Weekly Learning Journal 3 (31/08/2020)

Hi RIP readers, welcome to the RIP Weekly Learning Journal.

Tomorrow I’ll start my new job. As a consequence, my blogging activity will probably decline, at least in the first few weeks. Although I’m sure my craving for writing will find ways to surface to my calendar one way or the other, for the next month (or two) I’m going to be busier than I’m comfortable with.

So… I think I’m going to reduce the frequency of WLJ to biweekly, but not changing the name. Yes, a biweekly post series (every other Monday) called Weekly Learning Journal. Let’s live with that 😀

This week I’ve spent a lot of time reading and following rabbit holes, so this post might be longer than I – and you – expected. The future biweekly editions will be trimmed a bit, with an upper bound to the number of entries allowed, and a lower bound on source quality.

Enjoy!


Italian Marcello Ascani introductory video to FIRE (7/10)

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Let’s start with some self promotion 😀

Friday afternoon. A notification from the WordPress app: “visits on your blog are surging upward!”.

Tap.

Tha fuck happened? Lixi arrested in Estonia? AcomeA cautious fund lowered junk bonds exposure below 50%?

Nope.

it seems the traffic is coming from YouTube… Anyway, I wasn’t at home so didn’t investigate more.

Incoming emails. New readers. “I just discovered your blog today!“. Old friends. “Hey, you’ve been mentioned on Marcello’s new video!

Ah, ok. Marcello Ascani… got it! Will watch later. Anyway, cool! I’m honored 🙂

Marcello is a young Italian YouTuber who I don’t personally follow, but whose very well done introductory financial videos I’ve watched and appreciated in the past. His focus as a YouTuber is travel vlogging (not my stuff), but every here and there he talks about minimalism, saving, passive investing, ETFs, compounding. He’s also transparent – like me – about how much he earns and owns. I love his on stage presence, and his confident voice as well.

He’s also from Rome, like me. This is of course a plus 😉

I wish him success and a great influencing and entrepreneurship career!

Well, “maybe” he doesn’t need my wishes… he has 560k YT subscribers 😀

Back at home, a couple of hours later, I watched the video that drove some traffic to my blog. It’s a video about the basics of FIRE. I’ve been mentioned several times and I’m really honored 🙂

In the last 5 seconds he openly invited me to collaborate somehow. Why not? Maybe it’s time to drop the mask and go public, who knows. Stay tuned!

Now, enjoy the video 🙂

Yes, the Marcello Effect on my metrics has been silly: on Friday, pageviews dwarfed 6x previous “all time high”, and the effect lasted even the following days(still ongoing on Monday August 31st).

Marcello raised a valid point against the FIRE movement: too much focus on saving and investing, and not enough about earning.

We need, at least in Italy, to teach people how to earn more.

Very good point! Let’s do this together 😉


Italy is one of the cheapest countries in mobile data costs (6/10)

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It ranks 4th among 228 countries worldwide. The only three countries cheaper than Italy for mobile data are India, Israel and Kyrgyzstan.

Switzerland ranks pretty bad, 191st. Well, “what a news”… Switzerland is expensive!

What I didn’t expect was US and especially Canada ranking so shitty.


Nick Maggiulli on “Followers” (7/10)

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How he chased becoming an “influencer”, and what it means in real terms. Spoiler: social media is saturated, attention is fragmented, algorithms favor paid content, don’t expect having many followers means more visits on your website.

And interesting deep dive with actual numbers of “Nick Numbers” 🙂


MrMoneyMustache on ESG investing (7/10)

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You want to invest in stocks with passive tools, like index funds, right? Do you know that you’re also buying stocks of “evil companies“?

Image Credits: https://livingafi.com/2016/06/17/unloading-guns-from-a-portfolio/

Mr Money Mustache sponsors ESG funds (“Environmental, Social and Governance”, i.e. the “ethical investments”), claiming they also have had superior performance for the last 2 years. Well, since all the FAANGs are part of ESG indexes it’s not hard to believe they overperformed S&P500 for the last 2 years… every index split where all the FAANGs are on the same side outperformed the market no matter the split criteria.

Anyway, a good post by MMM (after a few inferior ones), that made me think a bit.

Best quote:

First of all, it helps to remember a fundamental piece of economics: your spending dollars will probably have a much bigger impact than your investment dollars. This is because you are sending a direct message to the world rather than an indirect one:

When you buy a new gasoline-powered Subaru (or a tank of gas for your existing guzzler) or a steak at the grocery store, or a plane ticket, you are telling those companies directly that consumers want more of these products, so they will produce more of them immediately.

When you buy shares in Exxon, you are only subtly raising the demand for those shares, which raises the average price, making it ever-so-slightly easier for Exxon to maybe issue more shares in the future. In other words, you are making it easier for them to access capital.


John Oliver on the border wall (7/10)

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It’s election year in US, I’ve never seen John so angry and scared.

It’s not a funny episode, but a must watch.


The Zvi’s post “Choices are Bad” (9/10)

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I entered a very deep rabbit hole questioning one of the strongest foundations of my personal philosophy: “Freedom is Good

Maybe this deserves a post on its own since I based my entire life on building options and aiming to freedom. For now, it’s just this small window in this WLJ.

This argument of “intelligence as options maximization” has some ground in science. If you want, the main goal of Financial Intelligence – and FIRE – is to give you more options. More options means more freedom. Freedom is good. Options are good. Choices are good.

Or… are they?

Well, this rabbit hole started few weeks ago, and I already documented part of it in first WLJ episode talking about anti-optionality and the optionality trap. On The Zvi blog (a rationalist who also writes on Less Wrong) I’ve found answers more questions than I can handle.

Also read: Choices are Really Bad (9/10), Complexity is Bad (6/10), Change is Bad (7/10)

Choices are bad for many reasons:

  • They reduce perceived value.
  • They force you into choosing mode.
  • They cost willpower points (questionable).
  • They cost decision fatigue points.
  • You might chose wrong.
  • They trigger confirmation bias.
  • They create blame and responsibility.
  • They cause paralysis.
  • They require justification.
  • They prevent commitment, cooperation and coordination (a bit stretchy).
  • They cost you time (opportunity cost, reduce perceived value even more, increase fear of being wrong).

Ok, the posts are a bit provocative, but the points made are not to be dismissed.

Voluntary reducing your choice spectrum is not necessary bad.

Always challenge your ideas, especially the ones you hold the strongest.


Yoran Bauman funny video “Principles of Economics” (7/10)

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As a side thread of the previous rabbit hole I discovered this guy, the “stand up economist“, a Ph.D. in Economics who makes stand up videos.

Enjoy!


Hyperbolic Discounting (6/10)

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As another side effect of the previous rabbit hole I learned about this Cognitive Bias named Hyperbolic Discounting: the likelihood you’ll delay gratification doesn’t only depend on the amount of waiting time, but also on when is the waiting going to happen.

If I ask you to choose one marshmallow today or two tomorrow, you’re tempted to choose the first option.

If I offer you one marshmallow in 30 days, or two in 31 days, nobody chooses the first option.

This is something I first heard in a Dan Ariely video, but now I can name it 🙂


Early Retirement Now on current state of the economy (7/10)

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Nice analysis with a lot of data.

He’s still pretty optimistic.

I’m not.


Indeedably on Happiness and Hoarding (8/10)

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Amazing post by one of the best writer in the personal finance blogosphere.

Best Quotes

While my son watched cartoons, I reflected on just how “personal” the personal finance subject is.

The lessons are both few and simple. Often repeated yet seldom heard.

Only absorbed once we have reached a place and time in our lives that we are receptive to them.

They don’t resemble puzzle pieces, that must be correctly assembled in the right order to win the game. That would be easy.

Rather, they are more like random pieces of Lego without a set of instructions. Able to be assembled into infinite combinations. Limited only by the knowledge and imagination of the individual player.

Some combinations are world-beating. Others suboptimal.

Fun, when used correctly. Inconvenient if lost. Capable of self-harm if left neglected on the floor.

As a concrete example, he turned into apps and spreadsheets, mobile and desktop, millennials and boomers:

“computers are for creating, mobile devices are for consuming” – Ben Evans

While far from perfect, Desktop Apps offered the user one thing that the modern generation of mobile apps does not: a holistic view of their finances. Which may be why in this era of “mobile first”, many people continue to use hand-rolled spreadsheets to manage their money.

I’d add: mobile apps are for affiliate marketers, spreadsheets are for honest people.


CGP Grey on Weekend Wednesdays (7/10)

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Yes, cool, nice idea, but still a minor tweak in normalcy. Still 5 days / 40 hours weeks.

What about weekend Wednesdays AND weekends? What about three days workweeks?

Anyway, CGP Grey publishes a video, you click on it no matter what.

Which leads to…


Q&A with CGP Grey (8/10)

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A Q&A video which is focused on Decision Making and handling Uncertainty. I love to get a secret camera on creators thought processes. Grey already opened up part of his thought process a couple of weeks ago while explaining why he was wrong on his Tekoi video, and he seems to be making this kind of videos a habit. Amazing, sign me in!

Which leads to..


Cortex Podcast on Note Taking and Personal knowledge Management (7/10)

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CGP Grey co-hosts this amazing Podcast on thinking, creating, improving yourself. This episode is on Note Taking and PKM. Grey talks about Zettelkasten, Roam, Obsidian, and more importantly on notes vs sources vs scripts. He’s just getting dirty with PKM, so if you – like me – already dug deep on these topics, you might find his initial thoughts a bit “naive”. Then he switches on how he creates scripts for his videos, and that’s where it gets interesting.

Personal note: Cortex episodes are a bit too long. I don’t listen to all of them – and try to also skim the good part of each episode.


More To That on Information and Identity (8/10)

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A very good post by MTT, as always.

I love his model of how facts get filtered several times before entering your brain. I’d also add an extra layer of Bayesian Thinking to transform “news” into “likelihood of facts”. MTT model assumes you get aware of “facts”, but you never see facts/truths directly. You only hear “news”, “opinions”, “theories”. Each one with their degree of correctness. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to filter fake news and subjectivity.

Anyway, if I’ll ever achieve my dream of teaching Critical Thinking to students, I’ll use the following image as a starting point 🙂

Best quotes:

Identity is often seen as the root cause of our information biases, but in reality, it is just one filter in a greater lifecycle.

Without cultivating curiosity, the awareness filter remains closed to any facts in the first place.

Without updating our capabilities, we can’t react to whatever data we discover.

And without letting go of identity, no amount of information will ever shift our perspective.

This post goes in sync with Paul Graham’s “keep your Identity small” (8/10)


Wendover Production on Covid and Airline companies (7/10)

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I love this channel! Its videos are mostly around airplanes and the air travel industry.

This one is about why the (AI) pricing model got broken during Covid, and how usually airline companies regulate supply and demand to fill their planes with 85+% occupancy.


Wendover Production about the speed of commercial flights (7/10)

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Mini rabbit hole on Wendover Production. Why don’t commercial flights flight faster?

Spoiler: Transonic Speed and fuel efficiency.


Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship (8/10)

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A comment on my previous WLJ made me aware of this experiment in social sciences. It’s a kind of Sokal Affair, but more recent and on a larger scale.

Essentially, in social sciences, especially in cultural, queer, race, gender, fat, and sexuality studies, you can get published whatever crazy shit you want if you try hard enough and know how to please the journal.

That was a crazy read, I laughed so many times.

These 3 PhDs got 7 crazy papers published by journals, and 7 still in the peer review process.

I think the following amazing quote is rapidly becoming obsolete:

Sufficiently advanced political correctness is indistinguishable from sarcasm.

— Erik Naggum

I’d propose: “Sufficiently advanced political correctness is indistinguishable from Nazism.”

Anyway, while the Sokal Affair aimed to undermine the quality of modern philosophical research, this experiment is simply leveraging on confirmation bias and political agendas.

A great experiment, but it’s about humans and their limitations.


Louis Rossmann on YouTube and mid roll ads (6/10)

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I can feel your pain bro, I know how many layers of bullshit hide behind it 🙂


Visual Capitalist ranking the Top 100 Websites in the World (6/10)

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Google, YouTube, other FAANG, Porn, and social media. With some metrics. I love data.


Veritasium on Skill vs Luck and Egocentric Bias (8/10)

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A reminder to not worship anyone, to accept that luck plays a huge role, and that you’re not in the center of the universe. A must watch.


Coffeezilla interviewing a guy addicted to Ponzi Schemes and MLMs (5/10)

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Not a good interview by Coffeezilla. I mean, this guy is obviously a scammer himself who simply profits from joining earlier than his followers any Ponzi scheme he can find.

Take a look if you have time. It’s crazy how people believe in such get-rich-quick schemes, and become addicted to the promise of unbelievably high returns.

This guy “believes” 1% per day is normal, and doesn’t ring a “it’s a scaaaaam” bell. But as I said, it’s hard to tell if he’s a dumb or he’s signaling something to his followers, to keep them hooked.

This guy is also a personal finance teacher, oh my god…

Anyway, I like the term HYIP, i.e. High Yield Investment Programs.

I also learned about few Ponzi Schemes like OneCoin, Qubitekk, and many more connected with Cryptos.


Google Career Certificates (9/10)

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This is a great idea! Really, those are the things that made me in love with… this company!

The high education system in US is a dinosaur: slow, incredibly expensive, and mostly broken.

The alternative education system (online courses) is not officially recognized by the industry, and full of sub-par quality material. And still expensive.

Google can offer you high quality technical courses, taught by Google employees, at ridiculous prices: the one which is currently available, IT Support Specialist, costs 50 USD/Month, for 6 months.

Courses recognized by Google itself, many partners, and more likely the entire industry!

Take this!

This is a genius move!

Now, for the dark sides… of course this could start a dangerous trend of big tech companies owning the higher education sector, and that’s not a good idea. But it’s also true that today, if you want to get a good degree you need to invest 4-5 years, and take a 200k USD student loan.

Something needed to be done anyway, and this solution is brilliant.

I’ll be following this 😉

Another criticism readers leveled was that there are certain lessons taught in higher education that you simply can’t get in other places.

“Students need more than a checklist of skills in order to compete in the real world,” wrote one reader on LinkedIn. “They need depth, breadth, and critical thinking abilities.”

I agree that critical thinking is … well, critical. But you want to know where I achieved much of my depth, breadth, and critical thinking skills?

It wasn’t in college. It was in an elementary school program that was provided for “gifted and talented” students. From third to fifth grade, I participated in a nontraditional curriculum for one day a week, every Friday. And the education I got there was invaluable.

We studied complex problems like acid rain and overpopulation. In doing so, we learned how to properly identify and brainstorm solutions to those problems. I’d love to see more critical thinking skills taught at a young age like this, along with more emotional intelligence-themed programs–and not just to a select few, but to all students–with more job-focused skills being taught in certificate programs like what Google is doing.


r/financialindependence post from a guy who’s family rich and unhappy (6/10)

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A reminder that “money != happiness”, and “money earned > windfall money”.

I struggle constantly with insecurity, and I haven’t been able to hang onto a relationship for more than a few months. I’m always searching for purpose, because my life seems meaningless at times. I spend a lot of my days acting out on addictions, just trying to get away from the feeling that I am wasting my life. I don’t HAVE to create anything productive, I don’t HAVE to add value to the world… so why do it? I feel insecure about my place in this world, because I haven’t really earned it yet.

Always retire to something you love, not just retire from something you hate.


Mike Winnet’s Contrepreneur Bingo: Russell Brunson (6/10)

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We’re closing the episode, enjoy another Contrepreneur Bingo and stay away from scams!


TechLead on what a programmer does today (7/10)

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Very fun! In line with the Corporate BS I’ve talked about in my latest Hooli chapter.

TechLead teaches us how to take advantage of them, not letting them internally destroy you.

It takes guts to be a software engineer today…


That’s all for this week 🙂

4 comments

  1. Hi, i’m new here, i’m an italian guy that wants to learn something new in this world. I start saying that your work on this blog is awesome. I got some questions:
    1) what about investing on ETF while being from italy? I understood that there are a lot of taxex, 26% if the ETF is quoted on italian borsa – progressive taxation if not(you can actually reach 45%) way too much 🙁
    2) have you considered to retire in italy? how would you handle the tax problem?
    3) what kind of investement would you do from italy?(financial and not)

    1. 1) too complicated to explain it here in simple terms.
      2) too complicated to explain it here in simple terms.
      3) too complicated to explain it here in simple terms.

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