Munchkining for Fun and Profit, Ideas, Experience, Successes, Failures

by Username1 min read19th Dec 201425 comments


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A munchkin is someone who follows the letter of the rules of a game while breaking their spirit, someone who wins by exploiting possibilities that others don't see, reject as impossible or unsporting, or just don't believe can possibly work.

If you have done something that everyone around you thought would not work, something that people around you didn't do after they saw it work, please share your experiences. If you tried something and failed or have ideas you want to hear critique of, likewise please share those with us.

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If you want to get a degree in statistics you could do the Royal Statistical Society's Graduate Diploma set of exams instead. The material covered is equivalent to that covered in a university degree in statistics and is sufficient to get one into a Master's programme in statistics in Sheffield, Birkbeck or LSE as of last year. The RSS offers other examinations at lower levels as well.

Shame I'm not in the UK. I wonder what other qualifications you can get just by sitting the exams

They have examination centres in many, many countries, the USA included.

Centres in the United Kingdom Belfast, Darlington, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey, Leeds, London, Newcastle, Newport (Gwent), Sheffield, Southport, Titchfield, York.

Centres outside the UK Alphabetical list of current non-UK centres, including some that have not been used for a few years.

Our professional exams are not offered in Hong Kong. Instead, the Hong Kong Statistical Society provides professional exams of an equivalent standard.

Anguilla: The Valley Australia: Perth; Sydney Austria: Vienna Barbados: St Michael Bermuda: Paget Brunei: Darussalam Canada: Montreal; Victoria, BC; Yukon College Cyprus: Nicosia Germany: Cologne Ghana: Accra Gibraltar: Gibraltar Greece: Athens Grenada: St Georges Guyana: Georgetown India: Mumbai Ireland: Dublin Italy: Rome Jamaica: Kingston Japan: Tokyo Kenya: Nairobi Korea (South): Seoul Lithuania: Vilnius Malawi: Lilongwe Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur; Kuching Malta: Valletta Mauritius: Port Louis Montserrat: Brades Netherlands: Amsterdam New Zealand: Wellington Nigeria: Lagos Philippines: Pasig City Poland: Katowice St Helena: Prince Andrew School St Kitts: Basseterre St Lucia: Castries Singapore: Singapore South Africa: Johannesburg Spain: Barcelona; Madrid Switzerland: Baden Tanzania: Dar es Salaam The Gambia: Banjul Trinidad: Port of Spain USA: Birmingham, Alabama; Memphis, Tennessee; San Diego, California; Washington, DC Zambia: Lusaka Zimbabwe: Harare

for a really simple one?

negotiate your salary. personally I find it hard/nerve racking to do but it's worth it and very very low risk.

it sounds simple but often people are afraid that the offer will be dropped entirely. On average those who negotiate get a few percent more but that compounds fast.

If you're really special or they really really want you then, sure, negotiate hard but even if you're just a normal person in a normal job a polite little note like this in reply to the first salary offer can make a notable difference:

"I am delighted to have been offered the position. I would appreciate if you could consider offering the position at a slightly higher [whatever the term for the local pay scale is], on the basis that this role represents considerably more responsibility than my current role and the qualifications I possess relevant to this position, which I feel are a particularly optimal fit."

They're very very unlikely to discard your application at this point since they already decided they want you. they might say no but very likely they'll offer you slightly more.

[-][anonymous]6y 4

Large companies have pretty standardized salaries (it's one way to fight biases that could result in lawsuits). They also tend to view employees as more fungible, so you'll be less likely to point at skills that make you uniquely qualified for a particular position. Even so, pushing back could give you a 5% salary increase.

absolutely but even in a government or semi-state where the salaries are very very standardised you are still allowed to ask and often it will work.

Some people seem to assume that they're not allowed to ask just because there's a structure.

If you get up before sunrise or have poor natural light to your bed, put a small lamp on a timer set to turn on 15-30 minutes before your alarm. It will make waking up much easier. They are cheap, easy to find and easy to set, here is one. See, no more small barriers.

And for no added cost you can set it to turn off when you should go to sleep, if you have problems with staying up late reading.

This has been recommended before, but it was worth saying again.

If you have no degree or a terrible degree but want to get into a Master's degree or a Ph.D. programme you may be able to get in by doing publishable work in that field even so. Outside of professional schools all Master's programmes will demand a thesis as a requirement of graduation, along with coursework or in the British/Commonwealth system. Gary King has a guide to Replication for the Social Sciences

Relentless self-improvement.

In other words, learn and train, and then test yourself in the real world, in a situation where it's possible to lose. Meaningful tests include getting the best score on a hard test, getting published in a prestigious journal, making a prototype that works, selling a lot of units, etc.

Most people don't bother to seriously improve themselves even after seeing other people succeed. Extraordinary motivation is required. One common source of this motivation is having a "tiger mother"; a narcissistic and status-seeking parent -- working obsessively is less painful than being cast out of one's family. Another common motivation is getting citizenship in a 1st-world country -- studying obsessively is less painful than living in a poor and politically-unstable nation. A few people just want success for its own sake, but most people can't summon the necessary will without an external threat.

Examples: Buzz Aldrin:

"The second man to walk on the moon?" his father said. "Number two?"

Arguably, Rational!Harry

Harry's mouth twisted bitterly...Always Harry had been encouraged to study whatever caught his attention, bought all the books that caught his fancy, sponsored in whatever maths or science competitions he entered. He was given anything reasonable that he wanted, except, maybe, the slightest shred of respect. (Ch.1)

Elon Musk recommends 1. rigorously evaluating plans to make sure they are realistic, and 2. working "like hell".

Richard Feynman enjoyed doing this to himself for the sake of solving interesting problems:

I used to do whatever I felt like doing - it didn't have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with.

This interest in solving difficult problems lets Feynman do well despite his relentless disregard for status:

You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing.

Quirrelmort wonders about how to motivate people to munchkin their way to victory:

It is possible that you have already done everything you can. Yet I find this a very rare event indeed, and more often said than done. I suspect rather that you have only done what you customarily do. I cannot truly comprehend what drives others to break their bounds, since I never had them. People remain surprisingly passive when faced with the prospect of death. Fear of public ridicule or losing one's livelihood is more likely to drive men to extremes and the breaking of their customary habits. On the other side of the war, the Dark Lord had excellent results from the Cruciatus Curse, judiciously used on Marked servants who cannot escape punishment except by success, with no reasonable efforts accepted. Imagine their state of mind within yourself, and ask yourself whether you have truly done all that you can... (Ch. 92)

Relentless self-improvement is also the secret recipe for getting into prestigious universities, becoming powerful, and seeming to sparkle with extra life force. But, it's a high price to pay -- relentless self-improvement changes you and pulls you away from people who take the lazy path.

Relentless self-improvement.

In other words, learn and train, and then test yourself in the real world, in a situation where it's possible to lose.

It seems to me that doesn't fall within the definition of munchkining provided. Assuming for the sake of argument that it's good advice, I think people refrain from following it more out of akrasia and to avoid the bad feeling of losing than because they don't see it; think it's impossible, unsporting, etc.

Learn sales. If you want power, and aren't already good at sales / outstanding with people, working full-time as a salesperson for at least a year is probably be a good career move. A few examples:

Jeff Immelt (CEO of GE); working in sales for a few years enabled him to go on to CEO.

Mark Cuban (billionaire); started a bar while an underage college student.

Marc Andreessen (got rich from founding Netscape) says:

Think of this as the art of being able to interact with people such that they will do what you want, predictably and repeatedly, as long as you are making sense and offering them something they should want. This is another terribly underrated skill, at least among people who aren't professional salespeople.

How's it worked out for you?

Haven't worked in a sales job yet.

I'm going to say though, that sales can be a high-pressure, miserable environment, depending on the company and your personality. And just doing sales isn't enough to become great at sales and leverage that talent.

Notwithstanding the illegal aspects of it, is it profitable to melt down pennies for metal? According to this recent article it still costs more than a penny to make a penny, with the same true for nickels.

A penny is worth a bit over half a cent.

Around 2010 or so a Nickel was worth close to 6 cents. I don't think melting them down for profit would've been scalable. You could freeroll them (sock away $1M worth, hope the metal price goes up, if it doesn't you still have the cash value), but I don't think that's efficient either due to the combination of inflation, the relative unlikelihood of big returns on the metal value, and the expenses around acquiring, transporting, and storing/securing the coins.

That's only the newer pennies apparently, is it easy to get old pennies? You might chainload a huge bunch of pennies with a penny sorting machine and that might be worth it at a large enough scale.

In your profit calculation, you also need to consider the cost of the energy used in melting the coins.


Nitpick: Would it be better to spell it "munchkinning" with a double-n? To me at least, it seems that with the current spelling the most natural pronunciation would be munch-KINE-ing.

[Edit: slightly rephrased]

[-][anonymous]6y 4

A double consonant should precede an -ing ending if the vowel preceding the consonant is short and not long unless of course as in this case the root word has two syllables and the stress is placed on the first syllable. Confusing? What ever do you mean?

The linked explanation is clear to me, and the double consonant rule actually does seem fairly consistent across English, now that I know to look for it. Thanks!

Unfortunately, the rule still leaves ambiguity between MUNCH-kinn-ing and munch-KINE-ing, but I suppose the ambiguity is much less if you're familiar with the normal pronunciation of munchkin.

Do you spell traveling or travelling? Worshiping or worshipping? I'd give them all the same treatment we give to happening.

Ain't no such thing as natural pronunciation in the English language :-/ Having said that, I would probably pronounce "munchkinning" as munch-KINN-ing so the stress is in the wrong place.

I think that's true in British English but not in American English. (I am a native BrE speaker and lots of AmE participles look wrong to me for want of a doubled letter.) Since the Munchkins are the creation of an American author, I'm quite content with the spelling used here :-).

Oddly enough, I'm a native speaker of American English. Maybe I'm just weird. :)