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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)

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: John_Maxwell_IV 09 February 2011 03:32:26AM 20 points [-]
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: TheOtherDave 08 February 2011 05:50:54PM 7 points [-]

I don't know how polite or nice it is, but what I generally do is wait for it to be my turn in the conversation, visibly react to a timepiece of some sort, and claim an appointment or pressing task that requires my attention. "Oh, geez, is it that late already? I'm sorry, but I really do have to (get going, do X, finish what I'm doing)."

I've known some people who are oblivious to this and essentially reply "Sure, that's fine. Say, let's talk about this other thing!" I find them troublesome. The best solution I know is firmness -- "No, I'm sorry, but I really do have to work on something else now."

In one particularly extreme case, I actually had to say "I need you to go away now," but by that point I'd given up on polite.

Comment author: Malovich 08 February 2011 08:30:43PM 6 points [-]

Thank them for their time, sincerely, making sure the beginning of the statement acknowledges the value of the current thread of thought ("that's absolutely fascinating...and thank you for sharing that with me") and make sure your tone of voice descends at the end of the sentence; if they respond with confusion at this abrupt ending (it may appear so to them) let them know why you must go now or soon.

If your reason is impolite ("you're a boring jackass") you may wish to omit what you specifically think of them (the reasons why you think they are a jackass may have less to do with them and more to do with you and how you see the world subjectively, it's something that needs to be checked out at some point) and simply indicate that you are in disagreement with them and that you lack the time and energy to properly present your position and that you may or may not get back to them later.

Works 5/6 of the time.

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: 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: Nick_Roy 08 February 2011 02:12:25PM *  25 points [-]

I'm mystified as to how to shave smoothly without cutting myself and without razor burn. I've never been able to accomplish all three of these in one shave. (This is facial shaving I'm speaking of, as I am male). Not shaving is not an option, as I quickly develop a distinctly unfashionable neck-beard whenever I neglect shaving.

Update, one year later: I can report that shaving during a warm shower with no shaving cream has increased the smoothness of my shaves, has drastically reduced shaving cuts and has eliminated razor burn almost entirely. Thanks, Less Wrong!

Comment author: Clarity1992 08 February 2011 02:32:24PM 5 points [-]

While I've never had serious problems shaving such as you describe, I did find it a humungous bore and wholely unsatisfying until someone on Hacker News linked to this guy's videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qSIP6uQ3EI

What made the real difference for me was going from multiblade razor with can of shaving foam, to multiblade razor with shaving oil, to multiblade razor with shaving soap and a proper brush, and finally that but with a neatening up afterwards using a single blade disposable. That final solution gives me a close shave and leaves my skin feeling lovely. I actually make the time to have a proper shave every day and really look forward to it!!!

YMMV, but like all hygiene stuff experimenting with new techniques is pretty useful..

Comment author: SilasBarta 08 February 2011 03:49:23PM 12 points [-]

I had the same problem, but it went away immediately after one simple change: stop using shaving cream. Instead, just apply warm water before you shave (it helps to do it after a shower). Before I made the change, my face was always irritable the day of a shave, and exercising would make it flare up; now, nothing. (Having a good multi-blade razor still matters though.)

I was pointed to this idea by some article by Jeffrey Tucker on lewrockwell.com sometime in '06.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 08 February 2011 04:50:46PM 4 points [-]

This article is supposed to be a life changer when it comes to shaving. I haven't tried all of the suggestions, but the ones I have tried have improved my shaving experience.

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: 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: thejash 08 February 2011 01:55:30PM *  20 points [-]

Not to be annoying (as I often have questions like this as well), but I've found that Google is remarkably helpful in answering those questions. In fact, I tried two of the example questions and the answers seemed very reasonable to me:



I also use Google's suggestions (ie, by typing into Google Instant or Firefox search bar) to help phrase my question in the most common way, or to provide alternative related questions that might be more what I mean. For example, when typing "how to buy stocks" it suggested:

"how to buy stocks with out a broker"

"how to buy stocks online"

"how to buy stocks for beginners"

Comment author: gwern 07 February 2011 04:35:08AM *  18 points [-]

2 deficits of my own come to mind. I didn't learn the alphabet until middle school or so; I covered up my ignorance by knowing pairs of letters and simply looking it up whenever I needed to sort something. (In middle school I realized how silly this was and studied diligently until I could finally remember the alphabet song. For years after that, whenever I needed to know something, I would mentally sing through the alphabet song until I had my answer.)

Until 2 years ago or so, I didn't know the 12 months of the calendar. I got around this by generating a bunch of month flashcards for Mnemosyne. (The cards should be obvious, but if anyone really doesn't know how that would work, I can post them.) I'm still a little shaky but I more or less know them now.

These 2 methods may not be generally applicable.

Comment author: jsalvatier 07 February 2011 03:53:19PM *  15 points [-]

Wait; singing the alphabet song is still how I order letters. Is there a more efficient way?

Comment author: Nisan 08 February 2011 05:30:24AM 7 points [-]

I had a Hebrew teacher who assigned the following exercise on the first day of class: Memorize the alphabet backwards. Once the pupils knew the alphabet backwards and forwards, we were able to look things up quickly in the dictionary.

I became much more familiar with the Latin alphabet after I performed the following exercise: Type out every two-letter string, in alphabetical order. This was laborious because I didn't know where the keys were on the keyboard; perhaps that contributed to its effectiveness.

Comment author: Alicorn 07 February 2011 04:07:52PM *  6 points [-]

Inquiry seconded. I have a vague sense of whether certain letters appear early or late in the alphabet (I don't need to sing to know that B comes before X) but for any finer-grained distinctions I need the song.

Comment author: Benquo 07 February 2011 06:02:21PM *  5 points [-]

You could memorize the numeric values of the letters (A=1, B=2, ... , Z=26); if you can figure out which number is bigger without counting, you can figure out which letter is later.

Disclaimer: I have not actually done this, because memorizing 26 separate, individually useless items is a pain.

Comment author: D_Malik 08 February 2011 01:59:25PM 6 points [-]

I did this a few years back while bored at school, and it has actually been surprisingly useful.

I find the easiest and quickest way is to try to write the number in a way that makes it look like the letter; eg for H imagine drawing two lines above and below to make it look like an LCD 8. Using this I thoroughly memorized the letters' numbers in about 15 minutes. You'd need to periodically rememorize to keep the numbers fresh, though.

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: 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: 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: 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: NancyLebovitz 08 February 2011 07:05:51PM 15 points [-]

Dealing with serious clutter-- the kind of situation where the house has never been in good order and there isn't any obvious place to put most things.

Sometimes I take a crack at it, but there's so little progress and so many non-obvious decisions to be made.

Comment author: David_Gerard 08 February 2011 08:25:45PM *  39 points [-]

The key point I have discovered in my own recent massive household declutter:

Distinguish "generally useful" or "potentially useful" from actually useful.

No, you'll never eBay it. No, you'll never wear that shirt or those boots. No, you'll never fix that laptop. No, you'll never get around to finding someone who really wants it. No, that weird cable won't actually ever be used for anything, because it hasn't been used in the past five years. No, you'll never get around to taking it to the charity shop. No, it may be a shame to throw out something so obviously useful, but it's a curse. No, you never did any of these things in the past so there's no reason to assume you will in the future. No. No. Stop making bullshit excuses. JUST NO.

Get a big roll of garbage bags. Delight in having so many full bags of discards that your bin overflows.

You have to be utterly uncompromising. Set the "when did I last use this?" to one year. Anything unused in longer than that better have a REALLY EXCELLENT justification.

If you swear you're going to eBay it, give yourself one week to do the listing. If it's not done, throw it out.

A very helpful method is to have someone else to help you be uncompromising. (Particularly with kicking your backside when you make one of the excuses.)

Paul Graham's essay Stuff talks about the problem. He lists books as an exception. THEY ARE NOT AN EXCEPTION. Be as ruthless with your book pile.

(I have been doing a huge clearout of STUFF for the last couple of months - saga in my journal - and kept linking that Paul Graham essay like the holy writ it is. NO DAMN ATOMS. EVERYTHING MADE OF ATOMS IS A WHITE ELEPHANT UNLESS IT CAN PROVE IT CAN PAY ITS BLOODY RENT. AAAAAAAA)

Comment author: khafra 08 February 2011 10:37:39PM 11 points [-]

Sounds like the "outside view" approach to cleaning. It seems to me the “really excellent justification” heuristic could be generalized into expected value, with some danger of overfitting—something with infrequent but important use like a fire extinguisher might earn its place just as easily as a bic pen you use twenty times a day.

Comment author: David_Gerard 08 February 2011 10:46:48PM *  16 points [-]

I think it's more generally the phenomenon Paul Graham talks about: stuff used to be valuable and people didn't have much of it; these days, it's actually not of value and most people have too much of it. That is: we're all rich now, and we don't know how to cope with the fact.

It's moving up to a better class of problem. Like how Britain has a major health problem in 2011 with poor people being too fat, whereas in 1950 food was rationed. It's a great problem to have. Though it's still a problem.

Yes, it really helps to get in an outside view - the friend to help and berate you - until you get the proper visceral loathing of stuff.

Comment author: fiddlemath 09 February 2011 04:11:00PM 6 points [-]

I think this explains a lot of it. Another part is that people don't think about the costs of owning stuff: it occupies your space, you have to keep it organized, and you have to move it around whenever you move.

These costs are easy to ignore, because they aren't in mind when you're thinking about buying a specific thing. The mentally-available facts are "what will I get by using this?" versus "how much money does this cost?" Similarly, when you're looking for stuff to get rid of, it's hard to bring those costs back into light, because they're so general to everything you own

I don't have lots of stuff, and I'm pretty willing to get rid of stuff or give stuff away. I think this is largely because I highly value my space, my attention, and my time, and I've practiced being sensitive to those values when I'm making decisions about stuff.

Comment author: handoflixue 15 February 2011 10:45:48PM 8 points [-]

"you have to move it around whenever you move."

Usually I'm adverse to reducing clutter, due to the cost of going through, organizing it, and throwing away most of it. Every time I move I end up losing a huge chunk of my stuff because suddenly it's much cheaper to throw it out instead of moving it :)

Comment author: soreff 07 May 2011 02:07:32AM 3 points [-]

Another part is that people don't think about the costs of owning stuff

Good point. My heuristic is to say: My house cost $100/ft^2. A $2 knickknack with a square foot footprint really costs $102.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 February 2011 07:36:17PM *  6 points [-]

Throw stuff out/give it away. Lots of stuff. If you have two of it, or don't really like it, or plan to replace it soon and won't need it till then, get rid of it.

Completely clear out some place, like a closet or a drawer or a shelf - do this by putting its contents in obviously inappropriate temporary locations, like on a bed, if necessary. Decide from scratch what belongs in this place. Put those things there. Repeat with the next space. If you don't have a way to efficiently use the space, buy an organizer of some kind suited to what you plan to put in. (Wire racks, drawer dividery things, bookends for open-ended shelves, etc.)

Comment author: MartinB 09 February 2011 07:29:48AM *  3 points [-]

Leo Babauta from zenhabits is a good source to go to.

Decluttering was a personal struggle for me, that I think to have handled now. Here my current model for how to de:clutter. Note that I mix actual experience with theory, also some might not be universally applicable. Also I don't know which points to elaborate on and which are obvious.


Order is a process, not an end state! Much progress is achieved early on. Like optical decluttering the visible areas, when everything is nicely boxed up. (80:20 principle)


I use stackable plastic containers like these. The important factors are the volume that allows to store all kinds of things, transportability by hand, and the possibility to stack them onto them self.

Lots of garbage bags. (Get some of the big ones, some the smaller once9

Tape that can be written on + marker pens.

It might be a good time to install more shelf space


Depending on your schedule you can use like half an hour each day, or some hours once or twice a week to attack it, and make as much progress as possible. Use a kitchen timer. Get family involved if applicable.

Target areas

Choose a room, or an area smaller than a room to attack. Common rooms or your own are best. (I think that parents should not clean up their kids rooms, safe for fire and health hazards.)

If you are into planning, make a list of all areas and their order, so you can cross them off. Find out which parts of the process give you pleasure and optimize accordingly. (Some people find it helpful to know exactly which steps to take, some get anxious from it. It helps to know which one you are.)

Maybe clean floor space first. And tables.

Depending on level of entropy you can go in one swipe, or do multiple rounds.


Put everything that is obviously to throw away in a garbage bag. Put everything else into the boxes. You can do a lazy general sort here right away, but its not necessary. If you do label the boxes with the tape + pen. Take boxes out of the area. Clean the area. Think how you generally want to to lay it out. Put stuff back into the area. Leave everything else in its respective box, till you get into the area where it belongs.

In the end you should have some thematic sections. All office supplies in one place, all electronics. All tools etc. Make your own categories!

In general I find I helpful to know where an item belongs. It should be clear without much thought.


The way to declutter differs widely along what kind of stuff you actually have lying around. Some general pointers:

  • children toys should have their big box, where they go
  • work related papers should be packed into folders together alongside projects
  • (physical) mail needs its one place to go into
  • electronics should not block the living space
  • it pays to think about how to arrange an area. Maybe an inefficient design contributes to a higher ugh
Comment author: alexflint 08 February 2011 09:15:22AM *  15 points [-]

Just want to throw this one out:

Choosing the right size for a collared shirt (men) : Look at the seams that run from the collar down the neck and along the tops of your shoulders to the beginning of the arms. When you try the shirt on, that seam should reach exactly to the point where your shoulders curve downwards. In this case the shirt will accentuate the broadness of your shoulders.

Comment author: jwhendy 08 February 2011 07:47:50PM 4 points [-]

Another good idea is to go somewhere you can try shirts on (if you don't have one) and find one you like (seams at shoulders, wrists covered but sleeves not ruffled) and look at the size. If worn with a tie, the neck should button and not be tight, but you should not be able to fit more than one finger in between the shirt and your neck, otherwise a tie will cause the neck to crumple when tightened.

Memorize or write down the size of the shirt, given in a neck measurement (inches, like 15 1/2) and a sleeve length (inches, and often a split value like 32/33). This will help if you enter a department store where the shirts are bagged and not easy to try on. Look for your size (neck + sleeves) and hope for the best. These numbers are good to know, as neck sizes may be sold with wide sleeve ranges (30/31, 32/33, and 34/36), and those buckets make a huge difference.

Lastly, find a particular brand that seems to fit well, if you can. I shop a lot at thrift stores and am of a narrower frame and really have a hard time finding 15-15 1/2 necked shirts with the right sleeves that aren't very "blousy" (where once tucked in, there is a huge "balloon" of shirt sticking out in the back). Pay attention to labels like "classic fit," "modern fit," or "athletic fit." Classic and athletic tend to be slimmer/tapered, and modern tends to be more of a static width, extending the width at the armpits down to the bottom hem.

Comment author: Bo102010 08 February 2011 03:21:16AM *  14 points [-]

I recently found myself thinking about this same topic. I have figured some of these out by trial and error, but feel that some formal training would have been useful (others I have not encountered):

  • How should you interact with a police officer - what are your obligations, your rights, and how should you conduct yourself?

  • If you want to move from one residence to another, what steps should you take? If you are credentialed in one state and want to move to another, what do you do?

  • If you get into a minor car accident, what should you do? What about a major one?

  • What's the best way to quit your job?

  • How do you vote in an election? A primary? What should you do if you want to run for office?

  • If you find that someone has died of non-suspicious and natural causes, what steps should you take? Whom should you call?

Comment author: Psychohistorian 08 February 2011 04:36:56AM *  42 points [-]

How should you interact with a police officer - what are your obligations, your rights, and how should you conduct yourself?

I'm a law student. I'll take this one. This applies to the US specifically, though being polite and deferent are probably universal.

In short: TL;DR answer: Be polite, calm, and friendly. If you are guilty of a crime, admit nothing, do not give permission to search anything that would be incriminating, say that you don't want to talk to the officer (unless answering extremely general questions), and, if you are detained, ask to speak with a lawyer. Be more compliant if you are innocent, but if you get the slightest hint that they think you're responsible, stop complying and ask for a lawyer if detained. For more mundane interaction (i.e. speeding tickets) be polite and deferent, and don't confess to anything unless they totally have you nailed. Arguing with cops will very rarely advance your case; save that for court if you care enough to challenge the ticket. More detail follows.

In minor cases (e.g. speeding tickets), you generally want to be polite, deferential, and honest, but probably don't volunteer too much information, except insofar as it's obvious. If you were going 85 and the cop asks why he pulled you over, it's probably wiser to admit you were speeding than to play stupid; in some borderline cases, being honest and likable will get you out of a ticket or into a lesser ticket. Arguing with police officers is generally not going to get you anywhere. If they're wrong about some material fact, you'll probably have to deal with it in court. Being calm, friendly, and deferential (address them as "officer") is often your best chance of avoiding a ticket, and will almost always avoid any escalation. In some cases, crying or explaining yourself may work, but if they don't believe you, it may make things worse. Similarly, if you made some mistake (i.e. did not see the speed limit change) it may be helpful to say as much politely, but again, you won't win an argument.

For more serious offenses (basically, anything criminal greater than a speeding ticket).

Edited to add: Basically, never talk to the police or other similar authorities under any circumstances, except where it can't be avoided, e.g. speeding tickets.

A police officer is either detaining you or they are not. If they are not detaining you, you are free to stop talking with them and leave. If they are detaining you, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. If you are being detained, and you ask for an attorney, ALL QUESTIONING MUST CEASE. Anytime you hear a story about some guy the police were grilling for eight hours: if he'd asked to speak with an attorney, they'd have had to stop.

In general, if you even think you might be guilty of something, it is best not to try to explain yourself and not to make up excuses. Most criminals don't think they did anything morally wrong. The police will not share your perspective. Especially if you are guilty, you should ask if you are free to go, and if you are not, ask for an attorney. This is advisable even if you are innocent if the crime is significant.

The police CAN legally lie to you in order to exact a confession; this is a rather common tactic. That means they can tell you someone has positively ID'd you, or tell you that your fingerprints have been found, or that your accomplice has turned on you even when these things aren't true.

Of course, if you actually have an accomplice, you should hope you've both credibly committed to cooperating in a prisoner's dilemma. Omega cannot save you now.

You should never give police permission to search anything unless you know that there is nothing incriminating there. If the officer tells you that the law entitles him to do something, and then ask for his permission, you should probably tell him that he does not have your permission, but if what he says about the law is true, you're not going to stop him. Even if the police find incriminating evidence, if they did not have a legal right to search where they were searching (i.e. they lack probable cause), that evidence generally cannot be used against you in criminal proceedings.

If police are questioning you about someone else (who is not a spouse) who may have been involved in a crime, it gets fuzzier. I'm not entirely sure how extensive police power is; ultimately, the state has some capacity to compel your testimony (there's no right not to incriminate others), but this generally doesn't work because someone who doesn't want to testify can generally testify to a lack of memory on whatever issue (as people might do if threatened by the mob).

It's also worth noting that roommates and people living with you can, under certain circumstances, authorize searches of your possessions. They can certainly authorize searches of common areas.

This is endlessly more complicated, but this should be a pretty good overview. You cannot be compelled to say anything incriminating, and if the cops are bargaining with you, that probably means they don't have enough to get you on. Again, if you've done something, or if they think you've done something, you're going to want a lawyer to sort things out. The risk is obviously a lot higher if you're guilty, but you can run into serious risks even if you just seem possibly guilty.

Comment author: TobyBartels 08 February 2011 11:09:22PM *  14 points [-]

Especially if you are guilty, you should ask if you are free to go, and if you are not, ask for an attorney. This is advisable even if you are innocent if the crime is significant.

I want to emphasise this. The prisons in the U.S. (and probably most countries) are full of people who believed that they were safe, despite being suspected, due to their innocence. Remember, innocence is no excuse if they find you guilty anyway. (This is even true after the fact; new evidence of innocence is not enough to get a new trial, as long as your rights were not violated in the old one, according to the Supreme Court.)

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 08 February 2011 03:00:40PM *  9 points [-]

Must-watch with regard to the police: Why You Should Never Talk to Cops, parts one and two.

(US-specific, but a lot of the general content is probably applicable worldwide.)

Comment author: TobyBartels 08 February 2011 11:02:13PM 6 points [-]

A police officer is either detaining you or they are not.

If you don't know which, just ask. Note that being detained is less serious than being arrested.

Comment author: folkTheory 08 February 2011 11:28:14PM 13 points [-]

I'm just gonna add: Say "Sir" all the time. It really calms them down.
He asks you a question? ("have you been drinking?") Say "Yes sir" or "no sir"
"I stopped you because you were speeding" - "I'm very sorry, sir"
and so on. This has saved me countless times.

Comment author: Elizabeth 08 February 2011 06:43:39AM *  38 points [-]

I don't know if anyone can help me with this, but how do I tell the difference between flirting and friendliness? I grew up in pretty much total social isolation from peers, so neither really ever happened, and when they happen now I can't tell which is which. Also, how do you go from talking to someone at the beginning/end of class (or other activity) to actually being the kind of friends who see each other elsewhere and do activities together?

Edit: Thank you, this is good advice. Does anyone have any advice on how to tell with women? I'm bi, and more interested in women, and they are much harder to read than men on the subject, because women's behavior with female friends is often fairly flirty to begin with.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 February 2011 01:54:37PM 25 points [-]

It's not always this clear-cut, but if a guy touches you at all while he's talking (brushes your hand, etc.), makes an unusual amount of eye contact, or makes a point of being alone with you, it's flirting. If he's talking or joking about sex, it's more likely to be flirting.

How do you become the kind of friends who see each other outside of class? That used to confuse me SO MUCH. The easiest way to transition from "person I've spoken to" to "actual friend" is to say "You want to get lunch together sometime?" It's also possible to ask "are you going to event X?" (I used to find this step nervewracking. But remember, most people are not offended by offers of companionship. Most people want to make new friends.)

Also, notice how people hang around after an event. Most people don't leave right away, briskly. They sort of mosey and talk. If you're like me, your instinct will be to think, "Well, I'm done with that, time to go do something else." But more social people spend a colossal amount of time just hanging around, and they exchange more closeness that way. You can't make friends with people who only see you in brief bursts.

Comment author: coup_eye 08 February 2011 01:25:39PM 16 points [-]

Well, that's the whole idea of flirting - that you can't really tell the difference. If it's clear and upfront, then it's not called flirting anymore, but rather an advance (friendly or more explicit).

You have a lot of uncertainty arising from a simple gesture/look/invitation, and (I believe) this is where all the fun really comes from: dealing with a lot of different scenarios that have very similar initial contexts but have a wide range of possible outcomes, and choosing the outcome you want with so little effort.

I also believe that your ability to tell the difference between one person's flirting and friendliness is strongly influenced by how well you know that person.

Comment author: MartinB 08 February 2011 08:51:27AM 12 points [-]

http://www.wrongplanet.net/ is a community page for asperger/autism people that contains social descriptions on a level that might be helpful. I do not read too much of it, but maybe it is useful.

Comment author: Blueberry 08 February 2011 07:34:18AM 12 points [-]

how do I tell the difference between flirting and friendliness?

Flirting is tinged with sexuality, either explicit or subtle. Maybe a touch on your arm, a wink, or innuendo. A lot of it is context-dependent, as well: for instance, the exact same words and behavior can be flirting when a guy says it to a girl, but not when a guy says it to a guy (the social default is that everyone is straight; this is different in a gay bar, for instance).

Also, how do you go from talking to someone at the beginning/end of class (or other activity) to actually being the kind of friends who see each other elsewhere and do activities together?

You have to actually be active and ask the person for their phone number, invite them to get coffee, go bowling, whatever. It doesn't always work out -- you may not meet up with 90% of them -- but the other 10% will become your friends.

Comment author: LauraABJ 08 February 2011 06:34:01AM 12 points [-]

Ok- folding a fitted sheet is really fucking hard! I don't think that deserves to be on that list, since it really makes no difference whatsoever in life whether or not you properly fold a fitted sheet, or just kinda bundle it up and stuff it away. Not being able to deposit a check, mail a letter, or read a bus schedule, on the other hand can get you in trouble when you actually need to. Here's to not caring about linen care!

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: 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: 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: [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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: [deleted] 08 February 2011 11:52:10PM 4 points [-]

Eliezer uses Dvorak, or at least used to four years ago:

I can personally testify that Dvorak seems to be much easier on the fingers than Qwerty - but this is not surprising, since if Dvorak really were inferior to Qwerty, it would soon cease to exist. (Yes, I am familiar with the controversy in this area - bear in mind that this is a politically charged topic since it has been used to make accusations of market failure. Nonetheless, my fingers now sweat less, my hands feel less tired, my carpal tunnel syndrome went away, and none of this is surprising because I can feel my fingers traveling shorter distances.)

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: CronoDAS 08 February 2011 10:56:19AM *  10 points [-]

This would best be done on a wiki of some sort, I think.

Comment author: roryokane 11 February 2011 02:41:37AM *  10 points [-]

Many of the instructions on this thread would fit well on wikiHow. It would be better to put them there than on Less Wrong Wiki or a new site because wikiHow is already known by more people as a source of information on basic things.

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

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

Comment author: [deleted] 08 February 2011 03:27:10AM 9 points [-]

How do you speak clearly?

I have a bad speaking voice -- my sibilants ("S" sounds) come out mushy. If I record my speaking voice and play it back, even when I'm concentrating on enunciation, I sound... terrible. It's a voice that sounds geeky at best, retarded at worst. A little too high-pitched and monotone, as well. People have been telling me they can't understand what I'm saying all my life.

It's quite likely that I'll give many public presentations throughout my life, so being better at speaking might be worthwhile. I've lost my fear of public speaking (knowing the material well takes care of that) -- I'm just talking about the mechanics of speech. I want to be audible, comprehensible, and not sound like a moron.

Comment author: afeller 08 February 2011 04:31:04AM *  17 points [-]

I found that frequently recording my voice and playing it back immediately afterward helps immensely. Up through the start of my junior year of highschool I did a very poor job with pronunciation in general and what I thought I sounded like, sounded nothing like what I did in fact sound like. I got a portable voice recorder midway through my junior year. I like poetry, so a few times a week I would spend a while (maybe a half hour) in the evenings reading poetry into the recorder and playing it back a stanza at a time. If I didn't like the way it sounded, I would repeat the stanza (or the particular line in that stanza that sounded wrong) until it started sounding right. Within a few months I very much liked the way my voice sounded, and instead of having people telling me I talked funny, I occasionally had people complimenting my enunciation. (As I side effect I also became able to read out loud which was something else I used to have a lot of trouble doing)

Comment author: ciphergoth 09 February 2011 08:10:14AM 3 points [-]

Sounds good. If anyone else reading this tries this, please report back on how well it works for you!

Comment author: Desrtopa 08 February 2011 04:40:34PM 10 points [-]

I think there may be some psychological element to finding one's own recorded voice unpleasant. When I hear my own recorded voice played back at me, I find it incredibly unpleasant, but my acquaintances assure me that it doesn't sound bad to them. Likewise, I've had people tell me that they can't stand the sound of their own recorded voices, when they sound perfectly fine to me.

If your acquaintances agree that your speech could use work, I agree with the recommendation of speech therapy, but it's possible that the problem is in your perception.

Comment author: CronoDAS 08 February 2011 03:33:07AM *  6 points [-]

I think the job title of someone who helps with that kind of problem is "speech therapist".

And, for what it's worth, I kind of like your voice...

Comment author: mindspillage 08 February 2011 02:55:16AM *  9 points [-]

I'd be surprised if there are any of us who don't have some gap in knowledge that a majority of the rest of us found surprising. But really I can't think of any knowledge of this type I'm missing that I can't just look up (rather than ask here) if I realize that I don't have it. (Things of this type I can recall looking up in the past few years: ordering at a bar, dialing international phone numbers, reaching someone at a phone extension, getting a cashier's check from a bank, how to properly wear a suit jacket, how to read facial expressions and make small talk.)

I like wikihow, ehow, and similar sites--and I also find that guides intended for recent immigrants or people with autism are useful for "things everyone is supposed to know".

Comment author: PeerInfinity 07 February 2011 03:55:51AM 9 points [-]

I think I have lots of gaps to report, but I'm having lots of trouble trying to write a coherent comment about them... so I'm going to just report this trouble as a gap, for now.

Oh, and I also have lots of trouble even noticing these gaps. I have a habit of avoiding doing things that I haven't already established as "safe". Unfortunately, this often results in gaps continuing to be not detected or corrected.

Anyway, the first gap that comes to mind is... I don't dare to cook anything that involves handling raw meat, because I'm afraid that I lack the knowledge necessary to avoid giving myself food poisoning. Maybe if I tried, I would be able to do it with little or no problem, but I don't dare to try.

Comment author: pjeby 08 February 2011 07:25:03PM 9 points [-]

I don't dare to cook anything that involves handling raw meat, because I'm afraid that I lack the knowledge necessary to avoid giving myself food poisoning.

Short tip: If the raw meat smells or tastes bad, don't eat it.

Longer tip: the reason there are so many raw meat warnings are not because you will get sick from eating or handling raw meat. If you don't have a clogged nose, there is almost no way for you to get sick from raw meat, because you will smell or taste any problems before you swallow it.

What's NOT safe is mxing raw and cooked foods. The safety warnings are because the same bacteria that will make raw foods smell bad, will not produce the same smell warnings in the cooked food. This means that you can have highly-contaminated cooked food that gives off no warning whatsoever, and get terribly sick from it.

I have eaten raw meat -- including raw chicken and raw eggs -- for many years, and had fewer incidences of stomach upset with them than I have had with cooked foods. The worst reaction I ever had to a raw food was when I ate a bad egg raw, that was too cold for me to properly taste or smell. (I vomited it up a few minutes later, when some less-impaired part of my body detected the problem.)

Since then, I prefer to keep fresh eggs unrefrigerated, and find they keep for around two weeks at room temperature.

So, bear in mind that the mere presence of harmful organisms in food doesn't mean they'll make you sick, in and of themselves. Cooking and sterilization are evolutionarily modern inventions, and we've only known about the existence of germs for the last 100 years or so.

We can therefore trust that our genes will encode reflexive and intuitive responses to food that is actually harmful, provided that it was found in the ancestral environment. This means that we can easily tell with our senses when a raw and unprocessed food is unsafe to eat. It's the prepared stuff you need to be careful with!

In other words, raw meat is plenty safe to handle and eat. Just keep it away from your cooked food, as the cooked food not only has its residual defenses destroyed (no intact cell walls, etc.) but also will not show any signs that it has been contaminated until well after you eat it.

Food poisoning, btw, is less bad the earlier your body detects the problem. If you somehow manage to eat something raw that's bad, you may throw it up before it even reaches your stomach, or within the first few minutes of getting it there. But cooked food poisoning usually doesn't get detected until the food is at least into the small intestine, and it's much worse down there.

(Really, if you're worried about cooking raw meat, you're much better off just eating the raw meat as-is!)

Comment author: Threedee 07 February 2011 05:27:28AM 9 points [-]

Generally, it is mainly chicken that one needs to be careful about, because it is sometimes contaminated with unhealthy bacteria, even when bought "fresh". A general procedure with all meat, and especially chicken, is to wash any surface that raw chicken comes in contact with when you are done preparing it and have started to cook it, then wash any utensils you used that touched the chicken, and wash you hands. To be extra cautious, you can do that for any raw meat. Raw meat should be refrigerated soon after purchase and now allowed to stand uncooked at room temperature for more than the time it takes to prepare it.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 07 February 2011 05:09:49AM *  35 points [-]

An incidental note: lack of these sorts of skills can also create ugh fields around the subjects or surrounding subjects.

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

Do you exercise?

Comment author: majus 08 February 2011 11:10:05PM *  7 points [-]

My deficiency is common manners. I think it's a lack of attention to the world outside of my own thoughts. I've been known to just wander away from a conversation that is clearly not over to the other participants. I notice a sneeze about 10 seconds too late to say "bless you!". I'm appropriately thankful, but assume that's clear without my actually saying or writing something to convey the feeling. Depending on the context, my preoccupation leads me to be perceived as everything from a lovable nerd to an arrogant jerk. It's something I'd like to change.

Comment author: SRStarin 09 February 2011 02:35:55PM 11 points [-]

When I interact with people who behave the way you do (there a lot here at NASA), I generally do not hold it against them.

However, since you said you'd like to change, here are some suggestions that don't require a great deal of attention because they are responses to specific events (which you would need to practice noticing):

  • Always say "Thank you" for everything. Assume that no one thinks you're thankful unless you say so. It's not necessarily true, but it is true sometimes, and it's virtually never true that saying "thank you" will annoy someone that has just done something for you.
  • Learn people's names and use them when you see someone for the first time each day (assuming you're in an anglophone culture--romance cultures greet more often, I don't know about other cultures). For many people, saying "Hi, JoAnn!" instead of just "Hi" or "Mmf" helps make them feel valued and respected by you.
  • It's OK to leave a conversation that others are continuing, if they're not actually speaking to you at the time you leave. Tell everyone "Bye" or "Talk to you later" or whatever is appropriate for your expectations of interacting in the future, and then step away. If you don't want to interrupt a lively discussion, you can just raise your hand in a quick wave, try to make eye contact with at least one person if you can and smile or nod, and step away.
Comment author: handoflixue 15 February 2011 10:25:53PM 5 points [-]

I'll second the "thank you", and append that "please" and "you're welcome" are also wonderful phrases. I tend to read out as exceptionally polite as long as I'm managing those three.

I have, ONCE in my life, had someone upset with me for my politeness, but that was because I was overusing "sorry". I do find apologizing is a useful trait, but it's definitely easier to overdo that one :)

Comment author: MaoShan 08 February 2011 11:32:47PM 5 points [-]

Welcome to the LessWrong / Autism Spectrum club.

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: 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: BenLowell 08 February 2011 05:44:52AM 6 points [-]

Personal hygiene. The internet has eluded me on what is the best method for washing your body. I've always put soap on a washcloth and used that to scrub myself. I used to get really dry skin and I don't know if this was from my method. It seems like there are lots of different techniques---sponges, washcloths, scrubbers, body wash, lotions. What do they do?

How do you keep hair looking nice? Sometimes I use a comb, but it still goes all over the place. I usually keep my hair short to avoid dealing with this.

Comment author: noveldevice 08 February 2011 08:15:07PM 4 points [-]

I am female. I put soap on a washcloth and rub it on my body, then rinse well. Once out of the shower or bath, I use body lotion. I am frequently told that I smell good and/or delicious, so I'm pretty sure I am doing it right. :) If you have dry skin, use lotion or look for a soap that is milder. I have a lot of allergies so I use Ivory, which doesn't have a lot of extra perfume and no colourants or other additives. You can also use small-batch artisanal soaps, which are risky if you have allergies but may be less drying because a lot of them are superfatted and/or made with goat's milk and that sort of thing.

I don't like bath poufs because they feel weird and are gross over time. I own a loofah gourd, which I use when I feel particularly needful of exfoliation, but mostly it's the washcloth for me. Basically it's going to be what kind of texture you like to feel, as far as what you use for scrubbing (a lot of people use their hands, but I don't feel clean enough if I do that), and product wise, use what makes your skin feel good.

For hair, go get a good haircut from a good stylist. If you are paying less than $30 in most markets you are getting a dreadful haircut. I routinely expect to pay $70 for a haircut because I have thick curly hair. If you like what the stylist does, ask them to recommend products and show you how to use them. If you do not, wait till it grows a bit, try another stylist. Ask your friends and coworkers where they get their hair cut. If you have a male friend who always looks particularly well-groomed, ask him who does his hair. This is how most people find stylists.

Comment author: HughRistik 09 February 2011 07:00:41AM *  4 points [-]

If you like what the stylist does, ask them to recommend products and show you how to use them.

Products and tools are very important for hair.

Comment author: badger 08 February 2011 04:23:43AM *  6 points [-]

I'm not aware of a gap in my procedural knowledge, but many skills are still fuzzy and basic. The internet serves extreme beginners and specialized experts well, but I've found reference books to be the best resource for the middle ground. Some that have helped me domestically:

  • New Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated: Basic cookbook that explain the testing and intuition behind a recipe.
  • America's Test Kitchen cookbooks: Also from Cook's Illustrated, these books tend to explain why a recipe is what it is and give tips on technique or what cuts of meat work best for what purposes.
  • How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman: Basic cookbook that presents many recipes as templates, providing variations and room for improvisation.
  • Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson: Everything that goes into maintaining a home, from cleaning to food storage to pets to laundry.

Any other quality reference books, perhaps for auto care or personal finance?

Owning up to a particularly fuzzy area: how do you order at a bar? I've been a couple times and managed, but somehow I feel I'm missing something, especially if I extend beyond a beer. Can someone offer a comprehensive account?

Comment author: BillyOblivion 08 February 2011 10:10:15AM 16 points [-]

I've spent some time in bars, so I think I can handle this one.

1) Observe the bar, some have an area or two "designated" for walkup, others expect you to shoulder your way inbetween people. There is usually an area bounded by two big silver or brass handles. This is so the bartender can get out in a hurry to help the bouncer, and in many bars it's where the waitresses go to get their orders filled. Do Not Go There, you are getting in the way of working folk, and are making other working folk wait longer for THEIR drinks.

2) If it's busy know what you want before you go up there. Save your experimentation and questioning for a slow period. When it doubt "Whiskey, Neat", or "Vodka, neat". If you're having a day "Whiskey, double".

3) If you'd like to run a tab proffer your credit card and ask. Some places don't do it, some don't take credit. Also have some cash Just In Case.

4) If you have a preference (for example I don't drink canadian whiskey straight, and I won't drink a whiskey and coke if they use pepsi. So I ask "do you have pepsi or coke" [1]) ask BEFORE ordering. If you really don't care you will (generally) be asked for a preference. The stuff in "the well" is cheaper, and if you're getting a mixed drink usually only matters for the first, second and third. After that either your bartender is a cheap bastard or you've lost the sublties. If you're drinking it straight, then it matters. Until the 7th or 8th anyway.

5) If you're paying cash HAND THE MONEY TO THE BAR TENDER, the bar is often damp with spilled drinks, assorted other fluids, bits of food (sometimes) and cigeratte ashes. HAND THE MONEY TO THE BAR TENDER. If you want him to keep the change, just walk away, he knows. If you're sitting at the bar and you want him to keep the change just sort of push it back towards his side. He knows.

6) Be friendly, say please and thank you. Bartenders have to deal with lots of shitty customers, don't be one.

[1] Pepsi? In a BAR? What kinda sick fucking joke is THAT?

Comment author: [deleted] 08 February 2011 04:52:21AM 9 points [-]

I just want to second your cookbook recommendations--Cook's Illustrated especially. Almost all their products are extremely high-quality, and they have a very Less Wrong-friendly stance on cooking, which is to test everything. Before they publish a cookie recipe they'll make like twenty different versions, and have their taste-testers do blind tastings, and they'll publish the one that tastes best.

Alton Brown's "Good Eats" TV show is also probably Less Wrong-friendly because it puts a heavy emphasis on the chemistry and science of cooking.

Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food" is another good cookbook for beginners, because it walks you through everything: shopping for ingredients, choosing your pots and pans, the different techniques (i.e. what it means to "mince" an onion versus "dicing" it), prepping for cooking, etc.

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: 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: 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: afeller 08 February 2011 04:49:31AM 5 points [-]

I've always assumed that this is something inborn instead of learned -- hopefully, that assumption (which come to think of it I've never really questioned) is wrong -- but I have a very hard time orienting myself. When I'm walking up the stairwell in my apartment, I have no idea whether I am walking towards the road, away from the road, or perpendicular to it. I can sit down with a pencil and paper and draw it and figure it out by looking at it from a 'birds eye' perspective. But when I'm standing in a room with opaque walls and trying to imagine what room is on the other side, I just get really confused.

Comment author: apophenia 08 February 2011 11:48:40AM 12 points [-]

I think that this sounds like too much work to learn manually, so I am embracing transhumanism and making a compass belt.

Comment author: SRStarin 08 February 2011 07:00:25PM 4 points [-]

This weekend I finally finished my compass anklet. It's pretty impressive how quickly the human brain can include a new sense. I'm looking forward to taking it geocaching!

Comment author: Osmium_Penguin 08 February 2011 06:45:11AM 10 points [-]

I do not know if this is a practical, general or transferable solution, but it worked for me: throughout my childhood I couldn't orient myself, and I finally taught myself at the age of 24.

Start from a place where you can see quite some distance in all (or most) directions. Outside is best. If you can see, but are not within, a downtown core, you're in a good spot. Ditto mountains, or other tall landmarks.

Now ignore those landmarks. They're untrustworthy. If you can see them, they're close enough that sometimes they'll be north and sometimes west and sometimes right on top of you. They can be a good marker for your position, but not for your orientation. You need an orientation marker.

So instead, look in the other direction, the most featureless cardinal direction you can find. Then imagine a huge, fictional geographic element just over the horizon, and tell yourself it's in that direction: living in Edmonton at the time, I used the mantra, "The desert is west."

This is a fictional desert. (Or sea, or taiga, or forest.) It is always west. (Or east, or southeast, or north.) For this process to work, you can't actually pick a real landscape, or it becomes possible to walk around it, at which point your directions are confused again. If you're like me, a fictional landmark will help you orient yourself — but please don't make the mistake of believing it's real.

Now take a few minutes to walk around, keeping the desert in your awareness. Which way are you facing when it's straight ahead? Which way are you facing when it's behind you?

After a remarkably short time, you'll find that you always know where the desert is. And that will tell you where all your directions are. And then you're oriented. And now you can look at that downtown core and notice, "When I am standing at Broadway & Commercial, downtown is to my northwest."

Repeat this process in a few different outdoor locations, and you'll be ready to try it indoors. Just before you walk into a building, note where your imaginary forest is. As you turn corners, keep it in mind. Since the forest is fictional, you've never seen it anyhow; the fact that there are no windows in this university won't matter so much.

Oh, and if you're driving, remember that the centrifugal force you feel is proportional to your speed! The faster you're going, the more quickly you feel as though you're turning — at highway speeds, it takes quite a long time to turn 90 degrees, and a 270-degree cloverleaf seems to go on forever. Unless your city is laid out with perpendicular streets and no freeways, it's a lot easier to orient yourself when you're walking or cycling than when you're driving. On a mountain highway, I'm still lost. I navigate by the sun or use a map.

So…this strategy worked for me. I've never taught it to anybody else; I have no idea which bits of it are necessary and which are superfluous. Although it uses magical thinking, I'll point out that it's easier to imagine a specific, concrete object — like a wide desert just over the horizon — than to imagine an abstract notion like "west." My problem was too much abstraction; this strategy makes the compass real.

Comment author: bogdanb 08 February 2011 02:38:40PM 4 points [-]

From what you say I think my orientation skills are quite a bit better compared to yours, though I’m not one of those people who always know where they are and which way is everything else.

As far as I can tell, based on just introspection and comparing my “success rate” for various orientation tasks, there are quite a few different more-or-less specialized mechanism in the mind that handle this, and when they are employed differs with the kind of task. As far as I can tell, my brain at least deals very differently with, for example, navigating a well-known territory and navigating in places I don’t know personally (even though I may have seen a map).

When I go through places I know well—the areas I frequent around places I lived a few days in—I navigate and pick routes almost instantly; I can walk or drive quite complex routes, even routes I never followed before (but through places I know), without ever thinking or paying attention (I mean, I pay attention to the road, not to the route). But this seems to be based on a type of memory that associates the directions relative to where I am with destinations. For example, it often happens that I don’t remember, say, what places follow after the next turn, but I know that I have to go that way to reach some destination; once I turn I’ll remember the “next step”. But it’s not a memory of “routes”, because I can and do on occasion do the same thing with routes that are not common, as long as they pass through places I know. (E.g., I might do a detour that never happened before unconsciously.) Also, it’s not quite spatial memory, because for places like this I don’t have any awareness of their relative location on a map. (That is, I can follow an instinctive route between two distant points, even a route I never followed exactly before, but I can’t tell afterwards if the destination was north or south of the starting point.)

However, in places I’m not yet familiar with things seem to be very different. Generally I can look at a map and remember the interesting points. I can’t remember the map photographically, but I kind of remember the relative orientations of points. Then, if I need to navigate alone, I need to pay attention to the cardinal points and remember approximately the direction my destination is. (Mentally this feels like looking at a graph of interconnected dots, with the vector of the direction I’m looking at superimposed.) It works surprisingly well, and the reason I mention it is that this seems to be a trained skill; when I was younger I relied entirely on the first method above, and I had no hope of orienting myself. This method seems to have appeared after I was forced (by moving alone) and I worked on it; it clearly improved with trying, so I think it’s a learned skill.

As far as I can tell the trick is to learn to “get your bearings” (the “vector” I mentioned above). This is usually easy, I just use the sun to establish (vaguely) direction. It’s easy: in the morning it’s towards the east, midday it’s towards the south, evenings west. If you can model basic astronomy in your head you can make adjustments for date and the like. (If you learn to recognize the big dipper and follow the stars around, it’s easy enough to find the north star at night.)

The trick is to consistently try to do this. I remember at first I failed completely, but if you keep forcing yourself to think “which way is north” often enough, odds are that whatever part of the brain handles that task will start paying attention and work quite well. (Note: try to think in terms of an absolute direction, not in terms of your direction. That is, when I take a turn, in my mental image the map stays the same and the vector for “my direction” rotates; I don’t rotate the map the way a GPS navigator does. So, for example, if I’m going north and turn right, my mental model doesn’t say “destination is now forward”; instead, it always says “destination is east”, and “my orientation is east”; it’s much easier to mentally rotate a line in a map than to mentally rotate a map.)

(A hint: if I’m led by someone between two places, I almost never remember the route, even if I try. But if I force myself to check a map and try to navigate by myself once, I almost don’t have to try to remember it.)

It’s quite clear that the two systems are distinct; whenever they need to interact, for example when navigating between an area I know well and one I don’t, it feels very strange; I get a very clear sensation of knowing the familiar area in a way and a very different sense of the other area (like a map), it feels like they don’t connect. I have to visually “mark” the familiar spots on the mental map of the unfamiliar place, and consciously figure out the relationships and connections, before I can route between the two “modes”.

Orientation in a place is very similar; the two methods apply the same on familiar/non-familiar places. However, in buildings I don’t think in terms of north/south, I usually think in terms of the entry point. However the mental operation of figuring out which way that is after a few turns is the same as that of remembering which way north is. In familiar places I can’t tell immediately which way is everything, I have to imagine me moving through the place, step by step, using the “familiar” system and construct a mental map in parallel using the other “map-like” system.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 February 2011 02:30:30AM *  5 points [-]

This has been upvoted a lot. Does anyone think I should move it to Main?

Edit: Apparently so. Moved.

Comment author: JanetK 07 February 2011 11:33:11AM 13 points [-]

I believe there should be a subject in school (and text books to go with it) that goes through all the things that adult citizens should know. I believe this was part of what was called Civics but that is dead or changed to something else. The idea is somewhat dated but it included things like how to vote, how to read a train schedule, that different types of insurance actually were, simple first aid, how to find a book in a library and all sorts of things like that. Today it would be a slightly different list. Somewhere between 10 and 14 seems the ideal age to be interested and learn these sort of things.

Comment author: SilasBarta 07 February 2011 08:43:43PM 36 points [-]

I agree. I've also long held a different but complementary view: that all establishments should (hopefully, out of the goodness of their hearts) put up signs that basically say, "this is how it works here".

(For example, at a grocery store in the US, the sign would say something like, "This store sells the items you see inside that have a price label by them. To buy something, take it with you to one of the numbered short aisles [registers] toward the exit and place it on the belt. If you need many items, you may want to use one of the baskets or carts provided near this sign. The store employee at the register will tell you how much the item costs, and you can pay with ...")

While most of it would be obvious to everyone and something parents automatically teach, everyone might find some different part of it to be novel. And I suspect that this easily-correctible "double illusion of transparency", in which people don't think such signs would convey anything new, prevents a lot of beneficial activity from happening.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 07 February 2011 09:08:24PM 15 points [-]

This is particularly helpful for anyone new to the area - immigrants, emigrants, tourists, etc.

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 February 2011 10:23:37PM 9 points [-]

As I live in Germany I have experience with such rule sets. People don't follow them and instead do whatever they consider to be the obvious thing to do.

Our public transport system has for example the rule that you should stand on the right side of an escalator if you choose to stand.
If you choose to walk the escalator you take the left side.

It's a smart rule and it would be in the public interest if everyone would abide by it. It would make life easier for those who choose who walk the escalator. Normal people however don't care and simple stand wherever they want to stand.

Introducing a formal rule set when people are used to following informal rules is hard.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 13 February 2011 08:28:15PM *  6 points [-]

In London, the same convention is in effect on the Underground. Unlike Germany, it is almost always followed, and enforces itself. If you stand on the left, it won't be long before someone walking will ask you to step aside to let them pass.

There are notices here and there asking people to do this.

Comment author: SilasBarta 10 February 2011 12:08:28AM *  5 points [-]

The idea is for the sign to describe how it in fact works, not necessarily how they'd like it to work. (A sufficiently detailed sign might explain the distinction, potentially allowed for coordinated punishment of defectors.) That's why I mentioned the bit about "the goodness of their hearts". It would probably require a law because of the problem of people stating outright how something "really" works.

(I've been to the Hauptbahnhoffs btw -- "links gehen, rechts stehen" is the phrase, right?)

Introducing a formal rule set when people are used to following informal rules is hard.

I agree -- so the idea instead is to have a sign that can quickly teach people this informal system, since it may be so hard for a newcomer to infer it.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 07 February 2011 09:05:41PM 5 points [-]


Would you similarly endorse putting a link up on the front page that explains that "this website displays user-generated content, both in the form of discrete posts and in the form of comments associated either with a post or another comment. To view a post, click the title under "recent posts." To view comments... etc. etc. etc."?

Comment author: SilasBarta 07 February 2011 09:11:28PM 11 points [-]

Maybe not specifically that, but I recall a lot of new users (and regular users, and critics of users...) complaining that they don't know e.g. what kinds of comments are appropriate to post under articles, what the pre-requisites for understanding the material and generally stuff that we might just assume they know.

LW does have a good "about" section, though.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 February 2011 05:57:49AM 11 points [-]

It needs a "how to use the site" section. When the envelope turns red, it means you have a reply or a message. The help link at the bottom of the comment box will tell you how to do formatting, but it's different formatting methods if you post an article.

There may be useful features on the site that haven't crossed my path. Finding them seems to be a semi-random process.

Comment author: janos 07 February 2011 04:23:02AM *  11 points [-]

Regarding investment, my suggestion (if you work in the US) is to open a basic (because it doesn't periodically charge you fees) E*TRADE account here. They will provide an interface for buying and selling shares of stocks and various other things (ETFs and such; I mention stocks and ETFs because those are the only things I've tried doing anything with). They will charge you $10 for every transaction you make, so unless you're going to be (or become) active/clever enough to make it worthwhile, it makes sense not to trade too frequently.

EDIT: These guys appear to charge less, though they also deal in fewer things (e.g. no bonds).

Comment author: jsalvatier 07 February 2011 03:49:47PM 21 points [-]

I feel like it is useful to mention that because of efficient markets (which implies assets are "fairly priced") and the benefits of diversification (lower risk), it's almost always better to buy a low fee mutual fund than any particular stocks or bonds. In particular, Index Funds merely keep a portfolio which tracks a broad market index. These often have very low operating costs, so they are a pretty good way to invest. You can buy these as ETFs, or you can buy them through something like Vanguard.

Comment author: Benquo 07 February 2011 05:49:01PM *  9 points [-]

I think some more detail is called for here too, on mutual funds vs ETFs:

When you buy part of a mutual fund, you are giving your money to professional fund managers to invest for you. Mutual funds are often devoted to a single investment strategy (value, growth, index...) or a specific business sector (energy, health care, high technology), or even a specific kind of investment vehicle (stocks, bonds, commodities...).

You pay the fund managers a small percentage of your assets each year (the number you want to look for here is the "expense ratio"). Something on the order of 1%. Sometimes you also pay a fee when you put your money in or when you take it out; funds that do this are called "load" funds, funds that don't are called "no-load" funds.

When you buy into an ordinary mutual fund, it's a similar process to having a savings account: you send the fund money, they use it to buy financial investments. Mutual funds are generally sold and redeemed at par; each dollar you invest in the fund buys a dollar's worth of investments. When you cash out, each dollar of investments they sell is a dollar that goes back into your pocket.

ETFs are similar to stocks. When you buy shares of an ETF, you're buying a piece of the fund from another investor, not putting money into the fund directly. ETFs are often traded at a discount to net asset value. In other words, you pay less than the market price of the investments the fund owns. But that doesn't necessarily make it a better deal, because of course when you want to cash out, you will probably be selling below par as well.

Comment author: michaelkeenan 09 February 2011 11:11:23AM 5 points [-]

This is very, very good advice, and is worth understanding in more detail. My favorite article on index funds is this one, which angles its discussion of index funds around the unusually good investment advice many Google employees received when they became millionaires after the IPO in 2004. My second-favorite is this one from Overcoming Bias (LessWrong's sister site).

Investing in index funds should be one of the big instrumental wins of rationality. It requires the ability to defend against overconfidence bias, the ability to defend against the wily marketing of financial advisers who don't have your best interests in mind, enough understanding of economics to comprehend what Yudkowsky called anti-inductive markets, and some not-especially-common knowledge about what investment options are available.

Comment author: Benquo 07 February 2011 01:04:57PM 20 points [-]

This is right. But to put it much more generally, and as an exercise in seriously trying to bridge information gaps:

To buy stocks you need what is called a Brokerage account. The way a brokerage account works is that you give money to the Broker to invest for you. (Generally, you will do this by transferring it from an existing bank account.) This money generally gets put into a highly liquid account in your name, such as a money market fund. You can get your money back by instructing your broker to send it back to you.

When you want to buy stocks or other financial investments, you direct your broker to use the money in your brokerage account to buy stocks or other financial investments in your name. Your broker will use the money that is in your account to do this. Your brokerage account now also contains the stock you bought.

When you want to sell stocks, you tell your broker to sell, and the proceeds get put back into your cash-like account.

Brokers make money by charging you a fee each time you buy or sell a stock or other financial investment through them.

There are full-service brokerages and discount brokerages. Full service brokers (such as Merrill Lynch) give you extra help figuring out what you want to do, though they charge a premium. Be aware that since full service brokers do not have a fiduciary duty to their customers to give good advice, they can legally steer you toward investments that pay them a higher commission even if it's not as good for you.

Discount brokerages are usually online-only and charge lower commissions. You don't get any advice, just the ability to buy and sell through their website. E*trade, Scottrade, and Zecco are well-known discount brokers. Some major banks such as Bank of America / Merrill Lynch and Fidelity also offer online brokerage services, as does Vanguard. Many people recommend discount brokerages over full-service ones.

Comment author: SilasBarta 07 February 2011 07:36:22PM 20 points [-]

How does a heterosexual male begin a long-term romantic relationship with a heterosexual female? Be sure to cover such issues as pre-requisites and how to indicate what intentions and when.

[For balance, others can post the dual (which is not necessarily the same) question for the other categories of people.]

Comment author: [deleted] 07 February 2011 11:05:20PM *  89 points [-]
  1. You have to put yourself in environments where you'll be able to interact with a lot of women. College is in a lot of ways set up perfectly for this: if you're not in college right now, consider joining a class or an activity group. Try to make it one where the gender balance will be in your favor. Book groups are one example--they're wildly tilted towards women (I suspect men just, you know, read books, and don't tend to see the value in sitting around sipping coffee and talking about reading books). But if you like girls who wear glasses, try finding a congenial book group. You'll probably be the only man.

    Even better than book groups, though, are dance classes. Swing and rockabilly aren't super trendy anymore, but the scenes still exist in a quieter way, and these classes are great for single men: a) they're filled mostly with women; b) dance is an inherently flirtatious activity, and the physical leading/following dynamic is one that many women find very sexy; c) even if you don't find a date in that class, you'll have learned an attractive skill, and you'll be able to participate in events that will introduce you to more women; and d) physical exercise is good for building both confidence and sexiness. Yoga classes might work too, or if you can find a martial arts practice that attracts significant numbers of women (maybe check out your local aikido classes?).

    The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) is also a surprisingly good choice for geeks who want to hook up. Wearing princess dresses is enough of a draw for women that the gender balance, while tilted towards men, isn't too awful, and so many relationships get started in the context of SCA events that there's a joke about it. (The joke is that "SCA" actually stands for "Society for Consenting Adults.")

    There are of course singles bars or activities like speed-dating that are specifically designed to let you meet single women, so you could try those too. A lot of people find those environments stressful and frustrating, which is why I'd suggest finding a social scene that is not specifically about dating.

    Lastly, let all your friends know that you're interested in meeting women. Ask to be introduced to their friends who are single. This is how people used to meet each other and it is still an important avenue to keep open.

  2. You have to ask women out on dates. This part, I know, is hard, and I'm sorry to admit that many women don't even understand how hard it is. You will be rejected and it will suck every time, but this part is a numbers game. You just have to keep doing it until you find the girl who says "yes."

    The pre-reqs for asking a girl out are fewer than you might think. It's best if you have already been introduced and have interacted a bit in a friendly manner. When I say a bit, I really mean just that you've spoken a few times. It is far, far more common for geek guys to err wildly in the opposite direction. Don't do this. If you like her, ask her out, and make your intentions unambiguous. The sooner the better.

    If you're following my advice and meeting girls in activity classes, you would do this by approaching her just after one of the classes, maybe as she's getting her things together or as she's heading out the door. Make eye contact and smile. Start with a compliment that references the interactions you've had--"Hey, I've really been enjoying dancing with you [or "sparring with you," or, "I really liked what you said about the book"] and I wonder if I could take you out to a movie next week."

    Be really clear about the fact that you're asking her for a date. Try not to say something like "I wonder if you'd like to meet for coffee and talk " because she could interpret this as merely a friendly gesture on your part, and you don't want that. A lot of inexperienced guys think they should establish a friendship before they ask a girl out, but you really don't want to sink a lot of time and energy into a girl who is never going to see you "like that." (It is true that established friendships can make a wonderful basis for romance, but never, ever count on that happening.)

    Also, propose a specific activity and a specific time. Don't just say "I wonder if you'd go out with me some time" because a) it sounds a little desperate and b) a lot of women have trouble saying "no" directly (we're socialized not to). Leave her a face-saving way to refuse. If she says "I'd love to but I've been really busy with work/school/life recently," that means no. Move on. (If, on the other hand, she says "I'm going to Guatemala next week, but I'll be back by the end of the month, maybe then?" that means yes.)

Dealing with rejection: When you are rejected, try to be gracious about it, even if she is not. Like I said above, a lot of women truly do not understand how much gumption it takes to put yourself out there by making a pass. If she seems annoyed or condescending or whatever, try to shrug it off; just smile and say "okay, no problem" or something along those lines. Do the same thing if she says "I'd rather just be friends." (But for the love of Pete, do not spend a lot of effort trying to actually cultivate a friendship. Moooooove on.)

It does get easier the more you do it. Just remind yourself that it is a numbers game. The worst thing that can happen is not that you ask ten girls out and they all say no. The worst thing is that you ask ten girls, they say no, and then you stop asking. Because whether it was Girl #11 or Girl #83 who would've fallen head over heels for you, you'll never find her now. Keep looking to meet women, and keep asking them out; these are the two steps that lead to relationships.

Troubleshooting: If you do find that you are consistently rejected, there might be something going on with your self-presentation that is offputting to women. Make sure your basic hygiene is good: that you are wearing clean clothes that fit you, that your hair is cut and that you are clean-shaven. (Facial hair is Advanced Fashion for Men: if fashion is not your ballgame, just shave, trust me.) Ask your friends if there's anything going on with your looks or demeanor that might be getting in your way.

If you are overweight, start an exercise regimen, but do not wait until you are at your ideal weight to start asking women on dates. It is perfectly possible for big dudes to find love, they do it all the time. It IS more important to make sure that you wear flattering clothing that fits you well--a baggy, threadbare tee-shirt and Hawaiian shorts may not cut it. Use Google Images to find pictures of some of the heavier celebrities (like Sean Astin, or Seth Rogan before he slimmed down). Check out what they are/were wearing, and use those pictures as a style guide.

You may also be acting in ways that indicate you don't value yourself, which can make women (and other people in general) instinctively shy away. You will probably need the help of people who actually know you to diagnose these kinds of problems and help you fix them.

In general, though, from my observations, most geek guys are able to get dates so long as they go where the women are, and ask them out. The most common mistake by far is simply failing to execute one or both of these crucial steps.

Comment author: anonymous259 08 February 2011 08:55:57PM 12 points [-]

b) a lot of women have trouble saying "no" directly (we're socialized not to).

I cannot possibly stress enough how non-obvious this is to "geeky" males.

Comment author: Blueberry 09 February 2011 12:55:08AM 5 points [-]

I don't think this is accurate. People generally don't say "no" directly. It's not a matter of gender socialization, it's just how language works. A direct "no" is seen as rude, and refusals are usually couched in vague or tentative language.

Comment author: sark 08 February 2011 06:34:53PM 10 points [-]

Is it purely a numbers game though? Most people have this thing nerdy academics call a 'mate value sociometer' and they use it to help decide how hot a female to pursue. Of course, this sociometer has to be calibrated, so you really want to be rejected often enough to know where you stand. My point is, it might be better to keep this sociometer in mind (especially since non-neurotypicals tend not to have this instinct), to at first target your proposals to be as informative as possible, and then later on target those girls your mate value can buy. (this is in fact what studies have found neurotypicals to be doing)

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 08 February 2011 11:28:40PM 9 points [-]

This seems like very good, thorough, general advice. However, I wonder how many of us (heterosexual males reading Less Wrong) have romantic preferences that are as general. I realize that the "reading Less Wrong" part of that descriptor wasn't specified in the question, but it seems implied.

In general, a heterosexual man might describe the set of his potential romantic partners in the following way: a woman whom he finds physically attractive, with whom he shares interests, and with whom his personality is compatible. (That the woman is currently single is also important for many, including myself, but I recognize that it's less general than the former three, given the existence of polyamory/fidelity.)

However, for myself, I would add to this a fairly strict qualifier, that the woman is an atheist. I simply don't feel that I would be able to be emotionally intimate with a woman who holds an irrational, i.e. religious, worldview. Atheist doesn't necessarily mean rationalist, but religious almost definitely means irrational, i.e. P(rationalist|atheist) >> P(rationalist|religious), and even more so for P(would be open to rationality|atheist). I find it to be a sound heuristic that prevents me from embarking on relationships very likely doomed to failure. I doubt that I am alone among LWers in taking this into account.

Unfortunately, I have found it really damn hard to meet atheist women. I can count on one hand the number I have met in college. A large part of that is that I attend a science/engineering university which has a student body comprised of only ~30% women, but even then, my expectation before entering the university was that a population self-selected for interest in science/engineering would have a larger proportion of atheism than the general population. That expectation was not met by reality, and I recognized that I was confused, but trying to resolve that confusion (see below) didn't appreciably help my goal of meeting atheist women.

Studies have shown that women tend to be more religious than men. I also hypothesize that women who do select a science/engineering university are more likely to have gone to a private high school (76% of private schools are religious). As women tend to be socialized away from an interest in science, a stronger educational program than exists in the average public school might qualify as a "push" to counter that trend. I have met a fair number of women at this university who went to a religious school, but the sample size isn't large enough to confirm that hypothesis.

In any case, the problem remains: atheist women seem to be hard to find. The types of general activities you've suggested are good for socializing, but unlikely to have a larger-than-average atheist population. Are there activities similarly strong in socializing that would have a larger atheist population?

(Note: I don't mean to slight the obvious effort you put into this post; it's just that my own issues on this subject, and I suspect some others' issues as well, are more involved than just social awkwardness/inexperience.)

Comment author: [deleted] 09 February 2011 12:17:22AM 6 points [-]

So this is an interesting challenge. My first thought is that it's actually a challenge shared by theists--Mormon men who want a Mormon wife, for example--but these people share a whole social structure (their religious community) that is already working to bring them together. Without this, atheists do face a special hurdle.

Studies have shown that women tend to be more religious than men.

Wow, those numbers are high. Yes, when you're limited to 14 percent of women, general dating strategies become a lot less useful.

Other groups faced with numbers like these have to create (and advertise among themselves!) special spaces for meeting and flirting. (I'm thinking about gay bars now.)

The types of general activities you've suggested are good for socializing, but unlikely to have a larger-than-average atheist population. Are there activities similarly strong in socializing that would have a larger atheist population?

I hope others can suggest more, but the only one I'm coming up with is political activism. If you are in the U.S.A., you could look for events put on through http://secular.org/ or any of the Member Organizations. Even though men are more likely to be atheists, women are more likely to be volunteers, so you may find that the gender balance evens out.

Comment author: CronoDAS 09 February 2011 03:58:04AM 4 points [-]

In any case, the problem remains: atheist women seem to be hard to find.

It's probably a little bit easier if you don't live in the U.S.; the U.S. is unusually religious when compared to other First World countries.

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 February 2011 09:17:06PM 3 points [-]

The reason to go into environments where you interact with a lot of women isn't only an issue of having a lot of opportunities. It's also a matter of practice.

Even if you don't like to date the woman at a dance class the class will still teach you basic skills about interacting with women.

If you don't have the practice with regularly interacting with women than you are unlikely to have success when you find a woman who would be a good match because she fulfills your criteria.

Comment author: Desrtopa 09 February 2011 02:47:12PM 3 points [-]

Have you tried using OkCupid? It allows you to filter by religion, and it appears to be the preferred dating site among Less Wrongers, and possibly young intellectuals in general. We already have a thread dedicated to optimizing your profile for positive attention, so it may worth trying out.

Comment author: lukeprog 08 February 2011 01:19:10PM 20 points [-]

Lots of good advice here.

One change I'd make is that, imo, a movie makes a poor first date. Do something fun and active where talking is possible, instead.

Comment author: PaulWright 08 February 2011 12:21:45PM *  5 points [-]

Even better than book groups, though, are dance classes.

Amen to that. I'd add a slight caution that chemistry generated on the dancefloor can sometimes just be about the dancing, and telling when it is more than that is possibly an advanced skill. So, as this Mefi comment says, don't push your luck on the dancefloor itself.

Workaround: ask after the class or when you're standing around chatting (assuming you don't dance all the time). Don't be the guy who asks everyone in turn: the women talk to each other :-) EDIT: I elaborate on what I mean by this below...

Comment author: SilasBarta 07 February 2011 11:48:34PM 5 points [-]

Thanks, this is what an informative answer looks like.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 08 February 2011 02:31:41PM *  17 points [-]

This is excellent advice, and I up-voted it. However:

If she seems annoyed or condescending or whatever, try to shrug it off; just smile and say "okay, no problem" or something along those lines. Do the same thing if she says "I'd rather just be friends." (But for the love of Pete, do not spend a lot of effort trying to actually cultivate a friendship. Moooooove on.)

I may just be reading too much into things, and I acknowledge that this comment is written primarily as a response to the question "how to get into a relationship". Nevertheless, this bit bothers me a bit, as the "for the love of, don't try to actually cultivate a friendship" part seems to imply that there's no point in being friends with women if you're not going to have a relationship with them. That strikes me as a bit offensive.

Even if we're assuming that you're purpose is solely to get women, I don't think befriending lots of them is as useless as you seem to suggest. You say yourself that one's friends may introduce one to somebody one might be interested in. People tend to have more same-sex friends than opposite-sex friends, so being friends with lots of women will increase your chances of one of them introducing you to a friend of theirs. I also suspect that women are more likely than men to do this.

I do admit that this may not be the most efficient approach if you're optimizing purely for finding a romantic relationship in minimum time. But on the other hand, it can wield you rewarding friendships that persist long after the end of your relationship with whoever it was you eventually found, so personally I'd find it worth it.

I should also mention that my experience somewhat mirrors MBlume's, and I find the notion of becoming involved with someone before being good friends with them a little off-putting. Which is not to say that it would never have happened to me, though. (Without going to details, suffice to say that I've both had relationships with women I was friends with from before, and with women where that wasn't the case.)

Comment author: cousin_it 08 February 2011 08:10:38PM *  22 points [-]

Befriending women is sometimes useful for becoming attractive to other women. (Allow me to skip the obligatory part where friendship is good in itself, of course it is, but I want to make a different point.) For example, you can ask them to help you shop for clothes, relying on their superior visual taste. Most of my "nice" clothes that I use for clubbing etc. were purchased this way, and girls seem to love this activity. Also they can bring you to events where you can meet other women; help you get into clubs; offer emotional support when you need it; and so on. If you make it very clear that you're not pursuing this specific girl sexually, being friends with her can make quite a substantial instrumental benefit.

That said, of course I don't mean the kind of "friendship" that girls offer when they reject you. That's just a peculiar noise they make with their mouths in such situations, it doesn't mean anything.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 08 February 2011 02:49:58PM 10 points [-]

There's a big difference between "If I approach someone for a date, and s/he rebuffs me, it's best not to spend a lot of effort cultivating a friendship with that person" and "It's never worth cultivating friendships."

Yes, making friends is worth doing. Agreed. And if it so happens that the person I'm making friends with is someone I'd previously wanted to date, great! I have numerous friends in this category, and some of them are very good friends indeed.

But even with that in mind, I mostly agree with siduri.

Mostly that's because I know very few people who can make that decision reliably immediately after being turned down. Taking a while to decide whether I'm genuinely interested in a friendship with this person seems called for.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 February 2011 04:53:19PM 10 points [-]

I also meant the "spend a lot of effort" part to act as a qualifier, since for me true friendships tend to develop spontaneously and easily, in contrast to a situation where I'm actively courting the other person and they're kind of pulling back. In my own life, I've learned it's better to just let those second kinds of friendships die in the bud.

However, I recognize on reflection that for more introverted people, developing any friendship probably takes significant effort--so advice along the general lines of "if you have to push it, it's probably not meant to be" is actually probably bad advice for a lot of people. Instead, I think the question should be "would you be satisfied with friendship alone, if nothing further ever developed? Would the friendship be a source of happiness to you, or a source of frustration and pain?"

I just don't think guys should spend the time and energy being friends with women if friendship isn't truly what they're after. In a case like that it's much better for them to focus their attention on other women, who might reciprocate.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 February 2011 04:38:00PM 9 points [-]

Sorry, that line wasn't clear. If you'd truly like to be friends with a particular woman, then by all means, be her friend! What I'm specifically counseling inexperienced men to avoid is the pitfall where they befriend a woman when they really want to be her boyfriend, and then spend a lot of time pining after her fruitlessly.

And I did mean it when I said, "It is true that established friendships can make a wonderful basis for romance..." My husband was my friend first, so I'm not knocking these kinds of relationships at all. However, it'll either happen or it won't; if there are strategies for making it happen, I don't know them; and I don't think hoping it will happen is a good strategy at all for men specifically looking for a relationship. My impression is that ending up in "the friend zone" with a woman you want to date is a fairly common failure mode for inexperienced men, so I advise SilasBarta to take some care to avoid it. I may have stressed that part too heavily.

Comment author: bigjeff5 08 February 2011 11:20:40PM *  6 points [-]

I believe the point is that if you want a romantic relationship with a woman, cultivating a friendship with her in the hopes that romance will develop is almost always a bad idea. Occasionally such romance sparks "out of the blue", but more likely nothing will ever happen, and it is a huge investment of time and emotion that basically never pays off. So if you aren't interested in the woman for the sake of friendship alone, it is better to just forget about her and move on.

If you find a person interesting and worth being friends with, by all means don't reject such an opportunity just because the person is a woman. That's idiotic. It's just a terrible dating strategy, that's all.

Comment author: MBlume 08 February 2011 05:46:58AM *  11 points [-]

You have to ask women out on dates.

This is not strictly true from my experience. I've had three girlfriends thus far and in all three cases, we were basically just friends who eventually realized we wanted to date one another. Of course, all three were also housemates, so I may be an odd case.

I've tried the "ask women out on dates" approach from time to time, but keep coming back to the impression that I'm the sort of person who just slides into romantic relationships with friends, and that if I want more romantic relationships, I need to make my social circle -- not my circle of acquaintances, but my circle of folks I see on a daily basis -- more generally co-ed (kind of a problem since it's mostly folks I know from Singinst/Less Wrong these days).

Or become bisexual. If anyone posted a procedural comment on how to become bisexual, I would upvote it immediately =)

Comment author: khafra 08 February 2011 05:30:47PM 42 points [-]

The way to become bisexual is to regularly extend your exposure to erotic stimuli just a little further than your comfort zone extends in that direction. I'll use drawn pictorial porn as an example erotic stimulus, but adapt to whatever you prefer: start with Bridget. Everyone is gay for Bridget. Once you're comfortable with Bridget, move on to futanari-on-female erotica, male-on-futanari, then futanari-on-male, paying attention to your comfort levels. You'll run across some bizarre things while searching for this stuff; if any of it interests you, just go with it.

By now, you should be fairly comfortable with the plumbing involved, so it's just the somatically male body you need to learn to find attractive. Find art featuring bishounen types, then pairing them with other male body types, and pay attention to what feels most comfortable.

It may take a while to go through this process, but I believe it's entirely achievable for most people who don't view heterosexuality as a terminal value.

Comment author: David_Gerard 08 February 2011 10:28:38PM *  24 points [-]

The Bisexual Conspiracy commends your insidious efforts at propagating memes advantageous to us and has sent you several HBBs of assorted gender orientations by overnight delivery.

Comment author: oliverbeatson 09 February 2011 01:47:52AM 6 points [-]

I wonder how much this would work for a homosexual male.

I've actually been trying this essential thing, although with less persistence as it requires a certain amount of effort to attend to something that just seems so immediately boring to myself. Perhaps living in a hetero-normative culture ensures that when a man decides that he's gay, he is more likely to have discovered a roughly immutable biological fact?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 09 February 2011 02:34:42AM 10 points [-]

Two related thoughts come to mind.

One is that male anatomy is more familiar, and therefore presumably less intimidating, to straight men than female anatomy is to gay men.

Another is that in a heteronormative culture, men who aren't strictly monosexual are more likely to identify as straight than as gay. If what this technique actually does is make men who aren't monosexual more aware of their non-monosexuality, then I'd expect it to get more noticeable results on men who identify as straight. (I'd also expect there to be a wide range of effectiveness among straight-identified men.)

Comment author: David_Gerard 09 February 2011 12:13:35PM *  8 points [-]

Despite subcultural normativity being strongly biased against bisexuality, really quite a lot of gay-identifying men have experimented with heterosexual behaviour, but are - ha! - closeted about it.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 08 February 2011 10:35:26PM 5 points [-]

I take it this is a process that's worked for you?

Comment author: khafra 08 February 2011 10:39:27PM 9 points [-]

Accidentally, but yes. I've also seen it work on other people who frequent /b/, both for bisexuality and many paraphilias.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 09 February 2011 01:12:02AM 17 points [-]

heh, I had a suspicion that /b/ had something to do with this

Comment author: [deleted] 13 May 2012 01:55:48AM 3 points [-]

It does get easier the more you do it. Just remind yourself that it is a numbers game. The worst thing that can happen is not that you ask ten girls out and they all say no. The worst thing is that you ask ten girls, they say no, and then you stop asking. Because whether it was Girl #11 or Girl #83 who would've fallen head over heels for you, you'll never find her now. Keep looking to meet women, and keep asking them out; these are the two steps that lead to relationships.

This can backfire if you live in a small town.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 February 2011 08:34:05PM *  5 points [-]

If anyone figured out the asexual variant of this, I'd love to know, too. (Gender shouldn't matter that much.)

Comment author: wedrifid 07 February 2011 10:09:02PM 7 points [-]

If anyone figured out the asexual variant of this, I'd love to know, too.

Alas, asexuality among humans is notorious for making it difficult to form long-term romantic relationships.

(Gender shouldn't matter that much.)

When it comes to following protocol it is matters more what it is than what it should be. The various permutations of gender and romantic preference do matter that much. (And looking at things as they are instead of how they 'should be' is probably step one.)

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: 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: 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 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: 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: 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: [deleted] 08 February 2011 03:33:41AM 4 points [-]

How do you write a will?

Comment author: Mass_Driver 08 February 2011 04:30:25AM 5 points [-]

The following is not legal advice for your situation, despite the occasional use of the second person. Rather, it is general commentary about how wills work. </disclaimer>

There are four good options: (1) do it yourself (2) hire a lawyer ($200 - $3,000) (3) use a legal forms service such as LegalZoom.com ($30 - $100) (4) buy a how-to book from a company like Nolo ($15 - $40)

If you do it yourself, you will need to think about what you own, decide who you would like to get that stuff when you die, and then write your instructions down on a piece of paper. You should then find two adults who are (a) not your relatives, and (b) not mentioned in the will to be your witnesses. Reassure the witnesses that you are sane, thinking clearly, and acting of your own free will. Then sign the will by writing your name in both print and cursive at the bottom. Add today's date. Then have each of your witnesses do the same. Have the witnesses write "witness" next to their signatures. Finally, make two photocopies of the will. Keep one in your desk for handy reference, give one to a friend or family member for publicity, and put the original in a safe deposit box at a bank for safekeeping.

If you decide to hire a lawyer, make sure the lawyer speaks a casual dialect of English in addition to legalese -- a will that no one but lawyers can decipher will irritate your relatives. For free, you should expect to be able to briefly discuss what sort of will you want. After the discussion, insist on a flat fee that will cover drafting (writing), execution (signing) and an uncontested probating (publishing and enforcing) your will. Do not agree to an hourly rate unless there is a firm cap on the number of hours. If your relatives challenge your will, you will probably have to pay additional fees. If you think this is likely, set aside some money in your will to pay the legal expenses associated with publishing and enforcing your will.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 February 2011 03:28:52AM 4 points [-]

How do you fold a fitted sheet? The time I tried to follow Martha Stewart's instructions I took a wrong turn somewhere, and just ended up with a wadded-up ball of sheet as per usual. And I didn't care enough to unfold and try again. Do you know a different/easier technique?

Comment author: Alicorn 08 February 2011 05:15:52AM 4 points [-]

Name the corners A, B, C, and D, clockwise around the sheet with A as the upper left and A-B forming a long side of the sheet.

Tuck corner A into corner B, so the one is nested inside the other. Then, avoiding twisting the sheet, tuck corner D into corner C similarly. Then, tuck corner AB into corner CD. You should now have a rectangle that will lie fairly flat. Fold it up like you would fold a flat thing.

Comment author: Threedee 07 February 2011 06:23:49AM 15 points [-]

There are a number of web sites that present such implicit and procedural knowledge. such as: http://www.ehow.com/ http://www.wikihow.com/Main-Page http://www.howcast.com/ http://www.howtodothings.com/

I might be useful to somehow select the most generally useful ones of these in one place.

Comment author: luminosity 07 February 2011 09:18:26AM *  11 points [-]

I haven't come across any of them except eHow. eHow is awful. Useless. Bad. I have ended up there unwittingly from google searches a half dozen times or so. Not once has it answered what I wanted to know. The information on their site is optimised to be written as quickly as possible while getting the best google rank possible, with no thought as to quality of information.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 07 February 2011 07:27:11PM *  14 points [-]

the procedure here is how to consistently feel better after a few weeks (vs typical lazy cheap diets)

breakfast, buy:

  • plain (unsweetened) yogurt
  • honey
  • fruit (bananas or whatever berries are on sale)
  • granola (again, unsweetened)

dump together in bowl and eat. if you don't feel hungry in the morning just do a very small serving at first.

lunch: whatever, avoid sugar/white bread

dinner, buy :

  • rice-a-roni red beans and rice when it is on sale (goes to 75 cents a box once every couple months at my local store)
  • bell pepper (or spicier pepper to taste)
  • olive oil

boil, then simmer 20 minutes

yes, this procedure can be improved upon. the advantage of this one is low activation cost as it is about as difficult as the regular bachelor diet of instant foods. if you're trying to eat healthier but can't find the motivation this is a decent compromise.

major thing to avoid besides the obvious: fruit juice and fruit flavored anything. you're subverting your body's desire for actual fruit. fruit juice is no better for you than soda.

I'm guessing this is mostly preaching to the choir here, but if this helps one person it was worth the 5 minutes.

Comment author: Alicorn 07 February 2011 07:52:06PM 8 points [-]

Another easy healthy thing:

Just about any vegetables can be boiled till soft, then put through the blender, salted and peppered to taste, and yield soup (cream is optional). A quartered peeled onion, half a bulb of peeled garlic, and a quartered peeled potato or two, plus a fair amount of peeled and roughly chopped whatever else (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, turnips, fennel, leeks, celery root or stalks, whatever) is a good template. Dump it all in a pot with water or stock. Boil till it'll smoosh against the side of the pot when pressed with a spoon. Blend. Salt & pepper.

Comment author: pengvado 09 February 2011 07:05:21AM *  3 points [-]

Is there any nutritional reason to distinguish between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or did you give separate suggestions just to be compatible with american traditions about what to eat when? Am I missing something when I eat 2-4 meals per day all drawn at random from the same menu consisting mostly of what other people might call "dinners"?

Comment author: dinasaurus 10 February 2011 01:19:18AM 3 points [-]

I'm not sure about the other traditions, but eating foods with a high amount of carbohydrates (especially sugar) for dinner in my experience isn't a good idea. Even fruit. It raises your blood sugar, so when your blood sugar drops again you find yourself hungry. It happened to me a quite a few times that I woke up in the middle of the night in desperate need of sweets. If don't eat sweet things in the evening this doesn't happen. Obviously this only speaks against eating "breakfast" for dinner but not against eating "dinner" for breakfast. Which seems to be what English Breakfast is all about. ;-)

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: 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