Only A Model

by J. Ben Deaton

Measuring Belief by Constraint

It’s important to know what you actually believe. Lately, I’ve wondered how to measure belief in facts or truths.

The best heuristic I’ve come up with this: You believe something if your life is constrained by it. This includes your actions, decisions, thoughts… basically what you have control over. Like a guard rail, if you intersect the boundary of one of your beliefs, an invisible force will reign you in and prevent you from trespassing. You are constrained by your belief.

I don’t claim this is the only or best way to measure belief, but I think it works to a point. Thinking about belief this way has been both encouraging and disconcerting. It has revealed some interesting insights, including things I want to believe but don’t, as well as things I do believe but frankly wish I didn’t.

By the way, this doesn’t just apply to spiritual beliefs—-it works just as well for everything else.

My Driving Rules

I am an above-average driver. I didn’t get that way without inviolable personal rules.

Driving is almost definitely the most dangerous thing I do in a given day. Nothing puts me, my wife, or my kids at greater risk. We live in a culture where it’s socially acceptable to drive while rushed, stressed out, and distracted. How are any of us still alive?

It occurred to me the other day that I have already started teaching my 5 year-old daughter how to drive. I teach her every day what is okay by what I do. So I got to thinking about it and realized I have a series of rules I follow (and should follow more strictly) that I want to be second nature to her years before she ever touches a set of keys. I have started using these rules by name with her. I’m writing them up to codify them for myself.

How to Survive Air Travel

I have a longstanding rule when flying that if I do not run through a terminal at some point, I arrived at the airport too early. I’d generally rather be outside the airport exploring whatever city I’m in, for as long as I can, with people I like. The benefits of sprinting are numerous and equally applicable within airports.

But Craig Mod might have just changed my mind. Excellently written and based on an impressive CV of international travel, he shares his practical—-and occasionally hilarious—-approach to getting from A to B with minimal stress and maximum enjoyment.

You look insane — your white mask, your monkey bra, your noise-canceling headphones, but it doesn’t matter. You are satiated, filled with nourishing food; you have gotten your work done, and now you float in a personal outer space. An outer space that sounds like the summer in Wisconsin and feels just as humid within the nose and mouth thanks to your microclimate. You are on a plane but are not. You could be anywhere. You are untouchable. You are possibly the most insufferable traveler ever. You float and smile because you are the Dalai Lama.

This is how you survive air travel.

I am the Dalai Lama. :)

Read the rest: Let’s fly: How to survive air travel by Craig Mod

Resources for a Personal Finance Reboot

I want to talk a bit about challenging financial situations today and some resources I have found most helpful. First, some context. The parameters of our move to Boston included the following: (a) a moderate level of student loan debt, (b) expenses incurred in support of a cross-country move and settling into a new place, © a 3—4 month waiting period before finding a suitable renter for my home in Atlanta, and (d) high housing costs in Boston (I pay 2x for 0.5x space relative to Atlanta).

I won’t discuss specific numbers, but suffice it to say the bottom line after the dust settled from all this was overwhelming. I have known people who were facing many times the debt I faced. It’s difficult to even know where to start. Dealing with that level of challenge required a complete reboot in my thinking and approach to money.

Measure Execution Time (TicToc) With Python

One of the things I used to love about Matlab were the tic and toc functions, which basically allowed you to time whatever code was bounded by the two commands. You can do something similar in Python to measure execution time within a block of Python code, but I have a use case that I want to discuss here.

Most of my work involves running large finite element simulations on cluster nodes. These simulations are typically batched and it’s helpful to know how long each one takes to run. The simulations aren’t Python code, though. Depending on the day, I might make Abaqus, LS-DYNA, DIANA, or Ansys runs. I need to time these non-Python simulations, especially when I’m doing parameter studies. Here’s how: