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Procedural Knowledge Gaps

126 Post author: Alicorn 08 February 2011 03:17AM

I am beginning to suspect that it is surprisingly common for intelligent, competent adults to somehow make it through the world for a few decades while missing some ordinary skill, like mailing a physical letter, folding a fitted sheet, depositing a check, or reading a bus schedule.  Since these tasks are often presented atomically - or, worse, embedded implicitly into other instructions - and it is often possible to get around the need for them, this ignorance is not self-correcting.  One can Google "how to deposit a check" and similar phrases, but the sorts of instructions that crop up are often misleading, rely on entangled and potentially similarly-deficient knowledge to be understandable, or are not so much instructions as they are tips and tricks and warnings for people who already know the basic procedure.  Asking other people is more effective because they can respond to requests for clarification (and physically pointing at stuff is useful too), but embarrassing, since lacking these skills as an adult is stigmatized.  (They are rarely even considered skills by people who have had them for a while.)

This seems like a bad situation.  And - if I am correct and gaps like these are common - then it is something of a collective action problem to handle gap-filling without undue social drama.  Supposedly, we're good at collective action problems, us rationalists, right?  So I propose a thread for the purpose here, with the stipulation that all replies to gap announcements are to be constructive attempts at conveying the relevant procedural knowledge.  No asking "how did you manage to be X years old without knowing that?" - if the gap-haver wishes to volunteer the information, that is fine, but asking is to be considered poor form.

(And yes, I have one.  It's this: how in the world do people go about the supposedly atomic action of investing in the stock market?  Here I am, sitting at my computer, and suppose I want a share of Apple - there isn't a button that says "Buy Our Stock" on their website.  There goes my one idea.  Where do I go and what do I do there?)

Comments (1477)

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Comment author: Bound_up 19 August 2015 07:18:51PM 1 point [-]

LW makes frequent reference to coming to above average decisions with some kind of market.

And this market can be used to find right answers, the right calibrations between group values, something like this?

Where can I find information on this, or how does it work?

Comment author: satt 20 August 2015 02:16:53AM *  1 point [-]

The favourite local writer on this is Robin Hanson, but the general idea has a big literature: the name to search for is "prediction market".

Comment author: ialdabaoth 14 August 2013 09:22:44AM *  2 points [-]

How do you convince yourself to have self-confidence in a given situation, even in the face of direct empirical evidence that such confidence would be misplaced in that situation?

This seems to be a thing that many successful people are very good at - shrugging and acting like they're good at whatever task is at hand, even when they're clearly not - and then getting people to "buy in" to them because of that confidence rather than because of any evidence of actual skilled performance.

How do you kickstart that process?

(EDIT: was this a bad question to ask?)

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 14 August 2013 11:43:17AM 3 points [-]

Think how you would perform the role of a self-confident character when acting in a play?

Comment author: ialdabaoth 14 August 2013 11:58:06AM *  1 point [-]

I guess... I'm not sure how well I can visualize the answer to that. I can visualize self-confident characters in plays, I just can't visualize being one; as soon as I imagine me as the actor, imagining self-confidence immediately breaks suspension of disbelief. (Like imagining Danny DeVito as a leading man in a straightforward, non-subversive romcom).

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 14 August 2013 12:14:08PM 2 points [-]

Screw suspension of disbelief. You're really into theater now, you want to figure out all about how acting works, and so you want to learn out how to do all sorts of characters to develop a good range, no matter if you're actually good for casting into one or not. So now you're trying to figure how to do the confident self-affirmed character, starting from the nuts and bolts. Figure out how they use their voice, how they move themselves, what body language and stereotypical interactions they use in various stock situations and so on. You're not being in a social situation yourself here, you're figuring out the mechanics for making a theater scene come together, with yourself as one part of it.

Also maybe look into some actual books on improv theater that have been recommended here occasionally?

Comment author: ialdabaoth 14 August 2013 12:23:33PM 1 point [-]

You're really into theater now, you want to figure out all about how acting works, and so you want to learn out how to do all sorts of characters to develop a good range, no matter if you're actually good for casting into one or not. So now you're trying to figure how to do the confident self-affirmed character, starting from the nuts and bolts.

Hmm. My emotional reactions as I attempt to push myself towards doing this seem to indicate that I don't actually want to learn these things - or at the very least, that I anticipate that trying to learn these things will be unsuccessful and embarrassing.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 December 2012 05:00:13PM *  6 points [-]

This should really be a recurring (or otherwise highly visible) thread.

Much-belated edit: Here

Comment author: [deleted] 14 October 2012 05:58:27PM 1 point [-]

"I am beginning to suspect that it is surprisingly common for intelligent, competent adults to somehow make it through the world for a few decades while missing some ordinary skill, like mailing a physical letter, folding a fitted sheet, depositing a check, or reading a bus schedule. "

I need to learn almost all of that...and several other things.

How would someone in El Salvador legally move to Canada in no more than 3-4 years? How much money would that take and how does one find a job?

I tried looking at the newspaper for one but nearly all of it was either terrible or requires something I don't have (like X years of previous experience or being 25-30 years old. Some ads even looked for people of a certain gender for some reason.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 October 2012 06:18:20PM 2 points [-]

"I am beginning to suspect that it is surprisingly common for intelligent, competent adults to somehow make it through the world for a few decades while missing some ordinary skill, like mailing a physical letter, folding a fitted sheet, depositing a check, or reading a bus schedule. "

There is a skill for folding fitted sheets? Damn. That'd be handy.

Comment author: Manfred 08 December 2012 07:02:46PM *  1 point [-]

Once you know it exists, you can think of what it should be, probably.

Hint: Znxr gur pbearef tb vagb rnpu bgure.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 20 October 2011 03:55:42PM 2 points [-]

Scrubbing and attention Scrubbing, the follow-up.

Short version: I have problems with scrubbing effectively because I miss spots and have to iterate cleaning several times. There's various advice about scrubbing, of which using hotter water and not using the curly metal scrubbie seem to be the most immediately valuable. What I think of as an attention problem may be less serious than I thought-- I need to proofread what I write, so the same may apply to cleaning.

Plausible advice I haven't tried yet-- approach cleaning in 30 minute chunks so that a feeling of accomplishment/completion is possible.

Comment author: MixedNuts 26 July 2011 12:10:38PM 1 point [-]

How do I clean carpet floors? (I mean regular maintenance, but tips on removing particular kinds of stains also welcome.) I don't have a vacuum cleaner.

Comment author: Alicorn 26 July 2011 10:19:00PM 2 points [-]

You borrow a vacuum cleaner.

You can get some sorts of debris (long hair, mostly) and the stuff that clings to it by shuffling around barefoot, or by hand, or with a rake.

Comment author: MixedNuts 27 July 2011 06:27:36AM 1 point [-]

Thanks! How do I borrow a vacuum cleaner? Context: I'm living in dorms for two weeks, most people are away on holiday, those who're still here are on completely different schedules from mine, there's no place clearly marked "Hang out and meet other humans here". And I don't even have an oven to bake conversation-opening cookies.

I looked into renting a vacuum cleaner, but that doesn't seem to exist.

Comment author: Alicorn 27 July 2011 06:44:26PM 5 points [-]

If your dorm is like the ones I'm familiar with, there may be a shared cleaning supply closet from which your RA or similar can fetch you a vacuum that you are free to use. Failing that, you could put a sign on your door offering five euros for the use of a vacuum and see who knocks.

Comment author: khafra 23 February 2011 05:08:29PM 1 point [-]

A HN regular just started a website that looks like a great match for this thread: http://cluedb.com.

Comment author: 4hodmt 15 February 2012 10:12:17PM 4 points [-]

Random presentation of clues implements the notoriously addictive variable ratio reinforcement schedule, as used by Farmville/WoW/etc. Potentially a big timewaster here.

Comment author: Tripitaka 13 February 2011 02:51:58PM *  6 points [-]

In addition to "Learn to touch-type. Learn to type with ten fingers.":

I am often amazed and astonished that people do not know how to operate the search engine of their choice properly and thus fail to find their desired information. It is your main internet-information retrival-tool, make yourself familiar with its advanced possibilitys, also know as operators. e.g. for google, see this chart: http://www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html

I found most useful (for google) the following ones:

Quotationmarks around a phrase, e.g. "less wrong" searches for the exact phrase.

the "site:address phrase" command searches for your phrase only on the specified site, e.g. site:lesswrong.com "nuclear plant"

the exclude-command "-" (minus) excludes one word from your results: rationality -rand

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 18 February 2011 05:07:47AM 1 point [-]

Nice link. I'd been thinking a-b was the same as "a b" all these years. For the record, it means ("ab" or "a-b" or "a b").

Comment author: Sniffnoy 12 February 2011 03:34:05AM 4 points [-]

This is another question that may lack a simple answer, and indeed there is a good chance that this is simply a wrong question in the first place.

Background: So going by LW and indeed much of the rest of the internet it seems that speaking to arbitrary strangers in public is in fact not in general considered creepy and unacceptable (which makes this a case where I would have done better with the typical mind heuristic, as opposed to what I guess is some sort of version of Postel's Law, as I am not myself in general creeped out when others approach me).

Now much has been said on this topic here already - I can't find the thread right now but I recall reading, e.g., don't do this in enclosed spaces if you're new to this (leave the other person a (literal) line of retreat). And how isn't something I think I have a problem with either, nor am I worried that I can't tell when people want me to go away.

What I am wondering is - well, regardless of the above, there do seem to be certain spaces which, though public, people have some expectation of privacy in. (I.e. they would consider other people approaching them creepy.) So what I am wondering is how can I distinguish those spaces with this expectation from those without. I have been basically erring on the side of caution by treating all public spaces as the former when I don't have good reason otherwise.

Of course I suspect this may be a wrong question because I'm not certain the suppositions I'm putting into it are correct; in particular I'm suspecting I may get the response "you need to learn to judge people, not spaces, better". But if it is in fact a wrong question any help in righting it would be appreciated.

Related - I originally thought of it as the same question, but now I realize it may not be - is the question of, in what spaces is it OK to simply butt in if I hear a bunch of people talking about something interesting? (Again this is something I currently don't do...) On the internet and at parties are two examples where this seems to be always OK, but I'm pretty certain this doesn't apply in general. I suspect this may also be a wrong question for reasons similar to above.

Comment author: first_fire 11 July 2011 03:00:43PM 2 points [-]

I spend a fair amount of my time off work either on public transportation or in coffee shops, and have found that how receptive people are to starting conversations varies widely within these settings.

On public transportation, there are observations one can make which can aid with determining whether someone is open to conversation. If they are already engaged in conversation with another passenger and appear either happy or lost, it is more often appropriate (people who are happy tend to have farther to go on their mood spectrum to get to creeped out or annoyed, as well as sometimes, as with the people I befriended a couple weeks ago, being in the mood to share their happiness with others, and people who are lost generally appreciate direction or at least a clarification of where they are on the map). A person confined to the seat next to you is less likely to be happy about a conversation, as they will feel they have less of an exit than, say, in a section where all seats face a middle aisle, meaning the area in which the conversation takes place is felt to be larger. In my experience, few people like to start conversations on their morning commute. So the important factors which determine whether it is appropriate to speak to someone on public transportation are time of day, physical position, and mood.

Coffee shops follow similar guidelines: it is often appropriate to chime in to existing conversations (as long as the conversation is not romantic or argumentative in nature). When a person might be forced by lack of seating to share your table, it is not appropriate to start a conversation if both of you have laptops, as you can be reasonably expected to be engaged with other people or projects. If the other person does not have a laptop or other electronic device with which they are engaged, it is generally appropriate to start a conversation.

I have found coffee shops environments where it is sometimes received well to butt in to interesting conversations. This has led to a few rebuffs, but also some highly interesting conversations. When people were gathered in the coffee shop for a purpose, such as a poetry reading, there was a significantly higher proportion of interesting conversations to rebuffs.

Comment author: juliawise 08 August 2011 05:09:28PM 2 points [-]

Public transit talkiness varies a lot by city. In Boston, it's minimal. I understand in other cities, conversation is much more normal.

It's my experience as a young woman that the only people who try to talk to me on public transit are men. If you're a man, know that young women you try to talk to are probably going to assume you're sketchy because they've been approached by so many other sketchy men before.

I veto talking to anyone who is reading. A possible exception might be if you've read what they're reading and ask their opinion of it, or similar.

Comment author: [deleted] 19 October 2015 07:23:30PM 1 point [-]

An anecdote: I was once reading Prattchett in a trolley-bus, and the ticket seller, a young man, exclaimed 'Oh! You read Prattchett in the original!', and I was like, shit, he's after my book and said 'Yes,' in an uninviting voice, and he went on his way... ...and I still regret not taking the time to talk to him.:)

Comment author: bigjeff5 20 February 2011 04:41:52PM 1 point [-]

I have the same issue, and I personally think it's stupid (as in, in what way is talking to a stranger in public weird?). Thinking it's stupid doesn't make it much easier to overcome my own inhibitions about it, but it is somewhere to start.

I think tact is the key. Interrupt as politely as you can, and gauge their reactions when you do. If it is clear they are not interested in your input, then turn around and leave them alone. No harm, no foul. If you have something to contribute, though, and the individuals weren't specifically seeking a private conversation, then they will probably be interested in what you have to contribute.

This reminds me of a recent episode of the Ricky Gervais Show (basically Ricky and his friend make fun of another friend of theirs the whole time, funny but it gets old), where one of the hosts went swimming, noticed the guy in the lane next to him had an excellent front crawl (which the host has always struggled with) and asked the guy if he could give him some tips. Ricky's response was "Oh god, you didn't! Why would you do that?!" My thought the whole time was why in the world is that wrong? If the guy isn't interested he'll say no, and that will be it. If he is willing to help out a fellow swimmer then he will, and they may become friends over it. Where is the loss for anybody there?

I have a half dozen friends now that I wouldn't have if I hadn't done something very similar a couple years ago, at a swimming pool too, no less. I simply started talking to the lifeguard before and I after I swam. Not quite as out of the blue as the Gervais Show co-host, but it was similar.

Still, some people find it rude. I don't for the life of me understand why, except for when they are clearly having (or are attempting to have) a private conversation, or talking about a personal. Otherwise, where is the harm? And really, the risk for me personally is extremely low. So some stranger thinks I'm odd, so what? Most people are odd in some way, friendliness is far from the worst odd trait you could have.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 February 2011 05:02:22PM 6 points [-]

Strangers are a potential threat. So when a stranger comes up to you and initiates a conversation, there's some reason to be on your guard.

This is combined with basic etiquette. If someone makes a small request, it is considered rude to refuse. The problem here is that creepy weird dangerous strangers can take advantage of this fact by making a small request, which then makes you feel obligated to comply. So now a complete stranger, who may be dangerous, has ensnared you. You're now doing something that he asked, instead of something that you want to do. And he can keep you dancing to his tune by making more small requests. So if you follow the rules of etiquette, a complete stranger, possibly dangerous, can monopolize you for a significant length of time.

I see this happen all the time with telemarketers. The phone will ring. Somebody will answer it. Then they'll be at the phone for a long time, maybe half a minute maybe a couple of minutes. And it turns out that it was a telemarketer, and the reason the person stayed at the phone for a long time was that he just couldn't think of a polite way to end the conversation. You go ahead and try it. If you try to disengage, the telemarketer has a scripted response ready which cancels your attempt.

For my part, I'm not trapped by telemarketers. But I simply hang up. I say "no thanks", and the telemarketer goes on to the corresponding point in his script, and I simply hang up on him while he's in the middle of a sentence. That's rude. But I do it, because there are no personal repercussions for me in doing it.

Being rude to a stranger face to face is not as easy to do. If you're rude to someone, they might get angry, and one thing might lead to another. So it's easy to hang up on telemarketers (for me, but importantly, not for everyone) but not so easy to "hang up" on a stranger right in front of you. For this reason, being approached by a stranger represents a more serious potential problem, a social trap that may be more difficult to get out of.

So what do you do? There are plenty of ways to initiate a conversation. One is to be already with somebody. If you're not alone, if you already have a conversational partner, and if you're deep in conversation with them, then you are obviously less in need of company, so the possibility that you might try to trap a stranger into a conversation is correspondingly reduced. Another method is to get the other person to initiate the exchange.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 14 February 2011 12:09:00AM *  3 points [-]

Perhaps I should further specify just what sort of spaces I'm clear and unclear on. (All "maybe"s, "probably"s refer to my own uncertainty, of course - for simplicity I'm doing writing this as if I hadn't read any of the cousin posts yet.) The examples listed here are whatever I think of, mostly relevant ones but not all - I don't think there's a zoo anywhere around here and I haven't been to one in quite some time, but the example occurred to me while I was writing this so I threw it in. I expect I'm right about the things I'm certain of but should that not be the case corrections would be appreciated!

  1. Definitely OK to approach people: "Private public spaces" - anywhere where a person you don't know can be assumed to be a friend of a friend - small parties, common rooms in dorms or co-op houses

  2. OK to join existing conversations, maybe not OK to approach people initially: "Purposed public spaces" - anywhere where a person you don't know can be assumed to share a common interest - a common room in a school department building, e.g. Game stores probably fit here too. Also probably competitions of any sort.

  3. Probably OK but currently avoided by me: Outside - on the street, on the quad, in the park. Here the location doesn't let you infer much of anything. (Unless something unusual is occurring, then clearly OK as people gather around it.)

  4. ???: Fast-food places or food courts. Non-quiet spaces where people go to get work done (but which are too general to fall under #2.) Zoos, museums, other similar places. Bookstores.

  5. Probably not OK: Libraries.

  6. Definitely not OK: Anywhere where you shouldn't be talking in the first place. Most restaurants.

Again, thanks! The sibling posts have already clarified things some.

Comment author: ViEtArmis 23 July 2012 03:11:05PM 3 points [-]

I can't tell if people actually don't care or if they are just oblivious, but I hate when people try to strike up a conversation while I'm using a public toilet. Bad when it's a urinal, worse when it's a stall. Maybe this falls under "spaces where people go to get work done"?

Comment author: rabidchicken 11 March 2011 04:42:45AM 10 points [-]

My suggestion: take a crash course in etiquette by going to another city nearby, and then spend a few days walking around asking questions, or inviting people to do stuff with you, etc. Condition yourself to get used to the occasional weird look, learn what you can get away with, and possibly make friends with people you would otherwise never meet. If all else fails, drive out of the city and pretend the entire thing never happened. Or you will get some amusing stories to share with me when you get back. How can you lose?

I am only partly joking, my social skills are so mediocre I have seriously considered doing exactly this at some point. I might throw in some speed dating as well for good measure.

Comment author: Jolly 26 July 2011 11:39:58PM 5 points [-]

I do this all the time, with fantastic results!

A current example is my temporary move to Boston/Cambridge. I've walked around asking random strangers questions such as "If you could live anywhere in Boston, where would you live?"

I've received great advice, and made a few friendships and event invites from doing so!

Comment author: wedrifid 11 March 2011 05:49:14AM 1 point [-]

I endorse this advice wholeheartedly.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 12 February 2011 02:10:36PM 6 points [-]

In the public space in question, are you more likely to find books or alcohol?

Pretty much any venue with alcohol is going to be a socially facilitating venue, whereas anywhere people take books is going to be a venue where they don't expect to be disturbed.

Comment author: wedrifid 12 February 2011 02:35:31PM 1 point [-]

In the public space in question, are you more likely to find books or alcohol?

I recommend socializing in book stores, libraries and outside classrooms. It will not always be appropriate but you can learn what sort of people will open to talking with practice.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 12 February 2011 02:56:48PM 1 point [-]

I'd agree with all these suggestions. A more discerning rule of thumb might be "are you more likely to find people consuming books or consuming alcohol?"

It's probably also reasonably safe to assume that the typical LWer would prefer to talk with someone over a revealed mutual interest, rather than talking to someone after deadening their selectivity with booze, so places that are about books, but not where people read them, are likely to be good haunts for talking to strangers.

Comment author: wedrifid 12 February 2011 03:14:54PM 4 points [-]

A more discerning rule of thumb might be "are you more likely to find people consuming books or consuming alcohol?"

Best yet, find the people consuming alcohol in the place where you find lots of books. They're bound to be up for a chat.

Comment author: MBlume 21 February 2011 12:04:59AM 1 point [-]

I have heard it suggested that the world would be a nicer place if there were bookstores in which one could simply order a beer, the same way one can today order a coffee.

(It should be noted that the 'order a coffee' thing is only a decade or two old.)

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 12 February 2011 09:04:44AM *  4 points [-]

I have been basically erring on the side of caution by treating all public spaces as the former when I don't have good reason otherwise.

If, as it sounds, you would learn from any mistakes, and if you're somewhere populous enough that a randomly selected person's opinion of you doesn't matter, I doubt that imposing this restriction on yourself is right, or benefits others more than it costs you. You're allowed to briefly creep people out by mistake in order to learn useful things and reap the mutual benefits of non-creepy interactions.

what I guess is some sort of version of Postel's Law

Where do you think the "be conservative in what you do" is coming from in your case?

Comment author: Sniffnoy 13 February 2011 07:30:45AM 2 points [-]

randomly selected person's opinion of you doesn't matter

Hm, this sounds like good way of thinking about it. I already use this principle, but I had not thought it to apply it to such cases.

Where do you think the "be conservative in what you do" is coming from in your case?

I'm not clear on how I could possibly answer that.

Comment author: wedrifid 12 February 2011 02:27:35PM 2 points [-]

If, as it sounds, you would learn from any mistakes, and if you're somewhere populous enough that a randomly selected person's opinion of you doesn't matter, I doubt that imposing this restriction on yourself is right

Agree, and with added emphasis! An excellent general social policy.

Comment author: mindspillage 11 February 2011 06:20:28AM *  9 points [-]

Something else I've had to look up: how to convincingly dress like a grownup. (By which I mean less casual than t-shirts and jeans, work-appropriate, flattering, not looking like I just stepped out of a sci-fi movie or an art school.) There are some sites for female style advice I've found interesting and helpful (and edited to remove one I used to like that has gone off the rails).

Comment author: beza1e1 12 July 2014 06:34:46PM 3 points [-]

There is a decent subreddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/malefashionadvice/

Comment author: lextori 12 February 2011 01:39:23AM 6 points [-]

I've found that for men, the style articles at http://artofmanliness.com/category/dress-grooming/ are an excellent resource, the authors of them often go out of the way to explain why particular choices are appropriate for particular situations.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 11 February 2011 09:51:06AM 4 points [-]

Related to this, I have immense difficulty dressing well and casually. I'm quite adept at dressing smartly, but there's a nebulous area between "jeans & t-shirt" and "shirt, no tie" where I just can't seem to figure out how to look stylish.

Comment author: Jodika 31 October 2014 04:17:09AM 1 point [-]

The secret to that is clothes that are simple and fit well.

So well-fitted dark jeans with shirt, no tie or a nice sweater/cardigan is a good look. Even 'jeans and a t shirt' can be a really nice look if the jeans fit you well and the t shirt is something classic like plain white (this also works well with a shirt partly or wholly unbuttoned over the top). There's also chinos which can work (just don't get them in too light or bright a colour if you're not confident about pulling off that look). If you live somewhere cold, peacoats and longer, slightly fitted coats are everywhere right now and they look good.

Advanced level - pick colours that complement your complexion. This is easier to gauge in person, but generally redheads rock green and jewel tones, blonds look good in cold colours and brown-haired guys are more likely to rock warm colours (though there are few people who don't rock blue). Brown-haired and darker-skinned guys are also a lot better at wearing white without having a tan.

Oh and practically nobody looks good in orange or yellow.

Comment author: Charlie_OConnor 11 February 2011 07:09:41AM 5 points [-]

Where can I get an IQ test? I am an adult and was never tested as a child. Searching google has only given me online tests. I want a professionally done test.

I considered myself intelligent, but some of the sequences/posts on this site are quite challenging for me. It has made me curious on exactly how intelligent I am. I don’t want to be too over or under confident when it comes to intelligence. I try to learn new things and that helps me find the limits of my intelligence, but I figure my IQ will also be interesting to know as well.


Comment author: taw 15 February 2012 06:53:44PM 1 point [-]

Mensa runs IQ tests frequently, worldwide, for a small fee. That's the best choice (and the only thing they're useful for).

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 18 February 2011 05:14:41AM *  1 point [-]

I grew up with a very weird opinion about my place in the world as a result of a kindergarten IQ test (they never told me a number, but I knew it was good, because, for example, I got to the point where I had to ask the proctor what it means when someone writes a fraction - of course I didn't know it was called that).

Everything I've done since then has been a let down :) You're better off not knowing. Just use whatever you've got. There are many high-IQ-tested people who have crazy views and behavior, and are unsuccessful and unhappy (I don't deny that there exists some meaningful single general intelligence number, but what does knowing it give you?)

Besides, such tests can definitely be studied for as a skill, as much as any game (waste of time warning: Cambridge Brain Sciences games). So caring about the result just means you're going to effectively waste time practicing.

Comment author: first_fire 16 February 2011 01:17:44AM 1 point [-]

Private psychologists will probably perform them, but there is also the convenient option of finding out when your local branch of Mensa is having its next round of testing. One of the cheaper options, plus access to Mensa services such as the Travel special interest group (staying for free with interesting people around the world) if you're above the requisite percentile.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 12 February 2011 01:48:26AM *  3 points [-]

Note however that IQ is not a property of individuals measurable on an individual basis like, say, height or weight is. Its utility lies in its statistical power to predict the average performance of large groups of people. When it comes to testing a specific individual, except perhaps for the greatest extremes (like diagnosing mental retardation), the fact that you achieved a certain score gives only probabilistic information about you.

Moreover, for individuals scoring in high percentiles, to which you probably belong if you find the stuff written on this blog interesting, there are strong diminishing returns to high scores even statistically. It's like e.g. wondering about your height with regards to your basketball prospects: your potentials are indeed likely to be much greater if you're, say, 6'2" rather than 5'10", but if you already know that you're more than a few inches above average, the difference between, say, 6'9" and 6'5" won't matter anywhere as much.

Comment author: CarlShulman 12 February 2011 02:10:28AM *  3 points [-]

Moreover, for individuals scoring in high percentiles, to which you probably belong if you find the stuff written on this blog interesting, there are strong diminishing returns to high scores even statistically.

This doesn't seem to be so up to at least the 1 in 10,000 level. However, I agree that the predictive power of theses tests is still small relative to the remaining sources of variation (although it is one which we are relatively good at measuring) and they shouldn't be over-weighted.

Comment author: Costanza 12 February 2011 02:11:52AM 1 point [-]

Strictly speaking, the weight of an individual can fluctuate even in the course of a day, due to the consumption or excretion of fluids. It can fluctuate more permanently when you lose or gain body mass in the form of fat or muscle.

I'm under the impression that, in contrast, measured I.Q. of an individual is supposed to stay more or less within the same approximate range throughout the course of that individual's life (with obvious caveats for brain damage, senility, and as you say, exceptional individuals at the extremes of the distributions).

Comment author: Vladimir_M 12 February 2011 05:17:29AM *  3 points [-]

From what I know, there are high correlations between an individual's IQ test scores at different times, especially in the short run. Depending on the study, it ends up being something like 0.95 in the short run and 0.7-0.9 between different ages (I'm just quoting rough ballpark figures from memory -- they of course differ between studies and age spans). Some impressively high correlations were found even in a study that compared test scores of a group of individuals at 11 and 77 years of age.

On the other hand, people can be coached to significantly improve their IQ test scores. At least so says Rushton, of all people.

Then of course, as with all issues where you might want to make some sense of what IQ scores exactly imply, the Flynn effect throws a wrench into any attempt to come up with a neat, plausible, and coherent theory.

But even regardless of all this, one should still not forget that the connection between IQ and any realistic measure of success is itself just probabilistic. This is especially true for high-scoring individuals: instead of worrying whether one's score is 120, 130, 140, or whatever, one would be better advised to worry about whether one is deficient in other factors important for success and accomplishment in life.

Comment author: gwern 11 February 2011 03:07:48PM *  5 points [-]

Per saturn's comment, online tests can be pretty accurate, especially the ones which are imitating (copying) the matrix-style tests; I keep a list as part of the DNB FAQ.

Note the many caveats. In particular, you cannot take multiple tests! Obviously for most of them you can't take it twice because the questions don't change, but less obviously, they're all similar enough that if you take one, you can expect your score on the second to be noticeably increased just from familiarity/experience. (This is why I suggest that people doing dual n-back do before/after IQ tests with a minimum of months in between, and preferably years.)

Comment author: Blueberry 11 February 2011 10:29:40AM 1 point [-]

There is a rough correlation between IQ and standardized test scores.

Comment author: saturn 11 February 2011 08:30:19AM 1 point [-]

Some private psychologists will do them. If there's a research university near you, you might be able to get one for free by participating in a study.

However, I discourage you from doing this. The usefulness of knowing your own IQ is already limited at best, and the extra accuracy compared to a good online test isn't worth the amount of time you'll need to spend on it.

Comment author: quentin 10 February 2011 10:26:36PM *  10 points [-]

I have a kind of embarrassing one, but that's kind of the point of this discussion so here goes.

For some reason I've always had an aversion to social networking websites. I remember when all my peers used xanga, then livejournal, then myspace, and now facebook, and I always refused to use them whatsoever. I realize now though, that they represent a massive utility that I desperately need.

I am worried though, about starting new. Maybe I'm being overly paranoid, but it seems that having few friends on such a website signals low status, as does getting into the game this late.

So should I just create an account and add every single person I am even tangentially acquainted with? Is there a feature on facebook where you can hide who your friends are? Is it appropriate to ask someone you just met to friend you? What other cultural and social knowledge am I missing in this area?

Comment author: StacyK 13 February 2011 11:21:31PM 3 points [-]

Quentin, I worried too about the "few friends = low status" thing when I started on Facebook. But speaking now as an old hand I'm fairly confident that the only people who make such judgments or worry about them are newbies!

And yes, you CAN hide who your friends are.on Facebook. There are many other privacy settings as well. It would be too complicated to go into it here but they have a Help Center which will tell you how. You can find the Help link on the menu that will open up when you click on "Account" (at the top right-hand of any page) or, in small letters, at the very bottom of any page on the far right.

It's OK to ask someone you just met to friend you.

Not only do some people friend every last acquaintance, it's also common to friend people for the purpose of game play (there are numerous game applications you can access through Facebook, and for one reason or another it's often advantageous to play with people who are friends, so people will friend one another for the sake of the game). Then there are people who friend friends of friends because of shared interests or whatever. Bottom line: If somebody has 1,000 friends, nobody assumes that he is best buds with all those folks in real life.

Don't worry too much about the etiquette--if you spend some time with it you'll pick it up. Most people will be happy to help you out if they can (though a lot of people don't know about all the privacy settings. They're really not hard to set but you have to look for the info.)

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 10 February 2011 11:28:13PM 9 points [-]

I think people have very different standards as far as social networking goes. I would recommend deciding from the offset what you want to use Facebook for, and establish friending policies on that basis. If it's for keeping in touch with your nearest and dearest, keep it to a select few. If you want a conduit for talking to everyone you've ever met, add everyone you meet.

If I see someone who only has a handful of FB friends, I assume they're towards the more private end of the spectrum rather than thinking they're somehow socially retarded. Likewise if someone has 800+ FB friends, I don't think they regularly hang out with them all.

There is such a thing as a late adopter advantage. I don't think most people make these kinds of decisions when they first enter into that kind of environment, so you actually have the benefit of deciding off the bat how you want to use it, and how to optimise your usage for that aim.

Comment author: quentin 10 February 2011 11:55:44PM *  3 points [-]

For people I actually care about, I have better means of staying in touch. My inner circle has had a private voice chat server for years now, and that's part of the reason I haven't really been forced to use a social networking website.

But I'm trying to dramatically change who I am as a person, and this is a necessary step. I have severe issues with self-consciousness and social anxiety (despite acknowledging that this is unjustified as I am affable and attractive) so I am generally looking for ways to ease myself into social normalcy.

Comment author: Blueberry 11 February 2011 10:35:07AM 1 point [-]

I quit social networking sites because they made my life significantly worse. If you really need to use them, you can, but don't worry. There is a wide variety of ways to use them, ranging from adding hundreds of people to just a few friends.

So should I just create an account and add every single person I am even tangentially acquainted with?

Yes, you can do this, but you don't have to. This is one reasonable way of using the site that a lot of people use, but it's also common to restrict things to people you know better.

Is there a feature on facebook where you can hide who your friends are?

YES. Absolutely. And it's an essential feature. If you do use Facebook please pay close attention to the privacy settings. You can make everything about yourself private, to the point where no one else, even your friends, can see anything except messages you specifically send them.

Is it appropriate to ask someone you just met to friend you?

Yes, it's pretty common to do this, though you may be surprised by how many people don't like to use these sites.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 10 February 2011 11:03:35PM 2 points [-]

A very good friend of mine created her Facebook account just a few weeks ago, and I still think she's cool. So getting into the game late is at least sometimes recoverable from.

Adding everyone you are even tangentially acquainted with seems to be the social convention, including people you've just met; it's common for me to receive facebook invites after meeting someone at a party, for example.

FB has some tools for bulk-link-farming... e.g., it will look at your email if you let it and contact everyone whose name appears in it who has a FB account. I did this when I created my FB account (a couple of years ago) and it worked pretty well.

As far as I know, there's no way to hide your friends.

The teenagers of my acquaintance frequently use fake names on Facebook to subvert searches. The adults frequently create multiple Facebook profiles, more or less for the same reason.

Comment author: MartinB 10 February 2011 11:48:43PM 1 point [-]

When you make an account there is a high chance you will get flooded by friend requests right away. Facebook does some shady things with user data for their convenience. Also there are still enough non-Facebookees that you will not be the last to get online.

Comment author: lukeprog 10 February 2011 02:40:25AM 7 points [-]

800+ comments now. I think you may have been right that lots of people have basic procedural gaps that need addressing, Alicorn... :)

Comment author: DanielVarga 10 February 2011 11:49:07AM 7 points [-]

This should probably be turned into a quarterly (monthly?) thread.

Comment author: Alicorn 10 February 2011 02:59:04AM 12 points [-]

I'm kind of weirded out by the fact that a three-paragraph post originally put in Discussion that took me ten minutes to write is now my most upvoted post of all time.

Comment author: mindspillage 11 February 2011 03:54:55PM 4 points [-]

Unlike some of the more abstruse topics, this one is likely of at least some interest/value to nearly everyone reading the site...

Comment author: Unnamed 10 February 2011 07:05:03PM 8 points [-]

It's like the joke about the mechanic who fixes a car's engine by hitting it once with a hammer. He charges the owner $200 and the guy complains: "All you did was hit the engine with a hammer, I'm not paying $200 for that." So the mechanic gives him an itemized bill: Hitting the engine with a hammer, $5; Knowing where to hit it: $195.

Comment author: MartinB 10 February 2011 03:31:56AM 7 points [-]

You identified a need and acted on it. Well done. You probably do net get to choose where you make the biggest impact.

PS: my most voted comment used to be just one word

Comment author: Blueberry 10 February 2011 03:06:10AM 1 point [-]

It's more that this is just a good way to start interesting conversations, I think.

Comment author: dinasaurus 10 February 2011 01:06:55AM 8 points [-]

Keep a regular sleep schedule.

This is something I completely failed to learn so far. Sure, I have some issues with procrastination or a lack of certain time-management skills, but even if I create a schedule for my whole week in advance and manage to follow it through for a couple of days at some point I completely mess it up because I sleep through half a day since I stayed up until 4AM the night before. Or I end up not getting enough sleep for several days in a row and getting sick (which happens far too often). Mostly, if I wake up at a certain time I don't get tired early enough to get a sufficient amount of sleep before I wake up at the same time on the next day (and unfortunately they don't make these time-turners yet).

It seems like every failed attempt to establish a working day routine can be mainly narrowed down to this single thing. I managed to get through High School and still get good grades even though I missed a lot of school days (due to being sick or too tired to go) because it was easy. Even at university it's still possible to pass the exams when you miss half of the lectures (although your results probably will suffer). However, I'm already afraid of my first real job.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 11 February 2011 02:21:00AM 8 points [-]

I found that having a full-time job fixed my sleep schedule - if I have to get up, I will. Then I'll usually be tired enough to go to sleep at a reasonable time too.

Comment author: Bongo 10 February 2011 02:25:56PM 5 points [-]

I had that problem but melatonin seems to have solved it.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 10 February 2011 10:35:08AM 4 points [-]

I've been fighting to regulate my sleep schedule for about 30 years now, and I've tried lots of things. These are the things that seem to help me, or that Studies Have Shown.

What works best is to simply "man up" and regulate your sleep schedule, to quote the international sweat-shop shoe company "Just Do it".

1 Pick a "get up time", set you alarm and GET UP. This helps to make sure you're ready to go to bed on the other side. If you stay up until 4 in the morning playing Warcrack, play another 2 hours then go for breakfast. You'll be tired all day, but that night you'll be able to reset more effectively. 1.1 Do Not Nap, this makes it more difficult to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. 1.2 OTOH some people do really well to take nap in the afternoon (every afternoon) and stay up a little later. I can't do this. YSSMV.

  1. When the alarm goes off GET UP. Do not set your alarm for 5 minutes early, if anything set it for 5 minutes late.

3 Avoid caffiene after noon to start with. If this helps you may want to let it slip to 3 or 4 in the afternoon, depending on how you metabolize it. Definately no caffine with dinner or afterwards. NONE.

4 When the sun goes down start to darken your surroundings a bit--turn off unnecessary lights, use desk/table/spot lights instead of room lights etc.

5 Set a realistic bedtime and stick to it.

6 Your sleep quarters should be used ONLY for sleeping, sex and dressing. Do not read yourself to sleep, no computers or television. 6.1 Heavy curtains and limit light as much as possible. The goal is not only to sleep, but to sleep WELL. 6.2 A fan, or some source of "grey noise" might help as well. 6.3 A regular sex partner can help you get to sleep :) Well, so can an irregular one, but the sheets may need changing more often.

The other side of this is that some people seem to have body clocks that insist on running a certain way. I've been getting up at about 10 to 6 for the last 2 months every day of hte week. F'ing HATE IT. I can do 10 minutes to 7 so much easier, but there is no flex in my work schedule.

If you're like that--if these sorts of things don't work--they you have a decision to make. There are professions that allow you to work different, or sometimes even irregular hours, but they are generally not particularly high paying or influential (except for "Author", but you have to get published first).

There are people who just live better working second shift or graves. If you're like that you're going to fight it your whole life.

Also you can try finding a sleep clinic and see if you need professional intervention.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 12 February 2011 09:16:44AM *  1 point [-]

When the sun goes down start to darken your surroundings a bit--turn off unnecessary lights, use desk/table/spot lights instead of room lights etc.

If on a computer, software like F.lux or Nocturne can help with this.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 February 2011 11:20:34AM *  1 point [-]

When the alarm goes off GET UP. Do not set your alarm for 5 minutes early, if anything set it for 5 minutes late.

When you are getting into the routine this one of the hard parts. So use whatever assistance required. For me that has included a bottle of energy drink and a modafinil tablet sitting on top of the alarm clock. Sure, you can turn it off but it isn't much more effort to down the stimulants at the same time. A sledge hammer approach. It more or less guarantees you will be able to get up 30 minutes later. I often deliberately allow myself another 30 minutes to sleep after I've taken the stimulants so as to cooperate more effectively with my instincts. They don't like me @#$@#$ing with them and forcing them up but they don't care at all if I give them stimulants and let them do their own thing.

(The above is not something I tend to use long term.)

When the sun goes down start to darken your surroundings a bit--turn off unnecessary lights, use desk/table/spot lights instead of room lights etc.

At about this time you can also take a dose of melatonin (which is essentially what you are doing with the light manipulation anyway). I have found this useful from time to time.

Comment author: scientism 07 May 2011 12:17:31AM 2 points [-]

Put your alarm clock far out of reach so you have to get out of bed to switch it off. Put everything you need for your morning routine next to the alarm clock. This will make you much less likely to go back to bed.

Comment author: Cyan 07 May 2011 12:56:37AM 8 points [-]

I did this when I was a teenager. A few months later I found myself regularly jumping out of bed, taking two long running strides across my room, hitting the snooze button, running back to bed, and getting under the covers without ever properly waking up.

Comment author: shokwave 07 May 2011 03:29:54PM 8 points [-]

I solved this problem by maxing out my alarm's volume and putting it in the shower.

Comment author: Swimmer963 08 May 2011 03:49:13AM 1 point [-]

That is...genius. And hilarious.

Comment author: scientism 07 May 2011 02:51:28PM 1 point [-]

Did you keep everything you need for your morning routine next to your alarm clark? I found that was the key element to stop me from jumping back into bed. It's habit forming. You get to the alarm clock and then go through your routine. Otherwise, if everything's out of reach or disorganised, it's easier to just go back to bed than deal with it.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 May 2011 01:45:31AM 2 points [-]

Put your alarm clock far out of reach so you have to get out of bed to switch it off. Put everything you need for your morning routine next to the alarm clock. This will make you much less likely to go back to bed.

I use this technique from time to time. But as Cyan suggests it isn't a reliable long term solution. It still amounts to trying to bully yourself into compliance. And that just isn't the best way to deal with allies - be they internal or not. I know myself and know how I respond to attempts at dominance. I'll do it if necessary but it rapidly burns out any sense of loyalty. And I want myself on my own side.

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 10 February 2011 01:55:23PM 1 point [-]

My biggest problem for keeping a sleep schedule stable is not being able to fall asleep early if I'm stuck with a late sleep schedule. Once I get an early wakeup, early bedtime routine going, it can stay on for weeks, but it can likewise get messed up for weeks.

One nice thing for waking up is a timed light box. It gradually lights up, and is a lot less stressful to wake up to than an alarm. Combine this with a regular alarm that goes off after the light has been getting brighter for a while.

I also somehow got addicted to taking daily cold showers since they were mentioned here or in the IRC channel. A couple of Hacker News posts talked about cold showers helping people fall asleep, so I've started taking a shower an hour before bedtime. I've been doing this for three weeks now and have managed to maintain a pretty stable sleep schedule.

Comment author: bigjeff5 20 February 2011 05:16:24PM 1 point [-]

The key is the wake-up time. You can always force yourself to get up once the alarm goes off, no matter how little sleep you've gotten. The opposite is not true without drugs to assist you (though it sounds like the cold shower helps, makes sense).

I do this about every four weeks. My work schedule is such that I work 160 hours in two weeks, and then don't work at all for the following two weeks. This means I have to get up very early when I'm working and not at all when I'm not. The net result, since I lack discipline when I don't have a goal set for the day, is that by the time I go back to work I am regularly staying up until 3am or later and waking up around noon, while I need to be at work by 7am when I'm working.

The fix for this is to force myself to get up at 6am the very first day I'm back at work. No easing in to anything, just cold turkey - alarm goes off I've got to get up. This means for the first day or two I'll be running on 3-4 hours of sleep, but the need to sleep builds fast and by the third day I'm usually going to bed at a respectable time.

The key for me is that I must have a purpose for the day. I've tried to maintain this in my off time, but since I don't have a specific place to be "on time" each day I tend to let my wake up time drift instead of getting up on-schedule. The fix for that is apparently having a regular morning schedule during my off time, but I haven't put much effort into it.

Another important thing to remember when you are forcing yourself awake after insufficient sleep is to not dilly-dally. If you are tired when you wake up, the worst thing you can do is hit "snooze" and go back to sleep. It probably won't make you any less tired unless you sleep for another hour (at which point you are almost certainly late for whatever it is you were getting up for) and it will make it a lot harder to get up.

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 21 February 2011 10:36:47AM *  1 point [-]

There's an extra problem I run with drastic sleep cycle changes. Say I'm sleeping from 3 AM to noon. Then I do the cold turkey wake up at 6 AM, so far so good. Next evening I go to bed at 21:30, then my brain apparently goes, "hey, it's a lot earlier than usual, must be an afternoon nap", and helpfully wakes me up sometimes at 1 AM. (Other people's brains might not have this feature.) This tends to lead to having to go multiple consecutive days with little sleep if I want to change the cycle, instead of just the one, which gets considerably less fun. The fix to this might be to do something on the cold turkey day that gets me sufficiently tired that I'd just sleep 9 hours straight on the next night, whatever the bedtime.

The cold shower thing is still working, so far I've had only one night when I've failed to fall asleep after taking the shower.

Comment author: Vive-ut-Vivas 10 February 2011 01:39:50AM 3 points [-]

Do you exercise?

Comment author: Vaniver 09 February 2011 07:00:52PM *  23 points [-]

How to Buy Stocks

First Option:

  1. Acquire at least $3,000 in a checking account, and grab your account number and routing number. (It's written on the bottom of your checks.)
  2. Go to Vanguard.com and open an account.
  3. Buy into VTSMX, the total market index fund, or VFINX, the S&P 500 index fund. If you have trouble picking, flip a coin; they're very similar funds.

Second Option:

  1. Go to Sharebuilder.com and open an account. They shouldn't require a significant starting balance, but might.
  2. Sign up for automatic investing to take advantage of dollar cost averaging.
  3. Buy VFINX or VTSMX.

Third option:

  1. List out what you know about a company.
  2. List out what the market knows about that company.
  3. If your knowledge is better than the market's, then proceed. Otherwise (including if you don't know how much the market knows), go to option 1.
  4. Go to your bank and read about their brokerage accounts. If the fees aren't excessive (check Sharebuilder and other banks and stuff like etrade), open a brokerage account, or go to option 2 and open a Sharebuilder account.
  5. Transfer money to your brokerage account.
  6. Plan out your trades: under what conditions will you buy a stock? (not "the price now is ok" but "if it's less than $60 I think it's worthwhile.") Under what conditions will you sell a stock? This is mostly a restatement of steps 1 and 2, but it's nice to have these numbers for every individual stock.
  7. Execute trades; the interface should be straightforward.

The last option is very rarely a good idea. You cannot pick good stocks- good stocks do not exist. What exists are good companies and good opportunities. Companies that everyone knows are good- like Apple- are rarely good opportunities, but sometimes the company is so good that it's worth buying at a premium. I'm up 9x on Netflix over 4 years, even though I bought it at a fairly high price, because I recognized that it was going to reshape its industry and eat Blockbuster's lunch. I'm up 50% on BP because I was able to identify the point of maximum pessimism and buy then. That's 2 significant winners over the last 4-5 years of active investing. I'm in the black overall only because of how awesome Netflix was; there's a lot of stocks I bought that lost a bunch or merely tread water. I now take the opportunity approach seriously.

The moral of the story is that you should hunt opportunities where you have something the market lacks, and then bet big on those opportunities. If you don't have any more knowledge than the market, bet on the market as a whole in an index fund. I had more foresight than the market as a whole when it came to Netflix (but not to many other things I bought) and a sterner stomach than the market when it came to BP, but without that edge I'm not comfortable betting on anything but that the general trend of the market is up.

(You can still lose when you've got an edge- one of my friends called the tech bubble and shorted the market, but was early by a few months and lost quite a bit of money- but it's the best and most consistent way to win.)

Comment author: ChristianKl 28 October 2014 05:51:02PM 1 point [-]

If your knowledge is better than the market's, then proceed. Otherwise (including if you don't know how much the market knows), go to option 1.

Somehow along the line, there should be a check of: "Can I be sued for insider trading if I make this trade"

Comment author: Raoul589 12 April 2013 08:21:05AM *  1 point [-]

I have a related question about buying stocks. Suppose (for example) that I knew with 100% certainty that the global demand for home robotics would grow tenfold in the next decade.

If this was the only information that I had that wasn't generally known, is there any action I could take based on this information to reliably make money from the stock market (at least over the next ten years)?

Comment author: shminux 12 April 2013 04:20:09PM *  1 point [-]

Suppose (for example) that I knew with 100% certainty that the global demand for home robotics would grow tenfold in the next decade.

If you have 100% confidence in something, you then logically should go for maximum leverage, regardless of the risk, and so stock up on derivatives, like options and futures, rather than buy and hold stocks or indices.

But of course people are generally poorly calibrated, so someone who thinks they are 100% right will probably be wrong half the time.

Comment author: Vaniver 12 April 2013 03:45:30PM 1 point [-]

So, from a time savings perspective you would want a fund that specializes in home robotics. If one of those exists, though, that suggests that your knowledge isn't as unique as you'd like.

What I would probably do is find a news website for home robotics producers- a trade magazine is what used to fill this niche, and might still do so- to have a good idea of how relative companies are doing. This looks like a promising place to start, but that gets you as informed as similar investors, and you'd like to be more informed.

Then, try to keep a portfolio that's fairly balanced in all noteworthy home robotics companies. I'd probably go the 'buy and hold' route- try and keep your portfolio roughly apportioned relative to market share by buying up shares of companies underrepresented in your portfolio every month. This is the 'indexing' approach- basically, you trust that the home robotics market as a whole will go up, and that the market is better at predicting who will go up than you will.

If you're more confident in your ability to predict trends, you want to hold companies relative to their expected market share at the end of your trading period- to use an old example, the first strategy would have you holding lots of Blockbuster and some Netflix and the second strategy would have you holding lots of Netflix and some Blockbuster.

There is a giant obstacle here, though, which is that a large part of the stock price is determined by the financials of the company, which take a relatively large investment of time and energy to understand. If you're indexing, you basically offload this work to other investors; if you do it yourself, you can have a decent idea of what the companies are worth on the books, and then adjust by your estimate of how well they'll do in the near future.

Comment author: Raoul589 12 April 2013 05:42:32PM 1 point [-]

If I was keeping my porfolio indexed to the market, wouldn't I be selling Blockbuster shares each month as Blockbuster lost market share? Why would I end up holding lots of Blockbuster?

Comment author: Vaniver 12 April 2013 06:51:50PM 1 point [-]

I apologize, I was unclear; I'm recommending 'buy and hold indexing' where you correct imbalances by buying the stocks you have less of with new investment income, rather than correcting imbalances by selling stocks you have too much of to buy stocks you have too little of. This is a good way to invest for individual investors who have a constant influx of investment funds and who pay trading fees that are a large percentage of their order sizes.

If you have a large pool of capital that you begin with, or you want to actively manage money you've already invested, then you may want to actively correct imbalances. It's helpful to work out the expected value of a rebalancing trade, and make sure that's larger than the fees you pay (and you may decide to only rebalance once it gets above some larger threshold). Here, you do end up with mostly Netflix- but you bought a lot of Blockbuster when it was expensive, and sold it when it was cheap, whereas the projection investor who knew that Netflix was going to worth 30 times what Blockbuster would be would have put 3% of their money into Blockbuster and 97% into Netflix, and so the majority of their current shares would come from when they put a lot of money into cheap Netflix stock. I haven't heard about that sort of projection investing playing well with rebalancing- and if I remember correctly, it was designed for allocating a large pool which you have complete access to, rather than doing dollar cost averaging with a constant income stream.

Comment author: Solomonsk5 25 July 2012 06:57:52PM 2 points [-]

How to Buy Stocks Note: This is just nuts and bolts. Any terminology you may need can be found on Investopedia.

  1. Have a bank/checking account
  2. Sign up with any of the many online stock brokerage sites(ScottTrade, Ameritrade, Sharebuilder,etc.)
  3. Send the broker an initial deposit of funds. (You'll require your routing and account numbers. You have to transfer funds to the broker, who needs this money to purchase your stocks.) The usual minimum is $2000 but can be as little as $500.00.
  4. In trade section, you'll need to input the company's stock symbol, #of shares to be bought, and the order type.
  5. Click Review order and double check you've made the right selections.
  6. Finalize order.

Shameless Plug: If you happen to fancy Scottrade, I can be listed as your referral so we can both benefit from free trades. Referred by: SOLOMON KNOWLTON ReferALL code: OPRH6640

Comment author: ChrisHibbert 13 February 2011 07:56:08PM 1 point [-]

I've been investing in stocks (occasionally) and mutual funds (consistently) for about thirty years, and I endorse Vaniver's advice heartily. I think overall, I'm up on stocks, due to doing most of my stock investing in cyclical stocks that I can buy and sell repeatedly over the course of many years. This has worked for me with both SGI and Cypress, which I repeatedly bought at low prices and sold at high prices. If you try this and find that you're not buying low and selling high, then you should stick to mutual funds and a buy-and-hold strategy. I've dabbled in other stocks where I thought I knew something and could time it, but few of those have turned out well. Happily, I knew I was dabbling, and kept the amounts low, so I got a valuable less for a relatively low price.

Mostly, I invest in mutual funds. I have subscribed to a newsletter that specializes in rating No Load funds (there are a couple). This gives me a monthly opportunity to review the performance of the funds I'm invested in, so I can tell when they stop being in the top performers and roll my money over to a different investment.

I record the monthly performance of each of my investments in a spreadsheet (used to be a paper notebook). The newsletter tells me which quintile the performance is in compared to the fund's peers. I highlight 1st and 2nd quintile in green, and 5th quintile in red. When the number of reds gets to be high compared to the greens, I look for a different fund with better recent performance. The commercials always say "past performance is no guarantee of future returns", but it's the only indication you can use. Most of the time performance is consistent over periods of a few years, so you have to look back a year or so when evaluating, and monitor continuing performance in a consistent way.

This whole process takes far more attention than most people are willing to put into it (a few hours a month on an on-going basis, and several hours every six months or so when choosing new investents), and few investors do even as well as the rate of growth of the broad market. That's why investing in the S&P 500 or an even broader market index is a good idea. If you put your money in a broad index and let it sit, you'll do better than 3/4 of investors.

Vanguard is only one decent brokerage. I personally use Schwab, but there are several others with reasonable prices.

Comment author: Unnamed 10 February 2011 02:50:46AM *  4 points [-]

Why the S&P index (VFINX) and not the Total Stock Market Index (VTSMX), which has broader coverage and the same expense ratio?

Comment author: Elizabeth 09 February 2011 06:46:33PM *  11 points [-]

I am terrible at remembering names. This is bad in itself, but exacerbated by a few factors:

  • I regularly have lengthy conversations with random strangers, and will be able to easily summarize the conversation afterwords, but will have no recollection of their name.

  • I am fairly noticeable and memorable, so even people whose names I have no reason to know will know mine.

  • I am not particularly good with faces either.

This isn't a memory problem, I can quote back conversations or remember long strings of numbers. I often cope by confessing to my weakness in a self-deprecating manner, or by simply not using names in direct address (it's generally not necessary in English), but these don't actually help me learn names. If I remembered to ask their name early on, I sometimes pause mid-conversation to ask "Are you still x?" but that is somewhat awkward and I'm wrong half the time anyway. The only time I can reliably remember is if they share the name of an immediate family member.This is bad enough that I'll sometimes be five or six classes into the semester and have to check the syllabus to figure out the professor's name, or will have been in multiple classes with someone and shared several conversations and still not know their name.

Comment author: ViEtArmis 23 July 2012 05:37:22PM 1 point [-]

I had this problem for a long time, which can be embarrassing doing phone support, especially one with frequent callers that know my name and voice (one of only two men and we have distinct voices and greetings). I started intentionally using callers name's three times in every call and reaped several benefits: 1) I actually remember their names when they call back, 2) I'm better at remembering names having been told only once (even outside of work), and 3) my customer satisfaction scores had a marked and sustained increase.

Comment author: TabAtkins 09 March 2011 06:41:46AM 1 point [-]

I'm also normally terrible at learning names, but I've learned how to get around it. This may be terribly specific to people who learn like me; if so, I apologize.

I have found that I am incredibly focused on learning through actually seeing things written. I am excellent at spelling because I see the written form of words in my head, and even when I can't immediately recall the precise letters, I always have an accurate sense of how many there are (which is often enough to select the correct spelling from a shortlist of plausible alternatives).

Given that, I find that I can trivially remember people's names after having emailed them and typed their names.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 10 February 2011 09:58:56AM *  8 points [-]

At the beginning of 2010 I made it my mission to remember the names of everyone I was introduced to. I haven't quite managed everyone, but I've gotten pretty close.

My technique: when someone tells me their name, I think of something that rhymes with it, and imagine the person in conjunction with the rhyme. I have a general policy of picking the first thing that comes to mind, since that presumably suggests my brain already has some sort of reliable connection between them.

For example, when meeting Sam for the first time, I will think of the first rhyme for 'Sam' that comes to mind, which in the case of a recent Sam was 'ham'. I imagine Sam holding some ham, with a big grin on her face (she has quite a striking grin anyway, so this detail just sort of cements it in place). When I next meet Sam, I will have a striking image of her holding some ham with a big grin on her face, which I can then follow back to her name.

Over the past year or so I've built up quite a menagerie of associations. All people called Sue are now in a large group of Blue Sues in my head. Anyone called Vicky is covered in something sticky. Anyone called Kate has an expression of hate.

Sometimes I have to reach for tenuous rhymes. 'David' was a bit of a tricky one, but I eventually settled on 'shavéd', and imagine Davids to have a partially-shaved scalp. If anything, the more tenuous rhymes are more memorable, because I also have the memory of the difficult rhyme to hang the name off.

This does occasionally create some odd effects. Last September, for example, I know I met two people called Amanda, but can only remember one of them. The act of remembering their name has persisted in memory, but actually meeting them hasn't.

The most important aspect isn't the actual technique (as there are plenty of other name-remembering techniques out there which presumably work fairly well), but getting into the habit of using it. It doesn't do any good just knowing it; you have to consciously choose to apply it whenever you're told a name you want to remember, and that's a much harder habit to get into than you'd think.

It's also a good technique for remembering things in general. I remembered the term 'homonymous hemianopia' recently by imagining Hermione from Harry Potter smoking opium and losing half of her field of vision.

Comment author: SRStarin 09 February 2011 07:35:40PM 9 points [-]

When I started running study groups in college, the training included teaching how to learn student's names. The trick to remembering names is to say the name out loud, with focus on the name and the person at the same time. So, Joachim introduces himself, and you say "Joachim? Nice to meet you, Joachim!" Give the name and face enough time to sink into long term memory. If they don't introduce themselves, ask them their name, simply apologizing if it turns out you've met before.

Then, at the earliest good opportunity, reinforce the name. Using it during the conversation is good. Any time the topic goes in a new direction, or you or your interlocutor have a new idea, you say "So, Joachim, I have another way of looking at that..." or "Joachim, that is an excellent point." This is totally normal, but might not feel that way to a person who doesn't use names frequently.

Finally, it is minimally awkward to, at the end of a conversation, say to the person "Well, Joachim, it's been so good talking to you!" Or, if you've totally lost the name, say with a smile "I've enjoyed talking with you so much I've managed to forget your name!" And they will be quite pleased to remind you.

Not using people's names is like a microcosm of this thread--if you don't use the name, rightly or wrongly, you won't get affirmation or correction.

That all works if you have the capability of recognizing people but just have not practiced it. But you say specifically that you're not good with faces. A large number of people are partially or completely face-blind. Many (maybe most) don't realize they have differently functioning brains from the majority of people when it comes to faces. They often recognize people by their distinctive hair color or facial hair, by particularly large or small noses, chins, etc, or even in some cases, by learning the wardrobes of people they are frequently around. I read about one fellow with 4 young children and he is completely unable to tell them apart. So when one jumps in his lap, he hugs them and smiles and says, "So who are you, then?" His kids think it's a running joke, which is how he treats it, but it's the only way he'd know who he's got in his lap.

The point is, if you are not just "bad with faces" but instead face-blind, you may have to use other, more you-specific techniques for identifying people.

Comment author: Elizabeth 09 February 2011 09:32:06PM *  5 points [-]

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I first consciously noticed that I was incapable of using other people's names to their faces. I could do it with immediate family, and I could do it in third person "Howard was telling me..." I have since made strenuous efforts to get better at it, but it is still really psychologically difficult. That's also when I realized that it was almost impossible for me to leave a message on an answering machine. I'm working on that one too, but doing so is a serious effort. One of my roommates my freshman year of college had the same issues, but neither of us had a clue why.

Comment author: handoflixue 15 February 2011 09:05:26PM 1 point [-]

It might help to find a friend you can practice with, for the names - if the issue applies to IM/Skype/etc. as well, then you can probably find a practice partner or two right here. Otherwise, hopefully you have an in-person friend who you'd trust to explain this to, and who can encourage you to refer to them by name frequently :)

For answering machines, the same friend can probably help, or you could practice on your own answering machine.

I've found that, for most skills, doing really impractical-but-safe practice exercises like this actually really pays off. Even if it doesn't 100% resolve the issue, it still gives you a good foundation to build on, and helps remind you that the activity CAN be safe.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 09 February 2011 11:47:54PM *  1 point [-]

I sometimes have trouble usings people's names - I think due to fear that I haven't remembered them correctly, even if I'm 95% certain or more. If I don't know the person well it may also seem overly familiar.

Comment author: Desrtopa 09 February 2011 07:38:05PM 8 points [-]

Thirding the request.

I have sometimes contemplated taking out my frustrations by following people around to learn their names, scrounging up any background material on them that I can get, and then pretending to be an old high school acquaintance of theirs, and watching them squirm as they try to remember me.

I'm not entirely certain people aren't already doing this to me.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 09 February 2011 07:58:35PM 5 points [-]

People have done this to me. I was amused.

In general, I avoid claiming to actually remember people if I don't, but I'm happy to engage with them as though we were old friends if they are engaging with me that way. If it turns out that we don't know each other, well, I've been friendlier than our relationship obligated me to be, which is not a big problem.

Comment author: mindspillage 11 February 2011 04:02:41AM 3 points [-]

Me too; nothing wrong with it and some people will be positively impressed with how friendly you are even to people you barely know! Also, being straightforward and not embarrassed to ask someone's name again helps. A simple "I'm sorry, but I've completely forgotten your name; could you remind me?" is usually not too awkward unless you've met often enough that you should be expected to remember.

(Also, I am in DC, which is a very business card-exchanging area; remembering getting the card and seeing the name after being introduced is very helpful.)

Comment author: [deleted] 09 February 2011 10:25:06PM 4 points [-]

I remember names after I've seen them written in association with the face. I remember unusual names better, because I can ask the person then and there how to spell it. So for anyone with whom I speak rarely, I basically only consistently remember the names of facebook friends.

Method: Add people on facebook immediately after meeting them. Then review the RSVP list before going to any events with an events page!

Comment author: Alicorn 09 February 2011 07:42:53PM 1 point [-]

If there is some metadata about names that you can remember more easily (rhymes with X, name of Y character from fiction, would have been taunted on the playground because of Z) use that. I tend to ask people how to spell their names so I can embed the information as text instead of much-more-slippery-for-me sounds.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 February 2011 12:32:52AM 1 point [-]

I like the grooming questions especially.

Besides by keeping clean, how do I go about smelling nice? Who should and shouldn't wear perfume and cologne? What kind? How do you use it?

Comment author: mindspillage 11 February 2011 03:52:42AM 3 points [-]

I don't wear perfume/cologne at all--I enjoy many scents, but there are so many people who are sensitive to fragrances that it seems rude (my SO can't stand perfumes, so I don't wear any anymore). I'd avoid it in crowds and offices, and recommend only wearing it if you're going to be spending time with someone that you already know enjoys it--otherwise there's absolutely nothing wrong with simply keeping clean. Most people smell pretty okay naturally unless they've gotten very sweaty/dirty or haven't washed in a long while. (Some people even prefer natural smells over perfumes.)

As for use: less than you think. Only you and someone in your "personal space" should be able to smell it. Don't spray it all over--use very small amounts on "pulse points": wrists, behind ears, throat. (This is harder to do with sprays than oils; it's easy to spray too much.) What kind: something you like. What smells good sprayed in the air in a department store may not smell as good along with your own natural scent, so you may want to test at home before wearing something in public. Ask someone at a department store or perfume shop to help you if you really have no idea what to get, and don't be embarrassed about it; if they are at all good at their job, they will be able to guide you toward scents of different types based on what you like--fruity, musky, floral, woodsy, light, heavy, what-have-you. If you don't know where to begin, think about other smells you like: fresh-cut grass, vanilla, ocean air, Irish Spring soap? If you have a significant other, ask what they like too...

(This is knowledge I have not used in a long enough time that I'd completely forgotten I had it!)

Comment author: Alicorn 10 February 2011 12:41:46AM 2 points [-]

This isn't a general smelling-nice tip, but: imitation vanilla extract? Decent bug repellent. And smells much nicer than the standard varieties.

Comment author: SRStarin 10 February 2011 01:59:13AM 1 point [-]

Anyone who wants to can wear perfume/cologne (it's essentially the same stuff, just a different word for a different gender of user). If you're wondering whether you should try it, then try it! Go to a large department store and try out their testers, then walk around for the day and see if you and your companions like it. The effect immediately after application is often not the effect after it airs a bit. You can even try mixing scents. The one thing I strongly recommend is to avoid the really cheap stuff. If the budget is tight, try different good high-quality scents for free for a while, so you can be sure you'll like what you get.

The way I've seen perfume applied usually sprayed on one wrist, then the wrists are rubbed together, and then the wrists are lightly touched to the neck and clothes. This avoids getting too strong a smell, and if you overspray the wrist, you can wash it off.

When I use cologne, I spray it in my armpits instead of deodorant, and maybe on my throat. That's not necessarily typical--it's sort of the old way cologne was used, and works for me because I have light BO. You can also use cologne the same way I described for perfume.

In the U.S., cologne is not usually considered an appropriate substitute for deodorant, but individual tastes run a broad gamut on that. Some people are allergic to most perfumes and colognes--they do have actual botanicals in them.

Comment author: monsterzero 10 February 2011 03:23:43AM 4 points [-]

It's pretty important not to overdo perfume/cologne, as there's a lot of variation in people's sensitivity to odors (and odor preferences). One squirt or dab is usually more than enough. In addition, the person who is wearing the scent becomes habituated to it after a few minutes, so "I can't smell myself anymore" isn't a good reason to put on more.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 09 February 2011 12:30:59AM *  28 points [-]

After having about 50 different housemates, I'm shocked by how few people have basic home-maintenance knowledge. Things like:

  • Change the oil in your car every 4000 miles.
  • Don't mix colored and white laundry and then set the temperature to "hot".
  • Remove the lint from the dryer screen before each load.
  • Don't put wool clothes in the dryer and set it on "hot".
  • Change the air filter in your central heating every few months.
  • Wash the stovetop after cooking with grease.
  • Use dishwashing detergent in the dishwasher.
  • Don't put knives or pots with metal/plastic or metal/wood interfaces in the dishwasher.
  • Don't put tupperware in the dishwasher lower rack.
  • Don't fill the dishwasher lower rack with pots so that no water reaches the upper rack.
  • Open the fireplace vent before starting a fire.
  • Wash the bathtub sometimes.
  • Knives must eventually be sharpened.
  • Turning the thermostat up extra-high does not make it get warm faster.
Comment author: wedrifid 09 February 2011 04:51:46PM 5 points [-]

Knives must eventually be sharpened.

(Or replaced with our lifetime stay sharp guarantee!)

Comment author: BillyOblivion 10 February 2011 11:42:03AM 12 points [-]


Those are not called "knives", those are called "saws".

We (family) got some knives at marriage, and just sort of puttered along. Then I bought her some "good" knives, which arrived fairly sharp.

Oh. My. Sourdough bread in SLICES instead of ragged hunks.

Then we used them for a couple years, and I realized that since these were low-end "chef quality" knives (I'm not a chef. I don't much care about cooking, and I don't talk shop with real chefs, so that may not be an accurate statement, but the reviews I read indicated that these were as good as MUCH more expensive knives except in maybe the quality of the handle), that maybe we should get them sharpened, so I found a place in STL that had a knife sharpening service for local restaurants and went there.

They refused to even consider sharpening our steak knives. The guy called them "cheap junk". So we bought some of of the same brand as our other knives (basically the cheapest he had in stock). (Victorinox "Fibrox")

Oh. My. Steak is SO much easier to deal with now. Bread (on the rare occasions we have it ) cuts cleanly. Tomatoes and oranges can can be sliced as thin as you want. Limes for your gin/vodka? Clean cuts.

Knives are tools. Tools need maintenance or replacement.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 09 February 2011 11:35:43PM 1 point [-]
  • Don't mix colored and white laundry and then set the temperature to "hot".
  • Remove the lint from the dryer screen before each load.
  • Don't put wool clothes in the dryer and set it on "hot".

Washers and dryers really need to come with more thorough instructions printed on them, for people who don't know anything about clothes. It would be nice to know what the different settings actually meant practically.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 10 February 2011 01:49:09AM 2 points [-]

Many articles of clothing have instructions like that on their tags, along the line of "machine wash warm with like colors, tumble dry low". This doesn't help someone figure out things like 'red and blue are not 'like colors' but blue and yellow can be' or what to do with a red-and-blue striped shirt, but it's a start.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 February 2011 01:54:50AM 5 points [-]

This doesn't help someone figure out things like 'red and blue are not 'like colors' but blue and yellow can be'

Especially if you like green. :P

Comment author: ikrase 13 April 2013 09:32:13AM 3 points [-]

Do not leave pieces of colored paper in the pockets of clothing before washing.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 10 February 2011 02:01:46AM 2 points [-]

I wash my dark blues with my black and dark brown clothing, and my medium and light blues with my other non-red medium and light colored clothing, and haven't noticed any cross-contamination of colors. I haven't tried it with reds, but my understanding is that red things are much more prone to bleeding than any other color and should definitely be washed separately.

Comment author: TobyBartels 10 February 2011 10:08:24AM 4 points [-]

I wash all of my colours together, with no problems, but I also always wash them on cold/cold. If I ever have to wash something red on hot, I hope that I'll remember to separate it from the blue clothes, but I might not.

Comment author: Alicorn 10 February 2011 02:07:35AM 1 point [-]

I wash my red things with my other colorful clothes. I haven't had problems.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 February 2011 02:12:20AM 2 points [-]

Apart from the first few washes of a red thing I wash all my clothes in together. I haven't had problems either. :)

Comment author: mindspillage 11 February 2011 04:07:46AM 10 points [-]

I have had exactly one load of laundry go wrong ever due to colors running. (Purple.) I pretty much blatantly ignore washing directions, except for formalwear and business suits. If something cannot survive being thrown in with the regular wash, it's too much trouble to keep. (It helps that I thrift the vast majority of my wardrobe, so I'm rarely out more than $5 or so if something is ruined.)

Comment author: wedrifid 11 February 2011 04:10:35AM 2 points [-]

I pretty much blatantly ignore washing directions, except for formalwear and business suits.

And those are easy to handle - drycleaners!

Comment author: JoshuaZ 09 February 2011 05:26:30AM 5 points [-]

Turning the thermostat up extra-high does not make it get warm faster.

Ok. I confess that this one more than any of the others makes me seriously worry about how good my theory of mind is. How do they think their heating systems work?

Comment author: patrissimo 21 February 2011 07:31:29AM 15 points [-]

Couldn't it just be an erroneous application of (an intuited version of) Newton's law of cooling, which says that heat transfer is linearly proportional to heat difference? They assume that the thermostat temperature is setting the temperature of the heating element, and then apply their intuited Newton's Law.

Seems pretty rational to me.

Comment author: blashimov 21 May 2013 05:08:45PM 1 point [-]

For example, this absolutely works with say, an electric stove.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 10 February 2011 11:49:31AM 3 points [-]

Depending on the type and size of the heater relative to the area to be warmed that statement could very well be false.

I have lived in some places where turning up the heater produced much hotter air than at a lower temperature, which would heat a house much more quickly. These houses had relatively modern central air conditioning systems with electric furnaces, or really good gas furnaces.

I've also lived in places with radiators or really crappy wall mounted heaters where it wouldn't make any difference at all.

Comment author: Blueberry 09 February 2011 08:50:33AM 13 points [-]

This is actually implementation dependent. Though the most common implementation of a thermostat is just an on-off switch for the heater, it is possible to have a heater with multiple settings and a thermostat that selects higher heat settings for greater temperature differentials.

Also, turning the thermostat up extra-high means that you don't have to go back and make the temperature higher if your initial selection wasn't warm enough.

Comment author: saturn 10 February 2011 03:23:08AM 18 points [-]

Since about 50 years ago all but the lowest-end thermostats are designed to be "anticipators" — they shut off the heat before the requested temperature is reached, then gradually approach it with a lower duty cycle. More often than not, the installer doesn't bother to fine-tune this, in which case it can take a long time to reach equilibrium. Turning it a few degrees warmer than you actually want isn't a completely stupid idea.

(reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermostat)

Comment author: handoflixue 15 February 2011 10:05:26PM 2 points [-]

Thank you for reassuring me that I'm not crazy :)

Comment author: Vladimir_M 09 February 2011 09:18:54PM *  46 points [-]

Even with an ordinary thermostat, cranking it up can be effective in some realistic situations. If some corners of the house take longer to heat up than the location of the thermostat, they'll reach the desired temperature faster if you let the thermostat itself and the rest of the house get a few degrees warmer first. Or to put it differently, scoffing at people who crank up the thermostat is justified only under the assumption that it measures the temperature of the whole house accurately, which is a pretty shaky assumption when you think about it.

As the moral of the story, even when your physics is guaranteed to be more accurate than folk physics, that's still not a reason to scoff at the conclusions of folk physics. The latter, bad as it is, has after all evolved for robust grappling with real-world problems, whereas any scientific model's connection with reality is delicately brittle.

That's an important lesson, generalizable to much more than just physics.

Comment author: MichaelHoward 16 February 2011 12:33:11AM 4 points [-]

This general point is seriously deserving of a top-level post.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 09 February 2011 09:08:19AM 10 points [-]

Do you actually think a typical person has a coherent theory of how a heating system with a thermostat works?

It's a very human and intuitive way of thinking. People bundle together various things that seem like they should somehow be related, and assume that if something has a good or bad influence on one of these things, it must also influence other related things in the same direction. When you think about it, it's not a bad heuristic for dealing with a world too complex to understand with full accuracy.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 August 2011 12:24:22AM 3 points [-]

I would imagine it's simply an application of the extremely general (and useful) rule of thumb "if doing something has an effect, doing it a lot will probably have a lot of that effect".

Comment author: Conuly 09 February 2011 05:55:41AM 17 points [-]

They think that the furnace burns at a different temperature depending on how high the thermostat is.

Comment author: Blueberry 09 February 2011 01:24:04AM *  8 points [-]

Don't put knives or pots with metal/plastic or metal/wood interfaces in the dishwasher.

Don't put tupperware in the dishwasher lower rack.

The others were obvious to me, but I don't understand these two. I've been disobeying them for a long time without any problems.

Comment author: simplyeric 09 February 2011 04:40:56PM 2 points [-]

many people would say: don't put knives in the dishwasher at all.

Meaning, good kitchen knives...tableware is fine. But kitchen knives (slicers, dicers, etc) depend on very thin foils at the blade edge. The chemicals and heat involved in dishwashers can damage the blade.

(this is only marginally resolved by using serrated knives...those may not be damaged by dishwashers as much, but I have yet to find one that works as well as a pretty good kitchen knife that is even marginally maintained)

Comment author: fiddlemath 09 February 2011 04:02:07PM 2 points [-]

Aside from melting the plastic, lightweight containers can get flipped in the dishwasher, fill up with water, and then get not quite clean. If you put them on the top rack, they're farther from the jets of water, and are less likely to be tossed around.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 February 2011 01:29:39AM 15 points [-]

Tupperware runs the risk of melting close to the heating element. Metal and plastic/wood expand at different rates in dampness and warmth, so the interface can weaken if they're washed in the high heat of the dishwasher. That said, you can usually get away with both of these things.

Comment author: chronophasiac 09 February 2011 03:58:51AM 5 points [-]

Most tupperware should be "dishwasher safe", meaning it's been tested to high temperatures and won't melt even in the lower rack of the dishwasher. The real problem with putting tupperware, or indeed any plastic container, in the bottom rack is the water jets. The jets shoot out of the aerator (that's the plastic spinny thing on the bottom), and will blow light objects around the dishwasher instead of scrubbing them out. Putting tupperware on the top rack restricts their movements.

Comment author: soreff 07 May 2011 01:39:42AM 1 point [-]

Agreed. Also, for light objects, it is handy to have something to hold them down, even on the upper rack. I have a small plastic-covered-wire rack which I put over light objects (normally plastic ones) on the top rack of a dishwasher to prevent them from getting flipped over.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 February 2011 07:25:18PM 7 points [-]

Most tupperware should be "dishwasher safe", meaning it's been tested to high temperatures and won't melt even in the lower rack of the dishwasher.

I think there is vocabulary confusion happening here.

Real Tupperware -- the expensive stuff -- is nigh-indestructable. Some of it is made out of polycarbonate, the same material used for windshields in fighter jets and in presidential limos. At the thickness used in the Tupperware line, it is not quite bulletproof, but it is still very, very tough. You don't have to worry about it in the dishwasher.

Lower-end Rubbermaid plastic containers are much cheaper and not made out of the same material. (Rubbermaid does have a "premier" line that is supposedly comparable to true Tupperware.) These bins should not be placed in the lower rack of the dishwasher.

Comment author: MartinB 09 February 2011 05:23:22AM 3 points [-]

Don't mix colored and white laundry and then set the temperature to "hot". Don't put wool clothes in the dryer and set it on "hot".

Arent these self correcting? I would expect to make this mistake only once.

The combining factor seems to be an ignorance into how things work, and how to maintain them. At least that is my observations of flatmates..

Comment author: David_Gerard 08 February 2011 09:24:46PM *  49 points [-]

Please, please, please, I beg you:

Learn to touch-type. Learn to type with ten fingers.

Computer programs and websites to do this abound. If you find one that's horrible to use, find another. But persist until you do.

I am appalled at how many people I know who use computers typing for hours a day, and never learned how to drive a keyboard. They insist they're just as fast as they would be touch-typing (they're not), and then complain of sore fingers from doing weird stuff to adapt to their inability to type properly.

Anyone reading this site uses computers enough they should know how to type. I would estimate (based on my geeky friends I've seen at a keyboard) less than 20% of you can touch-type properly.

Set up your desk, chair etc per the handy how-to-avoid-RSI diagrams that one can hardly get away from in any setting. Then LEARN HOW TO TYPE. And don't make an excuse for why you're a special snowflake who doesn't need to.

By the way, when I discovered IRC big time (1996), it took my speed from 60wpm to 90wpm. Complete sentences, they're your friend.

My daughter is three and a half. She is already more skilled with the computers at nursery than the staff are. (Can get from the CBeebies games to watching Octonauts on the iPlayer in the blink of an eye!) I'm going to make sure she learns to type properly as soon as possible after she learns to read, dexterity allowing.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 05 September 2011 05:53:09PM 1 point [-]

I'm learning to touch type at the moment using some of the information on here.

Currently I am practising with the key board covered using the lessons here. Will post my results as I go on.

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 September 2011 08:02:34PM *  2 points [-]

The thing that really worked for me was that I was writing a fanzine at the time (1990), so had plenty of stuff I had to type. So I learnt all the keys, was at 20wpm which was slightly less than the 23-25wpm I could do two-fingered, and went ahead typing actual stuff I had to type properly with ten fingers.

tl;dr Have actual stuff to type, use your new skill.

Comment author: sfb 11 February 2011 04:42:43PM *  3 points [-]

If you are reading this and want some typing practise:


It's a "sharks are going to eat you, type the word on the side of them to kill them, get more, faster sharks and longer words as you progress" game.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 10 February 2011 04:55:57PM 12 points [-]

I've always been amused by the "magic feather" nature of my typing.

I don't touch type. I ask my brain about this, and it reports without hesitation that I don't touch type. Honest. Never have.

That said, I am perfectly capable of typing at a respectable clip without looking at the keyboard, with my fingers hovering more-or-less above the home row. I get screwy when I go after unusual punctuation keys or numbers, but when it comes to letters and commas and so forth, it works fine.

For several years, this only worked when I didn't notice it was working... that is, when I became sufficiently absorbed in what I was doing that I just typed. This became clear to me when a coworker commented "Oh, hey, I didn't know you could touch-type" and suddenly I couldn't.

It has become less fragile since then... I am typing this right now without looking at the keyboard, for example.

But my brain remains fairly certain that I don't touchtype.


Comment author: taryneast 08 March 2011 09:25:09PM *  2 points [-]

I learned only a little while ago that I don't type, I dance. Words are regular, common movements... maybe like the finger movements of an incantation. Kinda cool.

Comment author: D_Malik 10 February 2011 02:45:15PM 5 points [-]

Until about a year ago I couldn't touch-type either. I fixed it painlessly by removing my keyboard's keys and reinserting them in random positions.

This would only help you if you already know more-or-less where the keys are, but you're too lazy to go a bit further and type without looking at the keyboard. It works because looking at the keyboard no longer helps, and you have to keep your fingers on the home keys to keep your sense of where the keys are.

If you manage to memorize the new letter arrangement, just rerearrange.

Comment author: handoflixue 15 February 2011 09:45:28PM 5 points [-]

I find typing an entire sentence with my eyes closed is one of the best ways to develop good typing skills. It's really weird feeling myself correcting typos before I can svn see them. It also penalizes errors a lot more, and thus encourages a "get it right the first time" style of typing, instead of my usual "make mistakes and fix them" style.

(Typed the preceding paragraph blind. "svn" is a typo for "even", and I was only aware I screwed it up ^^)

It's also a fun "party trick" - I like to creep out co-workers by turning to listen to them and continuing to type :)

Comment author: David_Gerard 10 February 2011 06:43:16PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 09 February 2011 02:11:42PM 5 points [-]

They insist they're just as fast as they would be touch-typing (they're not)

One can get fast enough using intuitive typing that I would imagine that the main bottleneck would be the need to pause and think of what you're writing, not the speed of your fingers.

Although it's frustratingly slow, I seem to have the impression that writing by hand sometimes produces higher quality (unedited) text, because you have more time to think about what you're writing. Of course, because it still isn't good enough without the edits you can really only do with a word processor, overall it's still an inferior choice.

Comment author: lukstafi 12 February 2011 06:54:29PM 3 points [-]

Anyone who doesn't touch-type: If you don't need to type faster, don't learn to touch-type to type faster. Just learn it.

Comment author: mkehrt 13 February 2011 06:05:22AM 2 points [-]


Comment author: lukstafi 13 February 2011 09:44:27AM *  5 points [-]

To free your eyes so that they can "hold on to" and follow your ideas.

ETA: for this reason I also use texmacs instead of latex.

Comment author: David_Gerard 09 February 2011 03:55:31PM *  5 points [-]

Depends. If I could type as fast as I talk, I would write more and better.

(I write, speak and think pretty much identically. This is necessary to being a certain species of good writer.)

Typing "cat>>tmp.txt" gives me a terminal where I can only add lines, not remove them. This gets me writing a first draft brain-dump pretty efficiently - to the point where I plug in a larger keyboard, because this netbook keyboard is too slow. (Need a Model M.)

I've seen many authors say that writing in a medium where you can't go back and edit as you're writing gives better results, as you train your brain to get stuff right the first time. Also, typing a second draft completely afresh (rather than word-processing the first draft) gives good results. These are, of course, in the class of techniques for writers to try applying to see what works for them personally.

Back in the olden days, before this "web" rubbish, my friends and I would write multi-page first draft letters to each other, rambling on about whatever rubbish (generally indie music).

Comment author: Blueberry 09 February 2011 10:22:03AM 9 points [-]

They insist they're just as fast as they would be touch-typing (they're not)

I would estimate (based on my geeky friends I've seen at a keyboard) less than 20% of you can touch-type properly

This seems like dogmatic adherence to tradition. Is there actually evidence that the traditional method of touch typing, where each finger is assigned a keyboard column and returns to the "Home Row" after striking a key, is at all faster, more efficient, or ergonomically sound than just typing intuitively?

I ask because I type intuitively with ten fingers. I know where all the keys are, and I don't see the need to return each finger to the home row after every single keystroke, which seems inefficient. If I type a common sequence like "er" or "th," I do it with a single flick of the hand, not four separate ones.

Also, I cover a much larger portion of the keyboard with my right hand than my left, because it's stronger and more natural for me than assigning each finger the exact same amount of keyboard real estate.

Comment author: TabAtkins 09 March 2011 06:59:28AM 2 points [-]

<blockquote>If I type a common sequence like "er" or "th," I do it with a single flick of the hand, not four separate ones.</blockquote> Skilled touch typists certainly don't make four separate motions to type "er" or "th". Keyboards are specifically designed to accept multiple keys being pressed at the same time, because a skilled typist naturally presses the next key before they have finished the motion for the previous one. Nearly all keyboards will accept two simultaneous keypresses, with higher-quality ones accepting 3, 4, or arbitrary numbers of simultaneous keystrokes.

To be specific, typing "er" involves lifting my hand upwards, hitting "e" and "r" with my middle and pointer fingers in quick succession, and then dropping my hand back down. Typing "th" involves lifting my left hand at the same time as I shift my right hand slightly leftwards, and striking the "t" slightly before striking the "h" (though I often transpose the two actions and end up typing "hte" or "htat").

Comment author: TobyBartels 10 February 2011 09:49:23AM 1 point [-]

I ask because I type intuitively with ten fingers.

Then you're fine. Two-fingered typing is the curse that we must quash. (But I don't speak for David.)

Comment author: wedrifid 09 February 2011 10:35:09AM *  2 points [-]

If I type a common sequence like "er" or "th," I do it with a single flick of the hand, not four separate ones.

You do "th" with one hand? I suggest that is less efficient than coordinating two shorter moves by the respective nearest fingers. "rt", of course, is a hand flick. Perhaps my vim navigation has biased me. "h" totally belongs to my right trigger finger and moving my left middle finger all the way over to the 't' so that a left hand flick can pull of a 'th' rapidly sounds like far too far out of the way.

Comment author: SilasBarta 09 February 2011 04:23:32PM *  2 points [-]

Hm, I seem to be another exception and a new kind of exception.

I had a typing class (3rd grade) and used software for learning typing (Mavis Beacon on a Mac). Neither helped me to touch type, but I still learned to use all fingers when typing, and today I can do ~90 WPM -- although that's brain-to-typed letters; I go slower for transcribing a given text. I also use an ergonomic split keyboard that's much harder to use one-handed.

And the way that I learned was through gradual adjustment after needing to type a lot. Basically, I started out as a hunt/pecker (after trying Mavis and the classroom) and then made it a habit to, every once in a while, type a letter with a nearby finger instead of the forefinger. Over time, my hands moved less and less until they just settled on the method that is touch-typing, depending on what you count as T-T, since I have some quirks.

For example, I usually do capital letters with one hand (pinky on shift, one of the remaining other fingers for the letter) rather than using the opposite hand to shift.

And I actually prefer using the keyboard when possible: for a while I was on a quest to see how long I could go without using the mouse, even so far as to add and edit a firefox extension that let me browse the web with one hand on the keyboard. (I took one of the existing ones and changed it so it only used keys on the left side of the keyboard.)

Comment author: dlthomas 10 February 2011 05:31:54AM 3 points [-]

At an earlier job we moved buildings, breaking down and setting up our workspaces. I had been working away as usual for over a week thereafter before realizing I had neglected to actually plug in the mouse.

Comment author: MBlume 08 February 2011 09:30:57PM *  10 points [-]

Upvoting this did not seem adequate.

I would also like to tentatively suggest an optimized keyboard layout such as Dvorak or Colemak, since the inconvenience is minimal if you're starting from scratch, and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that they improve comfort and lessen RSIs in the long run, but if fretting about what layout to use causes you to procrastinate for even one day on learning to type already then you should forget I said anything.

Comment author: wisnij 09 February 2011 06:54:12PM 4 points [-]

There's a really interesting comparison of popular keyboard layouts and proposed optimizations here: http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/

The author uses dynamic programming to calculate the various costs involved with typing (like finger movement, distance from home row, etc) and uses that to generate better layouts via simulated annealing. I thought it was a nicely quantitative take on a subject that is usually so subjective.

Comment author: David_Gerard 08 February 2011 09:34:34PM *  11 points [-]

Getting people to learn to type will be, however :-D


Yeah, there's a reason i didn't mention Dvorak or whatever ;-) So as not to put another "thing to do first" in the way. I know in person nobody at all who actually uses Dvorak. I can't think of any Dvorak users amongst online friends I haven't seen typing. (Perhaps there are some and they've just never said anything.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 09 February 2011 05:54:05AM 16 points [-]

I use Dvorak. It's no faster and no more accurate, but it does tire out your fingers a whole lot less, and just typing one sentence in Dvorak will enable you to see why. I switched to Dvorak after a bout of RSI, and the RSI never came back.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 February 2011 06:26:22AM *  3 points [-]


Comment author: handoflixue 15 February 2011 09:59:56PM 2 points [-]

If you work someplace that allows you basic administrator privileges, or just has a friendly systems administrator, it isn't very difficult to change the keyboard layout in Windows. It can be set on a software level, or you could just bring a Dvorak keyboard in to work.

Unfortunately, half the jobs I've had wouldn't allow this, so it's not a guaranteed solution. And the software switch is only useful if you have a cover you can throw over the existing keyboard, or can touch-type sufficiently well.

Still, don't think being employed eliminates the Dvorak option. I looked in to it just recently to make sure that learning Dvorak wouldn't give me too much of a headache at work :)

Comment author: [deleted] 17 February 2011 03:13:57PM *  1 point [-]


Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 09 February 2011 12:10:16PM 5 points [-]

Colemak user here. It didn't magically improve my typing speed as I hoped, top speed is 70 wpm and used to be the same with qwerty. I'm pretty sure it's more ergonomic to type with than qwerty, and I do have some wrist problems, so I'm going to stick with it.

I don't think non-mainstream layouts are something people should feel obliged to adopt unless they are having wrist problems. Beyond the ergonomics, it's mostly a weird thing to learn for fun.

Didn't like Dvorak because it makes you type 'ls' with your right pinky, and I type 'ls' a lot on unixlike command line shells.

Comment author: MBlume 09 February 2011 06:43:16PM 1 point [-]

It occurs to me that 'l' is also 'move right' in vim. I think I find my rightmost three fingers hovering on the top row when I move about for this reason. Wonder if I should try to remap those movement keys...

Comment author: lightpurpledye 19 February 2011 01:45:22AM 2 points [-]

The vim movement keys actually work surprisingly well in Dvorak. Up/Down are next to each other on your left hand, right/left are on the appropriate sides of your right hand.

Comment author: Johnicholas 08 February 2011 10:49:39PM 15 points [-]

I do not have health insurance currently. I could obtain health insurance, but that's not my question.

How often is it appropriate to go to a doctor or general health person (in the US), if I think I'm mostly okay, and how much should I pay? How do I control how much I pay rather than setting up an appointment without mentioning price and allowing them to charge me? How do I find someone based on their skill/price rather than choosing randomly or following a recommendation from a friend?

Comment author: TobyBartels 10 February 2011 09:56:07AM 3 points [-]

When calling for prices, tell them that you have no insurance and offer to pay on the day of service (assuming that you can), then ask what kind of discount they can give you. Sometimes you won't even have to ask.

Comment author: qsoc 09 February 2011 05:16:42PM 4 points [-]

There are a couple of ways you can ballpark how much you should be paying. You can look up what Medicare pays here. To use that you'll need to know the appropriate CPT code(s), which is not easy. If you're a new patient just going for a check up, you probably want 9920[1-5]; for an established patient, you want 9921[1-5]. The range from 1 to 5 varies by how "complex" the medical decision making is and how comprehensive the examination is.

You can also go to a site like healthcarebluebook.com to look up the prices. I think their goal is to report what a private insurance company might pay, so the numbers are somewhat higher. It also gives some tips on how to negotiate the payment if you don't have insurance.

Comment author: SRStarin 09 February 2011 03:00:38PM *  2 points [-]

If you are under 50, I agree with the other comments that you don't really need to see a doctor regularly. I would want a baseline examination, though, to see if you have any tendencies toward bad cholesterol or blood sugar, so you can maintain a diet that will keep you healthy and able to continue skipping the doctor visits. I agree with MartinB that you should see the dentist at least once a year for a checkup and cleaning.

If you are approaching or over 50, you should really get a prostate exam every year or so. Prostate cancer is very common, relatively slow to progress, and very treatable if caught early on. Apparently (I just learned this in checking the web that I'm not giving you bad info) it is possible to do self-examinations, but combined with all the other things (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc) that have increasing probability with age, you should probably be seeing a doctor once a year anyway.

Whatever doctor you call, you can ask them what their fee is before making an appointment. You can also ask what their fees are for specific tests and procedures. Calling several doctors and asking the same questions (i.e. shopping around) is the only way I know of to find cheap doctors. As for skill, recommendations are the way to go. You may be able to find recommendations/reviews online.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 10 February 2011 12:01:03PM 2 points [-]

If you are male and under 30 you should see a doctor every so often to get blood work done--say every 3-5 years. This is to check your blood sugar (diabetes) and establish a cholesterol baseline. If you're a drinker also start tracking your liver enzymes.

From 30 to 40 every other year is OK, unless you want to watch something more closely. If you're heavily involved in shooting sports and/or reloading, or some other sport with exposure to heavy metals or toxic chemicals discuss this with your physician and get the appopriate tests.

After 40 you're really better off getting blood work done annually.

As you hit your mid-40s getting your A1C baselined and then checked every so often is a good idea.

But yes, if you're paying out of pocket call around and see who will give you the best deal.

Also you really SHOULD consider a class of insurance (if you can find it anymore, idiot politicians have priced it out of some markets) called "catastrophic health care insurance". This doesn't cover you if you want an HIV test, or blood work, it doesn't cover your breast enlargements or vasectomy, but if an uninsured drunk car thief knocks you off your bicycle it WILL cover the bills he won't pay.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 May 2012 10:38:53AM 5 points [-]

If you are male and under 30 you should see a doctor every so often to get blood work done--say every 3-5 years.

Pro tip: if you donate blood, they check it for free.

Comment author: MartinB 09 February 2011 05:40:52AM 7 points [-]

Off the top of my head:

Visit the dentist regularly, like once or twice a year for a checkup, or whenever a reason pops up. Problems with teeth should be taken care of ASAP, otherwise they grow big.

The normal doctor needs no regular visits. (For females the gynecologist might be useful regularly, for males there is no equivalent yet.) You should take care of vaccinations. Some like the flu are done annually, others in much rarer sequences like every 10 years. If special once are recommended in your region your doctor or some kind of health information center will know. If you have special reasons to do an occasional checkup you probably know about that already. Like: I am a vegetarian and have my blood levels checked every few years. If you are generally healthy no visits are necessary. For people above a certain age some general prescreenings are recommended. I dont have the numbers here, and they differ by country, but that generally only starts at 35 or more.

I don't bother my doctors with minor illnesses that go away on their own, like the cold. But sometimes do go there with seemingly minor stuff that does not go away on it's own.

As a preparatory measure you could find out where your next general doctor, and the next emergency room is and how to get there.

It probably pays to take care of oneself. After all we only have one body to run with.

No information on payment rates since I live in another place.

Comment author: Bo102010 09 February 2011 02:10:33AM 6 points [-]

I've got another one that's about to be relevant to me. What should you do in order to be an effective manager?

I am an engineer and will soon be "in charge" of another engineer. I have had a couple bosses with various good and bad qualities, and obviously I want to emulate the good qualities and avoid the bad ones.

Is there a good procedure to begin being an effective supervisor of technical people? There is a vast of array of books and websites on management, but I think there's a very low rationality quotient.

Comment author: MartinB 09 February 2011 10:07:10AM *  5 points [-]

Recommended reading: Peopleware, and The Mythical Man Month.

My managing experiences so far have been in the unpaid/voluntary field. But in general it seems to be

  • generally be fast and clear in responding to communication (read: email)
  • ability to stay calm in pressurized situations

Outside Interface:

  • make it possible for your people to do actually their work
  • get them the tools and environment needed
  • take care of systemic problems (Usually limited by your higher ups and corporate rules.)

Inside interface

  • Bubble each individuals work by taking care of deadlines, putting suitable people into projects, checking in at times if the work is getting done.
  • you can possibly get extra points if you adapt your managing to each person.
  • search for 'how to manage your boss' and look what would work best on the other end

Recommended skills

  • people skills
  • ridiculous high level of being organized
  • specifically: have efficient and few meetings

The talks from Merlin Mann: Who moved my brain? and possible the others might be of use.

If you can get a mentor with a similar background from yours.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 08 February 2011 04:33:02PM 29 points [-]

I wish I knew how to politely and nicely end conversations, either with friends, strangers, whatever.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 08 October 2012 09:08:54PM *  12 points [-]

There is also the somewhat related problem of how to transition from pleasantries and chit-chat to the real point of the conversation when someone calls you on the phone. Sometimes people can stay in this mode for several minutes, and it's hard to convey the message "So, why are you calling me?" in language that is socially acceptable. My solution--which I believe I borrowed from Randy Pausch--is to say, in a friendly tone of voice, "What can I do for you?"

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 09 February 2011 03:32:26AM 20 points [-]
Comment author: lionhearted 09 February 2011 11:09:52AM 4 points [-]

"I've got to head out soon, anything else going on?"

For more formal/professional occasions, "I've got to head out in about 10 minutes, anything else we need to cover?"

Comment author: DanielLC 09 February 2011 05:02:09AM 6 points [-]

Point behind them and say "Look, a three-headed monkey", then run away.

Comment author: KrisC 09 February 2011 03:46:15AM 4 points [-]

Make them laugh and walk away. The laughter distracts them long enough for you to get far enough away that you are not in conversational proximity. Even a chuckle is sufficient.

As an added bonus, people who are not introspective will often hold opinions based around the last emotion they experienced in your presence.

I don't think this method is polite, but it seems to work pretty well.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 09 February 2011 10:52:01AM 5 points [-]

How do you make people laugh?

Comment author: KrisC 10 February 2011 07:11:02AM 5 points [-]

Yeah, I walked into that question. Inducing laughter in general is too big a question to answer, but I will explain the technique.

As background reading, I would recommend Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Mostly because it validates my belief that humor is often cruel. Really it is great reading for any alienated smart person.

I tried to observed my actions today as I used humor to escape conversation, and I was conscious of using the technique five times. I have concluded that actual clever wordplay or other comedic art is not necessary. While I have gotten in trouble for not "speaking like a human" before, this conversational strategy seems surprisingly effective at work or office situations (US, east coast).

  • Do not attempt this technique in situations when you can not guess at the social hierarchy or on solemn occasions.
  • Be adequately certain that the dominant member of the group you are trying to escape from is not disagreeing with you.
  • Demonstrate through tracking eye movement, reactive micro-expression, and body stance that you are engaged in the conversation. Failing that, watch the mouth of the person speaking focusing on the formation of words and sounds.
  • Wait for a pause in speaking, lean forward and start to smile with the edge of your mouth and eyes.
  • Magic part: Any inane thing you say will be taken as a joke. It's the setup that triggers the response allowing the escape. If you don't want your listeners to think you a moron, say something sarcastic or hyperbolic about yourself, about the topic being discussed if it is innocuous, or about the task you are going to perform. Remember not to step on their memes and to respect their status hierarchies.
  • Walk away at a leisurely pace if you want. If they are laughing with you, you may want to stay.

Well, at least I tried to answer the question.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 10 February 2011 11:28:13AM 9 points [-]

Thanks. This reminds me of something I've found which works well in the short run. I admit I haven't checked for long term consequences.

It makes me crazy when people repeat themselves in short succession. If you listen, it's possible to discover that Waiting for Godot is more realistic than a lot of more interesting theater.

Hypothesis: People repeat themselves if they aren't sure they're being heard, or, oddly (and I've done this myself) if they're unsure of how what they're saying will be received.

Solution: Smile at the person and repeat back what they said. Your body language is "I was so interested I remembered what you were saying" not "I heard it already and I'm bored".

Observation: People stop repeating that particular thing. Yay!

However, they tend to seem a bit taken aback, though not hostile. I don't know to what extent they feel comforted and heard and possibly surprised because they weren't expecting that, and to what extent they've been embarrassed that their amount of repetition has been noted.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 February 2012 09:45:48AM *  2 points [-]

Hypothesis: People repeat themselves if they aren't sure they're being heard, or, oddly (and I've done this myself) if they're unsure of how what they're saying will be received.

I have worked hard to stop doing this. As a teen I'd often repeat something when it wouldn't provoke a response. This is silly. I now realize that 9 out of 10 times the other person heard you perfectly well, so repeating what one said is counterproductive.

Also I've figured out that I should be louder. Everyone knows that one person who nobody likes because ze is too loud, but being too quiet is low status.

Observation: People stop repeating that particular thing. Yay!

Awesome I've tried this and it totally works. Thank you!

Comment author: Plubbingworth 01 November 2012 12:17:17AM 1 point [-]

My word, I do it too, and I never realized!

I hated it when it was done to me in my youth, and I still hate it when it's done to me now. In fact, most repetitious and nagging patterns of speech make me shut up like a clam. I'm hardly as loquacious in person as I can be through text.

Except... I teach piano and guitar to children. And, in my teaching of habits of practice, I tend to repeat myself maybe a bit too much. I'm really trying to improve.

And also... hehe... I noticed myself introducing rationality techniques. ^_^; How to analyze and target your confusion and lack of understanding whilst reading new music that contain hitherto unseen musical notations or phrases. That's how I'm used to learning.

Comment author: nawitus 09 February 2011 01:48:30AM 5 points [-]

I stutter, and I've done it for as long as I can remember. Anyone know how to beat it? I feel this has pretty significant (negative) effects on my life, because I'm often afraid of speaking up in a group, as stuttering is extremely embarrassing.

Comment author: Desrtopa 10 February 2011 06:08:20AM *  2 points [-]

Most people with a stuttering problem are able to speak normally when speaking in unison with others. There are anti-stuttering devices based on this principle, which play the speaker's own words back into their ear as they say them, which eliminates or dramatically reduces stuttering symptoms in a majority of those afflicted, while worn. Unfortunately, their price tends to run in the range of thousands of dollars, and they have no carryover effects when removed.

Comment author: MartinB 09 February 2011 10:10:05AM 1 point [-]

I am curious how you manage the cash in your wallet. I usually withdraw a fixed sum whenever it is empty, and pay some items by card, some by money. But I usually do not remember how much I carry.

Some peers have a super tight wallet where they basically care next to no cash at all, while others always have a healthy sum on their hand. Is there a preferred way to do it?

Comment author: TabAtkins 09 March 2011 07:16:46AM 2 points [-]

I do a zero-based budget monthly, where I precisely account for every dollar coming in and going out. Some of the categories in my budget (anything I buy in person) are designated as "cash" - every paycheck I withdraw enough from the ATM to cover the next two weeks worth of cash categories. These are then distributed into envelopes per category.

All of this leads up to my answer: I carry around personal allowance (budgeted for!) in my wallet at all times, and extra cash pulled from the envelopes when I'm going to buy something that day.

(When I end up using my card for a cash expense, because I didn't anticipate needing to buy something that day, the cash goes into a separate "Return To Bank" envelope. The next time I would withdraw cash, I just take what's in that envelope first, and then withdraw only what I still need. In other words, using my card is merely a loan taken out against my next cash withdrawal.)