Sunday, July 31, 2011

Being a brilliant coder does not one a philosopher king make

I am periodically given cause to reflect on the bizarre attitudes that quite a lot of science and computer science types have towards finance.

There is a thread on slashdot where a programmer at a high frequency trading finance firm explains what he does:
I work on the algo and core infrastructure. I wrote price feeds that take 1/5th of a microsecond in C++ and (a little slower) in Java. I understand in fine detail how cache and the the PCI-e bus works.

blah blah blah technical details to show I'm really good at what I do.

And then, of course, the punch line

I also hope to make $500,000 this year.

You always hear about Google programmers being the best in the industry, but I've been to a couple Google interviews and turned them down both times because the engineering quality just isn't there. I'd put the average HFT programmer up against the best in Google anyday.

My response? Good for you, mate. I have very little basis to distinguish whether you're actually as good as you say you are, or whether you just have a very inflated opinion of yourself. Frankly, I doubt anyone else does either. Not that it matters, really. Your employers feel that you earn your salary, and the rest is nobody else's business.

But witness the strange and impotent rage that this fairly innocuous post generates. Let's start with the merely stupid:
What could possibly change in the underlying value of a corporation made up of flesh and blood humans and capital with decades of depreciation in a fucking microsecond? Here's a hint: nothing. You are not investing, or trading, but simply racing other gamblers. Investing doesn't benefit from microsecond response times, and trading doesn't need it either. People could buy IPO shares just fine over the phone. Nobody ever needed a microsecond response time to buy a thousand bushels of wheat, and never will, because bread is baked daily, not a million times a fucking second.

If politicians had two braincells to rub together, they'd enact a law to prevent trades faster than some tick, say, an hour. Your 'trading' company would go out of business in a week, and nobody would care. Farmers would still sell their wheat, and bakers would still buy it, but without you leeches skimming off the top.

Thank you, patriotic comrade! The Party has determined that your skills are not being allocated in a way most beneficial to the glorious People's Republic of San Francisco. Under the new 5 year plan, you will report to your new assigned socially optimal task, or will be transported to the Gulag.

This turkey just can't wait to unleash his inner totalitarian. If what you are doing is judged to not be socially optimal by some nebulous calculus, then it is to be outlawed, even if someone else was freely willing to pay you for it and there was no obvious social harm. Coming soon, a ban on Playstations, gossip magazines, and movies over 90 minutes long!

Also witness the complete lack of understanding of how markets work. Person A has an outstanding order to sell IBM stock for $80. Person B has an order to buy at $78. Person C comes along, more anxious to sell, and places an order to sell at $78.20. Along comes a high frequency trading firm, and 2 microseconds later agrees to buy the share at $78.20 off Person C. This is clearly exploitative, how? Oh, presumably because the HFT firm might sell the share a minute later for $78.22. According to this nitwit, the HFT firm is 'skimming something off the top'. So what? Your supermarket buys apples in bulk at $1 per kilo, and sells them at retail for $2 per kilo, 'skimming something off the top'. Your antiques dealer buys a nightstand at $100, and sells it a week later at $150, 'skimming something off the top'. Do you rage against them too? And you, noble untainted computer programmer, will hire out your underlings at $200 per hour, while only paying them $100. You know why? Because the alternative to people 'skimming something off the top' is the 'All Good Must Be Sold At Cost Act of 2011', also known as 'shutting down all business immediately by mandating profits to be at most zero, and negative if you can't actually sell the item you bought'.

Bt believe it or not, that' not the worst comment of the thread. That honor goes to clown #2:

I am most likely better than you at each and every aspect of software (and HDL) development you have mentioned.

I would be intrigued to hear you flesh out the details of how exactly you came to this conclusion.

Except, of course, "debugging in minutes" -- that kind of irresponsibility would get me fired.

No shit, eh? Perhaps that's because you're working in a job that DOESN'T REQUIRE THINGS TO BE DEBUGGED IN MINUTES. If you were, and you decided that you just couldn't in good conscience debug something in 5 minutes, then you'd be COMPLETELY FUCKING USELESS IF THEY ACTUALLY NEEDED THE TASK FINISHED IN 5 MINUTES TIME.

I also have to work long hours, and have to have clear understanding of complex issues unrelated to software.

Well, bully for you.

Except I do embedded software and FPGA development for professional audio equipment. Each device I worked on, each firmware release, each line of code, does something useful for many, many people. Some of those people don't even know that audio equipment, leave alone software, is involved with what they are hearing. Large fraction of my work ends up being free/open source, too -- platform, drivers, etc.

To which I keep asking, so what? Nobody's taking pot shots at what you do. But as long as you're up on your high horse, making audio software and doing a bit of open source doesn't exactly make you Mother Theresa. Johnny Totalitarian in the first quote may well decide that the world has quite enough audio software already, and you'd be better off cleaning garbage. And when he did, I'd tell him to piss off them as well. Your employer pays you good money for what you do, and the other guy's employer pays him for what he does. Good. If you want to take a lower paying job that gives you more satisfaction, because you produce something tangible, I applaud that choice. If the other guy doesn't, I'm fine with that too.

And so from this carefully constructed argument, comes the obvious conclusion:
I also don't have any problems with posting here under my real name. Or with telling you, and people like you, to die in a fire.

I'm going to assume that you're just throwing this out there as a gratuitous insult, not as something that readers should be concluding based on the premises you've laid out.

You work as a programmer for a finance firm, ergo you should die in a fire.

You, sir, are a pompous fuckwit. You rage against an industry you don't understand, and against the fact that the world does not accord you the income and status that you feel is your right. But unfortunately for you, the finance industry doesn't actually give a rat's ass what you think of it. There is not a single employee at a finance firm that is going to lose a minute's sleep because you happen to not approve of their vocation, and your fury is all the more fierce because you know this is true.

George Bernard Shaw was a brilliant writer.He was also a Communist who liked eugenics and star chamber executions of people who couldn't prove their social worth. Being smart doesn't stop you believing stupid things.

[Edit]: Clown #2 uses his real name as his post, but on reflection I decided not to post it. If you, like me, don't like the trend of personalising internet attacks, you need to resist the urge to take part. If he changes his mind, his dumbass earlier comments should haunt his reputation.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shylock Holmes on Greg House vs Sherlock Holmes

File this in the category of 'Things that lots of people have figured out before me, but I still thought of independently'.

I'm a fan of the TV show 'House'. The character Greg House is one of the more compelling and interesting to grace TV screens in recent memory - brilliant at diagnosing medical ailments, socially distant, sarcastic to all around him, but deeply appealing.

It took me a while to realise exactly what it was about the show that made it so enjoyable. And I finally figured it out - they've essentially re-written the Sherlock Holmes series as a medical show.

The plot twists are those of a mystery novel - diseases are not what they seem, people are hiding their true motivations and lying, the doctors need to dig around to find out what's going on. And in the same way, the true diagnosis is only ever revealed at the end, requiring ingenuity to decipher.

There are also lots of references to the Sherlock Holmes series. For a start, the character names are an homage: House is Holmes (a pun on house/home, since 'House' is an otherwise very odd surname). House, like Holmes, also takes narcotics - Holmes takes heroin when he is bored from not having a case, and House (because the former seemed a little unpalatable for TV) is addicted to Vicodin for his crippling leg pain. Wilson is his sidekick, playing the role of Watson.

And the show works, because they copied enough of a truly brilliant series to capture the appeal in a TV setting. But there are differences.

One difference is that House is much more character driven than Sherlock Holmes. This is partly necessary for TV. House himself is much more funny and sarcastic than Holmes, with the latter being generally portrayed as brilliant but somewhat cold and monomaniacal in his pursuit of crime. House also has more people around him - the supporting cast of doctors to riff on, and Cuddy as his boss/love interest. The last point is a distinct departure, as Holmes showed no interest in women at all. House, they compromise by making his relationships destructive. It's no surprise that the episodes that sucked the most were when House was happily dating Cuddy, as they rang false.

But perhaps the most important difference (related to the first) is that Sherlock Holmes was fundamentally about the mystery. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said that his big departure from previous mystery writers was that Holmes didn't have any special magic intuition - everything he deduced, the reader could have conceivably deduced too, if only they had been sharp enough. As such, the stories were appealing because of the challenge of trying (and in my case, usually failing) to figure out who the culprit would be.

House, of course, can't do this. Even if the medical insights are all correct (and given it's TV, that may well be questionable), the reader can't be expected to figure it out himself. And that, in the end, is why it has to be a character-based show - we can live vicariously through House's genius insights, but they have to fall into the magical intuition that Sir Conan Doyle sought to avoid. And that is why, at the end of it, Sherlock Holmes is about the brilliance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but House is about the brilliance of Hugh Laurie. Give the same show with a less compelling actor, and it wouldn't work.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rage against the Abstract

For the last few weeks I have been largely disconnected from the internet. I've been in places or situations without a connection, and when I have been, I haven't felt the desire to catch up in detail on all the usual blogs and websites. I scribble a bit on this blog because I love all my readers dearly, but I have been, in short, with my 'stories'.

One of the realisations that this tends to produce is just how much of your existence is spent thinking about things that, for all intents and purposes, are entirely abstract. The stories in the newspaper are real, of course, but virtually none of them would have a noticeable impact on your life if you didn't read about them. A terrorist attack in Norway, an unjust prosecution of a guy in Australia, haggling over the long-term debt level of the USA - be honest, if you were in a country cottage, would you even know it was happening?

And yet that's what people get worried about, spending their days raging and celebrating over things that matter to them in the aggregate, but not that much individually.

Once upon a time, this wasn't the case. Go back a couple of hundred years, and the only news was local news. If Betty was involved in a scandal, she wasn't a movie star but someone you knew personally. If there was political upheaval, it wasn't that the House of Representatives was controlled by a different party, but that the Vikings were raping and pillaging a town 5 miles away, and heading to you next. It's not that the news was always more important, as local news can get very parochial and gossip driven. But it definitely was a lot more likely to affect you directly.

So what these ways would actually affect you? Economic events you might still notice, but probably only when it affected your company or business. When you get laid off, or your cousin gets laid off, that's a big deal. In this sense, it probably makes sense for people to vote for or against incumbents based largely on how the economy is doing (as they seem to). But if you kept your job and were in a fairly stable business, it would be a lot harder to know exactly what constituted a recession.

The biggest political event of the past decade was easily September 11. If you lived in New York, you'd better believe you would have noticed it even without the newspapers. If you were a member of the military (or knew someone who was), you'd be aware of the fact that you'd been shipped off to Afghanistan.

But if you were just a regular guy living in Detroit who never read the paper? Broadly speaking, the only change you would have noticed would have been a bit more hassle at airport security.

The part that is odd, though, is that it's very difficult to keep this perspective while reading the news every day. People just aren't wired that way - news always interests them, even if it is unlikely to affect them much. The only way to get there is to actually stop reading for a while.

Strange times.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Future Mensa Chapter Presidents Try Their Hands At Blackmail

Via Hector Lopez comes a story that is full of so much fail it's hard to know where to start.

Two teenagers in Sydney somehow manage to get a nude photograph of the wife of lawyer. Rather than just get their jollies looking at it or send it to their friends, they hit upon the idea of trying to blackmail the wife into paying $15,000 for it.

No, really.

But the hilarity is only getting started.

By all accounts, the kids had given virtually no thought to the possibility that the woman might contact the police. Which, of course, she did.

The boy and girl allegedly demanded the woman leave $15,000 in a toilet cistern at a Hunters Hill hotel or they would make the photo public.

They arranged a meeting place in a hotel bathroom. You know, because if there's one thing about a money pickup location that you really really want, it's having only a single possible entrance and exit that's easily monitored from lots of locations, where lots of people are guaranteed to be milling around so you'll have no idea if you're being watched.

They were arrested after the woman's husband reported the demand to police and a covert operation was set up to catch the youths. The girl was arrested by plainclothes officers on May 30 after she walked out of the unisex bathroom of the hotel's gaming room empty handed.

Having set up this wicked location, they then decided to pick it up themselves immediately. Genius! What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, so maybe they didn't think about it ahead of time, but what about when they already realized the police were involved? Surely they tried to cover their tracks then?

About an hour after the girl was arrested the woman's husband received a call from the offenders, the court was told.

The caller said: "You used undercover cops, f ... you, f ... you. You tell (name of woman) she is dead".

Hmmm, strangely they decided to double down on their jail time by making telephone death threats to a number that SURELY was going to be monitored by the cops. An intriguing gambit!

Alright give them some credit, it's hard to think clearly when you're panicking. And frankly it's not clear how to pick a location to get the cash that would be able to foil all police efforts. Maybe that's a reason not to do it in the first place, but let's give them some leeway.

What about the basics? Surely they covered their tracks even a little?

A copy of the extortion letter received by the victim on May 29 was allegedly found by police on an Apple laptop used by the siblings. ...

The letter was allegedly saved in a file titled "threat letter MILF" less than five hours before a copy was allegedly slid under the front door of the victim's mansion in an envelope addressed to the victim and labelled "private".

Okay, this raises at least two questions.

1. Why would you save the letter? Why not just press delete? Are you trying to create a paper trail for the cops?


But I haven't even gotten to the finishing touch of the story:

The teens' mother told police the laptop was used by both her children.

Thanks Mum!!!

So your children are being investigated for crimes that would put them in prison for a long time, and you're PROVIDING MATERIAL EVIDENCE TO THE POLICE TO HELP ENSURE THEIR CONVICTION! When they come asking questions, tell them to get the hell out of your house if they don't have a warrant! I guess stupid runs in the family.

I hereby sentence you both to 20 years to life for being gigantic dumbasses who are too stupid to be left to roam free in society.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Upward-Sloping Demand Curves for Classical Music Concerts

There are some instances in life where your demand curve slopes upwards - the higher the price, the more you want to buy. Even where this occurs, it is of course a local effect - you may buy fewer Louis Vuitton handbags if the general price were $5 instead of $500, but you'd surely buy ever fewer if the price were $500,000. So the usual caveats apply.

But one case where this happens to me is classical music concerts.

To me, the absolute worst price that can be set for such an event is $0, especially for any event held outdoors.

Outdoor concerts evoke a picnic-type atmosphere. Wouldn't it be lovely if we got some wine and cheese and sat on a rug and listened to classical music. The easier-listening the better! It's a triple-header of Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, Pachelbel's Canon and Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons'? That sounds perfect!

Now, this is actually fine, as it goes. Classical music is like poetry - given it's rarefied enough, there's no need to ramp up the snobbery.

But what I can't stand is that this kind of event attracts people who want to use the occasion of a concert with real-life musicians as if it were a CD on in the background - merely an aid to conversation.

This is infuriating on at least two levels.

Firstly, it shows a great disrespect to the performers, who can see and hear you nattering away to your friends about how lovely the Napa valley was last weekend.

More importantly, it's incredibly annoying to everyone around you who is then faced with the difficult task of trying to filter out your conversational drivel and focus on enjoying the music. To me, at least, this is nigh on impossible. It's like trying to not listen to a screaming child. The people involved yabber away, usually oblivious to the fact that they're imposing a huge negative externality on lots of people around them. But it's not just obliviousness that drives it. I've even seen people get angsty when other good citizens finally tire of it and tell them to shush. They'll often start up again within a few minutes, daring you to call them out twice (which, of course, will work no better the second time than the first).

Free concerts are the worst, because when you shift your price from $10 per person to $0 per person, the marginal change in audience members is those whose willingness to pay was necessarily in single digits. These bogans are amongst the most likely to have no sense of propriety or consideration for people who want to actually listen to the music. Some of them will be fine, but it doesn't take many loud-talking losers to spoil the pool for everyone.

From long, sad experience, I now avoid any outdoor classical concerts at all. I prefer to have tickets costing at least $40 per person, and events held in big sombre concert halls which attract regular orchestra patrons.

The difference in my utility is much, much more than $40.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ye Gads!

Tail Risk - doing 120 miles per hour in a Ferrari Sessanta down a fairly narrow English country road.

For any English law enforcement officials reading this, I am of course speaking entirely hypothetically.

Hypothetically, I imagine you might be pushed back into your chair, clutching the Jesus bar on the door, and hoping to high heaven that your friend knows what he's doing, but with a huge grin on your face nonetheless.

A Whoooooo woo!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Great news for German taxpayers!

So the big economic news of the day is that Greece is going to default, and that the ECB and the IMF are going to bail them out. The first part was a virtual certainty sooner or later, the second part less so.

European politicians being who they are, there is never a single problem for which the solution is not 'more powers for the EU, more centralised government!'. True to form, they've done it again:

Euro zone leaders were set to give their financial rescue fund sweeping new powers to prevent contagion and help Greece overcome its debt crisis, according to the draft conclusions of an emergency summit on Thursday.
The leaders were also set to promise a "Marshall Plan" of European public investment to help revive the Greek economy, in a deep recession due to draconian EU/IMF-imposed austerity."

Well that's great! Now that they've solved the problem with the level of debt (sort of), I'm sure the problem of the first derivative of debt (I.e. the ongoing Greek budget deficit that they still can't close, and keep getting riots whenever they try) will just take care of itself, right?

Ha ha ha! Yeeeeah. About that...

In much better news, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy all solemnly announced that they really truly ruly aren't going to default as well:

In Brussels, the governments insisted that Greece was "a uniquely grave situation in the Euro area". In the draft agreement, the 17 leaders agreed that "all other euro countries solemnly reaffirm their inflexible determination" not to default.

And that's a guarantee you can take to the bank! Probably not a European bank, mind you, as they've got quite enough debt from these governments already, thanks very much, and are busy dusting off their 'How to respond to a bank run' manuals.

Let me translate all this for German taxpayers:

The good news is, you're going to have to pay for all those Greek civil servants!

The better news is, it's incredibly unlikely that this is the last time you're going to have to reach for your wallet.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Same Same, but Different

A properly functioning I.E.D. and an improperly functioning I.U.D. can both really mess up your day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cute ~= Small

Cuteness in animals is largely a matter of scale.

A kitten is cute.

A sparrow is also cute.

But a kitten is not at all cute if you're a sparrow. It's the equivalent (to us) of a man-eating tiger the size of an elephant. And if you're an earthworm, a sparrow is like Jaws, but a Jaws that comes crashing through your living room wall and eats you as you're minding your business one day.

Bear this in mind next time a butterfly seems reluctant to land on your finger. After all, to it you are the Death Star.

Some people do not adhere to this idea of cute. To them, a tiger is just as cute as a kitten. It's just a big, cuddly kitten!

Those people, however, tend to get eaten. And thus evolution once again forces the rough definition that cuteness can only be perceived in things much smaller than you.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Zero Punctuation on Mortal Kombat

It's rare that a review of a video game is entertaining at all, let alone entertaining if you haven't actually played the game. But Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw, of 'Zero Punctuation', meets that unusual threshold of video reviews that are comedy classics in themselves, regardless of whether you know or like the game. Here's his take on Mortal Kombat, a game I used to play the original version of, many moons ago.

If you like it, you should check out his reviews of L.A. Noire and Duke Nukem.

As the man said, comedy gold!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Guide for Cyclists

You are on a bike, and someone in a car is yelling at you. Here's a classic guide to why they might be doing so.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rhyme Schemes that Show a Song's Age

Take the song 'Ditty', by one-hit-wonder 'Paperboy'.

Let's assume you didn't know when the song was released, watch the video and see if you can ballpark when it must have been by the lyrics alone:

My suggested answer is below:

It must have been before 1998.

Consider the following lines from the first verse:
And ah, you just watch a brother flowin' like Niagra,
Think before you step, because these niggas might just stag ya
So here's the basis of my claim.

If you wrote the first line in that quote today, it is inconceivable that you would rhyme 'Niagra' with 'Stag Ya' instead of 'Viagra'. 'Niagra' is a word that doesn't really rhyme with much, and rappers being lazy and sexual innuendo being a popular theme, it is the obvious choice. 'Stag ya', on the other hand, means nothing - urban dictionary lists definitions of 'stag' mainly as nouns and adjectives, not verbs. Primary definitions are about going solo to an event, and some secondary definitions list 'stag' as slang for an erection. Either way, it's a weird line to put in there. The only conclusion is that the song was written before Viagra existed.

Sure enough, the song was released in 1993, and Viagra was available from 1998.

I mean sure, you could just look up the release date, but where's the fun in that? It doesn't make you feel like Sherlock (or even Shylock) Holmes.

Friday, July 8, 2011


In the spirit of disclosure, I will be wandering abroad for most of July, going wherever the four winds shall take me. As a result, I will have scant access to blog-related chicanery. The spirit will be willing, dear reader, but the technology will be weak. So expect only periodic posting until the start of August, when the full dose of Holmes will be back.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What would I know...

The 50 most googled women. Well, that's the title anyway - they actually mean the 50 women that return the most hits on Google, but pedantry aside, it's interesting. As you'd expect, it's heavily weighted towards young attractive pop stars, with a small mix of noteworthy older (and one dead!) women.

Personally, there were 11 I'd never heard of. Usually I'm proud of my ignorance of deadbeat celebrities - I remember seeing a gossip magazine at a supermarket checkout about a year ago, and being quite happy when I realised I had no idea who the people on the front were. In this case, however, some of the photos suggest a certain compelling logic to the interest these women hold for the average person (or at least the average male).

Monday, July 4, 2011

Big Mistakes to Avoid

Ace of Spades links to this excellent Guardian piece about a guy in a mental institution who is thought to be a psychopath, and the difficulty he has in convincing them that he's not.

While it makes a very good point about the shades of grey in what constitutes psychopathy, I thought the most telling point was actually at the start:

"I'd committed GBH [Grievous Bodily Harm]," he said. "After they arrested me, I sat in my cell and I thought, 'I'm looking at five to seven years.' So I asked the other prisoners what to do. They said, 'Easy! Tell them you're mad! They'll put you in a county hospital. You'll have Sky TV and a PlayStation. Nurses will bring you pizzas.'"

"How long ago was this?" I asked.

"Twelve years ago," Tony said.
This is old, old news to lawyers, but for some reason always comes as a surprise to the average person - unless you're facing the death penalty and are very clearly guilty, it's probably not a good idea to plead insanity.

Because even if you win, you lose.

The biggest problem is that you can easily be held in the loony bin for substantially longer than your original prison sentence would have been. Not only that, but they're not under any obligation to let you out, ever. You have to convince various psychiatrists and tribunals. And guess what? It's going to be their ass on the line if you go out and murder someone after being certified as sane. So whaddaya know, they tend to be somewhat conservative in recommending release!

It also shows a real failure of imagination. Because what's your plan once you get into the mental institution? "Easy. I'll just tell them that I faked my mental illness to escape prison, they'll realise what a miscarriage of justice it is to keep a lying violent perjurer in an institution for a second longer, and I'll walk free."

Yeah, not so much.

"Okay, fine, I won't tell them I was faking it, I'll just fake a recovery from whatever disease they think I have, even though I won't know exactly what they're looking for as signs of improvement, other than just acting nice and sane."

Are you starting to see why good lawyers don't often recommend that you plead insanity if you're not, in fact, insane?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A short fictional dialogue I enjoyed

[Some dude]: Hey man, you should get a tattoo of an eagle on your shoulder / drink that bottle of vodka / [insert stupid $#** here]

[Shylock]: Sorry dude, no can do. I'm addicted to good decisions. I started making them, and it felt really good, and now I just can't stop. Seriously, you should try a hit of it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Things I should have done a long time ago

So yesterday I purchased a new bed. Queen size, pillow-top, the works. It's pretty sweet, but that's not important right now.

What's amazing is that I put up with my double bed for so many years. I bought a double instead of a queen because once upon a time, when I first moved to these shores, I was staying in a tiny room. I wanted the length of a queen - the double bed was 6 feet long, which would fit me as long as my head was within about half an inch of the top edge of the bed. Which, as you can imagine, is not exactly where one typically tends to place one's head on a pillow.

The reason I got the smaller bed was actually because I couldn't afford the extra width. My desk was jammed right next to my bed, and the extra four inches was in fact the entire distance that my desk chair could move in or out. Deciding that I was going to spend more hours at my desk than my bed (and probably being right), I went for the chair space.

The bed also had numerous other quirks. Some of the sheets I had were for a queen bed, and hence kept getting pulled off the bed in the night. They always managed to bunch up in a ball somewhere underneath my lower back, which was convenient, since the mild back pain would let me know where to find them.

The reality, dear reader, is that I would/could/should have replaced my bed years ago. I was only in my tiny apartment for two years, and then in places that would support a bigger bed. I easily blew the cost of the new bed on all sorts of stupid junk.

"Sensible" procrastination (if there exists such a thing) involves doing something really fun now and putting off something necessary but unpleasant. The worst kind of stupid hyperbolic discounting is putting off something that will bring long-lasting benefit, while instead doing something that's not even that fun. Like, you know, wasting months of my life on the internet instead of buying a new bed.

I leave it to the imagination of the reader how many years of poor decisions this has constituted, and how many of those I can claim the fig leaf of income constraints versus pure procrastination.