet Isn’t Free

The VP of Google Display Advertising, Neal Mohen, once commented on the DoubleClick blog in 2014:

Advertising helps fund the digital world we love today — inspiring videos, informative websites, entertaining apps and services that connect us with friends around the world. 

I can’t help but think about this on a regular basis with my project Concorde. I am happy to invest my time in building an informative website for free, but the ongoing operational costs are not insignificant. Each month that the site continues to operate, I owe money to each of the vendors who keep my service humming along. That’s fair  I am happy to pay for the business-critical services, such as web hosting, email marketing, email hosting, SSL certificates, code repositories, and access to flight data. But it’s also nice to be compensated in return for providing a website that thousands of people have now come to find value on a regular basis. So, what option do I have to make money?

The quickest and easiest path to monetization is online advertising. While the online advertising industry has developed an unpopular reputation, Google’s Adsense program is considered the gold standard and deploys a lot of effort to ensure their quality of advertisers and publishers are top notch. The headline on the Adsense homepage says it all:

Turn your passion into profit. AdSense is a free, simple way to earn money by placing ads on your website.

So, that’s what I did. I placed three square banner ads at the bottom of the Concorde homepage and the deals index page:


And that’s it. Now for every 1,000 pageviews of either of the pages mentioned above, I am earning about $10-20 on average, which is effectively $0.01 – $0.02 per view. This is really great news to me because it pays my bills, and it’s great for the Concorde users because it keeps the service free. What’s not to love about tasteful and thoughtful online advertising?


09 2016

Ski Jump Turned Waterslide

If you haven’t heard about the Park City summer Slip N’ Soar, watch this video quickly:

Holy cow! Two weeks ago I had the privilege of being able to slide down the various ski jump ramps at the Utah Olympic Park three times. What an adrenaline-rush of an experience! As I reflect on my experience of staring down the beast-of-a-slide, and the sudden launch 20 feet in the air, I can’t recall the last time I have felt so nervous.

During this past month of Olympic fever in Rio and the onslaught of newspaper editorials complaining about the high cost to build one-time use infrastructure, I think this facility provides a positive example. The Utah Olympic Park is located just outside Park City, Utah, up in the mountains near many of the venues originally built for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. This facility has seen great reuse year-round, every year since the Olympics were held there nearly 15 years ago.

Most of the facility’s use is during the Winter, and the summer-specific facility comprises primarily of the ski jumping pool, which is an official training site for the U.S. Olympic Team. This dual-use type of function had me also thinking about the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, which also serves both recreation users and Olympic athletes in training. What could be better? World class training facilities and world class recreation all in one place. Be sure to check it out next time you are near Park City!


08 2016


Today I completed my first-ever crowdfunding investment. Beyond my excitement for the direct beneficiary, DSTLD, I feel as if this is “one small check for man, and one giant leap for mankind”. With just a couple clicks of a button, I was able to harness my excitement and support DSTLD in the form of a small investment. Moreover, I am taking ownership in their success. This is what crowdfunding is all about: I am not an accredited investor, but I am actively earning an income and I am seeking to invest my savings in young companies who I believe will grow big.

DSTLD is a particular fashion company who I believe will grow big because they’ve focused on providing a great staple product, jeans, at prices that are much more affordable than traditional designer labels. I first became a customer of theirs when they were named “20Jeans” in 2014, as I was drawn by their sleek web design and the promise of high quality jeans for just $30. And when the jeans arrived, it was clear to me this company was the real deal when it comes to quality. From the website to the packaging to the fabric, I was pleased all around. I still wear the items that I purchased over two years ago.

If you’re interested in startup fashion or the possibility of contributing to a promising crowdfunding campaign, I suggest you check out DSTLD before their round closes in the next couple of weeks: DSTLD SeedInvest Campaign

DSTLD Pitch Deck:



07 2016

Caring Deeply About Aesthetic

During my time at Wake Forest, I naturally asked my friends why they decided to attend Wake Forest, often the answer was the following: “When I first visited campus, it felt and looked exactly what I imagined a college should be.” Wake Forest’s campus design is traditional in every sense of the word, with every detail down to the color of the bricks being deliberately designed. The result of Wake Forest’s deliberate effort is a strong sense of place and warm feelings elicited in prospective and current students. But there’s more: Wake’s deliberate design choices run deep beyond the surface. For example, their communications aesthetic is equally strong and aligned exactly with the school’s mission.

Wake’s primary san serif typeface is “Avenir”, which was a humanist font developed by the late Adrian Frutiger. While Frutiger developed Avenir in the late 1980’s he later recalled, “Working on it, I always had human nature in mind.” — The Wake Forest mission “Pro Humanitate” (for humanity) aligns exactly with the intellectual ideas behind the font.

Aesthetic doesn’t mean shiny, new, and without substance. Instead aesthetic embodies beauty; both in an object’s form and function. As I think about building products and organizations in the startup world in SF, I can’t help but admire the companies and people who care deeply about aesthetics. It matters.

One open source project with a mission of beautifying the world, Bootstrap, is an interesting one because it causes an externality. On the one hand, using bootstrap to develop software interfaces is fast, flexible, and usually more beautiful that what you can easily make on your own. On the flip side, Bootstrap is a signal of weakness, a signal to users that the product owners do not care very much about its design; they are willing to outsource aesthetic to a run-of-the-mill open source project. I am curious what other developers and designers think about Bootstrap given its popularity.

As I have been developing Concorde, I have invested considerable thought into its aesthetic. The logo is inspired from a t-shirt I bought in Mykonos. And the font family used on the site is again a work of Adrian Frutiger: “Neue Frutiger”. Since the Frutiger font family is often used on airport signs around the world, I thought that visitors to the site may see design similarities between an airport departures board and Concorde.

I firmly believe that the more intentionality and thoughtfulness a product designer places on aesthetic, the more positive feelings and better user experience the product provides.


06 2016

The Upcoming Eczema Gold Rush

One health issue I have dealt with all of my life is a skin condition known as eczema. To be clear, this skin condition is relatively minor in the grand scheme of health issues, however, it does affect millions of Americans and many millions more around the world. Specifically, eczema is an inflammatory skin reaction, similar to that of an allergy, and can flare up due to poor skin hydration, fragrances in soaps and shampoos, and excessive itching.

To deal with eczema, I’ve applied various recipes of special moisturizing creams and soaps throughout my life that have aimed to suppress inflammation and protect my immune system. Beyond the embarrassing aesthetic of irritated skin, the real danger of eczema is that an inflamed area of the skin is at risk of being infected by all of the bacteria that a city-living person experiences throughout their day. Once an infection begins, the immune system becomes seriously weakened as it fights chronic skin inflammation, in addition to a major infection.

So, with all of the aggravation that eczema causes, it has always been surprising to me that there have been few new treatments available beyond mostly steroidal moisturizing creams, which are not healthy for longterm use. Experimental treatments have been limited to light therapy, and not a single new molecular entity (NME) has been approved in the past 15 years. Not to worry, because this year two new NME’s are expected to receive FDA-approval:

Anacor’s cream, Crisaborole, and Regeneron’s drug, Dupilumab, are positioned to capture the market. It’s unclear yet which drug will receive approval first, and which drug will lead the market, however, Wall Street is already taking notice at multiple-billions of dollars in expected sales. The WSJ reported on eczema treatments again yesterday: New Eczema Treatments Could Be Available Soon (Hint: Pfizer, which announced it will acquire Anacor, and Regeneron, are both rated as strong growth stocks in the Biotech industry.)

Last Fall I visited with Dr. Guttman-Yassky in New York after I learned about her leading role on the Dupilumab clinical trial. While I did not end up applying for the trial, I am excited for the near future of new nonsteroidal eczema treatments that are healthy for longterm use.



05 2016

The Transfer of Wealth Versus the Creation of Wealth

Last month I wrote about some tips and tricks for making money with Amazon Associates. For example, by finding cheap traffic sources, any savvy internet marketer can make thousands of dollars each money by simply funneling traffic from one website to Amazon. That is the transfer of wealth. Specifically, transferring web traffic, eyeballs, from one website, to another website (Amazon) which is able to monetize those eyeballs much more effectively. A simple and nifty arbitrage trick. No new wealth created in the world, just wealth transferred from one place to another. This type of activity happens all of the time in finance, where investors shuffle their wealth from one investment to the next.

This month, I want to contrast last month’s blog post by making a note on the creation of wealth, an activity that I find much more interesting. For example, with my flight deals website, Concorde, I created a new website that (I hope) provides value to prospective travelers. I took a new idea in my head and I built something. Two weeks ago, after eight months of consistent part-time work, including over 700 code commits, I earned my first commission from the site. Exciting! $20. Not much for all of that work, you ask? Yes, but it’s worth it, because creating new wealth takes time. Every journey starts with a single step. It takes attention to detail, iteration, feedback, listening to the haters, and rebuilding. This type of work, creating wealth by building things, is much more appealing and inspiring to me. Come check out what I am building:


04 2016

Amazon Associates Arbitrage: Amazon’s Own Success May Be Hurting Themselves

If you’re reading this post, then you’re probably already aware of and their dominating marketshare in eCommerce. Amazon sells nearly anything you can think of that can be shipped, for the some of the lowest prices available anywhere. Some products, such as digital cables, net Amazon $5-10 per transaction. Other products, like snow shovels, are loss leading products (a net negative $20-30), where Amazon actually loses money but wins mindshare amongst their customer base in the long run. But one fact that may be less well known is that any tech-savvy user can earn money by promoting any product available for sale on the Amazon website. This program is known as the Amazon Associates program.

Members of Amazon Associates earn commission when they refer a user to Amazon who ends up buying something on the site within the next 24 hours. The commission structure depends on the product category, and scales with volume, which fairly rewards the associate as they grow their traffic. So, for associates big and small, for example, this means they can start earning extra income from a book that they are trying to promote, or larger networks can offer discounts to their users in exchange for simply purchasing their products via Or relatively obscure search engines such as DuckDuckGo can make a lot of money without implementing many traditional ads. While Amazon Associates undoubtedly helped Amazon grow its revenues and its traffic through the mid-2000’s, I am writing this post to provide a different perspective on how it might be losing them a lot of money in transactions where their margins are already thin.

Now, let’s step aside from the traditional small and big site Amazon Associates mentality. Instead let’s think about Amazon’s incentive structure more deeply from the perspective of “How much can I earn per click?”, regardless of where my traffic comes from? Let’s do some simple math with two assumptions: (1) the average order total on Amazon is $20 and (2) the average commission per order is $1.

Number of Clicks Conversion Rate Orders Comission Earnings Per Click
1000 1% 10 $10.00 $0.01
1000 2% 20 $20.00 $0.02
1000 3% 30 $30.00 $0.03
1000 4% 40 $40.00 $0.04
1000 5% 50 $50.00 $0.05

Now, if you were to take a random sample of 1,000 Americans, what percentage of them are likely to have ordered something from Amazon in the past 24 hours? In 2006, it may have been less than 1%, but since the introduction of Amazon Prime, that number is quickly on the rise, to a number likely over 2-3%. For certain segments of the population, such as upper middle class families and “techies”, this percentage is likely to be even higher around 5-6%, resulting in potential earnings of over $0.05 per click. The close reader may call my bluff here, but I assure you this data is not far off, considering around 15% of the American population is subscribed to Prime.

Now, where is the opportunity? The opportunity lies in being able to find quality traffic for less than $0.03 – $0.04 CPC elsewhere on the web, and then divert it directly to Amazon. Let me explain with a simple example:




Above is a Reddit Ad for Zimbabwean dollars, with my unique Amazon Associates link being the destination URL. You may be surprised to learn that you can buy foreign currency on Amazon. But it’s true! And an advertisement for money… who doesn’t want money? This ad is a recipe for a high click through rate. Take a look at the results from a campaign I ran earlier this month on Reddit, targeting people interested in technology and who live in the U.K.:

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.37.47 PM

$0.02 per click! Amazingly cheap clicks! Why? Reddit is a social site with low purchase intent. But in the context of Amazon, this is not very important, so long as enough of those clicks buy — anything — on Amazon in the next 24 hours. Out of habit in 2016, as mentioned above, at least 4-5% of these clicks are likely to purchase something from Amazon within the 24 hour cookie timeframe. The results? Check it out:

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.42.55 PM


170 items ordered, which is around a 3.5% conversion rate from the originating 4,800 clicks. Total earnings: about $175 USD. Net profit: $75. Not bad for less than ten minutes of work!

This is too good to be true, you must ask? Maybe. Reddit (in addition to Google and others) no longer allows affiliate ads on their ads platform, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sell Amazon products on their platform again. But do you know of another place on the web where you can get clicks for under $0.05, and from people who buy things on Amazon? Give it a shot! Best of all, your conversion rate will only continue to increase along with Amazon’s overall success. You might be surprised to see your results.



03 2016

The Cartesian Product

This is the first technical post on this blog after seven years of writing.

Recently as I was thinking about how to automate flight search with my flight deals website, Concorde, I realized that I wanted to be able to input any two sets of airport pairs, and then find the cheapest flights between those two airports. For example, I wanted to be able to discover the cheapest flights between the New York-area airports and a dozen or so airports in the Caribbean. The two sets of airports look something like this:

originAirports = [(“EWR”),(“JFK”),(“LGA”)]

destinationAirports = [(“NAS”),(“SJU”),(“SXM”),(“STT”),(“GCM”), (“SDQ”),(“MBJ”),(“AUA”),(“CUR”),(“CUN”),(“PTP”),(“PLS”)]

In order to search flights between all of the possible pairs of airports given the two distinct sets, I need to generate a third set, a list of all possible airport pairs between the two sets. The strategy for accomplishing this task, the Cartesian product, is a topic that I had covered in my discrete mathematics class at Wake Forest. According to Wikipedia, this is how the Cartesian product works:

That is, for sets A and B, the Cartesian product A × B is the set of all ordered pairs(a, b) where a is an element of A and b is an element of B.

Wikipedia’s definition is a fancy way of saying that in order to generate a set of all possible airport pairs given two other sets of airports, I need to multiply the original sets together. Fortunately, Ruby (1.9+) has this functionality built-in with the “product” method:

airportPairs = originAirports.product(destinationAirports)

=> [[“EWR”, “NAS”], [“EWR”, “SJU”], [“EWR”, “SXM”], [“EWR”, “STT”], [“EWR”, “GCM”], [“EWR”, “SDQ”], [“EWR”, “MBJ”], [“EWR”, “AUA”], [“EWR”, “CUR”], [“EWR”, “CUN”], [“EWR”, “PTP”], [“EWR”, “PLS”], [“JFK”, “NAS”], [“JFK”, “SJU”], [“JFK”, “SXM”], [“JFK”, “STT”], [“JFK”, “GCM”], [“JFK”, “SDQ”], [“JFK”, “MBJ”], [“JFK”, “AUA”], [“JFK”, “CUR”], [“JFK”, “CUN”], [“JFK”, “PTP”], [“JFK”, “PLS”], [“LGA”, “NAS”], [“LGA”, “SJU”], [“LGA”, “SXM”], [“LGA”, “STT”], [“LGA”, “GCM”], [“LGA”, “SDQ”], [“LGA”, “MBJ”], [“LGA”, “AUA”], [“LGA”, “CUR”], [“LGA”, “CUN”], [“LGA”, “PTP”], [“LGA”, “PLS”]]

Or view the results as they would appear in the Terminal:

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 4.19.46 PM

And that’s it! Just three commands in Terminal to generate a list of all possible airport combinations, the Cartesian Product, between a set of New York-area airports and popular Caribbean destinations.

I hope this was helpful!

Related resources:



02 2016