I finally stopped avoiding financial reality, and booked my trips to Costa Rica (3 days to visit friends) and Bali (5 weeks). The flight back from Bali will be something I’ve never experienced before… a 50+ hour travel experience. There is a 21 hour layover in Taipei, followed by a 7 hour layover in New York, in addition to all of the flying time. I could have spent another $1,000 and gotten on a different flight without a 20 hour layover (but still 30 hours + of total travel) on the way back, but decided to draw the line somewhere and save money via working/resting out of a lounge for that day. Maybe I’ll even check out Taiwan for the day, I’ve never been.
I was complaining to my friend Jeff about the money and travel time, and he made a startling statement: I could, perhaps, not travel so much. Touche.
There have been really fun holiday events here in Puerto Rico as the Christmas season isn’t over until after the last big party, San Sebastian, this weekend. I’m starting to get into a good groove knowing my neighbors, local business owners, and the geography of the island. The weather has also been better than ever; 70 at night, and 80 during the day. I really don’t have any fomo about traveling, but it’s a sticky habit. To be fair to myself everything is centered around traveling to meet up with friends.
I started my online beginners meditation class this week (https://upalimeditation.com/intro-course-logistics-info/) and enjoyed the first session. I didn’t know what to expect, but we did introductions, and our instructor walked us through very basic instructions of meditation as presented in “The Mind Illuminated”, the best book I’ve found in the genre.
Even though I had previously read about everything that he said, it helped so much to have it reinforced how simple it is to meditate. Just focusing on the sensations of the breath around your nose and upper lip, and when you daydream/forget about your breath, mentally congratulate yourself for recognizing that, and come back to the breath. There are a lot of techniques and tricks to improve this, but re-starting with this has been great.
The meditation class creates a minor amount of peer-pressure for me, in a really good way, to make sure I’m meditating regularly. I’ve been at it for 6 days in a row now, and even increased my time from 20 minutes to 30.
Another statement I really liked from the first class was to treat meditation like a science experiment. Someone in the class justifiably questioned if there really are benefits to meditation. You hear so many people talk about how great it is, scientific studies citing positive changes, etc., but the reality is not like taking a prescription drug where you feel the effects within minutes or even days. My longest streak of consistent meditation was a few weeks, and although I got better at meditating, I couldn’t pinpoint obvious mental benefits. I *think* I might have been more calm and less emotionally swayed, but I didn’t have a way to quantify it, and am careful to not try to trick myself into thinking something is happening if it’s not.
Our class is once a week, for 6 weeks, and our teacher said that if we meditate regularly for that period we should have enough data to come to our own conclusions if it works for us. My hypothesis is that there will be subtle benefits in focus and contentment, but I’m open to better/nothing happening.
I’ve been writing and doing creative quant finance research pretty consistently lately. Maybe the secret benefits of the meditation increasing my discipline? I made tremendous gains in theoretical edge for my trading algorithms (translated to I would have made a lot more money last year if I knew what I knew now, but of course it might be useless in the future) with the research I finished this week. It’s wild that six months ago I thought I had optimized my algorithm so much that there might be a few percent per year more that I could make, and I’m still finding new features (types of data) to add to my model that improved it by 50+%! Again all of this is exciting on the computer screen, but until it hits my bank account for a few months I’m skeptical (though hopeful).
Reading wise I finished a few books. One was on my classic crime fiction list, “The Tin Roof Blowdown” by James Lee Burke, and the other was the latest book by Yuval Noah Harari, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”.
“The Tin Roof Blowdown” had very impressive writing, and I loved the beginning. It was my first time reading James Lee Burke, and I put the book down a few times to google him as I thought this could be one of my new favorite writers. The book dragged a bit later on for me, but I finished it, so overall I enjoyed it. Reading this inspired me to work more on my descriptive writing.
“21 Lessons for the 21st Century” started off very exciting too, in an informative and thought provoking way, but became nihilistic, repetitive, and beatdown. The answers to the questions that it proposed were weak for me. The grand finale is that life has no meaning, but he *does* find meaning in spreading that message. I read a lot of mixed reviews, but I loved “Sapiens” and “Homo Deus” so much that I was excited to still push through the bad parts. I typically don’t like to negatively review things, so again I will say that his previous book “Sapiens” was exceptional, and perhaps set the bar too high.
With that I’ll leave you with a picture from a beach in Manati, PR. So many beautiful places here.