Avalok's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

guitarplayer that is a great idea: I have a worn-out pair of trousers and some sheep's fleece I could do this with.

ertyu haha, I love that name. The packing tape makes we wonder whether I can do something with the rest of the door frame, because the draught excluder is covering likely only a fifth of the surface area.

chenda
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by chenda »

You could make a 'snake' out of material (or the trousers) and fill it with rice or a similar stuffing.

ertyu
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by ertyu »

avalok wrote:
Tue Nov 08, 2022 3:47 am
ertyu haha, I love that name. The packing tape makes we wonder whether I can do something with the rest of the door frame, because the draught excluder is covering likely only a fifth of the surface area.
bubble wrap over the hinges? cut it into long strips, tape one side to the door and one side to the door frame. it will be insulation when the door is closed and it will get harmonica-d (pretty sure that's not a thing people actually say but i hope it's clear) when the door is closed. as for the other sides, i believe they sell strips of material where one side is stick-on and the other side is either sponge or felt or fluffy material of some such. you stick those along the sides of the door and it's less drafty when closed

chenda
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by chenda »

Or a curtain.

avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

We have a curtain over our front door, and it is surprisingly effective. I learnt last year that it reduces heat loss by around 20%; pretty good for a hunk of fabric! Thanks for the ideas both. :)

shaz
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by shaz »

Good idea! I just added a curtain rod and curtain for the front door to my thrift store wishlist.

avalok
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Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

Hoping to re-establish some routine habits this month, and no better place to start with short days and the cold coming on than walks. Not entirely sure why, but I have always preferred walking in the autumn/winter/early spring to late spring/summer. Perhaps, at least in the dark, I can more easily be introspective: I use walks to process (you typically won't catch me admiring the trees.

Also found out today that I will be returning to the office in a hybrid capacity "soon". My work is nearby, and I'm considering walking in the cold months. Before COVID I commuted exclusively by bike, but I have accepted I don't end up maintaining it well enough through the winter months: I invariably get to spring with a clogged free hub, filthy and stiff chain, or even a knackered cassette (which AFAIK should not wear out from commuting short distance during a British winter). It then becomes laborious getting the bike running smoothly again for the enjoyable months. I will have to see how I get on, but I reckon wet coat, trousers and shoes are less bother to me.

Talking of shoes: I have some barefoot shoes that are wearing out; the uppers are perishing around my big toes. I'm a fan of barefoot shoes, but I also want something that will last. I read this post recently, and am considering the Hanwag's Jacob mentions: I think they'd be suitable for work and can count on them lasting. I had thought about Dr Martens, but I have heard several times that they are not of the quality they used to be (though they have the inflated price to suggest so). If anyone has any other suggestions, I'm all ears: I'd like to get as many options to be really confident with my decision.

avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

I found damp in another room yesterday evening, meaning all but two rooms now have damp in them, and existing cases are worsening. I felt delated and defeated by the discovery last night: I have put a lot of effort into elegantly managing and solving the damp issues in our home; I thought it was improving in all cases; I thought we'd now only need to wait for the walls to dry out.

With no regrets (we needed to go through this process for the realisation), we now know we do not find fulfilment from house maintenance, especially in an older home where costs and effort are typically higher. Perhaps it would be different if this house was where we wanted to remain long term, but the expense and time to fix the underlying causes are not worthwhile, given we talk of having 2 1/2 years remaining here.

Chewing on our living arrangement
This, in a way, leads onto some frustration I feel when I look at my forecasts for where we're heading FI wise. In the (admittedly) short course of my journal thus far, our savings rate has consistently crept up. We have taken it from 29.7% in Jan 2021 to an average of 62.4% over the course of the last year. However, I have a tendency to be unsatisfied with this because I can see inefficiencies: the main one being our mortgage.

Both of us agree that our house is bigger than we require, that it is expensive to run, and that if we could do it all over again, we wouldn't. However, to leave our fixed term early, we will be required to pay around £5000(*) and this is where it stops being an easy decision: we are yet to find an alternative living arrangement we would feel comfortable with that would allow us to recoup this outlay in the remaining term of our fix. I appreciate this may be the best we can do for now within our bounds, but I have a tendency (to a fault) to keep going over problems; looking for a solution I didn't see before.

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This has been bugging me increasingly recently, I think because I do not like the feeling of stagnating progress (i.e. when the rate of progress levels off). In a way I wondered if I was just getting impatient, wanting to leave FTE sooner, though I believe that is an oversimplified strategy. I thought about this extensively last night, making notes to uncover the origin of this frustration and I think it is purely a dissatisfaction, not with my life now, but with its inefficiencies, particularly surrounding our expenses.

(*) Restrictions such as these and my naivety in accepting them when taking on the mortgage can make me feel such a fool.

avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

Right, some updates on the above. Not long after that post I spoke with my partner and we seriously discussed selling. We both felt concerned about the situation worsening and us being unwilling (I'm not going to dress up a justification) to spend the time/capital/energy to fix the underlying issue causing the damp. I looked into our options and ran some numbers the next day, and came to the conclusion it would not be economical for us to sell now, mainly because of the exit fee. However this will likely change as the fee tapers over the next two years. Of course, if the situation worsens sufficiently, then it would become a no-brainer. I think the main thing that has helped is knowing that both of us are willing to go through the moving process prematurely, if it makes sense(*).

As my partner is currently applying for a promotion, we have agreed to put any further discussion on the backburner for now. In the meantime, knowing that it would be a small price to pay, I bought a dehumidifier, and we have then been lent one by a family friend (roaring away next to me as I write). This is giving us coverage on each floor. When I turned our one on last Friday, the relative humidity (RH) was 72%; no wonder the walls felt wet. Since then, we have had an awful lot of rain, but the RH is reading 57% currently, and all the walls that were previously damp to the touch (flaking paint, peeling wallpaper) now feel dry. My school-knowledge of diffusion gradients tells me this should allow the plaster to start to dry out, and faster. The RH seems to have plateaued around 55-8% downstairs, I wonder if this is because the water is leaving the walls at sufficient rate to prevent the dehumidifier from reducing the RH any further.

I'm generally feeling much calmer about this for now: seeing feedback of the RH coming down, and feeling the walls drier is a good first sign. It should allow us to consider our future in this house with more level heads.

Philosophy of Expectation
I am generally a pessimist in the face of unknowns. Much to the chagrin of my family when discussing the dehumidifier, I expressed that I would expect it only to slow the spread of the damp, because that is a reasonably minimal expectation. Anything beyond that can then be considered a bonus. I believe it was the Stoics who first eloquently communicated this expectation management to me. I find it extremely beneficial to under-promise and over-deliver (especially to myself). At work this allows room for unexpected surprises before features are delivered, and personally I find it much nicer to deal with "self-inflicted" disappointment, than to have my hopes crushed.

For an example of how I get caught out by the default mode of expecting the best, see my expectation that our damp problems were fixed, and the ensuring fallout.

Of course, pessimism isn't really where you want to be, you want to be a "realist"; that label favoured by both optimists and pessimists. Unfortunately, a lot of the time information is insufficient to feel "realistic", so instead I try to be more glass half empty than full, in case it really is empty.

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(*) This is very much my personality, but not my partner's. I have to be careful not to dart too fast between ideas for her, so it means a lot when she is on the same page regarding a big change.

jacob
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by jacob »

avalok wrote:
Wed Nov 23, 2022 5:08 pm
Of course, pessimism isn't really where you want to be, you want to be a "realist"; that label favoured by both optimists and pessimists. Unfortunately, a lot of the time information is insufficient to feel "realistic", so instead I try to be more glass half empty than full, in case it really is empty.
The Howard Marks book I keep waving around has some good commentary on the effective differences between the three when it comes to market performance. For example, I'm also a pessimist in that I mostly focus on what could go wrong in order to avoid it, whereas the things that go right are much more about luck in my case. IOW, my overperformance in investing happens mostly when the general market declines whereas when it goes up, I only manage to follow it. In the book Marks shows this with skewed and shifted Gaussians.

avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

@jacob I'm reading Taleb's Antifragile currently, and his strategy seems to be very similar to yours insofar you both focus on avoiding catastrophic failure. So far the book has been a reinforcement of understandings I already held, but could not have conveyed.

I think this point about focusing on the downside is nontrivial because on the face of it, you're losing out when the going is good, whether that is on investment returns or expectations. However, focusing on the downside necessarily factors in the upside: if things go well, great; if they don't, not so bad. The reverse does not hold; focusing on the upside necessarily requires there to be an upside, which isn't always the case. I have found that, to most, I appear to be "missing out", which is almost the opposite of my experience(*).

N.B. I have the audiobook version of the Howard Marks book, but I think I could do with the paper copy tbh; I am getting the sense the figures convey better what he is discussing. This is similar to the later parts of your own book.

(*) This specifically refers to my attempted attitude in life, and not investments; I do not have the investment skill currently to minimise downsides.

avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

Monthly Overview
I really wanted to make November less work-centric, and to spend more time on other things again. I'm pretty pleased with how this has turned out: work days are less intense, meaning I have had more energy in the evenings. I've been walking regularly and taking that time to process my thoughts, as well as returning to my kettlebell routine. Generally feel better in myself for this; last month I was increasingly concerned about my behaviour towards work. December should be easier to continue this with, if only because it is the holiday season, and there is less work on.

Reading
Finished Taleb's Fooled by Randomness, which I enjoyed more than I expected. I am a great believer in personal agency (I think this is an ERE prerequisite), so was a bit suspicious of the book because the subtitle suggests a random walk kind of theory, but his ideas are far more nuanced than that, and I would say overall I agree with his point that some domains are heavily exposed to randomness, and that humans are wired to discount randomness in favour of backfit explanations. I said before I loved his tongue-in-cheek satirical humour; very much similar to my own.

In fact, so impressed was I that I immediately picked up Antifragile afterwards, and have been even more impressed by this so far. In fact, it is a book I am struggling to read critically because it aligns so much with intuitions I have already developed, but I could not have conveyed previously: I'm finding myself lapping up anything novel in here, without really giving it a second thought. Not good practice!

Garden & Allotment
Everything has slowed down greatly outside with the cold settling in. We've had about as much rain in one week to make up for all of July and August. I've been making use of the communal manure deliveries when they arrive to lay a winter mulch down, but there hasn't been one for a couple of weeks now; still plenty of time until the growing season begins.

Our plot neighbours have gifted us some dahlias, which we have used to line the fence of our allotment, where it backs onto the street. I would like to grow some more flowers next year: I am functional-only to a fault, and flowers are more challenging to grow from seed than veg.

We've still a lot of leeks, swede, spinach and beetroot to get through. Our broad bean autumn sowings are showing their shoots, but no garlic have surfaced yet.

Finances
Well, no nasty surprises, though a more expensive month that I expected: we ended up replacing a lot of tired gear this month, both our bike helmets, and boots and trousers for me, mainly for when I commute by walking. Nonetheless, we have surpassed the 100k mark, which does feel good.

Capital: £102,182.57
Savings Rate TTM: 62.7%
Savings Rate: 57.2%
SWR: 18.62%

jacob
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by jacob »

avalok wrote:
Fri Nov 25, 2022 1:13 pm
In fact, so impressed was I that I immediately picked up Antifragile afterwards, and have been even more impressed by this so far. In fact, it is a book I am struggling to read critically because it aligns so much with intuitions I have already developed, but I could not have conveyed previously: I'm finding myself lapping up anything novel in here, without really giving it a second thought. Not good practice!
Math nerds who can laterally translate equations into concrete actions by metaphor should pick up Dynamic Hedging. It's an options trading book, but the underlying thinking is worth a few [rare] mental models.

MBBboy
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by MBBboy »

I also went through most of Taleb's works. One of the fun things about going through them out of order (I went Antifragile, Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness) is that you can see the progression and refining of ideas.

I had the same experience as you of simply taking his word for things. I guess it's a good thing he doesn't have the personality to be one of those guru types who bilks people for their money - he would make a killing. And that's despite the fact that many find him an insufferable prick.

In fact, it's probably partially due to his influence that I eventually decided to wipe out our consumer debt early despite being adamantly against doing so when I started this journal. I'm not sure how to get to "Anti-fragile", but moving towards robust is pretty simple. Just do the common sense things "grandma said" that seem quaint. Or I guess great-grandma in some cases as people get older - I'm not sure I trust the financial sense of these new grandmas who don't have memories of tougher times

avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

MBBboy the leap from robust to antifragile seems vastly wider than the move from fragile to robust, as you say. In fact, I wonder if this gap is mainly that we are almost blind to antifragilities. I was just writing about the spectrum for social connections when I realised that social connections themselves can be antifragile: if you experience volatility in a relationship (typically conflict), the shock is either sufficient to kill the connection, or the relationship is made stronger for it because you share the experience and of having come out the other side. From childhood friends are a classic example of this: with each falling out and misunderstanding exposed ("wait, I didn't realise you thought that way!"), the connection is strengthened. It was only when I enumerated the spectrum in this context that the above became clear to me.

So to clarify the above example further: I think a fragile social network would be one of few and/or fleeting relationships; robust would be multiple and/or strong; antifragile would be multiple relationships where the connections are actively been pushed to new limits.

Also, would you recommend The Black Swan even after having read Antifragile, from the standpoint of new insights? Taleb outright says the latter transcends and includes the former, so not sure if it would just be going over old ground.

guitarplayer
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by guitarplayer »

avalok wrote:
Wed Nov 23, 2022 5:08 pm
Not long after that post I spoke with my partner and we seriously discussed selling.
Have you by any chance done any much research about the current property market?

I have a long standing thing going on about not / getting on the property ladder and never know if / when it is the right moment. Which tells me it is probably not the right moment. Of course I would love to be in a position of it being a buyer's market which it does not look like we are in at the moment, but it might be now changing with the interest rates etc. Maybe you would know as you'd probably like to lock in on the current seller's market!

avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

I know that the market is currently inflated significantly from when we bought, but that year-on-year price changes have started to fall, albeit slowly. This is me talking from a position of little expertise, but I would think that with a recession severe enough, a buyer's market could result, but that the severe housing shortage in the UK will keep values inflated significantly. When Liz Truss was in government, the consensus was that prices would fall by 20-30% due to interest rate hikes. I don't think that is the expectation now, likely more like 10%. I don't know when exactly they are expected to bottom out; forecasts are generally wrong. From our buying position in 2020, a 10% fall only dents the price inflation since then.

In short, I would wait for now: the situation looks to be improving for buyers, but don't expect it to become a buyer's market.

...While we're on this topic, and seeing as you mentioned habit of oscillating around whether to buy in: we didn't try to time the market, we were "just" looking for somewhere to live, likely medium term. At the time I had a particular fixation on land access (we have a good-sized garden) and permaculture. I wanted what I thought would be security. Looking back, we didn't pay over the odds for our house, but we did over-borrow given our incomes at the time.

In the nearly three years since then a lot has changed:
  • We both mainly WFH
  • Both of us are unenamoured with romanticised DIY house maintenance
  • We have an allotment on our street (making much of the garden functionally redundant)
  • I care far more about flexibility than stability (I'm even considering whether to expatriate)
  • Both of us want a smaller space
  • Both of us are more content living in urban areas (we used to dream of escaping)
  • Both of us understand better the importance of squashing life expenses
This house can increasingly seem incongruous with where we're trying to go, but it certainly wasn't in 2020. Now since discovering ERE in 2018, I would say the ROC on my lifestyle has been consistently that dramatic, meaning I can expect the gap between the lifestyle the house was meant to facilitate, and the one I am moving towards to grow. Due to the illiquidity of property, changes of this kind are not supported well. Perhaps I am too young to be a homeowner?

I should also add that we have also gained a lot from having bought: I've learnt a lot of house maintenance skills, and were we to sell now, we'd likely have done very well out of it. We likely needed to go through this to change in the above ways.

If the above comes across as a tirade against buying, don't take it as such. I'm trying to convey the complex nature of the decision, and how difficult it is to know if it is currently right for you, regardless of the market state.

ertyu
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by ertyu »

Personally, I would sell as soon as possible. The house is not right for you and you'd like to move beyond it. If you're not going to be taking a loss, just sell it and move on to the next stage in your lives. No use gritting your teeth living in a suboptimal environment just because.

guitarplayer
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by guitarplayer »

Cool thank you for an extensive reflection on the matter @avalok!

By what you write up above, I should not be really spending time looking at it now as I have a pretty good setup at the moment and all lined up for advancing on a few other fronts. Worry not, this is not solely based on what you laid out. Appreciate the input!

avalok
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

@guitarplayer, glad I was able to help.

@ertyu I am skewing that way myself, but it is quite complicated because I need to consider the expense of leaving and the question of what our living arrangement would be next. It is surprisingly nuanced; I could probably do with going through this by writing it out just for my own benefit, and I plan to continue going over the numbers involved and figure out what timeframe we'd be looking at. At the worst, this is all worthwhile because we'll definitely want to move on sometime.

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