bostonimproper's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
ertyu
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by ertyu »

How many silk worms for something small, say a handkerchief. Can one grow this amount of silk worms on a balcony? Maybe even if you don't end up extracting the silk, success one year can be, "I kept them buggers alive". I mean, other than how it would mean one would have to have silk worms in the house, I don't see why you can't raise yourself some silk worms. Or, if you want a step further removed, read a book about raising silk worms. If silk worms inspire you, I say move boldly in the direction of raising silk worms.

Also, some people are motivated by this, some are not, but if the zombie apocalypse has not arrived yet and people still have disposable income, sometime 5-10 years down the line you might be able to monetize the hobby. Boutique something something where people can visit your silk worm enclosure then have you make them a quilt from 100% organic biological silk worms.

Scott 2
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by Scott 2 »

Just read through the journal - some thoughts:

1. You sound like a very smart and driven person, who is capable of doing ALL the things. I used to be that way. My life got better when I prioritized dropping the 80% of tasks that don't have much impact. The next step is supposed to be replacing them with more 20% tasks, but simplifying was a better option for me.

2. I found it mentally helpful to split my mortgage spending into the composite costs when tracking - principal, interest, pmi, escrow, etc. Money going towards principal, you get to keep. I liked seeing that number.

3. I don't know anyone in tech who works without approaching burnout on a semi regular basis. Getting the finances sorted, so you have a viable exit strategy is a huge help.

However, I've also observed there's a transition that can happen, where someone well past that point gets invested in a work goal. It can be consuming, more so than getting money. I haven't met anyone who's found a great way to manage that stress, short of running away.

I'm not sure if it's the industry to blame, but tech also seems to draw in a certain personality. I think you're smart to recognize that young and take breaks.

4. My experience going from management back to an individual contributor role, is it means working for the people who are making internal politics difficult today. Having them as a boss can be even worse than having them as a peer. It's easy to find yourself in a fight to manage up, but now a layer removed from the decision making, with no formal authority. Not fun.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

@ertyu I think if we were to raise creepy crawlers, it'd probably be some red wigglers to supplement our composting. We have a tumbler now, but it's not as good as bugs literally eating away at matter. One of our friends is trying to selectively breed and induce mutations in red wigglers to get them to biodegrade plastic, so, uh, we'll see how successful he is at that endeavor and maybe borrow from his supply. :P

@bigato If these videos have inspired me to do anything, it's to get a proper wok.

@Scott 2 It's funny, I feel like all my tech friends are "over" working in the industry right now. For me, the novelty and intellectual challenge has worn off and been replaced by a vague sense that nothing you're doing really matters in the grand scheme of things, even though there's so much of it to do, and a daily routine of hitting your head against the wall because of decisions made above your pay grade. That plus lazy Type A personalities means that at least half of us are on the FIRE train. I like to think it would be more tolerable if I could go back to my "innocent" state as a newbie IC, but deep in my heart, I know I'm too jaded for that. :lol:

mooretrees
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by mooretrees »

bostonimproper wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:25 am





Emergency Preparedness & Gadgetry

Because of the PG&E blackout in California, I've been thinking about what we should do to prepare for emergencies as the climate changes. We already stockpile staples, jacob-style in 5 gallon buckets. We're on a hill, so we're unlikely to experience much water damage to our own home, but are still susceptible to water contamination and blackouts due to hurricanes and storm surges.

For electricity, the two options I'm considering is either buying a back-up generator or attaching a battery wall to our solar panels. Neither are particularly cheap prospects.

For water, if have backup electricity, we can maybe get an atmospheric water generator? Or we can try to do rainwater capture and filtration? I'm quite wary that we'd be able to set up the latter appropriately.

It strikes me that given these concerns, I default to rather consumer-oriented solutions. Buy a big gadget to make our family safe. Very non-Renaissance man of me. That's something I'd like to work on, but am a little at a loss where to begin.
I wondered if one way to address this concern is to dive into your electricity usage and work on making deliberate shifts to consume less. One way to prepare for these potential events is to be less attached to energy usage in the first place. You already have solar in place so that's awesome. I assume that buying batteries to be ready to live off of them in a standard home with standard usage would be really, really expensive.

The default to consumer-orientated solutions is fairly normal. This is a learned style of solving problems and can be unlearned. The key is to give yourself time to solve it. Let your problem solving without money muscles get a chance to simmer over whatever problem you have and eventually you will come up with some other solution. I'm still working on this myself, but having patience is key.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

We're probably not going the solar battery route. There's a big up-front cost to battery install so our system can switch between on- and off-grid (we'd want it to be both, because we get upwards of $750 of net metering credits a year by putting our excess generation back into grid). That's somewhere around $3-4k on accessory hardware and labor before you even get into the question of system capacity.

If I think through the higher likelihood scenarios I'm really concerned about they are probably easy to prepare for in a low-tech way:

1. Heavy, prolonged blizzard with downed power lines. Likely 3 days of blizzarding at absolute longest, with 1-2 days extra downtime as infra fires back up. Would need to drain pipes and hot water tank to avoid them freezing. It's a blizzard so food spoilage is less of an issue if we cart everything to the porch. We have natural gas so can still cook, but we'd need water. Best bet is probably to store the water as we're draining. The trick is to find a storage container that won't itself freeze. We can probably do the hot bottled water thing and layer for a few days for ourselves. We also have sleeping bags and lots of quilts around for insulation.

2. Hurricane which leads to water contamination and downed power lines. Day at longest, with effects on lasting for 2-3 days. We'll probably have warning so if we have water storage, can fill up beforehand. We're on a steep hill with escape routes inland well above sea level, so our physical selves should be relatively safe. Food spoilage can be averted if we manage to hit up the ice machine down the street in time. Otherwise, uh, eat all the meat and dairy quick? We don't have a lot though at any particular time, so that's not a huge issue.

So, running down the things we'd want to get: metal water bottles, water bricks, mylar blankets, insulated foam containers, chemical hand warmers. Maybe throw in a solar electronics charger (eh, maybe not if it's overcast) and small external power banks if we really need, but that's kind of gravy. Probably around $400 all in if we went retail? Could definitely get that number lower if we got creative.

mooretrees
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by mooretrees »

Sounds like you figured out a much cheaper and realistic solution! What are water bricks?

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

It's a brand of stackable water containers. I don't actually care if we get that brand specifically, but I associate the brand name with the general type of product in the way a lot of people will call all tissues Kleenex. We could theoretically just keep old gallon-size milk bottles or something, but I'm lactose intolerant and my OCD is going to force me to wash those out forever if I want to use those, so.

7Wannabe5
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Off the top of my head, you might enjoy Anthony Burgess, Diane Johnson, Jose Saramago, Stella Gibbons, Penelope Fitzgerald, Louise Erdrich, Jia Pingwa, Anthony Horowitz, Rachel Cusk, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Lethem, Carolyn Chute, Saul Bellow and/or Gary Shteyngart. I switched over to reading more non-fiction at crisis of midlife, but now I am relaxing back into literature. Lately, I've been indulging myself with some brand new and notable, delving back into 19th Century British "New Woman" Novels, and distressing myself with post-collapse future sci-fi.

I am going to check out the Li Ziqi videos, because I am deeply fascinated by the "back-to-scratch" movement.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Thanks @7Wannabe5! I love Anthony Burgess and Jose Saramago. Will definitely check out the rest of the list!

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

What will the next decade bring?

The HackerNews commentariat predicted what would happen over the coming decade, back in 2010. Reading the thread, I was struck by how little has really changed in the last 10 years. All those technologies we were waiting for in 2010. Where are the level 4/5 autonomous cars? Gene therapies? VR/AR? The ubiquity of smart phones globally has caused a rapid evolution in our culture, but if you dropped 2010 me into 2020, I'd think it more a bizarro alternate universe of 2010 than a decade's progress.

When I think of what 2030 might look like, I find myself resigned that it'll be much like 2020, though somewhat worse due to the rise of authoritarianism and climate change. I used to be excited and slightly scared with a shiver up my spine about the prospect of the future. My biggest hope for the next ten years is to get that feeling back.

What would jacob do?

I am trying to break this habit I have for buying replacement items once my old things have become worn.

Here's one example. I have had my cell phone, an LG Nexus 5X, since 2016. In the last year the battery life on this device has dwindled to a pip. There's no "blessed" way from the manufacturer to replace it, so I started thinking about my next device. Ah, yes, an iPhone 11 Pro would do nicely.

But then I realized, this is silly. My Nexus 5X is not the "best" out there by any stretch of the imagination, but it's serviceable for another year at least and unlocked so I can continue to switch between MVNOs to get cheap data rates. In order to replace the battery, I need to dig it out from under the midframe of the device. But that's doable with a $25 kit (+$10 shipping); I don't need to shell out $500+ for a new phone.

Another example. I've torn both my jeans that I use daily (for both casual and work wear). The first has finally developed crotch holes which renders it mostly unsalvageable as anything but spare fabric. The other I fell onto my knee on the sidewalk and can become serviceable again with a patch. That still means I'll be paying $25 for one pair of replacement jeans (used, but of a specific brand/sizing I know fits me well and lasts), but not $50 for two.

Now I doubt jacob would recognize these as proper answers to "what would jacob do?" I gather he would probably patch the crotch-ripped jeans and not care if it was "work appropriate." He'd also elide the cell phone altogether by not having one. But I am satisfied with these compromises for now, even if reflect more of what a less-soft pre-lifestyle inflation 2010 me would have done in these situations than a real ERE ideal.

Scott 2
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by Scott 2 »

The cell phone is tricky, because it's a labor multiplier and often disrupts a higher consumption option. Your overall system may work better with the more powerful tool. It's not a question of cheapest, but of efficiency and avoiding waste.

What I learned trying to stretch my last phone replacement out, is there is also a guaranteed end of life - when the vendor stops providing OS updates. Eventually my banking app blocked my insecure version of Android. I made it that far by optimizing all the power save options and dropping a charger at places I'm likely to sit, opposed to putting more into the phone.

jacob
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by jacob »

Haha! On reading about the Nexus5X battery replacement I googled the very same ixifit link only to realize that's what you actually did in the next paragraph.

As for the pants, I now buy pants in lots and given how low the cost I would generally not patch pants in visible places. (I tend to wear pants out at the seam of the back pockets and those can subtly patched from the inside.)

PS: I agree on the future. Someone (I think it was one of the characters in a fiction novel who put it that way) said that the difference between the future and the present is not (no longer) in what kind of gadgets we use but in how we use them. Alternatively there's Gibson's quip about how the future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed yet. Images of wildfires, evacuations, and rising food insecurity may come to mind, but the image that pops into my head is riding on the subway in Japan in back in 2000 while seeing practically everybody staring at their mobile phones and thinking WTH?!?

black_son_of_gray
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

jacob wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:02 am
...the image that pops into my head is riding on the subway in Japan in back in 2000 while seeing practically everybody staring at their mobile phones and thinking WTH?!?
I had almost the exact same experience when I was in Japan in 2004, except for me it was that everyone had those small dash GPS units in their cars... whereas I didn't know anyone in the US with one at that time. Ten years later...

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

I managed to replace the battery on my phone without completely borking it. Go me! I didn't quite realize until I was knee deep into the process just how intently phone manufacturers have designed these cases to never be opened. It kind of makes me angry.

To Scott 2's point, I don't expect this phone to last me that much longer because of planned obsolescence. I've already noticed some core library updates have, uh, not gone that well. I'd wager I have about a year worth of life left in this sucker with the battery replacement. Still, I think the delayed upgrade is worth the $35. 99% of my phone usage is texting friends to make plans, GPS, checking email, listening to podcasts, and Venmo so it's not like I need something fancy. When I do need to replace it, I'm still not sure what I'll do. I like iPhones for the better device security and data privacy on the iOS ecosystem, but they're expensive. I always get Macs because they last me forever by computer standards-- my college MacBook Pro went a good seven years before it had to be decommissioned-- but phones get outmoded so quickly and I do so much less on mobile than I do on my laptop, so it's hard to feel like the investment is worth it. Anyways, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

On the pants-buying front, I had less success trying to find lots with my preferred brands/sizing. I have short, stocky legs and wide hips, so this is to be expected. I could get lots of 2 of my preferred brand that are too long at 50% less than what they'd cost on Poshmark and then hem them, but I'm too lazy to do that.

If we're talking Japanese tech I want to see come to the US by 2030, I'd say: bullet trains, hot food vending machines, and robotic exoskeletons, in that order.

just
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by just »

If the vendor no longer supplies OS updates (or they start failing), you can flash a new OS on the phone. I put LineageOS on my old Samsung S4 mini with great success - it almost feels like a new phone. It also has the advantage of being more open (and open source), so you can install, e.g., ad blockers. Security is also better on newer Android versions.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

@just That's a good idea.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I've been noodling around, thinking about what I want to do once I hit that mythical 4% withdrawal rate. I envy my husband sometimes, who does a very difficult but necessary job and derives a lot of purpose from his work. When he comes home, too, he's not expected to constantly be thinking about ways to improve what he does, keep up to date on industry trends, etc. It seems a lot more manageable in the long-term than tech. I don't know when it happened, but at some point industry innovation started feeling more like cyclical churn than paradigm change, and my interest plummeted accordingly. Keeping up feels more like a hassle than it does real learning.

When I was really young I wanted to be a doctor, then a researcher. I bailed when I realized getting an MD and/or PhD didn't align with my other major life goals-- namely, having kids while being on very secure financial footing in my late twenties/early thirties. I wanted to go into particularly low-paying specialties and graduate school has the potential to eat up some really prime earning years in your twenties. And, in the case of medicine, it can leave you with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt.

Part of me still kind of regrets not going down this path, but not much. I feel like by the time I hit bare bones FI, I'll be too old to go through the whole post-bac/research assistant->PhD process. But maybe not. If I went this route I'd lean more toward chemistry than biological research-- I just enjoy the daily routines and assays better. Or retrain in economics, that seems like it might be fun.

There are a few other times in my life when I've thought about a completely different life path. I keep telling my husband I'm going to go buy some waterfront and start a seaweed farm. At one point I thought being an actuary would be fun. Data journalism seems right up my alley. A couple days ago I was convinced being a food buyer was my true calling (I like being in the know. And food.). I've also considered fiction writing, maybe out in the woods while I build up a hobby farm in Vermont.

God, I'm such a cliché.

Looking at my ramblings, my interests/constraints seem to be:
  • Figuring out how complex systems work for personal edification and leverage
  • Access to and specialized knowledge of local food
  • Not talking to too many people on a daily basis, unless it's to pump them for information (no customer service)
  • Not taking on a lifestyle that is incompatible with stability for husband, future-kids, and other potential dependents
Wait. Do I want to be a food anthropologist? A food scientist? I think this might be a real job that I can do. Hm...

ertyu
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by ertyu »

also silk worms

awesome projects aside, I am confident you'll be successful at whatever you decide to do.

ZAFCorrection
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by ZAFCorrection »

About to defend my dissertation so PhD sounds like a horrible idea. The system is feudal and it takes a particularly nice advisor for that not to be a large component of the relationship. Most of the experimental techniques and processes in the sciences and engineering are completely out of date compared to what is done in industry. Hand pipetting is a good example, despite pipettes being one of the go-to props for almost every picture of a lab. Basically all the work a biology PhD student does on the daily has been automated.

The training is on how to ask and break down a research question is theoretically useful, but I have a suspicion it wasn't worth 6 years of bullshit.

7Wannabe5
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Marconi invented wireless communication in a room where his grandfather raised silkworms.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Y'all nerds and I love it.

Not making a decision is the decision

For our wedding, my husband and I received two very nice watches from my family. A token of the old days.

My father came to the US from a country where he was an ethnic minority. Throughout his childhood, there was rampant discrimination and multiple brutal ethnic cleansings that he, his siblings, and my grandparents survived intact. They had a simple formula: stay far from the worst areas of violence, don't speak the mother tongue, and, importantly, always keep cash and jewelry on hand if you need to pay a bribe for your life and safety.

When my parents were young they made a lot of money. And then they lost it. But that's another story. Still, my mother kept these watches as something to pass down to me in case of hard times.

A few months ago, I decided to get the more valuable of the two watches cleaned. I wondered if it still worked and, if so, thought I might wear it. $275 later, I had a beautifully restored Cartier Tank. Black leather strap, gold rim, and sapphire crown. "Just like Jackie O!" my mother never said. It was a nice watch.

After a few wears, though, I realized I don't much like wearing the thing. The strap gets in the way as I work my computer mouse, and my smartphone, always on my person, keeps time just as well. So I've been considering selling it. Similar pieces seem to go for $4k online, though I don't know much about the dynamics of the market. I estimate I could get, maybe, $2k for it without too much work if I go to a wholesaler.

Yet, I wonder, is it worth it? Shouldn't I keep the thing, for sentimental reasons of some or other sort? It'd only be like 0.1% of what we need for our magic FI number. But then I remember that I have other trinkets from my family that mean a lot more to me-- a necklace from my grandparents, my mum's old paintings, photos of my dad and my siblings at the beach. My parents never wore these watches, they were always seen as barterable goods. And I can't much imagine trying to use these as getaway money. Me, sidling up next to a Mountie at the border, "You let us in here and it's all yours, pal." I have a lot of trouble seeing how that'd work.

I keep going back and forth. What if the USD collapses, you'll be glad you have it then! Later: If the USD collapses, methinks the luxury watch market won't be the thing that'll outlive it.

In any case, much like my wavering back and forth on what I want to do (save the planet! no, stay 'til FI!), the inertia holds strong on this most first world of all quandaries. Maybe I'll make a decision about it. *Looks down at watch.* Someday.

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