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Christopher Marks

My 'healthy' diet that gives me hives

2 min read

In April this year, I was walking back from Tesco with groceries and it was a little hotter than usual for April in England. I started to get really itchy and hot. When I get home, I took my shirt off and saw I was covered in hives. My first reaction was: what the actual fuck. I thought it was just an allergic reaction to a new shirt I had bought:




I have a habit of ignoring any medical issue until it either goes away or becomes too acute to be ignored. Since April, every time it got a little bit too hot in the shower or if the Central line was too hot (which during the summer it always was), I would break out into hives. Any room that exceeds 20 degrees celsius is a total gamble.

I've been so confused why this randomly started happening. Was it because I wasn't exercising enough, or not getting enough sleep? Is it stress related? Is it because I've been drinking too much coffee?

I still don't really know. It's probably a combination of the above. But today, I googled 'foods high in histamines' and found the following list: 





For context, my breakfast is always either bacon and eggs with spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms, or it's oatmeal made with milk and with mixed nuts added. I also snack on seeds a lot. Also, the only fruits I regularly eat are bananas, apples, and oranges.

I put spinach and tomatoes in pretty much everything I cook - pasta, chilli, sometimes just sauteed as its own side dish.

Look at that list of high histamine containing foods again.

It's like I've deliberately chosen foods that are going to give me hives.

Today marks the first day of me radically changing my diet to cut out all high histamine foods, because I'm really fucking tired of getting itchy the second I get slightly warm.

Christopher Marks

If there's height bias in the workplace, explain child labour

3 min read

I write down the random thoughts that pop into my head when commuting in to central London. Here's a select few:

  • If there's height bias in the workplace, explain child labour 
  • If a train below the ground is called the subway, shouldn't a train in the sky be called the superway?
  • In the same way there's public toilets, there should be public kitchens cleaned daily
  • When your host family gifts you a goat it's sweet, but when I do it it's "eating all the furniture and a complete nuisance"
  • "Our current system is a 3-legged table, and while some would call that a stool, it's actually just a piece of shit"
  • Rationale: online education is proliferating
    Examples: duolingo, Coursera, Udacity, edx, khanacademy
    Focus is mainly on giving people alternative qualifications to a university education, or being a quick app that you spend 5-10 min on a day to learn a skill like language or coding
    The problem: our existing education system is guided by crappy research into gamifying the learning process and making kids intrinsically motivated to learn, politics in the education system, and politics about public funding. The system is extrinsically driven - which is ridiculous for something as intrinsically rewarding as learning.
    Background: I come from a family of educators (grandad, grandma, mum, Andrew, dad in his own way). I went to montessori school, was home schooled, went to a half home school half regular school, went to a private high school. I struggled with reading as a kid, and became a qualified reading tutor. I've also used Coursera, sololearn, Udacity, khanacademy, duolingo, and others to try and learn.
    Levels 0-12 where 0 is pre kindergarten, focuses on fundamentals like reading, association, mathematical reasoning, creative thought 
    Sources to pull from: math club, read America, mum (heavily), grandads research, breakthrough silicon Valley, Reading partners, camp otarbos. There's going to be an absurd amount more of similar groups in the bay. Could grade assignments using a ML algorithm, that errs on the side of being conservative and reviewed by an individual. Eventually would want to hire full time teachers
    Long term goal is to completely replace traditional schooling and university and be the place teachers aspire to work at. Medium term goal is to be a supplement to traditional schooling across all ages excluding university. Short term goal is to create a pre-k foundations curriculum. We would focus on the youngest age groups first. As you get older you have more options to specialise and get more choice with your courses, but the younger years have a required base. 
    Pricing: Premium services would be on the spot tutors, a subscription that ensures all assignments are graded by a human, added stuff for standardised testing.
    Company could be called Foundations.
  • You can't arbitrage time forever
  • If you're gonna be full of shit, at least make sure it's firm
  • Life goal: start a company that becomes a verb

Christopher Marks

5 goals

1 min read

I'm perpetually coming up with things I'd like to do and fantasising about how great it would be to do those things rather than just doing them. It's a real pain in the ass. To try and channel this into productive action, I created a big list of goals and have narrowed it down to 5. These are:

  1. Learn fundamentals of Growth Hacking (A/B Web Testing using Optimizely, analysing user journeys through Mixpanel & Google Analytics and setting up JS events, conducting product analysis using insights from behavioural science) and complete Google's 'Digital Garage' Certificate
  2. Complete the Machine Learning engineer Nanodegree on Udacity 
  3. Build a personal website from scratch (Known is great but I think it'd be a fun challenge)
  4. Apply to the Thiel Fellowship
  5. Write one comedy piece a week (satire, sketch, or stand-up)

Christopher Marks

Our 2016 US presidential candidates are anomalously old

1 min read

Trump is 70 and Hillary will be 69 come November.

Below is the spread of the age of all US presidents when they assumed office:

Age of all US presidents when assuming office

Trump would be the oldest president to assume office ever, and Hillary would be the second oldest president to assume office ever (second to Ronald Reagan, who assumed office at the age of 69 years and 349 days). The youngest president to assume office was Theodore Roosevelt at the age of 42 years and 322 days.

Christopher Marks

Songs about travelling from one airport to another

1 min read

There are two songs I really like: JFK 2 LAX by Gang Starr and Charles De Gaulle To JFK by Bas.

Seeing them next to each other in a playlist made me wonder if there are other songs out there whose titles are about travelling from one airport to another.

Turns out there's a bunch. I put them in a playlist:

Christopher Marks

A sincere apology for a poor ping pong showing

2 min read

At work we've started a ping pong leaderboard through Slack. The league rules state that if you lose to a player without scoring a point, you have to write a gushing letter of apology. I lost 11-0. Here's my apology.

Dearest Jake,

To say I’m sorry would be a gross understatement; I am devastated on both of our behalves. When I challenged you to a game of ping pong, I could not have predicted the catastrophe that would befall us both.

The beginning rally lulled me into a false sense of security; I now realise it was merely the calm before the storm. A few wayward shots were to be expected, I thought. Little did I know that these poorly executed shots were a loaded rifle hanging on the wall.

My first serve missed the table. “That’s unlucky.” I thought, “No matter, the game is young.”

My second serve was returned with a resounding crack. “Lucky shot” I mumbled to myself.

I regained my confidence upon returning both of your serves. Sure, I had lost both points, but at least we were able to have a rally.

My serve again. A good return and rally, but my amateurish grip led to the ball bouncing off my fingers and onto the floor. “Pitiful” I thought to myself, “Absolutely pitiful.”

For both of our sakes I will cease recounting the events of our match. I can feel my heart growing heavy. I can only imagine how reliving these events might affect you.

I know it will be hard for you to trust me again as an opponent. I understand that it’s going to be a long healing process that will take many weeks, perhaps months, and that you might not even want to hear from me at all right now. But if you can find it in your heart to challenge me again, I promise, no, vow, to be a worthy opponent.


Christopher Marks

Zappos Family Core Values

1 min read

I've just finished reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. It's a heartwarming, inspiring, and immensely educational book. What's more, I feel like the lessons of the book can be accurately summarised by the company's core values - which is kind of the point of core values:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service 
  2. Embrace and Drive Change 
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness 
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded 
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning 
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication 
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit 
  8. Do More With Less 
  9. Be Passionate and Determined 
  10. Be Humble

Christopher Marks

Excerpts from Michael Lewis' "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt"

2 min read

"Thus the only Goldman Sachs employee arrested by the FBI in the aftermath of a financial crisis Goldman had done so much to fuel was the employee Goldman asked the FBI to arrest."

"Don wasn't shocked or even all that disturbed by what had happened, or, if he was, he disguised his feelings. The facts of Wall Street life were inherently brutal, in his view. There was nothing that he couldn't imagine someone on Wall Street doing. He was fully aware that the high-frequency traders were preying on investors, and that the exchanges and brokers were being paid to help them to do it. He refused to feel morally outraged or self-righteous about any of it. "I would ask the question, 'On the savannah, are the hyenas and the vultures the bad guys?'" he said. "We have a boom in carcasses on the savannah. So what? It's not their fault. The opportunity is there." To Don's way of thinking, you were never going to change human nature--though you might alter the environment in which it expressed itself. Or maybe that's just what Don wanted to believe. "He's kind of like the mob guy who cries every now and then after a hit," said Brad, who thought that Don was exactly the sort of person he needed. Brad wasn't in the market for self-righteousness, or for people who defined themselves by their fine moral sentiment. "Disillusion isn't a useful emotion," he said. "I need soldiers." Don was a soldier."

"If the incarceration experience doesn't break your spirit, it changes you in a way that you lose many fears. You begin to realize that your life is not ruled by your ego and ambition and that it can end any day at any time. So why worry? You learn that just like on the street, there is life in prison, and random people get there based on the jeopardy of the system. The prisons are filled by people who crossed the law, as well as by those who were incidentally and circumstantially picked and crushed by somebody else's agenda. On the other hand, as a vivid benefit, you become very much independent of material property and learn to appreciate very simple pleasures in life such as the sunlight and morning breeze."

Christopher Marks


4 min read

In no particular order: 

Alright that's plenty, the rest are in: 

Christopher Marks