Play Your Own Game

1. Judge less.

At least half the people doing things with money that you disagree with are playing a different game than you are. You probably look just as crazy in their eyes.

2. Figure out what game you’re playing, then play it (and only it).

So few investors do this. Maybe they have a vague idea of their game, but they haven’t clearly defined it. And when they don’t know what game they’re playing, they’re at risk of taking their cues and advice from people playing different games, which can lead to risks they didn’t intend and outcomes they didn’t imagine.

-Morgan Housel, “Play Your Own Game.” Collaborative Fund. May 13, 2021

Anything Can Go – Interview With Paul Feyerabend in English

A quote from Paul Feyerabend‘s Stanford Encyclopedia page, quoted this bit:

“One of my motives for writing Against Method was to free people from the tyranny of philosophical obfuscators and abstract concepts such as “truth”, “reality”, or “objectivity”, which narrow people’s vision and ways of being in the world. Formulating what I thought were my own attitude and convictions, I unfortunately ended up by introducing concepts of similar rigidity, such as “democracy”, “tradition”, or “relative truth”. Now that I am aware of it, I wonder how it happened. The urge to explain one’s own ideas, not simply, not in a story, but by means of a “systematic account”, is powerful indeed. (pp. 179–80).

-Giedymin, J., 1976, “Instrumentalism and its Critique: A Reappraisal”, in R.S.Cohen, P.K.Feyerabend & M.Wartofsky (eds.), Essays in Memory of Imre Lakatos, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 179–207.

Email & Tool Choice

Like everyone, I get more email than I really want. Most of it is newsletters. I usually use Thunderbird for email. It incorporates most of my email into one interface. It uses IMAP to pull the information from the email providers’ servers, so I don’t have to use some janky, javascript laden website for email. It also has a calendar integrated in with it using WebDAV, which is nice.

But, when I start getting to around 50 emails in my Inbox, I start getting a little twitchy. It’s too much. I know most people have thousands of emails in their Inbox, I am not them. And, the way I keep from becoming them is my secret weapon, Mutt. For reasons I don’t quite understand, I’ll see an email in Thunderbird and think, “Oh, I might want to read that later.” When I see the same email in Mutt, I’ll want to delete or file it it – and almost everything else too.

The Convivial Society Newsletter in Mutt

As you can see from the above, the newsletter is still readable. But, it adds more work because HTML is not what Mutt is best at displaying. And while I think The Convivial Society is great and would like to read every issue, Mutt asks a simple question: if not now, when? Which means you become much more likely to delete it. It’s also much easier to delete email in Mutt, just hit the D button, and it deletes the email and takes you to the next one. It can take you less than a minute to delete 100 emails.

Reflecting on this fact makes me once again think about how the tools we use influence our behavior. If you are using web email or even a computer application like Thunderbird, their user interface invites you to procrastinate and the emails pile up. Mutt, with its focus on free text, cuts through that dynamic. I’ve also noticed something similar on WordPress, where there is a significant difference in the kinds of posts I write using the WordPress web interface versus the kind of post I’ll write when I’m using emacs and org2blog.

So, moral of the story, be careful about the tools you use, and there may be advantages of using a less feature-rich application than may be apparent at first blush.

Film Review: Cruella

tl;dr: Derivative, thin plot but with inspired acting, visuals and costume design. Not recommended, but there are worse ways to spend 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Generally speaking, I think it is best to offer reviews for things that are excellent or in exceptional circumstances, advice to avoid something terrible. Cruella is neither of these things. It has some really brilliantly executed shots. But, it’s mostly a pastiche, a mishmash of moments that don’t work to tell a fundamentally interesting story. If I had to list the problems with the film, it might look like this:

  • Cruella is another example of Disney recycling old content and preaching “family” values
  • Cruella is a comic book villain, someone who wants to make coats from Dalmatian puppies (in the original)
  • In this version, Dalmatians are like Dobermans or German Shepherds, except for the inconvenient fact that American Animal Hospital Association writes about a study that puts them in the bottom five breeds for bite risk
  • Cruella’s superpower is fashion in the service of narcissism, which is sympathetic because we are comparing her to someone worse and it is more relatable in an era of self-absorbed “influencers”
  • The relationship dynamics in this story are ridiculous, e.g., the Butler.
  • There’s also an underlying theme that genetics are fate and that somehow the real choices she is making aren’t defining who she is more than her parental lineage

And I could go on. Ordinarily, I’d give a film like this one a pass on all of these defects because it is a “popcorn” movie. The whole point of watching it is to enjoy the action sequences. But, man, something about that greasy Disney touch, with the moralizing while constructing a story that makes horrible behavior look sympathetic revokes that free pass.

You might also argue, and you’d have a point, that the fact that it gave rise to this kind of reaction might suggest that it has artistic merit on those grounds alone, a kind of provocateur. Maybe. But, it’s still a pretty mediocre movie.

Zuihitsu: 2021-05

Collecting these little ideas has become a major focus. Here’s this month’s installment.

  1. Small talk is the tax that God extracted for the privilege of human speech.
  2. It is a different skill to communicate an idea than to understand it.
  3. If someone says there was too much, then something about it was unappealing.
  4. Why not? is a terrible reason.
  5. Remember the creative power of paring back.
  6. Narrow intelligence is not on a continuum with general intelligence.
  7. Intelligence is embodied and cannot be located in the brain.
  8. “Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third-story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”—Terence McKenna
  9. The days of top-down cultural consensus are over.
  10. You are what you think about all day long.—Ralph Waldo Emerson, paraphrased
  11. “When the time is right” means “not now.”
  12. Trust is not transferable.
  13. You only have to be lucky once.
  14. Consensus does not function in spaces of true diversity.
  15. Leadership tends to reenforce accountability and rights.
  16. Business cards are for selling something. Have one? What are you selling?
  17. The iron law of institutions: people care more about their own power within an institution than the total power of that institution.
  18. Elitism can only happen in the context of relationships. If you are better, you need a comparison class.
  19. You were interrupted. What were you going to say?
  20. What did you mean by that?
  21. Any study of Internet culture is basically a study of crazy people.
  22. “Be careful who you pretend to be, because you are who you pretend to be”.—attributed to Kurt Vonnegut
  23. No thaw is forever.
  24. It’s not an apology if it comes with an excuse. It is not a compliment if it comes with a request.
  25. In all things — except love — start with the exit strategy. Prepare for the ending. Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.
  26. The foundation of maturity: Just because it’s not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility.
  27. Be strict with yourself and forgiving of others. The reverse is hell for everyone.
  28. Your best response to an insult is “You’re probably right.” Often they are.
  29. If you can avoid seeking approval of others, your power is limitless.
  30. Contemplating the weaknesses of others is easy; contemplating the weaknesses in yourself is hard, but it pays a much higher reward.
  31. Write down one thing you are grateful for each day.
  32. Ignore what others may be thinking of you, because they aren’t.
  33. Always say less than necessary.
  34. Don’t treat people as bad as they are. Treat them as good as you are.
  35. Bad things can happen fast, but almost all good things happen slowly.
  36. If you meet a jerk, overlook them. If you meet jerks everywhere everyday, look deeper into yourself.
  37. All the greatest gains in life — in wealth, relationships, or knowledge —come from the magic of compounding interest — amplifying small steady gains.
  38. You don’t marry a person, you marry a family.
  39. Always give credit, take blame.
  40. Epitaph: when I die, a few people will be sorry, and a couple of people will remember me for several days.
  41. Repair what you helped break. Collective freedom is impossible without interpersonal repair.
  42. You turn yourself into the weapon when you strike someone else—in the end, another way to erase yourself—and so you do that last.—Alexander Chee
  43. In conclusion, there is no conclusion. Things will go on as they always have, getting weirder all the time.—Robert Anton Wilson
  44. Kindness is going soft where the world would make you hard.
  45. Learn a brute force method, acquire intuition as to how to speed it up, and apply it until you get stuck then figure out a new insight.
  46. Try harder to reinvest our environments with the meaning that belligerent materialism has sucked out of them.—Alan Moore
  47. Gell-Mann Amnesia, believing news articles outside expertise even after noticing errors in reporting in one’s area of expertise.
  48. Enjoy yourself. The alternative is to kill yourself. The first option is better, always.
  49. I won’t miss the circus around here, but I might miss some of the clowns.—Former Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)
  50. Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.—Mark Twain
  51. It is better to be generally paranoid than to be bureaucratically prepared.
  52. Amateurs talk strategy and professionals talk logistics.
  53. Real success is succeeding, then bombing on a new idea or approach.
  54. Is it performance or is it actual?
  55. The more incompetent one feels, the more eager he is to fight.—Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  56. It is not more surprising to be born twice than once; everything in nature is resurrection.—Voltaire
  57. Caution can also be a risk.
  58. What you resist, persists. —Carl Jung
  59. Help wanted. No complainers, know-it-alls, whiners, sloths, manipulators, roamers, hiders, shirkers, liars, haters, clock watchers, controllers, passive aggressors, pukers, or splitters. Pukers are people that tell other people their troubles and then go about their day. Splitters are people that like to create division and sides.
  60. You can’t use reason to argue someone out of a position that they did not arrive at by reason.
  61. Even the best ideas get brushed aside by real-world data, don’t take it personally.
  62. I can’t stand it. I know you planned it.
  63. Have the right enemies.
  64. Consider the possibility that a visceral defense of the physical, and an accompanying dismissal of the virtual as inferior or escapist, is a result of superuser privileges.
  65. Change your perspective, change yourself.
  66. Everyone and every thing has a story to share, if we are willing and able to hear it.

Found Footage Festival

“The Found Footage Festival is a one-of-a-kind event that showcases footage from videos that were found at garage sales and thrift stores and in warehouses and dumpsters across the country.”

http://www.foundfootagefest.com

Let me walk you through my experience. I go to videos, click in a bit and find this one:

Rub your stomach and balls 81 times. The video appears to have guys swinging weights from their testicles. And then, there’s this comment from YouTube: “This should have stayed secret.” Very funny. You know I’m going to work through the Shaturday Morning cartoon series next.

Cryptography from the Ground Up

“One of the most interesting and useful things computers can do for us is cryptography. We can hide messages, validate identities, and even build entire trustless distributed systems. Cryptography not only defines our modern world, but is a big part of how we will build the world of the future.

However, unless you want to dedicate years and a PhD to studying the subject, the actual workings of cryptography can be hard to learn. It can involve a lot of pitfalls and if you dare build from scratch, you are bound to make a fool of yourself. Why?

In my opinion, it comes down to history. Cryptography has had centuries of methods that have been made, broken, and remade again. Most tutorials on cryptography focus on the what: do this, don’t do that, follow the rules. But they skip over the why: why do we do the things we do? What are we trying to avoid?

To understand the why, we need to understand how we got here in the first place. And to do that, let’s set computers to the side for the moment and delve into the world of classical cryptography.”

https://cmdli.github.io/crypto/