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Handwriting for math etc

I don't have very tidy handwriting, and for most things this is fine: there's enough redundancy in language that it will be clear from context what is a t and what is a +. When writing calculations, however, there's often a lot less redundancy and so it's more worth it to make sure distinctions aren't being lost. One way to handle this would be to have clean handwriting overall, but what I do instead is use glyphs that are more robust and remain distinct even if written poorly. [1]

Here are what I do with some tricky glyphs:


i j t + l 1 I 2 z 7 ;

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Index Funds: US vs International

I think the efficient market hypothesis is basically right, in the sense that I'm not not going to be able to beat the average return, and so I'd more or less like to hold an even slice of everything there is to own. Talking to people and reading online, it seems like it's common to invest ~60% in the US and ~40% internationally. Why is that? The US total stock market cap is only about 30-40% of the world's, so I'd think the default position would be to mirror that, perhaps by buying shares in a total-world index. Reasons I've heard for weighting the US higher seem to be based on things like the US having higher returns historically, but that should be priced in.

If anything, I think for Americans overweighting international stocks would make more sense, since we're already very long on the US. Similarly, if there were an index fund that excluded tech I think that would be a good buy for me since I'm effectively quite long there through my investment of being a programmer.

What's going on? Why does "index fund" typically mean "S&P 500" and not "total world"?

(It looks like maybe this is called "home bias" and economists think people shouldn't do it?)

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Parallel Status Hierarchies

A standard view of status is that it's fundamentally zero sum: we're all on one continuum, and what matters is our rank order. Switching into a more prestigious occupation can be good for you as an individual by raising your status, but all the people you're now higher status then are very slightly worse off such that it's neutral for society overall.

Status works because of consensus: if there are a hundred people in a village each one can't think they're the highest status villager. But it only requires local consensus: if the villagers have a model of status that goes:

  highest status villager
  > lowest status villager
  > outsiders
that's more or less going to work fine for them. And every other village can have the same view, which means everyone can be near the top of the status hierarchy that's salient to them.
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AXIS-49 Initial Thoughts

I've been excited about hexagonal keyboard layouts for a couple years, and was sad that the Axis-49 was discontinued before I got a chance to buy one. This is a keyboard with 98 velicity sensitive hexagonal keys arranged in a grid:

I'd been checking used markets occasionally, and last week I saw a listing and ordered one!

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Making Groups for Kid Pictures

Facebook tries really hard to show people what it thinks they want to see, but it still has major problems dealing with a pretty common situation: baby pictures. If I post a cute picture of one of my kids, Facebook first shows it to people that tend to like what I post. Many of those people are more interested in blog posts about contra dance, effective altruism, music, or other things, however, and don't want a Facebook feed full of kid pictures. Other people will 'like' the picture, though, and Facebook learns
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Getting into Programming

The software industry has been growing enormously, and has been pretty desperate to hire. While most high paying jobs require a Bachelors degree and maybe a Masters/PhD/license, software employers are so tight for people to hire that that there are many places that don't weigh credentials highly: I've had several coworkers who didn't go to college. What does it take to switch into programming?

I wanted to write this up because people often write to ask me this, generally because they're considering going and getting a Masters in Computer Science to become more employable. I almost always recommend against that:

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