Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 16


I discovered Jim Simons when I read his obituary in the New York Times earlier this month. I was fascinated by his story and decided to get his biographical book referenced in the obituary.

Jim Simons was a brilliant mathematician who believed that financial market prediction was a maths problem. He hired a team of mathematicians and scientists to develop computer models that analysed historical financial data to predict future market prices. They did all this without any financial or business background.

Simons’ company, Renaissance Technologies, created big data machine learning models years before they became fashionable in Silicon Valley. The company regularly outperformed the markets and produced huge returns for its employees and investors.

Renaissance Technologies was able to identify and exploit profitable inefficiencies in the financial markets overlooked by other investors.

Simons told a colleague in the early days of Renaissance Technologies that ‘if we have enough data, I know we can make predictions.’ The team spent years collecting and cleaning historical financial data for their models, which gave them a competitive advantage over their rivals.

The predictive computer models were so sophisticated and powerful that even the team didn’t fully understand how it made financial trades based on the analysed data. The goal of these models was not to be always right but to be right enough to generate profits for the company and its investors.

The Man Who Solved the Market is one of the best books I have read this year. Gregory Zuckerman wrote a compelling biographical account of Simons’ journey from academia to finance and the involvement of all the men who helped him build the models that beat the market.


📺 (TV Show)

Diarra from Detroit is an enjoyable TV show. What makes the show special is the way Diarra Kilpatrick tackles the TV crime mystery genre. She blends this genre with romantic-comedy (Rom-Com) elements, ensuring that seriousness is balanced by comic relief.

Diarra Kilpatrick plays Diarra Brickland, a Black woman going through divorce proceedings, who moves back to her childhood home in the Detroit projects. She goes on a date with a guy she meets through a dating app, and he then ghosts her because he was kidnapped. Despite her friends’ concerns, she spends her energy trying to figure out what happened to him.

Gillian Tett, in Anthro-Vision, said, ‘a good story catches the audience’s attention by offering something familiar, but a better story opens their eyes to something strange too, that they did not expect, like the second half of a domino.’

Diarra Kilpatrick weaves familiar and strange elements in this show by telling stories of Black characters in a familiar TV genre that historically rarely features them. The fact that the show’s protagonist is a strong Black woman only highlights the strangeness of this show and what makes it successful. She has created and executive produced a show that is personal for her but universal for the audience.

Other Black creators have examined familiar genres from a Black perspective and produced fresh stories. Jordan Peele is famous for his exploration of the horror genre via movies like Get Out and Us. Dewayne Perkins and Tracy Oliver tackled the slasher horror genre in their movie, The Blackening, by infusing it with comedy and satire. Jeymes Samuel did likewise in his movies: The Harder They Fall (Western genre) and The Book of Clarence (Faith-Based genre).


Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 15


“It’s well-known that people are bad at predicting the future. But this misses an important nuance: We are very good at predicting the future, except for the surprises—which tend to be all that matter.” Morgan Hounsel

Same as Ever: Timeless Lessons on Risk, Opportunity and Living a Good Life

I mentioned in previous posts how the greatness of David and Tom Brady wasn’t predicted at the beginning until it became self-evident. 

In his 2005 Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”

In this post, I will focus on the story of a tech product whose success wasn’t predicted before launch even by its creators. It was a complete surprise for them when the product went viral. 

OpenAI released ChatGPT (3.5) for free on 30 November 2022. The product was regarded within the company as a “low-key research preview” of an upcoming more powerful version called GPT-4. The 3.5 version was released to see how the public would respond to a less powerful AI tool before introducing a more powerful version. A chatbot interface was overlaid on the AI language model so that the general public could interact with the product without needing a PhD degree. 

Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, on the night before ChatGPT was released predicted to the team that the product was unlikely to generate much attention. He said ChatGPT would get “no more (attention) than one tweet thread with five thousand likes.”

Once the product was launched, it went viral. User engagement overwhelmed the company’s servers and computing power had to be pulled from other OpenAI projects to meet the demand. It would be the fastest-growing consumer application in history. It reached 100 million monthly active users within two months. TikTok took about nine months to reach 100 million users while Instagram took 2.5 years. 

But what made ChatGPT so successful? 

Derek Thompson, in his book, Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction, said “To sell something familiar, make it surprising. To sell something surprising make it familiar.

My theory is that OpenAI got viral engagement by putting a familiar chatbot interface in front of a complex technology that generated enough surprising results for users. 

ChatGPT 3.5 ensured that OpenAI could release its more powerful ChatGPT 4 model at a premium subscription price of $20 per month and also launch a premium enterprise version for organisations.  

ChatGPT’s success didn’t only get the consumers’ attention but also competitors’ attention. There has been a slew of comparable free and paid AI models in the market since ChatGPT’s debut. Everyone is trying to replicate that viral launch but falling short. ChatGPT made generative AI mainstream but its success wasn’t predictable pre-launch, especially by those who released it. 

If we could predict surprising things then they wouldn’t be surprising. 


📺 (TV Show)

ShogunThere are still 8 months left in 2024 but Shogun will be one of my top 5 TV shows at the end of the year. It’s that good.  This 10-episode limited series is based on the 1975 book of the same title by James Clavell. There is a 1980 TV miniseries adaptation of the book which is a classic but this 2024 version holds up very well. 

Shogun is about an English sailor (John Blackthorne) caught up in the political warfare of feudal Japan. The show explores honour, sacrifice, tradition, loyalty, ambition, power and religion.  

John Blackthorne is the perfect stand-in for the audience as we navigate 1600s Japanese culture through him. He struggles with the disconnect between Western and Eastern cultures and over time; he starts to assimilate via immersion. 

We see Japan in all its glory as feudal lords strive to increase their power before the child emperor comes of age to assume the throne. In the background, Portuguese traders and priests manoeuvre to control the lucrative Asian trading posts. 

All the Japanese characters in the show speak in Japanese, so audiences must read subtitles to understand the dialogue. This choice by the TV show creators situates the audience in a Japanese mindset. The only English dialogue in the show occurs when John Blackthorne converses with the few characters who also speak English. 

Nerdwriter1 did a great YouTube video essay which explores the non-use of English subtitles in the 1980 TV show and its use in the 2024 version. 


Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 14


I talked about Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady in my last post. I mentioned how NFL teams dismissed Brady based on appearances. He didn’t fit their perception of an ideal quarterback. I will talk about the Biblical story of David and Saul in this post which overlaps with the Bledsoe and Brady story. 

The Bible tells the story of the Israelites going to their leader, the prophet Samuel, who was coming to the end of his life and requesting that their next leader be a king instead of one of Samuel’s sons. This was because Samuel’s sons were corrupt and the people wanted a king like nearby nations.

 Samuel and God decided to honour their request despite their annoyance. God directed Samuel to anoint a man called Saul. The Bible described Saul as a handsome young man who was taller than anyone else. He looked like a leader and when he was announced to the people; they were delighted. They got what they wanted. King Saul started well but turned out to be a bad leader. God then decided to replace him after too many instances of disobedience. 

God directed Samuel to find Saul’s replacement. He was sent to a man named Jesse who had several sons. Jesse’s eldest son, Eliab, who was tall and handsome was presented to Samuel. Samuel assumed Eliab was the replacement king in waiting.  

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” ‭‭

1 Samuel‬ ‭16‬:‭ 7 (‭NIVUK‬‬)

Six other sons were presented to Samuel and were all rejected. Samuel was confused and asked Jesse if he had any more sons. Jesse admitted that he had one more son named David who was away tending the sheep because he was the youngest. 

David was immediately recalled home and presented to Samuel and he was anointed to be the next King of Israel. David would face many trials and tribulations before he ascended to the throne but would go on to be the greatest King in Israel’s history

Saul passed the eye test because he fit the Israelites’ perception of a leader. Everyone expected him to be successful but yet he failed. David’s youth caused everyone to overlook his leadership potential. Humans usually use current appearances and past performances to make future predictions. These are tangible things. Predicting future greatness or success also relies on the ‘intangibles’ as the stories of David and Tom Brady demonstrate.


📺 (Film)

On the line This film is set in the 1960s and the protagonist is Agnes who is a telephone switchboard operator on the Channel Islands. She gets a call from a distressed woman who says she has been kidnapped. Agnes has to try to figure out where this woman is and help the police find her.

On the line is a chamber drama. This is a term used to describe films and TV shows that primarily take place within a single location or a confined space. Chamber dramas rely on dialogue and character dynamics to drive the narrative forward. 

I am a big fan of chamber dramas. Some favourites include Phone Booth (in a phone booth), Buried (in a coffin) and Locke (in a car). 

I wanted to love this movie but it felt more like a stage or radio play than a chamber drama movie. Maybe it is because it is set in the past (60s) compared to the other chamber dramas I love. The movie does have a twist ending but the plot felt too weak to sustain a 75-minute runtime.


Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 13


I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned, but time and chance happen to them all.

The Book of Ecclesiastes‬ ‭9‬:‭11‬ ‭(NIVUK‬‬)

I wrote about the role of luck in my last post using the story of James Dean and Paul Newman. In this post, I talk about luck in a sporting context, specifically the story of Tom Brady’s rise to fame in the NFL.

To provide some context, the NFL (National Football League) is the highest professional American football league in the United States. It is divided into two conferences, each with 16 teams. The quarterback is considered one of the most important positions in the game, responsible for leading the offence and passing the ball. The Super Bowl is the championship game that decides the league champion at the end of each season.

In the 2000 NFL draft, where college players are selected by professional teams, Tom Brady was picked by the New England Patriots in the sixth round as the 199th overall pick. There are 32 teams in the NFL and 31 other teams looked at him and ignored him. The reason was because he didn’t match their profile of an elite quarterback. He was considered too thin and too slow for that position.

The New England Patriots who had scouted Brady felt he had some intangibles that showed promise. But they had no urgent need at the quarterback position. They already had 3 quarterbacks on the squad. However, the Patriots decided that Brady was worth a shot in the sixth round despite not needing him. He joined the squad as the fourth quarterback in the 2000 season and by the 2001 season had elevated himself to the second quarterback and backup to Drew Bledsoe.

Bledsoe was the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots, having been drafted by them as the number one overall college pick in 1993. He looked like the ideal quarterback and met the criteria. He put in good numbers during his time at New England. He even led the team to a Super Bowl final in 1997 but lost. 

Bledsoe was loved by the New England fans and the Patriots’ owner considered him a son. In March 2001, Bledsoe was awarded a $100 million contract over 10 years because the owner believed he was the future of the team.

On 23 September 2001, in the second game of the NFL season, Bledsoe was injured in a collision with an opposing player and had to be replaced by the backup quarterback – Tom Brady. It was assumed that Bledsoe had a concussion. But his injury was more serious than a concussion. The collision had broken Bledsoe’s ribs which tore an artery that leaked blood into his chest. One of his broken ribs also punctured his left lung. He would require surgery later that day to save his life.

Brady won five games and lost three while Bledsoe was out injured. Everyone (Patriots fans, football pundits, sports journalists, the Patriots owner and even Bledsoe himself) expected Bledsoe would be reinstated as the starting quarterback once he returned from injury.

However, when Bledsoe recovered and returned 9 weeks later, Bill Belichick, the head coach, made the controversial decision to keep Brady as the starting quarterback and relegate Bledsoe to the backup role. There was shock and outrage. The consensus was that this crazy decision would cost the team getting into the NFL playoffs. Belichick refused to buckle despite the public pressure and criticism.

Against all odds, Brady led the New England Patriots to the 2001 Super Bowl final and won, securing the team’s first-ever Super Bowl victory. Bledsoe would get traded to another NFL team at the end of the 2001 season and his career would be a footnote. Brady’s success continued as he would play in 8 more Super Bowl finals for the New England Patriots over the next two decades, winning 5 more titles for them.

He left New England after 20 years with the team because of personal issues with Belichick. He would then win another Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the age of 43 years old. He is regarded as the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL with 7 Super Bowls. The closest quarterback to him has four.

While Brady’s talent and hard work were undoubtedly essential, his story highlights the important role of chance and circumstance in shaping someone’s journey to greatness. All the six quarterbacks selected in the 2000 college draft ahead of Brady had mediocre NFL careers. Were the teams who dismissed Brady in the 2000 draft wrong? Yes with the benefit of hindsight. But given the information they had when they made the decision, they were probably right. It shows that forecasting is hard. Brady just didn’t fit the mould of previous successful NFL quarterbacks in 2000.

He was lucky that Bledsoe’s injury allowed him to prove himself as a starter. And perhaps most crucially, he benefited from Belichick’s bold decision to stick with him as the starter, even in the face of intense criticism and pressure to reinstate Bledsoe, the fan-favourite and highly-paid starter.

Belichick’s stubbornness in the face of external pressure and backlash is impressive considering that he had faced a similar situation in his previous head coaching job. However, things didn’t work out for him in Cleveland when he replaced the fans’ favourite quarterback.

Even the Patriots who believed in Brady in 2000 didn’t expect him to have the career he had. If they had expected Brady’s success then they wouldn’t have offered Bledsoe a $100 million contract over 10 years. Brady was a lottery ticket whose number turned up for the Patriots.


📺 (Film)

Dune: Part 2 – I watched Dune: Part 1 at home because it was released in 2021 during Covid. It was one of the blockbuster movies that Warner Bros released on its streaming platform when no one knew when the world would return to normal. I have a large TV and watching Dune 1 on it was a good viewing experience. However, despite the size of my TV, I went to see Dune 2 in my local Odeon because movies like Dune need to be seen in the cinema to appreciate the scale and grandeur of the film. The desert landscape is beautiful. 

The first Dune movie was the setup -we see the fall of the House of Atreides with Paul and his mother fleeing for their lives. In Dune 2, we see the rise of the reluctant Paul Atreides as he leads the insurrection to avenge his father.  In Dune 3 we will see the full manifestation of his Messianic powers as he wages war against the other Houses. 

I must confess that I have not read the Dune books but I did watch the Dune TV series (2000) which I loved. This new Dune movie adaptation by Denis Villeneuve is a step up in terms of vision and scale. 


Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 12


This post focuses on luck’s role and its impact on career success.  I illustrate with a Hollywood story. 

On September 30, 1955, James (Jimmy) Dean crashed his brand-new Porsche 550 Spyder and died. He was 24 and had just finished his third film (Giant). Two of his three films would be released after his death and he would be nominated for two best actor Oscar awards posthumously (1956 & 1957). He is the only actor to achieve this accolade. If James Dean had lived he would have been a mega superstar. 

James Dean had two upcoming projects; he was contracted to do before he died.  The first was called The Battler which was an hour-long live TV play. One of his co-actors would have been a relatively unknown 30-year-old Paul Newman who was meant to play a supporting character.  Dean’s death meant an acting reshuffle and he was replaced by Newman who played the lead character when the TV play aired on 18 October 1955. 

Newman would reflect on James Dean’s demise and his luck in his memoir, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man.

I know there are some people who attribute my career breakthroughs to Jimmy’s death. Yes, there were elements of luck—and a lot of my success has indeed involved what I call Newman’s luck. Newman’s luck began in 1925 when I was born white in America. Appearance is the second luck. Cognitive skills in inventing is the third luck. And I had the luck to overcome the fact that people always said about me “Isn’t he darling!” or “Isn’t he so cute!” by having enough drive to see I wasn’t ever going to survive just on that. I’d been in contact with indifference and stupidity and my own lack of perception. But I’d never really come in contact with true adversity. Luck recognized me. If Jimmy hadn’t been killed, half of me says, “You could have done it anyway. It would have been a hair slower, but it would have happened.”

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man.

Newman is probably right that he would have had a decent film career if Dean hadn’t died. Would he have become the superstar he became without Jimmy’s death? Hmmm, that’s doubtful.

Newman’s early career from 1949 – 1955 had just one movie credit to his name (The Sliver Chalice – 1954). This was a terrible film even according to him. All his other showbiz appearances in this period had been a handful of appearances in TV shows. He was also 30 years old which meant his window of opportunity was fast closing in Hollywood. 

If Dean had lived, then many of the roles that cemented Newman’s status as a movie star post-1955 would have first been offered to the much younger and talented Dean. Dean’s rejects would then be offered to lower-tiered actors like Newman down the food chain that is if Newman had risen high enough to be a contender. 

James Dean’s second and final contracted role also went to Paul Newman. His success as Dean’s replacement in The Battler made him an ideal candidate. This was a film role, not a TV role and it would go on to set Newman on the road to movie superstardom. The film was called Somebody Up There Likes Me. There is no doubt that somebody up there liked Paul Newman in 1955. 


📺 (TV Show)

The Vince Staples Show I must confess that although I am aware of Vince Staples; I am not overly familiar with his music or previous acting roles. I decided to give his new Netflix show a shot and was pleasantly surprised. There are only five episodes with some of them as short as 19 mins. You can binge the entire show within 75 minutes. 

Each episode packs a punch as you follow a semi-fictionalised version of Vince Staples encountering surreal situations. Staples in an interview with Variety describes it as “absurd normality.”

He plays a fairly successful rapper but without the trappings of a successful rapper.  Some of the crazy things he endures in the series include: ending up in jail for making a U-turn, having an ex-childhood classmate try to kill him over an unmentioned beef, and getting attacked by angry amusement park animal mascots. Yeah, crazy stuff happens to this fictional Vince Staples. The show is littered with funny scenes like Staples being at a bank when it gets robbed by folks he knows and the mac and cheese drama at a family reunion instigated by Staples’ mother. 

If you love Donald Glover’s Atlanta then you will enjoy The Vince Staples Show. Both shows share similar themes of Black violence, trauma, ambition, racism, and thwarted dreams. Glover and Staples in their unique ways deal with such matters seriously but also attempt to find the comedic elements in them. 

Though the show is billed as a limited series; I hope Netflix and Staples reconsider this decision. I’m keen to see what direction Staples would take the show in a second outing.


Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 11


In the new TV show, Tracker, Justin Hartley plays a character called Colter Shaw. His job is to track missing people and get a reward if he is successful. In the season pilot, Jack adopts what Annie Duke in her book, Thinking in Bets, refers to as probabilistic thinking. This is the philosophical concept that probability is the best criterion in the absence of certainty. Probabilistic thinking calculates the chances of a specific outcome occurring based on current information.

The opening scene of the pilot episode begins with Colter beside a female hiker (Jesse) in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, with a broken leg pinned by a rock. Colter tries to reassure her while assessing the situation.

Jesse: Can we just stay here?

Colter: I guess we could stay here, we could wait for a rescue team to come and airlift you out of here on a stretcher.  We are talking maybe five hours. Four, best case scenario? So if we stay I put your odds of survival, leg intact at 15-20%.

(Jesse starts crying)

Colter: But if you let me stabilise your injury and carefully carry you out of here, those odds for you and your leg go way up. 

Jesse: They do?

Colter: They do. I am talking about 90-95%. I am going to scoop you up okay?

Jesse: Okay.

Tracker Episode 1: Klamath Falls

In a later scene, Colter and a young boy are hanging onto a truck dangling over a cliff. There is a long drop into the river below. Colter has a gunshot wound in his arm and losing blood. The boy is frightened and not a good swimmer. The rescue team are on their way but Colter has a decision to make. 

Colter: We are going to be okay. It’s gonna be a while, though. They got to get boats in the water and we are looking at about half an hour. That is if this truck does not slide off in the meantime. Are you a strong swimmer? 

Boy: so-so

Colter: so-so is okay. I am a pretty strong swimmer. The thing is I got shot and I am losing a lot of blood, which means I am losing a lot of strength. Pretty soon it’s going to be impossible for me to swim. So if we let go now

Boy: Let go?

Colter: If we let go right now, I give my odds of swimming us both to safety about 95%. The longer we wait, the lower those odds get. You trust me?

Boy: Okay

Colter: Okay. We let go on three. You got to be brave, alright?

Tracker Episode 1: Klamath Falls

Colter uses his experience and expertise to determine the probability chances of success. You will notice in both scenes that he doesn’t offer 100% certainty. He offers a very high likelihood of success but never certainty based on his assessment of the situation.  

We live in a probabilistic world despite our craving for certainties, guarantees and absolutes.

The medical field employs a lot of probabilistic thinking because it realises that certainty is impossible in most circumstances. Medical diagnoses for life-threatening diseases are usually delivered in probabilistic terms to the patient. An oncologist, based on his experience and expertise, will tell a cancer patient that she has an 85% chance of survival based on her cancer type and stage.

Annie Duke said that “forcing ourselves to express how sure we are of our beliefs brings to plain sight the probabilistic nature of those beliefs, that what we believe is almost never 100% or 0% accurate but, rather, somewhere in between.”

In summary, probabilistic thinking acknowledges the roles of uncertainty, randomness and incomplete information.  These are all things we have no control over and to pretend we do will only lead to disappointment and disaster.


Burn Book: A Tech Love StoryI am a big fan of Kara Swisher and enjoyed this book. She is the co-host of the Pivot podcast with Scott Galloway which I listen to weekly. Burn Book is a part memoir and part tech history. Swisher has worked as a tech reporter for most of her career and had front-row seats from the inception of the Internet in the 90s to the present day.

 She chronicles in the book her encounters with tech royalty such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Travis Kalanick etc. 

She is the type who speaks truth to power and refuses to take bullshit from anyone no matter who they are. This anecdote of a job interview after graduation captures her personality then and now. 

Once, I interviewed for an internship at the Washington Post, and the editor said I was “too confident.” I’ve since come to understand that this is something men say to women to shut them up and undercut them. I was not going to let that happen. And so, I replied: “I’m not too confident. I’m fantastic. Or I will be.” I have always, always been like this. It’s hard to neg me. Those who do only encourage me to try to win even more.

Burn Book: A Tech Love Story

It is clear from this book how much Swisher loves her job and that passion has helped her to put in the time and effort to build a long and sustainable career. 

My two takeaways from the book are: 

  1.  Know yourself and play to your strengths.
  2.  Life is too short to do things that won’t matter in the long term.

More highlights:

The only certainty I can offer for those of us with meat flaps is that everyone’s analog life will end at some point, even if your digital presence will endure into the ages hence. This was, of course, the most important lesson I learned at a young age when my father died so suddenly. He thought he was headed for the big time and then he just fell over one day, and that has informed everything I’ve done since. Which is to say, I don’t have time to wallow. You don’t have time, either. Nobody has time.

Burn Book: A Tech Love Story

Silicon Valley had perfected the image of itself as a meritocracy and touted that as one of its greatest strengths—that anyone could become a billionaire. In fact, tech has always been a mirrortocracy, full of people who liked their own reflection so much that they only saw value in those that looked the same. They keep copying themselves, choosing slight variations on the same avatar template. Financial success was proof of their talents, which was like the old cliché of starting on third base and thinking you hit a home run.

Burn Book: A Tech Love Story


Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 10


I move from Sherlock Holmes in my last post to another detective in this post. Chief Liz Danvers is a fictional detective played by Jodie Foster in the new True Detective: Night Country. The show focuses on the investigation of the death of several research scientists in the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska.  

There is a scene in an ice rink where Danvers and Officer Prior try to figure out how the research scientists died.

Prior: “It does not make sense.” 

Danvers: “Yes, it does. We are just not seeing it. Not asking the right questions.” 

Danvers’ mantra throughout the show is about asking the right question.

Questions determine what we notice, what we see and what we pay attention to. 

Anyone can ask the wrong questions. Asking the right questions is a skill.  

Right questions unlock while wrong questions block.

Think of asking the wrong questions in navigational terms. Imagine a ship sailing from Liverpool to New York. If there is a one-degree navigation error; it is unnoticeable by sight but the ship will veer off course if this error isn’t picked up. This one-degree navigation error compounds over miles and the ship never arrives in New York. Wrong questions compound and lead the questioner further away from the right answers. 

The right question not only leads to the right answer but also generates more good questions.

 Peter Drucker, the management guru, said “The important and difficult job is never to find the right answers. It is to find the right question. For there are few things as useless- if not dangerous- as the right answer to the wrong question.”


📺 (TV Show)

Mr & Mrs Smith – Mr & Mrs Smith is about married assassin-spies who work for a covert organisation. The TV show is a complete reimagining by Donald Glover of the 2005 movie, and it is better for it. Donald Glover and Maya Erskine’s characters are plain opposites of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s movie characters. The movie focuses on passion and action, whereas the TV show focuses on the characters’ relationships and their flawed traits.

Jane (Erskine) has sociopathic tendencies, and John (Glover) has attachment issues. You get to watch two characters navigate the different stages of an arranged marriage. You also see the impact of work stresses as two hypercompetent married co-workers compete for their employer’s praise. Each episode features at least one guest star cameo, and this format worked well.

The season finale finished with a Schrödinger’s Cat ending. The characters’ fates are dependent on whether Amazon decides to renew the show or not. A smart move by Glover and Francesca Sloane (showrunner) given the fickle nature of TV studios’ decision-making.

Mr and Mrs Smith is a show that could easily have stood on its own two feet without the IP attachment to the Mr and Mrs Smith movie. But studios nowadays just have to shoehorn everything with an existing IP whether it is right for the story or not.

HBO did that with Night Country by forcing Issa López (showrunner) to attach her original story idea to the True Detective franchise. This studio move has unfortunately harmed the show rather than helped it in the ratings. The story worked on its own without a forced True Detective attachment.


Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 9


In my previous post, I referenced a quote by the comedian, Chris Rock, in which he likened comedians to detectives. I am going to pull on this thread today.

Sherlock Holmes is regarded as the greatest fictional detective, a character renowned for his exceptional observational and deductive skills. These are skills I am keen to improve in my work and life. I unpack below some of Holmes’ crime-solving methods.

On Observation

“You see everything.”

The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier

Holmes, in several of his cases, had his observational skills praised, like the statement above. He would remark that he only saw more because he had trained himself to notice what he saw.

This art of observation is demonstrated in a conversation with his famous sidekick – Dr. Watson.

I could not help laughing at the ease with which Holmes explained his process of deduction. ‘When I hear you give your reasons,’ Watson remarked, ‘the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though, at each successive instance of your reasoning, I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.’

‘Quite so,’ Holmes answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. ‘You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.’


‘How often?’

‘Well, some hundreds of times.’

‘Then how many are there?’

‘How many? I don’t know.’

‘Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps because I have both seen and observed.’

A Scandal in Bohemia

On Data

“Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.”

The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Holmes couldn’t use his observational and deductive skills if he didn’t have access to sufficient data. He always resisted the temptation to form premature theories based on insufficient data. He argued that this led to twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.

Holmes’ method involved looking at the pieces of data critically to separate what was certain (fact) from what was conjecture (assumption). A fact is what we know that we know, whereas what we think we know is an assumption, which is an unverified opinion. He opposed guessing but ensured his theories and insights were always rooted in facts and not built on the quicksand of assumptions.

Though everything related to an investigation can be data; not everything is useful data. Holmes would turn the facts of the investigation over in his mind, striving to further separate vital facts (signal) from incidental facts (noise). His goal was to develop a theory that could reconcile all these vital facts and find that line of least resistance to solve the investigation.

He held his theories loosely until he had a high degree of probabilistic confidence in them as the best explanation of the problem. Holmes kept aside any outlier facts that didn’t quite fit the theory until the point where he could either disregard them or incorporate them into the theory as he acquired new information.


📺 (Documentary)

Pep Guardiola: Chasing Perfection – As a big Guardiola fan, I enjoyed this short BBC iPlayer documentary. It provides an overview of his career given its 62-minute runtime. There is little new information in this documentary for superfans like me, but new fans will get a lot more out of it. It covers his academy days at La Masia (Barcelona) to his recent treble win at Manchester City. There are interviews with his ex-Barcelona teammates, his ex-players (e.g. Ikay Gundogan, Manuel Neuer, Carles Puyol, and Robert Lewandowski), and current players (Phil Foden, Rodri, and Kyle Walker). It was amusing to hear the radio phone call-ins from Man City fans criticising his decisions during his first season at the club and after the 2021 Champions League final loss. Unfortunately, Guardiola didn’t participate in this documentary, thus diluting its impact. However, he must have given his blessings based on the number of people interviewed from his inner circle like Txiki Begiristain. I await the day, perhaps when Pep has retired, for a proper documentary limited series to be done about his career with his involvement. That will be the ultimate prize for his superfans.


Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 8


A Happy New Year to you and thanks for reading the first of 24 planned blog posts in 2024. 

My job as a user researcher is to identify actionable insights that help product teams make informed decisions. As a result, I am fascinated by the process of generating insights. This involves seeing and connecting the right signals in the data guided by the right questions. Insights transform our understanding of information and illuminate our frames of reference. 

Comedians are insightful because they are observant. The mundane human experiences that the rest of us discard as uninteresting are what comedians unpack for insights. They present these insights to us via jokes.

In the ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ book; there is a snippet of a conversation between Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock.

Jerry: Comedians have wisdom. Great jokes always have wisdom buried in them.

Chris: Right. They require observation. Eighty percent of your job is just paying attention to shit.

Jerry: I know, but it’s deep.

Chris:  Most people don’t pay attention.  We’re detectives. We’re always on the case.

Jerry: [laughs]

Chris: Always on the case! That’s all it is.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

We can learn a lot from comedians who are good at pushing beyond the ‘What You See Is All There Is’ (WYSIATI) bias to extract insights about human behaviour.


📺 (TV shows)

The Brothers SunThe fact that Michelle Yeoh is in this show is a good enough reason to watch this limited series. She plays the matriarch of the Sun crime family which is part of the Taiwanese triad. The show focuses on the relationship between her two sons (Charles and Bruce) hence the title.  Charles lived a violent gangster life in Taiwan with his father while Bruce who lived a sheltered life in Los Angeles with his mum is unaware of his family’s criminal ties. An assassination attempt on their father results in Charles heading to Los Angeles to protect his family. There is a shadow organisation intent on destroying the triad gangs and the Sun family has to deal with this threat as well as dysfunctional family dynamics. Both brothers grapple with the conflict of suffocating parental expectations and the desire to pursue their passions. Netflix released the enjoyable Beef last year and has started 2024 with The Brothers Sun. Hopefully, there will be more good Asian-American shows released this year.


Contemplations & Consumptions: Vol 7


2023 has been a year of two halves. I was an employee in the first six months and a freelancer in the latter half.

I am looking for new freelance project gigs in early 2024, so contact me if you’ve got something cooking. I would love to chat.

The goal was to publish 24 posts this year, but I am ending the year with 20 posts, which isn’t too far from the mark.

I also changed the format of the blog mid-year to what you are reading now – Contemplations & Consumptions. This new format allows me to review and share interesting content I’ve consumed recently.

I was also able to finally break free from a creative rut that lasted for a few years, allowing me to pitch, develop, and launch a public creative project. See past projects here.

Some key 2023 highlights:

  • Neeto feature

I worked on several products as a user researcher at Satchel. One of the last products I worked on was a spin-off product called Neeto. This is a free educational quiz-creation tool.

The tool came out early in 2022 and was worked on by a small team. I collaborated on every feature on Neeto until the time I left the company. There was, however, one Neeto feature released this year which I had almost total ownership over – from conception to launch.

One of the biggest user pain points for non-Satchel teachers who used Neeto was that they couldn’t export their Neeto quizzes to either Google Forms or MS Forms. This meant we were failing to retain many of these users.

We couldn’t do much for them because Google and Microsoft didn’t provide an API integration that would enable seamless transfer of quizzes from Neeto to these products.

I spent a year monitoring Google and Microsoft Forms feature development for any relevant news of API releases. Early this year, I discovered that Microsoft had released an import Word/PDF quiz feature for MS Forms. This was the workaround we needed without an MS Forms API integration feature.

We already enabled users to export their Neeto quizzes as worksheets (Word or PDF). I tested this workflow and then got some power users to prototype the workflow based on my emailed instructions. They managed to do it but provided some feedback on ways to improve the workflow.

I pitched the Neeto product manager based on user feedback insights and made some recommendations on how we could implement this feature. He agreed with the insights and recommendations, and the final release was almost identical to my original vision and recommendation.

I even fleshed out my original prototype email instructions into the public instructional content on the Neeto help pages.

Pitched design version
Final released live version
  • Black Design Guild Retreat

Attending the Black Design Guild retreat in June was the biggest catalyst for what occurred in the second half of 2023. I was made redundant a week after I came back from this three-day retreat, but the connections I made at the retreat and the ideas I generated were impactful. You can read more about the retreat here.

  • Black Lionesses Bookmark Project

One of the ideas I generated at the Black Design Guild retreat was for a Black History Month bookmark project. I would later pivot my original design idea to the Black Lionesses concept to align with the 2023 Black History Month theme – celebrating/saluting our sisters.

I collaborated with Kent Libraries, and 4900 Black Lionesses bookmarks were designed and distributed across its 99 libraries. I also created a customised bookmark version for Knowsley Town Council. Kerry Davies, the first Black female to play for the England national team, contacted me to provide positive feedback about the bookmarks. Read more about the project here.

  • Nuffield Foundation Project

The second benefit of attending the Black Design Guild retreat was the connection I made with the organisers (Tayo Medupin and Amelia Woods). I approached them after I was made redundant to get their advice about freelancing, given their expertise in the area. They encouraged me to take the plunge and invited me to collaborate with them on a pitch for a freelance project, which we won.

I got to work with both of them on an “engaging Black researchers” project for the Nuffield Foundation. It was a fun project, and the Foundation was pleased with the final output, as were the Black researchers who participated in the focus groups.


A list of my favourite consumptions in 2023.

📺 (Movies)

📺 (TV shows)

📚 (Books)

🎧 (Podcasts)



Thanks a lot for reading my posts this year and I wish you a great Christmas break. See you in 2024!

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