Robert Quinlivan

Writer, programmer, wanderer.

Tuesday, Aug 22, 2023 at 8:34 AM

Think the 2020s is a bad time to live? Let me introduce you to the 6th century AD. I think you'll feel a lot better about the times we live in by comparison. In 536, three simultaneous volcano eruptions covered Europe and much of the rest of the world in sulfate aerosols, which caused temperatures to drop by 5 degrees F along with massive crop failures and starvation. The sun was reportedly obscured for 18 months, like the "long winter" in Game of Thrones. This was noticed as far as Constantipo...
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The Rule of Inversion - or - The George Costanza Method (Wisdom pt. 2)

Very often, it is much easier to understand how to not do something than to come up with clear principles of how to achieve your goal. In other words, failure conditions are easier to define than success conditions. If we simply avoid the failure conditions, then logically, we will eventually succeed. This is my version of the "inversion rule" borrowed from famous investor Charlie Munger. I like to call it The George Costanza Method, after the TV character who tries doing the opposite of his us...
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Letting Things Be What They Are (Wisdom, pt. 1)

I have accumulated some bits of wisdom in my life, though I surely have a lot left to learn. These same lessons, it seems, are taught again and again, but we become slightly better students with time and focus. My hope is that I am becoming a better person, in my own slow and plodding way. The one bit of wisdom I am reflecting on recently can be stated as, "let things be what they are." We often get hung up on what we want a person or a thing to be, rather than appreciating them for what they a...
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How I'm doing my personal computing these days

In the last couple of years I've changed how I do my personal computing. The changes have been motivated by increased risks (or rather my perception of risk). It feels appropriate to catalog it, in the hopes it might give you some ideas. Back in the early 2000s, my first truly personal computer was a Dell desktop. I managed to keep this thing running in some shape or form for a decade, running just about every Linux distro at one point or another. During these years, I was basically broke, earn...
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"It's not the best, it's who's left"

One of the best lessons that I have gleaned from Brazilian jiu jitsu is captured by a phrase."It's not about who's the best, it's who's left."This phrase refers to the massive drop-out rate in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Jiu jitsu is a notoriously demotivating sport. It is very complex and physically punishing. The majority of practitioners drop out before even receiving the first rank, which is typically granted after between 1.5 - 2 years of consistent training.*The reasons for the drop-out rate are ...
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