akratic's ERE journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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jennypenny
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by jennypenny » Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:01 pm

If part of settling down includes having kids and homeschooling them, look very carefully at the homeschooling rules where you plan to settle. Each state has a different process, and some are much better/easier/supportive than others. Big city school districts are notorious for making life difficult for homeschoolers, so keep that in mind when you look at big cities. It might make sense to be just outside of city limits.

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theanimal
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by theanimal » Fri Oct 02, 2015 7:42 pm

Congratulations!

The transition back to everyday life and "the real world" (as many like to call it) was a very difficult process for me. I yearned for that more simple existence. Wake up, eat, travel, read and socialize. I still haven't found a way to properly transition. Currently, I am only using internet 2 days a week and I'll likely phase that to 1 day a week starting soon. Daily walks help as well but will not completely replicate the same feeling and mindset, at least they haven't in my experience. Let me know if you find something that works!

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Mon Oct 12, 2015 1:14 pm

@ether: thanks, I'll have to add Anna Karenina near the top of my list of books to read

@thrifty++: I push for NZ (and also AUS) sometimes, but my partner won't budge on settling so far from her family

@Ego: taking things for granted seems to be almost the human condition. On the trail you stop taking for granted flush toilets and protection from the rain and lots of other things. For example, you might celebrate a location with cell phone reception or the opportunity to share a small shelter with just one other person.

Anyway, it's not that we're unwilling to compromise or difficult to make happy. We would be happy just about anywhere. We're just cursed with this need to choose the optimal rather than the good enough.

@nestbuilder: the big city thing is more for my partner than for me. I don't mind the city and she has a real preference for them. That said, I do like walkable places, and medium-sized walkable places are pretty hard to find in the US (other than college towns).

@FrenchGirl: thanks, another EU walk to consider is El Camino Santiago. If you want to do a US thru-hike make sure you get at least a six month visa and get started right away to give yourself some breathing room. There were a number of AT thru-hikers on the trail having to make tough decisions because of visa issues.

@jacob: well, we can't figure out everything in a day, but we can figure out some things like "although the median house price in this city as a whole is $180k, the median house price in the neighborhoods where we would actually want to live is $600k, so this city is nowhere near as cheap as it looked"

One unexpected benefit of seeing a bunch of cities in succession is we started noticing patterns across them, such as certain types of neighborhoods seem to pop up in each city, and fortunately we seem to agree on neighborhood preference.

I think our actual plan is something like 1) a three month sublet, followed by 2) a 12-month lease (or month-to-month or another sublet) if we still like it, followed by 3) buying if we still like it. We just need to pick the initial sublet in a city where we might still want to be after the sublet is up.

@jennypenny: we can't plan around homeschooling yet because my partner, the more natural educator of the two of us, isn't sure she wants to do it.

@theanimal: yeah, I'm really struggling to recapture the simplicity. I think I won't even have a chance until we settle somewhere. After that, I have a major disadvantage which is that I want to use a computer/the internet for creative work and to take advantage of my strengths, but having access to a computer and the internet also opens the door to my greatest weakness: wasting time on the internet.

@m741: hmm, I hesitate to trash a bunch of random cities just because they're not quite right for my situation, so I'll just stick to the winner of the road trip: Charlottesville, Virginia. Population: ~$50k. A walkable college town home to UVa, one of the best public universities. 3BR houses in good neighborhoods for around $200k. Six hour drive to New York. Gigabyte internet available from ting. Near mountains and some of the best hiking on the AT. Residents can check books out from both the town library AND all the university libraries. About as good as weather gets on the east coast in my opinion: south enough for mild winters, but north enough for all four seasons and reasonable summers. Culturewise it also seemed southern enough to pick up some things like friendliness, but still has enough northern influence for us to feel comfortable. Lots of smart people around and things to walk to thanks to the university. Small enough that you could walk clear across it, but big enough to have a Costco and things to do.

===

So at the end of our road trip these cities still remain:

places we like but would need to spend a few months in to understand better: Charlottesville, Austin, Denver/Boulder, Portland OR, Seattle, San Francisco, Chapel Hill NC, Philly

places we like and already understand: Boston, Chicago (could jump straight to buying if we chose one of these)

places we know nothing about but want to visit at some point: Longmont CO, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, Charleston (skipped due to flooding)

We started looking for ~1-4 month sublets in Charlottesville after our road trip was over, but were really disappointed with what was available on craigslist. In Chicago without much trouble I was able to chain together ~1-4 month sublets and try out a bunch of different neighborhoods, but in C'ville there's barely any good sublet listings at all. We found ourselves already feeling the pain of a smaller city. This trouble combined with my partner's doubts about whether C'ville was big enough for her to begin with caused us to start looking at craigslist in Austin, where we found much better options.

And so we're moving to Austin, for a few months at least. Unless plans change, we leave Wednesday, and we'll split the 26 hour drive across three days.

Things I like about Austin: college town, warm weather, Google Fiber internet, mexican/BBQ food, should be walkable/bikeable (but we'll see), techie influence, quirky/weird culture leading to things like this, houses under $250k. Weather wise Austin also comboes well with spending summers in New England and especially Maine.

Our biggest fears for Austin include being too far from family (4 hour flight, not driveable) and it being too hot (and yes I understand that global warming will likely exacerbate this).

Let me know if you live in Austin and want to meet up! We'll need to build a new social circle from scratch.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by ffj » Mon Oct 12, 2015 3:48 pm

How did I miss your earlier post about finishing the trail? Congratulations! Those were some depressing cheating numbers however.

The year I did Springer Mtn it was during the thru-hiker push. I remember looking at all those people, there were a lot, and thinking that almost all of them didn't have the mindset to finish this thing. I probably wasn't entitled to any opinion since I was only there for a couple of days but they did leave an impression on me.

Anyway, count me as impressed and good luck with your city adventures.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by anomie » Mon Oct 12, 2015 3:56 pm

Hi akratic -

re: finding 1-4 months in Charlottesville .. Have you looked on airbnb.com ?

best of luck in your adventures.

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Mon Oct 12, 2015 5:08 pm

@ffj, thanks! With only 20-25% finishing the AT, and only 5-15% of the finishers being purists, only about 1-4% of people finish as purists, so you're right to be skeptical. I was pretty accurate in my own guesses about who would finish, but I was inaccurate about who would cut corners here and there.

@anomie, yeah, my girlfriend always checks airbnb. It's usually pretty lousy for long term stuff, however. For example, the ONE place in Charlottesville available for the entire next month is $2.5k! However, we do have a reasonably priced airbnb for the 3 days after we arrive in Austin while we scour craigslist.

learning
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by learning » Tue Oct 13, 2015 5:10 am

Akratic,

I've looked extensively at Austin. You should be aware of the following things:

-Google fiber has a free as in beer option that is = current cable broadband
-the YellowBikeProject is a good place to learn bicycle mechanics, through their open shops and build-a-bike program
-there's a social bike ride on Thursdays, I think
-there's a block party sometimes on SoCo
-6th street, the main party street, is closed to vehicle traffic on Th-Sat nights and so may be worth a walk around even if you're not that in to partying hard
-UT allows public access not only to the libraries but also to the gyms and recreational facilities, which are amazing
-audit UT classes for $20
-the public transportation is pretty good. The Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area is a big north-south rectangle so the 1 lightrail line going N-S makes sense. The bus system is extensive and intended for late nights also in the nightlife parts of the city.
-from Austin, you have easy access to San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. This may be the best regional access to other cities anywhere in the country oustide of the northeast, possibly even better than the pacific northwest.
-the natural disaster risk in Austin is tornadoes
-aquifer issues
-the supermarkets include a local TX chain, HEB, which is probably the best overall grocery store for cost-efficient shopping, and its HEB Central Market is like a Whole Foods
-Whole Foods delivers for the same price as buying in the store (I think)
-the supermarket co-op is Wheatsville
-Barton Springs pool and the Lady Bird Lake bike and hike trail
-the reference librarian at the central branch of the public library is a trained reference librarian, and the central branch is on a level with that of other, larger cities, although not NYC
-there are parks such as Enchanted Rock not far from city, pretty much in all directions, for daytrips
-there are 3 hostels, each in a different neighborhood each of which you will want to be familiar with, so staying 1-2 nights in each may be a good idea
-there is a huge walkable area that extends from UT-Capitol-downtown, something like 400 square blocks, and that is safe during the day and still quite safe at night, although...
-there is a large homeless population in Austin that presents a lowlevel security risk. An American girl (early 20s) staying in the same hostel dorm as me was randomly punched by a homeless man.
-TX has no state income tax
-health insurance in TX may be cheaper than what you are used to
-there are some 24-hr diners and convenience stores, but the Wal-Mart near SoCo is no longer 24 hours

Hope some of this helps!

learning
Last edited by learning on Tue Oct 13, 2015 5:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

learning
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by learning » Tue Oct 13, 2015 5:14 am

if you drive down 81, you will be driving past the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the list of top national parks

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Tyler9000
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Tue Oct 13, 2015 11:41 am

Welcome to Austin! I've been here for a few years and really like it. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Mon Nov 02, 2015 5:27 pm

and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
- TS Eliot
We’re settled in Austin now. We found an under-market apartment, furnished it with the few things it didn't come with (like a digital pressure cooker ;)), joined a gym, got library cards, and found the best coworking space. After so much practice galavanting around the globe, moving to a new US city was relatively easy for us. That is, except for finding friends and building a social network and community, which is going to take some time.

I am in the beginning of an experiment where I don't have internet at home. My hope is I'll waste less time this way. I aspire to read more books, sleep more, go to the gym more, be more focused during "work" hours, and force myself into social gatherings where I might make friends. The technical details of this plan are as follows: none of my devices know the wifi password at home (it's necessary for my girlfriend's business that she has wifi at home). If I want wifi for something productive like entrepreneurship or posting to the ERE forums, I go to the public law library, which is a pleasant 2.4 mile walk. For cell phone, I'm using the flip phone I got for my hike. For netflix, we use my gf's computer. I'm not sure how long this experiment will last, but I do know that "unlimited" internet access at home is behind a lot of my time wasting.

So I'm pretending I have a M-F 9-5 day job where I go to the law library and work on entrepreneurship projects. I've dabbled with entrepreneurship in the past, but it's always been a low priority that I haven't taken too seriously. Now I'm taking it seriously. Already, however, I'm having some doubts. What I'm really looking for is a major project to tackle. From 2010-2013 pursuing FI was my project. From 2013-2015 I was an "adventurer" -- traveler, ski-bum, hiker. I was thiking entrepeneurship could fill the void from 2015-until when I have my first kid.

However, the more I learn about entrepreneurship, the less I like it. The reason I thought entrepreneurship could work is that I like programming, and I like figuring out how to beat the system. But there's so many other necessary aspects to business that I don't like! Sales, marketing, networking, market research, customer support, PR, advertising, paperwork, answering emails, etc. Consider the causal gaming space for example. Does the best programmed game win? Hells no. How about the most creative game? Sometimes, like the guy who invented Minecraft for example. But outside of lottery winner type stories, the winning games are the ones with the most polish, the best marketing, the most optimized monetization scheme, and a bunch of other stuff I'm not interested in. I could partner with the right businessy person, but my personal network has only a handful of them.

Now that we've decided to stay in one place, I think back to my life as a 9-5 software engineer, and I think about how good I had it. I got to focus on just the interesting technical stuff. I had repeated interactions with a bunch of smart people. To get my own entrepreneurship project to the point where I could focus on just the interesting technical work and be surrounded by smart people would be a monumental undertaking. It seems so much easier to just pick the right 9-5 job. Instead of biasing myself towards the best paying 9-5, I could bias myself towards the one with the most interesting coworkers or the best boss or the best mission.

I know a lot of people are pursuing ERE beacuse they hate their jobs, but I never minded my 9-5 that much. Sometimes my 9-5 was incompatible with the life I wanted to lead, such as when I wanted to travel or hike. And sometimes I disliked my boss or didn't like the project I was put on. However, I do think I could make it work, especially if I gave up salary for some more control over what I worked on and who I worked with.

I'm not going to pull the trigger on this 9-5 stuff right away, and I do want to spend the next couple of months getting further on the entrepreneurship projects I've started. I'm just mulling it over more and more. For example, I'm jazzed about the self-driving car thing. Why not just be an engineer on one of those projects? Or work towards it? It just seems better than forcing myself to become a business-man, when I'm clearly ill-suited for that.

Ever since overdosing on adventure, and deciding to settle in one place for a while, I'm running out of ideas for how to spend my time. There are a few adventures I still want to do such as bike across Europe, hike the PCT, and live on a sailboat in the Caribbean, but those can all be done later in life. I feel this kind of pressure to find a use for my time that's at least as good as having a 9-5 software engineer job. For the past few years when I was so excited about traveling and hiking and skiing, I was able to do so, but now I'm not so sure.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by C40 » Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:55 pm

As I've been getting closer to quitting, two things I've been appreciating lately about working for a big company are

1 - The opportunity to specialize. I've been able to get into a role that is specifically what I like to do. And - since this is something I'm good at - it allows me to be paid for doing my best work full time. If I was trying to run a business myself, there is, of course, some possibility of a huge income for me. But there's also the limitation that I'd be bad at some part of this business, and that would severely limit my income potential.


2 - The opportunity to have a big impact. I'm working for a big company. We have many different factories in the U.S. There are well over 5,000 people working just in manufacturing. Our yearly manufacturing costs are in the billions. I get to work in a world where winning can result in some really cool changes.

I'm still counting the days to when I can stop though :-)

Anyways.. Have you thought about trying to do both? About getting a job, but not doing it full time? That would allow you to still have time free for personal entrepreneurial efforts. It could also leave you time to go be social and meet people and make friends. A good network of people who know you and your skills might provide a link to some cool job/project/etc.

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Tue Nov 03, 2015 1:46 pm

Yeah, frankly I liked specializing professionally in something I was good at and the feelings of competency and mastery that came with doing it.

I’ve done some freelancing and contract work, and I don’t think they’re a particularly good fit for where I’m at right now. Pros (+) and cons (-) of contract work compared to 9-5:
+ more free time (but I'm already struggling to find good uses for the time I have)
+ location independence (but I've decided for other reasons to try to put down roots somewhere)
- lose the social aspect/camaraderie (which I highly value at the moment: it's hard to filter for smart people and then get repeated interactions with them)

Unless you stumble into a good contract from your existing network, I'm not convinced it's worth the trouble selling/networking/pimping yourself to get new contracts. Also I've had an invoice for a completed to spec and published iOS app simply ignored once, but didn't think it was worth chasing them down and fighting to get paid.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Llama » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:31 am

If you haven't read it, I'd recommend Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup. It offers an interesting framework for entrepreneurship that cater's more to a developer mindset. The research/marketing/sales strategies are primarily inbound: you create sales websites/blogs/etc that do a lot of the work for you. Answering emails and such can be outsourced as soon as you get tired of them. I have a copy I can loan you electronically if you want. Pm me.

I've had a good amount of experience finding and doing contract/freelancing work as I've been building my company. I've found the tradeoffs to be highly dependent on the size of the project you're taking on.

Smaller projects
+ Get to build things from the ground up.
+ More control over which tools you use (easier to use newer/more fun technologies).
- Client is usually business oriented. Lack of camaraderie

Larger projects
+ Usually you're joining an existing engineering team. Access to smart people.
+ Kind of like a 9-5 but with a simpler working relationship (i.e. less of the baggage that comes with salaried employment)
- Kind of like a 9-5.

I could probably go on for a while about my experiences building a software company. Main takeaway is that working relationships in the contract/freelance world are extremely negotiable. This makes it possible to optimize over a particular set of values fairly easily, which I've found is not always the case with w2 employment. The fact that money isn't really an issue probably makes it even easier.

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Tue Feb 02, 2016 3:37 pm

== frugality ==

Having a mailing address has enabled us to upgrade our frugality game with two long overdue purchases:
- $329 Vitamix this thing probably saves us $2/week in hummus alone, more than paying for the smoothies and almond milk and everything else
- $120 Digital Pressure Cooker I'm not sure why we failed to use our old school pressure cooker often, but we we use this one almost every day. Its best trick is the ability to cook dry beans even if we forgot to soak them overnight.

== personal ==

We're going to be moving from Austin, TX to Boston, MA in early March. Austin is a nice city, especially in the winter, but for the long term it's just not enough better than Boston to be a plane flight away from our friends and family in the Northeast.

I'm looking forward to putting some roots down in Boston with a longer term lease, eventually buying an overpriced* house, and probably even getting a 9-5 for some unconventional reasons like daily social access to smart peers or wanting a little external structure after way too long with too little structure.

* Not that we'll want the house to be overpriced, but most of Boston is pretty expensive, especially the nice parts.

I've been rather directionless recently. I'm just not inspired by the entrepreneurship projects I was trying to get into. Unfortunately I'm kind of committed to two of these projects because I'm doing them with friends who are counting on me. I haven't figured out yet how to extricate myself from these projects without damaging the friendships.

A common pattern throughout my life when I don't have goals that I care about and don't really feel in control of my life is to escape into gaming. Austin has been no different, and my new source of (artificial) feelings of mastery and control is the computer game HearthStone. Last month I hit #171 out of some number of millions of active players in North America. The top 10 or so players in HearthStone make a full-time living between tournament winnings and streaming. Being a professional gamer at some point is a goal for me, but unfortunately when I'm gaming a lot I'm usually also getting fat and failing to make new friends and also neglecting my girlfriend.

Gaming is so addicting to me that I'm not sure I can do it professionally and not simultaneously ruin my life. I'm pretty confused in general about gaming and my own inability to master my impulses towards it. I can't even tell if 1) I start gaming and then 2) things start going badly or 1) things are going badly so then 2) I start gaming.

Anyway, I'm hopeful that moving to Boston will help things. We have been socially isolated for far too long. Ultimately Austin ended up yet another place on the long list of places over the past three years where it wasn't worth the effort to turn acquaintances into real friends, since we were leaving soon anyway.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Tue Feb 02, 2016 10:48 pm

Congrats on your decision to move back to Boston and closer to family. I know you've been thinking about it for a while, and I'm sure it will be a great decision. I'm a big believer in timing, and it sounds like the time is right.

Yeah, getting into personal projects with friends is a tricky proposition. It sounds like a good idea right up until the moment you want out and can't extract yourself. I had a few freelance gigs like that, and was always happy when it ended and I felt free again. The hardest part is when that endpoint is a gray area that keeps moving. With clients you can just say you met your deliverable and are booked, but with friends it's a lot harder to say no.

I very much relate to your gaming issue, and your post could have easily been written by me a few years ago. Moving alone definitely didn't fix that for me because my malaise was independent of location. After years of excuses and experiments with varying levels of success, the solution that worked for me was to delete the game I was addicted to and throw away the install disks. Withdrawal was difficult, but over time it's like a fog lifted and I found many new things that interested me (including some obscure book about extreme early retirement). The thing I learned is that I always saw games as an enjoyable escape, but in reality I was suffering from Stockholm syndrome and had a blind spot to how certain games were limiting my ability to explore and enjoy other things. I'm not suggesting you have the same problem I did, but thought I'd share in case it helps.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by JasonR » Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:09 pm

Congrats on getting legend. As one of my friends told me, no matter what happens they can never take away the fact that you spent 100 hours of your life grinding for something that means nothing and pays even less. He is no longer my friend, but his voice echoes in my head when I'm having a terrible run of RNG and considering uninstalling ye old casinostone. But seriously congratulations, no sarcasm. What decks did you use? Are you f2p?

Seems like popularity trumps skill in making money from gaming. Plenty of streamers are dumpster legendaries but pull in good money through twitch. They get invited to the larger tournaments. Fibonacci got #1 last season and I don't think I've ever seen him in a tournament. Trump on the other hand... I guess you could always start a team like Reynad.

For my addiction (which it isn't--I can quit whenever I want, I just choose not to) I use games that end as my panacea. 8bit JRPGs and the like. No online component. I can put in 40 or 80 hours but at some point the game is over and I stop. I also have 800 other things to do which helps, but I've found games that don't have and "end" are bad for my temperament. Maybe compartmentalizing the gaming can help?

Sorry to hear about your social ills, I have nothing to offer. Maybe when you've put roots down you can experience the flip side where all your friends join in some akratic-free diaspora that leaves you confused and alone, grilling in silence in your backyard. feelsbadman

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by mango » Mon May 16, 2016 6:45 pm

Hi Akratic -

Have you had any more experience with coworking spaces, good or otherwise? I have plenty of entrepreneurial projects I'd like to work on (I think, anyway), but there's no good coworking space nearby (I've tried 3, not even very close-by). And I really need to get out of the house very regularly. I get down being at home all day, without some regular, "no need to schedule", water-cooler type conversation.

That's one of the main reasons I have a part-time IT contracting job - because it gets me out of the house, interacting with other people, casual social conversation and chit-chat, etc.

Looking forward to catching some updates if you have any, even if it's not all inspirational rainbows and puppies!

best,
Mango

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by tonyedgecombe » Tue May 17, 2016 5:32 am

mango wrote:And I really need to get out of the house very regularly. I get down being at home all day, without some regular, "no need to schedule", water-cooler type conversation.
I struggle with that, if I haven't got anything social planned then I go out for lunch or even just a drink at a local café every day. Not very ERE but worth the cost to me.

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C40
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by C40 » Tue May 17, 2016 4:39 pm

Hello Akratic!

Did you move to Boston? How has that been going? How did you find (inexpensive) housing? What have you been up to lately?

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:05 pm

@mango: I've tried multiple coworking spaces in Austin and Boston, and they haven't worked well for me. The only real social interaction I got from them was people who wanted something from me, like freelancing gigs or to be my coach (?!). In school or a 9-5 there is a lot of organic interaction, and eventually you get to know everyone near you. At coworking spaces it always felt more forced and unnatural, like everyone was busy on their own isolated thing. Frankly, a coffee shop is better.

@C40: we house sat for free for the first month in Boston and then found a terrific apartment for 50% of market rate by being the first people to reply to it on craigslist and then following through on it immediately. We only have it for a couple of more months, but still we're like disgustingly good at finding inexpensive accommodation now -- I almost feel guilty. The rest below:

===

A lot has happened in the past few months. So much in fact that I haven't even been checking the ERE forums, one of my favorite activities.

Let's see, chronologically:
1) I proposed to my girlfriend of seven years. She said yes! Choosing the right partner is one of the biggest decisions I'll make in my life, and I couldn't have done better. She's perfect for me.
2) We are planning a 70 person wedding for this September on an island in Maine for under $10k. Wedding planning is hard.
3) We moved cross country (back to Boston) and visited a bunch of friends on the way and then found a new apartment.
4) I went all-in on one of my entrepreneurship projects with a friend. I spent 40+ hour weeks cranking out the prototype. And then we launched and failed so spectacularly and catastrophically that I don't think we're even friends anymore.
5) Without going into too much detail, a shit load of drama went down in my immediate family. Here's a short list: affair, custody dispute, suicide watch, grand theft. During all this I ended up shouldering an incredible amount of other people's emotions in order to support my family members.
6) I completed a working version of one of my greatest ever hobby projects: a willpower app called Akratic. It rewards me with a) my own internet connection, b) TV episodes like Game of Thrones, and c) movies -- in exchange for regularly completing tasks like going to the gym, cleaning the apartment, and flossing. You can read more about that project here: http://blog.akratic.com

A common thread in the two disasters, 4) and 5), is I saw some people close to me change dramatically as they were put into stressful or difficult situations. I think I had this kind of naive assumption before that people who were friendly in good times would also be friendly in bad times (barring occasional emotional outburst that they might quickly apologize for). But now I've seen some people that I trusted in the past turn into legitimately bad people after they got stressed out. And it's shaken me deeply, forcing me to question which of the people that I had previously considered my friends that I could count on not just in good times but also in bad times.

Anyway, #1-6 above had me pretty buried there for a while, but things are finally clearing up.

As for my next big goal, I'd say it's starting a family and being a great dad. From my original bucket list, many things are now crossed out now like hiking the AT, traveling the world, starting a business, and achieving FI. And there are some things left that the timing isn't the best for:
- live on a catamaran in the Caribbean: but I'm adventured-out at the moment
- build a tiny house in Maine: but I have to wait to see if it's a 2 person house or a 4+ person house because that changes things
- get a PhD: but it's bad timing to do while starting a family, and besides I still don't know what field or project I'd want to focus on
Maybe I'll get to those later.

It's funny looking back on my journal and seeing that I was already leaning towards getting a 9-5 back in February, because although I got thoroughly derailed from that track by #1-6 above, I think it's my next move. Even with a gap on my resume, I think I can still ace an engineering interview, which means I'll have a lot of options. The hard part is deciding what I want. I know I miss the structure, the regular social interaction of working with a bunch of smart people, and the luxury of focusing only on the technical stuff that I'm good at and flow easily doing. But I've got some hard decisions to make like whether to prioritize good coworkers or interesting/meaningful work. And I can't even decide whether I want an easy job or a hard one. I'll probably investigate a bunch of options over the next month and try to make a good, slow decision.

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Tyler9000
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Sun Jun 12, 2016 11:08 am

Thanks for the update! I was wondering how you've been doing lately. Congrats on the successful move, and good luck with the wedding planning!

Regarding stress bringing out the worst in people, yeah I've witnessed the same thing. I get that different people cope in different ways, but the degree that it can flip a personality is really jarring when you see it happen. But it is revealing. The trick is to sort the naturally good people who occasionally falter from the naturally bad people who strain to wear a friendly facade. Admittedly it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference, and anyone pushed far enough will eventually break and lash out in self defense.

My general rule is to give people the benefit of the doubt and completely avoid the rare few who are truly bad seeds. I admit I do have one family member who earned her way onto my blacklist, and there are a few former bosses and coworkers on there as well.

Regarding good coworkers vs meaningful work, I vote for both. :) You're in a good position to be picky.

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:42 am

One of the more fascinating parts of having had some interesting life experiences -- such as hiking the Appalachian Trail or traveling for a few years in a row -- is seeing how other people react to these experiences when they naturally come up in conversation. Or maybe I should say fail to react.

Here's an example:

Stranger: So where did you move to Austin from?
Me: Well actually I was living in a tent for the last five months hiking the Appalachian Trail. I walked from Georgia to Maine, it's 2000 miles.
Stranger: Oh I moved from Dallas. Let me tell you that compared to Dallas, Austin is a great city! Dallas is fine, but you know Austin has this, like, vibe? All these cool restaurants and shops and little quirky places, Austin really has its own character, you know?
Me: Yeah...

Or maybe:

Acquaintance: Did you hear I'm going to Thailand for 5 days? I'm so excited!
Me: Oh wow that's great, I really love Thailand. Actually I lived there for six months two years ago. Can you believe you can get a one hour massage for only $5 USD?
Acquaintance: Oh wow I love massages so much. $5 really. I'm not sure if I'll have time to get one though since I'm planning to do X, Y, and Z, but I should definitely add that to the plan! Let me tell you more about X, Y, and Z, I'm so excited.
Me: Okay...

Once in a while I see a lightbulb go off and the person is more like "Wait, what, really? Are you kidding or serious? Tell me more about that" but it happens so much less often than I expected. Certainly it's not news to me that people like to talk about themselves and are often asking me questions just for the opportunity to answer those questions. However, I think I had this unstated assumption that my answers were ignored because they were commonplace or boring. Now I know that long-term travel or thru-hikes aren't for everyone, but I mean, they're at least interesting, right?

Like to be honest when I participate in small talk conversations my entire goal is to find some mutual interest, something the other person wants to talk about that doesn't drain me or bore me. I listen maybe 70% of the time and I'm almost desperate to shift the speaker onto a topic that's at least a little bit interesting. If 20s-akratic met 30s-akratic, 20s-akratic would have grilled the shit out of him. Everything from day to day stuff about what it's like to live such an unusual life to prying questions about how 20s-akratic could one day do something similar. I almost never, ever get grilled like that, and I don't understand why.

Actually if anything, when people occasionally do pry, it feels more like they are seeking an excuse for why they can't do it themselves, rather than explore how to make it work. For example, once they realize I'm a lucky/rich engineer, it's almost like that part of the conversation can stop, because of course only lucky/rich engineers get to do these things.

I used to think that I would shift from listening 70% and talking 30% to maybe talking slightly more often as I accumulated more things that people might want to listen to. Now I know that some people weren't going to listen no matter what I said.
Last edited by akratic on Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:49 am

@Tyler I read your last post above shortly after you made it, and thought I understood it at the time. I just re-read it though after another two months of thinking about these people, and I have to say, you often put things eloquently, but this is especially potent:

"The trick is to sort the naturally good people who occasionally falter from the naturally bad people who strain to wear a friendly facade. Admittedly it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference"

There's been kind of an interesting arc in my life on this topic:
age 0-15: there are good guys and bad guys, just like in the movies!
age 16-32: I was so childish and naive to fail to understand that everyone justifies their actions to themselves. Everything is nuanced and gray
age 33+: there are good guys and bad guys, just like in the (bad) movies

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Tyler9000
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 11:01 am

Yeah, as you grow older you start to see the gray areas and maybe begin to believe that all bad guys are just misunderstood. Then you finally experience one in their natural state, and you realize what all the hubbub was about. Even within that gray middle ground, some people are simply incompatible.

Regarding productive two-way conversations, I think a lot of it comes down to shared experiences. People like to feel that they "connect", and tend to probe until they find a topic that they not only find interesting but can also contribute to. Some of our most interesting personal stories may actually be intimidating to others (ERE, for example). I don't take it personally or try to force the topic, and simply appreciate each person for what we do share.

Speaking of shared experiences, how's the job search going?
Last edited by Tyler9000 on Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:27 pm

Interesting point about others wanting to contribute and maybe not feeling able to on a topic like ERE, long-term travel, or a thru-hike. I think I feel like I am "contributing" most in conversations when I am passionately engaged in what the other person is talking about, actively listening, and trying to learn from them. In this case I'm better off if I know nothing about a topic the other person cares about rather than knowing a lot. (Things I already know are boring.)

Maybe the reason this lack of connection is starting to get under my skin is simply that I feel like I am growing more disconnected from people in general. Not everyone, I mean I'm closer to my fiance than ever for example, but the average peer and the average stranger certainly. I wonder if this will be a common thread among those who ERE, and I wonder as well if the great parts of ERE like freedom and opportunity aren't outweighed by the social difficulty created when you take a weird person and make them even weirder.

The job search is meh. I feel like the episode of South Park where half the episode Stan sees everything as shit. At first you're thinking South Park is going for some low brow joke, but later on your realize Stan is going through an especially tough time with his parents divorcing and feeling alienated from his friends. (S15E07)

Basically all the jobs look like shit. Also entrepreneurship looks like shit. And just continuing to play video games all day looks like shit. At first I was starting to seriously consider whether I was depressed or bi-polar, both of which run in my family, and I even started having long hard conversations with my family members with mental health problems.

There's a big difference between my current situation and theirs though, which is basically that I've been under an incredible amount of stress recently. I alluded to some of it in my June post with my family members on suicide watch for example, but there are some other things I didn't say, like at some points I felt an almost overwhelming burden without knowing how to handle it. Um for one example I actually called the guy who had cheated on my sister for months, because I thought there was a real chance he might kill himself over it (based on things he told my dad). I didn't think anyone other than me who knew the details could handle calling him and talking him through it, and I knew he didn't have anyone else to talk to and had to talk to at least one person. I mean that shit was hard.

Another thing that happened is that the former friend that I tried the failed startup with turned batshit crazy. I don't really know how to tell this story concisely but let me try: CF is my close friend that I've known since college, and BP is his husband, my former business partner. BP hired a malicious/incompetent lawyer who ended up inexplicably coming after me, despite my code not really ever being the problem. I eventually had to get a lawyer of my own to defend myself, a situation I never thought I'd be in, and especially inexplicable considering we were former friends and I can't even figure out what I did to make BP so hostile. Things got so ugly that CF, one of my closest friends, is one of the only people who didn't RSVP either Yes or No for my wedding, which was especially distressing because BP had threatened during the negotiations at one point that he'd block CF from coming to my wedding if I didn't accept BP's shit deal. CF and I eventually worked things out, but only after I agreed to sign a written contract ceding everything that BP wanted. CF is going to come to my wedding without a plus one, and I don't know how it's really going to work in the future. CF was caught in a really hard place between the two of us, but still the way things ended left a decidedly bad taste in my mouth. At least it's over. I'm disappointed but I don't have to live with BP and CF does, and now that I know more about BP, I guess I'm little scared for CF as well.

I mean I don't have a 9-5 so my life should be pretty easy right? But this stuff has been real hard, and there haven't been many distractions. There was even this crazy thing that happened where one of my cousins that I barely know (this cousin has never met my fiance despite us being together over seven years) invited herself PLUS FOUR to our tiny, intimate 60 person wedding. She sent me an email saying she already booked flights and an airbnb etc! I had to figure out how to explicitly disinvite her, which would have been the most stressful thing to happen to me in a normal month, but was more like a blip.

Coming back to the job hunt question, I think my true lifestyle preference across all the adult years of my life would be, in order:
1) student at university
2) on an adventure I was excited about
3) 9-5
4) playing video games all day
5) entrepreneurship

This makes me think I should get a PhD and not a 9-5 at all.

PS: Unless I'm going crazy you edited out your question about an update on my job search in the time it took me to write all this crap, but I guess I'm going to leave it for now.
Last edited by akratic on Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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