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Daily log: September 1, 2019

Spent pretty much the whole day integrating various things from the past, following Peterson’s “if you remember something that happened more than 18 months ago and it still feels bad, you haven’t done a good job thinking about what happened and you’d better do it now”.

The basic structure for relationship-style things is:

  • What did you do wrong?
  • Why didn’t the other person defend adequately?
  • What did the other person do wrong?
  • Why didn’t you defend adequately?

I won’t give examples because they are not particularly useful without context, plus I don’t want to post my own examples here anyway. And that’s all for now because I have to sleep. See you!

Jordan Peterson, Personality #7: Carl Jung and the Lion King (part 1)

Watched another “Personality” lecture: Carl Jung and the Lion King (part 1).

I have kinda ignored the parts that I couldn’t readily apply to my own life – like Simba being little Jesus (I mean, of course he is, it’s just I can’t do anything with it), or discussions of the Nazi symbolism:

I.

I learned a new word:

comport /kəmˈpɔːt/

(comport oneself) (formal) conduct oneself; behave: “articulate students who comported themselves well in interviews”.

II.

[Sex and aggression], say, unlike thirst or hunger, are much more difficult to integrate into proper social being, and tend to be excluded and left unconscious. And so a lot of Freudian psychology – and I would say psychology in general – is focused on the integration of sexual impulses and aggressive impulses into the psyche.

I think that by “integrate” Peterson means “acknowledge that they exist – and they are a part of you, not something that simply happens to you from time to time”.

This is spot on. Until a couple of years ago my views on sex and aggression were basically “oh my god, this is so uncivilized” – to the point where I was successfully radiating an impression of being asexual. An impression of never being angry was harder to maintain, admittedly, but I think I would have still agreed that “it is never right to be angry” if asked.

I haven’t consciously tried to integrate them yet, but I will, and we’ll see how it goes. Or maybe I will see and you won’t see. I can’t promise that I will remember to write about it.

III.

“Posture helps with looking dominant, which in turn helps with being dominant.” I have already been working on my posture for unrelated reasons, but okay, thanks for extra motivation.

IV.

Something I don’t really understand:

[...] there’s an old idea that the way to full maturity is to find what you lost as a child and regain it. That’s a brilliant idea (and that echoes through myths all over the world), and that means you have to regain your capacity – once you’re disciplined and you know how to do something – you have to regain your capacity for play and, sort of, for wide-eyed wonder.

And that’s maybe the childlike part of your spirit, and the reintegration of that childlike part with the adult grown-up part revivifies the adult grown-up part and allows the child to manifest itself in a disciplined way in the world.

I’m tempted to link it to Kegan stage 5, where after figuring out your wants and relationships and principles and values and everything, you realize you actually don’t know all that much and you start hunting for unknown unknowns (which can be done by following your childish whims, among other things). But there is also likely another perspective on it, one that doesn’t involve Kegan almost at all, and I don’t yet know what it could be.

V.

Imagine you’re watching a gymnastics performance, right? And it’s [...] at a high level world-class performance. And someone comes out there, and they do this routine that’s just dead letter-perfect, you know. And they stop and everybody claps like mad, right, and it’s perfect.

And so then the next contestant comes out – and they’re basically in real trouble, because, you know, this person just got 9.7 out of 10 and it was perfect, so how do you beat perfect? And so [...] they come out there, and then you watch them, and you’re right on the edge of your seat – because what you see them do is something extraordinarily disciplined, just like the last person did, but they push themselves into that zone that’s just beyond their discipline capacity. And you can tell every second you’re watching it that they’re that close to disaster. And so you’re right on the edge of your seat, and you know that they’re doing a high-wire act without a net.

And so when they finally land triumphantly, you’ll all stand up and clap spontaneously. And it’s because you’ve just witnessed someone, who’s a master at playing a game, who’s also a master at improving how to play that game at the same time. And people love that more than anything.

I don’t actually realize that somebody is doing something extraordinarily disciplined when I watch a gymnastics performance. But anyway, the point about “master at improving how to play the game” is interesting. I see many more stories of the “I’m good at X” type than the “watch me become good at X” type, and I can’t say I like the second type of stories more, but I will watch out for those stories more closely in the future now that I’ve been pointed at the concept.

VI.

“Your flood will be caused by your own wilful blindness” (cf. Mufasa not keeping a close eye on Scar).

Alright, which floods will be caused by my own wilful blindness? I know at least one: all my projects will fail because I know there are problems with them and I am ignoring those problems. What else?

(Also see: Murphyjitsu.)

How to move your eyes smoothly without looking at a finger

Problem statement: it’s easy to move your eyes smoothly when you are tracking a moving object. This is called smooth pursuit. However, triggering smooth pursuit without a moving object is notoriously hard. And if you can’t even do something as simple as moving your eyes smoothly, what kind of human being are you? How are you going to cure diseases, make ungodly technological advances, explore the universe, reach for the stars?

Luckily, there are other ways to move your eyes, and some of them are also smooth. They are not controlled by the same circuitry as smooth pursuit, but still. Here are the four most common eye movements, ranked from worst to best:

  1. Saccades: looking at whatever you want to look at (no self-restraint at all!). Completely unsmooth. Ugh.
  1. Optokinetic response: restoring previous eye position after you’ve started tracking a moving object and it has gone out out of the field of view. Not smooth either.
  1. Vestibulo–ocular reflex: compensating eye movements when you move your head. Feels like cheating but it works.
  1. Convergence: maintaining binocular vision, e. g. when an object moves towards you. Can be done without a moving object, voluntarily, and smoothly (for a short time). Read about Magic Eye pictures if you can’t do voluntary convergence – it can be trained.

But is there any other way to achieve smooth eye motion?

The reason I’m writing this post is that recently I have stumbled upon the paper Smooth Pursuit of Nonvisual Motion. It gives us one more alternative: moving the finger across your arm with your eyes closed. You get true smooth pursuit and technically you have avoided looking at the finger. Wonderful!

Perhaps one day we will figure out how to move our eyes smoothly without any fingers whotsoever – but alas, for now this is the best we can do. Still much better than any other method, though, as evidenced by the following graph:

(A): looking at the object, (B): moving the object and feeling it, (C): moving the object, (D): feeling the moving object, (E): hearing a sound emitted by the moving object.

 No comments   2019   paper

Daily log: August 31, 2019

I.

Spent a while brainstorming things that are Out to Get Me:

They seek resources at your expense. Fees are hidden. Extra options are foisted upon you. Things are made intentionally worse, forcing you to pay to make it less worse. Least bad deals require careful search. Experiences are not as advertised. What you want is buried underneath stuff you don’t want. Everything is data to sell you something, rather than an opportunity to help you.

[...] When you listen to a political speech, you feel it. Dealing with your wireless or cable company, you feel it. At the car dealership, you feel it. When you deal with that one would-be friend, you feel it. Thinking back on that one ex, you feel it. It’s a trap.

As a side effect of the exercise I’ve realized that “thinking outside the box” and “being too lazy to figure out what exactly the author had in mind and going with the interpretation you like” are pretty similar from the outside. Not the point, though.

What is out to get me?

  1. Refactoring? Writing good documentation? Contributing to open-source?
  2. Hacker News, Reddit, Twitter. Rewatching Charlie Brooker clips over and over. Haskell-related chats.
  3. Listening to music and trying to find more good music.
  4. Projects like Codesearch that are nifty and nothing beyond that. Same for smaller libs like microlens – the time spent on them is absolutely not worth the result.
  5. Guitar. Learning recognizable parts of popular songs, but never something whole, and never something that would keep the listener curious from the first note to the last.
  6. Living with people: going to places together, watching TV shows together, etc.

All of that is “out to get me” in a pretty loose sense – takes potentially unbounded time, and only brings back proportional value (but not exponential).

Further reflection produced several random revelations (as well as an excuse for alliteration). First of all, the best way to avoid refactoring code is, obviously, not writing any code. Goal for the next half a year: identified. Next, I should give up on guitar until I find a guitar tutor. Finally, living with people seems very useful if I can run ideas by them, not very useful otherwise. Goal for the previous N years: de-identified.

II.

Reviewed a Guide PR I was postponing for two days. The interesting part is that this PR replaced carefully constructed Postgres schemas with dumb “let’s just store everything as JSON” storage (with my blessing).

My reasoning was basically that storing nested documents in a relational database is tricky, plus it creates extra invariants that the database can not verify anyway. But my slightly deeper reasoning was “if I hate an idea, there’s probably something to it”. I will keep you updated.

III.

Speaking of “if I hate an idea, there’s probably something to it”, I now have How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big and Atlas Shrugged in my reading pipeline.

The former is just conservative-ish enough to maybe be worthwhile. The second one is more interesting – it touches the dreaded “liberalism/individualism” square of the Tilted Political Compass, and by “touches” I mean “throws a 60-page monolog at you”. That’s a kinda long monolog. Monolong. Wish me luck.

I have three hypotheses: a) individualism is stupid, b) individualism somehow secretly leads to Faster Progress in Society even when it tells you that you should care about yourself and not about the society, and c) I don’t know what individualism is and I should just read the book. My bets are on (b), although (c) is a strong contender.

IV.

Finally, bought the Procreate drawing app for my sister and she has already spent three hours drawing. Worth it. Also, all other apps I’ve seen seem to be crappy, so – double worth it.

€11 feels expensive for an app because [stupid biases of some kind], so I justified it by resolving to earn the same amount by working a bit more. Admittedly, this particular case wasn’t well thought out because it clashed with “don’t work on a weekend”.

(The weekend won.)

Daily log: August 30, 2019

Sending status updates about projects is apparently very useful – a) people are less worried, b) extra interactions = extra opportunities. The primary reason I usually don’t give status updates is that I also believe that c) every interaction is a chance for someone to remember that I exist and it would result in something bad (getting fired, getting shouted at, I don’t know). This doesn’t seem to hold in practice, though – but if so, why would I ever believe it? And the answer is: because if I actually do get shouted at, it would be Impossible To Fix Ever, so being afraid of getting shouted at is much more worthwhile than hoping for something good to happen. Which is stupid, because mostly everything is actually fixable.

Broke up with a friend because I couldn’t talk to them without getting annoyed and it wasn’t fair for either of us. I don’t know why I get annoyed at some things and not others, and I have given up trying to figure why.

Got slightly drunk, ostensibly in an attempt to do whatever things I was reluctant to do earlier this week, but in reality just because I wanted to. This doesn’t take away from the fact that I did do things I was reluctant to do, and it was useful and probably worth getting drunk. Not sure what is the lesson here.

Tried very good crêpes: ДЭПО #2. I don’t know why I’m even telling you this.

Reading pipeline (likely predicts what I will be thinking about in the next couple of weeks)

Surgeons Should Not Look Like Surgeons

So consider next time you randomly pick a novel, to avoid the one with the author photo representing a pensive man with an ascot standing behind wall-to-wall bookshelves. Or the well-spoken person who gives what is known as a TED talk.

What can be phrased and expressed in a clear narrative that convinces suckers will be a sucker trap. [...] Likewise, there prevails the illusion that businesses work by business plans and science by funding. This is strictly not true: a business plan is a useful narrative for those who want to convince a sucker.

The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial

As a result, as another buddy Rob Salkowitz put it in our Facebook discussion, premium mediocrity is creating an aura of exclusivity without actually excluding anyone. [...] Premium mediocrity is a pattern of consumption that publicly signals upward mobile aspirations, with consciously insincere pretensions to refined taste, while navigating the realities of inexorable downward mobility with sincere anxiety. There are more important things to think about than actually learning to appreciate wine and cheese, such as making rent. But at least pretending to appreciate wine and cheese is necessary to not fall through the cracks in the API.

Daniel Kahneman on Cutting Through the Noise

I was working with an insurance company, and we did a very standard experiment. They constructed cases, very routine, standard cases. [...] You have 50 people reading a case and putting a dollar value on it.

Suppose you take two people at random, two underwriters at random. You average the premium they set, you take the difference between them, and you divide the difference by the average. By what percentage do people differ? Well, would you expect people to differ? And there is a common answer that you find, when I just talk to people and ask them, or the executives had the same answer. It’s somewhere around 10 percent.

Now, what we found was 50 percent, 5–0, which, by the way, means that those underwriters were absolutely wasting their time, in the sense of assessing risk.

Daily log: August 29, 2019

Worked in a coffee shop again. Learned – from a random magazine lying around – that the specialty coffee industry is surprisingly self-aware (or startlingly not?):

Are We in a Bubble?

[...]

Meanwhile, there seems to be a “third wave playbook” that has been passed around to any entrepreneur with a few extra hundred grand and a sweet location. Certain places, once the source of unique coffee experiences (Melbourne, London, Dublin, LA, Chicago – just to name a few), are super saturated with coffee companies. Everyone is talking about their coffees’ provenance. Everyone has an $18k espresso machine. Everyone can do latte art. Everyone has a passionate mission, a direct relationship with the grower, and a commitment to deliver the highest quality.

[...]

What would a coffee bubble look like? A coffee bubble might mean that consumer prices are impossibly high, and the bubble will burst when consumers wake up and start refusing to pay US$4.50 for their flat whites. [...]

Decided not to work after 8 PM. This won’t last for long but I claim that it will have a (useful) long-term effect anyway. Might expand later.

Shifted towards “I should look closely at what Alexander Granin does and learn things from him”. Some things he thinks/does are [controversial]. I am aware of that and will take the matter with utmost seriousness. (I will probably not.)

Successfully restrained from arguing too much about Peterson. Protip: prefixing anything with “successfully” makes it look more like an achievement!

Speaking of Peterson, a fun question: can I convey whatever Kegan/Chapman/Peterson are talking about without spending so many words and exhausting the reader/viewer’s budget for “incomprehensible ramblings”? Less fun but probably more important question: will that be useful? Good and Real attempts to do exactly that with questions like “Does free will exist?”, but it didn’t really work for me, and more wordy things like the Sequences fared better.

Daily log: August 28, 2019

Alright, it’s 3 AM already so I’ll keep it short.

Worked in a cafe, thanks to “Every productivity thought I’ve ever had” et al:

[...] even if you can work at home, you probably shouldn’t. I personally try leave home as early as possible, go to the university, and return home as late as possible.

It works, and I always knew it worked, but when I moved back to my hometown I pretty much stopped leaving the house. “Why didn’t I think about it before?” is a very important question here, but I don’t know the answer yet.

Started a blog post about application of Kegan to [redacted], life, the universe, and everything, but it’s all in my head and I have to talk it through and then expand it. I would have also said that I should spend a couple of years figuring out if it’s even right, but nowadays I know that anything with “should spend a couple of years” in the middle is wrong. Looks like you, my gentle readers, will have to endure the unrightness I will unleash upon you.

Monadfix is doing well. It dawned on me for the first time today that “hey, actually, thanks to me payments in India will be slightly more reliable” – all my life before that I felt kinda disconnected from projects I was working on.

Sold cryptocurrencies I don’t like. Bye, Ripple and NEO and Zen. Hello, Ethereum and Ethereum and Ethereum. Overall my plan to become a multimillionaire by being more patient than other people isn’t doing so well. It’s probably a metaphor for something. (Not really, it’s quite transparent.)

Wrote an almost exhaustive list of places I’ve been to and have an opinion about. It’s in Russian so it’s not in English. On the other hand, if it was in English it would not be in Russian, so that’s fair I think.

This is all for now. Bye!

Daily log: August 27, 2019

So here hath been dawning
Another blue day:
Think, wilt thou let it
Slip useless away?

Well, maybe I wilt, maybe I wiltn’t, let’s see.

This day has mostly been spent on maintenance, plus [redacted], which coincidentally was the most useful thing I did today.

Ran, despite thinking “ehh I’m too lazy”. Apparently I’m not that bad at creating habits, I just think I am. From now on I shall think I’m excellent at creating habits. Growth mindset!

Well, growth mindset actually probably doesn’t exist, but that’s exactly what I would say if I didn’t believe in growth mindset. [checks email] Oh, I got invited to join the Tautology Club. Nifty.

Did more timers. That’s probably because I’m excellent at creating habits, and not because timers are fun. (It’s because timers are fun.)

Read about royal prerogative in the UK. Monarchy in the UK is said to follow the principle “the monarch is allowed to do anything as long as they will never actually exercise this power”, which is funny and so you might’ve heard it before, but the interesting part – “so what will happen if the unstoppable force does hit an immovable object after all?” – is usually omitted. No wonder, because it turns out to be pretty boring: a) the monarch can’t do that much and b) if they do, a court will say “no”, or the thing will be undone, or somebody will sue the government and win, or nobody will care.

Related:

In 1990, when a law liberalising Belgium’s abortion laws was approved by parliament, King Baudouin refused to give his royal assent, only the second time in Belgium’s history the monarch elected to do so. Instead, he requested that the cabinet declare him unable to reign for a day, which it did, thereby assuming the king’s constitutional powers. All members of the government then signed the bill, passing it into law. The government declared that Baudouin was capable of reigning again the next day.

Finished another Peterson’s lecture, will maybe write about it later. They are getting more and more boring, probably because I’ve internalized the interesting parts already.

Made rice. Ate rice. Feels like I’m playing ABACABA, but with food. (The rules are simple: whoever spells out the longest prefix of ABACABA... wins. In my case, I can go for a while with {everything I was eating before} + rice, but eventually I’ll have to find something else to add to the mix.)

Daily log: August 26, 2019

Followed back everyone who followed me on Keybase and everyone in the “suggested” list, plus some more random people. Wrote everyone. Got a few responses back! None of those have led anywhere, though.

Out of people I wrote to, some will try to get something out of me eventually. Which is great, because that’s how you get mutually beneficial transactions. Even better if they want to recommend me to someone else, as illustrated by a random quote from [wherever]:

[...] I realized the person I was speaking with could benefit from a contact of mine who could help the brand reach its target audience.

It was mutually beneficial, but when I expressed interest in connecting them, his reaction was, “What’s in it for you? Are you a consultant? What fees are you making from this?”

My answer was simple: It was valuable for me to have a strong relationship with both sides of the introduction, and connecting the two was the best way to do that.

Translation: “I wanted to get status by recommending you to that other person I know”. Please do.

Okay, enough of this. Next: onboarded our new hire Marko Dimjašević. He is way more careful and disciplined than I currently am, which is a) completely appropriate given that he’s a software verification and formal methods expert and I’m kinda not, and b) it’s also great for Monadfix and me personally because now I have to not look bad. It’s like wearing an invisible tie.

Watched another Peterson talk, see Jordan Peterson: Who Dares Say He Believes in God? for the details. Overall I can really recommend watching things for the sole purpose of generating prompts to think about. It’s, like, several stars out of five.

Abandoned the habit of not eating after 7pm because I was struggling with cheese-related theodicy: “if God exists and is good, why am I not allowed to eat a bit of cheese with my evening tea?”. Henceforth I shall be allowed to eat whenever – but if I’m hungry, it has to be a proper meal. And if I can’t make a proper meal out of eight curd snacks, well, tough luck. Also, cookies are still verboten because I’m trying to figure out whether all food stereotypes (tasty things are bad for you basically) are secretly true.

Hummus → spaghetti → glass noodles → vegetables → hummus was getting tiresome, so I bought some rice. Really scraping the bottom of the barrel here, I don’t know what I’m going to do if that turns out to be still not varied enough. Just kidding, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to suffer.

Finally, got inspired by the following highly inspirational quote and told somebody that they did something cool. Non-sarcastically even!

“Rationalists obviously don’t *actually* take ideas seriously. Like, take the Gratitude Journal. This is the one peer-reviewed intervention that *actually increases your subjective well being*, and costs barely anything. And no one I know has even seriously tried it. Do literally *none* of these people care about their own happiness?”

“Huh. Do *you* keep a gratitude journal?”

“Lol. No, obviously.”

— Some Guy at the Effective Altruism Summit of 2012

Jordan Peterson: Who Dares Say He Believes in God?

I watched another Peterson’s talk: Who Dares Say He Believes in God?.

Basically, people kept asking Peterson whether he believes in God, and he kept getting annoyed and wishing he had more than one minute to articulate the answer. So he went and talked about it for like an hour and a half. He also hinted that a thousand years would have been more appropriate but compromises had to be made.

The actual answer can be summarized as a) “I act as if God exists” and b) “but if you took the idea of God seriously, you would try to be a Really Good Person, and I don’t quite see anyone taking the idea seriously enough to make it believable that they actually think God exists”. The rest was spent talking about various things, including for some reason Marxism, which was kinda out of place but whatever.

And now the notes, which are really more of random things I will think about in my spare time and not really notes. First of all:

[...] values like nobility, endurance, courage, responsibility [...]

I spent about ten minutes afterwards trying to figure what exactly nobility was. You see, I’m trying to join the ranks of nobility myself:

My best idea is that nobility is playing in hard mode. You do [something] that makes your life harder and then you have to work harder to regain the losses, over and over again. Lying to avoid hurting other people is easy, not lying and still not hurting other people is (sometimes) hard, etc; same for begging. N=2, must be true.

I haven’t thought about the other three but I should. “Should” is a tricky word though. Whatever, “I will unless for some reason I won’t.” Okay, next:

Treating yourself as if you have inherent moral worth is a rather cool idea, and an extremely non-obvious one. If you do that, your life will improve for [some reasons that I don’t remember].

This goes on my list of hypotheses to check.

God is dead, meaning that now we have to create our own values. But we can’t actually create values that would be completely our own. Try doing that for a week, you will fail.

I wish I had found Peterson when I was trying to understand what the hell David Chapman (meaningness.com) was talking about. He says “Meaning is neither objective nor subjective” a lot and never quite explains it in a way that would be understandable.

Collective guilt is a stupid idea.

I always thought collective guilt was a stupid idea but at the same time thought it was kinda reasonable to feel that somebody could be blamed for what their [group] did. Now I wonder why exactly it is reasonable to feel that way. This goes on my list of things to think about.

I don’t have that many lists. But I do have, like, several.

Finally:

It’s easy to hold several contradicting thoughts in your head if you’ve never gone into the world and tried to do something. You can say “A” today and “not A” tomorrow, and you will notice the contradiction only when you try to act on it.

Does tweeting count? Probably not.

Damn.

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