Axel Heyst's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

GL!

I found this gem from 2015 in the recently-unearthed by resident forum archeologist Stahlmann Shale Oil thread:
jacob wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:01 pm
For me, I'm mostly just looking for raw material so Ones are fine with me. I can make my own Twos and Threes and Ten+s ... using latticework. This is why I prefer textbooks+news to nonfiction(*) narratives. [Context from the thread not quoted: the numbers are lists of single conceptual points, facts, observations, dynamics.]

Non-random sampling won't boost your numbers because there's nothing to read or it might not be worthwhile anyway (why read 600 pages if you already know the material on 550 of them from elsewhere?). However, it's easy to non-randomly cover the total area and put the argument together yourself. The width is there. The complexity isn't. This is where lattice work helps. E.g. if you understood subprime housing, it was easy to understand subprime energy. The hard part was realizing that subprime was the model and not something else, e.g. standard business cycle or whatever.

TL;DR - All these complex/broad arguments simply aren't written down and made available for the general public because it's not worthwhile for the person doing it.

(*) Those I've talked to who read a lot (say a lifetime total of 2000+ books) tend to think nonfiction books are a waste of time. Standard lamentation: "I read 300 pages in order to gain the insight of two sentences."
Something clicked in my head when I read that. I've been having a diminishing returns from nonfic doldrums recently. Duh! Get textbooks! I've worked through a few, here and there, and have always felt like I got a ton of meat out of them. It makes sense to go to the source rather than consume a narrative that's been constructed by someone else based on the prime material.

The method perhaps should be based on familiarity with a field. If I'm completely starting at zero in some field, perhaps it's best to rip through a couple nonfic narratives to get oriented, get a gist for who's who and what's what. Then drop in to the textbooks/journal articles/etc.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Textbooks are not prime material. Original works are prime material. A great work of non-fiction is much better than a textbook. In fact, I would argue that textbooks can be much more misleading, because edition will pile upon dusty edition while anything hinting towards paradigm change will only be published elsewhere. In this way, textbooks are like the Bible(s) of the meritocracy.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Hmm. Touché.

I guess - I could stand to be more discerning and seek the best works from a broader range of sources than I have been considering.

ertyu
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by ertyu »

7w5 is certainly right about economics textbooks. the occasion it struck me was one of those "let's discuss the econ textbook from the investment curriculum" threads j+g (i think) started. Even comparatively recent editions do not touch on lery low/negative/near-zero interest rates - i.e. the actual environment we've been finding ourselves in for the past 15 yrs, JP even longer. Monopoly/perfect competition/etc. models -- and the entire practice of modeling with lines/curves/functions and using those models to argue points about reality -- date to times when data was unavailable and impossible to collect and process, which is certainly not the case today. There is very little in micro/macroeconomic theory textbooks that isn't obsolete.

Riggerjack
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by Riggerjack »

There is very little in micro/macroeconomic theory textbooks that isn't obsolete.
Except the theory.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

Plus there is a certain benefit to understanding the history of a given discipline. Current trends tend to go in giant circles of rediscovering what worked in the past. And to understand how things are now, it helps to know where we came from. It can also be hard to understand original sources until you have a working, generalized understanding of a discipline.

For example, if you wanted to learn biology, you'd have a hard time jumping straight into research papers until you understand what a textbook has to say.

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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by jacob »

The reason that undergraduates (in most institutions) are not sent straight into studying research papers is that they have not developed a self-consistent framework yet. At best this frameless approach teaches people to properly bullshit their way through a presentation saying things like "It can be seen that ..." and ".. is given by ...". At worst they're asked to make an informed decision or calculate a result with consequences. These students stand out not by what they know but what they should know but don't. They're not "solid"/don't have a good understanding of the fundamentals. If the frameless approach is taken to the extreme, it results in crackpottery and Dunning-Kruger traps.

I think the lack of context to the point of unawareness is the biggest risk of being self-taught by the rabbit-hole approach. It's the intellectual equivalent of how most voters approach politics, namely, a narrative formed by one's personal meandering experience.---Incidentally, that is also what very many non-fiction accounts of a given issue is.

W/o a framework, the research strategy is most likely to be run strictly by confirmation bias and "hey butterfly"-tangents. When a high school graduate says they've "done their research", that's likely exactly what they mean.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Many meandering paths will likely create more resilience. What I am suggesting in terms of reading is analogous to J.M.Greer’s suggestions regarding revisiting archaic lines of invention.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

I feel like I just absorbed some really insightful thoughts and experience and now have even less of a confident idea of how to approach reading / gaining information. It seems Jacob's post is relevant to the pursuit of a certain field/topic. Once I've decided I want to learn "biology", or "economics", or "psychology", I'd do well to study the classical/well regarded textbooks to build a frame / proper understanding of context within the field. From there I could proceed to research papers, were I to want to go that deep. In the economics example, if I were to go in to specific papers first, I would have no context that they are absent from the major textbooks, and thus understand that context about the field. (Also I'd have no clue wtf they were saying because I wouldn't understand the jargon).

The many-meandering paths approach 7 suggests is more appropriate for breadth (?): discovering the gamut of what's out there, picking up a general frame for combinations of topics and fields, what "the masses" are reading, noting what this or that field seems to be (and not be) about. If I only hit the textbooks and papers, in ten years I might only know anything about "economics", "botany", and "diesel mechanics". With the layering of meandering (also, not instead of), I'd also know a little bit of a dozen or three other fields, and how they intersect, and maybe would have led me to not study botany so deeply but biomechanics instead.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

The $200 September experiment is a success and I'm stopping the tracking of every single meal early. I'm converging on $180 or so, have habituated the practice, and have a 'feel' for what foods and ingredients work for <$200 spending. I don't feel I'm getting any ROI on the effort to track so fine-grained anymore, and am happy with where I'm at. Now I'll just keep an eye on monthly spending at the grocery store expecting it to be in the neighborhood of $200 or less. I plan on doing a $150 or $100 month experiment in the future sometime, but for now I have other projects to put my attention to.

No-Spend September was a fail because I bought stuff. There was a psychological win though: I haven't spent a cent on anything I wasn't going to have to spend money on next month anyways: new tires for my truck (they were getting dangerously bald), and building materials for the camper shell. Upper level ERE skills would have net me the materials for free, but, the kicker, I'm on a tight schedule. I'm trying to be ready to hit the road on October 2nd, which means I have to take care of this stuff now. Besides those sorts of expenses, I haven't bought anything unnecessary: no books, no moto parts (although I might have to order a couple things for my trip, e.g. air filter, spare tube...). All of my expenses have been made fully consciously, not on impulse or habit.

In other news, I'm planning on living off my motorcycle from early October through early December. Ish. I have a couple stops to make in the Midwest, then I'll rip through corn country ASAP, and wander the southwestern states for a bit. I'm ultimately headed for California for the winter to build out a shipping container, but with the smoke I'm in no hurry to arrive there.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

If you don't mind me asking, what type of ingredients were you mostly using? I've been trying to cut back on spending myself, and I'm starting to notice some things (like animal products) vastly inflate the budget.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Yep, my "standard" meal plan is this.

Coffee (fifty cents a cup, I buy green beans and roast them myself every two weeks).

Breakfast:
half cup steel cut oats, coconut oil, peanut butter, cinnamon. If there's fruit from the orchard I'll cut it up and throw it in. Soak the steel cut oats the night before to reduce cook time/fuel costs.
Two eggs (at $3/dozen).

Midday:
half cup lentils, quarter cup brown rice, garden tomato, lots of salt and pepper and onion powder and sriracha. and coconut oil. Maybe leftover onion or garden peppers.

Dinner:
A quarter pound of ground meat, beef or pork, at $4-7/lb.
brown rice, black beans, half an onion, two tortillas, salsa if I've got it.

Breakfast is almost always the same. midday and dinner meals get switched around a little bit, but it's all variations on the same theme typically.

Other ingredients I often throw in there:
sweet potatoes
chickpeas
kale (I need to get more nutritious veggies in my diet...)

The main things that dropped my cost was cutting cheese, butter, restricting meat consumption to no more than .25lb, and paying attention to the cost of veggies. I used to go through a bell pepper a day, until I realized they're like 3-4$/lb. I also drank one beer ($2, so I skipped meat that day) and a couple glasses of wine I stole from my gf's box wine the whole month.

Also, when I'm in the store and evaluating buying something, I can quickly figure out how many calories are in "the can", and divide by the cost. I know that I need to average 400cal/day to be in the neighborhood of $200/mo. So for example I impulse bought some on-sale pasta the other day, because it was 1600 calories for two bucks. 800cal/$. Good to go.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Robert Coram, 'Boyd' wrote:Boyd knew he had to be independent and he saw only two ways for a man to do this: he can either achieve great wealth or reduce his needs to zero. Boyd said if a man can reduce his needs to zero, he is truly free: there is nothing that can be taken from him and nothing anyone can do to hurt him.
I got in to Boyd in 2011 or 12 or so, starting with "Science, Strategy, and War: The strategic theory of John Boyd" by Frans P. Osinga. This book is top three most influential books on how I think, perhaps *the* top book. He's credited with the "OODA Loop", but precisely 98% of people reduce his work to the OODA Loop, and reduce the OODA Loop to what they think of when they combine the words "Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action". Most people think "yeah yeah, read stuff, look at stuff, make a call, do it, do it all over again, got it. Duh!" #facepalm In Boyd's work, the loop was almost an aside, it wasn't necessarily central to his thinking (because arguably nothing was central!).

Most people try to understand Boyd (also, everything) linearly, in the same way they think about the OODA loop (start at the left, go right). My response to people who ask me "well, what's Boyd's main core insight/takeaway?" is "that that kind of thinking is why the JSF program and Vietnam were total cockups". I've always struggled to convey why his work is important and worthy of study, mostly because so few people think anything is worth studying. They want the tl;dr, the tweet-thread recap. Boyd didn't write any books or papers, he just gave presentations, and IIRC he refused to present for anything less than some large number of hours (sometimes he'd lecture for 12, 14 hours). His method was to dive in, and spiral. One of his lectures was called "The Conceptual Spiral". He'd start at one point, and work his way around, and then go one level deeper, and then go up two levels...

What probably inspires me most about Boyd is that his work is a synthesis of a boggling amount of material from a boggling spread of disciplines. The philosophy of science, to biology, to traditional military theory, to ancient military theory, to organizational sociology, to ...

From my notes, John Boyd's work is the result of understanding:

.2nd Law (Need energy input to increase order)
.Godel's Incompleteness Theorem (you can't know everything about a system from within the system)
.Chaos/Complexity Theory (somy systems are inherently unpredictable/indeterminate; interesting behavior far from equilibrium; tipping points; emergent behavior)
.Autopoesis (cognition (neurons) are shaped by interaction with the environment; interaction with outside world is required for cognition/life)
.Adaptations (adaptation to environment is required for survival)
Robert Coram, 'Boyd' wrote:It was obvious from Boyd's phone calls that he was not only spending a disproportionately large amount of his retirement pay on books but was reading them all.
Boyd got me on to Eastern philosophy of skill/practice (Musashi, Takuon, The Japanese Art of War), which is where I started to internalize the notion of "learn the numbers to forget the numbers" (Waitzkin), meaning, you drill the basics until they settle and submerge in to the unconscious, then you tackle the next level of conceptual complexity that requires a reflexive intuition of the previous levels of cognition. Fingerspitzengefuhl, in the terms of blitzkrieg.

This is the first line I ever highlighted from Boyd stuff - at the time, it sent chills down my spine and I actually remember where I was when I read it:
Frans P. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War wrote:Strategy abhors a vacuum: if the strategic function is lacking, strategic effect will be generated by the casual, if perhaps unguided and unwanted accumulation of tactical and operational outcomes.
This one on organizational theory is nice:
Science, Strategy and War wrote:"Robust systems are characterized by 'rich patterns of tight, moderate, and loosley coupled linkages: chains of interdependency branch in complicated patterns across nearly every actor in a broad network of interactions, [these patterns] protect the organization against shock by providing multiple paths for action...
"Structurally, the theme is self-organization...small teams operating relatively autonomously pursue entrepreneurial opportunities and share know-how among each other. Meanwhile, the shared values of corporate culture in belief systems provide tight but internal and perhaps even 'tacit', control as a form of protocol."
Sounds familiar. Also:
SS&W wrote:He who us willing and able to take the initiative to exploit variety, rapidity, and harmony - as basis to create as well as adapt to the more distinct more irregular quicker changes of rhythm and pattern, yet shape focus and direction of effort - survives and dominates.

In a tactical sense, these multidimensional interactions suggest a spontaneous, synthetic/creative, and flowing action/counteraction operation, rather than a step by step, analytical/logical, and discrete move/countermove game.
And:
Directly from one of Boyd's presentations wrote:What is strategy?
A mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts, as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.

What is the aim or purpose of strategy?
To improve our ability to shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances, so that we (as individuals or as groups or as a nation-state) can survive on our own terms.

What is the central theme and what are the key ideas that underline strategy?
The central theme is one of interaction/isolation while the key ideas are the moral-mental-physical means towards realizing this interaction/isolation.

How do we play to this theme and activate these ideas?
By an instinctive seesaw of analysis and synthesis across a variety of domains, or across competing independent channels of information, in order to spontaneously generate new mental images or impressions that match up with an unfolding world of uncertainty and change.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

I’m not very smart. I mean, I’m slow. Any kind of contest of quick wits, I will fail. I’d be the worlds worst huckster, con man, improv theater actor, etc. I’m just not ‘fast on my feet’.

My saving grace is that I’m inclined to obstinate, boring, stubborn, grinding out of something I put my mind to. I’ll outlast most people In any contest of slogging because my tolerance for holding fast in a meat grinder is above average. I actually rather enjoy it.

Most people might be able to get from A to B in five minutes. It’ll take me an hour. But most people get bored after fifteen minutes, having achieved D, and go do something else. but I’ll go for days and get to K. Or Z, or wherever.

Any ‘snappy’ conversation I have comes not from a quick wit, but from having already thought the topic through to a deep degree, off by myself alone somewhere, and so the snappy reply is essentially already there on hand.

This served me well in engineering school. Classmates would do half or none of the homework. I’d do it all, 20-30hrs/wk just for one class. Guess who called whom after graduation when they needed to understand the vapor compression cycle to properly size a chiller plant?

Anyways, the point is, I suck at fast based back n forth insight. I have to focus for long periods of time to generate anything useful. This is fine for things that don’t require quick responses. Not so great for things like commenting on internet threads. Most the time when I post a comment in a thread, and look back at it, I feel like I either kinda missed the point or totally missed the point, because I didn’t take the time I require to “get it” and then generate a useful and valuable response. And then I feel like the one doofus the rest of the smart witty people haven’t gotten around to having “the talk” with yet, but about whom they exchange sidelong glances with each other (and rightly so).

I perceive I’ve been spending more and more time over the past couple weeks in places where I don’t shine, namely, any “place” where I can’t or don’t take the time to just focus on one thing at a time. I’ve been spending too much time checking my email, reading the news, hopping from task to task - getting sucked in to the oh so 2020 trap of dopamine hit stimulation.

It feels to me, without any evidence whatsoever, that distractions make me suck at life and thinking worse than other people. I feel like a 2 when I’m in distraction land, and it seems other people are only a 4 when in distraction land - that they’re able to somewhat keep their wits about them, while mine completely dribble out my ears.

So where my head at now is this:
.I'm thinking about the notion that people are happiest and most fulfilled when in the pursuit of challenging yet rewarding work, and that that work is most fruitfully executed while in a state of deep concentration and focus.
.Im going through all my sources of digital distraction and figuring out how to minimize or eliminate them. Taking email off my phone, using freedom.to to block certain sites, etc. Cal Newport’s digital minimalism practices.
.im scheduling Deep Work sessions, for both my actual job and for other projects.
.im intending to restrict my posting here, to check it less and to keep my posts more on-topic to FI and ERE related notions. While the range of topics and intelligent discourse here is incredible, I’ve been using it like a social media feed in an unhealthy way and I need to trim it back.
.Im trying to find and eliminate all sources of friction, distraction, shallowness — anything not on mission’ for me — and either drop it or hammer it out ASAP.

My life energy is coming back, but I’ve still got a backlog of “stuff” to take care of. And I require focus to execute my way out of it, and to take joy in the projects I do want to be working on. So I’m trying to drain the swamp. So to speak.

RoamingFrancis
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by RoamingFrancis »

I can relate. I can be quick-witted when it comes to language, imrov theater, and other stuff that feels linguistic/intuitive to me, but to figure out subjects like math and chemistry I have to be slow, intentional, and really think. I admire your ability to dedicate yourself fully to a project, as I often start things, get bored before finishing, and call it off.

I think Distraction Land is shitty, and I'd like to do a similar job of de-digitizing. It is difficult to find the optimal balance of digital interaction. On one hand, sites such as this one have genuinely enhanced my quality of life. On the other, I also have tended to compulsively check this site as one would with a social media feed. Perhaps Digital Minimalism deserves a reread.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

I find two things help me with avoiding digital distractions:

1. Write down the sites you want to use in a checklist. Once the site has been checked off the list, that's it for the day. Turning things asynchronous instead of synchronous helps a lot.
2. Simple timebox - Rules like "no Internet until 7pm" helps by cordoning distraction to the times of day when I don't have much to do anyway.

McTrex
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by McTrex »

I’m struggling with the same compulsive checking of the forum, just as with news sites, twitter, etc.

I’m going to setup blacklist filters in my internet modem to limit this usage to a certain time per day. I’ve tried removing apps and blocking sites before, but I’m too weak-willed to keep myself from removing those blocks as I have the admin passwords anyway. But the more hoops there are to go through to get to these distractions, the more work it takes and the easier it is avoid it.

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fiby41
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by fiby41 »

Atleast this forum is possible. Half an hour to 45 mins a day and you can catch-up with everything everyone has been upto. That is not possible with any site with infinite scroll.

mooretrees
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by mooretrees »

@AH, how old were you when you first got a phone? I know folks around your age that first got a phone and facebook at 18. If so, that's a long time to have these devices normalized. I think Cal Newport is right on, so anything you can glean from him is bound to be useful.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

mooretrees wrote:
Fri Sep 25, 2020 7:40 am
@AH, how old were you when you first got a phone? I know folks around your age that first got a phone and facebook at 18. If so, that's a long time to have these devices normalized. I think Cal Newport is right on, so anything you can glean from him is bound to be useful.
First got a dumb phone at 18, basically never used it. First smart phone at 23. Got on FB at 18 in 2004 (first wave of college-only adoption), but quit it in 2015 (and was mostly inactive for last couple years). Intermittent Instagram user for the past four years. Reddit's never been a problem. Youtube has been a problem for me for... a long time.
Last edited by AxelHeyst on Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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