wmorgan

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What are you working on? March / April 2014

Here we are. We buy and sell Magic cards.

Attn Magic: the Gathering players

If you want to buy something, send me a PM and I'll send you a coupon code for a LW discount.

If you have MTG cards you want to sell, I want to talk to you. Our buy prices are competitive and we will buy most everything. Drop me a line with what you've got and I'll get back to you quick with an itemized spreadsheet breakdown.

What are you working on? March / April 2014

Goal: Money

So I moved to Austin for an adventure with three or four half-plans for making money which all fell through, plus unexpected expenses hit me hard. A few months ago I read the writing on the wall and set about finding a Real Job. Interviewed at a local startup; they didn't want me. Went to some programmer meet-ups, gave a couple talks, stuck around afterwards to ask who was hiring. Found a great company that way, so starting this month I'm living in L.A., working for a funded startup in a skyscraper.

My buddy and I continue to grow our e-commerce business, 1100+ orders filled so far this year. Our inventory contains over 80K individual items. Custom software that I've written has allowed us to scale what is essentially a 1 or 1.5 person operation with room to grow. We ran a booth at a live event earlier this month which went great, did a lot of buying & selling, and generally made a great impression on a lot of customers. Expenses are huge, though, so even if we're profitable it isn't by much. My goal is for us to be ramen profitable by the end of the year.

So I'm walking two paths towards wealth. Moving forward is going to be a grind, a lot of hard work and careful planning but I'm excited for the opportunities.

What are you working on? October 2013

I left my family, my job, and my girlfriend to move across the country, to Austin, to explore the world, to work for myself, and to become a Complete Social Creature, aka a Normal Person, aka an Adult.

Progress. Being so far from home has freed me to act like who I want to be, rather than who people expect me to be. This is coming at the same time that social interactions are making much more sense than they did when I was younger. I understand what I have to offer and what others have to offer me, and how to frame our interactions like that. Dating is easier and less stressful, which is amazing considering how inscrutable I found it even a year ago. I've been working full-time on the side business, and we filled over 650 orders in September.

Setbacks. The day I moved down here, an unexpected expense wiped out a good chunk of my savings, at the same time my buddy quit the stake (poker), and the consulting job I thought I'd lined up never happened. So I'm playing with less of a safety net than I'm accustomed to, and I have to live on minimal income which is a stressor but a minor one. I haven't been here long enough to build the deeper bonds of friendship so I need to tread carefully. But overall it's an adventure and a great challenge and I'm very excited to keep moving forward.

Group Rationality Diary, September 16-30

I'm coming around on the stronger version of the Efficient Market Hypothesis that says, "you can't buy and sell equities in a way that beats the market in the long run. Just invest in an index fund, pay low fees, and don't try to pick stocks." I'm not sure I believe this any more, for a few reasons.

One is that I lived with a guy who traded professionally and we had a series of conversations where he explained about stocks to me, specifically why information-efficient prices don't automatically imply an unbeatable market.

Another is that the outside-view strong-EMH argument has some vague structural similarities to arguments I hear about poker being unbeatable, with the following facts that seem VERY reminiscent of trading:

  • The long run is so long and the variance so high that day-to-day performance is basically all noise, and so
  • Lots of players with losing strategies appear to beat the games, and
  • Lots of players with winning strategies lose money, even over "long" periods of time, and THEREFORE
  • Just because someone has won in the past doesn't mean you can do what they do and make money.

But I know that poker is in fact beatable, I know why it's beatable, and I know it because of specific facts about the reality of the games & the players. Similarly I suspect that certain facts about real markets and market actors may make them beatable by retail investors.

Still researching this.

What are you working on? July 2013

My goals are money, power, and romance. Some good news on all three, finally!

Money. I'm bankrolling my buddy in a high stakes poker game. He's highly skilled but rather risk-averse, so we negotiated the following deal: I provide his buy-ins, he gives me 40% of his winnings and keeps the rest. It's been a great year so far, netting me about a year's worth of living expenses for basically zero time investment. As an unexpected side effect, by talking over hands and general strategic concepts with him, I've absorbed some of his poker skills, which I've tested in a few high stakes games this year to good success. I have no desire to play professionally, though.

Power. I've decided to strike out on my own, career-wise. I've got a lot of ideas for software products that I'd like to take the time to develop more fully. My side business is two years old and has filled over 3,500 orders and could probably support me if I did it full-time. I have a lot of leverage at my current job so I talked to my boss about it. He offered me a raise which I turned down, then he said that he'd hire me as a founding CTO of his new business if I wanted the position; I said I'd think about it. They're amenable to hiring me on a consulting basis: I think I can get hired back at around 4x my current salary for short-term engagements, which would a fantastic deal for me and a pretty good deal for them, too.

Romance. After another disastrous attempt to hit on girls last New Year's Eve, I gave up pursuing women. The days were cold and dark and I couldn't deal with the rejection, so in order to live with myself I made a resolution to stop trying. The effects on my mood were phenomenal, and by April I'd look in the mirror and actually like what I saw. Then a couple months ago I met a girl at a cookout, and I thought she was giving me the goo-goo eyes, so I took her aside and kissed her and she liked it and we've been dating since then, my first regular girlfriend and it's awesome; I'm her first boyfriend too so we're learning everything together.

What are you working on? July 2013

Some great resources on poker AI: University of Alberta Computer Poker Research Group. Papp 1998 in particular goes into detail about what makes it difficult, briefly: multiple opponents, imperfect knowledge, risk management, agent modeling, deception, and dealing with unreliable information. To these I would add the distinction between optimal and maximal play:

In chess AI, it never really matters what you expect your opponent to do like it does in poker. In chess, you just always try to move the board into the most favorable possible state. A win is a win in chess, but in poker the optimal strategy makes less money than an exploitable, but maximal strategy. But if you're playing an exploitable strategy, then your opponent can turn around and play a strategy to beat you...much of poker strategy is figuring out how to be one "level" above your opponents for as many hands as possible. And getting an AI to do that is difficult.

Public Service Announcement Collection

Agreed about reading random source code files. I popped open the first .py file I found on the django project and got this:

conf.py

which I would say is a little esoteric for even the most precocious non-programmers.

But I also agree that investigating one's programming aptitude is a great low-investment high-reward endeavor. It does seem to be the case that many people just "get it". This thread offers some great suggestions on how to check: Checking for the Programming Gear.

Open Thread, June 2-15, 2013

I was on the subway the other day and Sovereign Bank had bought up all the ad spots advertising in big print "MONEY MARKET ACCOUNT. 0.6% APY. $100,000 MINIMUM." The interest rate offered on a smaller deposit is presumably less than that, and yet the bank thought this deal would be appealing enough to advertise. This makes a year of "emergency fund" holdings in a money market account approximately worth the change in the couch. I don't see how that's enough of a difference from a checking account to worry about.

Using Evolution for Marriage or Sex

New England guy here. I was surprised when I read OrphanWilde's comment yesterday; I went out last night and observed. These are the rules most of us follow:

  1. Someone trying to initiate eye contact wants to talk to you -- even just "hey, how are ya" or a gesture of acknowledgement like when you pass them on the street. But the eye contact is always a prelude.
  2. If you don't want to interact, look in their general direction, but not into their eyes. If you do catch their eye, either look away fast or give 'em a nod or make your eyes wide or something.
  3. You get one freebie look when you walk into a room or get on the bus, or when someone pulls up next to you in their car, that sort of thing. Gotta know who's there.

It feels kind of evasive, I guess, but I don't believe that in other parts of the world the rules are much different than this. Especially other cities, obeying the meta-rule of "your acknowledgement of a stranger is inversely proportional to the number of other people around."

I don't see any connection to aggression, creepiness, or man/woman.

Some examples:

  • I'm at the store trying to find something. Someone walks up beside me to get something. I ignore them, grab the thing, leave. Eye contact in this situation would be unusual.
  • Walking past someone on the street. Here eye contact is optional, but mostly avoided. In Boston you generally will not get a response from a greeting anyway, but in Western Mass you will. In Boston people won't even notice you're trying to look at them, most of the time, so in those cases a verbal greeting is actually surprising.
  • I sit down across from you on the train. Take your freebie look if you want it, greeting optional. For the rest of the ride, don't look into my eyes. The first time you do it, I'll give you the look-back. The second time, I'll start a conversation.
  • Airplane. Completely average to never look into the eyes of your neighbor. But those have people from all over on them.
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