Some Book Recs

Busy week here in Puerto Rico.  I finished a massive amount of crypto research that allowed me to make some good changes to my current algorithms.  I overdid it a bit, finishing my days with eyestrain and a bit of anxiety from overindulging in espresso shots (so easy to chug free LaCroix sparkling water and espresso shots at my new co-working space), but I’m glad to have the bulk of my current research completed.  I have some second-tier research to complete now, but I built out the data and testing that should make it way more manageable.


I can see things slowing down and becoming more automated in about a month which is awesome.  I’m seriously thinking about doing Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in November if things keep coming together like they are.  The challenge is to write a first draft of a (short) novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November. I did it several years ago before I had ever written much, and I really enjoyed it.  It was very intense going from not writing to writing 2,000 words a day, but I feel like jumping back into an immersive process would be perfect for me (assuming I’m not bogged down with crypto work).  Fingers crossed.


For this week I thought I would review some ideas and cool things I’ve been reading.


It’s so much fun when you start a new subject and your rate of improvement is huge.  I started a weekly Spanish lesson (and I study a tiny bit daily to prep for it), I’ve been continuing to study/practice meditation through the book that I recommended before “The Mind Illuminated”, a fascinating book “PiHKAL” by Alexander Shulgin about his journey as a chemist creating psychedelics, “The Courage to be Disliked” by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi which is about Adlerian psychology, and “The Bitcoin Standard” by Saifedean Ammous.


Since I live in Puerto Rico I finally sucked it up and got a teacher (over Skype in Colombia) to teach me Spanish, as well as downloading the Beta release of an App from the popular book “Fluent Forever”.  Tbd on the app, but the teacher is really good. I still have a high school mental obstacle to procrastinate on my homework and I get nervous before our language lesson, but I’m working on it. I can say a few more things now, and the motivation to not be that guy who moves to a different country but doesn’t speak a word of the language after x amount of years is strong.  


With my meditation practice I finally had a breakthrough, literally today.  I guess my first breakthrough is that I haven’t missed a day in over two weeks now (partially thanks to the free Insight Timer App where I like to keep the consecutive days going), but today for the first time I got past what the author calls *level 2* of 10 in “The Illuminated Mind” and was able to meditate my full 20 minutes without mind wandering for more than a few seconds at a time.  Previously I’ve always had multi-minute lapses. I don’t know if I’ve gotten any big benefits from meditating yet, but it’s getting easier, and I can’t think of any other thing more interesting to me than exploring/mastering my mind right now.


“PiHKAL” is really interesting on several levels.  It’s an autobiography from a really brilliant corporate chemist/professor turned psychedelic researcher.  The first half of the book (the reason I bought it) is an autobiography/collection of stories about him and his wife, and the second half is recipe book/notes about a bunch of synthetic psychedelics that he experimented with.  Shulgin’s big claim to fame was creating MDMA, but he created, tested, and took psychedelic drugs regularly for something like 40 years as he tried to find things that would help improve people’s lives. I find meditation really interesting as I’ve read from numerous people that it’s a technique to find peace/clarity/contentment/insights, and psychedelics can provide a few hours of a rocket ship blast into some of those insights, although with some obvious drawbacks.  After reading through some of “PiHKAL” chemistry is a lot more fascinating and the psychedelic world isn’t as intimidating (although I very much respect the substances he took, there is some heavy stories in there).


“The Courage to Be Disliked” is an interesting and different (to me) approach to psychology.  It’s based off the teachings of Alfred Adler (a contemporary of Sigmund Freud) and one of the biggest premises is: you aren’t controlled by your past, and your present life is due to decisions you’ve purposely made (whether you consciously realize that or not).  There are a lot of gems in the book, and although I like the format (a fictitious conversation between a student and teacher), I found that I can just read the teachers responses and get the same information in half of the time. They address real current problems that I get asked about occasionally, but had no framework to process.  Things like if a child doesn’t leave his room what can you do and who is to blame. I think as a global society the more we remove personal responsibility from people, the more we are holding them back. This book expressed some things I felt but never could articulate.


“The Bitcoin Standard” is a review of Austrian Economics (a small branch of economics that I’ve followed for 17 years or so, so nothing personally groundbreaking for me) and why Bitcoin could be the major global currency.  It’s pretty well written, and has some persuasive arguments. The biggest thing that I took out of it was that hard money like gold (and possibly Bitcoin) takes over soft money like British Pounds/US dollars. People like scarcity and reliability, and over time all currencies that aren’t backed by a scarce resource (like gold) get inflated to nothing.  Gold can still be inflated some if we dig deeper into the earth, while Bitcoin is algorithmically set and the known quantity of bitcoin is transparent. Bitcoin is also much easier to store/transport than gold, and makes a lot of sense as we go full-on tech worldwide. The author claims that as gold became standardized, and known that it couldn’t be found in abundance like copper or other early metals, it took over all other currencies.  Bitcoin could do the same. I wouldn’t put your last dollar into Bitcoin as it’s still a very risky and new technology, but I’m rooting for it.


That’s it for this week, leaving you with a pic of one of the iguanas hanging out here in PR.  It might be mating season or something, there are a ton of them lately.


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