Zuihitsu, 2022-08

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

  1. Something doesn’t have to last forever for it to be successful.
  2. Perfect happiness is the privilege of deciding when things end.—Sarah Manguso
  3. If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens.—Michael A. Singer
  4. The simpler the message, the sharper the razor.
  5. Figure out the what before the how.
  6. There is no problem without a solution. If there is no solution, it’s just something you need to live with.
  7. Don’t let your intellectual horizons narrow to fit your politics.
  8. History is shaped by the tools we use to disseminate ideas, not the ideas themselves.
  9. More time invested in choosing leads to better choices but also less satisfaction with them.
  10. Don’t apologize for being unavailable.
  11. Celebrity endorsements in new technologies happen at peaks.
  12. The ego is not master in its own house.—Sigmund Freud
  13. Life is full of alternatives but no choice.—Patrick White
  14. Reality is what is seen, counted, and quantified.—Jacques Ellul
  15. Aggregating demand is key to success.
  16. Who’s in charge?—YOU ARE
  17. The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.—Albert Einstein
  18. Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.—Benny Hill
  19. Tinkerbell Effect describes things that are thought to exist only because people believe in them.
  20. Trading and prediction are not the same thing.
  21. Live with your choices and learn.
  22. If you lead with fear, you will find something to fear.
  23. Only a vision of the whole, like that of a saint, a madman or a mystic, will permit us to decipher the true organizing principles of the universe.—Karl Schwarzschild
  24. Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.—Honore de Balzac
  25. All subcultures are, in a sense, status Ponzi schemes.—Scott Alexander
  26. A society grows great when old [people] plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.
  27. Self report is bullshit.
  28. It is not certain that everything is uncertain.—Blaise Pascal
  29. When the time is ripe for certain things, they appear at different places, in the manner of violets coming to light in the early spring.-Father of Jànos Bolyai, who discovered non-Euclidean geometry.
  30. You can recognize the people who live for others by the haunted look on the faces of the others.-Katharine White Horn
  31. Do whatever brings you life, then. Follow your own fascinations,  obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever creates revolution in the heart.
  32. It ain’t what they call you it’s what you answer to.-W.C. Fields
  33. What is beyond our grasp is neither the future nor the past, but the present itself.
  34. There aren’t any bad crowds, just wrong choices.
  35. Harbor the wolf, and you may find your sheep missing.
  36. Don’t tinkle on my twinkle.
  37. The real mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, it is a reality to be experienced. —A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael S. Schneider
  38. People carry worlds within them.—Neil Gaiman
  39. First bite is free.
  40. No darkness lasts forever. And even there, there are stars.—Ursula K. Le Guin
  41. When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.—Abraham Lincoln
  42. Life is thick sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.—attributed to Voltaire
  43. It takes three years of working on something to make good money and seven years to generate wealth.—hosts of The TMBA Podcast
  44. Iron sharpens iron.
  45. Listening is the heart of learning.
  46. Tolerance is a peace treaty, not a suicide pact.
  47. Disrespect is earned.
  48. The secret of happiness is not doing what we like but in liking what we do.—J.M. Coetzee
  49. The apocalypse has arrived, but it is not evenly distributed yet.
  50. Your library should contain as much of what you don’t know as you can afford.
  51. Denarrate, insulate yourself from the other people’s narratives.
  52. Nature is not a temple, but a ruin.
  53. Defer decisions, learn along the way and trust in iteration.
  54. All good things must begin.—Octavia E. Butler
  55. On this topic, who has good taste?
  56. It doesn’t rain every day.
  57. There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?—George Bernard Shaw
  58. Truth builds trust.
  59. The decisions you make add up.
  60. Recency is dramatically overvalued.
  61. Empathize with stupidity, and you are halfway to thinking like an idiot.
  62. It is often the small things that determine success or failure.

Dru Riley’s 100 Rules

“3. “Not wanting something is as good as having it.” — If you don’t want something, you’re just as satisfied as someone who has it. Naval Ravikant says that “…desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”

42. “It’s easier to resist in the beginning than the end.” — Mistakes become harder to correct the longer they linger. Sunk costs play tricks on us. Suck it up and rip the bandaid off now. Toxic relationships, bad hires and tough conversations. It’s immediate pain versus chronic pain…

82. “Play long-term games. Compound returns.” — Focus on the long-term. Most benefits come from later stages of compounding. Pick up habits that you can see yourself sticking with. Jeff Bezos says to focus on what doesn’t change

90. “Live below your means for freedom and options.” — Establish a margin of safety to take more risks. James Clear says that ‘Your success depends on the risks you take. Your survival depends on the risks you avoid.

Dru Riley, “100 Rules — Personal Philosophy.” druriley.com. Accessed August 20, 2022

I might tweak some of these, such as 82 should be infinite games and build on the ideas of James Carse in Finite and Infinite Games. But, this is a good list.

Daniel Mendelsohn on the Odyssey

“…I always resist the “classics is impractical” line that people love to come up with when they are critical of the higher study of these fields. You can study accounting. It’s authentically practical in one way. But when your father dies, your accounting degree is not going to help you at all to process that experience. Homer will help you. The Odyssey will help you. Great literature will help you think about mortality and losing loved ones. That seems very practical to me.

A broad education in which you’re deeply read in literature, and history, and philosophy, and mathematics, and science: this teaches us how to be human beings and it teaches us also how to be citizens. I know that sounds very idealistic, but if the current social and political situation in this country is in any way a marker of what a generation spent focusing on STEM does, then I think clearly we need a different answer. The crude preoccupation with moneymaking as the only goal of a college education is giving us a citizenry that is extremely degraded, as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s only the crudest and least interesting practicality that has no time for the humanities.”

Daniel Mendelsohn, “Daniel Mendelsohn on the Odyssey.” The Octavian Report. August 12, 2022

Of course, an important question is which Odyssey do you read, Emily Wilson’s, Richmond Lattimore’s or someone else’s? Another think that I found interesting is how they talked about life being tragedy and comedy modes of viewing the world mentioned a few days ago.

DARVO

DARVO is an acronym for “deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender”. It refers to a reaction that alleged perpetrators of wrongdoing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior.[1] Some researchers and advocates have indicated that it can be as a common manipulation strategy of psychological abusers.[2][3][4] An abuser (or alleged abuser) denies the abuse ever took place, attacks the person that alleged abuse (often the victim) for attempting to hold the abuser (or alleged abuser) accountable for their actions, and claims that they are actually the victim in the situation, thus reversing what may be a reality of victim and offender.[2][4] It often involves not just “playing the victim” but also victim blaming.[3]

-Wikipedia contributors, “DARVO,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=DARVO&oldid=1100548671 (accessed August 11, 2022).

Not a term I had heard before. h/t emptywheel. See also Identifying a Stupid Person.

Zuihitsu, 2022-07

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

  1. You do not need to be related to relate.
  2. Stop seeing life as a canvas to fill and see it as marble to shape.
  3. The market owes you nothing.
  4. Incorporate some calculated risks into your plan.
  5. You never know when you’re going to run out of steam.
  6. I don’t interest myself in the why. I think more often in terms of the when, sometimes where, and always how much.
  7. Don’t repeat yourself.
  8. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.—James Baldwin
  9. Markets of abundance are both bad for the median consumer, and good for intelligent ones.
  10. Cars destroy community.
  11. The test of all beliefs is their practical effect in life.—Helen Keller
  12. Forgiveness and compassion are always linked.
  13. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.—Martin Luther King, Jr.
  14. Look for the 25 to 1 risk profile.
  15. You only find out who’s swimming naked when the tide goes out.—Warren Buffett
  16. Smart people hate small talk.
  17. Act like you like someone and you will.
  18. How do you spend most of your time?
  19. Perhaps the dead are the only reliable narrators because their stories are all they have left.
  20. It takes years, if ever, to understand the relative authenticities of our relationships.
  21. Stand in the presence of questions and do not look for answers.
  22. Play the man, not the puck.
  23. There’s imprisonment in trying to recreate the past.
  24. Love is the process of refining the truths we can tell each other.
  25. To know is to share a community of interpretation.
  26. In the game of privacy, the only way to win is not to login.
  27. Build infrastructure.
  28. Paths are made by walking.
  29. Tactics are exchanging one problem for an easier one.
  30. People have done this before, but not us.—Ada Limón
  31. And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
  32. How long can the corpus outlast the corpse?
  33. If you aim at nothing, you hit nothing.
  34. I, and I alone, am responsible for everything I think and feel.
  35. The First Law of Online Writing: always make sure that anything you want to endure is hosted on a platform that you control.
  36. No. I’m fully committed right now.
  37. Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?
  38. The chances are minuscule. But minuscule is not zero.
  39. To be alive, he says, is to act in ways that reduce the gulf between your expectations and your sensory inputs.
  40. The past can’t hurt you anymore, not unless you let it.—Alan Moore in V for Vendetta
  41. Enduring relationships anchor our identity or our sense of self.
  42. Anything studied and discussed long enough on the internet tends to lead to disillusionment.
  43. People focus on the vices more than the virtues, and lose trust.
  44. Theories followed far enough permit us to transcend our worldview.
  45. Do nothing without gaiety.
  46. Withhold judgment. Distrust your own knowledge, and avoid ideology.
  47. You ultimately become whoever would have saved you that time no one did.
  48. Choose what is simple without hesitation; sooner or later, what is complicated will always lead to problems.–Bernard Moitessier
  49. Obsession with detail is a hallmark of the most successful maintainers.
  50. Simplicity is a form of beauty.–Bernard Moitessier
  51. Do not crystalize your thinking prematurely.
  52. Rapid growth is unbalanced growth. Eventually, growth will be redistributed to an equilibrium.
  53. Be genuine. Be interested. Give the conversation air.
  54. …what we have loved, / Others will love, and we will teach them how.–Wordsworth
  55. People are different, with different strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to understand who you’re dealing with.
  56. One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.—Aldous Huxley
  57. Don’t overreact to recent bad news.

The Free Energy Principle, Minimizing Surprise

“The concept of free energy itself comes from physics, which means it’s difficult to explain precisely without wading into mathematical formulas. In a sense that’s what makes it powerful: It isn’t a merely rhetorical concept. It’s a measurable quantity that can be modeled, using much the same math that Friston has used to interpret brain images to such world-­changing effect. But if you translate the concept from math into English, here’s roughly what you get: Free energy is the difference between the states you expect to be in and the states your sensors tell you that you are in. Or, to put it another way, when you are minimizing free energy, you are minimizing surprise.

According to Friston, any biological system that resists a tendency to disorder and dissolution will adhere to the free energy principle—whether it’s a protozoan or a pro basketball team.

A single-celled organism has the same imperative to reduce surprise that a brain does.”

-Shaun Raviv, “The Genius Neuroscientist Who Might Hold the Key to True AI.” Wired. November 13, 2018.

I found this article about Karl Friston really insightful. It has revealed a long-standing difference between my spouse and I that I never really knew how to talk about before.

My wife has a task focus. She has a list. She is working through her list. Delays are something to be avoided, and exploring any aspect of something that is not immediately solving her problem is wasted time, from her perspective.

As one might be able to tell from the content of this blog, I do not tend to focus on task or particular problems. I’m more interested in understanding how things work, finding edge cases and generally, just trying new ways of doing things to see what happens. It helps me to make a better mental model or a worldview for interpreting the world. It is not time efficient, but over time, it does help me to solve problems faster because I have a better understanding of how things work under different conditions.

It’s clear that focusing on efficiency and maximizing value tend to drive us into task focus. If we have slack, then we can use the second model or exploration to expand our understanding.

But, I think there are habits of thought at play too. If you are in an environment where you are keeping track of your time, say you a in a large law firm that bills every 15 minutes or less of your time, then your ability to switch into exploratory mode might atrophy.

It probably works the other way too. Explorers aren’t time efficient until they have sufficient experience to outperform taskers, which takes time to acquire.

There’s also the point that this might not apply across the board. For example, I might be a technology explorer. But, I might be less of an explorer when it comes to interior decoration, do-it-yourself home repair or other topics. Same is probably true of everyone.

But, I still think this is an interesting idea to have in our toolbox for understanding the world.

How a Public School in Florida Built America’s Greatest Math Team

“A single, otherwise unremarkable public high school in Florida has won 13 out of the most recent 14 National Math Championships, a staggeringly successful dynasty for an otherwise average school. It’s accomplished this through treating math competition as any other sport, identifying talent as early as elementary school and developing them over the course of several years through a completely redesigned curriculum. An emphasis on speed also is crucial, and the results are pretty inarguable: The margin of victory at the national title over the past 14 years has averaged 315 points, which in 2021 jumped to 920 points.”

Walt Hickey, “Lottos, ShotSpotter, Mathletes.” Numlock News. July 15, 2022

The Wall Street Journal article is pretty interesting, I particularly liked this comment:

Will Frazer popped out of his flaming red Corvette as his students were trickling into the classrooms. A bond trader on Wall Street in the 1980s, Mr. Frazer retired young and moved to Florida, where he became a scratch golfer and lived the dream for a decade. Then he got bored.

He took a job at Buchholz coaching golf, switched to teaching math, quickly formed a math team, applied the lessons of his experience in finance and turned a bunch of teenage quants into a fearsome winning machine.

“The difference between what I do now and what I did on Wall Street is that I used to get paid money,” said Mr. Frazer, 63. “Now we get trophies.”

-Ben Cohen, “How a Public School in Florida Built America’s Greatest Math Team.” The Wall Street Journal. July 4, 2022

Paying someone to find and develop talent works not only for math, but pretty much everything in life. It makes you wonder why communities do not pay people to do this kind of thing for qualities they want more of. Want more STEM majors? Want more soccer players? Want chess champions? There’s a technique for that.

László Polgár also offers an interesting example because he was not able to select for top talent, he simply helped develop it in his own children. Presumably, if he had interest, there might be genetic factors in play, but I’d guess the bulk of his daughter’s success came from development. No reason this couldn’t be replicated in a million different ways. In the age-old question of Nature vs. Nurture, it would probably lead to a lot better outcomes if we tried a lot more nurture.

Guest WiFi using a QR code

On my home network I have guest WiFi configured and when guests come round they need to know the password. Happily there’s a way to make this trivial: WiFi QR codes.”

-John Graham-Cumming, “Guest WiFi using a QR Code.jgc.org. July 12, 2022.

Easy enough. I used SecScanQR on F-Droid.

  1. Click Generate.
  2. Select Text.
  3. Type in the following replacing <SSID> and <Password>: WIFI:S:<SSID>;T:WPA2;P:<PASSWORD>;H:false;;
  4. Click Generate.
  5. Click Save, or Share to your printer.
  6. Put the QR code in a frame and hang it.