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Want to be on TV?

7 calcsam 26 March 2013 11:00PM

We received the following email, so figured I'd pass it along here. You can say you heard about it from Sam Bhagwat at Blueseed.

Could be free publicity (alert startupers!), but I make no claims as to quality or anything else.


Subject: Improving the Portrayal of Nerds on TV

I came across your website while searching for math/science/tech-related groups and wanted to reach out to you. I'm currently casting a TV series about "the real life of nerds" for a major network. The network's initial casting idea was to find awkward+intelligent people with no social lives and to do the typical "reality TV thing" by engineering drama and conflict between them. My company ended up with the casting contract, so I'm trying to find a solid cast of real people to change the network's idea of making a project that feels like Jersey Shore (<-my words, not the network's).

I thought you might be willing to point me in the direction of one or two people in your network who would be interested in taking part in the pilot and, potentially, the full series (if the project gets a full greenlight). I think that there is potential here to create positive portrayals of "nerds" that are far different than their typical depictions in media.

If you have someone who meets most or all of the criteria below, please feel free to contact me, or to pass along my contact details to them.

-18-26 years old, male or female
-Involved in the hard sciences (research or applications) or IT field
-Passionate about science, math, technology, research, or a related pursuit

The next few bullets are not requirements, but would be awesome to find:
-Anybody involved in hackerspaces/hardware hackers
-Aerospace/aeronautics background
-PhD or Masters research at a university
-Programmer involved at a small startup
-Security/IT fields (penetration testers, etc.)

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this email. Let me know if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.


Stuart Inman
Executive Producer
No Title Entertainment
209.747.0688 c

Post-college: changing nature of friend interactions

19 calcsam 09 January 2013 10:26PM

As a working professional a couple of years out college, I’ve been noticing how interactions with my friends has changed since the beginning of college – and especially since graduation.

 In college, my social groups typically formed around groups with common meeting places -- freshman dorm, newspaper, church, “draw group” (essentially a group of friends that ‘draw’ into the same dorm).

Because there was a common space where everyone could hang out, everyone else felt comfortable just showing up (at least at designated times), and so there were always people to talk to. No-permission-required-meeting was a self-sustaining norm.

With jobs and schedules, we shift to a permission-required-meeting-situation – you don’t just show up at your friend’s house, we say “Hey, what’s a good time to meet up?”

This adds an additional barrier to meeting, and so that happen less often.

People usually realize this at some level, and employ a variety of ad-hoc strategies to counteract this. These are usually well-deployed in our professional lives, but in our personal lives, there are some complications, and usually room for improvement.

  • Group meetings. There are 10 connections between five people, as opposed to one connection between two people. But generally – assuming people share fairly common schedules – it will take less than 10x initiative to get five people together as two

Disadvantage: Often most of our close friends don’t form groups. Only a small subset of mine does.  

  • Non-face-to-face communication. Christmas cards are a time-honored way of doing this. E-mail, like mail, is a no-permission-required system. Every year, I send out a general Life Update email to my old and current friends and family. My friends and I more frequently email each other interesting links. When I read something cool online, I often think “who could I send this to?”

  Disadvantage: for most people, compared to face-to-face interaction, it’s not the same.

  • Scheduling regular meetings: I live in CA and my girlfriend lives in NY, so for the last five months we have set aside 10am PST / 1pm EST to talk every weekday. For the last 8 months, I have met my friend Caleb* have weekly 1-to-2 hour meetings on Sunday mornings where we discuss how the last week went and make goals for the next week. We plan for every week, or day, and it happens 60-80% of the time.

 Disadvantage: The well-known “my schedule is too full to see you” is illuminated by analogy. In The Road to Serfdom (1944), economist FA Hayek discussed the politics of price and wage controls. These policies would shelter one particular group, he wrote, but at the risk of leaving everyone else out in the cold, and now slightly colder.[1]

Something similar happens with planning one’s schedule. Perhaps because I’m busy with the above and additional planned activities with my other friends, I don’t see my friend Christine* enough, and I rarely talk to my college friends Lina* and Maya* anymore

So Christine and I have decided to go running every Tuesday evening after work. Sure, I’ll be even more scheduled, and less likely to meet new, interesting people outside of my designated “meet new people” events.

But at least I’ll get some exercise.  

Commenters: really curious to hear additional tactics, improvements, or experiences!

*Names changed.

[1] Hayek warned that in this situation, each group would increase its clamor to be “let in,” but granting each seemingly-reasonable demand would lead one step closer to a planned economy. Meanwhile, the most vulnerable but ill-connected or ill-organized groups, such as immigrants or the non-unionized-working class, would be left largely out in the cold. 

Comment author: calcsam 19 September 2012 12:33:07AM *  1 point [-]

His parents seem rather judgmental, and typically returning early isn't well received in the Mormon community in general either. Is he in need of people to bounce ideas off of, who understand where he's coming from?

I would be happy to talk to him, or meet him in person if he's still in CA (I'm in the Bay Area). I'm Mormon but have had lots of struggles with my own faith and am quite comfortable talking with (listening to) doubters on their own terms -- or atheists, see any of my LW posts.

If he'd like to talk to me, I don't come here often, but my e-mail is my username @gmail.com.

The most extensively I've written on my struggles with faith is here: http://free-samwise.blogspot.com/2008/12/year-of-dialogue.html..

Comment author: calcsam 30 March 2012 07:59:56AM 2 points [-]

It's good to see someone organize the relevant information and make it actionable. Good job lukeprog and Kaj_Sotala!

Evaporative cooling of group beliefs: current example

19 calcsam 31 December 2011 09:21PM

Background info: a splinter group, which broke off from the LDS ("Mormon") church ~100 years ago, refusing to give up polygamy, has been in the headlines over the last year; their leader was sentenced to life in prison for rape of teenage girls he took as plural wives.

Deseret News, Sex banned until Warren Jeffs' prison walls crumble, FLDS relatives say

"As the year comes to an end and the followers of Warren Jeffs await the apocalypse he has predicted, they're living under a challenging edict: they're forbidden to have sex until Jeffs is sprung from a Texas prison.

It's one of the strangest edicts in a season full of them. Jeffs has issued a stream of revelations, prophecies and orders to his congregation in the border community of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

The recent edicts from Jeffs' prison cell seem to be having two contradictory effects. Many are leaving the FLDS faith in disgust. Those who stay are reported to be increasingly devoted to a man who is serving a lifetime sentence for raping underage girls.

According to numerous critics and outside observers, the imprisoned FLDS leader has sometimes acted through his brother Lyle and other times has spoken directly to his congregation over the phone from prison. He recently banned many of the things his followers enjoy: bicycles, ATVs, trampolines, even children's toys. But the sex edict reaches into the bedrooms of all his devoted followers.

According to Holm, Jeffs declared all existing marriages to be void....."they have all been told that they are not to live as husband and wife"....Holm thinks about 100 members have left in recent weeks from the community of 10,000.

Eliezer, Evaporative Cooling of Group Beliefs

Why would a group belief become stronger after encountering crushing counterevidence?

In Festinger's classic "When Prophecy Fails", one of the cult members walked out the door immediately after the flying saucer failed to land.  Who gets fed up and leaves first?  An average cult member?  Or a relatively more skeptical member, who previously might have been acting as a voice of moderation, a brake on the more fanatic members?

After the members with the highest kinetic energy escape, the remaining discussions will be between the extreme fanatics on one end and the slightly less extreme fanatics on the other end, with the group consensus somewhere in the "middle".

This doesn't simply seem to be a case of a new weighted average after some skeptics are gone (only 1% of FLDS have left). There are other dynamics going on among those remaining.

The image that comes to my mind is a lot of points scattered along a skepticism/fanaticism axis, and a repelling magnet placed on that line. This magnet pushes the already-skeptical values into greater skepticism (and out) and pushing the more fanatical members into greater fanaticism. How well does that actually represent what's going on? Not sure.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 21 November 2011 07:44:39AM 0 points [-]

Either way, it is better than the par for the course around these parts.

Comment author: calcsam 27 November 2011 07:40:04PM 0 points [-]

Thanks. My model is this, though that is more about election than governance.

Comment author: calcsam 25 November 2011 01:02:13AM 1 point [-]

The main question which is important here: why do you want to learn mathematics?

Political impasse as result of different odds ratios

5 calcsam 19 November 2011 08:01PM

Related to: Politics is the Mind-Killer

Both sides seem to have a stake in the current budget supercommittee failing. Why?

The NYTimes reports:

Intrade, the political futures market, currently puts the odds at just under three to one in favor of both a Republican takeover of the Senate and retention of the House — 74.4 to 21.5 for the Senate, 72.2 to 28 for the House.

According to an ABC poll, a majority of Americans, by a margin of 55 to 37, believe that the Republican nominee will be victorious. Republican voters are overwhelmingly optimistic about their chances for the White House, 83-13. Democrats, by the far smaller margin of 58-33 percent, think President Obama will win re-election. Independents, by a 54-36 margin, believe that the Republicans will take the presidency.

The chance of all three contests going the Republicans’ way is less than 50-50, but if they do, the payoff would be huge.*

As a top Republican Congressional aide put it in a interview about the supercommittee’s deliberations, “Winning the trifecta — House, Senate and White House — in 2012 is a game changer. We would be in the driver’s seat.”

In this scenario, Republicans in the 113th Congress would swiftly enact a version of the budget proposal put forward by Paul Ryan....

Capitalizing on collapse is not the exclusive terrain of the right. There are some on the left who believe that simply taking no action whatsoever before this year’s November 23 and December 23 deadlines will force the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012. The expiration of these cuts will produce an estimated $3.8 trillion in new revenue between 2013 and 2022 – enough to maintain many of the key safety net programs with relatively minor tinkering.

Of course, this strategy depends either on a Democratic chief executive to veto Republican legislation extending the Bush cuts or on the less likely event of Democratic retention of the Senate or a takeover of the House.

In other words, the Republicans believe they can achieve complete victory so that they can enact their whole agenda, while Democrats believe they can block this victory.

On a key component — Obama's re-election — Republicans believe they will defeat Obama with 1:6 odds, while Democrats believe this event has only 3:2 odds.**

With a 9-fold difference in this key perception, it seems highly unlikely the two will reach a compromise.


* Not necessarily true — you can't just multiply 74%*72%*83% as these events have high positive correlations.

** Yes, perhaps the people in power have different perceptions than the rank-and-file electorate — but they still must win their base's support to gain re-election.

Comment author: calcsam 18 November 2011 10:12:41AM *  8 points [-]

I suggest reading this Paul Graham essay:

Do you think Shakespeare was gritting his teeth and diligently trying to write Great Literature? Of course not. He was having fun. That's why he's so good.

If you want to do good work, what you need is a great curiosity about a promising question. The critical moment for Einstein was when he looked at Maxwell's equations and said, what the hell is going on here?

It can take years to zero in on a productive question, because it can take years to figure out what a subject is really about....The way to get a big idea to appear in your head is not to hunt for big ideas, but to put in a lot of time on work that interests you, and in the process keep your mind open enough that a big idea can take roost

Comment author: calcsam 26 October 2011 11:45:38PM 1 point [-]

If you are measuring Flesch-Kincaid on Word it often only goes up to 12.0, so if you are getting that for Word, all you know is that you are at the top of the grade-level scale.

When I was an editor for my college newspaper I would show this tool to my writers, and encourage them to aim for like 10 or 9.

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