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December Monthly Bragging Thread

13 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 03 December 2013 02:46PM

As in Joshua Blaine's original description (below), but may be used to brag about things you've accomplished either this month (December) or the previous one (November), assuming that you haven't brought it up in any earlier Monthly Bragging Thread.

In an attempt to encourage more people to actually do awesome things (a la instrumental rationality), I am proposing a new monthly thread (can be changed to bi-weekly, should that be demanded). Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to comment on this thread explaining the most awesome thing you've done this month. You may be as blatantly proud of you self as you feel. You may unabashedly consider yourself the coolest freaking person ever because of that awesome thing you're dying to tell everyone about. This is the place to do just that.

Remember, however, that this isn't any kind of progress thread. Nor is it any kind of proposal thread.This thread is solely for people to talk about the awesomest thing they've done all month. not will do. not are working on.have already done. This is to cultivate an environment of object level productivity rather than meta-productivity methods.

So, what's the coolest thing you've done this month?

Comments (119)

Comment author: gwern 03 December 2013 08:47:57PM *  41 points [-]

Won a big bet, made more money off Bitcoin than I have ever earned normally, bet the world like a boss, did some neat statistics, finished transcribing a great novel, interviewed with Mike Power & the BBC, doxed a drug lord.

Comment author: ESRogs 04 December 2013 07:15:38PM 9 points [-]

Be honest Gwern, are you an upload?

Comment author: gwern 04 December 2013 08:27:24PM *  8 points [-]

:) It was just a good month - most of the entries are correlated: the fall of SR set off the spectacular rise in Bitcoin, the bet was based on unwarranted pessimism re the rise, the blackmarket turmoil made my expertise in blackmarkets of unusual interest to mainstream media, the turmoil prompted me to try to puncture unwarranted optimism by doing the public bet and also the survival analysis & DPR estimation, the Bitcoin rise also helped prompt the Sheep theft (which then unlocked the doxing)...

The only really uncorrelated parts are finally finishing Radiance (which was just a matter of time), and being contacted out of the blue with 2 new Zeo datasets.

Comment author: ESRogs 04 December 2013 08:38:58PM 8 points [-]

I follow you on G+. It's the unrelenting, what-I-did-this-month posts, every month, that I find so impressive.

Btw, I had a random thought the other day. I don't remember reading your thoughts on GiveWell, but I see that in the past you've done freelance research and writing for MIRI and others, and it seems to me that your brand of efficient research (esp. w/ your emphasis on statistical analysis) might be a good fit for some of GW's shallow investigations.

Not sure if you're looking for more work beyond all the projects you've already got going on, but I just wanted to pass that idea along, in case it might seem promising and hadn't occurred to you.

Comment author: gwern 06 December 2013 04:13:20AM *  2 points [-]

I follow you on G+. It's the unrelenting, what-I-did-this-month posts, every month, that I find so impressive.

Oh. Fair enough! I started the monthly posts as a trial run for seeing whether I could handle a monthly summary or not, before I tried starting up a mailing list. It seemed to go pretty well so I decided to open one up this December.

Btw, I had a random thought the other day. I don't remember reading your thoughts on GiveWell

I thought about it in the past, and was actually why I volunteered for them shortly. I never did write that up, did I? In any case, at the time I had no particular credentials for them or real statistical skills so it didn't go anywhere. Part of the problem was that they put an emphasis on their employees being physically present at their Chinatown, IIRC, offices in NYC. At the time I was not very near NYC, and I'm even further away now. And considering the idea at the present, Givewell seems to be moving away from statistical approaches. So... It's not a bad idea, but events seem to be conspiring to render it ever more remote an outcome.

Comment author: jkaufman 06 December 2013 03:36:52PM 0 points [-]

Minor: GiveWell is in SF now.

Comment author: gwern 06 December 2013 04:57:29PM 0 points [-]

Oh. That makes things even worse then. At least then and now I was on the right coast.

Comment author: James_Miller 04 December 2013 04:37:44PM 4 points [-]

doxed a drug lord.

Please consider writing a comprehensive post on this.

Comment author: Lumifer 04 December 2013 05:01:26PM 1 point [-]

Isn't that one of those "may be hazardous to your health" things?

Comment author: James_Miller 04 December 2013 06:21:04PM 1 point [-]

Given that he already admitted doing it, the marginal harm of providing more detail might not be that high.

Comment author: gwern 04 December 2013 11:03:22PM 4 points [-]

At this point, I'm more concerned with whether the doxing was correct. I regard it as a waste of time to write more on the topic until more information (like arrests) come in.

Comment author: David_Gerard 04 December 2013 01:12:38PM 2 points [-]

By the way, what you said about the Silk Road bust publicising that something like Silk Road was even possible? It's made it so far into mainstream awareness that it's a matter for humour on a completely mainstream parody news site.

Comment author: gwern 04 December 2013 03:29:08PM 2 points [-]

We'll know blackmarkets have really arrived when they show up on The Onion.

Comment author: Ishaan 04 December 2013 01:20:01AM *  0 points [-]

made more money off Bitcoin

Request for information - should I take this to mean you sold them for dollars?

(I'm asking because I have some btc which I had forgotten about until recently and am wondering if this is the correct time to trade for dollar, but I haven't done any research on the topic and wouldn't really know where to start.)

Comment author: James_Miller 04 December 2013 04:40:06PM 7 points [-]

If you owned zero Bitcoins would you buy some to speculate? If no then sell, otherwise you are falling victim to the endowment effect bias.

Comment author: maia 04 December 2013 07:09:06PM 4 points [-]

So if you answer no to that question, then you are biased. But it's not actually obvious which direction. What if non-Bitcoin-owning you is wrong, and you really should be buying it?

Also, if you have a lot of it, the extra Bitcoin might change your marginal value of money (because if you count the value of the BTC, you have more dollars than you otherwise would).

Comment author: gwern 04 December 2013 07:36:23PM *  3 points [-]

But it's not actually obvious which direction.

Yeah, but similarly, if you have 2 contradictory beliefs A & B, you don't know whether to reject A or reject B (or maybe reject the argument which claims their contradictory). It's like the saying, one man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens. What Miller's heuristic is useful for is revealing that you need to think and calculate more carefully on this topic.

Also, if you have a lot of it, the extra Bitcoin might change your marginal value of money

Yes, as Bitcoin appreciates, it would probably make more sense to rebalance your portfolio by selling off some bitcoins.

(Personally, I'm risk-seeking at this point, and I think most of the world still doesn't appreciate a lot of the value in Bitcoin. For example, the blackmarkets still have not universally incorporated basic Bitcoin functionality like multi-sig escrow, and they have huge incentives to do so! If the Bitcoin blackmarkets are so primitive, the rest of the world still has a long ways to go to catch up and buy into Bitcoin. And indeed, I just finished buying some more bitcoins, although at this point I'm starting to get uncomfortable holding so much, so I think I'm stopping where I am.)

Comment author: Lumifer 04 December 2013 07:49:19PM 2 points [-]

I think most of the world still doesn't appreciate a lot of the value in Bitcoin

While that may be true, the major downside risk is the governments putting their foot down. I treat that as "when", not "if".

Comment author: James_Miller 04 December 2013 07:34:57PM 2 points [-]

Correct, and I was implicitly ignoring income effects. Still, putting a lot of your assets in Bitcoins or any other exotic investment vehicle is ex-ante a HORRIBLE idea unless you have some special informational advantage.

Comment author: Ishaan 04 December 2013 07:47:30PM *  3 points [-]

Yup. I had termed it status quo bias, but endowment effect would also explain it.

I was talking it over with a friend, who suggested that what's really going on is that humans are more willing to gamble with fortuitous winnings than they are with purposeful investments (as in, you'll be more likely to gamble a dollar you found on the ground than one you earned)... and I actually think that this is the biggest contributor to the explanation.

Of course, holding liquid assets in dollars wasn't a deliberate decision either - it was just used by default. Even if I was completely risk averse, It's not like I've got evidence that dollars are the most safe asset.

If I was planning this deliberately - I'm still a dependent and don't really earn yet, so I haven't really researched this - I'd probably store liquid assets in an index fund or something.

The thing is, when I look at the big picture everything is so riddled with bias already. For example, when Bitcoin began I put a high certainty on the value increasing, but I didn't deliberately buy any. Before the recession, I put a high certainty on there being a recession before they put the temporary prohibition on shorting, but I didn't short anything. Yes, it's a good heuristic to not do anything (or more accurately, follow the majority) in scenarios when you are uncertain of your own competence...but my reason for not doing anything wasn't explicitly negotiated via that reasoning, it was simply an instinctive tendency to not activity do things. (Interestingly, in this scenario uncertainty about my competence doesn't imply inaction but action, since I'd have to deliberately buy USD.)

Edit: I'm reminded of this post... I think investing money in small amounts qualifies for "aliveness in training", although as the amounts get larger it's not training anymore. Perhaps we should encourage users who wish to practice in rationality to invest some liquid assets in something other than their native currency (unless they've deliberately chosen the native currency as the best place to store assets) to practice decision making?

Comment author: [deleted] 06 December 2013 05:54:08PM *  1 point [-]

I'd insert “think you should” before “buy” -- there's a large chance that if I didn't have any bitcoins at the moment I would be keeping on putting off buying some because of the inconvenience.

Comment author: gwern 04 December 2013 02:03:56AM *  2 points [-]

No, it's paper profits so far.

Comment author: scrafty 04 December 2013 02:08:48AM 1 point [-]

How risk-averse are you? But even if you aren't, I suspect that right now bitcoins aren't a great investment strictly in expected-value terms due to the high risk that they will decline in value by a lot. No one really knows what will happen, though.

Comment author: Ishaan 04 December 2013 02:56:39AM *  2 points [-]

I'm fairly risk averse in the sense that I wouldn't ordinarily feel confident enough in my knowledge to play on speculative markets...I just happen to possess BTC because someone liked something I wrote and kindly tipped me in BTC a couple years ago. I'd forgotten about it for a while, and today realized that it's worth 20x more than it was originally.

So basically my inaction caused me to inadvertently made a good investment. And even though I wouldn't ordinarily have tried investing in BTC, now that the decision to invest has essentially been made for me I curiously haven't immediately decided to convert to dollars.

Status quo bias is interesting - I'm tempted just to keep it and watch what happens...so far it's still rising. I guess the amount on the line isn't actually large enough for loss aversion fear to kick in .

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 03 December 2013 02:47:59PM *  21 points [-]

Major life progress from November:

1) I feel like I've brought my social media addiction under control. I might still spend the whole day on Facebook, but now it's mostly because I choose to: I haven't lost a day to the site against my will for a while anymore.

I achieved this by following the advice in The Power of Habit and changed my routine while keeping the reward same. Namely, whenever I get an urge to go on FB when I shouldn't, I check my notifications via the slow GPRS/Edge connection in my phone. The slowness combined with the tedium of typing on a phone keyboard makes the experience much less rewarding, and easier to pull out of. (I just hope that I won't be forced to upgrade to a real smartphone at some point.)

2) Shifted my diet in a much more vegan direction by finally eliminating the cheese pizzas from it and generally making an effort to stop buying foodstuffs containing animal products. I thought this would be considerably harder, but it turns out that the shift from a meat-eater to mostly vegetarian was MUCH more difficult than the shift from mostly vegetarian to mostly vegan, at least for me.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 03 December 2013 07:52:02PM 19 points [-]

I got a new job with pay in the low six figures, starting January.

I wrote roughly 10k words of fiction.

I completed the first draft of the paper describing the internal workings of my parallel fitting engine.

I made a quick prototype of an idea I had for a wargame, to see if it would be interesting. Downloadable here; known to work on Windows 7, not known to work on any other operating system. Feedback welcome. Please note: This is the minimal possible game, intended only as a quick-and-dirty test of concept. It is minimal to the point that it just kicks you out when you win.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 14 December 2013 07:24:43PM 0 points [-]

Congrats! Can you post a link to the fiction?

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 15 December 2013 05:27:21PM *  0 points [-]

About half only exists on my hard drive, being part of a large work in progress; but you can have a look at this thread. The November writings are specifically "African Campaign" through "Geopolitics 1742".

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 04 December 2013 02:53:26PM 17 points [-]

I realized that if I felt a strong impulse to begin a conversation with "I don't want to pick a fight", this meant I did want to pick a fight, so I put off the conversation, which went well later.

Comment author: mindspillage 06 December 2013 06:22:46AM 16 points [-]

I co-drafted the new version of the Creative Commons licenses which has been released at long, long last.

I've taken up gymnastics classes after a break of about 20 years. Have managed to get a back walkover without killing myself. (Still working on the back handspring I was terrible at as a child.)

Comment author: djm 04 December 2013 12:32:53AM *  15 points [-]

I am making real progress to become more mathematically proficient, and working towards the long term goal to be able to do effective research in Friendly AI http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/g9l/course_recommendations_for_friendliness/

Completed the following courses Calculus 1 [https://www.coursera.org/course/calc1] Calculus 2 [https://www.coursera.org/course/sequence] General Game Playing [https://www.coursera.org/course/ggp] Metadata [https://www.coursera.org/course/metadata]

Comment author: djm 04 December 2013 12:36:55AM 9 points [-]

and next month I hope to learn how to post with correct formatting on Lesswrong...

Comment author: Vaniver 04 December 2013 04:32:21AM 3 points [-]

There's a button to the bottom right of the comment box that says "Show help." It'll show you most of what you need to know, and the rest can be found at the links there.

Comment author: gjm 04 December 2013 12:01:00PM 3 points [-]

... but here's the summary of the main things you probably need to know: (1) links are text in square brackets immediately followed by URL in parentheses, (2) bulleted lists have stars at the start of each line and need a blank line before them.

Comment author: jkaufman 04 December 2013 06:50:20PM 14 points [-]

Designed a new musical instrument and played it live at two dances.

Comment author: Benito 06 December 2013 06:30:30AM 12 points [-]

Gave my first ever public talk. It was an hour long, to a it thirty teenagers, at Liverpool University (I'm 16, btw).

I started from randomly selecting cards in a deck and got all the way to proving Bayes' Theorem and talking about its implications.

Whilst wearing my Bayesian Conspiracy t-shirt.

Comment author: JQuinton 05 December 2013 06:05:27AM 12 points [-]

My blog was listed as "optional reading" on the syllabus for a course on critical thinking in Hong Kong.

Comment author: djm 05 December 2013 08:30:29AM 4 points [-]

can you post a link to your blog? I'd be interested in having a read.

Comment author: JQuinton 06 December 2013 03:53:02AM 1 point [-]

http://deusdiapente.wordpress.com

It's mainly about religion: the history of religion, what people believe, and why... from a rationalist perspective

Comment author: benkuhn 05 December 2013 05:12:03AM 12 points [-]
  • organized a talk by Peter Singer that exposed 300+ Harvard students to effective altruism
  • organized an effective altruist group on campus to the point where fifteen of us are running fundraiser for GiveWell's top charities (compared to 2-3 people hanging around and talking last semester)
  • wrote a fairly well-received post here
  • successfully applied for a number of internships in order to get more information about job prospects in finance
  • wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 words of blog/essays/math
Comment author: komponisto 03 December 2013 05:43:29PM 12 points [-]

In mid-November, I translated a 15,000-word contract from German to English in a week. It was my largest paid translation job and my first translation from German; previously I had translated documents from French and Italian, languages in which I am significantly more experienced. I didn't consider myself particularly qualified to translate German (though I had been planning to add it to my repertory eventually), and it seems to have been assigned to me through some sort of oversight. Nevertheless, I did it successfully, which increased my sense of what kinds of things I am able to do.

Comment author: Metus 03 December 2013 08:27:12PM 5 points [-]

Say I would be willing to translate stuff from German and English for some extra money as a college student, where would I be looking for something like that?

Comment author: komponisto 05 December 2013 03:09:03AM 2 points [-]

Try oDesk.

Comment author: James_Miller 03 December 2013 05:32:40PM 12 points [-]

I fill my bathtub with cold water, add 40 pounds of ice, and stay in until the ice melts. (Don't try this yourself until you have built up cold resistance by first taking cold showers, then cold water baths, and then cold baths with a little bit of ice.)

As I age the winters are becoming less pleasant and this is in part an attempt to alter my winter set point happiness.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 December 2013 06:01:11PM *  4 points [-]

How well is it working to increase your cold tolerance?

Comment author: James_Miller 03 December 2013 06:20:31PM 9 points [-]

It's certainly working with regards to my ability to tolerate cold baths and showers. It's too early to tell how it has influenced my mood towards the winter.

Comment author: pianoforte611 07 December 2013 05:04:31AM *  0 points [-]

Does it make you feel less cold in general? I'm considering doing cold showers, but I'd like to know if the discomfort is worth it.

Comment author: luminosity 08 December 2013 01:02:57AM 1 point [-]

Purely anecdotal, but since I started taking cold showers, ~20 degrees C has gone from being switch to warm clothing territory, to fine in a t-shirt instead.

Comment author: James_Miller 07 December 2013 07:39:01PM 1 point [-]

I think so, but it's hard to be sure in part because the winter hasn't yet brought really cold temperatures to my area.

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 04 December 2013 07:32:31PM 3 points [-]

You're not alone with the cold water fascination, ice hole swimming is a thing in Finland.

Besides increasing cold tolerance, there's anecdata that cold showers can help you fall asleep if taken in the evening (lower body temperature is a sleep onset trigger), and that they can help with depression.

Comment author: CoffeeStain 08 December 2013 07:40:05AM *  2 points [-]

They can help with depression.

I've personally tried this and can report truth, but will caveat that the expectation that I will force myself into a morning cold shower often causes oversleeping, which rather exacerbates depression.

Comment author: Lumifer 04 December 2013 06:02:44AM *  3 points [-]

Hmm... An interesting paper on the effect of cold exposure on lipid profiles and CVD consequences. Mostly on mice, but they took a look at a few humans, too.

As the paper notes, "We should emphasize that it was notoriously difficult to conduct the cold-exposure experiment in human subjects, and the majority of requested individuals were unwilling to collaborate on this project" :-D

Comment author: James_Miller 04 December 2013 01:47:08PM 3 points [-]

Excellent, this gives me another comparative advantage. I wonder how much I can get paid for taking ice baths for science.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 04 December 2013 02:32:46PM 2 points [-]

Wim Hof makes money doing extreme endurance, mostly related to cold.

He believes that some moderate cold training is good for people because changes of temperature make the blood vessels more flexible, though he pursues extreme endurance because he's fascinated by it..

Comment author: Ishaan 06 December 2013 10:17:38PM 1 point [-]

You'd be introducing an extremely specific self selection bias into the experiment, and likely not one that the researchers would be expecting to have to deal with ;)

Comment author: hyporational 04 December 2013 03:34:57AM *  2 points [-]

I wonder if this partly works by increasing brown adipose tissue, or if it's just autonomic acclimatization, or just your increasing ability to tolerate discomfort for that matter.

Wouldn't dressing more warmly work just as well for your purposes?

Comment author: James_Miller 04 December 2013 05:22:05AM 0 points [-]

Even dressed warmly I still dislike the cold.

Comment author: Lumifer 03 December 2013 05:58:41PM 2 points [-]

An interesting experiment. The Seasonal Affective Disorder is usually tied to the amount of sunlight, not to temperatures. But exposure to cold should rev up your metabolism noticeably.

I do somewhat similar things, but I alternate between hot and cold. The ideal situation is a sauna on the shore of an almost-frozen lake, but that's not always easy to arrange :-)

Comment author: hyporational 04 December 2013 03:32:10AM 0 points [-]

That's a narrow ideal you've set. Make a hole in the ice, or bathe in the snow.

Comment author: Lumifer 04 December 2013 04:46:39AM 2 points [-]

Oh, I do roll in the snow. Again, when available...

Comment author: knb 04 December 2013 03:23:18AM 1 point [-]

There are anecdotes floating around the bodybuilding community that ice baths can work really well for promoting fat loss.

Comment author: David_Gerard 04 December 2013 03:07:33PM *  1 point [-]

Tim Ferriss goes on about this in Four Hour Body. Cold showers every morning and evening.

Comment author: ephion 03 December 2013 06:00:27PM 1 point [-]

That is pretty brutal! I know a lot of athletes do cold or contrast baths (ie cold, hot, cold, etc.) to aid in recovering from intense workouts. It wouldn't surprise me if this had other benefits than just temperature acclimation.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 04 December 2013 12:27:04AM 11 points [-]

Work: I've written several texts on less wrong, in particular one about effective altruism under such extreme flow, that 6 hours elapsed before I checked the time.

Love life: I've had three romantic encounters with three beautiful and magnificent human beings, full of magnetism, balance, and sexual energy.

Bureocracy: I can't overstate how proud I am that I have already managed to subscribe to two scholarships and UC Berkeley, and if I keep the current rate, it looks like I'll actually not fail miserably in subscribing to the 10+things I need to. I have been known to lose hundreds of opportunities because I can`t go through forms. So this is the major Winner.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 05 December 2013 05:59:01PM 0 points [-]

Interestingly enough, apprears I am procrastinating right now reading this thread again, and the mere reading of how I was going well with the bureocracy made me decide to leave LW now and go back to what I should be doing.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 07 December 2013 04:59:57PM 1 point [-]

And Lo and behold, I succeded! this is the final one for a while: Stanford University - Main Graduate Admissions Activity for Diego Caleiro Success! Your form has been successfully submitted... Please read, print and bookmark this important page.

Comment author: Baughn 03 December 2013 02:55:32PM *  11 points [-]

November was NaNoWriMo.

I didn't officially participate, but I nonetheless wrote about 20,000 words, same as the last few months - if I can keep that up, I should be a competent writer in about five years. Yay!

Comment author: Skeptityke 05 December 2013 05:25:26AM 10 points [-]

First thing that comes to mind that I just did tonight...I stumbled across a probability "paradox", noticed that it had an infinity in it, got suspicious, expressed it in a form with finite population size, and took the limit as the population size went to infinity, and what do you know... the paradox vanished in a puff of canceling fractions.

Comment author: sakranut 04 December 2013 07:16:55AM 10 points [-]

Composed my first substantially original melody, a setting of a medieval Hebrew poem. I'm proud because I've usefully applied principles of music theory I learned last spring.

Comment author: chaosmage 04 December 2013 04:04:05PM 1 point [-]

Cool. Is it online?

Comment author: JQuinton 05 December 2013 06:01:12AM 0 points [-]

Yes, I'd like to hear it!

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 03 December 2013 08:13:51PM 10 points [-]

Completed 4 more courses on Udacity. That's one per week!

Comment author: David_Gerard 03 December 2013 07:20:39PM *  23 points [-]

I've added sufficient value to Wikimedia to be flown over (as a volunteer) to help with the interviews for the next Chief Communications Officer, i.e. press person. (Since I've been the leading volunteer press person for Wikipedia since 2005.) I'm moderately proud of this. Assuming your border personnel let me into your wonderful country at all, of course ...

I'm also running for the English Wikipedia Arbitration Committee. (Questions, how I voted.) We'll see how awesomely that works out. It's a shitty, shitty volunteer job, but I feel that sucking force one feels in a volunteer organisation when a competence-shaped hole opens up. I'm going in as the "set it all on fucking fire" candidate, but I've actually done this job before and know very well I could do this shitty job for two years and do it well ... even though the most tediously awful part of the job is dealing with fellow arbitrators. Ah, battles for insanely low stakes.

Update: Visit was fun. Didn't get on arbcom, feel fine about that (though admittedly not very awesome from it).

Comment author: mindspillage 06 December 2013 05:24:42AM 4 points [-]

I am laughing at this being in the brag thread when I might brag about being smart enough never to run for the committee again, and looking forward to meeting you in person--I turn up at the WMF office on my work from home days.

Comment author: David_Gerard 06 December 2013 06:03:03PM *  2 points [-]

Considering that you quit the arbcom because you'd joined the Wikimedia board of trustees and ended up chairing the Foundation ... I'm pretty sure I'm avoiding emulating that model!

I have no idea what schedule they're running me through, but give 'em a ping ...

Comment author: mindspillage 06 December 2013 08:54:39PM 3 points [-]

Yes, well, I said I was smart enough to leave the Committee, not that I was smart enough to turn down other jobs. :-)

Comment author: AndekN 10 December 2013 11:51:34AM *  8 points [-]

I had my first book published. It's a textbook for upper elementary school, and I'm reasonably confident it is the only such textbook in the world that includes

  • an explanation of the planning fallacy

  • a description of confirmation bias and survivor bias

  • a sub-section titled "What do you think you know and why do you think you know it?".

Comment author: [deleted] 11 December 2013 01:46:20AM 3 points [-]

Title and link to buy?

Comment author: AndekN 11 December 2013 12:44:18PM 1 point [-]

Unfortunately it's written in Finnish.

Comment author: gjm 11 December 2013 01:47:41PM 6 points [-]

I understand that even books written in Finnish not infrequently have titles and are available for purchase.

Comment author: AndekN 11 December 2013 08:16:02PM *  2 points [-]

Sometimes, yes.

Well, if you're still interested: the book is called "Opastin" and here's a link to buy it. I don't believe they ship outside Finland, though.

Comment author: WalterL 04 December 2013 05:09:38PM 8 points [-]

I've gotten my sleep cycle under control by forcing myself to go to bed earlier. (Bought a second alarm clock. One means wake up, the other means go to sleep).

I've kept off the weight I lost last month (but not, alas, lost any more).

I've written ~80% of a manuscript, (for NaNoWriMo), and I intend to finish it by Christmas.

I did well on my performance review at work.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 05 December 2013 08:59:54PM 0 points [-]

to keep sleeping when the sleep alarm sounds, and not forget to do it, stand if you are finishing something. you wont forget you are standing, specially in a computer.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 December 2013 04:15:57PM *  8 points [-]

Comment author: Metus 03 December 2013 08:30:13PM 8 points [-]

I started doing yoga. Meditate every evening after writing in my diary. Take a melatonin and some fish oil to sleep like a baby. In the morning I take D3 and some fish oil. Also I force myself to eat much more vegetables.

Maybe I am not more productive but I am most certainly happier.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 December 2013 03:01:06AM 19 points [-]

Got a super awesome new job with Beeminder, and will be moving to Portland in a month. Got rid of so much clothing in preparation for move. Continuing to get rid of things that I don't consider worth moving.

New hobby, making earrings, has been fun and rewarding, and I get pretty earrings out of it. Also, learned to make cake pops, and working on a braid rug.

Held a mega-meetup in Columbus that went off well. Handed off the running of Columbus Rationality, and it's proven to be self-sustaining.

Medical All Things- Got put on allergy shots (did the "rush immunotherapy" where they give you the first six months worth of shots over the course of a single day). Dentisted the cavities.

Comment author: lukeprog 18 December 2013 10:05:27PM 6 points [-]

Published a paper in Think, and got a paper officially accepted for publication in Communications of the ACM. Now I just need to sit down and write a review article on debiasing or something so I can have peer-reviewed work in philosophy, psychology, and computer science... without bothering to get a Bachelor's degree first.

Comment author: Ishaan 04 December 2013 02:46:43AM *  14 points [-]

I learned PHP, Javascript, HTML, and wrote my first program since AP comp sci back in high school. It's also the first program which I wrote for an actual reason, rather than for the sake of learning to program in a class setting.

Comment author: Error 04 December 2013 08:49:57PM 5 points [-]

I wrote about 17,000 words worth of fanfiction for NaNoWriMo, with a bit of help from Beeminder.

Comment author: ephion 03 December 2013 04:21:25PM 18 points [-]

Last month, I entered my second powerlifting competition, where I squatted 358lbs (while my calves and quads were cramping, NO FUN), bench pressed 264lbs, and deadlifted 407lbs. Mediocre numbers for my bodyweight, but personal records all the same.

I also conquered an existential crisis and have made big plans to change my life around for the better (moving career from IT to computer science). I've begun working on habits and skills that will help in that transition.

I've also started organizing a local polyamory meetup group.

Comment author: Laoch 04 December 2013 08:39:26AM *  3 points [-]

You yanks need to use the metric system already!

Edit: 358lbs = 162kilograms (Was this a front of back squat?) 264lbs = 119kilograms 407lbs = 184kilograms

For those who don't lift that's extreme impressive strength.

Comment author: Laoch 04 December 2013 02:17:10PM 1 point [-]

-2 points for suggesting the metric system or the conversions?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 04 December 2013 02:26:35PM 1 point [-]

I've given you a point for suggesting the conversions, but it's possible you were downvoted for snarking.

Comment author: Laoch 04 December 2013 02:46:41PM 0 points [-]

Thanks. It most likely the snarking. I wish I could have bragged about converting someone to the metric system though.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 14 December 2013 07:26:01PM 0 points [-]

I share your frustration with imperial units, but theres a technical solution

Comment author: ephion 04 December 2013 02:25:43PM 0 points [-]

I try to use US units on US-centric forums. The actual numbers were 162.5kg (back) squat, 120kg bench press, and 185kg deadlift.

I was about the third weakest person in my weight class. Powerlifters are strong.

Comment author: falenas108 04 December 2013 05:01:16AM 11 points [-]

Organized a medium sized event all by myself, including contacting a stranger, getting money to bring him in, and then planning all the details of the event!

I spin fire, and I had my first spinning experience where I enjoyed myself the whole time, instead of mostly being nervous about it. Not coincidentally, it's also probably my best performance.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 14 December 2013 07:22:18PM 4 points [-]

I have a "real job" for the first time, my mental health is better than its been before, despite occasional problems with th ejob stress due to combination of medication, cbt techniques and therapy.

Comment author: JentryJones 15 December 2013 02:18:15PM 0 points [-]

Keep up the pace, my friend. Self-improvement is virtuous.

Comment author: Michelle_Z 14 December 2013 07:16:53PM 4 points [-]

I raised money for AMF by running a fundraiser at my school.

Comment author: CellBioGuy 06 December 2013 01:07:57AM *  4 points [-]

Figured out Matlab well enough (with massive help from a labmate in the physics program) to write some scripts that automate my low-level data analysis for work that previously took 3+ hours into 5 minutes of carefully selecting parameters and 2 seconds of processing.

Comment author: Dan_Moore 04 December 2013 05:31:18PM 4 points [-]

I answered my own question on Math Stack Exchange, and thus avoided a pocket veto, wherein a question gets deleted if it has a negative vote total and no answer after 30 days.

Comment author: phaed 31 December 2013 03:25:40PM *  2 points [-]

Aced all my classes in my first quarter at Stanford, took up blogging (again!) and used (social) pre-commitment techniques to stick with it, finished a timeboxing analysis and found some interesting patterns in how I manage my time, started deliberately tracking short- and long-term goals and established systems with which to track these resolutions, and began a segmented sleep experiment (and will continue for a week or more based on how things go).

Comment author: Bill_McGrath 16 December 2013 12:04:16PM 2 points [-]

Last month, I visited a school of dance with a number of other composers from my university, to meet students there and explore possible future collaborations. I had misunderstood how the meeting would take place, and so I only realised I'd have to give an informal presentation about my music when I was already at the train station.

I'm an okay public speaker but nervous about presenting on my music, but the hastily-improvised presentation went really well, I got a great response from the dancers, and met several people who expressed an interest in working with me in the future.

I'm feeling more confident about my presentation skills, my ability to communicate about my music, and my music itself as a result.

Comment author: EvilBarrels 10 December 2013 12:43:00AM 2 points [-]

I taught my mum how to make a Gmail account. Trust me, it's harder than you think.

Comment author: chaosmage 04 December 2013 11:35:40AM 1 point [-]

I put online a video that is a "spiritual atheist" ritual/meditation that very reliably gives people deep experiences entirely free of superstition, by using techniques of mindfulness meditation and NLP.

It also obeys a stricter set of formal rules than almost anything of its length ever published in the English language: strict common meter, double rhymes, no first or second person singular (so it can be spoken in unison, ceremonially) and strictly facts-only with only the slightest use of metaphor.

I've released it into the public domain, and it is the first of seven of its kind: the Seven Secular Sermons.

Please see it, upvote it, send the link, react to it, remix it etc.

Comment author: drethelin 06 December 2013 01:31:30AM *  3 points [-]

consider hiring a voice actor who does not sound so unbearably smug.

Edit- I think this is the primary reason Katydee was so offput by the video.

Comment author: chaosmage 06 December 2013 09:41:37AM *  2 points [-]

It this point, any native speaker of English would probably be an improvement!

My hope to find such, or even trained voice actors, to speak the text is part of the reason I put it into the public domain. If you, or anyone, would like to do a better performance, please go ahead and outclass me.

I will find (a) trained voice actor(s) for it eventually. But since this project has barely started (I have six more Sermons to write), I'm not in a hurry about that.

Comment author: 9eB1 06 December 2013 10:34:01AM 2 points [-]

I have meditated every day for a couple years, so I was curious to try meditating to this. I found it less effective than my typical meditation in silence (well, usually with white/brown noise), though I admit I haven't tried much guided meditation which would be a more natural comparison. I didn't have any deep experiences.

Some general reactions:

  • The structure of the rhyming was reminiscent of Dr. Suess, which I found to be a somewhat odd choice. Somehow I found it a little discordant with meditation. I couldn't quite "groove on it" if you know what I mean, because either the rhyme scheme was too regular (or being forced too hard), or because the meter wasn't quite regular enough perhaps. It's hard to compare against an imaginary benchmark. I get the impression that if someone soothingly spoke the lyrics of Lose Yourself by Eminem I would find the rhyming and meter more amenable to meditation due to irregularities (unfair to compare it against one of the greatest works of lyrical skill, I understand).

  • I wasn't so negatively disposed towards the narrator's voice as other people. I actually kind of enjoyed it, notwithstanding the portions which were whispered or overly excited. I had my eyes closed the entire time, and flipping around through the video afterwards I could see how one could describe the voice and expression as smug together. The accent lent it sort of an air of old-world authority.

  • The background noises (cars, dogs, etc.) I found to be distracting at times, although at other times I kind of liked it when it wasn't too punctuated.

  • I found the concepts being described to be discordant with mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness tends to make the direct sensory processes more salient, while most of what was being described were things that one can't even visualize, like hydrogen being turned into helium in the center of stars. I'm not sure whether this comes down to a matter of taste, or whether I don't understand the purpose of the ritual/meditation. It felt like it was, perhaps, "trying a bit too hard," by which I mean forcing common interests of the sort of people who browse Less Wrong into domains in which it isn't a natural fit. I think I am probably less enamored by the fact that we are all supernova dust clinging to a pale blue dot floating in the endless void than the average Less Wrong user though, perhaps (I don't really mean this pejoratively, I mean, it's amazing and all).

So, all in all, interesting but didn't really do much for me vis a vis meditation. It may be highly effective in some sort of ritual / chant context, I don't know enough to make accurate judgments on such things.

I can see where you are going with the "stricter set of formal rules" thing, but I think I disagree on the grounds that the strictness of a set of rules should be determined by how constraining they are, and some of the rules that you describe are not terribly constraining, such as requiring only the use of facts and the lack of first person singular.

Comment author: drethelin 06 December 2013 01:33:26AM 2 points [-]

Separate point: please give citations or descriptions for the techniques you used and why you expect them to work. Also please provide evidence for your claim that it reliably gives people deep experiences.

Comment author: chaosmage 06 December 2013 10:30:31AM 3 points [-]

Before I put the text online, I've spoken this text to about 80 people - mostly in groups, but also individually. Most were friends, so universally positive feedback wasn't surprising. But some cried, and many more had tears in their eyes. Several have used copies of the text to speak it to friends, and reported back that they got very positive feedback too. And perhaps most importantly, almost everybody I've met again after reading the Sermon to them has spontaneously reported that it resonated with them and they've been thinking about it since, been more awestruck by the sight of the night sky etc.

I should say this mostly wasn't your familiar atheist Sagan-savvy crowd and many of the thoughts I used were actually new to them. I expect less intense responses from people who already know about stellar nucleosynthesis etc. Also the personal (especially one-on-one) delivery is surely more intense than doing it via a YouTube video.

Among the techniques I used, I believe the repeated use of "here" and "now" is the most important, because that is what makes the story feel real and personal. From mindfulness, I stole observation of the body as a technique for getting people into the present moment. For the language to be hypnotically suggestive, it needed to be an unbroken story (no sudden jumps between topics), contain no surprising assertions that break suspension of disbelief and use sensory modalities that dominate mental processing for most people (i.e. no smell or taste). And what the text does is that it reframes the listener's identity, while getting around ego boundaries by avoiding the first and second person singular and using the first person plural exclusively.

If this reply does not satisfy you, please pose more specific questions.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 December 2013 09:19:49PM 0 points [-]

I was expecting it to return to more specific sensory experience at the end. I'm not sure whether that would have been an improvement, but I think it's something I would have liked.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 04 December 2013 02:52:09PM 2 points [-]

Very relaxing and cheering.

Comment author: katydee 04 December 2013 07:08:27PM 2 points [-]

Is this a joke?

Comment author: katydee 06 December 2013 01:12:21AM *  20 points [-]

OK, I guess people want a more substantive reply, so here goes. Sorry for the initial post, which must have came off as insulting, but I sincerely believed that this was a troll.

A few days ago, I described a post as "almost the epitome of what I don't want to see on LessWrong." This post, on the other hand, is the epitome of what I don't want to see on LessWrong.

It makes weird and unproven claims ("very reliably gives people deep experiences," NLP, etc.), generally takes itself way too seriously ("stricter set of formal rules than almost anything of its length ever published," "Seven Secular Sermons"), and exists entirely to plug something that I think is generally poor quality.

I did not have a "deep experience" on viewing this video. I had much the reverse-- I cringed and closed the window before watching the entire thing, because I considered it generally creepy and in poor taste.

I don't want content like this associated with LessWrong. I think it is completely embarrassing, and I say this as someone who plans on attending Solstice events. Your username doesn't help either, though I know that certainly one's username does not necessarily reflect their true personality, etc. etc.

But my least favorite part of this post is the fact that, on seeing it, I knew it was going to be upvoted significantly, simply because it was on the "right side." And that's a really bad omen for LessWrong as a whole. There shouldn't be sides or positions that LessWrong favors thanks to external factors-- there really shouldn't!

That is why I thought your post was a joke-- I thought you were trying to make fun of the LW community's support of certain kinds of content without any real eye for merit. I apologize for that presumption and any insult it or the above remarks may have caused, but I consider this an important issue for LessWrong as a whole-- too important for me to mince my words.

Comment author: chaosmage 06 December 2013 11:20:54AM *  8 points [-]

Thanks for not mincing your words!

I'm not surprised that after having a negative reaction before you even clicked the video, you did not have a deep experience. Maybe I should have substantiated my claims, as I now did in my reply to drethelin.

You are right that I do take this quite seriously, for two reasons that will only make sense for someone willing to take poetry seriously at all. First, this project is about raising the sanity waterline by replacing religion. All big religions have didactic poetry, so it might be an important component that any post-religion should feature! The last time atheism got something like this was Lucretius' De rerum natura, which is 2000 years old, doesn't rhyme and still had an impact that is hard to overstate. Second, nobody has done strict meter double rhymes for more than a few stanzas because it is really hard. (Please give counterexamples if you can. The ones people have named so far - John Donne, GK Chesterton, David Rakoff - all used laxer rules or wrote much shorter pieces) This kind of writing is essentially a prolonged search among hundreds of possible formulations of each stanza to find one that doesn't violate any of the rules. This was a lot of work, and this is what makes it unique.

I don't expect you to take this seriously, I'm merely explaining why I do. This is essentially an art project, and art isn't what LW is about or should be about. But this is the bragging thread, where achievements that LW isn't about may be celebrated, so that's what I do.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 06 December 2013 03:29:06PM 2 points [-]

Upvoted because this is the bragging thread.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 December 2013 09:17:51PM 1 point [-]

I had a good experience, but not an astonishingly deep one.

Who knows whether it obeys a stricter set of formal rules than almost anything of its length ever published in the English language? That's a vague claim (it's hard to judge how strict rules are) and impossible to check.

Comment author: katydee 06 December 2013 06:43:43PM 0 points [-]

Fair points, I've upvoted this comment.