How Not to Be Stupid

“…stupidity is the cost of intelligence operating in a complex environment…

[Stupidity:] overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information…

When it comes to overloading our cognitive brains, the seven factors are: being outside of your circle of competence, stress, rushing or urgency, fixation on an outcome, information overload, and being in the presence of an “authority.” Acting alone any of these are powerful enough, but together they dramatically increase the odds you are unaware that you’ve been cognitively compromised.

…if these factors are present, don’t make any important decisions.”

Interview with Adam Robertson in “How Not to Be Stupid.Farnam Street. January 2, 2019.

The Philosopher Redefining Equality | The New Yorker

“‘People now have the freedom to have crosscutting identities in different domains. At church, I’m one thing. At work, I’m something else. I’m something else at home, or with my friends. The ability not to have an identity that one carries from sphere to sphere but, rather, to be able to slip in and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining one’s identities in other domains?’ She paused. ‘That is what it is to be free.’ …

…As a rule, it’s easy to complain about inequality, hard to settle on the type of equality we want. Do we want things to be equal where we start in life or where we land? When inequalities arise, what are the knobs that we adjust to get things back on track? Individually, people are unequal in countless ways, and together they join groups that resist blending. How do you build up a society that allows for such variety without, as in the greater-Detroit real-estate market, turning difference into a constraint? How do you move from a basic model of egalitarian variety, in which everybody gets a crack at being a star at something, to figuring out how to respond to a complex one, where people, with different allotments of talent and virtue, get unequal starts, and often meet with different constraints along the way? …

…To a pragmatist, “truth” is an instrumental and contingent state; a claim is true for now if, by all tests, it works for now.”

—Nathan Heller, “The Philosopher Redefining Equality.” The New Yorker. January 7, 2019.

Sounds like it is time to revisit with John Dewey.

If You’re Over 50, Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t Be Yours — ProPublica

“Through 2016, our analysis found that between the time older workers enter the study and when they leave paid employment, 56 percent are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily…When you add in those forced to leave their jobs for personal reasons such as poor health or family trouble, the share of Americans pushed out of regular work late in their careers rises to almost two-thirds.”

—Peter Gosselin. “If You’re Over 50, Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t Be Yours.” ProPublica. December 28, 2018.

Personal Year in Review: 2018

Last year, I tried a series of experiments:

  1. 2018 Experiment: A Reading List
  2. 2018 Experiment: Daily Meditation
  3. 2018 Experiment: HIIT Burpee and Running Program
  4. 2018 Experiment: Ketogenic Diet


The reading list is a good idea. However, I started with 101 books to read this year and only read about twelve of them. I did look at twelve more, but I either stopped because I wanted to spend more time on them or because I wasn’t enjoying them. This year, I’ll keep the list down closer to fifty-two and keep the page counts lower.

The other good thing that came from the reading list is I kept a list of books I heard about during the course of the year, but keeping focused on the list removed the urge to read these new books. I added them to a 2019 list of books to look at and after reviewing the 500 or so books on the list at the end of 2018, it felt right to pick only 10% of them. This seems like a better process than selecting books in the moment.

Daily meditation was a game changer. I meditated consistently for the first two months. Then, I had a problem with my phone, and I did not have access to the meditation tracking app I used for a week or two. After this break, I fell out of the habit. There’s something about following a ritual that enables making something into a practice. Change it a little bit, and it is easy to lose the habit. It took me until October to start again, and I have been consistent, more or less, since.

It’s hard to say exactly what meditation does, but I find it changes my personality a bit in a positive way. I’m less likely to get angry or frustrated, because meditation shows that most of our thoughts and feelings are just pure nonsense. If you do it long enough where your legs start to hurt, it can be a useful exercise in thinking about impermanence. The pain is there, and it is unpleasant. But, it is temporary, and let’s just see how long we can go and not let it bother enough to stop meditating. You might think it sounds more like sado-masochism, and you’re not completely wrong. Still, it is a useful exercise.

The 2018 Experiment: HIIT Burpee and Running Program, modified as described in the discussion session, shows real promise for being a program that can be used to maintain muscle strength as we age. However, I am going to focus on running and losing weight, and only do 30 burpees in 10 minutes twice a week to establish a habit. Any more and I would expect to gain weight. I would like to get stronger and improve my overall fitness, but only once my weight is under control.

Finally, there was the 2018 Experiment: Ketogenic Diet. I lost about ten pounds trying this before 2018. When I tried it in combination with the HITT program above, I gained fifteen pounds. The Ketogenic Diet is impossible to follow if you have a wife, children or social life when you are expected to eat the same food as everyone else. If you can get everyone else in your life on board, it’ll probably work. Otherwise, you are best served trying something else.

Personal Goals for 2019

  1. Weight within 15 pounds (7kg) of ideal weight: Ideal weight has been traditionally been defined as 100 pounds (~46kg) for 5 feet (~150cm) and an additional 5 pounds (2kg) for each additional inch (2.5cm) of height.
  2. Running program: Run 6 days a week for >= 40 mins.
  3. Daily meditation: 300 days and/or 200 hours.
  4. Read Book of R: complete book and all exercises.
  5. Read book list: aiming for half the list.
  6. Be creative: One drawing, poem, essay, etc., a week.
  7. Improve relationships: Starting with something small, a Postcard Friday but using TouchNote to send the cards. It allows for adding digital pictures and some text, which strikes me as an interesting way to blend the physical and the virtual to help keep in better touch or open a new, different channel of communication.

Not Here to Dance

“The one thing I would say to any girl who is reading this right now is this: You can’t lose your fire. You can’t let anybody take your fire away from you. If you have big dreams, the fire is the only thing that will get you there.

Talent alone will not do it. Patience will not do it. You’re going to be tested and pushed to the limits of what you can take. You’re going to have to work just as hard as the men to get to the top of your sport, but for a lot less money. You’re going to cry. You’re going to throw up. You’re going to ache… every single player showed up on time and gave 100%. Every single day. No excuses, no complaints. No one could afford to complain. I would come home at night and I was so sore and exhausted that I would pass out on my bed at seven o’clock with my homework scattered everywhere.

These are the moments that nobody sees. But you can’t lose the fire.”

—Ada Hegerberg, “Not Here to Dance.” The Players’ Tribune. December 16, 2018.

Dear Nick Jonas, Here’s Your Beginner’s Guide to Bollywood

“Never forget that ‘Bollywood’ is not an all-inclusive term for any Indian film. You don’t call every sandwich a burger, now do you? Bollywood refers to the Hindi-language film industry. Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Tulu (to name a few) are all Indian languages with entirely different film industries (and I highly recommend that you check them out).”

—Nikitha Menon. “Dear Nick Jonas, Here’s Your Beginner’s Guide to Bollywood.” Brown Girl Magazine. November 29, 2018.

And that, my friends, is how Brown Girl Magazine made it into my RSS feed. Is this where I plug Tollywood and suggest the Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy? Those aren’t tears. It’s just the kajal.