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On Refining Diet

I eat pretty well and take pretty good care of myself. But it's taken quite a while to get here - before 2006, I had a pretty standard American diet. Lots of pizza, junk food, fast food, liquor, soda, sweets, etc. I smoked cigarettes, cigars, sheesha, and other kinds of tobacco.

Since then I've refined my diet and I eat pretty well. I have more energy, feel better, look better, and God willing, I'll live a lot longer as a result. It's a gradual process though, and I'm still improving. There's a few things I use to do it:

First, I'm all about incremental improvement - I think trying to crash change your diet is unlikely to work unless you have immense amounts of willpower and self-discipline. If you do have these Herculean amounts of will and discipline, you know who you are and don't need my advice. If you're more mortal, then you'll want to pick one or two things to be refining in your diet at a time.

Second, there's two ways I quit food or habits I don't like - "hard quitting" (cold turkey) and "soft quitting" (gradually reduce my consumption and eventually eliminate it). I pick which of these routes to go based on how convenient it is to quit something outright and if there's any detox process. If there's detox (like there was with nicotine), I think it's better to just get it over with once instead of constantly feeling deprived as your body re-adjusts to its new biochemical levels. The most successful method for quitting smoking is cold turkey, isn't it? Something like 80% of successful attempts to quit smoking are cold turkey? I don't have the statistics onhand, but that's the general idea. Quitting something like sugar, bad oils, or excess salt might be easier to do incrementally, since you need to replace the consumption with something else.

Which brings us to third point - I actively introduce new good behaviors before and during the time I quit something. Now, I don't know if the following is a good strategy, but it's what I did - when I started cutting down the sweets I ate, I increased my consumption of the kinds of salty foods I already ate: Chips, french fries, nuts, etc. Later I cut the salt content back. I don't know if that's a good habit, but it's worked okay for me. I also try to actively introduce fruits and vegetables before I quit something - it's hard to go from no fiber food that's highly processed to stimulate you immediately to fruits and vegetables. Fruit tastes bland compared to ice cream. So I introduce fruits and vegetables first, get comfortable with them, then increase my consumption of them as I decrease or eliminate bad consumption.

Rapidly learning financial mathematics

On Jedi/Rockstar/Ninja in Development

I've been applying to a few quantitative trading firms. My interviews so far have been coding and math puzzles, but I'm told that tomorrow's will involve mathematical finance. I have absolutely no background in that. What to do in a few hours of studying?

In college, I always felt there was something off about sitting through long lectures and taking methodical notes that were never referred back to, at least more than once before the exam. My solution then was to use a spaced repetition system (SRS) to make all the pertinent facts sticks. I talk a lot about spaced repetition systems--and their shortcomings--on my other blog. In this case though, the main issue is that I don't have time to create material for SRS anyway.

My strategy has been a mix of the following:

Is this chaotic flurry of learning good over a longer term? Well, I don't have time to answer tonight! But I will say this: I've felt like I'm doing better on math challenges than coding/algorithm ones. I've studied and worked with programming much more in the last few years, but it doesn't seem to compare with the massive amounts of quick, targeted math problems I did in high school--probably 100-200 problems per week. Those were mostly more basic than math olympiad problems, and I'd say the reason I didn't do better than I did in math competition is that I didn't do much of the less satisfying work of reading solutions for hard problems just outside of my range.

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