Low Hanging fruit for buying a better life

post by taryneast · 2015-01-06T10:11:15.242Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 208 comments

What can I purchase with $100 that will be the best thing I can buy to make my life better?


I've decided to budget some regular money to improving my life each month. I'd like to start with low hanging fruit for obvious reasons - but when I sat down to think of improvements, I found myself thinking of the same old things I'd already been planning to do anyway... and I'd like out of that rut.

Constraints/more info:


  1. be concrete. I know - "spend money on experiences" is a good idea - but what experiences are the best option to purchase *first*
  2. "better" is deliberately left vague - choose how you would define it, so that I'm not constrained just by ways of "being better" that I'd have thought of myself.
  3. please assume that I have all my basic needs met (eg food, clothing, shelter) and that I have budgeted separately for things like investing for my financial future and for charity.
  4. apart from the above, assume nothing - Especially don't try and tailor solutions to anything you might know and/or guess about me specifically, because I think this would be a useful resource for others who might have just begun.
  5. don't constrain yourself to exactly $100 - I could buy 2-3 things for that, or I could save up over a couple of months and buy something more expensive... I picked $100 because it's a round number and easy to imagine.
  6. it's ok to add "dumb" things - they can help spur great ideas, or just get rid of an elephant in the room.
  7. try thinking of your top-ten before reading any comments, in order not to bias your initial thinking. Then come back and add ten more once you've been inspired by what everyone else came up with.



This is a question I recently posed to my local Less Wrong group and we came up with a few good ideas, so I thought I'd share the discussion with the wider community and see what we can come up with. I'll add the list we came up with later on in the comments...

It'd be great to have a repository of low-hanging fruit for things that can be solved with (relatively affordable) amounts of money. I'd personally like to go through the list - look at candidates that sound like they'd be really useful to me and then make a prioritised list of what to work on first.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-01-06T13:28:42.921Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upgrading barely-satisfactory household goods to better versions. Many such goods are bequeathed or obtained when the user can't afford better, and never replaced once they're in a position to do so.

Example #1: laundry apparatus. When I was younger and poorer I bought the cheapest laundry basket and airer I could get. They weren't very good, but I laboured with them for over a decade because they were satisfactory. A replacement set in my 30s cost me less than I would even notice spending, and vastly improved my laundry workflow and throughput.

Example #2: kitchen knives. It's alarming to me how many people think a bread knife and one other miscellaneous sharp knife constitutes a fully-equipped kitchen. If you spend any appreciable amount of time preparing food, and you only own one straight-edged kitchen knife you don't know the name of, you're almost certainly making life harder for yourself. Buy an inexpensive 5-piece block set and experiment with each type of knife on different foodstuffs.

Replies from: michaelsullivan, pianoforte611, sixes_and_sevens, TylerJay, pinyaka, taryneast, Lumifer
comment by michaelsullivan · 2015-01-12T20:24:14.876Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Honestly, most kitchens do not need more than 4 knives. I own and use more, but I cook a lot, and have very good knife skills. I can do almost anything I need with a single large knife (ideally a santoku, but a chef's knife or chinese cleaver would do ok as well). One serrated knife for bread.

The most important thing is that whatever knife you use is good enough to hold an edge, and kept sharp. Have your knives professionally sharpened at least once a year (or learn how to do it yourself) and use a steel to hone them once a week or before/after any hard use (1/2 hr+ of prep chopping). It's also worth some time learning proper knife technique.

All that is much more important than having more than two knives, as long as your two knives are good choices. When I vacation in cottages with a kitchen, or when I visit relatives that I know do not maintain sharp knives -- if I will be cooking, I make it a point to pack my own knives (I bought a chef's knife caddy from a local culinary school for this purpose). And I am a massively nazi-ish light packer, typically packing for a week+ trip in a single carry-on bag (including my knives). That's how important this is to me. That said, I love cooking, and tend to do a lot even on vacation.

I think this principle generalizes. Tools are a nice force multiplier. For anything that you love to do, or need do frequently, having good tools that will last a long time is generally a hugely efficient upgrade in your QOL.

It can, of course, be taken too far. Upgrading everyday use tools to cheapest professional grade is a very good use of money. Upgrading to the best possible, or upgrading things you rarely use is generally not.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-08-16T22:42:32.441Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

my solution was to pack a sharpening stone. and a steel.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2015-01-07T19:21:40.751Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you figure out what is best? I used the "sort by customer rating" function on Amazon when I bought my first set of household goods with decent results.

Replies from: jsalvatier
comment by jsalvatier · 2015-01-07T20:24:35.461Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The standard advice for the best quality/price tradeoff seems to be Victorinox knives with the fibrox handle.

Replies from: Fhyve
comment by Fhyve · 2015-01-08T19:59:52.390Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have one of these. Can confirm, pretty good relative to other similarly priced knives I've tried, and even better than a high quality knife of the same age, when both hadn't been properly maintained.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-01-06T15:01:02.102Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(On the subject of #2, does anyone else freak out when they see someone trying to chop mushrooms with a boning knife, and if so, would they like to form a support group?)

comment by TylerJay · 2015-01-06T15:11:41.168Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I second the kitchen recommendations. I've been slowly replacing everything with OXO Good Grips products (not knives or utensils though) over the last couple years and I couldn't be happier with them. It's amazing what quality design and craftsmanship can do.

comment by pinyaka · 2015-01-08T19:45:42.430Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as kitchen equipment goes, a reliable can opener and a set of good (for whatever your definition of good is) kitchen towels are also inexpensive items that can seriously cut down on frustration in the kitchen.

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-06T23:44:52.726Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Totally agree with kitchen knives - i really loved the ones I received as a gift for xmas.

To add to that - I'd also suggest a really good skillet (eg I have a scanpan one). One good skillet every ten years is much better than having to buy a crappy one every year after the teflon peels off (or worse, eating all that peeling teflon). Also consider a deep saute pan with a lid, if you do a lot of multi-meal cooking - it doubles as both big frypan and huge pot.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-07T16:57:08.698Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One good skillet every ten years is much better than having to buy a crappy one every year

I recently realized that the price of the skillet is quite comparable to the price of meat being cooked in it nowadays.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-06T17:58:12.973Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's alarming to me how many people think a bread knife and one other miscellaneous sharp knife constitutes a fully-equipped kitchen.

You mean "one other miscellaneous dull knife", right? X-D

I am starting to think about bringing a pocket knife sharpener on trips...

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-01-07T00:12:02.944Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't need sharpeners. Most mugs of decent quality have their stoneware exposed at the bottom. And this is a very good sharpener. You don't need steel. Your dull knife will be sharp (enough) within seconds.

Replies from: Lumifer, Alicorn
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-07T15:31:24.031Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hah, good idea. I wouldn't do this to any knife I care about, but we are talking about pretty bad knives here.

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-01-07T21:21:04.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's pragmatics. Most kitchen work I do requires no really sharp knives Also I have children to take care of. Significantly sharp knives are a risk. But getting a plain old kitchen knife up to speed to cut meat is a real solution here.

Replies from: atorm
comment by atorm · 2015-01-08T18:03:15.209Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sharp knives are safer than dull ones.

Replies from: TrE, Lumifer
comment by TrE · 2015-01-08T20:29:24.760Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you have internalized the concept of what a sharp edge is and if you are using said knive to cut things.

If, on the other hand, you are a child, no or a very dull knife is the best option.

Replies from: atorm
comment by atorm · 2015-01-09T13:13:46.728Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, fair point.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-08T18:05:56.774Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sharp knives are safer than dull ones

That's an oft-repeated adage, but, having used both dull and scary-sharp knives, I'm not sure it's true.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-09T03:56:21.708Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Once you've cut the top off your first finger... you learn to grow much more cautious about using them ;)

comment by Alicorn · 2015-01-07T01:48:14.798Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's the procedure for sharpening a knife with the bottom of a mug? Do you just drag the side of the knife along it a few times?

Replies from: Nornagest
comment by Nornagest · 2015-01-07T02:18:03.465Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, you basically just run the edge across the exposed ceramic. The angle the edge makes with the sharpening surface is important, though. There's no single bevel angle that works for all knives; sharper angles cut more cleanly but are less durable and can't handle as much force, so a sushi knife needs a different bevel than a machete. Whatever angle you choose should be consistent all the way through.

Unless the knife is old or very dull, you're probably best off trying to match the factory angle. An easy way of doing this is to run a Sharpie along the beveled part of the blade and then check it after a couple of strokes; you're looking for the smallest angle that'll take the ink off all the way to the edge.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-07T15:34:15.915Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think the bottom of a mug is capable of enough precision to make the Sharpie trick worthwhile (or even (=flat) enough to talk about choosing bevel angles), but here is more info about knife sharpening than most people need :-)

Replies from: Nornagest
comment by Nornagest · 2015-01-07T21:46:50.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's never going to give you as consistent an angle as a water stone is, certainly. But I'd still expect a difference if you tried to bevel one knife to 30 degrees and the next to 12.

You may be right about the Sharpie trick.

comment by palladias · 2015-01-06T15:05:07.676Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • one-on-one cooking tutoring (get s/o who's good at household cooking to teach you to shop, knife skills, expand recipe repertoire)
  • take a level in badassery (lockpicking lesson, car repair, archery class -- anything that will give you a frisson of pleasure when you think - yeah, I know how to X)
  • trip to unusual/disciplined environment (Ignatian retreat, etc)
  • throw strange, themed party that your friends will remember and discuss for a long time
  • fix whatever egronomic thing annoys you most, at present (standing desk?)
  • pay s/o to reorganize messy thing in way that makes it easier for you to maintain the tidiness going forward w/o ugh of doing the initial clean-up yourself
Replies from: Curiouskid, btrettel, pinyaka, None
comment by Curiouskid · 2015-01-08T08:54:27.175Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tutoring is a general one. I was just talking to somebody the other day who independently was excited by the idea of paying a PhD student to privately tutor them in advanced math.

comment by btrettel · 2015-01-07T00:54:21.877Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Might seem trivial, but what's a good way to find someone willing to teach cooking skills? Asking friends until you get a hit? Posting on Craigslist or Reddit? I'd like to learn to cook better, but I don't know anyone who would be willing to tutor me off-hand.

Replies from: Brotherzed, palladias
comment by Brotherzed · 2015-01-09T19:21:49.104Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can self-teach. I guess it depends on your confidence with knives, but watch videos of how to do knife work, and don't go totally overboard trying to chop as fast as a professional chef, as fingers are valuable. Do the motion the way they do it, but slowly enough to be sure you will not hurt yourself. As you gain practice, you may feel comfortable naturally speeding up.

As for cooking and baking. Look up recipe on the internet. Do exactly what the recipe says. Do you not know what a step means or how to do it? Google it, watch videos, try to follow the directions as precisely as possible, and see if the result is any good. If the recipe is good and you follow the directions, you'll get something good. Cooking, especially baking, is like science, just follow the directions, and you can get close to the desired outcome.

If you're kind of a natural you can learn to spot problems with recipes before you make them, or improvise your own flavors and make them better, if you're not, that's ok. There are a lot of techniques you can learn but dipping your toes into cooking is not that hard, and a non professional can make excellent meals, it just takes more time. If you find a big passion for it then there's a whole world of resources about how to do things out there :)

Replies from: michaelsullivan
comment by michaelsullivan · 2015-01-12T20:37:10.394Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Look to see if there are food or cooking clubs in your area -- a lot of times members will have information classes or get togethers.

I also had a great experience taking some classes in turkish cooking at a turkish cultural center where I used to live. Here's a link if you live near west haven ct:


I grabbed a 3 year old item because that's me rolling out some bread dough in the picture, but they still do these.

If you live anywhere near a decent sized city or college town, there's a good chance that "cooking classes " will turn up something good.

comment by palladias · 2015-01-07T15:03:10.575Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup, I think those are good approaches. There are also franchise-y places like CulinAerie that will offer classes. But I think craigslist/friends might be best if you want someone to tailor to your needs/experience. Also worth finding out wherever restaurant line cooks tend to look for normal job postings and trying to place an ad there.

comment by pinyaka · 2015-01-08T20:01:23.617Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Having basic car repair skills is an amazingly empowering thing. Pick up an aftermarket guide ($25-30) for your car and watch some youtube videos for specific repairs.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-09T03:58:00.777Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is the time-investment more cost-effective than just paying a specialist?

And if so - for what kinds of repairs do you get the most benefit?

Replies from: pinyaka
comment by pinyaka · 2015-01-09T14:53:26.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would say that for some basic stuff, you probably will save money. The two things I've done that saved money even accounting for time spent (because they were easy to do but are sort of expensive to have a mechanic do) included changing my spark plugs and replacing the motor for a window.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-11T01:09:34.839Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How much incidental (non-helpful) knowledge must you learn in order to know what are the things that are worthwhile and what are not?

Replies from: pinyaka
comment by pinyaka · 2015-01-11T15:27:39.449Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I bought my repair book speculatively. Subsequently, as repairs became necessary I googled to get a feel for what the normal costs for that repair were and the cost for the parts. Then I looked at my book to see how much sense the instructions made to me and decided from there whether I thought I could get the job done for less time than the price difference would be worth, roughly speaking. I didn't learn anything new to make the estimate and my only previous automotive repair experience was having changed my oil once or twice with my Dad as a teen. I did not think of myself as mechanically inclined at all, but had been working with a group of mechanical engineers for a few years which gave me the confidence that if I broke something while learning, I could buy a replacement part or, worst case, pay an expert to fix my error.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-08T17:17:10.307Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agree. For some people it may be useful to spend the money on gifts, if they can see an increase in quality of relationship which is to them important.

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-06T10:18:56.584Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some ideas of mine: both things that I already have, or am thinking about buying:

  • a nice pedometer/fitbit - measuring your daily activity is the first step towards making sure you do it more regularly, and a good pedometer (with software to see your progress) is within the price range
  • a waterpik (to make flossing more interesting and thus more likely)
  • a really good-quality umbrella (for areas that are rpone to bad weather) because struggling with flimsy ones is more pain than it's worth to buy a quality one.
  • a good quality laptop bag/airline carry-on bag (especially if you lug your heavy laptop around a lot...)
  • healthy snacks for while I work (jerky and dried fruit)
  • an Ingress addiction (makes me walk a lot and it's free)
  • a shoe rack (i have a habit of tossing them all over the floor, and it's an easy way of tidying up the floor while remaining easy to dump my shoes)
  • sleep-tracking software and sleep-cycle alarm clock (to wake me up gently during REM cycle - these are often free)
  • large prints of nice pictures to stick on the wall behind my computer monitor so I have something nice to look at while working
  • do a defensive-driving course (driving safety is always useful for longevity)
  • take some meditation classes (for the ability to notice when being distracted and be better able to focus when needed)
  • take a toastmasters course (so as to be more confident with public speaking which is an importnat part of being a social leader)
  • take up a regularly scheduled low-impact exercise (eg tai chi)
Replies from: pinyaka, keflexxx, tog, waveman, oge, Gunnar_Zarncke
comment by pinyaka · 2015-01-08T19:56:02.404Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

a good quality...airline carry-on bag

Recommendation here: Several years ago I bought one of the Eagle Creek Tarmac series of bags because I was flying a lot. They are expensive (less than $300), but have a lifetime warranty including damage done by an airline (every other bag I saw excluded damage done by airlines). They are very tough, well designed, visually distinctive and just small enough to fit into most airlines carry-on maximum size. Last year I bought some packing cube nock-offs and that has also made packing and unpacking more enjoyable.

comment by keflexxx · 2015-01-13T03:23:57.472Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I purchased a Blunt umbrella for AUD$90 mid last-year when i lost yet another umbrella due to windiness. If you don't think you'll leave it behind you anywhere I'd recommend it.

Also just purchased a Jawbone Up, I felt was a good balance between subtly motivating good behaviours without being too involved. Mainly bought it for the alarm function though.

I buy biltong from Byron Bay Jerky, only place I found that uses grass-fed beef. Prices are pretty comparable across providers for this but if you can find someone to split the 2.5kgs with then you've got a pretty good deal. Other healthy snack ideas would be nuts (pre-soaked to remove phytates), chia pudding (chia seeds + some sort of milk + flavourings. i use coconut milk but any will do), coconut chips & more involved things like frittata muffins.

Meditation classes seem a good option, I've tried a couple though and they had a lot of spiritual baggage that didn't appeal to me. If you find a secular class I'd be interested.

Cycling is a low-impact exercise, and has the benefit of being able to get you places. Replacing your commute with a bike ride - if feasible - would be a good way to integrate exercise into your life.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-13T22:04:58.959Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"nuts (pre-soaked to remove phytates)" what are phytates, and why should I be scared of eating them? (given I've been eating un-soaked nuts since I was a kid without (apparent) ill effect)

The biltong looks good. I'm surprised about the grass-fed beef thing... is is just that Byron Bay is the only company that claims to use grass-fed beef? AFAIK grass-fed is much more common in Australia than, say, the States - due to our huge outback ranches - almost all sheep are grass-fed, and a much higher percentage of beef is free range too.. though I'll admit I haven't done serious research on that front.

I agree re: the spiritual baggage in meditation, but I guess I was hoping to just ignore that part... there seem to be a few classes where I live, so I'll give them a go and see where they lead. I've also sat through a lot of spiritual guff in my past (non-rational) life... so I might have a higher patience for sitting through the BS

Cycling is indeed a great idea, but I work too far away for me to go directly from beginner to cycling-to-work :( I tried various ways of getting there and have come to the unfortunate conclusion that it's actually quickest to drive (30min vs 1hr20min public transport) Luckily I've discovered that I can listen to audio-books while driving, so I've started doing that.

Replies from: keflexxx, taryneast
comment by keflexxx · 2015-01-19T21:51:21.081Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

wiki has a small blurb on phytic acid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytic_acid) that highlights its propensity to bind to minerals and render them useless. there's some rumblings in paleo circles about the role phytic acid plays in tooth decay - they got their info from the weston a price foundation - but i don't think anything concrete has been discovered. it's not going to kill you by any stretch but soaking and slowly roasting your nuts is pretty easy to do and makes them better nutritionally.

agree there is a taste trade-off with some cuts of beef, but to be honest i haven't had grain-fed beef in quite a long time so i couldn't really get specific with you. depends on where you sit on the health/enjoyment spectrum when it comes to food. not clear that my position is better than yours

i might just be quicker to get annoyed by meditation woo-woo, who knows. the centre i went to made us chant that we were the lowest of the low. not a fan of that

fair enough about the bike, my bike commute takes about 50 minutes which is probably approaching the limit of what you'd want to do as a beginner (which i am as well, literally every other cyclist overtakes me)

sorry about the late reply, new to LW so i haven't yet done a good job of integrating it into my browsing habits

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-02-13T04:34:14.092Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Soaking and slowly roasting nuts takes more than the time to just open the packet and eat.. so it probably won't happen. I could force myself to do it - but I don't see enough value in doing it to do it... (only something that was likely to kill me would make that change) because I have other fish to fry. Thanks for the explanation though - it is interesting to know :)

From my perspective - convenience is a big factor in the food I eat. I like good-tasting food... I really like easy food. That includes easy-to-find (it's much easier to just go to the local butcher than to hunt down grass-fed beef). and the inertia that comes from this is a hurdle big enough that there has to be a really good reason to get over it. I have other things I'd like to spend my "could I be bothered" points on first ;)

re: woo-woo urk that does sound awful - yeah I don't think I'd put up with that for long either.

re: timing me too... ;) plus - too many channels, too many things to do...

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-13T22:23:54.881Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Answering my own question (re: grass-fed beef in Aus)

"It's important to know that most big-supermarket beef around the country will be grass-fed meat finished on grain, but if the meat comes from southern Victoria or Tasmania, where grass is more likely to be in abundance, there's a good chance it was reared entirely on grass or silage"

Also there seems to be a taste/health tradeoff for grass vs grain-fed beef. wagyu, after all, is the epitomy of grain-fed beef...

comment by tog · 2015-01-07T15:11:10.695Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd second the recommendation of a waterpik for flossing. Tooth problems suck, so it's worth shelling out to avoid them.

comment by waveman · 2015-01-13T09:36:38.698Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

healthy snacks for while I work (jerky and dried fruit)

Citation required.

Replies from: waveman, taryneast
comment by waveman · 2015-02-12T04:39:40.075Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dried fruit is very high in sugar.

The fructose in sugar (50% of the calories) can in general only be used for one thing: to make fat. The exception is if your liver glycogen is depleted (eg after a hard workout, perhaps a teaspoon of fructose could be used to replenish it - and in fact in this scenario it is the most efficient way to replenish your liver glycogen.

Sugar is also quite addictive and binge-inducing. I have a theory as to why this is I will tell you at the next LW dinner.

The case against jerky is less compelling, but you might want to look at the list of ingredients next time you are near a packet.

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-13T21:55:35.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

more information required on what you're asking?

I bought snacks for while I was working.. .that were healthier than the alternatives.

Replies from: Lumifer, waveman
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-13T22:21:16.726Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dried fruit is basically sugar with a bit of fiber, very high calorie density, too. Considering it healthy is a bit of a stretch.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-14T01:41:50.312Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

does it compare as healthy compared to chocolate or mints? Also a snack with fibre (even with sugar) is better than a snack with little-to-no-fibre - if it helps with satiety and is better from a fidgeting-must-eat perspective.

Sure, there might be snacks that are even better than dried-fruit... but as a first step improvment it was a good step.

comment by waveman · 2015-02-12T04:43:36.174Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

See above. If you need more glucose in your blood, small amounts of foods that produce glucose can do the job. Or you can train your body learn to do gluconeogenesis (ie release stored glucose) by regularly having long gaps between meals.

According to the lecturers in the "learning to learn" course, a lot of what feels like the need for food is actually the need for a break. According to them, when working hard intellectually the brain needs a break after a while to restore equilibrium and to remove built-up waste. So a break and a glass of water may be all you need. That's what the 5 minute break in the Pomodoro cycle is for.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-02-12T22:25:21.109Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I am aware that snack/fiddling is probably a signal that I'm not hungry (thanks, though, I might not have been). I will also drink a glass of water rather than snack if I think I'm actually hungry... but I'm quite aware that I'm not hungry when I'm snacking.

The point of these snacks isn't to ingest nutrition. In this case - i have been snacking as a way of fiddling (I think). I figured that if I was going to fiddle/snack anyway - I might as well make it less-unhealthy - because I have other things that are more important to work on than in stopping this particular habit (I'll come back to it, but as stop-gap measure... healthier snacks is better than unhealthy snacks.

I also take pomodoro breaks - but it doesn't entirely negate the snacking need...

comment by oge · 2015-01-07T19:36:24.237Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hi taryneast, these are cool ideas. Could you please give examples of

  • A quality large umbrella to buy
  • Where to take a behind-the-wheels defensive-driving course
Replies from: keflexxx, taryneast
comment by keflexxx · 2015-01-13T03:27:41.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

not taryn, but i can vouch for this one


comment by taryneast · 2015-01-08T00:55:24.044Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Re: Umbrellas

Well, I found mine in local shops. A large umbrella with more spokes than usual (12 instead of 8) and sturdy construction. and a foldable umbrella that was listed as being able to turn inside out and be popped back without damage. My finds were accidental.

However, if you're looking on the internet, there are really good umbrellas out there. I was thinking: http://www.wantist.com/products/senz-storm-proof-umbrellas OR http://real-self-defense.com/unbreakable-umbrella/ Depending on your inclinations

Re: defensive driving

In this case, I think google is your friend. "Defensive driving" is the codename for driving safety courses in Australia - it may be different where you are located - so try "Driving safety course yourlocation" and you should get a few hits.

Replies from: Tem42
comment by Tem42 · 2015-08-12T03:13:58.249Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In this case, I think google is your friend. "Defensive driving" is the codename for driving safety courses in Australia

Defensive driving often means 'safety lecture' in America too. Certain types of traffic offenses can be forgiven if you take a review course on traffic laws and anger management. I had to take one of these, and it was worthless. Which isn't to say that there aren't good courses, but I agree that research is very much in order.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-08-15T02:06:04.290Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah - I'm pretty sure defensive driving course in Australia are all hands-on, not just a safety lecture. I could be mistaken in that, but when I went looking, that is what I found - courses that get you actually driving in different conditions. Of course, there could also be dud courses out there in Aus too, and I happened not to find them because they don't tend to drift upwards in google searches... ;)

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-01-06T15:13:57.150Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please please add this to the http://lesswrong.com/lw/gx5/boring_advice_repository/

Replies from: taryneast, taryneast, TrE
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-06T22:43:52.820Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

added :)

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-06T22:27:09.590Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't figure this to be boring advice. This is a repository of it's own. I'll add a link to it from boring advice though... eg "there's lots of things that cost relatively little and can improve your life a lot... see "

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-01-07T00:07:35.252Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think lots of the advice in the 'boring advice repo' is boring either :-)

comment by TrE · 2015-01-06T17:38:33.400Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't hurry, looks like we'll have a re-run soon :).

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-01-06T21:59:49.813Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah. I noticed :-)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-06T17:50:45.420Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A general piece of advice: spend (relatively) more money on things you interact with the most, time-wise (as well as intensity-wise).

For example, if you spend a noticeable chunk of your working day with a coffee mug by your side, see if you can find a better mug (e.g. a double-wall one). Don't settle for a crap computer mouse, find and buy one which works well with your hand and mousing habits (and get a better keyboard as well, while you are at it). Etc., etc.

Replies from: wadavis, bbleeker
comment by wadavis · 2015-01-06T23:29:18.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For the record, the coffee mug backfired in the office environment. Got my own aesthetically pleasing coffee mug that made me happier at work. Then proceeded to spend social capital getting my mub back from coworkers, then proceeded to worry about wasting social capital on something as insignificant as a mug, then proceeded to waste time doing a cost benefit analysis on having an aesthetically pleasing mug.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, Lumifer, taryneast
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-01-07T00:56:49.078Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please describe the mug.

Replies from: wadavis, TrE
comment by wadavis · 2015-01-07T19:44:40.301Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is relatively upvoted. Is there a mug related meme I'm missing here?

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-01-07T21:01:15.388Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was just curious about what sort of mug could cause so much enthusiasm.

Replies from: wadavis
comment by wadavis · 2015-01-07T21:23:38.684Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The mug. Turns out the simple minimalist style is popular with our technical staff.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-08T00:46:01.290Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nice mug

comment by TrE · 2015-01-07T19:44:07.241Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As in, "I need to have exactly this kind of mug. It will vastly improve the quality of my life!"

comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-07T15:29:55.077Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then proceeded to spend social capital getting my mub back from coworkers

I think there is an underlying problem here which is not really related to coffee mugs....

Replies from: wadavis
comment by wadavis · 2015-01-07T19:42:36.306Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

True, but you pick your battles. Or the underlying problem is I find it uncomfortable to tell someone that 'that is my coffee mug'.

Replies from: pinyaka
comment by pinyaka · 2015-01-08T19:47:50.543Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess I'm curious about why you couldn't just store your mug in a different place from your co-workers.

Replies from: wadavis
comment by wadavis · 2015-01-09T17:32:16.204Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cleaning staff collects, washes and returns to storage all mugs daily. Hiding my mug in a drawer is a not-proportional response, the pleasing mug is to ease mental burdens not add to them.

As of this reply, I've spent more energy discussing the absentee mug than dealing with the absentee mug. I believe I'll take a catalog of this discussion to make an absentee mug protection decision tree to aid future less wrongers. Stay posted for results.

P.S. For the record: the mug has been released to the wild, may it bring joy to others, and if it really did love me it will come back. I've filled the gap by putting up an aesthetically pleasing calendar, I forecast that it will be less mobile.

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-08T00:48:16.837Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Other solutions: 1) write your name on the mug 2) clean and hide your mug in your desk drawer when you leave 3) buy a mug for everyone

An alternative to 3 that doesn't leave you out of pocket would be to say "this is my mug that I bought, it's nice isn't it - if you like it so much, why don't you give me $X for it (which is how much I paid) and I'll buy another one for me."

Replies from: lmm, Mirzhan_Irkegulov
comment by lmm · 2015-01-11T00:41:39.500Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

An alternative to 3 that doesn't leave you out of pocket would be to say "this is my mug that I bought, it's nice isn't it - if you like it so much, why don't you give me $X for it (which is how much I paid) and I'll buy another one for me."

I think that's going to make you seem weird, unless you work as like a bond trader or something. Normal people don't do that sort of thing. And the GP's post was about being worried about expending social capital.

comment by Mirzhan_Irkegulov · 2017-03-16T11:33:39.686Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alan Turing chained his mug to battery pipes so people wouldn't steal it.

comment by bbleeker · 2015-01-06T18:42:33.642Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you type ten-fingered, get an ergonomic keyboard. They really help prevent RSI. When I tried it, I could feel the difference within an hour, and I really hate typing on a flat board now.

Replies from: DanielLC, CWG, Lumifer
comment by DanielLC · 2015-01-06T20:23:23.638Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you type hunt-and-peck, learn to type ten-fingered, then get an ergonomic keyboard.

Replies from: lmm, Fhyve
comment by lmm · 2015-01-11T00:41:28.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By the same principle, learn Dvorak before getting the ergonomic keyboard.

Replies from: Lumifer, Mirzhan_Irkegulov
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-11T05:28:29.434Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I seem to recall that Dvorak keyboard's advantages tend to be much overstated. You also lose an important ability: to come up to any standard keyboard and start touch-typing.

Replies from: lmm
comment by lmm · 2015-01-11T08:19:54.551Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I seem to recall that Dvorak keyboard's advantages tend to be much overstated.

I don't know what kind of response you're after. I got an objectively measurable 10wpm speed improvement, but more important (but not measurable) is that my fingers stopped hurting. I could equally say the advantages of ergonomic keyboards tend to be much overstated.

You also lose an important ability: to come up to any standard keyboard and start touch-typing.

No you don't. Or at least, I didn't.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-11T16:06:08.562Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not after any particular response. As far as I know, the claims about the advantages of the Dvorak keyboard are controversial (see e.g. this) and there are no rigorous universally-accepted studies which show it has a clear advantage.

As to you getting rid of RSI, I am glad it worked for you, but I don't see why your experience should generalize to everyone. As a counterpoint, I touch-type on a regular (QWERTY, non-ergonomic) keyboard and my fingers don't hurt. Instead, I get RSI from the mouse (I deal with it via more keyboard commands and a trackball) -- but I don't post "get rid of your mouse" as a general advice.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-12T22:25:30.742Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a big differences between:

"I use layout X and don't have RSI" vs "I had RSI with layout Y then switched to layout Z and stopped having RSI"

I would be inclined to say that the latter is strong evidence that layout Z is better than layout Y for avoiding RSI, whereas the former is only weak evidence for layout X

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-13T15:50:28.813Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't think so. RSI is Repetitive Strain Injury, so any change in the pattern of use will make it better.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-13T21:54:42.669Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Like I said - there is weak evidence for the former.

However - if you don't have RSI, then it may not be because the layout is not optimal... it might be because you are less prone to RSI, or because you're young and able to bounce back from RSI easily, or because you just haven't been typing long enough to develop RSI yet.

Whereas somebody that already has RSI... already has it, so if you change layout and the RSI goes away - that's pretty good evidence that the layout-change has had a direct effect on the RSI.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-13T22:22:35.994Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

that's pretty good evidence that the layout-change has had a direct effect on the RSI

Correct. What it's NOT good evidence for is the claim that the new layout is better. It's sufficient for it to be only different.

comment by Mirzhan_Irkegulov · 2017-03-16T11:36:03.477Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are a Linux user, learn Colemak instead of Dvorak. It's available in almost every distribution (and probably easy to install on Windows as well, but I rarely use Windows). It's both more ergonomic than Dvorak and is much closer to QWERTY, which means it's easier to learn and you retain most of your keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl+Z/X/C/V etc).

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2017-03-16T14:32:02.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have doubts about the wisdom of installing a non-standard keyboard into your muscle memory. For one thing, this means any time you type on a keyboard not your own you have problems. There are also many claims that the ergonomic advantages of Dvorak keyboards were severely overstated.

If you are concerned about ergonomics, the position and the movements of your hands are much more important than the key layout, anyway.

comment by Fhyve · 2015-01-08T19:56:16.541Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the spirit of this thread, take a typing class. I find that taking classes are an effective way to get over motivation blocks, if that's what is preventing you from learning touch typing.

comment by CWG · 2015-01-07T08:41:24.455Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

An ergonomic mouse is good too. Looking up vertical mouse on eBay shows the kind of thing I mean. Reduces twisting by the forearm. That was a good investment for me, but then I suffer from RSI.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-25T10:07:33.338Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wireless thumb trackball FTW. Logitech M570. Why would one have to move the shoulders to move a pointer on the screen, a thumb should be enough. Also doubles as a remote control for media PC, enables gaming on TV through it from the couch where it is awkward to push a mouse around, and so on.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-06T18:55:10.387Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you type ten-fingered, get an ergonomic keyboard.

Well, try one out, but I don't think they're automatically better.

I type ten-fingered on a flat keyboard (though an IBM model M buckling spring type) and my brief experiences with the "ergonomic" keyboards led me to abandon them. On the other hand, my job is not data entry :-)

Speaking about RSI, I find that what's important is to keep one's wrists elevated about the keyboard. My wrist rests are about two inches high.

comment by Alicorn · 2015-01-06T21:59:59.767Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Amazon Prime
  • If you ever need to print things, find a non-evil printer (I like my Brother one pretty well)
  • Organizey-things - over-door hooks, closet bar hanging shelfy thingies, tables with layers, spice rack, desktop shelves, etc.
  • TaskRabbits or whatever to do ugh-fielded chores plague you and get them out of the way
  • A pair of damn good thoroughly all-purpose shoes - for most people's sets of purposes, this means probably black, closed-toe, comfortable to walk in, non-athletic-looking enough to pass in semiformal contexts (boots are possibly a good choice).
  • Seconding the advice to get a Kindle. Even if you only ever load it with free/pirated/library books it is a nice thing.
Replies from: wadavis
comment by wadavis · 2015-01-06T23:19:47.661Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ditto on shoes. Are they walked out, but still usable? Do you think they have another year or another season in them? Nope, go get new shoes.

comment by TylerJay · 2015-01-06T15:07:15.844Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm going to focus more on entertainment in terms of real products as I expect this category to be underrepresented in this thread:

Spotify Premium: ~$10/mo, unlimited commercial-free music streaming (+ ability to sync to mobile for offline listening). They have an enormous library. I have essentially stopped buying albums because they are all available on Spotify (might not be as useful if you listen to really obscure music, but it's worth searching their library before buying a subscription. You may be surprised what they have. I just bought my dad (a huge audiophile and musician) a 6 month subscription for his 65th birthday and he just downloaded Rolling Stone's top 10 albums of the year that he otherwise would have bought and is really happy with it.

Netflix: Unlimited streaming is ~$7/mo, which is all I have. They have a large library and are starting to become content producers as well as just aggregators. Of course if you're easily seduced into binge-watching when you really want to be doing other things, it might not be a good idea. Personally, I get a lot of enjoyment out of it and it's cheaper than one movie ticket a month. Lots of classic movies as well as more modern stuff. However, it's relatively easy to "run out" of stuff to watch on Netflix, at which time you can just cancel your subscription.

Roku: If you don't have a Smart TV, it's the best of all of the 3rd party options (FireTV, AppleTV, Chromecast, etc.). Get the "Roku 3", it's under $100 and has access to a lot of streaming services. The best feature is "Universal Search" where you search for a title and it looks across all of the different streaming services and lets you find the cheapest (or free) offerings. (Not offered as far as I know with any of the other products because they all push their own content stores first).

Aux-port/Cigarette-lighter Car Bluetooth Adaptor: ~$30-$40. Gives you in-car bluetooth if you don't already have it. I recommend the Belkin one on Amazon. It's been well worth the price in terms of added convenience for me.

Windshield/Dash Suction-Cup Mount for Smartphone: Cheap. If you use your phone for driving directions, it's much more convenient (and a lot safer) than having the phone in your lap. Keep in mind that in some areas, it may be illegal to mount it to the windshield.

Radar Detector: ~$200 – $700. Get either a Valentine or a Cobra. They're about the cost of one speeding ticket and can help you avoid tickets. (This is not an endorsement of driving too fast of course). Valentine is simple but effective and indicates front or back direction of radar source. Expensive, but no bells and whistles. Cobra has a wide range of products with a wide range of prices. Not directional, but has lots of bells and whistles like learning false positives, traffic-cam alerts through GPS, and connection to a network for crowd-sourced data (think Waze, but for stuff like speed traps). Again, these may be illegal in your area—make sure to check first.

Tablet/e-reader: I prefer to read textbooks on a tablet and other books on my Kindle Paper-white. Had an iPad provided by my previous employer before I left and I'm really missing it more than I thought I would for textbooks. I'm looking into a new tablet and really want one with good palm-rejection and a stylus for taking notes (If anyone has suggestions, please let me know).

Textbooks: I give myself a monthly education budget and buy a new textbook (and sometimes solutions guide) every couple months. There are also free options of dubious legality like libgen.org or libgen.info. e-textbooks go great with tablets.

Wake-up light / Dawn Simulator Alarm Clock: ~$100 Some love em, some (like Eliezer) don't get any benefit from them. I kept a sleep journal for a month and it seems to work for me. I'm in a much lighter sleep when the alarm finally goes off (if I don't wake up naturally from the light). If you're techy, you can build your own with an arduino or raspberry pi pretty easily. On that note...

Arduino / Raspberry Pi: ~$30-$40. Very fun if you want to learn DIY electronics. Arduino is a microcontroller whereas raspberry pi is a full computer. I'm just getting started learning embedded systems and electronics myself (taking a class on edX starting this month called "Embedded Systems". If anyone else here on LW is planning on taking this, let me know).

My favorite fiction Novel (aside from HPMOR): The Shadow of the Wind - by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Great story, deep characters, a love story, a mystery, and some of the most beautiful prose I've ever seen.

Nice sunglasses: $15 - $300. Get some brown/amber-tinted, polarized lenses with a nice lightweight aviator frame. You'll never look back. May be a bit hard to find at the lower price point, but not impossible.

Hope some of this was helpful!

Replies from: Fluttershy, atorm, bogus, knb, drethelin
comment by Fluttershy · 2015-01-08T09:40:15.865Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Radar Detector: ~$200 – $700. Get either a Valentine or a Cobra. They're about the cost of one speeding ticket and can help you avoid tickets. (This is not an endorsement of driving too fast of course). Valentine is simple but effective and indicates front or back direction of radar source. Expensive, but no bells and whistles. Cobra has a wide range of products with a wide range of prices. Not directional, but has lots of bells and whistles like learning false positives, traffic-cam alerts through GPS, and connection to a network for crowd-sourced data (think Waze, but for stuff like speed traps). Again, these may be illegal in your area—make sure to check first.

Alternatively, one could focus on driving more slowly and more safely, so as to reduce the risk of dying in an automobile accident. Your life is valuable.

Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-01-08T10:17:20.392Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But in certain places the optimal speed to drive at (i.e. minimizing some linear combination of probability of dying, time spent, fuel used, etc.) may exceed the legal speed limit (i.e. maximizing revenue from speed tickets).

Then again, going fast and then braking right before a radar may itself be quite dangerous.

Replies from: Lumifer, gjm
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-08T16:41:44.088Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But in certain places the optimal speed to drive at ... may exceed the legal speed limit

I'll make a stronger claim: in many places (e.g. US highways) the optimal speed to drive does exceed the legal speed limit for the simple reason that the probability of an accident is a function of the difference between your speed and the speed of the traffic around you, and the traffic on interstates generally goes faster than the speed limit.

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2015-01-09T18:05:00.567Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On the other hand I've never been pulled over when doing the same speed as cars around me, and I've been speeding for over a decade at this point.

comment by gjm · 2015-01-08T17:58:43.454Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I have seen it claimed that (because driving faster is more dangerous) driving faster, especially near or above the speed limit, is generally a net expected loss in time when you offset low-probability long-time hospital stays against high-probability short-time improvements in travel time.

Back of envelope: your overall accident risk per mile driven is on the order of 10^-6 to 10^-5. Suppose the speed limit is 60mph and you drive for a mile at 70mph, and suppose this gives you an extra 10^-6 chance of an accident. It also saves you 1/7 of a minute. So it's a net loss if the (appropriately weighted) time cost of an accident is more than 10^6/7 minutes, which is about 100 days.

That sounds unlikely on the face of it. (Not least because maybe a substantial fraction of those accidents are little ones in which no one is hurt much.) On the other hand:

  1. Something like 1/200 of all road accidents are fatal. Perhaps ones that occur above the speed limit are more likely fatal, but let's leave that aside. If you expect to live another 40 years, then a 1/200 chance of death is about 70 expected days lost. (It's not clear that those expected days quite correspond one-for-one with days spent in hospital after a non-fatal crash.)

  2. It also seems pretty plausible that driving sufficiently far above the limit to need a radar detector actually puts you (overall) into the regime where your accident risk per mile is substantially above the overall average. If it's 10^-5 instead of 10^-6, for instance, your expected time lost due to accident only needs to be 10 days to make this a bad idea; that's substantially less than the "death cost" I just estimated.

  3. Of course accidents have costs other than the time you stay in hospital. You may have to pay to have your car fixed. You may have to pay higher insurance premiums for a while. You probably attach disvalue to the pain and inconvenience of injury beyond the time spent in hospital. There may be paperwork that wastes a lot of your time. The injury may have lasting effects that reduce your quality of life. You may injure someone else, in which case you may have a legal fight to deal with and maybe some time in prison, which might be even worse than hospital, or a fine. Etc.

I dare say it does sometimes happen that the overall optimal speed is faster than the limit, but I suspect it's less common than most of us like to think.

Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-01-09T10:01:43.473Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

driving sufficiently far above the limit to need a radar detector

That's probably a bigger deal on certain roads than on others.

comment by atorm · 2015-01-07T12:36:20.358Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find that yellow or other warm-colored sunglasses have a noticeable positive effect on my mood.

Replies from: TylerJay
comment by TylerJay · 2015-01-12T19:06:38.307Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure why you were downvoted. Tried to reverse that for you. I agree actually. I just love the way the world looks through them, especially nature. And most sunglasses put a gray tint on the world instead of making it warmer. Why would anyone want that? That's why I said you'd never go back once you tried it.

Replies from: atorm, Lumifer
comment by atorm · 2015-01-12T22:23:59.801Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm being targeted for mass down-voting. Thanks for caring!

comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-12T19:18:21.256Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I much prefer to see the world in accurate colours.

Replies from: TylerJay
comment by TylerJay · 2015-01-12T19:52:27.750Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To each his own. But if you've never tried them and that's a response on principles rather than experience, you really should give them a try. You might be surprised.

My point though was that sunglasses of any kind skew color accuracy. But of the possible skews, amber-tinted sunglasses really are nice and don't seem to detract from what you see the way gray-tinted (in reality, a strange blue-green) lenses do. I'm not talking blue-blockers here. Just regular, subtle amber/brown lenses.

comment by bogus · 2015-01-06T15:39:39.829Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Netflix and Spotify Premium are pretty expensive. I could see these being worthwhile if you're really dedicated about movies/music, but buying the occasional DVD or downloading music tracks from the likes of Amazon/iTunes Store will probably be cheaper in the long run for most folks.

E-paper readers are interesting, but if I were to buy one I would choose it for openness to homebrew development. That way I could use the e-paper display for other purposes as well, such as running software on a remote box.

Replies from: lmm, drethelin, luminosity
comment by lmm · 2015-01-06T19:55:49.758Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In principle I agree. In practice I know I've gained far more happiness from the integratedness of the amazon store, the size of their selection, and the free international internet (it's on one particular model, the kindle keyboard, which you can only buy in the US, but it still exists AFAIK) than I ever would have from running an SSH app or developing my own apps. The refresh rate makes these devices really very limited for general-purpose computing. My advice is to buy a good, open phone, and treat the e-reader as a single-purpose appliance.

comment by drethelin · 2015-01-09T18:08:43.130Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it very much depends on how annoying other ways of watching things are to you. The main benefit to netfix is on average higher quality more access to subtitles than stealing stuff via torrents, and FAR more convenience than DVDs, especially for those of us with new enough computers to not even have DVD trays.

With Spotify the main added benefits are being able to use your own music from a home computer wherever you go, and no advertisements. For me advertisements are pretty damn annoying, but your own mileage may vary.

comment by luminosity · 2015-01-07T21:16:36.856Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The reason I really love Spotify style services is that they massively reduce the friction of trying new things out. I've found a lot more music I enjoy of various different types over the last two years of using rdio / spotify than in any time period previous to that, because the cost of trying something new is as simple as typing in a search query.

comment by knb · 2015-01-11T03:50:18.173Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I personally prefer using YouTube with AdBlock instead of Spotify. I actually canceled my Spotify subscription because I was always just using YouTube anyway. Pretty much any song you can think of is on YouTube, the streaming is pretty much instant, and you can find playlists, cover versions, versions that just have the lyrics instead of any video, etc. YMMV, but I find YouTube to be superior to Spotify in practically every way.

comment by drethelin · 2015-01-09T18:06:42.923Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The main time in my experience that Radar Detectors are useful are in long, flat, relatively safe speeding areas such as Great Plains states. The rest of the time, the difference between going 9 over (the speed at which you're basically guaranteed never to get pulled over) and going 20 over as a percentage gain over your base speed is actually unsafe due to cars, turniness of roads, and visibility.

comment by atorm · 2015-01-06T13:30:53.708Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Take a month of martial arts training (aikido, jujitsu, and judo are popular soft styles, Tae Kwon Do and Krav Maga are two very different hard styles (TKD is fun and mostly useless for defense, Krav is super effective for dangerous situations but pretty grueling)).

Join the local swing dancing scene. If you don't have one, try salsa or Argentine Tango.

Take an art course. Start with a beginner class that does a little with lots of different of media types, then take a class focusing on the medium you prefer. Do this even if you feel you are bad at art. I am terrible but I still enjoy working with clay.

Buy an Audible subscription and fill useless hours with audiobooks. This can improve commutes and other boring tasks.

Buy either a stereo Bluetooth headset with playback controls on it, or a small mp3 player such as the Sansa Clip Zip that has easily accessible controls outside your pocket. This advice is mostly relevant if you listen to media a lot. Having playback controls very accessible lowers the activation energy of starting your music/podcast/audiobook.

Replies from: Nornagest, None, Error
comment by Nornagest · 2015-01-06T23:38:10.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm pretty skeptical of how much good a month of martial arts will do you once you're off the mat. Most of the value of martial arts is in conditioning (both physical and mental, e.g. making you more comfortable around people acting aggressively towards you), not technique, and a month of classes isn't nearly enough to build a strong foundation there. Even on the technique side, that much time will give you a few neat tricks but won't allow you to systematize them or to generalize them to unfamiliar situations.

On the other hand, a month is just about enough time to get you past the boring introductory lessons (how to stand, how to fall, how to throw a punch that doesn't completely suck) and into the meat of the art, so that kind of time might be a good sample if you're on the fence about a longer-term commitment.

Replies from: lmm, atorm, IlyaShpitser
comment by lmm · 2015-01-11T00:47:23.716Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did not much more than a month and it made me feel much more comfortable with my body. Am I going to win any fights? No. But I feel a lot more stable (I basically never fall over now), and more conscious of what I can and can't do. I even feel like I'm a better dancer/skater because of it.

comment by atorm · 2015-01-07T02:26:06.921Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My thought was indeed "see if you like studying martial arts".

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-01-07T01:15:03.867Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Depends what you want out of it. If you want to fight effectively, efficient use of training time implies having a tight feedback loop to improve quickly, which means fighting a lot (for real). Fighting a lot is not a pleasant life.

Replies from: Nornagest
comment by Nornagest · 2015-01-07T01:56:05.969Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can get a lot of things out of martial arts training, but I don't think you can get many of them in a month. If you want to have a better chance in self-defense situations, you're not going to gain the skills or the habits you need for it until much later. If you want self-discipline et cetera, you're not going to get much of it from learning falls and a few basic escapes. If you want to get in shape, you'll barely have started. If you just want to have fun and feel badass... okay, it's plausible that you could do that in a month, but it's not going to last once you stop training.

I honestly feel that "learning to fight effectively" is kind of a red herring here. Martial arts does make you better at fighting -- but few people, martial artists or otherwise, are good at real, no-holds-barred fighting, because parts of that skillset are so dangerous that they basically can't be gained without being repeatedly injured or worse. But that goes for the bad guys, too. Self-defense largely isn't about beating your mugger or whatever in a serious fight; it's about deterrence, mainly through signaling comfort with conflict situations and by giving you the skills to deal with strongarm tactics short of serious fighting.

And I wouldn't recommend taking martial arts classes primarily for self-defense anyway, at least if you live in a Western country and not in the worst parts of a high-crime city.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-25T12:18:46.621Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recommend boxing. Every martial art tries to simulate a different aspect of real fights, and boxing simulates the speed, intensity and scariness of them by banning kicks and grappling which generally slow down a sparring, at least between beginners. Grappling is a lot like "now stop and think what's next" and kicking is a lot like "wow beware that leg, keep my distance", but if people are only allowed to punch, it is highly intense storm-of-fists experience.

This is also fun, and scary, and also great at building courage and a fighting spirit.

I would say that RPG's of the D&D type are correct about the idea of "level", namely that NOT only different skills exist, but "level" as well, in the sense of a guy who spent a year fighting on a battlefield with a rifle will be also better at an unarmed fist fight as well in a bar. Why? Because of the skills like courage, thinking clear under pressure, this sort of mental hardness. This is what makes a 10th level fighter, not simply weapon or style skil. However, what the RPGs get wrong is that you get XP for fights won. No, in reality, you get XP for every dangerous or dangerous feeling situation you get in. One may say IRL you get Skill Points for hitting a target, but you get real XP only by others attempting to hit you, regardless of whether they succeed of fail. Because only this, the felt danger, trains that warrior's mind stuff. And this why I recommend boxing sparring, this has the most "holy-shit-OMG-MAMAAAA help!" scary moments per minute.

Replies from: IlyaShpitser
comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-25T12:21:34.865Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems like boxing with gloves (vs bare knuckles) is very bad for your brain.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-25T13:02:38.218Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are a professional doing it for 20 years against insanely powerful opponent without head protection, yes. If you spar a not quite full force with people who are not very strong wearing head protection and engage in the occasional amateur match, not. I cannot promise it is completely safe, but the whole number of times force applied * strength of force - Armor Class of the head protection seems to put it into an entirely different ballpark.

I think the dangerous reputation of boxing should be tackled by making head protection mandatory for professionals, just as it is mandatory on amateur matches. Otherwise people think of Ali and get scared away from it even though the difference is as much as driving Nascar / F1 vs. commuting to work.

comment by Error · 2015-01-06T17:17:28.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Take an art course.

Where do non-university-students find these things? (I'm more interested in music than art, but I suspect the question generalizes)

Replies from: None, Lumifer, taryneast
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-06T17:57:17.161Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At community college.

Replies from: 9eB1
comment by 9eB1 · 2015-01-06T18:14:50.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most American cities also offer dance, martial arts and art classes through their departments of parks and recreation, I believe. At least, my last couple cities have.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-06T18:33:59.474Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've done both, and recommend both. When you find a teacher you can really connect with, you can then move into a private tutelage.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-06T17:34:41.480Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're willing to pay, there are a lot of private art (and music) teachers.

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-06T22:25:50.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can also google it (along with your city/suburb name) eg '("learn to draw" OR "art class") san jose'

comment by RomeoStevens · 2015-01-07T07:24:21.797Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I feel silly about this one but...buy a water bottle you actually like and you will stay more hydrated and thus more productive. It felt weird to me to spend >$20 on a water bottle but it has totally been worth it.

Throw out all your socks and buy 15+ pairs of one style.

Buy clothes that fit (especially shoes).

Get a full spectrum light bulb for your workspace.

The Standesk: a standing desk for $22 http://iamnotaprogrammer.com/Ikea-Standing-desk-for-22-dollars.html

This is the top reviewed anti-fatigue mat on the wirecutter, they had multiple people test many different mats: http://www.amazon.com/CumulusPRO-Professional-Anti-Fatigue-Comfort-20-inch/dp/B007PQXJUA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420615284&sr=8-1&keywords=cumuluspro

Kitchen knives were brought up several times. This knife won a blind competition against much more expensive competition: Victorinox chef's knife. I have one. http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Fibrox-8-Inch-47520-5-2063-20/dp/B000638D32/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1420615402&sr=1-2&keywords=chef+knife

comment by TrE · 2015-01-06T10:47:10.927Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Relevant in this context:

Boring Advice Repository

Spend Money on Ergonomics, Ergonomics Revisted

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-06T10:59:02.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, I'd read the boring advice, but hadn't seen the ergonomics one... some ideas on specific ideas would be good. I should also say that one of my recent large purchases was a standing desk, so I agree it's a good idea for an area to spend.

comment by lmm · 2015-01-06T20:09:16.709Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Things I've enjoyed:

  • Amusement park - the kind with roller coasters and the like. Super dumb and childish, but I really enjoy it.
  • High-end restaurant. Specifics will depend on where you live; I just went by what was recommended in a newspaper.
  • Spa day. I'm not super fond of the massagey side of it, but just going to a nice building and spending a day cycling between sauna / swimming pool / hot tub was very nice.
  • Higher-quality bed sheets. Also clothes, but bed sheets are probably the more money-efficient place to start.
  • Contemporary artsy things - gallery openings and the like. Modern circus, if there's one in your town. These are very hit-and-miss, but you can buy a bunch of them for $100, and even if you don't like it you get to feel enriched and snobby.
  • Classical music concerts. Protip: listen to the music a few times before you see it live - you appreciate it more when it's something you know. At least, I do.
  • Commissioned art on deviantart or similar. I think I enjoy the "feel like a rich big-shot" effect more than the piece itself.
  • Elephant in the room: drugs and hookers. Plenty of cached thoughts against them, but I suspect rationally they're worth trying at some stage.
Replies from: torekp
comment by torekp · 2015-01-10T19:31:16.632Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like the way you and lucidian think. Here are my top-10s that haven't already been mentioned.

  • hot date - especially if you have steady romantic relationship(s) but haven't done this recently
  • a dog
  • phone call to someone you've kinda lost touch with and don't want to
  • canoe trip, or whatever other outdoor/nature experience appeals
  • flight lesson - regardless of lack of desire to actually become a pilot, I just like flying in a small plane

Obviously lots of the above is of highly variable value depending on your personality.

Replies from: Ixiel, NancyLebovitz
comment by Ixiel · 2015-02-08T17:15:52.285Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

a dog

Okay, dog lovers love dogs, but be careful with this one. Getting a dog is the worst thing that has happened to me in my 34 years on this planet and my only real regret (not exaggerating, I just have a very easy life elsewise).

I thought I was highballing the cost of not being as able to have nice things that don't get destroyed, sleep interruptions, tethering to home, and most underestimated (not the biggest cost just the biggest difference from expectation, which was about zero) amount of daily interaction with feces.

Ymmv of course, but seriously, think REAL GOOD AND HARD about this. Playing with other people's dogs can be fun, but did not inform my decision as much as I expected. And apart from the several thousand dollars it will cost you (not including what you give the breeder, which for all I know may only be the $100 from the op for some breeds), you will have to live with your decision for a decade or two.

Just advice I wish I could give past-me from the future.

Replies from: torekp
comment by torekp · 2015-02-08T20:00:37.626Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good points. Some animal shelters (we adopted a cat from one in a small town in PA) will let you return an animal if you have to. Although I would feel guilty about doing that without giving another donation. We were happy with the cat by the way, so that didn't come up. Some people manage to foist pets off onto friends or relatives with an excuse like "my new baby is allergic", we got a cat that way. I suppose "I didn't know what I was getting into" would be a much harder sell, unless you have dog-lover friends, in which case maybe not so hard. Having an exit plan would probably be a good idea.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-01-12T13:39:19.691Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A dog is going to cost you a lot more than one or two hundred dollars.

comment by TrE · 2015-01-06T10:39:30.784Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some ideas of mine:

  • really bright lights
  • a cook book with healthy, easy, and quick recipes
  • some computer hardware, like a better keyboard or mouse, or a second computer screen
  • a few meditation lessons
  • good headphones (in terms of quality, not price)
  • some room decoration, e.g. plants
  • paying a delivery service instead of buying things yourself
  • an electric teeth brush (assuming you don't own one)

What about larger investments, i.e. $200-$500? If they lead to a proportionally better life, these might be worth considering as well.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-06T10:57:27.611Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What about larger investments ...

thus point 5 above :) don't limit yourself to $100... it's an anchoring point for ideas that are probably in the affordable range (for me)

comment by CBHacking · 2015-01-07T03:09:16.961Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nicer clothes. This one depends a lot on how style-conscious you and your usual environs are, of course, and probably a lot of people here don't need to be told this. On the other hand, I'm sure there are also people here like I was a few years ago, when I not only didn't care about style or fashion, I also basically just wore whatever was most cheap and comfortable in any given scenario. That was a mistake.

I found that having some respectably-nice-but-not-too-formal clothes can be a big plus in an environment where everybody expects a t-shirt with jeans/shorts. Think collared button-down shirt and slacks, with some nicer-than-everyday shoes. You don't need many sets of such clothes - the idea is to have something nice to wear when you expect it to be noticed, not necessarily to overhaul your whole wardrobe - but for things like a party that a friend is throwing where you know there will be people who you haven't met, it's worth the investment. This is especially true if you're looking for a new relationship.

It may take some work, if you're not used to it, to figure out the right balance of formality and style. That's OK. In my social circles it is often very easy to be the best-dressed guy in the room. A suit is too much. A coat and tie is too much. A $30 shirt and a $40 pair of slacks, plus some nice-ish shoes, will go a long way.

Replies from: atorm
comment by atorm · 2015-01-07T12:41:42.403Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dark wash jeans can often be more versatile than slacks for situations that aren't businessy.

Replies from: CBHacking
comment by CBHacking · 2015-01-07T13:15:24.772Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the suggestion. I was looking for a "nicer than jeans" option that didn't require going full-on dress pants, but I can see how dark-wash jeans may be a good option there too, and less "businessy".

Replies from: atorm
comment by atorm · 2015-01-07T13:20:57.195Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I get the impression that the quality/dressiness hierarchy goes jeans < cheap slacks < nice (dark wash) jeans < nice slacks. That is, you are better dressed in nice jeans than crummy slacks, even if crummy slacks are acceptable at work and nice jeans are not. And nice jeans are "cooler" than slacks. But this may all be colored by my opinion.

comment by satt · 2015-01-24T17:12:59.546Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A full-size electric dehumidifier costs $100-$200, and can greatly ameliorate damp/condensation/mould problems in a room/floor of your house.

comment by Dan_Moore · 2015-01-07T02:34:33.101Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Visit a Toastmasters club - for free. If you decide to join, the annual cost will be < $100. The meetings are fairly organized, with people talking in turn. Prepared and short impromptu speeches are delivered. Usually a friendly and supportive environment. I look forward to our weekly meeting.

comment by lucidian · 2015-01-06T16:27:35.330Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here are the ten I thought of:

  • decorations for your house/apartment
  • a musical instrument
  • lessons for the musical instrument
  • nice speakers (right now I just have computer speakers and they suck)
  • camping equipment
  • instruction books for crafts you want to learn (I'm thinking stuff like knitting, sewing etc.)
  • materials for those crafts
  • gas money / money for motels, so you can take a random road trip to a place you've never been before
  • gym membership
  • yoga classes (or martial arts or whatever)

Also I totally second whoever said "nice kitchen knives". I got one as a Christmas present once, and it's probably the best holiday gift I've ever received.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-06T22:38:56.488Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree - I was given a good set of knives as a gift and they are an excellent investment

comment by Toggle · 2015-01-06T19:32:12.844Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some high-quality computer peripherals: mouse, keyboard, or chair.

Many people spend a huge fraction of their day on the computer, so it's important to optimize that experience as much as possible. For a long time, I thought of that optimization purely in terms of hardware performance, or operating system, with maybe some time spent on files structure or monitor. But more recently I got a high-quality keyboard and mouse, and they've made a huge difference for much less than the cost of a hardware upgrade.

It's easy to forget about the material objects that you'll be in physical contact with, so they're low-hanging fruit for a lot of people.

Replies from: Baughn, ShardPhoenix
comment by Baughn · 2015-01-07T11:48:30.269Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Essays can (and have) been written about what keyboards to buy.

It's very easy to spend $100 on a keyboard that isn't very good; moreover, you won't necessarily know, because most keyboards aren't very good. It's also very easy to spend $3-400 finding the right keyboard, because mechanical keyboards—and you should get a mechanical one, unless you go with Topre—are all subtly different from one another. That's why I now have four.

A keyboard lending library might be a good idea; unfortunately, it appears I'm the library.

If you don't want to spend the time on research, though? Get a Unicomp keyboard. (Do spend the time on research.)

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2015-01-07T04:36:24.451Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Similarly, the quiet fans on my new PC (including a quiet video card) have been surprisingly nice and well worth the small additional cost.

comment by taryneast · 2015-03-03T04:43:07.021Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

BTW - in case anyone's curious, I spent my first month's budget on fitness stuff:

  1. Zombies run! (couch to 5K version)
  2. new pants for running
  3. music that I like and has a good beat for running

I picked Zombies-run because it's a fun way to gamify fitness in a meaningful way - and ingress worked really well for me last time, whereas other simple "record what you did" sites don't seem to be as effective for me. So far I've gone out twice and will be going again today, and I'm looking forward to it. All the rest is to make it more comfortable to support me doing it - also in the past I was using "but my exercise pants are dirty" as an excuse (so now I have two pairs).

comment by Elo · 2015-01-11T02:47:06.921Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A water filter: Go to a store and ask to try samples of water from your city through each of the types of filters. See which you like the taste of better; if any. Consider costs vs long term tastyness of water. It really depends on your city and the water quality. Some places have terrible tasting water; some don't. I have a reverse osmosis system.

Quantified self tracking devices. Basis seems coolest right now. RescueTime is valuable too...

A good showerhead.

A Musical instrument to play around on.

A sketch drawing pad; just in case - easier to have it than the want it when you don't have it.

Pets! (I think they improve happiness but I don't remember where I got that information from)

Garden plants - Lemon tree, herbs. Other fruity delicious things...

comment by knb · 2015-01-09T00:00:52.632Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recommend a white noise machine. I'm sensitive to noise and live in an apartment with a fair amount of noise coming through from other places. Running a fan helped a lot, but the air was annoying at times too. You can get white noise machines for like 20 dollars, although I can't vouch for quality. Mine cost ~$60.

Replies from: Tem42, RichardKennaway, MrMind, taryneast
comment by Tem42 · 2015-08-12T03:46:20.585Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW, I found that an air purifier produced exactly the level of white noise I needed. Obviously, not a very flexible device, but I didn't need flexible, I just needed a steady source of soft noise to mask noisy neighbors.

And this way I also have clean air.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-01-12T11:05:55.262Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here's a free source of a few different flavours of noise. There's also a phone app for a small cost.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-01-12T13:41:18.219Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A remarkably good source of water sounds.


Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-12T22:57:35.984Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a great link - I've just had a bit of aplay with it. It plays the sound in-browser, with great controls over the sounds. plus it has a bunch of other sounds too - rain, waves etc... and you can buy the albums. I'm thinking of downloading the pink-noise version for my go-to-sleep sounds... it's much better than the sloshy-water noises that come as standard with my alarm.

comment by MrMind · 2015-01-12T10:39:00.695Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found that pink noise is more pleasant to the ear than white noise, and if you work primarily at a desktop machine you could get a free application that produces it.

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-09T04:03:17.978Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Likewise good quality earplugs and/or noise-cancelling headphones.

comment by fortyeridania · 2015-01-08T06:57:55.320Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've decided to budget some regular money to improving my life each month.

To what on earth is the rest of your budget devoted?

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-08T08:21:52.944Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"staying alive", "fun", "keeping up appearances", "investing for my future" and "charity" (not necessarily in that order)

Perhaps I should elaborate, by saying "making my life better" I mean making my life significantly better instead of incrementally so (which most of the others (not explicitly excluded in the original question) do).

comment by kalium · 2015-01-07T04:10:05.789Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It should be possible to get a decent used bicycle for under $200.

Replies from: Punoxysm
comment by Punoxysm · 2015-01-08T05:11:56.582Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The bike you should get depends a lot on your use case. A used one is a decent choice if you're doing short commuting and random city errands. If you want to do long or fast rides, invest more (though beware there's no real ceiling on bike cost and accessories have strong allure).

Whatever bike you get, make sure it's in decent shape and is sized correctly for you. Also put a bit of effort into maintenance (lube the chain and inflate the tires and you're fine for casual riding). AND GET SAFETY LIGHTS.

comment by alwhite · 2015-01-06T22:26:44.052Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems like most of the big ideas have been covered, so here's a small one.

Rock climbing equipment (shoes and harness) and membership to a climbing gym. It's different, fun, gets you exercise and exposure to more/different people.

Replies from: arundelo
comment by arundelo · 2015-01-07T00:48:22.693Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do most climbing gyms have walls (or whatever) that can be climbed without a belaying partner? Or is it usually pretty easy to find a just-for-that-day partner among whoever happens to be at the gym when you are?

Replies from: alwhite
comment by alwhite · 2015-01-07T15:00:07.662Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some gyms have automated belay equipment. It's a bit clunky and not everyone likes using them but they do exist and do work.

I have always climbed with a partner but we have also included other people into our group who needed a belay partner. I would think that it's definitely possible to find a partner for the day but it is easier to just bring your own.

There is also bouldering, which doesn't require a partner but doesn't go as high either.

Replies from: lmm
comment by lmm · 2015-01-11T00:51:16.159Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bouldering is a better way to do deliberate practice if you want to actually improve your skills - you can practice a particular movement again and again until it's right, with minimal overhead between retries. But you might prefer a wall from a fun PoV.

comment by drethelin · 2015-01-09T18:03:04.102Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

100 dollars will buy you a good supply of Modafinil, which I strongly recommend using at the beginning of days when you are tired but expect to do a lot of things, or still want to be able to have fun if you missed a night's sleep the day before an event. I've also noticed some anti-depressant effects but that's much less well supported.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-01-10T02:34:10.759Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Where do you get your modafinil?

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2015-01-12T08:34:01.859Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I got it something over a year ago, from a now defunct website, unfortunately.

comment by Elo · 2017-03-18T06:40:50.319Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

aqua love notes www.myaquanotes.com/

waterproof paper, good in the shower. cheap too.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-25T09:46:06.670Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would not follow my own advice, but I would recommend trying bungee jumping as an experience because facing your fear would probably make you insanely proud about your courage, and that kind of gut-wrenching fear would hopefully recalibrate your worrying and stressing about other things in life, hopefully it would make you e.g. not be stressed about an upcoming job interview because you faced and survived a much bigger, much more existential perceived danger than that. Because while the actual danger is low, the perceived danger is very high.

It costs more, but get a motorbike already, if you have only a car driving licence and live in a country where with that you can drive up to 50 cc bikes then those. They are really fun and convenient for commuting or just joyriding in lower traffic in the wekends, even these low-performance ones, because perceived speed depends on circumstances, they will feel very slow on a six-lane but on narrow country lanes they are awesome. In those tight turns where even taking a 30 km/h turn made me have to lean sideways 30 degrees. Old two-stroke Simson mopeds sometimes go under $300 in the poorer parts of Europe, not sure where you live but perhaps there are similar deals: http://image.pixelio.de/000/605/850//player/1--605850-Simson%2520Moped-pixelio.jpg

If I was starting out with my life, I would be a minimalist. I would rent an unfurnished apartment, which (in Europe) is a major save over a furnished one and a furnished one is generally filled with cheap used IKEA crap. Without furniture, a small place feels roomy. Two guest beds, the kinds that are mats on the floor, but can be propped up against the wall for functioning as a couch, roughly. No TV, just a laptop and projector on the wall. Learn to sit on pillows on the floor, Zen style, good for posture, use a low table for the laptop and eating.

Boxing gym membership. Boxing sparring is much faster and more intense on beginner levels than other martial arts, it is extremely exciting, really the most exciting adventure you can have inside a room with pants on. People who come from MMA don't understand why have so limited rules. The answer is simple, kicks and grappling put beginners into a "stop and think" mode. Punching only causes very fast, very intense bouts on beginner levels.

comment by eeuuah · 2015-01-17T19:51:14.478Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My skin (particularly my hands, because soap is harsh) is prone to drying out, so a humidifier really reduces small issues.

Replies from: AspiringRationalist
comment by AspiringRationalist · 2015-10-15T00:38:20.449Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So does mine. The humidifier helps, but since I spend a lot of time in environments where I can't easily install one (eg work), I also use moisturizer.

Replies from: eeuuah
comment by eeuuah · 2016-06-04T00:27:44.751Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah I really should use moisturizer more often, but I can never seem to find a convenient place in my daily routine for it

comment by Mati_Roy (MathieuRoy) · 2015-01-17T05:33:04.336Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • jumpsuits/onepieces (I find them really comfortable)
  • if you don't have a lot of dishes (ex.: live alone), something like this to avoid putting your hands in hot water, and with soap in the handle to be more efficient
  • a second pillow to put between or below your legs when you sleep
comment by Brotherzed · 2015-01-09T19:06:30.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Everyone should have a good chef's knife and know how to use it. Victorinox sells polymer handle stainless steel knives that are as good as some $200 knives I've owned for $50, probably other companies too, go to amazon. A single good Chef's knife is good for cutting almost everything you would need to cut on any cullinary adventure. Keep it clean and extremely sharp by using a sharpening steel, or, if you're not up to learning how, a knife sharpening tool, though those will slowly degrade the blade.

Buy the knife, learn the knife, it's amazingly easy to prepare your food with a single excellent knife rather than a slapchop or a bunch of specialized weird tools for cutting various things. There's a reason the professionals do it this way. Have a great time preparing your meals with much less difficulty, and thank me later.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-09T20:27:12.039Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Knives are tools. Tools that are excellent at a wide variety of tasks are rare. Yes, you can make do with a single chef's knife, but I don't see why would you want to. Even for basic kitchen activities, ignoring specialized tasks, I would want to have on hand at least three knives -- one big (e.g. a chef's knife), one medium (usually called a utility knife), and one small (a peeling knife).

Oh, and a steel is not used to sharpen knives, it's used to straighten out the knife's edge. To actually sharpen you will need a sharpening tool -- there is a large variety of those, differing in capability and the required skill.

comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2015-01-06T17:57:24.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nick Winter implies that he burned $100 (!) to impress on him the idea that money is useless if not used.


Replies from: Lumifer, CronoDAS
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-06T18:17:38.922Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not sure that was the point. My impression is that he was trying to change his perception of the time-vs-money trade-off and make himself more willing to trade money for time (and convenience).

"Not used" money is also known as savings.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2015-01-06T20:35:45.673Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My characterization of Winter's purpose in engaging in that exercise was based on this sentence:

I may or may not have gone into the yard, made a fire, and slowly fed $100 into the flames while concentrating on how money is useless if you don't use it.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-06T20:41:14.372Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but the purpose of the exercise is not necessarily equivalent to what you're concentrating on during the exercise.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-01-07T21:46:32.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There were two musicians who burned a million British pounds.

People's reaction: WTF?

Replies from: lmm
comment by lmm · 2015-01-11T00:56:39.922Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's long struck me as rather tragic. They tried to turn a million quid (mostly received from a novelty number 1 hit) into being respected artists, first by nailing it to a board and so on, and eventually by burning it. But that's not how art works.

Replies from: eeuuah, Kuaiyu
comment by eeuuah · 2015-01-17T20:29:35.495Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

they're also on record as having really regretted doing it

comment by Kuaiyu · 2016-04-04T02:12:57.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I second the tragic-ness: That's 790 lives counting inflation.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-07T03:59:52.447Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rent a truck, have it haul away everything you have, except a lap top and some musical instruments.

Replies from: taryneast, JoshuaZ
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-07T05:00:27.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

An interesting idea... would not suit me at all, but perhaps it would buy a better life for some kinds of people.

personally - I'd go crazy without having a room full of interesting projects to do (I know - I've lived overseas away from my stuff before).

Doing multiple interesting projects, making things is what gives me joy.and to have multiple projects, you need equipment and supplies... and thus a house full of stuff. Haul it away and I'd just have to buy it all over again (which seems wasteful to me).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-01-07T04:21:28.515Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How does this fall under that category? Maybe this works if you are heavily other optimizing. For example, I have no desire to have musical instruments, but I like old books and I gain intangible aesthetic enjoyment from antique furniture.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-07T04:31:05.364Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you don't have any musical instruments, and you don't want one, then don't get one. The point is, keep an old laptop for working out ideas if you have to. Not for NetFlix and the like.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-01-07T04:33:43.783Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you meant anything like that, it wasn't at all clear from your initial comment, which makes no statement about the age of a laptop and refers to "everything" not just high-end computers.

Even with your clarified version this seems to be heavily other optimizing. That's low hanging fruit for buying a better highly productive life for certain personality types. Some people like downtime and like watching things (to use your example) and others will not do well without some forms of entertaining distractions.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-07T04:43:44.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok.. well, if the idea is to buy things... consume..., then you get to a point where you have bought so many things, you think a better life is had by buy more.... what if buying more consumer goods is not the answer?

What if being more productive means getting rid of your tv and netflix and books you've already read and rooms of things you don't need?

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-01-07T14:41:48.613Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok.. well, if the idea is to buy things... consume..., then you get to a point where you have bought so many things, you think a better life is had by buy more....

False dichotomy. Liking certain things or enjoying certain things is not the same claim is that a better life is had by buying more thing. There are many options between "sell almost everything" and "buy all the things!"

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-07T18:53:23.235Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure, that's true.

But if someone asks about "buying a better life", then, I'm going to point out what seems obvious to me: maybe a better life lies in other direction.

Maybe it was bit hyperbolic, but the basic intent was to shock someone into appreciating what they already have. That the desire to have "a better life" has nothing to do with material goods. This could be a desire for a nonmaterial fulfillment being expressed that resorts to the materialist method we've been trained to use.

Replies from: taryneast
comment by taryneast · 2015-01-08T01:03:44.720Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I never said that the things I had to buy were goods... experiences and services work too, and better than many goods :) Also - I never said that it was the only way to a better life...

In fact - it was precisely to fight against the "I'm sad, I'll buy another Thing" idea that I started this process... because I wanted to make sure that if I were buying things that it wasn't "just another thing", but something that would be a strict improvement of my life, rather than just something that I'd discard without much use.

ie - we are in agreement about the problem, just have different solutions. Your solution is "Things are the problem, therefore never buy any Things ever and get rid of all the ones you have now!"* , mine is "i am where I am now and have the Things I have now... but I don't want to keep doing that. What can I do in future that's different to what I've been doing?"

  • (note, gross oversimplification and exaggeration intentional for humourous effect)
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-07T16:01:17.102Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you aren't doing it yet, using a proper operating system (GNU/Linux) is an excellent low-hanging fruit with an unfathomably good return.

I recommend you start with *buntu (Lubuntu does give you a more consistent Windows experience with LXDE so I personally recommend that) because hand-holding is essential. I recommend The Linux Command Line as a good introductionary book.

Replies from: Lumifer, bingobongo, taryneast
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-08T16:32:11.028Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

using a proper operating system (GNU/Linux) is an excellent low-hanging fruit

I wouldn't exactly call it "low-hanging". I think you overestimate both the capabilities of normal people and their needs.

Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-01-08T16:42:13.291Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but I'd guess that many of the people who read this post and UnrequitedHope's comment aren't "normal" in the relevant sense.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-08T17:04:20.964Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

However I think that the subset of grown-ups who would grok Unix well AND haven't tried it yet is pretty small nowadays.

I agree that for people just starting to figure out the whole computing thing, trying Unix is very worthwhile, though.

Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-01-09T10:02:43.055Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

However I think that the subset of grown-ups who would grok Unix well AND haven't tried it yet is pretty small nowadays.

Good point.

comment by bingobongo · 2015-01-08T11:40:47.580Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why is this an excellent low hanging fruit? I work in windows doing stuff in excel with vba, cad and structural fea (thousands in licences, already sunk cost). I have no clue how I could continue to do my work in linux and what return would I have?

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-08T12:50:25.034Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have no idea what all of those mean so I can't help you with that.

But generally speaking, the bottom line is "efficiency". I also have the added bonus of not worrying about crapware (spyware and malware and ransomware and I have no idea what more) and other nonsense that comes with Windows and is forced down your throat. Explaining is rather difficult, to be honest.

I say either dual-boot or just install a VM and download the book because it's available gratis. Once you learn how much your computer can do you'll dread ever returning to Windows. After using Windows most of my life I dread using it now.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-01-08T16:39:19.885Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Once you learn how much your computer can do

The most useful thing my computer can do is run applications. Some applications work better in Unixoid OSes (e.g. pretty much all programming environments), some applications work better in Windows (e.g. Photoshop, games), and for some it doesn't really matter (e.g. browsers).

Replies from: eeuuah
comment by eeuuah · 2015-01-17T20:24:33.982Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mostly agree with your point (I don't really recommend linux for most people, despite having happily used archlinux for years), but minor nit in that photoshop is primarily made for os x, I think. At least all of the designers I know use macs (slightly confounded by working for a SaaS startup).

comment by taryneast · 2015-01-08T00:58:23.913Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I second the use of Ubuntu :)

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-08T06:48:29.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I cannot recommend Ubuntu unless they have absolutely erased Unity and use a proper desktop environment for beginners. LXDE gives a reasonable Windows-like experience and seems like a good match for newbies.

Replies from: Strangeattractor, eeuuah
comment by Strangeattractor · 2015-02-03T15:05:10.448Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would recommend Ubuntu MATE Remix. It uses a renamed version of the Gnome 2 desktop environment.

Replies from: TheAncientGeek
comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-02-03T15:22:04.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mint is pretty tolerable, too.

comment by eeuuah · 2015-01-17T20:25:01.100Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Xubuntu / Lubuntu, then.