Sometimes the middle ground is most empowering

Writing a blog post in plain text isn’t fun. Neither is writing it in a bulky word processor like Microsoft Word. The former is too constrained, the latter too unbridled.  Writing in Markdown is fun. It has sufficient features without creating bloat.

Building a backend in lambda functions has a strong lock-in. On the other hand, deploying web services on Virtual Machines (or physical machines!), while having little lock-in, is complicated. Docker, however, treads the middle path. Sufficiently robust without pulling in the complications of maintaining a full-fledged virtual/physical machine.

Sometimes the middle ground is the most empowering one. It trades off some power in lieu of reducing complexity.


Crowded or Popular? Exclusive or deserted?

An expensive place full of tourists is considered a popular destination. While an inexpensive place full of tourists will be called a crowded one.

An expensive place lacking tourists is termed an exclusive destination. While an inexpensive place lacking tourists is considered deserted.

It is never about other tourists, it is always about how much you spent.

Diet action plan from “How not to die” book

Checklist for Good Health

  • 3 servings of Beans
  • 1 serving   of Berries
  • 3 servings of other fruits
  • 1 serving  of Cruciferous vegetables
  • 2 servings of Greens
  • 2 servings of Other Vegetables
  • 1 serving  of Flaxseed
  • 1 serving  of Nuts
  • 1 serving  of Spices
  • 3 servings of Whole Grains
  • 5 servings of Beverages
  • 1 tablet of Vitamin B12 supplement
  • 1 workout session

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Binary vs Graded outcomes

Some activities have binary outcomes while some have graded outcomes. Getting admission into a college is binary, either you get it or you don’t; how well you do in the college is graded. Clearing a job interview is binary, either you get selected or you don’t; how well you do the job isn’t that black and white. Getting a promotion is binary; while a pay raise is usually on a graded scale. Being single or married is binary; while the quality of life, in either case, is graded.

When the outcome is binary, either the outcome is desirable or all the effort is in vain. Activities with graded outcomes allow you to observe and calibrate the effort. Activities with binary outcomes can be made graded by repeating them. That’s especially true when the repetition cost is low like in the case of college admissions or job interviews.

Learning vs remembering

The way the human brain learns is different from how it remembers. Good practitioners know how to remember. Good teachers know how to make others learn.

The optimal distance

You cannot read a book kept too far or too close to your eyes. You cannot comfortably watch a movie from the first row of the multiplex and you can’t watch it from the other end of a football field either.  When you are too far, details are lost. And when details are lost, everything looks similar and boring. When you are too close, the perspective is lost. And when perspective is lost, one gets overwhelmed by the details.

When you are too far, details are lost. When you are too close, perspective is lost.

Speedup vs Slow-down

Nob hill San Francisco

If you are driving at a speed 60 mph (or kmph, it won’t matter) from one city to another and return at 40 mph, then what would be your average speed?

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Front of the queue effect

You are standing in a queue waiting to buy food, order drinks, or buy tickets. The queue is long and is moving slowly. You are grumbling about the people standing in the front, why are they asking so many questions, why can’t they make choices beforehand. And then your turn comes. You are prepared. You know what you want. But it took so long to reach here. why not confirm your choices? After all, you stood for so long, at least you can spend a minute or two confirming that you are making the right choice. If you made an incorrect or an incomplete order, who would stand again in this long queue to correct it?

Longer the queue becomes, slower it ends up moving.

Wealth destruction is worse than taxes

An economic activity has one more of the following impacts

  1. Wealth creation – for example, processes like extraction of oil, capturing solar energy and even repairing a broken device.
  2. Wealth transfer – for example, processes like selling a good, taxes and bribery/theft, though the last one is usually illegal.
  3. Wealth destruction – for example, processes like hurricanes, wars and riots.

Most developing/underdeveloped countries usually lack sufficient wealth creation, but it does not stop there. They suffer a lot from man-made wealth destruction as well. Sometimes, they are obvious, as in the case of wars and riots. Sometimes, they are more subtle. For example, India loses 24% of electricity to transmission and distribution, as oppose to 6% in the USA. Or, for example, 30% of fruits and vegetable harvest is lost in India due to lack of proper storage. Tax, in principle, is a transfer of money to the government. Even if the government uses money inefficiently, it is still being used. While in the case of wealth destruction, the resources are simply lost leaving an overall poorer society.