Procedural Knowledge Gaps

post by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T03:17:00.845Z · score: 128 (143 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 1478 comments

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

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

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

1478 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:24:46.272Z · score: 56 (56 votes) · LW · GW

Please, please, please, I beg you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T16:55:57.393Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

(shrug)

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T21:25:09.792Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by jkaufman · 2011-09-15T17:06:12.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was in the same state: I could type without looking as long as I didn't think about it. I wanted to get where I could type while looking at the screen or copy from a piece of paper. I rearranged the keycaps on my keyboard in alphabetical order so that if I looked down I would mess up. After a painful couple of weeks (especially with complex passwords) I had convinced my brain that I didn't need to be looking down to type.

My typing is not as good as yours, though, because I don't really use all my fingers. I type plenty fast, but I overuse my inner fingers and move my hands more than you're supposed to.

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-08T21:30:57.380Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoting this did not seem adequate.

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:34:34.055Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

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

HOW THE HELL DO 80% OF THE COMPUTER-MAINLINING GEEKS I KNOW NOT KNOW HOW TO TYPE. HOW DO THEY NOT KNOW HOW TO USE THEIR PRIMARY MODE OF HUMAN INTERACTION. Figuring that out will be a study in human cognitive biases, for sure.

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

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2011-02-09T05:54:05.979Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-11T06:26:22.770Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

del

comment by handoflixue · 2011-02-15T21:59:56.182Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-17T15:13:57.591Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

del

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-09T08:52:02.717Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's actually something I've never seen pointed out about Dvorak - every comparison seems to be about the speed relative to QWERTY. (Oh, the Wikipedia article mentions it in the first paragraph.)

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2011-02-09T12:10:16.114Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T18:43:16.073Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by lightpurpledye · 2011-02-19T01:45:22.086Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T15:46:51.582Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

that never occurred to me. I may write some bash aliases with a view to reducing long movements today.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-09T12:19:51.032Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The Wikipedia article on keyboard layouts is very interesting and informative.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2011-02-09T12:34:11.670Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The nice thing about keyboard layouts, now that we have reprogrammable computers, is that there's little need to have holy wars over them. Having more people use the same layout is mostly inconsequential to a single user of the layout. It's very different for operating systems, programming languages and programs, where a lack of users means a lack of support and a slow slide into obscurity and eventual unusability.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T23:52:10.463Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by randallsquared · 2011-02-09T04:29:01.722Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Except I've been typing for a living for 13 years on QWERTY and never had carpal tunnel syndrome. It's not clear to me that it has anything to do with keyboard layout.

comment by bogdanb · 2011-02-13T10:19:37.229Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Reasons one may not have carpal tunnel syndrome may be: 1) independent of their keyboard layout, e.g. their carpal tunnels are very resilient, or they may not type enough to injure them; 2) dependent on the keyboard layout, e.g. for the typing one does one layout may be “efficient” enough not to trigger the syndrome.

The observation that one never had CTS doesn’t separate the two hypotheses (i.e., you can’t tell if you never had carpal tunnel because of 1 or 2).

My personal experience, as well as reports from others (e.g. Eliezer), is that typing on QWERTY did cause CTS, and after switching to Dvorak (for many years now), without any other visible change in typing (quantity or kind) the symptoms disappeared.

From this evidence, the conclusion is quite clear that Dvorak is better for CTS than QWERTY. To be unclear about it you’d need to also have observations of people that had CTS with Dvorak but not with QWERTY. (However, it’s also clear that QWERTY is enough for some people, and that you’re likely in that category.)

(Of course, the conclusion is “clear”, as I said, based on the evidence cited. It’s not a lot of evidence, so it doesn’t mean that the conclusion is definite in general. I just pointed out that you have more evidence than your personal experience that you’re ignoring.)

(ETA: Also, it appears that you don’t quite need to worry about it. Similarly, I picked Dvorak when I had CTS, my CTS went away, and I don’t need to worry about layouts better than Dvorak. That doesn’t mean I’m not clear about Dvorak being less efficient than other layouts.)

comment by Kingreaper · 2011-02-23T09:47:42.939Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To be unclear about it you’d need to also have observations of people that had CTS with Dvorak but not with QWERTY. (However, it’s also clear that QWERTY is enough for some people, and that you’re likely in that category.)

Incorrect. As QWERTY is the standard, most people who have no problem with QWERTY don't switch.

Therefore, people for whom QWERTY is more efficient than Dvorak are highly unlikely to ever use Dvorak enough to develop problems (such as CTS). If, say, 10% of the population was better off with Dvorak and 90% was better off with QWERTY, you still wouldn't expect to see people developing CTS with Dvorak, then going to QWERTY, because most people start with QWERTY.

I'm not saying that QWERTY is better for anyone than Dvorak (personally the only reason I stopped using Dvorak was because I couldn't work out how to change the commands for ctrl-c, ctrl-x, ctrl-z, ctrl-s etc. to be in the same positions, rather than spread all over the keyboard) merely that it's a perfectly reasonable possibility given the evidence presented.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T05:50:44.512Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I know at least 2 Dvorak users, 1 Colemak user, and 1 NEO user personally, and a few who are interested to learn.

For anyone interested in switching layouts: skip Dvorak and go to one of the newer computer optimized layouts right away. I found it an interesting experience to have to re:learn how to type.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-02-09T02:43:04.502Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My brother has used Dvorak for the past 10 years.

It's easy to learn. You can still retain qwerty proficiency. It does feel nicer for typing English. It doesn't help programming. It's annoying to use multiple/public computers.

There are quite a few layouts that may be better than Dvorak. But probably not by enough to justify the extra effort of choosing one.

comment by Hook · 2011-02-10T01:17:19.258Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I first learned how to touch type on Dvorak, but switched to qwerty when I went to college so I wouldn't have issues using other computers. I found that I could not maintain proficiency with both layouts. One skill just clobbered the other.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-02-10T06:27:24.379Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe that's true once you try to get extremely fast with both.

Since elementary school typing class, I've been 80+ wpm qwerty.

I only learned and used dvorak up to about 50-60 wpm. Perhaps I never could have built maximum competence in both. I definitely noticed some mode-switching overhead.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T05:54:04.067Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But probably not by enough to justify the extra effort of choosing one.

I disagree. (And am biased as it gets.) Qwerty is really pretty bad. But looking out for the available once might make a difference in experienced typeability.

The network effect of keyboards is marginally. Some are preinstalled in your favorite OS, some are not. But otherwise you end up with about the same effort for relearning and explaining to other computer users why yours works different, that you can really invest a few hours to first look up which layout suits you the most.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-02-10T06:35:30.827Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You may have misunderstood me.

Dvorak is probably worth learning. I'm saying that (except if you spend most of your time typing non-English text, e.g. some programming language that has much more typing time than thinking time), it's probably not worth finding a more optimal layout than Dvorak.

In fact, if you have examples of the types of text you most often type, you can find a nonstandard layout using computer optimization, which is what I was thinking of.

My rough view is that for typical English text, the efficiencies are:

  • qwerty: 85%
  • dvorak: 97%
  • (all other layouts): at most 100%

So it's better to just learn Dvorak now than to choose something that has more implementation effort than choosing the layout from a menu (iphone, windows, mac, and unix will probably all have a menu that includes a dvorak mode, but not some more esoteric 99% efficient layout for your workload).

The efficiency numbers I give are in terms of actual trained speed and accuracy. In fact, by metrics like "finger miles", Dvorak is dramatically more efficient than qwerty. That's not what I optimize, though. I am skeptical that RSI risk scales mainly with "daily finger miles" (I had pretty severe wrist/shoulder RSI for over a year in the past).

This has made me wonder why I don't use Dvorak myself. I think it's mostly because I didn't learn the full keyset I use for programming. And I would probably prefer one of the more-like-qwerty punctuation layouts (that mainly rearranges letter keys), but I don't want to decide ...

I'm guilty of not really following my own advice, so I welcome a refutation :)

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-10T07:10:07.947Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I try my best, but I also am very biased and probably not an expert.

The main effort in switching layouts is a fixed re:training time, and then some minor hassles when interfacing with other people. It is not the time to install the new driver! (I usually regroup the keys on my keyboards, but thats also a fixed time per keyboard bought and some low level fun.)

There is no research I am aware of that confirms the RSI/finger movement connection. All pleasure derived from my Layout of choice is purely subjective.

The point I tried to make is that it pays to choose well before deciding to spend the effort for training a new layout. Take a few hours to reach a somewhat reasonable decision and then go about it, instead of just following a subcultural trend.

I think you underestimate the possible benefits gained from a better designed keyboard. There is a lot of space at the top.

What makes me like Neo tremendously besides the optimization are the additional layers. Pay attention to the 3rd layer in the overview. All brackets are nicely available in the center field.I would like to see that tacked onto any other layout one might choose.

(I am also disappointed that professional researchers into work ergonomy did not attack this topic on their own. The layouts I checked out seem to be fan projects. And with current technology it is almost trivial to calculate a good one at home.)

And being somewhat of a language buff I can type all latin-based languages natively from my keyboard. Without installing anything extra or switching layouts multiple times. That might not be too important for all-english writers, but for me that means some benefit with my 3rd language and possible later ones.

I would expect that someone interested in the topic is not immediately aware of the possibilities offered.

Actually before relearning I calculated the expected benefits and came out with what economists call a black 0 meaning some minor benefits. It is more valuable to retrain to another layout when young, and when you expect to write a lot of text over your lifetime. Programmers might be on the edge of not benefiting too much from it. But I find the experience of having to relearn highly interesting in itself. It helps in empathizing with computer newbies.

If you decide to go for a new layout, give at least Colemak a good thorough look. If not, no harm done.

Disclaimer: I use NEO since 2006, after a brief try with dvorak]

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-02-10T08:15:07.973Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that subjective pleasure with your choices is very important.

I just remembered another reason I chose to stay qwerty - emacs keybindings and video games (although I'm video game abstinent for the past few months). The default letters-as-commands mappings would have to be changed or positionally relearned for each such application I'm familiar with (similar: ctrl-z x c v in windows). Overall I didn't feel like investing the effort to resolve the annoyance, but I guess I wish now that I had made the investment; I'd probably enjoy the result as you do.

The effort of installing a new layout isn't much, you're right (unless you hop computers often). It just might be if you use especially limited devices (does the iphone/ipad keyboard even support arbitrary layouts?) that you sometimes need to qwerty anyway.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-10T08:46:30.540Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

ctrl-z x c v in windows

The NEO developergroup payed attention to many of those. They also collected common sets of two or three letters from common applications. So the Smiley becomes just one roll over three buttons. I probably reap some benefits from that once I get back into Lateχ. In general I like to use tools that are optimized over my current horizon and can surprise me with thinks already put in way after I started to use them.

I guess I wish now that I had made the investment

You can make the investment at any time you choose. Once you did the calculation changes (thanks to sunken cost) but before that its a matter of finding a convenient time space. Like when one is sick at home, or in holidays.

Iphone/ipad does not have Colemak or generic support for different layouts. Not sure about Dvorak.

comment by wisnij · 2011-02-09T18:54:12.287Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by MTGandP · 2013-08-19T02:20:32.022Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Although he had the right idea, I think this author's analysis was rather poor. I don't think he did a good job of modelling the importance of different kinds of typing strains. I like Colemak a lot better.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T10:22:03.220Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by TabAtkins · 2011-03-09T06:59:28.227Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-09T10:35:09.078Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T09:49:23.958Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I ask because I type intuitively with ten fingers.

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

comment by MTGandP · 2013-08-19T02:16:40.538Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

I don't know of any studies (although they probably exist), but (a) touch typists I know are much faster than touch typists I don't know, and (b) the world's fastest typists are, as far as I know, all touch typists. Sean Wrona, currently the world's fastest typist, uses touch typing. So did Barbara Blackburn, the previous world's fastest typist.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-02-15T21:53:03.379Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I definitely agree, but that's party because my right hand rests at an odd angle. I'll sometimes lose the home-row on it, but it gives me much faster access to Home/End keys, as well as the numpad and the mouse, and usually those benefits far outweigh the advantages of a "traditional" typing pose.

The problem with tradition is that it's generally only applicable to a specific set of circumstances :)

comment by D_Malik · 2011-02-10T14:45:15.532Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by handoflixue · 2011-02-15T21:45:28.426Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-09T14:11:42.726Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-09T15:55:31.435Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by lukstafi · 2011-02-12T18:54:29.154Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by mkehrt · 2011-02-13T06:05:22.715Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why?

comment by lukstafi · 2011-02-13T09:44:27.883Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by sfb · 2011-02-11T16:42:43.838Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you are reading this and want some typing practise:

http://www2.ie.popcap.com/games/free/typershark

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

comment by slikts · 2011-03-09T07:39:04.891Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Too bad it needs Java.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-09T16:23:32.826Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by dlthomas · 2011-02-10T05:31:54.478Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-09T19:50:17.029Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For mouse haters who use a Unix: Ratpoison.

comment by gwern · 2011-02-09T20:02:48.364Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

More general answer: Category:Tiling WMs. (I personally use and help develop Xmonad.)

comment by jhuffman · 2011-02-15T19:40:06.291Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And how does this not make you a special snowflake?

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-15T19:58:38.609Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Huh?

comment by jhuffman · 2011-02-16T15:30:08.902Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From the post that you replied to:

Then LEARN HOW TO TYPE. And don't make an excuse for why you're a special snowflake who doesn't need to.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-16T15:45:17.107Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I'm familiar with that comment, as I was before you made your first reply, and your point still isn't any clearer. Why don't you try again, and this time, say it explicitly, so I can either appreciate your insight, see your error, or confirm your rudeness.

comment by jhuffman · 2011-02-16T15:51:01.274Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My point is simply that what you are doing is not touch typing; if you transcribe slower than you can type from your brain then you are not touch typing. People who touch type find transcription a lot faster since they do not need to think at all. I find your narrative an elaborate excuse for not simply learning to type properly.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-16T16:03:11.242Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, thanks for stating your point -- this should have been your first comment.

Now, could you provide a source for your claim about "people who touch type find transcribing easier"? Your reasoning doesn't make sense: when I transcribe, having to learn what I'm supposed to type is the bottleneck, which is why typing what's already in my head is faster for me -- I skip the stage of reading. I also don't think about each individual letter as you seem to be implying, and I type as fast as the OP touch-typist claims.

I can even type fast enough to transcribe people talking. (The accuracy isn't good, but it's high enough to reconstruct it afterward.)

I use 10 fingers, I base 8 of them on the home row, I type a touch-typing speeds, I use a keyboard optmized for touch typing, I use the keyboard in preference to the mouse; what exactly would "learning to type" include, and how would it be an improvement?

comment by jhuffman · 2011-02-16T16:12:59.007Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe I misunderstood you; I guess I leapt to the conclusion that when transcribing your eyes moved between the source and the keyboard. If that were the case then "learning to type" would mean learning to type without ever looking at the keys. It sounds like you do that. If you didn't do that, then its a safe bet that while your 90 WPM is "good enough" you could almost certainly transcribe faster if you could keep your eyes on the source all the time.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-16T16:15:56.190Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't ever look at the keyboard when transcribing, or typing in general (except maybe on the occasional symbol). The slowdown in transcription is not from having to look back at the keyboard.

comment by TabAtkins · 2011-03-09T06:53:21.520Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can concur with the reporter's comments in that transcribing is faster for me (as a touch-typist), and more accurate. I can disconnect my brain when transcribing and just let the text flow from my visual center straight to my fingers. When transcribing properly you're not actually "reading" - I, at least, retain very little of texts that I transcribe.

comment by JackEmpty · 2011-07-11T16:49:20.161Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is why learning to speed read is so difficult for me.

If I look at a word I've read and subvocalized it. I can't not read a word that I look at. I can try to ignore parsing full sentences and their relation to each other, with limited success, but not at the scale of individual words or letters.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-15T19:44:57.017Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And how does this not make you a special snowflake?

He was partially melted with an itsy bitsy soldering iron as opposed to having a wedge cut out with an itsy bitsy scalpel. Less neat but also smoother.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2011-02-08T21:46:50.259Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From this, it sounds like I was lucky that I took a typing class in in high school (mostly because I wanted some easy credits). Do most schools not offer this?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T15:36:42.251Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The typing class I took was by far the best, most useful class I had in four years of high school -- and the only one where I could not have learned the material better by simply being left alone in a quiet room with the textbook. (Although being left alone with a computer and a decent learn-to-type program would probably have done just as well; but this was 1994 and my school had typewriters, not computers, so the teacher was actually useful.)

comment by Kevin · 2011-02-09T15:52:10.969Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seconded, typing class was by far the best, most useful class in all of my years of schooling. I took it in 6th grade.

comment by mail2345 · 2011-02-09T06:59:02.908Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My 6th grade class was taught touch typing, reinforced with some typing games that became surprisingly popular. High school also had a typing class for the business path, which was dropped when the administration realised that most of the students didn't need the course or were failing. Nothing about proper posture in either though, which needless to say is quite essential to proper touch typing.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-09T15:22:47.273Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's pretty common. I had two years of it in middle school. It never really stuck though; all my attempts to learn proper home-row style touch typing were a complete wash. After about six or seven years of computer use, I realized that I had absorbed the locations of the keys in my muscle memory, and was able to touch type in spite of not using proper form; as Kaj Sotala says, the bottleneck is thinking about what to type, not typing it.

I'm not sure how many people are equally ill served by the various teaching programs that are available, but I'd be surprised if I'm the only one.

comment by free_rip · 2011-02-09T10:07:58.192Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mine has an assessment in it in early high school, but it's not a main part of the course and you only learn it if you take applications. (As opposed to Multimedia, Programming or Hardware.)

Anyway, I got from about 15WPM to 25WPM at school. Then I got my own computer at home, and in two weeks I was up to 60WPM just from using it so much.

I'm now at around 75-80WPM

comment by DanielLC · 2011-02-09T04:58:26.752Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mine required it, although it wasn't just typing.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T22:09:18.309Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mine never did (1980-84). I learnt at 23 after I'd been editing a fanzine for a few years, something which required me to type a lot. And learning to type with ten fingers instead of two took me from 15-20wpm to 40wpm within a few weeks. SO WORTH IT.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-11T19:08:19.388Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Many years ago I learned to touchtype by typing:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow.

Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz.

Platinum blond vixen from wyoming acquires hijacked zamboni

a few times everyday, using the 'proper' finger positions. In a week or two, I was touchtyping.

Some months ago I injured my left hand and had to type using my right hand only (I switched to the right-hand dvorak keyboard layout). I did not have much patience for the above practice sentences; I just practiced them a few times then jumped right into actual typing. A couple of weeks later I was touch typing comfortably with only my right hand.

It may just be a matter of patience.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-09-05T17:53:09.496Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-09-14T20:02:34.302Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Pavitra · 2011-02-09T04:22:13.706Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I never had the self-discipline to stop looking down at the keyboard. I eventually forced myself to learn to touch-type by switching to Dvorak. I still have to look at the keys to type numbers (which are the same under both layouts); I should probably paint over those keys with whiteout or something.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-09T04:09:13.953Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I tend to type with just one hand a lot of the time. I've trained with touch-typing software, but I never managed to learn to type all that quickly. My "one-and-a-half-handed" typing is about as fast as I've ever gotten when trying to touch type properly, so I haven't bothered to try to practice more. (I think I do about 30 WPM.)

My father, on the other hand, is a 62-year-old engineering professor who still can't type with more than two fingers. When he tried to get tech support from a chat room once, the support guy kept asking if he was still there.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-11T07:16:35.323Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I never learned how to formally touch type. I seemed more adept than what seems average, based on your impression. As a programmer by trade, my father also knew the importance of me learning how to type, so when I was around ten or eleven he set out in getting me on board with a typing program. I thought it was boring and didn't last very long. By the time I got to the end of high school, what with me having learned touch-typing through brute force from my habit of writing essays for fun in my spare time, let alone for homework, I could type between forty and fifty wpm.

Now, five years later, I can type between fifty and sixty wpm. Since then, my father than others remark they're impressed by how fast I can type. People seem to think I know about computers, because I must use them lots, because I type fast. However, I only know how to type. I've tested my ability multiple times by closing my eyes while I type, and I think I'm able to type just as fast. Typing with my eyes closed produces an error rate that's as good as when I have my eyes open, so that's seems a valid test that I'm touch-typing for real, at all. I think my biggest problem now is my error rate. I think my biggest problem now might be my error rate, and making mistakes. Do you think it would be worth it for me to by training with a formal touch-typing training program or game now, or am I good? For the record, I don't think I'll end up in a career where build software, but I wouldn't be surprised if I spend most of my time on the job behind a keyboard.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T05:47:26.383Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I might be the snowflake here. Every time I tried to learn 10 finger I got bored and broke off. But I developed a reasonably high speed anyway. A few years ago I started using Neo which is just awesome, but optimized for German. (Still it has some features Colemak and Dvorak are missing, maybe someone likes to dig into this and prepare an engl. version.)

After that I basically had to relearn typing, and did so the same way. My current type speed maxes somewhere at 400CPM which is way more than I actually need.

The OP has a great point. Learn your tools! In case of the computer that includes to use keyboard shortcuts and optimize commonly done activities.

comment by Elizabeth · 2011-02-08T06:43:39.792Z · score: 40 (42 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T13:54:37.237Z · score: 27 (27 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by coup_eye · 2011-02-08T13:25:39.594Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-08T08:51:27.554Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-08T07:34:18.934Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

how do I tell the difference between flirting and friendliness?

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

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

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

comment by kim0 · 2011-02-08T07:59:19.534Z · score: 11 (21 votes) · LW · GW

There often is not any difference at all between flirting and friendliness. People vary very much in their ways. And yet we are supposed to easily tell the difference, with threat of imprisonment for failing.

The main effects I have seen and experienced, is that flirting typically involve more eye contact, and that a lot of people flirt while denying they do it, and refusing to to tell what they would do if they really flirted, and disparaging others for not knowing the difference.

My experience is also that ordinary people are much more direct and clear in the difference between flirting and friendship, while academic people muddle it.

comment by wnoise · 2011-02-08T10:24:48.152Z · score: 32 (32 votes) · LW · GW

yet we are supposed to easily tell the difference, with threat of imprisonment for failing.

It can be hard to tell the difference, and it can be easy to mess up when trying to flirt back, but it takes rather more than than simply not telling the difference between flirtation and friendliness for imprisonment. There has to be actual unwelcome steps taken that cross significant lines.

The way the mating dance typically goes is as a series of small escalations. One of the purposes this serves is to let parties make advances without as much risk of everyone seeing them turned down, and lose face. It also lets people make stronger evaluations and back out in the middle gracefully.

Flirtatious talk is not an open invitation for a grabby hands. It is an invitation for further flirtatious talk. It may be an invitation for an invasion of personal space and increasing proximity. This in turn can be invitation for casual, brief, touches on non-sexual body areas. The point of no return, where it's hard to gracefully back out and pretend nothing was happening, is usually the kiss. That's usually done as a slow invasion of space, by the initiator, who must watch for the other to either lean in and take position, or lean and turn away. (or occasionally sit wide-eyed and frozen like a deer in the headlights).

Don't take the example order above too seriously. It's more complicated than a straight progression as laid out here. In addition to varying cultural attachments of these behaviors, all of them can vary continuously from completely innocent to drenched in erotic meaning, and escalation can happen in any of them at a given time. A clasp-and-release on the upper arm is an escalation from not touching, but far below resting a hand on the thigh.

And really, you can talk and ask for clarification from people you're flirting with. Heck, asking "are you flirting with me" is itself a reasonable flirt-and-escalate move. Being explicit can kill the mood for some people, but if you're not actually sure where in this dance you are or which direction it's headed, it's generally safer than risking unwanted boundary crossing.

I should also say that with strangers (in a bar say), this whole thing usually starts earlier with looks at someone punctuated with looks away when you see them looking back.

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T18:53:21.765Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That's usually done as a slow invasion of space, by the initiator, who must watch for the other to either lean in and take position, or lean and turn away.

If you're reasonably confident in the other person's interest, simply announcing "I'm going to kiss you now," followed by a brief pause, works quite nicely, signals confidence, builds anticipation, and still gives them the opportunity to back out.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-02-10T03:51:30.705Z · score: 5 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If you're reasonably confident in the other person's interest, simply announcing "I'm going to kiss you now," followed by a brief pause, works quite nicely, signals confidence, builds anticipation, and still gives them the opportunity to back out.

Another version: "I'm thinking about kissing you", and offering your cheek.

comment by adamisom · 2012-06-02T07:00:42.851Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did that once. At the end of a date, pointed at my cheek, 'kiss goodbye'. HAHAHAHA. Didn't work.

Make sure you keep in mind that some skills must be mastered before others. Like being able to gauge interest level.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-08T14:38:16.137Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

And really, you can talk and ask for clarification from people you're flirting with. Heck, asking "are you flirting with me" is itself a reasonable flirt-and-escalate move. Being explicit can kill the mood for some people, but if you're not actually sure where in this dance you are or which direction it's headed, it's generally safer than risking unwanted boundary crossing.

If you need verbal feedback, you're probably better off finding out fairly early whether the person you're flirting with is comfortable with questions or not.

comment by Raemon · 2011-02-08T15:15:46.150Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What I'm particularly frustrated about is not telling the difference between flirting and friendliness (the line is blurry and that's okay) but when specifically it's okay to escalate to physical touching.

comment by wnoise · 2011-02-10T05:15:40.951Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm afraid this isn't going to be helpful, but like everything else, it depends. Touches too can straddle the line between friendliness and flirtation, and mere physical contact needn't be an escalation at all. A glancing contact with someone's hand when passing them something isn't. Prolonging that contact is. Clapping someone on the shoulder is usually just friendly, but adding a squeeze intensifies that.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-10T04:22:09.611Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I should also say that with strangers (in a bar say), this whole thing usually starts earlier with looks at someone punctuated with looks away when you see them looking back.

Surely this is more general than that? I mean, you didn't say it wasn't, but ISTM it wouldn't be worth mentioning if that was what you meant. Did you actually mean it in a more inclusive sense?

Or am I just very wrong about interpreting/doing this? :-/

comment by wnoise · 2011-02-10T04:39:20.837Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't mean to imply that trading glances like this was exclusive to strangers. However: it is a larger portion of the initial signaling, because fewer signals are available than between friends or people otherwise interacting. Secondly, it's more noticeable in strangers, again because of the relative lack of other interactions and signals.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-10T04:47:13.093Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oops, that wasn't the generalization I was thinking of. Sorry; I should have been more explicit. I meant I do this to strangers a lot simply because, e.g., I'm outside and it's nighttime and I'm trying to determine whether or not they're someone I know in the first place, which has nothing to do with this.

comment by wnoise · 2011-02-10T05:06:22.566Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh. Yes, people look at each other a lot, naturally, without any signals being sent. It's going to be near impossible to tell from short textual descriptions whether what you're doing is anything like the sexual signaling, but I would suspect not. It's usually done at a fairly subconscious level

comment by NihilCredo · 2011-02-08T08:31:36.196Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

and that a lot of people flirt while denying they do it

Or without even realising. Several years ago an acquaintance on whom I was developing a crush told me she was aware of this; this puzzled me since I thought I hadn't yet initiated anything like flirting, so I asked how she knew. Then she took my hand and replicated the way in which, a few days before, I had passed her some small object (probably a pen). I didn't realise I was doing it at the time, but in that casual gesture I was prolonging the physical contact a lot more than necessary, and once put on the receiving side it was bloody obvious what was going on.

comment by pabloernesto · 2018-04-10T01:43:37.777Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There is a good argument that this is intentional. (See slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/26/conversation-deliberately-skirts-the-border-of-incomprehensibility/)

comment by therufs · 2014-10-28T21:00:59.485Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm very late to this party, but:

Correctly ascertaining others' internal state and responding accordingly is a NEWT-level social skill. It is (at least usually) easier to ascertain your own internal state, specifically as it relates to the particular behaviors of the maybe-flirter, and respond accordingly. Here is how this breaks down for me:

"They might be flirting and I like it":

-> And they are flirting: continue whatever I was doing, remembering that flirting is no guarantee of any particular outcome

-> And they are not: same (such should be the conviction that flirting is no guarantee of any particular outcome.)

"They might be flirting and I don't like it":

-> And they are flirting: Excuse myself from the situation; ask them to modify behavior if it recurs (or avoid them)

-> And they are not flirting: Their take on acceptable platonic interaction makes me uncomfortable, so again excuse/ask/avoid.

So, conveniently, it doesn't matter!

Of course, it's generally a fine idea to just ask, too, remembering that the given response may not be completely reliable. :)

comment by zslastman · 2013-07-03T20:53:48.930Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As someone who has recently gained some, though not much, proficiency in this area, I think part of the problem lies with the question itself. We have been convinced by the media to believe that 'flirting' is a clearly definable mode of interaction that socially competent people have no trouble distinguishing from normal interactions. This is false. In my experience people talk about flirting a lot, but are very seldom able to point to instances of it except when there are very obvious body language cues. Almost all men and most women I know have trouble with this. We nerds I think differ more in how uncomfortable we are with the ambiguity, than in our ability to read the situation. You are not alone.

Having a rough road map in your mind does help. Gradual escalation with careful attentiveness to catch signs of discomfort. Just don't take it as an automatic rejection if you see such a sign, it could just mean, 'slow down'.

That said, as a hetero guy I might be operating under a different ruleset. You could probably be quite a lot more forward as a woman, due to not sharing a karyotype with 95% of the world's violent criminals.

comment by TimFreeman · 2011-05-07T04:21:34.277Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm bi, and more interested in women, and they are much harder to read than men on the subject, because women's behavior with female friends is often fairly flirty to begin with.

Being in a sexual minority is hard. Some people can estimate sexual orientation from body language (the word is "gaydar"), but I can't (but then I'm straight and married so I don't need to). If you can't, you might want to use a dating site when trying to meet up with women, or use the Internet to find nearby places where bi and lesbian women congregate.

I vaguely recall hearing that bars with misspellings in the name are either for gay men or gay women or both. I don't remember which, I don't remember how well defined the convention is, and I don't know if you like bars. (I don't.)

comment by pwno · 2011-02-08T19:11:52.328Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You'll feel more uneasy when someone's flirting.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-02-07T05:09:49.841Z · score: 36 (40 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Nornagest · 2011-02-07T19:33:19.676Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Quite. Now that I think about it, I suspect this might be causally related to several social anxiety problems.

comment by sark · 2011-02-08T17:18:51.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, they say some people are better at public speaking than at socializing. Note such people know what to do when public speaking, but they still have no idea what to do in social situations. So the procedural skills we are talking about here may not actually help with social anxiety per se. It might help one deceive oneself into thinking so though.

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-02-08T16:33:02.409Z · score: 30 (30 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2012-10-08T21:08:54.274Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ikrase · 2013-04-13T09:35:52.826Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is a pretty big one.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-08T17:50:54.090Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by DanielLC · 2011-02-09T05:02:09.991Z · score: 6 (20 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Malovich · 2011-02-08T20:30:43.121Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

Works 5/6 of the time.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-08T20:33:11.547Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This overlaps something I was wondering-- whether there are subtle clues you can give that the conversation is winding down.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T01:15:22.985Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. You can look at your watch, phone, or appointment book. You can adjust your posture and body language to turn slightly away, step back, and shift your weight to the foot farther away from the person, as if you were getting ready to walk away.

You can make comments that summarize the conversation or comment on it more generally: this kind of abstraction is a natural signal that the conversation is winding down. "This is a really good conversation," "It's really good to talk to you," "You've given me a lot to think about," and so forth.

You can also mention other things you have going on, such as "I'm working on homework for X class," "I've got a test coming up," "I've been doing a lot of work getting my house ready to sell," which gives the other person a natural close: "Well, I'll let you get back to your work. Good luck with X."

comment by Malovich · 2011-02-09T06:56:35.062Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, there are specific cues that can be given which indicate non-specific information; descending tones in a sentence tend towards definitive announcements and represent an appearance of authority, while ascending tones are inducements of affirmation or agreement. They are both useful in their context...but when you need to communicate the end of your involvement in a conversation, you may find it less than useful to seek consensus (which is what you would communicate with the ascending tone); instead you may wish to firmly communicate your boundary or limit (which you are more likely to do with a descending tone).

Blueberry's suggestions are methods of breaking rapport, which is usually established by full-body mirroring in most people (mirroring posture, hand position, leg position, head tilt etc); rapport is a method of gaining comfort with someone you are dealing with and people in rapport are usually reluctant to leave it. Making a deliberate choice to do so can be an important step in easing oneself out of a conversation.

However, there are people out there who associate breaking with rapport with rejection of sorts; the reasons vary greatly and it usually boils down to a lack of clear boundaries between involvement in one's life and involvement in another's and where the line of separation is supposed to lie in their model of the world. At times like this, clearly stating your stance and your priorities (I have enjoyed spending time with you; I have a lot going on and need to attend these other things) helps clear some of this up (or at least gives them something to work with and induce a learning in them if you're lucky) as does declaring when you expect to see them next as you go. Just make sure you are congruently communicating to the other person as you do so; mixed signals, as always, confuse things.

comment by lionhearted · 2011-02-09T11:09:52.575Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by KrisC · 2011-02-09T03:46:15.012Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-09T10:52:01.591Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How do you make people laugh?

comment by KrisC · 2011-02-10T07:11:02.486Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

Well, at least I tried to answer the question.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-10T11:28:13.534Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

Observation: People stop repeating that particular thing. Yay!

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

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-13T09:45:48.987Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

Observation: People stop repeating that particular thing. Yay!

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

comment by Plubbingworth · 2012-11-01T00:17:17.536Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-02-08T17:06:12.387Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What kind of issues do you have at present with ending conversations? How is your current technique deficient?

comment by soreff · 2011-05-07T01:50:37.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In a work context, we have a useful convention that we can warn people that we have a "hard stop" at a particular time. Typically we say this at the start of a meeting, typically when we have another meeting (or some similar immovable obligation) at the scheduled end (or if we have to depart partway through).

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-02-09T00:30:59.912Z · score: 29 (31 votes) · LW · GW

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

  • Change the oil in your car every 4000 miles.
  • Don't mix colored and white laundry and then set the temperature to "hot".
  • Remove the lint from the dryer screen before each load.
  • Don't put wool clothes in the dryer and set it on "hot".
  • Change the air filter in your central heating every few months.
  • Wash the stovetop after cooking with grease.
  • Use dishwashing detergent in the dishwasher.
  • Don't put knives or pots with metal/plastic or metal/wood interfaces in the dishwasher.
  • Don't put tupperware in the dishwasher lower rack.
  • Don't fill the dishwasher lower rack with pots so that no water reaches the upper rack.
  • Open the fireplace vent before starting a fire.
  • Wash the bathtub sometimes.
  • Knives must eventually be sharpened.
  • Turning the thermostat up extra-high does not make it get warm faster.
comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T01:24:04.658Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

Don't put tupperware in the dishwasher lower rack.

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

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-09T01:29:39.273Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by chronophasiac · 2011-02-09T03:58:51.033Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T19:25:18.982Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

I think there is vocabulary confusion happening here.

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

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

comment by soreff · 2011-05-07T01:39:42.806Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T09:13:19.297Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I had a teapot cover fall into the heating spiral and partly melt. Thats not recommend.

comment by bogdanb · 2012-03-11T17:09:47.803Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Weird. I live in France, and I have never seen a dish-washing machine with an exposed heating element.

comment by simplyeric · 2011-02-09T16:40:56.698Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T21:35:58.551Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Henckels do a really nice serrated knife. That being said - they also do really nice proper knives. They're really expensive, but if you have, say, a mother who never ever sharpens her knives and therefore believes that only serrated knives are "sharp", a Henckels knife is a great present.

comment by fiddlemath · 2011-02-09T16:02:07.821Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-09T16:51:46.553Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Knives must eventually be sharpened.

(Or replaced with our lifetime stay sharp guarantee!)

comment by BillyOblivion · 2011-02-10T11:42:03.554Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knives are tools. Tools need maintenance or replacement.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-02-09T05:26:30.573Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Conuly · 2011-02-09T05:55:41.871Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by patrissimo · 2011-02-21T07:31:29.097Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

Seems pretty rational to me.

comment by blashimov · 2013-05-21T17:08:45.121Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T08:50:33.149Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-02-09T21:18:54.782Z · score: 46 (46 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-02-16T00:33:11.136Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-02-16T00:31:21.467Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by saturn · 2011-02-10T03:23:08.859Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by handoflixue · 2011-02-15T22:05:26.059Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-02-09T09:08:19.210Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-08-08T00:24:22.179Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by BillyOblivion · 2011-02-10T11:49:31.375Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T05:23:22.045Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by taw · 2012-02-15T18:39:16.445Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think these are just remnants of times when colors were made of something much less resistant to heat. These days it's not a problem at all.

I've been mixing everything and washing at 90C, and I've only had problems once ever, with some green towels which made everything green. Colored clothes are perfectly fine at that temperature.

comment by MartinB · 2012-02-15T19:57:01.606Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I had two mishaps a few years ago. Once A blue pant that darkened a whole load of white shirts, another time a red one. The color wore off after a few washes, but I don't recommend it. Even if most items are fine, just one is enough to ruin a whole load of clothes.

comment by thomblake · 2012-02-15T20:15:08.832Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I still have issues with bright reds, even wearable clothing. Not so much other colors.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-09T23:35:43.019Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
  • Don't mix colored and white laundry and then set the temperature to "hot".
  • Remove the lint from the dryer screen before each load.
  • Don't put wool clothes in the dryer and set it on "hot".

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

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-02-10T01:49:09.801Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-10T01:54:50.823Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

Especially if you like green. :P

comment by ikrase · 2013-04-13T09:32:13.344Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-02-10T02:01:46.725Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T10:08:24.997Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-10T02:07:35.636Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-10T02:12:20.739Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by mindspillage · 2011-02-11T04:07:46.876Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-11T04:10:35.009Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

And those are easy to handle - drycleaners!

comment by lukeprog · 2011-02-09T20:19:47.514Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Classic.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-02-09T19:00:52.361Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

How to Buy Stocks

First Option:

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

Second Option:

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

Third option:

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

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

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

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

comment by Unnamed · 2011-02-10T02:50:46.332Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Vaniver · 2011-02-10T21:24:57.208Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The last time I looked, VFINX had better historical performance than VTSMX. I don't know if that is still true / what periods that was true for, but the difference between the two shouldn't be that large. I personally hold both, and consider either a fine choice.

comment by Unnamed · 2011-02-11T00:01:03.238Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't pay much attention to historical performance. If one segment of the market has been doing better than the market as a whole, that doesn't mean that it will keep it up. And looking at the data here, VTSMX seems to have actually done very slightly better than the S&P 500 since it was created in 1992.

I've invested in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (VTSMX) since that comes closer to betting on the market as a whole. It's closer to the ideal of diversifying as much as possible, spreading your investment evenly across the whole market rather than concentrating it in particular companies, sectors, or segments of the market. The S&P 500 only covers about 75% of the US stock market and is concentrated in larger companies, while the Total Stock Market Index fund is based on an index (MSCI US Broad Market Index) which covers over 99% of the US stock market and matches the market's balance between large, medium, and small companies.

I agree that the difference between the two index funds isn't large. Investing in the Total Stock Market Index (VTSMX) is basically equivalent to putting three quarters of your money in an S&P 500 index (like VFINX) and putting the other quarter of your money in an index of the rest of the US stock market (excluding the S&P 500). And even that last quarter is highly correlated with the S&P 500.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-02-11T00:44:36.075Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've edited it in to the original post, though with a significantly more terse description of it than this comment tree. I do want option one to be as simple as possible :P

comment by Solomonsk5 · 2012-07-25T18:57:52.099Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-10-28T17:51:02.772Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Raoul589 · 2013-04-12T08:21:05.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by shminux · 2013-04-12T16:20:09.881Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-12T15:45:30.342Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Raoul589 · 2013-04-12T17:42:32.298Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-12T18:51:50.700Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-04-12T11:21:20.945Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

At a guess, I'd say you should buy stock in companies working on home robotics.

comment by Raoul589 · 2013-04-12T12:42:48.814Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Right. Is there no more sophisticated strategy though?

comment by CCC · 2013-04-12T18:43:17.714Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps buying stock in companies that make microchips? Those home robotics companies are going to be spending a fair amount on microchips to fuel their growth...

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-04-12T20:32:39.891Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Buy Google - if home robotics turns into a thing they'll probably be running it, whether because they set a bunch of geniuses on the problem or they bought out the company that first started making these robots.

More seriously, I suppose you might be able to extrapolate some other information from that - for example, human servants would be even less useful, and materials/services used to produce robots might become more valuable.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-12T20:44:43.325Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

they bought out the company that first started making these robots.

In this case, if you're one of the people that bought into the company before Google bought it, you can make quite a bit more than if you bought into Google, just like it would have been better to buy into Kiva than to buy into Amazon. This often requires being a venture capitalist or angel investor, though.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-04-12T21:47:28.630Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose buy Google is a less sophisticated strategy, at that. As well as a joke.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-04-12T20:38:03.189Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Start a company developing domestic robots and make a success of it. Then (optionally) take it public.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-12T20:45:53.874Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Knowledge that domestic robots will be a bigger thing than other people expect doesn't translate into having comparative advantage at producing domestic robots.

comment by gwern · 2013-04-12T20:45:16.758Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Given the failure rates for new businesses, that doesn't sound like a very reliable strategy.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2013-04-12T20:55:46.135Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The failure rates for new businesses are closely linked to the tendency of entrepreneurs to try solving problems people don't actually care about. If you actually had the certainty that Raoul589 implies, your success rate would be way higher.

Well, okay, that also assumes that you're competent enough to run a business, which I suppose many people aren't. Also Raoul might not actually know anything about making robots. So yeah, that makes sense, gwern.

comment by gwern · 2013-04-12T22:41:51.538Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Certainty is irrelevant, even if you are certain you still have serious problems making any use of this knowledge; there is no convenient stock named RBTS you can just buy 500 shares of and let it appreciate.

Example: in retrospect, we know for certain that a great many people wanted computers, operating systems, social networks etc - but the history of computer / operating system / social networks are strewn with flaming rubble. Suppose you knew in 2000 that "in 2010, the founder of the most successful social network will be worth >$10b"; just how useful is this knowledge, really? Do you have the capital to hang out a VC shingle and throw multi-million-dollar investments at every social media thing that comes along until finally in 2010 you know for sure that Facebook was the winning ticket? I doubt it.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2013-04-13T08:07:43.720Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ahh good point. I mean, hence the argument to start your own company. But right, you won't necessarily win.

comment by Raoul589 · 2013-04-13T03:00:27.272Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose that you are literally certain (you're not just 100% confident, you actually have special perfect information) about the future tenfold growth in demand for home robotics. Are you claiming that there is literally no way of using this information to reliably extract money from the stock market? This surprises me.

Would you expect Vaniver's indexing to at least reliably turn a profit? Would you expect it to turn a large profit?

comment by gwern · 2013-04-13T03:18:11.361Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are you claiming that there is literally no way of using this information to reliably extract money from the stock market? This surprises me.

I'll reuse my example: if you knew for certain that Facebook would be as huge as it was, what stocks, exactly, would you have invested in, pre-IPO, to capture gains from its growth? Remember, you don't know anything else, like that Google will go up from its IPO, you don't know anything about Apple being a huge success - all you know is that some social network will some day exist and will grow hugely. The best I can think of would be to sell any Murdoch stock you owned when you heard they were buying MySpace, but offhand I'm not sure that Murdoch didn't just stagnate rather than drop as MySpace increasingly turned out to be a writeoff. In the hypothetical that you didn't know the name of the company, you might've bought up a bunch of Google stock hoping that Orkut would be the winner, but while that would've been a decent investment (yay!) it would have had nothing to do with Orkut (awww!); illustrating the problem with highly illiquid markets in some areas...

Would you expect Vaniver's indexing to at least reliably turn a profit? Would you expect it to turn a large profit?

Depends on the specifics. Suppose the home robotic growth were concentrated in a single private company which exploded into the billions of annual revenue and took away the market share of all the others, forcing them to go bankrupt or merge or shrink. Home robotics will have increased - keikaku doori! - yet Vaniver's fund suffered huge losses or gone bankrupt (reindex when one of the robotics companies suffers share price collapses? Reindex into what, exactly? Another one of the doomed firms?). Then after the time period elapses and your special knowledge has become public knowledge, the robotics company goes public, and by EMH shares become a normal gamble where you could lose money as easily as make it.

(Is this an impossibly rare scenario? Well, it sounds a lot like Facebook, actually! They grew fast, roflstomped a bunch of other social networks, there was no way to invest in them or related businesses before the IPO, and post-IPO, I believe investors have done the opposite of profit.)

comment by Raoul589 · 2013-04-13T07:03:04.644Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In case it's not clear: I'm not trying to contradict you; I am trying to get advice from you.

Suppose that you got a mysterious note from the future telling you that the demand for home-robotics will increase tenfold in the next decade, and you know this note to be totally reliable. You know nothing else that is not publicly known. What would you do next?

comment by gwern · 2013-04-13T16:56:08.223Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do more research. Is this even nonpublic knowledge at all? The world economy grows at something like 2% a year, labor costs generally seem to go up, prices of computers and robotics usually falls... Do industry projections expect to grow their sales by <25% a year?

If so, I might spend some of my hypothetical money on whatever the best approximation to a robotics index fund I can find, as the best of a bunch of bad choices. (Checking a few random entries in Wikipedia, maybe a fifth of the companies are publicly traded, so... that will be a pretty small index.) But I wouldn't be really surprised if in 10 years, I had not outperformed the general market.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-04-13T17:38:06.837Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd advise finding a market bottleneck, like ColTan mining. You'll see any technology that can replace tantalum capacitors from further away than you'll manage to see software or design shifts.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-04-13T14:07:10.265Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

By "you know this note to be totally reliable" I assume you mean you have a fair idea how it got there (eg you just built a time portal. with the intention of sending through financial advice, and a hand, bearing the same tattoo you have, pushed through with the note) and not that you're psychic and literally know things with 100% certainty? IOW you have a high probability estimate that it's genuine, but not an infinitely high one (seems more realistic and applicable if nothing else.)

comment by ChrisHibbert · 2011-02-13T19:56:08.585Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-10-28T17:52:03.068Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in the black overall only because of how awesome Netflix was; there's a lot of stocks I bought that lost a bunch or merely tread water. I now take the opportunity approach seriously.

Did you beat the SAP500 or are you only in the black?

comment by Vaniver · 2014-10-28T20:09:02.701Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Did you beat the SAP500 or are you only in the black?

For this time period, it turns out that which comparison you make doesn't matter- the S&P 500 was about the same when I started investing in 2006 and when I wrote this comment in 2011. Since I wrote this comment, the majority of my money has been in index funds (I sold BP after I owned it for a year to lock in the 50% gain while avoiding the tax hit for short-term trading), so comparisons to the index funds I'm holding don't seem particularly enlightening. The primary investment decision I've made since then in dollar terms--not investing in Bitcoin when I first seriously considered it because of laziness--turned out to be a huge mistake (but still a retrospective validation of the opportunity approach).

comment by [deleted] · 2014-10-28T08:00:17.475Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My addition to the Third Option would be: if you know something's a good company, wait until a cyclical (but fundamentally extraneous to the company's business prospects) market downturn and buy it while everything is crashing. You almost definitely won't hit buy while the share price is bottoming out, but once the market recovers and the economy overall continues growing, you will probably get good value for your purchase.

(Of course, this depends on you being cash-flush enough to invest countercyclically! Most people can't do this, because most people are going to be in personal cash crunches exactly when the market or economy overall goes down.)

comment by Vaniver · 2014-10-28T16:34:44.884Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My addition to the Third Option would be: if you know something's a good company, wait until a cyclical (but fundamentally extraneous to the company's business prospects) market downturn and buy it while everything is crashing.

I think this is basically wrong, because opportunities are time-sensitive. If a company is undervalued now, it's not obvious it will remain undervalued until the next cyclical downturn, and you pass up on the benefits of any market correction in the valuation of the undervalued company.

I do agree that it makes sense to invest countercyclically (where you have more of your wealth in stocks when you think the stock market is undervalued, and more of your wealth in cash / CDs / etc. when you think the stock market is overvalued), but determining whether the stock market as a whole is undervalued or overvalued is a difficult task, and it takes planning and forethought to ensure you are not cash crunched when the economy dips (which you should do now).

I also think that correctly pricing downturn risks is a subset of correctly pricing shocks in general. How much damage will the oil spill actually do to BP? How much damage will Jobs's death do to Apple? How much damage will Buffet's death do to Berkshire Hathaway? How much damage will a general economic downturn do to Apple?

I'm pessimistic on Apple's prospects without Jobs, because of what I know about his management style, but time will tell how that turns out. I'm optimistic about BRK's prospects without Buffet, again because of what I know about his management style--and so if the market dips significantly when they take his pulse again, I'll buy BRK (like I bought BP when the market overestimated the damage). And here we're in the same sort of situation- if you think that BRK is will grow in both the short-term and long-term, but there's an upcoming predictable dip (Buffet's death), do you wait for the predictable dip to buy, just buy now, or split some funds out to buy now and other funds to wait for the dip?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-10-29T15:13:03.472Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is basically wrong, because opportunities are time-sensitive. If a company is undervalued now, it's not obvious it will remain undervalued until the next cyclical downturn, and you pass up on the benefits of any market correction in the valuation of the undervalued company.

Disagree. The point is not to pick out undervalued stocks, but to ride the cycles.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-10-29T16:04:40.933Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to ride the cycles, shouldn't you just market-time the broad index of your choice? Picking "undervalued" companies to ride the cycles implies that you have two skills (which, I think, are mostly orthogonal) -- the stock-picking skill and the market-timing skill.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-10-29T16:30:15.671Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough, although I would generally say to pick the stock via fundamentals and industry-specific knowledge.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-10-28T17:48:13.968Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My addition to the Third Option would be: if you know something's a good company, wait until a cyclical (but fundamentally extraneous to the company's business prospects) market downturn and buy it while everything is crashing.

This assumes that you can generally beat the market by buying stocks when you think there a market downturn and selling them when you think the market as a whole is high. This assumes that the efficient market hypothesis is wrong on a fundamental level.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-10-29T15:11:38.591Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the Efficient Market Hypothesis is wrong on a fundamental level -- its stated conditions for market efficiency often fail to prevail in the real world. Panics are one of those times, and being more rational than other people is not a free lunch, but in fact a Substantial Effort for Good Return Lunch.

(I've seen one paper actually proving, rather humorously, that EMH is completely true IFF P = NP.)

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-02-08T14:12:25.614Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-08T15:49:23.553Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T20:53:20.798Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I second this. Shave in the shower. I haven't used soap or shaving cream in years. My skin is happier too.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-11T06:28:42.219Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I stopped using shaving cream for a while, and tried to get by with just hot water, and my results were markedly negative. Much more irritation, and a lot of ingrown hairs.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-05-08T10:35:16.149Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

Maybe you're using the wrong cream? Using just water was much worse for me than using cream. (I've also found than massaging for a while to spread the cream rather than just sticking it on my face helps.)

comment by Clarity1992 · 2011-02-08T14:32:24.812Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2011-02-08T16:50:46.590Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by fr00t · 2011-02-08T20:22:10.163Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I second the recommendation to learn the art of wet shaving. If you're frugal about it you can make an initial investment of around $75 and have it amortized over a few years compared to cartridges.

The real benefit is that the shaves are much better, and more importantly, it has become an enjoyable ritual that starts my day off with a little class and luxury.

comment by adavies42 · 2011-02-16T05:32:58.621Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

before anything else, if you want to stick with blades, get a "reverse" razor (i.e. gillette sensor, mach3, fusion, etc.) from a reputable brand (gillette or schick, not a drugstore brand). this is a razor where the handle joins the cartridge at the bottom, rather than the top, and this setup (somehow) makes it much, much harder to cut yourself.

second is to figure out if your skin can handle against-the-grain shaving--shaving up (which is, again, much less likely to cut you with a "reverse" razor) produces much smoother skin than shaving down, but my skin can't cope--about 36 hours later i break out in red welts and tiny little sores.

beyond that, experiment with different soaps/creams/gels/foams--i know people who swear by things like aveeno oatmeal foam, and others who insist shaving in the shower with nothing but the incoming hot water is the best.

or try electric. :)

comment by Caspian · 2011-02-09T13:35:52.273Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I got sick of trying to shave with a sharp razor, and now use a cheap electric shaver instead. It doesn't get quite so much of the hairs off though. Also I've found shaving in the morning easier if I've already shaved the night before.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-02-08T16:10:35.896Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am astounded by how little people talk about shaving, considering it's an activity that most of the people in our culture carry out on a regular basis. My tips:

  • Seconding SilasBarta's suggestion on just using warm water rather than shaving foam

  • Try shaving while actually in the shower, since the humidity helps a lot

  • Find an optimal frequency for shaving. (I have a magical shaving period of about 50 hours, at which my facial hair is long enough for a razor to gain easy purchase but not so long to need a lawnmower. I have pretty fair hair, though, so I can get away with only shaving every two days)

  • Get some sort of post-shave moisturising product.

comment by ikrase · 2013-04-13T09:40:54.813Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I use a powered shaver rather than a blade.

comment by AndHisHorse · 2014-03-31T20:42:50.285Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How does that work for you? Have you ever tried a blade? I have not, and I am interested in knowing how the two compare. Particularly whether or not blade-based techniques (such as wetting your face with warm water) are helpful for electric shavers.

comment by ikrase · 2014-04-07T23:25:07.944Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Have never used a blade. I have always had acne and other skin problems that would make it impractical, plus it was just what my parents introduced me to in adolescence. But definitely not wet.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-03-31T22:20:16.703Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I also use an electric razor, the foil head type. I've used a blade, but I find it far too much time and trouble.

The rules are pretty much the opposite from using a blade. With an electric razor, shave against the grain. Shaving with the grain, the hair lies down in front of the head and isn't cut. Shave dry. Water makes the hair more flexible and slippery, and it more easily lies down. The same applies to any other "product". The razor should have a beard trimming attachment, to deal with hairs that got away and are too long for the razor to do anything about. If you skipped shaving for a few days, go all over with the beard trimmer before using the razor.

Mine's battery powered, so I can use it anywhere. At least, anywhere it's ok to discard powdered hair.

It will never be as close a shave as with a blade, but I don't care. I suspect the need for super-close shaves is an invention of the shaving accessories industry trying to maintain their product churn.

comment by simplicio · 2011-02-08T15:37:20.641Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would say that the key is to experiment with various techniques, razors, foams & soaps until you find one that works. I had to go through several razors and several soap/foam products until I found a combo that didn't give me burns.

I always shave in the bath, making sure my face has been wet for a few minutes. I lather up with ordinary, cheap-as-dirt soap. The razor I have found works for me is the 5-blade MACH TURBO SUPERSONIC STEALTH type you see advertised all the time these days. Very hard to cut yourself with them unless you move it sideways and with pressure.

One crucial recommendation is to shave upwards from the bottom of your neck to the top. This takes a lot of getting used to and really gave me the willies at first, but it works much better and you miss a lot less hair.

comment by Torben · 2011-02-08T19:53:42.767Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One crucial recommendation is to shave upwards from the bottom of your neck to the top. This takes a lot of getting used to and really gave me the willies at first, but it works much better and you miss a lot less hair.

Really? I have the exact opposite experience. I find that going against the grain, especially on the neck, gives me nicks and rashes.

After having experimented a lot, what works for me is wetshaving using any ol' shaving cream, multi-blade razor, going with the grain.

Since facial hair grows in different directions this means you have to pay attention to it. Briefly, I shave top-down on the face and away from the chin on the neck.

For a very smooth shave, I sometimes do it with the grain, a second time against the grain and a third time with it. I read somewhere that the third time is important to avoid ingrown hair and rashes and in my case it works, but YMMV.

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2014-03-31T21:54:49.656Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why has no one on this thread mentioned safety razors?

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T09:05:11.467Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not shaving is not an option, as I quickly develop a distinctly unfashionable neck-beard whenever I neglect shaving.

If you ever want to try not shaving again, it will look much better after several weeks of growth. You just have to get through that initial phase.

comment by thejash · 2011-02-08T13:55:30.299Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

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

http://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+deposit+a+check

http://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+buy+stocks

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

"how to buy stocks with out a broker"

"how to buy stocks online"

"how to buy stocks for beginners"

comment by Matt_Duing · 2011-02-08T19:49:07.793Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Khan Academy also has a sequence of videos on stock market basics.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-02-08T21:51:56.210Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The idea of educational videos on "stock market basics" for amateurs strikes me as about equally sensible as having educational videos for amateurs on abdominal surgery. Unless of course these videos limit themselves to explaining the concept of weak EMH, but somehow I doubt it.

comment by Matt_Duing · 2011-02-09T01:00:22.799Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The videos are basically explanations of investing terminology. On second thought, my suggestion was not really on point as a source of procedural knowledge.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-07T19:36:22.614Z · score: 20 (26 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-07T23:05:20.731Z · score: 90 (98 votes) · LW · GW
  1. You have to put yourself in environments where you'll be able to interact with a lot of women. College is in a lot of ways set up perfectly for this: if you're not in college right now, consider joining a class or an activity group. Try to make it one where the gender balance will be in your favor. Book groups are one example--they're wildly tilted towards women (I suspect men just, you know, read books, and don't tend to see the value in sitting around sipping coffee and talking about reading books). But if you like girls who wear glasses, try finding a congenial book group. You'll probably be the only man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by lukeprog · 2011-02-08T13:19:10.956Z · score: 21 (23 votes) · LW · GW

Lots of good advice here.

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-12T21:57:31.771Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed!

Can you suggest any specific good first-date activities?

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T21:50:54.409Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on your interests. Can be as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee. Could be going for a walk on the beach. Take some sandwiches and go hiking. Pick a shared interest and enjoy it - go to an art gallery, or go ice-skating. Something active is good - and/or something where you get to sit down and chat...

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-08T14:31:41.516Z · score: 18 (22 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by cousin_it · 2011-02-08T20:10:38.796Z · score: 23 (23 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-08T14:49:58.588Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T16:53:19.883Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-08T15:11:21.079Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. I can agree with that.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T16:38:00.782Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by bigjeff5 · 2011-02-08T23:20:40.971Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T22:26:57.511Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

sark hit upon a good point here: think of meeting many women as a special case of meeting many people.

How good are you at generally meeting people? Improve that and you'll meet more of the half of them you're interested in. General social skills are good to exercise.

comment by kluge · 2011-02-08T17:06:56.947Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think there's also the question if the "I'd rather just be friends." said in the context of rejecting an invite to a date actually means "I want to be your friend." or is just a polite way of saying "I don't want to go on a date with you.". In the former case trying to cultivate a friendship will be more useful than in the latter...

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-08T05:46:58.863Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

You have to ask women out on dates.

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

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

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

comment by khafra · 2011-02-08T17:30:47.263Z · score: 43 (43 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T22:28:38.484Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-09T13:40:41.315Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect how well this works probably depends on exactly how hetero- or homosexual one was from the beginning. (I'm basing that on personal experience with regard to both bisexuality and various fetishes.)

Instead of a strict straight/bi/gay split, I prefer to think of it as a spectrum where 0 is completely straight, 5 is completely bisexual and 10 is completely gay. I'm guessing it's possible for you to shift yourself a couple of points towards the middle of the spectrum, but not an arbitrary amount. E.g. if you started off at 0 you might shift yourself to 2, or if you started off at 8 you could shift yourself to 6.

I'd also note that there's a difference between sexual attraction and emotional compatibility. I'm rather mildly bisexual and using these techniques, could probably become a bit more so. But my main issue with pursuing same-sex relationships is not the sexual attraction as such, but the fact that I find it a lot easier to relate and connect to women on an emotional level. These techniques probably wouldn't help in that.

comment by Peter_de_Blanc · 2011-02-09T18:15:07.487Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

Instead of a strict straight/bi/gay split, I prefer to think of it as a spectrum where 0 is completely straight, 5 is completely bisexual and 10 is completely gay.

Hah! You're trying to squish two axes into one axis. Why not just have an "attraction to males" axis and an "attraction to females" axis? After all, it is possible for both to be zero or negative.

comment by Strange7 · 2011-08-28T18:58:40.061Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would say there are more than two axes which could be meaningfully considered, here. Male and female body types, personalities, and genitals can exist in a variety of combinations, and any given combination can (in principle) be considered sexy or repulsive separate from the others. For example, there are those who prefer [feminine/curvy/penis] having sex with [masculine/buff/vagina] over all other thus-far-imagined pairings.

comment by Cyan · 2011-02-10T01:50:50.291Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You're trying to squish two axes into one axis.

Dimension reduction is not automatically an illegitimate move. That said, I grant that in this case it's worthwhile to keep at least two axes.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T19:55:12.799Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In a similar spirit, many discussions of sexuality separate "attraction" from "identity" from "experience" onto different axes to get at the differences between a man who is occasionally attracted to men but identifies as straight, vs. a man who is equally often attracted to men but identifies as bi, or various other possible combinations.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-02-10T01:28:24.210Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Something related is common in the asexual community: Many asexuals identify as hetero/homo/bi/pan/a-romantic. I could certainly see someone being hetero- or homosexual and bi- or pan-romantic, or bi- or pansexual and hetero- or homo-romantic.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-09T19:00:02.716Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

An excellent point.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T19:51:41.807Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I would be surprised if the kinds of gradual-exposure techniques khafra endorses here for making same-sex partners more erotically compatible didn't work equally well (or poorly) for making them emotionally compatible.

Of course, in that case you wouldn't want to use erotic stimuli.

I'm not exactly sure what stimuli you would use, because I'm not exactly sure what you mean by relating and connecting to people on an emotional level... but whatever it is, I suspect you could test khafra's approach by identifying specific activities that qualify, and then looking for the closest thing to that activity involving men that you find easy, and attending to that thing.

Let me stress here, though, that I'm not asserting you ought to change anything. There's nothing wrong with being heterosexual, and there's no reason you should feel like your heterosexuality diminishes you in any way.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-09T20:58:05.739Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I would be surprised if the kinds of gradual-exposure techniques khafra endorses here for making same-sex partners more erotically compatible didn't work equally well (or poorly) for making them emotionally compatible.

Umm, no. To make erotic stimuli more attractive, it's enough that you think about the stimuli often enough and learn to like it. It may be slow, but there's relatively little risk. Learning to bond and relate to the kinds of people you've always had difficulty bonding and relating to requires you to open yourself up to them in an attempt to connect with them. At worst, you can end up embarassed and hurt and have an ever harder time trying to connect to them in the future.

It's also a lot more complex, since it's not enough to modify your own reactions. You also need to learn how to get the right responses out of other people.

I'm not saying it can't be done, or that you couldn't apply similiar techniques as you would to developing an erotic attraction. But those are techniques are only a small part of it, and it's a lot harder.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T21:19:08.198Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed that learning to get the right responses out of other people, and risking social penalties, are eventually required for this sort of social conditioning. (Though not necessarily initially required.)

It seems to me the same thing is true of erotic conditioning of the sort we're talking about. That is, if I want to train myself to respond erotically to X, sooner or later I have to stop exclusively interacting with pictures or books or whatever and start actually interacting with X, and that can be difficult, and risks social penalties. But I don't start there.

That said, I'm pretty much speaking hypothetically here; I've never actually used this technique. So I could easily be wrong.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T20:29:52.114Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That shouldn't be as much of an issue, because there's so much variation in emotional compatibility with men. If you're sexually attracted to penises, it shouldn't be hard to find at least someone you're emotionally compatible with who has a penis. The main problem is getting attracted to the "other" set of genitalia. If you're attracted to one penis, you're probably attracted to all of them, whereas emotional compatibility is more complicated and subtle.

There isn't really a one-size-fits-all emotional compatibility with men, the way there is with sexual orientation.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T20:47:00.846Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If Kaj_Sotala tells me that emotional compatibility is more of an issue for him than sexual attraction, I'm prepared to accept that... I don't see the value in challenging his observations about what "the main problem" for him really is.

That said, like you, I don't consider it likely that this describes very many people. Then again, I also don't find it likely that "If you're attracted to one penis, you're probably attracted to all of them" describes very many people.

Then again again, the world is full of unlikely things.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T22:08:27.751Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, think about it like this. I also get along better and generally find it easier to get closer to women than to men. But there are some men I can connect with as well, because there is so much variation in men's personalities. So the problem here is just finding the right ones.

Now compare this to sexual compatibility, which requires the right sex organs. This is a much bigger obstacle. I'm attracted to female genitalia and not male ones. Unlike with personality, this is a binary issue: you either like male genitalia or you don't, and if you don't, this rules out half the population.

Then again, I also don't find it likely that "If you're attracted to one penis, you're probably attracted to all of them" describes very many people.

Really? Why not? I would think it obviously describes everyone. You may not be attracted to the person attached, but you're either sexually attracted to male genitalia, or you're not.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T22:22:38.753Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the short answer to "Why not?" is "Experience."

The longer answer is, I suspect, longer than I feel like giving, since it's clear that you and I have very different models of how attraction works.

Suffice to say that there are various attributes along which individual genitalia vary, to which I expect different people assign more or less value, resulting in different judgments. For many people I expect that this list of attributes includes the contexts established by the attached person.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T23:56:58.680Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I may not have spoken clearly. Let me try again, and tell me if this makes sense to you.

A lot of people are strongly monosexual: that is, no matter what a person looks like, what their personality is, or how emotionally compatible they are, if the other person has the "wrong" genitalia, this will preclude any possibility of dating, sex, or a relationship, because they won't be able to sexually connect.

If you think about dating as going through a series of hurdles, the first and most important hurdle is having the "right" genitals. After that, there are other attributes, like looks and personality, which I think is what you're talking about. But if someone has the "right" genitals, there is at least the potential for a sexual connection. That doesn't mean there will definitely be sexual attraction.

Does that seem right? Am I missing something?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T00:49:51.112Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're being clear; I just don't agree with you. Yes, I think you're missing things.

For one thing, you treat gender as equivalent to having particular genitalia. It isn't. Even people exclusively attracted to men sometimes find themselves attracted to people without penises.

For another, you treat all genitals of a particular category as being interchangeable for purposes of attractiveness. They aren't, any more than all voices or all hands or feet or all eyes are interchangeable. You may not care about individual differences in a particular category, but that doesn't mean other people don't.

For a third, your whole structure of "the first hurdle" and "the most important hurdle" strikes me as arbitrary. The idea that someone to whom I am not attracted is someone I have a "potential sexual connection" with simply because they are a particular gender, or have the proper genitals, is a perfectly legitimate perspective... but to privilege that dimension over the myriad other parameters that allow or preclude attraction is not obviously justified.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-10T02:58:44.981Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

For one thing, you treat gender as equivalent to having particular genitalia.

No, I was thinking of gender as a separate hurdle. For instance, a straight cisgender male is most likely primarily attracted to persons with vulvas, whether they identify as men or women. He might secondarily prefer women, but that's a lesser "hurdle". that is, there would be a possibility of sexual attraction to a FtM (gender = man, bio-female) but not a pre-op MtF (gender = woman, bio-male) because of genital incompatibility.

I don't think the attraction is "exclusive to men" as much as it is "exclusive to people with specific genitals." Though this is probably very variable, and monosexuals may well be divided on whether genitalia or gender is more important to them. I'd be curious to know the breakdown.

For another, you treat all genitals of a particular category as being interchangeable for purposes of attractiveness.

to privilege that dimension [genitals] over the myriad other parameters that allow or preclude attraction is not obviously justified.

I was thinking like this. Suppose you are a monosexual on a desert island with one other person. You will likely want sexual contact. At least for me, the most important quality of your island-mate (for purposes of sexual contact, that is) is that they have the "right" type of genitals; while other qualities may be unattractive or undesirable, they can be overcome if you want sexual contact enough, but having the "wrong" type of genitals can't. To put this another way, as a straight male, someone I am not attracted to who has a vulva may be less than ideal, but still sexually satisfying; someone without a vulva couldn't possibly be.

I had thought this would be universal for monosexuals; your comments lead me to think I was wrong, and it's more complicated than that. I'm curious how common my view is, and the specifics of other views.

(BTW, I wish I could upvote you several times just for using 'myriad' correctly.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T04:16:30.906Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

a straight cisgender male is most likely primarily attracted to persons with vulvas, whether they identify as men or women. He might secondarily prefer women, but that's a lesser "hurdle". [..] I don't think the attraction is "exclusive to men" as much as it is "exclusive to people with specific genitals."

Huh.

So George, a straight cisgender male, walks into a dance club and sees Janey dancing. He can tell she presents as female from the way she dresses, her hair, her body shape, etc. He talks to her for a while, and he can tell she identifies as female -- or at least claims to -- from the things she says.

But her pants are still on.

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying George does not know at this point whether he's sexually attracted to Janey, because the "primary hurdle" hasn't been crossed yet?

If so, you and I have very different understandings of how sexual attraction works. It seems relatively clear to me that George makes that determination within the first few minutes of seeing her, based on a variety of properties, many of which are components of gender.

If not, then I'm not really sure what you're saying.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-10T05:06:28.138Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems relatively clear to me that George makes that determination within the first few minutes of seeing her, based on a variety of properties, many of which are components of gender.

Yes, he does. And you're right: he is attracted to her even though he doesn't know what her genitalia are like. He's probably making an assumption that might or might not be correct, and this assumption is based on the gender properties he observes. If he's not correct, this may change his attraction. Or not.

My mistake was using the word "attracted" in the quoted portion of my comment. What I should have said was "capable of sexual satisfaction with," "sexually compatible," or "genitally compatible," which aren't the same thing. While he may be initially attracted, he still doesn't know whether or not he's sexually compatible with her (though he assumes he is, which inspires the attraction).

I think you are also right that genitalia is not the most important thing for all monosexuals. I would bet it is for most, though. And at some point this is just a matter of how we define 'monosexual' (or 'straight', or 'gay'). We could think of a 2-D version of the Kinsey scale, similar to what you discuss in an earlier comment, where gender is one axis and genitalia is another.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T14:51:45.251Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What I should have said was "capable of sexual satisfaction with," "sexually compatible," or "genitally compatible," which aren't the same thing.

I'm not sure that helps. Many people, even entirely monosexual people, are perfectly capable of sexual satisfaction with one another despite injury to or loss of their genitalia. So I would similarly object to defining "capable of sexual satisfaction with" and "sexually compatible" primarily in terms of genitals the way you do.

I'll agree with defining "genitally compatible" that way, though.

If you're willing to define people for whom genital compatibility is not primary as not-really-monosexual, then your claim is trivially true. That said, at that point you have also defined a lot of people as not-really-straight who would disagree vehemently with you.

comment by Jiro · 2013-06-14T19:30:06.265Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that given that not all traits are observable, we make assumptions about common ones. Someone who doesn't know that a female-appearing person has a penis is attracted to a false image of what that person's like, said false image not completely matching the real person.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-14T19:42:30.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's certainly true.

It seems unjustified to claim that in this case, they are attracted to that person because of their (false) belief that this person lacks a penis, or that they are attracted to that person because of their (false) belief that this person has a vulva, without further data.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-06-13T14:18:50.794Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think "genetalia" is being used as shorthand for all sexual characteristics, both primary and secondary. Otherwise the idea of slowly going from women to futnari to men would be nonsensical, right?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T15:04:51.426Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know how to make that interpretation compatible with, for example, Blueberry's claim that a straight cis male would not be attracted to a pre-op MtF, given that many sexual characteristics typical of women are present in a a pre-op MtF. (And, indeed, my understanding of the real world is that straight cis males are not infrequently attracted to pre-op trangender MtF people.)

But I would certainly agree that the claim that the "primary hurdle" for sexual attraction is the set of all sexual characteristics, both primary and secondary, is a much more sensible claim than the one I understood Blueberry to be making.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-06-14T13:44:27.064Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Blueberry's claim that a straight cis male would not be attracted to a pre-op MtF, given that many sexual characteristics typical of women are present in a a pre-op MtF.

Did they actually make that claim? I saw you say it followed from their claim...

Well, whatever. As you say, it's a more sensible claim regardless of whether anyone was actually making it :-P

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-14T16:34:43.265Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Quoth Blueberry:

For instance, a straight cisgender male is most likely primarily attracted to persons with vulvas, whether they identify as men or women. He might secondarily prefer women, but that's a lesser "hurdle". that is, there would be a possibility of sexual attraction to a FtM (gender = man, bio-female) but not a pre-op MtF (gender = woman, bio-male) because of genital incompatibility.

I'm pretty sure "a straight cis male would not be attracted to a pre-op MtF" is reliably implied by that quote, though of course I could be wrong.

This is precisely why I asked them to clarify the claim in the first place.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-06-15T21:09:56.065Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, right. I probably read that as including hormones and breast implants, but yours is certainly the simpler interpretation.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T03:37:13.367Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(Well, you can -- just create multiple accounts for the purpose -- but I'd rather you didn't.)

As I understand it, there are many cases of men who identify as heterosexual but who, in all-male environments, nevertheless participate in sexual encounters with other men.

That suggests to me that for many heterosexual men, having the "right" genitals isn't as singularly definitive a property as it is for you.

Granted, another possibility is that such men aren't actually heterosexual, they merely think they are, and your description is accurate for genuine heterosexuals. If so, it seems genuine heterosexuals are noticeably rarer than people who identify that way.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-10T04:21:49.922Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One theory is that there is a difference between sexual orientation and relationship orientation, so that there are men who prefer romance and relationships with women, but are sexually bi. Since our language and culture don't typically make this distinction, such people might just identify as straight.

Another is that sexuality is flexible, so in the desert island example, or in all-male environments, the men adapt over time to become capable of getting sexual satisfaction from other men in a way that they weren't before. This is similar, in a way, to the gradual-exposure techniques khafra talked about.

But -- and this was my main point -- before such a shift in sexuality occurs, a straight man would be out of luck even if he had 100 males to choose from. But once such a shift occurs, all he has to do is find one out of the 100 he's emotionally compatible with (assuming he's looking for emotional compatibility). This is why I said the sexual shift was the hard part: males are not an emotional monolith and out of 100, at least one should be more or less emotionally compatible.

comment by gjm · 2013-06-13T15:15:11.374Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I very frequently find someone attractive, or not, long before seeing their genitals. Indeed, there are dozens of people in the world whose genitals I have never seen, and yet I am still able to find them either attractive or not.

Compatibility of genitalia is surely important for answering the more specific question "am I going to have sex with this person or not?" but that's not the same thing as attraction. For most of us, there are plenty of people in the world who are very attractive but with whom we will never have sex. Many people choose to have sex with people they find not all that attractive (e.g. because they are in some sort of long-term relationship, and either their tastes or the appearance of the other person have changed over time).

[EDITED once, to fix a trifling typo.]

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-13T14:23:25.913Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As one data-point: I am a straight male, and gender is more important to me than genitalia.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-10T07:10:41.170Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Instead of a strict straight/bi/gay split, I prefer to think of it as a spectrum where 0 is completely straight, 5 is completely bisexual and 10 is completely gay. I'm guessing it's possible for you to shift yourself a couple of points towards the middle of the spectrum, but not an arbitrary amount. E.g. if you started off at 0 you might shift yourself to 2, or if you started off at 8 you could shift yourself to 6.

By this metric, I started at a zero (unable to find other males sexually attractive,) and ended at a zero. My attempts to influence myself to have a sexual interest in men achieved null results.

I have no problem finding other men attractive, but they're still about as sexually appealing to me as plants.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-02-09T19:10:39.640Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The scale you are talking about when used by psychologists and others when discussing sexuality is the Kinsey scale. Under the standard scaling it goes from 0 to 6 with 0 being complete heterosexuality and 6 being complete homosexualty.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T07:04:40.113Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It should be 0 for female-attracted and 6 for male-attracted (or the reverse, but I'll go this way since Kinsey used it first on men). The idea that homo- and hetero- are the basic orientations is asinine, but surprisingly common.

I'll admit to being a 2 on the scale that I just described, but I refuse to be placed on Kinsey's scale at all.

comment by oliverbeatson · 2011-02-09T01:47:52.670Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T02:34:42.220Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Two related thoughts come to mind.

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-09T12:13:35.669Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by oliverbeatson · 2011-02-10T14:19:53.446Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Alas the benefits of being open about a very slight sexual curiosity are probably not often great enough to make complete honesty seem worthwhile. Also such curiosity tends to signal a lack of self-knowledge and thus to an extent lack of trustworthiness, probably hence the vague stigma that many people have against dating bisexuals.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-10T18:44:39.827Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The Bizarre World of the Bisexual - it's all 100% true! [1]

[1] Statement of 100% truth may not be 100% true.

comment by khafra · 2011-02-09T02:02:39.316Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you're finding it boring, you may be trying to go too straight too quickly, or you may not be using your preferred form of erotica--I used hentai as as example, but I could've used textual fiction, videos, etc.

Or you could just be immutably gay; I am generalizing from just a few examples.

comment by oliverbeatson · 2011-02-10T13:45:34.223Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, I'll experiment with a variety, and report back if I make findings.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2011-02-08T22:35:26.466Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by khafra · 2011-02-08T22:39:27.810Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2011-02-09T01:12:02.935Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ata · 2011-02-08T05:59:41.548Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

Within the nearby cluster in personspace: I think Robin Lee Powell has said that he chose to become bisexual, if you want to ask him to elaborate on that process. :)

(I've gotten a bit more bisexual over time, and I occasionally wonder if I actually pushed myself in that direction (since I remember wishing that I could be, as early as 14 or 15), or if that's just the direction I was drifting in anyway and I happened to be open to it in advance. But it's probably hard to tell in retrospect.)

comment by lukeprog · 2011-02-08T13:20:27.664Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

Beware that if you manage to become bisexual somehow, this can significantly damage a man's prospects with many women. For a huge percentage of women, bisexual men are not as attractive (manly) as strictly heterosexual men.

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-08T18:27:57.763Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

For the foreseeable future, I'm going to be exclusively dating poly or poly-friendly girls anyway. I don't think being bi would hurt me within that subpopulation -- does that seem wrong?

(One data point: my girlfriend has only-half-jokingly claimed that if I really want to make her happy, I ought to make out with one of my male friends and send her photos)

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:05:12.554Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It won't hurt in any way. The pure heterosexual or pure homosexual are slightly odd in most poly scenes.

And everyone knows about straight guys kissing to get the chicks ...

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-09T08:18:06.061Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I actually know a girl who succeeded in getting male friends of hers to pose for that kind of picture.

comment by katydee · 2011-02-09T08:34:40.560Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect it would be trivial to do so in most modern US college-type situations.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-02-08T20:54:47.872Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Don't do it!!!!

She definitely wants to have something she can blackmail you with if the need arises!

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T21:01:45.595Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

He can only be blackmailed with such photos if he would mind having them displayed to some third party.

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T02:25:46.620Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed.

  • Mother: Mildly awkward conversation
  • Boss: "Mike, that was kinda TMI"
  • Brothers: "Ewwwww"
  • Randomly Chosen Singularitarian Friend: High-Five

...that's all I can really think of.

comment by anon895 · 2011-02-09T02:39:36.961Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But he might benefit from having her think she's blackmailing him.

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T03:22:52.510Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

No such luck -- I've already e-mailed her this thread.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T07:58:25.151Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I do not get how making out with a male is considered a blackmail worthy offense.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T08:04:45.531Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it would likely prevent a guy from running for political office or becoming a CEO of a major corporation, for instance. Or at least make it very difficult. There are only a few openly gay politicians, and even then they have to fit certain social ideals.

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T08:18:00.218Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm already quite publicly a polyamorous sex-positive atheist, I'm not running for political office any time soon

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T08:22:51.582Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder which you would get the most flack for. Reminds me of this one. (!TVTropes-link!)

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T08:34:36.508Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, in the US today, probably atheism.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T08:18:07.098Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, I cross that off then. How about naturism? In east Germany its a trivial part of the culture. In the US it seems to be a highly stigmatized lifestyle.

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-08T21:16:44.682Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm trying to picture this scenario and can't stop laughing =P.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-08T21:12:05.568Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

does that seem wrong?

Poly-friendly != bi-friendly, necessarily, but I'd definitely agree that your odds are better than in the mainstream community.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-02-11T00:36:24.006Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have heard from some people that having a reputation as bisexual has increased their prospects with women. I suspect this is dependent on location, social circle, and attractiveness.

It may also be that a large percentage of women are no longer interested, but enough of the women that remain are significantly more interested- and so you go from, say, 20 women who might date you to 10 women who might date you, of whom 2 want to. Overall prospects down, but easy prospects up.

(I will comment, though, that this probably has to do way more with the masculine/feminine balance of the people in question than their sexual history or orientation.)

comment by Lila · 2011-02-10T03:21:18.193Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't select my friends from (a conservative Christian) college for lgbt-friendliness or non-conformist dating styles or really anything at all, besides maybe an enjoyment of genre television or some connection to friends I already had. And yet it turned out that at least a third of the women in my social circle share my love of hot bi guys and m/m in general. Also, m/m fanservice for the benefit of female fans seems to be rather a common thing for hot young male celebrities to do in certain cultures, such as Japan.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:04:31.479Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Beware that if you manage to become bisexual somehow, this can significantly damage a man's prospects with many women. For a huge percentage of women, bisexual men are not as attractive (manly) as strictly heterosexual men.

I've found that just meeting more people solves this one nicely. The percentage difference is not overwhelming, and you really won't want those people anyway.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-02-08T21:18:46.018Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree with the "you really won't want those people anyway." I suspect the loss of attraction many women feel if they hear a guy has been with another guy has marginal 'conscious choice' in it.

But anyway, I've followed this thread too long. I don't really have any expertise on bisexuality - I've just heard lots of straight women tell me it turns them off.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T21:42:59.545Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think the reason for that is that so many gay men go through a phase, as part of their coming out, where they claim bisexuality for a while. This, combined with the fact that there seem to be relatively few numbers of truly bisexual men, means that a significant percentage of the pool of men presenting as bisexual are actually gay. So going out with a bisexual guy is really risky from the woman's point of view.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-08T23:32:06.754Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'll admit, when I run into people who talk like this, I generally assume that they are weighting the costs of a relationship ending badly due to a boyfriend turning out gay significantly higher than the costs of a relationship ending badly for other reasons.

But perhaps that's unfair of me; perhaps, as you suggest, it's really just about probability estimates.

Would you mind putting some numbers around "really risky"?

That is... if S is the chance of a relationship ending badly with a partner who identifies as straight, and B is the chance of it ending badly with a partner who identifies as bi, what's your estimate and confidence level for (B-S)?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T23:58:10.698Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That is... if S is the chance of a relationship ending badly with a partner who identifies as straight, and B is the chance of it ending badly with a partner who identifies as bi, what's your estimate and confidence level for (B-S)?

Well, my numbers would be a bit skewed by the fact that I quite happily date bisexual women (I am one myself). Should I put the non-straight women in S or B? Or make a third category L?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T00:12:18.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your skew is fine... I'm just interested in clarification of your original claim, however skewed it may be, that going out with a bisexual guy is really risky because a significant percentage of the pool of men presenting as bisexual are actually gay.

That said, given that your original claim was about men, I should have said if S is the chance of a relationship ending badly with a male partner who identifies as straight, and B is the chance of it ending badly with a male partner who identifies as bi. Point taken.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T02:11:22.944Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, for S, most relationships end "badly" (in a breakup, at least), so I guess I'll ballpark that at 90 percent.

For B, I estimate that 34 percent of men presenting as bi are actually gay (going from this study.) I'll assume that a relationship with the other 66 percent of bi guys would have the same 90 percent failure rate as the S group, but that a relationship with one of the 34 would have a 100 percent failure rate. So B overall is 93.4.

It's only a few percentage points higher, yes, but the fact that S is already high doesn't do much to change the fact that if you have one (small) dating pool where fully a third of the dudes are essentially just looking for beards, a straight woman loses little by excluding that pool, and improves her prospects overall.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T02:43:16.935Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2011-02-09T06:15:38.997Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For a more extreme position, Rieger, Chivers, and Bailey (ETA: here) find that 75% of self-identified bi men get erections from gay porn, 25% from straight porn, though reported arousal is bisexual.

ETA: that is a quote from press coverage. It pushes a bit farther than the paper and does not match the data. The direct quotes in the press coverage suggest to me that the fault is the authors, not the reporters. The text of the paper is more cautious, but I think also misleading.

Eyeballing the data, I would say that 1/2 of bis respond only to gay porn, 1/4 only to straight porn, and 1/4 uniformly. Also, 1/4 of straights and gays respond uniformly. (this is after removing 1/3 of all orientations that have no genital response)

What is more interesting is that reported arousal to the porn fits self-identification pretty well. It would be interesting to how the gap between genital and reported arousal varies across individuals. Some patterns would suggest that people are lying to themselves while others that the gap is due to sexuality being complicated. I was amused that straights admitted to being aroused by gay porn, while gays did not admit to being aroused by straight porn; but I suspect that the sample of straights was pretty biased.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T13:52:06.674Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One of the things that amused me about that report when I read it was realizing that while I am often aroused by actual women, most mainstream straight porn does nothing for me.

I can only assume that many straight men find porn more arousing than actual women, since the whole point of porn is to be a superstimulus, so there seems to be a difference there.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-10T22:06:36.520Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

while I am often aroused by actual women, most mainstream straight porn does nothing for me.

One of the numerous problems with that study. I consider it completely worthless.

I can only assume that many straight men find porn more arousing than actual women, since the whole point of porn is to be a superstimulus

Wait, what? No! Not at all! The point of porn is to help you when you don't have an actual woman to have sex with. It's never as arousing as an actual woman. It's like a microwave dinner when you're hungry but don't have the time or money to cook or go to a restaurant.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T23:07:24.545Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't mean "...to have sex with." I meant actual women. Who can sometimes be arousing even if I'm not having sex with them. As can men. Others' mileage may, of course, vary.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-12T20:51:07.294Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect mileage varies a lot here. But I'm a little confused. You're comparing porn, which depicts people without clothes, in explicitly sexual positions and acts, with people in general? With clothes on? Do you mean just someone walking down the street? Obviously someone without clothes, or in a sexual position or activity, is generally going to be more arousing than a person in a non-sexual situation: this seems like it would be fairly robust across all genders and orientations.

Do you mean arousal from women in non-sexual situations? Or do you mean arousal from women in sexual situations but not from photos or videos or textual depictions of women in sexual situations? Or is this just about "mainstream" vs. alternative depictions? I'm curious what you mean.

I've noticed that people critical of porn (I don't mean you) have a very narrow view of what "mainstream" porn is that doesn't match my experience; it's very common for someone to complain about porn in general because they object to a few specific things that are only in some porn.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-12T21:12:52.352Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I was saying that I often find actual women, even those in non-sexual situations, even those wearing clothes on, more arousing than women in porn, depicted without clothes, in explicitly sexual positions and acts.

I hope that clears things up.

I can easily see where this might be an artifact of a relatively narrow porn sample; I'm not especially a connoisseur of porn.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-10T22:18:56.081Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The point of porn is to be as arousing as possible so people want to watch and hopefully pay for it. I doubt that nobody finds it more arousing than having an actual partner, because it can depict things they're unlikely to be able to see or do with a partner. I don't think I've heard of anyone claiming to find live action porn more arousing than real sex, but 2D complexes appear to be a real thing.

comment by Costanza · 2011-02-10T22:52:32.305Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I doubt that nobody finds it more arousing than having an actual partner, because it can depict things they're unlikely to be able to see or do with a partner.

True. Also, sexuality is one area in which...your mileage may vary. It's a big world. I'm pretty sure that if you looked hard enough, you could find someone for whom X is more arousing than Y for quite a few values of X and Y.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-02-10T22:16:10.538Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think I'd split the difference. Porn can't give you interactivity or a lot of partner stimuli, so it attempts to compensate by superstimulating what it does have access to. It would of course be good for porn producers if they came up with something that was better than actual sex for most people, but thanks to the format's limited sensory bandwidth that's probably impossible.

If the Rieger/Chivers/Bailey results are reliable, this might suggest that male bisexuality's associated with a preference for sexual stimulation other than what straight porn gives you. This ought to be testable, but I don't know of any studies that have made the attempt.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2011-02-09T16:20:51.785Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In the study, 1/3 of the men, uniformly across all orientations, had no genital response. Also, 1/3 had no subjective response, though I don't see any indication in the paper whether they were the same people.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T16:24:43.871Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(nods) I would also be interested to see what the correlations were between response-to-porn and response-to-people. Lots of interpretations of studies of this sort seem to treat the former as a proxy for the latter, so if it turned out that they were not strongly linked the interpretations might be misleading.

comment by wnoise · 2011-02-09T08:30:14.019Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are those sets disjoint?

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:32:42.787Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would say, speaking from other bisexual men I know as well as myself, that if bisexuality turned someone off that would in fact reduce their attractiveness, in the general case.

But yeah, we both only have anecdotes at this stage :-)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-08T21:41:58.406Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm reminded of coming out as bi to a high-school friend of mine, who allowed after some consideration that he was pretty squicked by the notion, but he saw no particular reason why either one of us should pay much attention to that reaction.

Which I can respect, actually.

Though admittedly it would turn me off in a prospective partner.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-08T14:42:06.847Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Beware that if you manage to become bisexual somehow, this can significantly damage a man's prospects with many women. For a huge percentage of women, bisexual men are not as attractive (manly) as strictly heterosexual men.

Nobody is required to signal their sexual preferences far and wide. That is personal information, to be revealed if and when you deem it appropriate or beneficial. This means that becoming bisexual merely gives you more options, without interfering with your existing options unless you choose to let it change your signalling strategy. That said, humans are notoriously bad at making decisions when burdened with extra choices!

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-08T14:54:46.103Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, a lot depends on whether the people I am approaching for dates share a social community.

If they do, then if I want to keep control over who becomes aware of my sexual preferences, I need to expend additional effort to prevent that information from traveling through that community... that is, it stops being "private" and starts being "secret."

This is otherwise known as "being in the closet" in some communities.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-08T15:07:16.517Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is otherwise known as "being in the closet" in some communities.

Fortunately it is a closet full of beautiful women who you find highly attractive. Such a better closet to be in than the one homosexuals have had to hide themselves in at times. :)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-08T16:09:40.449Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, given a choice between having to keep all of my sexual attractions secret, and only having to keep half of them secret, the latter is far better. Agreed.

Of course, even better is to not have to keep any of them secret, and to instead be able to reveal whatever information about my sexual preferences I choose to reveal without fear of negative consequences.

All of that said: perhaps I've lost track of context.

MBlume's parent comment framed bisexuality as an improvement, and lukeprog warned that there were costs to it. You countered that those costs can be averted by keeping one's bisexuality secret. But that seems to completely subvert MBlume's original point... if I'm in the closet about being bisexual, how is that an improvement over being heterosexual?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-09T02:07:58.584Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, given a choice between having to keep all of my sexual attractions secret, and only having to keep half of them secret, the latter is far better.

It seems the choice is, instead, between having your attraction and sexual appreciation mechanism biologically crippled so as to halve the potential partners or to give yourself the option of specialising your signalling as to optimise your chances within a specific target niche or of seeking more diverse experience.

But that seems to completely subvert MBlume's original point...

Neutral returns as a worst case makes the point a good one. :)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T15:13:21.439Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, in my own life, the additional option of living in a social context in which honest signaling about gender-selection with respect to attraction and sexual appreciation doesn't have especially negative consequences became available, and that has worked pretty well for me.

I've lived the "specializing my signaling" lifestyle before; I don't prefer it. The returns of such signal-specialization can be worse than neutral in some cases.

But if it works for you, that's great.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-09T15:47:14.414Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But if it works for you, that's great.

Alas, a process by which I can modify myself to broaden the scope of those to whom I am sexually attracted is not available to me - I can't give testimony either way. But I can always wish for it.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T00:44:35.618Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

if I'm in the closet about being bisexual, how is that an improvement over being heterosexual?

You don't have to be in the closet with everyone. Just treat it as something personal that you only tell people once you know them and trust them enough, and you've gauged their reaction to casual mentions of bisexuality.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T00:57:20.286Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed that avoiding keeping just most people from knowing about my relationship preferences isn't as difficult as keeping everyone from knowing about them.

Of course, as above, even better is to be able to reveal whatever information about my relationship preferences I choose to reveal without fear of negative consequences.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-08T13:46:11.762Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Beware that if you manage to become bisexual somehow, this can significantly damage a man's prospects with many women.

You don't have to tell them that...

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-10T03:28:48.696Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'll note that I have personally tried to become bisexual, and it didn't work. If anyone else has had success in this endeavor, I'd be very interested to hear it.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2011-02-09T11:39:44.277Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly prefer heterosexuality on aesthetic grounds. I wonder how common that is.

comment by anonymous259 · 2011-02-08T20:55:57.778Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T00:55:08.587Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-10T02:55:57.614Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But people seem to understand refusals anyway, which means the question is whether refusals are more vague and tentative in this case.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-10T03:10:50.705Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Valid point. Though I think people generally understand refusals even in this case.

"I'd love to but I've been really busy with work/school/life recently," that means no.

is a little extreme. Though this could be an very ambiguously worded "polite" refusal, it can also be honesty from someone who actually is interested. Whereas "I'm sorry, I can't, I've been really busy with life" is a clear refusal, "I'd love to but..." isn't always and is worth at least a follow up.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-12T21:54:51.048Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Whereas "I'm sorry, I can't, I've been really busy with life" is a clear refusal, "I'd love to but..." isn't always and is worth at least a follow up.

Your experience may differ, but I disagree. Unless she suggests another time, this is meant as a polite brush-off. For most women, pursuing potential mates is a very, very high-priority activity, and no matter how busy their schedules may be, they can clear out an evening for a guy they're truly interested in.

In the few situations where the woman really is booked solid (such as the example where she's going out of town, or maybe if she's studying for a very important upcoming exam) she'll let you know when she expects to have some time free.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T21:59:12.635Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There is one alternative explanation - and that's a woman following "The Rules".

In that case, you may not want to go out with her anyway, given that it's a book explaining how to manipulate men (much as PUAs do to women).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-25T09:13:34.557Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that there are cultural differences about that, too: where I am, ISTM that (assuming it's unambiguous that you're asking for a date, which is what siduri was recommending) “I'm not interested in dating at the moment” is perfectly socially acceptable.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T07:13:42.061Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I used to have trouble with this. (I was a geeky male at the time.) I knew perfectly well to accept No as an answer, but I never quite seemed to get that answer. (There were other problems too.)

comment by sark · 2011-02-08T18:34:53.282Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:02:38.829Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's not purely a numbers game. However, it really helps if you can interact with a number of people that's at least in double digits.

Get used to meeting new people. It's good for you. You grew this great big brain to do chimp-chimp interaction better, after all - you have an aptitude for this sort of thing. MEET MORE PEOPLE!

comment by sark · 2011-02-08T21:27:40.571Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If someone takes my point as an excuse not to meet people, that person is wrong. Because that is not what it says at all. And also, meeting girls and meeting new people are not quite the same. Though the point does apply to the latter.

Perhaps you are saying people already adjust their expectations in light of their successes and failures, in which case my pointing out that sociometer point does more harm than good.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:31:19.533Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I was speaking more generally of "dating as numbers game", not disagreeing with you. I find many people who worry about the idea of a "numbers game" see that as a problem rather than an opportunity.

I must note that I am almost pathologically gregarious and outgoing myself, and have an unfortunate habit of offering unhelpful advice on such to those who aren't - and if I seem to you to have done that, I most sincerely apologise.

comment by sark · 2011-02-08T21:58:50.809Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah ok. I was puzzled I guess as that didn't seem otherwise very relevant. Yes, thinking of meeting many girls as a special case of meeting many people does make it seem less daunting to me!

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T22:23:24.056Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, thinking of meeting many girls as a special case of meeting many people does make it seem less daunting to me!

I do believe you've hit upon an important perspective trick. It's meeting people. This also allows you to do the "don't think about it" Zen mind trick.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-21T16:26:00.179Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

meeting girls and meeting new people are not quite the same

I'm approximately 97% sure that at least one of the next five people I'll meet will be a woman.

I'm also approximately 100% sure that at least five of the next five women I'll meet will be people. :-)

comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-22T01:34:13.764Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm approximately 97% sure that at least one of the next five people I'll meet will be a woman.

97% seems high. Same sex groups are relatively common. Even if the expected number of women out of the next five people is 2.5 there is probably more than 3% chance of the next five being male.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-22T11:21:06.807Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But then again, more of the people I meet are female than male; I guess those two effects roughly cancel out. Trying to remember when the last few times I met five males in a row were seems to confirm that the number is roughly in the right ballpark. (OTOH, the probability that none of the next five people I met is a man probably is a few times larger than the naive binomial model would predict.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T19:23:26.458Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I mostly agree with this, although I suspect it might be more complicated than a single hot-or-not scale. Like, indie rock chicks are looking for a different kind of dude than cheerleaders are. Both the indie rock chick and the cheerleader might be blazing hot, but they're going to pick out different boyfriends. So if a guy is making a lot of passes at certain kinds of girls and getting nowhere, perhaps he should consider targeting girls who are closer to his own "type."

comment by sark · 2011-02-08T19:33:04.809Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Certainly.

comment by sark · 2011-02-08T20:54:16.260Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was just trying to acknowledge caveats. Of which there should be many.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-08T23:28:40.911Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T00:17:22.983Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T00:34:48.341Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From what I recall, if you filter for "active in atheism/rationalism/secularism" you get an even stronger male skew than if you just filter for "atheist/rationalist/secular" =(

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T02:24:38.437Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In-person groups too, not just talking about online advocacy?

In that case, I wonder if it might not be worth it to date in the wider pool, with the aim of finding a woman who is open to deconverting. Generally it's a bad idea to enter a relationship hoping to change the other person, but religion has long been a sort of special case: a lot of LTRs do involve one party or the other converting or at least modifying their religious views.

Otherwise, the numbers on this are just really daunting for atheist men.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-09T15:00:02.066Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In that case, I wonder if it might not be worth it to date in the wider pool, with the aim of finding a woman who is open to deconverting. Generally it's a bad idea to enter a relationship hoping to change the other person, but religion has long been a sort of special case: a lot of LTRs do involve one party or the other converting or at least modifying their religious views.

This strikes me as a very high risk strategy, and probably a low reward one as well. Deconversion tends to take a long time, and even gentle attempts could strain a new relationship. Going by my own experience observing religious deconversions, it's likely to take months at the lower end, which you could have spent looking for someone else, and there's a high probability that it simply wouldn't work out, in which case your time investment is wasted.

The numbers for atheist men aren't very good, it's true, but keep in mind that a rationally minded intellectual is filtering rather strongly for atheists simply by looking for partners they're compatible with.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T07:33:50.516Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I recently began dating an old friend with conservative Christian religious beliefs. Obviously, I don't have the rationalists-only filter that DA has, and I don't want to deconvert her. (Her personal relationship with Jesus --that is, the mental feelings that she's constructed around the idea of Christ-- are important to her, and I don't want to destroy that.) Nevertheless, here's what's happened:

In conversation with me, she quickly clarified some nagging doubts about the inclusiveness (and other characteristics) of her old, conservative church. She's started attending a Congregationalist church instead. (For those unfamiliar with Christian denominations in North America, this is as liberal as you can get and still be explicitly Christian). For a while, she even considered attending the Unitarian Universalist church, since I would be willing to join it with her, but in the end she decided that it didn't fit.

When we started, I expected the relationship to founder on religious differences, but I agreed to give it a shot anyway. And I seem to have affected her religion instead. I'm not sure what this proves, even when restricted to the one example, but it's been a surprising few months for me.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T15:29:30.907Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In my view the ideology matters surprisingly little. Do not make the mistake of choosing your partner for having the right convictions.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-09T15:40:37.605Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If that's not something you care about in a relationship, by all means don't concern yourself with it. But if you feel like you have to decide not to care about your partner's convictions, then it's a significant issue, and one that's likely to surface in the future however you try to suppress it.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T16:01:27.633Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I meet many people were their religion has little or no practical influence on their daily lives. If you limit your partner search to the LW/similar cluster you might find it problematic to get a suitable partner. And even then ideological similarities are no guarantee for a happy relationship.

Might be interesting to poll what people look for.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-09T16:11:06.733Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Of course ideological similarities aren't a guarantee of a happy relationship; for me and for many others, they're necessary, but I know of nobody for whom they're sufficient.

Dating a person with religious beliefs which do not have a practical influence on their lives, I have tremendous difficulty respecting them. This is not a hypothetical matter, it's a mistake I've learned to avoid. I know people for whom it does not seem to be an issue, but anyone for whom it is is better off taking it seriously than following advice to exercise tolerance.

That sounds like a fair idea for discussion post. I'll make one later today, unless you feel like doing it first.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-10T03:15:22.698Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Poll made. It's been downvoted to -1, but hopefully the topic will not turn out to be that unwelcome on net.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T22:42:17.894Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In my view the ideology matters surprisingly little. Do not make the mistake of choosing your partner for having the right convictions.

Emphasis added to point out the non sequitur.

Also, my "atheist qualifier" is intended to prevent me from choosing a partner with the wrong convictions, not to encourage me to choose one simply for having the right convictions.

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T02:34:56.787Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have a dear friend who loves rationality, reads Methods rabidly, quotes 'That which can be destroyed...' at the top of her FB profile... and still identifies as Christian. She's young and has had the kind of sheltered upbringing that makes it possible to actually believe your religion without lots of doublethink.

I expect to have her deconverted within a year or two -- I'd have managed by now if we weren't half a state apart.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T23:00:00.760Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would be interested to know how she responded to, for example, Chapter 39 "Pretending to be Wise, Pt 1".

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-09T03:59:49.314Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if sending her to this site would help at all?

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T05:09:03.111Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose I could if I were in a hurry -- honestly rather do the job myself in this case.

comment by praxis · 2012-05-04T17:21:47.483Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That seems a little selfish to me.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T04:40:06.070Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In that case, I wonder if it might not be worth it to date in the wider pool, with the aim of finding a woman who is open to deconverting. Generally it's a bad idea to enter a relationship hoping to change the other person, but religion has long been a sort of special case: a lot of LTRs do involve one party or the other converting or at least modifying their religious views.

That sounds like an exhausting process without a way to judge openness to atheism quickly. It seems like converting from one religion to another would be less jarring than dropping religion altogether, so I'm not sure how much better the numbers would actually become. Also, that sort of pressure seems like it could make the initial uphill climb of a relationship (getting to know the other person) into cliff-scaling.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T14:46:31.855Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That sounds like an exhausting process without a way to judge openness to atheism quickly.

I think you could suss it out on the first date. You might have to use some trial-and-error -- and conversations with other atheist men -- in order to come up with the perfect line that raises the question without coming off as overly aggressive, but you can get a pretty good picture of how committed a woman is to her religion just by asking her.

The general advice to people with specific requirements (I admit I'm getting this from Dan Savage's advice to people with particular sexual fetishes) is to disclose early, but to present it as a bonus rather than an onerous hurdle that must be overcome by potential prospects. So instead of "Just so you know, I have a foot fetish, so being with me means you're gonna have to be into that" the foot guy would say something like "Your shoes are super hot. I kind of have a thing for feet. Do you like footrubs?"

Following that formula, I think the thing to avoid would be lines like "Just so you know, I don't date religious wackos." Maybe something like "I'm an atheist, so I'm always looking for ways to celebrate earthly life on Sunday mornings. Do you like strawberries and mimosas?" That's just a stab at a formulation that could start the conversation without killing any romantic momentum you've got going at that point.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T22:45:18.182Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

At the least, that advice presents a reasonably positive strategy, which is appreciated. My attempts to be realistic about this issue are certainly prone to drifting into the sort of pessimism that comes from spending my entire undergraduate career single.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-10T01:58:22.982Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Your situation is harder than the norm, it's true, but it's not impossible. There are atheist women out there, and you'll meet them if you're diligent about being social. It may just take you a little longer. I wish you luck!

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T22:06:59.726Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually just the simple act of trying to book dates on a Sunday morning could give you a quick decision of Christian-or-not.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-03-09T00:58:45.834Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Or awake-in-the-morning or not.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-09T15:26:51.998Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

True :)

But then you don't actually have to really make real plans for Sunday mornings... just ask if they're available then and see what they say when turning you down. "Sorry, I'd prefer the afternoon" is different to "Well, if you'd like you can come along to my church group" :)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-03-08T22:13:51.727Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not necessarily. There are a fair number of Christians who strongly self-identify as Christian but don't go to church that regularly (in the US at least there are some very weird patterns. People claim in surveys to be going to church much more frequently than church attendance rates suggest.) This also won't rule out other common religious groups, such as semi-religious Jews.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T23:15:41.867Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh certainly - it's not universal, but more of a first-level filter.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T04:40:21.374Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I will look into that, thanks.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-09T03:58:04.983Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ChristianKl · 2011-02-09T21:17:06.545Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-22T11:31:21.598Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

But the skills about interacting with women platonically aren't all of the skills about interacting with women romantically. The infamous so-called “friend-zone”, anyone?

(How comes I'm making a point nearly diametrically opposed to what I said 21 hours ago, anyway?)

comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-22T13:46:32.489Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But the skills about interacting with women platonically aren't all of the skills about interacting with women romantically. The infamous so-called “friend-zone”, anyone?

The point is a good one. That said, as far as interacting with girls platonically goes dancing is rather far from the most emasculating influence.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-22T13:15:35.050Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it makes much sense to seperate skills into platonically/romantically.

If you look at some PUA who goes for a one-night stand "romantic" isn't the label I would use to describe the interaction. On the other hand it's a word that I could reasonable use to describe an intimite Bachata dance between two people who just meet.

The ability to be physically intimite with the opposing sex without getting tense is valuable.

In dance the man leads the woman. For a shy male that's a valuable skill to learn.

Dancing doesn't teach you everything. It doesn't teach you having good conversations. The things that it teaches you are still valuable.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-25T09:22:13.287Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand it's a word that I could reasonable use to describe an intimite Bachata dance between two people who just meet.

In that context, I meant “romantic” as ‘leading to romance’, rather than the colloquial meaning. So I wouldn't call a dance between two people who aren't looking to sleep with one another “romantic”.

The ability to be physically intimite with the opposing sex without getting tense is valuable.

As was pointed out before in this thread, physically intimate while dancing != physically intimate while having sex. (And ISTM that the latter is the more common meaning of that phrase.)

In dance the man leads the woman. For a shy male that's a valuable skill to learn.

Does that transfer to domains other than dancing? (And anyway, IME it's more accurate to say that the more experienced partner leads the less experienced partner. There are certain moves where from the outside it looks like the man is leading, but that's not necessarily what it feels like from the inside.)

Dancing doesn't teach you everything. It doesn't teach you having good conversations. The things that it teaches you are still valuable.

In my scale of “platonic” vs “romantic”, having good conversations is even more platonic than dancing.


Disclaimer: I have taken extremely few dancing classes in my life, extremely few of which were partnered dances. OTOH, when I improvise people often ask me if I've been taking classes (but I'm not sure they are serious).

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-25T15:19:56.687Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As was pointed out before in this thread, physically intimate while dancing != physically intimate while having sex.

Getting good at sex and getting good at the things that lead to sex are two different things. The problem of nerds isn't that they have a lot of one-night stands but are bad at sex and therefore the girl doesn't want to see them after they have sex.

And ISTM that the latter is the more common meaning of that phrase.

No, I don't think that many people think that sex is the only action that can be described as physically intimite. While sex is more physically intimite than dancing you can't conclude that dancing isn't physically intimite.

You might be right that the stuff that you dance in your first dance lesson isn't intimite. At the beginning you have to learn to move. When I dance I do have to be aware of the level of intimacy that the girl I'm dancing with is comfortable with.

On the one hand you do have girls that find a lead where the hand of the guy touches their hips too intimite for them. On the other there are girls with whom I can dance in a way where both of our arms are wrapped around each other and the whole body from face, chest, hips and legs touches each other.

I don't think that you can reasonably deny that dancing with full body contact is intimite.

Does that transfer to domains other than dancing? (And anyway, IME it's more accurate to say that the more experienced partner leads the less experienced partner. There are certain moves where from the outside it looks like the man is leading, but that's not necessarily what it feels like from the inside.)

The man chooses which moves happen at which time. If you are at a beginner class where the techer calls the moves, you know nothing about a dance and the girls who are there haven't yet learned that they aren't supposed to lead. It takes some time for a girl to learn to follow just as it takes time for a guy to learn to lead.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-26T08:59:59.030Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As was pointed out before in this thread, physically intimate while dancing != physically intimate while having sex.

Getting good at sex and getting good at the things that lead to sex are two different things.

I meant A != B as in “A doesn't imply B or vice versa”. IOW, my point was that dancing doesn't necessarily lead to sex and sex isn't necessarily preceded by dancing -- especially the kind of dancing taught in classes, as opposed to the kind of dancing people improvise in night clubs. (Let me see if I can find the previous comment about this... EDIT: here.)

No, I don't think that many people think that sex is the only action that can be described as physically intimite.

I said “more common”, not “only common”, but... [googles for physical intimacy] Fair enough. But then again, stuff like hugging is also described as physically intimate, so it seems an overly broad concept to use in this context. (For example, I have no problem with being “physically intimate” in this sense with men even though I'm straight; or, women are often “physically intimate” with me in front of their boyfriends/husbands. (OTOH, I realize that there are cultural differences with this kind of stuff and what applies here in Italy needn't apply in (say) Canada -- but these are probably more about where the thresholds are than about the qualitative differences between the ends of the spectrum.))

I don't think that you can reasonably deny that dancing with full body contact is intimite.

The point is not whether a given English word can be used to label a given behaviour, but whether skills learned in one domain (dance classes) transfer to another (trying to start a relationship). To some extent they do, but they are nowhere near either necessary (I know people in LTRs who pretty much can't dance at all) or sufficient (see the comment I'm going to link above).

The man chooses which moves happen at which time. If you are at a beginner class where the techer calls the moves, you know nothing about a dance and the girls who are there haven't yet learned that they aren't supposed to lead. It takes some time for a girl to learn to follow just as it takes time for a guy to learn to lead.

And most women (I guess) haven't taken many dancing classes, so if you're taking dance classes to “basic skills about interacting with women [outside the class]”, you can't rely on a random woman knowing whether or not to lead. (Nor can I see what the big deal about this is -- indeed because they don't know that, they probably won't particularly care if you follow rather than leading.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-26T11:34:57.053Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

IOW, my point was that dancing doesn't necessarily lead to sex and sex isn't necessarily preceded by dancing -- especially the kind of dancing taught in classes

That's not something I argued.

If you take the average nerd and put him into physically intimicy with a girl he tenses up. It takes time and effort for him to relax.

Romantic chemistry that created in a dance context doesn't lead with the same probability to sex than the same chemistry outside of a dance context.

It's still romantic chemistry and when your brain learns to become comfortable with it in one context it can also handle it in other contexts much better.

I said “more common”, not “only common”, but... [googles for physical intimacy] Fair enough. But then again, stuff like hugging is also described as physically intimate, so it seems an overly broad concept to use in this context.

You can learn the same skill through hugging. Basically you run around with a free hugs sign and do 15 minute hugs with the people who are willing to hold the hug that long.

The point is not whether a given English word can be used to label a given behaviour, but whether skills learned in one domain (dance classes) transfer to another (trying to start a relationship). To some extent they do, but they are nowhere near either necessary (I know people in LTRs who pretty much can't dance at all) or sufficient (see the comment I'm going to link above).

Dancing isn't the only way to learn the useful skills that you can learn in dancing. The fact that someone doesn't dance in no way implies that he hasn't learned the same skills in other context.

That said a billionaire won't have much trouble getting into a long-term relationship even if all his skills relating to attracting woman are awful. There nearly nothing that is a necessary condition for getting into a relationship with a woman.

you can't rely on a random woman knowing whether or not to lead.

I don't advocate to rely on anything. There are woman who might lead. If you have however inhibitions to leading yourself you won't have success when a woman doesn't lead.

indeed because they don't know that, they probably won't particularly care if you follow rather than leading

People don't feel emotions because of the knowledge that they have. Successful leading demonstrates power and power is sexy for evoluationary reasons.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-26T17:59:27.580Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's still romantic chemistry and when your brain learns to become comfortable with it in one context it can also handle it in other contexts much better.

Does it? IME, dancing with someone doesn't magically make me that much bolder in non-dancing situations than I already was (I can even remember at least one case when it actually made me more awkward), and I'd expect the effect to be even smaller if we were made to dance together in a class than if we did so on our own accord. I guess YMMV.

You can learn the same skill through hugging. Basically you run around with a free hugs sign and do 15 minute hugs with the people who are willing to hold the hug that long.

That would mainly teach me resistance to boredom (and it would likely kind-of make me look silly, though that's not necessarily a negative because counter-signalling). Probably not the best use of time.

Dancing isn't the only way to learn the useful skills that you can learn in dancing.

Then why learn them by dancing (and in dance classes, rather than (say) night clubs), of all things? If it isn't the only way, it's unlikely a priori that it's the most efficient way.

That said a billionaire won't have much trouble getting into a long-term relationship even if all his skills relating to attracting woman are awful.

(I was going to say “if a billionaire won't have much trouble getting into a long-term relationship, then making money is a skill related to attracting to women”, but the billionaire might just have inherited it or something.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-26T18:54:06.757Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

IME, dancing with someone doesn't magically make me that much bolder in non-dancing situations than I already was (I can even remember at least one case when it actually made me more awkward), and I'd expect the effect to be even smaller if we were made to dance together in a class than if we did so on our own accord.

You only had a few lessons and that alone doesn't have much of an effect on your interaction with woman in general.

That would mainly teach me resistance to boredom (and it would likely kind-of make me look silly, though that's not necessarily a negative because counter-signalling). Probably not the best use of time.

If that's true and you actually would find it boring you lack in the ability in the realm of perceiving the other person. Dancing helps with the perception part. For most people with asberger there a lot of anxiety that comes up during the process that can be worked through.

I know multiple guys who thought that a single 15 minute hug with another guy was an experience that was very worthwhile to overcome some of their anxiety.

(I was going to say “if a billionaire won't have much trouble getting into a long-term relationship, then making money is a skill related to attracting to women”,

The point I want to make is that two people who are both successful with woman might be successful due to different skills. One very strong skill allows you to succeed even if you have some weak points.

Then why learn them by dancing (and in dance classes, rather than (say) night clubs), of all things? If it isn't the only way, it's unlikely a priori that it's the most efficient way.

Is you dance something like Salsa, Bachata, Tango or Swing as a man you need to take dancing lessons before you go into night clubs where you can dance those dances. Once you moved actually can dance, I would advocate to go to the night clubs to also dance outside of lessons.

Why structured partner dance over a regular nightclub with pop music? Approaching in a nightclub enviroment is more likely to lead to stressful rejections. Those rejections tell your brain that it's right to show anxiety in those situations.

Why do I recommend it over the hugging route? Signing up and going to a dance class is relatively easy compared to print a free hug sign and go around with it. People have more resistance to doing the free hug exercise. Getting a stranger to practice a 15 minute hug isn't as straightforward either.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-26T20:37:03.494Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You only had a few lessons and that alone doesn't have much of an effect on your interaction with woman in general.

I wasn't talking about dance classes, I was talking about ‘improvised’ dancing -- as I expected the second part of the sentence to make clear (but on re-reading it I can see it wasn't as clear as I thought). Why would lessons have more of an effect than improvisation? I'd expect it to be the other way round, especially given that you mentioned the “chooses which moves happen at which time” thing before.

If that's true and you actually would find it boring you lack in the ability in the realm of perceiving the other person.

Or maybe I have other things to do with 15 minutes than hugging a random stranger. Opportunity costs, anyone?

Dancing helps with the perception part.

Yes, but wouldn't that apply more to improvised dancing than to beginners' dancing classes?

For most people with asberger there a lot of anxiety that comes up during the process that can be worked through.

My AQ as measured by the online test linked to in the latest LW survey (FWIW) was 25, and still I usually feel little to no anxiety while dancing; if anything, I usually feel less anxiety while dancing than the rest of the time.

Why structured partner dance over a regular nightclub with pop music?

False dichotomy. Those aren't the only two places you can dance.

Why do I recommend it over the hugging route?

So, when you said “the fact that someone doesn't dance in no way implies that he hasn't learned the same skills in other context” you were thinking of going around wearing free hugs signs? That sounds even less plausible to me.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-27T10:20:53.419Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or maybe I have other things to do with 15 minutes than hugging a random stranger. Opportunity costs, anyone?

That's a completely different objection than saying that the activity is boring. If you change around your objections in that way it's likely that you are in the process of rationalizing some fear of intimicy.

Yes, but wouldn't that apply more to improvised dancing than to beginners' dancing classes?

What do you mean when you say "improvised dancing"? Do you already have the skills to spend a significant amount of time dancing closely with a women in nightclub settings?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-27T12:30:23.087Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's a completely different objection than saying that the activity is boring.

Isn't the feeling that you could do something more fun with your time what boredom is?

If you change around your objections in that way it's likely that you are in the process of rationalizing some fear of intimicy.

For such a broad definition of “intimacy” as yours, I'm pretty sure I have very little fear of intimacy itself.

What do you mean when you say "improvised dancing"?

e.g. this (I'm the tall guy with glasses and a black T-shirt). (That was over a year ago, I may have gotten better --or worse-- since.)

Do you already have the skills to spend a significant amount of time dancing closely with a women in nightclub settings?

What amount of time would you consider to be significant, and are you talking about women I already know or about strangers? (Also, “in nightclub settings” isn't a terribly homogeneous category IME, women tend to be fussier in some of those than in others.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-27T16:09:31.169Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't the feeling that you could do something more fun with your time what boredom is?

I don't advocate doing it primarily for fun but to learn something. Sometimes good learning experiences are boring.

e.g. this (I'm the tall guy with glasses and a black T-shirt). (That was over a year ago, I may have gotten better --or worse-- since.)

At the beginning of the video you are touching the hand of a girl but expect for the part where you spin her it doesn't look like you have much contact with her. When it comes to the girl on the end you have a bit more contact but not much more.

If dancing like that feels like you aren't leading the girl it's because you actually aren't leading.

Most of the time that this video goes you aren't touching a woman. If you are taking a dancing lesson you are basically all the time touching.

Let me give you a link to a beginner kizomba lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbYChD5b9VE Watch that video and compare the amount of physically intimacy that you have in your video with the women and the amount of physical intimicy that you see in that beginner kizomba lesson. Some beginner kizomba lesson might be a bit less intimite but that level of intimicy can exist in beginner kizomba lessons.

If you do a lot of that kind of improvised dancing that you showed in your video, I would recommend you to take Bachata lessons over Kizomba lessons. Beginner bachata lessons are a bit less intimite than beginner kizomba lessons but you learn a bunch of things that will improve your improvised dancing.

Once you learn Bachata decently it looks like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y5YAdHfT9Q&list=PL07372236D9BBFDBD . That an average dance that you could see between two strangers who just meet at a decent social Bachata event.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-27T16:36:19.035Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(I often do have more contact than that (depending on what the music is like, who the woman is, and my mood), though I'm not sure whether anyone has shot any decent videos of that. OTOH, I'm pretty sure I'm a lot clumsier than the people in your videos.)

Thanks for the feedback (people usually say that I am doing great, but probably they just say that in order not to discourage me -- or maybe in a few cases because they can't tell the levels above theirs apart¹) and for the pointers, anyway.


  1. Try improvising something on the E♭ minor pentatonic scale (aka “the black keys of the piano”) in a room full of non-musicians, look at their faces, and you'll know what I mean.
comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-27T17:52:49.643Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the feedback (when I ask people (and sometimes even when I don't), they usually say I am doing great, but probably they just say that in order not to discourage me) and for the pointers, anyway.

It always depends on what your comparision is. If you manage to let go, move to the beat and visbily have fun while doing it you might be better than 50% of the people who do improvised dancing at a nightclub.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-03T11:25:47.242Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you manage to let go, move to the beat and visbily have fun while doing it you might be better than 50% of the people who do improvised dancing at a nightclub.

And if you manage to implement FizzBuzz in a couple minutes you might be better than 50% of the people who have a comp sci degree.

The standard threshold of non-crappiness is the 90th percentile, not the 50th... :-)

comment by Error · 2013-06-06T13:47:38.791Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I thought the standard threshold of non-crappiness was the 90th percentile, not the 50th. Tsuyoku naritai.

To get to the 90th, presumably you have to pass through the 50th.

Nevertheless I'm adding that to my fortune file so that I will be regularly reminded, because it really is important.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-07-15T00:28:30.420Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To get to the 90th, presumably you have to pass through the 50th.

Wouldn't that depend on where you started from?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T08:09:25.325Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sometime between when you read my comment and when I read your reply, I edited my comment to make it less harsh, e.g. replacing “tsuyoku naritai” with a smile; maybe I should edit it back? :-)

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-04T14:23:32.215Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And if you manage to implement FizzBuzz in a couple minutes you might be better than 50% of the people who have a comp sci degree

The point is that whether you are good depends on the people to which you compare yourself.

I danced Salsa/Bachata for the last 4 years 2-3 nights per week. That means that I will see different things in your dancing than the average person that you meet.

I do improvise within my dancing and deviate from dance school pattern. I'm still not the person who regularly tries to dance in nightclubs to pop music or the kind of music that exists at the place of your video.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T21:32:30.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That means that I will see different things in your dancing than the average person that you meet.

How does that mesh with “people don't feel emotions because of the knowledge that they have”? :-)

(FWIW, one of the people who sees me dancing much of the time (the girlfriend of one of the karaoke jockeys in that video) and sometimes compliments me, and has also danced with me in nightclubs a few times, is a belly dancing instructor, but that may be too different from anything else to be relevant; her sister is a Bollywood dance instructor, and also usually compliments me dancing, but that's generally in the context of thanking me for being the only male in this thing she'd organized and/or of trying to convince me to take classes with her again, so she might be gilding the pill on purpose.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-10T05:11:58.729Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I understand belly dancing isn't something where the guy has to lead the girl. There, the criteria of what good dancing equals is different.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-13T21:18:12.363Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I must have misunderstood something, because you appeared to be claiming or hinting that:

  • the reason why people are reluctant to pursue long-term relationships with me is that I'm bad at some particular skill;
  • that skill is an integral part of certain styles of dance, so by taking dance classes I would get better at that skill; there aren't many more efficient ways of practising that skill short of stuff like wearing a “free hugs” sign and hug a stranger for 15 minutes straight;
  • when someone bad at that skill is dancing (any style of dance), that is obvious to people's elephants/System 1s and comes across as unsexy; on the other hand, their riders/System 2s won't notice there's anything wrong unless they are experts at one of those particular styles of dancing specifically;
  • more than 50% of people in my demographic are even worse than me at that skill, but this doesn't mean they'll never get a relationship, because they can compensate by e.g. being insanely rich.

This hypothesis is already so complicated that it'd take lots of evidence to come up with in the first place, and what evidence I have seems to point against it; there isn't much of it I can communicate short of divulging anecdotes about potentially identifiable individuals, so suffice it to say that:

  • ISTM that many fewer than 50% of people my age in my geographic area are single (though I'm not sure my sample is unbiased), and hardly any of them makes money by the truckload or anything similar;
  • [ETA: I haven't seen any people wearing “free hugs” signs in years, and the last few times I did it was in somewhat unusual situations (e.g. carnival parties);]
  • people usually do have some idea as to whether something is sexy, even though it might not always be clear to them why;
  • why would it be long-term relationships that this emotions thing would hinder me with? That sounds almost exactly backwards -- I mean, if Alice doesn't get horny when around Bob because he comes across as tense, I wouldn't expect her to lose interest after a couple dates or so: I would expect her to never ask him out in the first place. The type of ‘elephant’ responses you seem to be talking about generally act on the timescales of minutes, not months.

(Probably I'm just reading too much in what you said, though.)

In this epistemic state, taking expensive, time-consuming, and possibly status-lowering Salsa classes on the off chance that it improves my chances to get a LTR would feel a little bit like giving money to Pascal's mugger. [ETA: (More specifically, I suspect that the low-hanging fruits could be picked by watching videos on YouTube or something and practising during my spare time with people I already know, and any further improvements that the high-hanging fruits would yield would be way too small to be worth the bother.)]

[paragraph deleted]

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-14T09:21:10.033Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

more than 50% of people in my demographic are even worse than me at that skill, but this doesn't mean they'll never get a relationship, because they can compensate by e.g. being insanely rich.

I'm not arguing that feeling no anxiety to physical contact and having the self confidence to lead woman in general is sufficient to be good at partner dancing.

I'm rather arguing that being good at partner dancing usually leads to feeling no anxiety to physical contact and having the self confidence to lead woman.

I mean, if Alice doesn't get horny when around Bob because he comes across as tense, I wouldn't expect her to lose interest after a couple dates or so: I would expect her to never ask him out in the first place.

In PUA literature there the idea that making a girl horny while at a club, asking her for her phone number and then calling a day later to make a date is not the way to go. Having the girl in a state of being attracted, comfortable and connected is supposed to be more conductive to getting a date than the girl feeling horny.

I think the problem is that you model being attracted and being horny as the same thing when the two are different categories for myself. You don't have a mental model in this domain with a lot of categories and therefore it's hard to follow the points I'm making. (Just for the record, I don't think having a mental model with a lot of categories is necessary to have success with woman)

Also, you appeared to suspect that I might have Asperger's (something which FWIW none of my meatspace friends, who include several psychology graduates and a neurology resident, appears to have noticed lately) based on my reluctance to wear a “free-hugs” sign.

I don't think you have full Aspergers. I think you are 'in your head', but that's not a label that I would expect to be well understood on LessWrong. When on LessWrong I rather try to use categories that are popular on LessWrong.

You are probably the kind of person who thinks that they have a body instead of who thinks that they are their body. You probably think that you are your brain and the rest is just there to serve your brain.

On the other hand I do think that your reluctance to wear a free-hug sign is purely based on a irrational fear of physical contact. Wearing the sign is the rational thing to do.

FYI diagnosing people with mental disorders based on so little information is likely to make actual mental health specialists take you very unseriously

I choose the kind of language I use depending on my audience. I would use different lanague when discussing with a mental health specialist. A mental health specialist probably also wouldn't take you seriously when you talk about giving money to Pascal's mugger.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T23:09:22.717Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've just noticed that you yourself in a different thread recommend a course of action for a couple finding themselves in the guy-is-too-nervous scenario which is IME vastly cheaper, quicker, and more effective than for the male to have practised partnered dance¹ while fully clothed and not kissing or anything else sexual, or hugged random people he's not necessarily sexually attracted to. (Granted, I haven't practised partnered dance by paying an instructor or hugged random people by wearing free-hugs signs, but I can't see why that would make much of a difference.)

Am I missing something?


  1. That can actually backfire in the very short run (a couple hours) if (say) the guy is sleep-deprived, as he'll be more tired, which IME doesn't exactly help.
comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-28T23:28:59.254Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are two different problems:

1) How can a girl effectively interact with a guy who's nervous?

2) How can a guy get confident?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T23:44:35.960Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So by “confidence” you didn't mean ‘lack of nervousness’, but the epistemic sense instead? Makes sense, but I can't imagine how being sure about how to dance Salsa would help people in the bedroom. ISTM that only a tiny part of the procedural knowledge needed for the former would transfer to the latter.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-28T23:55:45.750Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, I'm not hung up on the difference between “confidence” and ‘lack of nervousness’.

In focusing on the difference in what the man can do versus what the woman can do to fix the situation.

Makes sense, but I can't imagine how being sure about how to dance Salsa would help people in the bedroom.

In most cases there's physical interaction before being in the bedroom.

Holding hands would be one example. It's not something that platonic friends usually do. If a guy tries to transition from not holding hands to holding hands he could be nervous about it.

The kind of body contact that happens during dancing would condition the person to be less nervous about holding hands.

Holding hands is an example. I'm not saying that it happens in every interaction, but usually their physical contact between a guy and girl that exceeds the normal contact of a platonic friendship before the two go to the bedroom.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-29T13:39:27.613Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In focusing on the difference in what the man can do versus what the woman can do to fix the situation.

Er... Why? You realize that the man and the woman can communicate with each other, and thence ‘trade’ (in a LWesque general abstract sense)? If it would take months for me to achieve something but minutes for her to achieve the same, it'd be most daft for us to do the former. (And it feels off to call what you mentioned in the other thread ‘something the woman can do’ -- it's not like the man isn't playing any role; it sounds as weird to me as calling walking ‘something my legs can do’ rather than ‘something I can do’.)

Holding hands would be one example. It's not something that platonic friends usually do.

It depends on gender and culture. For example, physical contact tends to be closer among females or between females and males than among males, closer in warm countries than in cold countries, and closer among left-wingers than among right-wingers. (I grew up mostly hanging around with left-leaning Italian females, and as a result I occasionally would come across as touchy when interacting with right-wingers, males, or northern Europeans.)

If a guy tries to transition from not holding hands to holding hands he could be nervous about it. The kind of body contact that happens during dancing would condition the person to be less nervous about holding hands.

Yes it would, but if someone gets nervous at the thought of even just holding hands with someone else (other than due to epistemic uncertainty about whether the latter would like it etc.), then I guess that what the former mainly needs isn't a Salsa instructor, it's a psychologist.

I'm not saying that it happens in every interaction, but usually their physical contact between a guy and girl that exceeds the normal contact of a platonic friendship before the two go to the bedroom.

Sure it does, but AFAIK it's not like dancing classes teach how to make out, either.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-29T15:51:43.817Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I grew up mostly hanging around with left-leaning Italian females, and as a result I occasionally would come across as touchy when interacting with right-wingers, males, or northern Europeans.

In that case you might not that profit much from become more touchy.

You might still profit from improving your dancing abilites as you dance frequently. Salsa might not be optimal here. Salsa has the issue that there a pause on 4 and 8, which isn't easy to lead. Merengue and Bachata moves are easier to throw into the kind of dancing you do in the video you showed.

Er... Why? You realize that the man and the woman can communicate with each other, and thence ‘trade’ (in a LWesque general abstract sense)?

Framing a romantic interaction as a trade, cheapens the romantic interaction for a lot of people. If you try to handle your relationship with a woman on an abstract level instead of handling it on a emotional level that significantly decreases your pool of potential mates.

Making a trade on an abstract level doesn't make anyone feel horny.

A woman cares about how the interaction with you makes her feel. If all your interaction is on an abstract level she likely won't feel the kind of emotions that she thinks are a requisite to starting a relationship with you.

I'm not against open communication but you should always understand what you are communicating. Communicating your desires in a way that isn't needy is not something that easy.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-29T19:40:30.252Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

you dance frequently.

Actually these days I usually only dance once or twice a week, and sometimes even less than that.

If you try to handle your relationship with a woman on an abstract level instead of handling it on a emotional level

That's not what I meant. I meant ‘trade’ as in, the partners jointly trying to fulfil each other's wishes, rather than each one only thinking about themself. That doesn't require suppressing emotions.

that significantly decreases your pool of potential mates.

So what? We're talking about long-term relationships, not hooking up with as many distinct people as possible. See the “Mean and Variance” section of this.

A woman cares about how the interaction with you makes her feel.

You don't say?

If all your interaction is on an abstract level she likely won't feel the kind of emotions that she thinks are a requisite to starting a relationship with you.

If something makes us both happy, why should we give a damn how likely anyone else would be to like it? It's not like there are sex auditors watching us or anything.

I'm not against open communication but you should always understand what you are communicating. Communicating your desires in a way that isn't needy is not something that easy.

It also depends on who the listener is. My new girlfriend and I don't seem to be having much trouble with that so far.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T23:34:08.780Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So by “confident” you don't mean ‘not nervous’?

comment by Swimmer963 · 2013-07-14T19:03:38.995Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Came across this discussion accidentally, but it fascinates me because I'm "in my head", have some Asperger's-like characteristics, have a lot of anxiety around physical contact, particularly dislike dancing and have in fact made my date leave a dancing event early because I couldn't make myself do it any longer, etc...but I'm a girl. And I can get dates pretty easily. (They usually aren't very fun for me, though).

This discussion made me realize that if I were male, but otherwise unchanged, I might not be able to get dates easily. This confuses me. I'm curious as to what you think the difference is in the male-female dynamic.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T22:52:11.502Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Came across this discussion accidentally,

And that's why I think “repository” threads belong in Main. That would have been much less likely to happen if this thread had been in Discussion.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T22:58:01.428Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm "in my head"

Have you tried small amounts of alcohol, and/or mindfulness meditation?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T21:15:59.554Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This discussion made me realize that if I were male, but otherwise unchanged, I might not be able to get dates easily.

What do you mean “otherwise unchanged”, same level of attractiveness broadly construed (to the extent that this makes sense), or same percentile of attractiveness broadly construed within your gender and age group?

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-07-14T22:52:52.609Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, being the other biological sex is complicated, but a roughly equivalent statement might be "If she could (convincingly) present herself as male and attempted to get dates with women, she expect to find it much harder than she does getting dates with men while presenting as female."

comment by Swimmer963 · 2013-07-14T21:53:51.177Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Same percentile, I guess?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T22:44:05.776Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

ISTM that the n-th percentile man is less attractive to women than the n-th percentile woman is to men (at least for n not very close to 100), and as a result has less ‘bargaining power’, if you will.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-14T20:12:36.947Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And I can get dates pretty easily.

I think "getting dates" isn't the goal for most people. The question is whether you get into relationships with guys that fulfill your criteria of being good mates.

(They usually aren't very fun for me, though).

I would guess that they would be more fun for you if you overcome your anxieties around physical contact.

I think that you do can overcome some of it by taking dancing classes.

I'm curious as to what you think the difference is in the male-female dynamic.

If you are a pretty girl than many man are willing to chase you and wait some time till you are ready. At the same time a guy that's empathic is less likely to ask you for another date if you don't enjoy the first date.

comment by Swimmer963 · 2013-07-14T21:01:40.181Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think "getting dates" isn't the goal for most people. The question is whether you get into relationships with guys that fulfill your criteria of being good mates.

You're right, this is a different problem. Which is still unsolved for me.

If you are a pretty girl than many man are willing to chase you and wait some time till you are ready.

I have had a guy go to fairly epic lengths to do this. We had what I think most people would call an awesome relationship afterwards, and lived together for some time...but a year and a half later, when we broke up, I basically wasn't upset at all and actually got a happiness boost from having my own space and better sleep again. If I was upset, it was because "what, I put all those months of effort in, and I don't even get a partner to have kids with?"

So yeah, unsolved.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-14T22:10:19.056Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think you would probably profit from going to a Salsa course. While doing it keep in mind that you want to enjoy physical contact but don't get so close that it makes you uncomfortable.

At the beginning it would probably be good to just ask a male friend that you know and with whom you are comfortable to take a Salsa class with you.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T11:22:23.628Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A mental health specialist probably also wouldn't take you seriously when you talk about giving money to Pascal's mugger.

Unlike Asperger's syndrome, Pascal's mugging isn't something that's got to do with mental health, so your comparison is invalid. On the other hand, decision theorists wouldn't take me seriously either, so your point stands.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T10:00:58.196Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In PUA literature there the idea that making a girl horny while at a club, asking her for her phone number and then calling a day later to make a date is not the way to go.

You don't say? :nicholascage:

Having the girl in a state of being attracted, comfortable and connected is supposed to be more conductive to getting a date than the girl feeling horny.

Ah. If that's what you mean by “being attracted” (myself, I'd usually call that “liking”), then I think that there are tons of things that have a waaaay larger effect than anything one could learn easily learn by formal dance classes but not otherwise, though it depends on the person (for example, certain people seem to be attracted to intelligence, others repelled).

I think you are 'in your head',

That much I do usually agree, though it varies on whether I'm sleep-deprived, whether I've been drinking, how much and what I've been reading lately, and other factors. (In particular, I think I'm much less “in my head” when I'm with people I'm at ease with, which is a proper superset of the people I'm willing to date long-term.)

You are probably the kind of person who thinks that they have a body instead of who thinks that they are their body. You probably think that you are your brain and the rest is just there to serve your brain.

FWIW, I'm the kind of person who thinks that what “I” means depends on the context, so whether I am my body or my brain isn't even a well-defined question (both literally and metaphorically).

On the other hand I do think that your reluctance to wear a free-hug sign is purely based on a irrational fear of physical contact. Wearing the sign is the rational thing to do.

Even taking in account status signalling? (A way to make that moot would be to wear such a sign somewhere I don't expect anyone I know, or anyone who knows anyone I know and is likely to talk about that, to see me.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-14T10:36:45.988Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Even taking in account status signalling?

I don't know the company that you keep. Most people I personally care about impressing wouldn't see it as low status.

If someone tells me: "I read about this free hug thing and then I tried it out", what does that tell me about the person? He's signalling that his adventurous and willing to do things that are a bit outside of the social norm that produce good feelings for other people.

Doing creepy pickup approaches can be a low status signal if people you know get wind of it. I don't see that problem with running around with a free hug sign.

How about you ask one of your female friends whether they would think less or more of someone who did the "free hug" thing you read about on the internet? Does she thinks it's cool?

I mean what do you do for signaling high-status? Playing golf?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T14:13:59.764Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If someone tells me: "I read about this free hug thing and then I tried it out", what does that tell me about the person? He's signalling that his adventurous and willing to do things that are a bit outside of the social norm that produce good feelings for other people.

I seem to have a vague recollection of someone in one of my social groups watching a video (or something) of some guy doing the free hugs thing, and commenting something to the effect that (loosely paraphrasing) he must be a loser pathetically looking for pretexts to convince girls to hug him who otherwise wouldn't; and indeed, very few people seemed eager to hug him. (I can't remember more details about that.) Looking back at all the times I remember people wearing such signs, they were almost always males, usually not terribly attractive, and often in religious or political associations; none of these sounds high-status to me, if by “status” we mean social power rather than structural power. And the only times they seemed to be received well was during New Year's/carnival/similar celebrations, where ISTM it's also socially acceptable to ask random people for hugs who are not wearing free-hug signs.

Doing creepy pickup approaches can be a low status signal if people you know get wind of it.

I dunno; extrapolating from the closest things to that that did happen to me, they would either applaud my boldness or excuse me because creeping each other out is something people (especially when drunk) sometimes do by accident and it doesn't mean they are evil. Unless you have in mind values of “creepy” sufficient for the bouncers to kick me out of the club, but even then IME people I already know will react with sympathy, not disgust.

How about you ask one of your female friends whether they would think less or more of someone who did the "free hug" thing you read about on the internet? Does she thinks it's cool?

The last time I mentioned to a female friend something about me sometimes getting anxious when around people and trying to overcome that, she was like ‘what the hell are you talking about, you're one of the most laid-back people I know’ (incidentally, the same person said something similar when I said I wasn't that good at dancing and was trying to get better at it). You know, people usually are reluctant to criticize their friends, and while I try to indicate that I operate under Crocker's rules that often only goes so far. (I know that's not exactly what you suggested me to ask, but I'm under the impression that in such contexts “someone” would be so obvious an euphemism that it would defeat the point.)

I mean what do you do for signaling high-status?

Mostly, stuff like singing, dancing (but not paying people money to do that, except occasionally for night club cover charges), drinking a lot but still functioning enough for stuff like this, dressing extravagantly (but not particularly expensively), telling people about my travels abroad, or posting witticisms and photos on Facebook. Why?

Playing golf?

Hell no. That sounds expensive, posh, and not terribly fun. And not the kind of thing I'd likely be good at. :-)

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-07-14T22:33:53.197Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to have a vague recollection of someone in one of my social groups watching a video (or something) of some guy doing the free hugs thing, and commenting something to the effect that (loosely paraphrasing) he must be a loser pathetically looking for pretexts to convince girls to hug him who otherwise wouldn't; and indeed, very few people seemed eager to hug him. (I can't remember more details about that.) Looking back at all the times I remember people wearing such signs, they were almost always males, usually not terribly attractive, and often in religious or political associations; none of these sounds high-status to me, if by “status” we mean social power rather than structural power. And the only times they seemed to be received well was during New Year's/carnival/similar celebrations, where ISTM it's also socially acceptable to ask random people for hugs who are not wearing free-hug signs.

"Free hugs" signs are also a fairly common feature at anime conventions. Many of the people I've seen with them have been cute girls.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T22:51:12.369Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Free hugs" signs are also a fairly common feature at anime conventions.

Never been to one of those, but I guess that I would feel much less out-of-place wearing such a sign at an anime convention (conditional on me not feeling out-of-place at the convention without the sign) than in a street downtown. (Though now that I try to think of it more in near mode, even the latter would depend on the time of the day and my blood alcohol content. Hmmm.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-14T14:49:19.244Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to have a vague recollection of someone in one of my social groups watching a video (or something) of some guy doing the free hugs thing, and commenting something to the effect that (loosely paraphrasing) he must be a loser pathetically looking for pretexts to convince girls to hug him who otherwise wouldn't; and indeed, very few people seemed eager to hug him.

"He" is the operating word. The fox and the sour grapes.

I dunno; extrapolating from the closest things to that that did happen to me, they would either applaud my boldness or excuse me because creeping each other out is something people (especially when drunk) sometimes do by accident and it doesn't mean they are evil.

I'm not saying that everyone who does PUA is creepy but there are people who persue it in a way that alinates friends. I can understand why someone might not want to be seen by people he knows when he's doing random cold approaches on the street.

Mostly, stuff like singing, dancing (but not paying people money to do that, except occasionally for night club cover charges)

I think that in both domains that you will get more status over the long term if you invest in professional training which costs money to build your skills.

I think you will get more status over the long-term by building your skills as effectively as possible than by self handicapping.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T18:06:16.904Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"He" is the operating word. The fox and the sour grapes.

I think that the person who commented about him was female, though I don't remember for sure.

I can understand why someone might not want to be seen by people he knows when he's doing random cold approaches on the street.

Why not? IME wingmen provide social proof. (Though there are cultural differences from place to place -- for example, I would do that in the town where I study now but not where I grew up, as most of the population of the latter respond to random cold approaches on the street by frowning at you then looking away.)

I think that in both domains that you will get more status over the long term if you invest in professional training which costs money to build your skills.

Yes, but 1) I'm already 26, so I dunno how much sense it still makes to invest in "the long term" in this kind of things, and 2) the difference would be only noticed by people who are themselves sufficiently high-status in those domains (I've already had several people who asked me where I took singing classes and seemed surprised where I told them that I didn't), so I'm not sure the game is worth the candle given that I'm not looking for a professional career in singing. (I might try to take singing and/or dancing classes next year if I'm not as strapped for time as now, but it's not a priority.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T09:38:13.484Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That means that I will see different things in your dancing than the average person that you meet.

How does that mesh together with “people don't feel emotions because of the knowledge that they have”? (not an entirely rhetorical question)

(I'm trying to recall whether that one guy I know who dances salsa regularly has ever seen me dancing -- I'm not sure, and anyway, I don't trust his judgements about me to be unbiased, given that I know that there's such a thing as the halo effect and I've repeatedly heard, from several different people, that he's always telling people at parties how I was the best student in the mathematical physics class where he was a TA in the past freakin' decade.)

(One person who sees me dance much of the time (she's the girlfriend of one of the karaoke guys in the bar in the video I linked), and has also danced with me in a nightclub a few times -- she's a belly dancing instructor, which may be too different from anything else. Her sister is a Bollywood dancing instructor (from whom I once took a few classes), and she's also always complimenting me; anyway, in case this is relevant to anything, she incorrectly thought that I had spent lots of time rehearsing for this (I'm the male one) while I had actually spent maybe 10 minutes -- so I guess that's the halo effect and/or gilding the pill to avoid discouraging me.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-05-27T15:14:12.175Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't the feeling that you could do something more fun with your time what boredom is?

Not in my experience, except in a very degenerate sense. There seems to be some threshold of entertainment below which I'm inclined to describe my state as bored; above that threshold, I may not be having as much fun as possible, but that's not the same thing at all.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-26T17:16:31.874Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's still romantic chemistry and when your brain learns to become comfortable with it in one context it can also handle it in other contexts much better.

[citation needed]

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-09T14:47:12.790Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T22:26:24.726Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't ventured into online dating, but if I do, I will keep OkCupid in mind.

comment by sfb · 2011-02-09T03:09:13.871Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

From reading your whole comment, it seems this:

I simply don't feel that I would be able to be emotionally intimate with a woman who holds an irrational, i.e. religious, worldview.

would be the easiest bit to change to remove the problem from your life.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T04:35:48.748Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not interested in a relationship in which I can't interact honestly with the woman, because I wouldn't find it to be fulfilling. I'd rather be single than have to tiptoe around my romantic partner's irrational beliefs. Changing that implies either ceasing to care about rationality, or dramatically lowering my expectations for a relationship. Neither of those sounds particularly appealing.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-09T11:21:16.910Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you be comfortable with an agnostic? That would expand your pool somewhat.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T14:31:18.014Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, most likely. I don't see much of a difference between agnosticism and atheism in practice. If a person doesn't know if God exists (agnostic), ey probably won't hold an active belief in God (atheist). There are exceptions to that, of course, but in a minority of cases.

comment by sfb · 2011-02-09T05:47:48.595Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you suggesting that a non-religious person would have no irrational beliefs to tiptoe around? This seems unlikely.

Are you suggesting that if you didn't tiptoe around religious beliefs that would be a problem? Because it seems that religious people are extra-resilient in their beliefs, so that might be less of an issue than you fear.

Are you suggesting that it isn't possible to have a relationship where one person is religious and another atheist without them having to fight about it or lie about it? That your relationships must have zero tolerance and absolute agreement on all points?

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T05:56:30.459Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are you suggesting that a non-religious person would have no irrational beliefs to tiptoe around? This seems unlikely.

No, but a religious person is definitely going to have such beliefs.

Are you suggesting that if you didn't tiptoe around religious beliefs that would be a problem? Because it seems that religious people are extra-resilient in their beliefs, so that might be less of an issue than you fear.

Yes, I am. It's not a matter of resilience in beliefs; telling my significant other that I can't take their opinion on [evolution/gay marriage/abortion/insert religiously-tinted issue of your choice] at all seriously doesn't sound like a recipe for a harmonious relationship.

Are you suggesting that it isn't possible to have a relationship where one person is religious and another atheist without them having to fight about it or lie about it?

It's not possible for me, because I believe atheism is the rational position and religious belief is objectively unjustified. I don't think the idea that relationships between religious and nonreligious people are unlikely to succeed is an uncommon one; I've had religious friends express agreement with it.

That your relationships must have zero tolerance and absolute agreement on all points?

This is a straw man argument, as I did not make such a statement.

comment by endoself · 2011-02-09T19:52:59.121Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Many people are religious without really examining the consequences of their beliefs. Also many people have religious beliefs that do not cause them to think irrationally about evolution, gay marriage, or abortion. I would expect many of these people to move toward atheism during a long-term relationship with a LessWronger.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T22:39:28.386Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Many people are religious without really examining the consequences of their beliefs.

Yes, I've made that argument for abortion. However, that generally doesn't stop such people from being extremely convinced of their beliefs. I haven't had any success changing someone's mind about abortion with the aforementioned argument, despite how obvious it becomes that the person is merely acting out instructions without thinking about them.

Also many people have religious beliefs that do not cause them to think irrationally about evolution, gay marriage, or abortion.

Those were meant as examples, not a definitive list of topics. There are very few people whose religious beliefs don't cause them to think irrationally about some important issue.

I would expect many of these people to move toward atheism during a long-term relationship with a LessWronger.

I understand that, but I would be setting myself up for disappointment to expect that from any specific romantic partner who fell into that category.

comment by endoself · 2011-02-10T04:15:56.184Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Those were meant as examples, not a definitive list of topics. There are very few people whose religious beliefs don't cause them to think irrationally about some important issue.

I realized this, but there seems to be a cluster in personspace of theists who are no less rational about the concepts on your list than the average atheist. If there are any topics that even these theists are irrational about, can you give examples?

I understand that, but I would be setting myself up for disappointment to expect that from any specific romantic partner who fell into that category.

Good point.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-10T04:50:54.163Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I realized this, but there seems to be a cluster in personspace of theists who are no less rational about the concepts on your list than the average atheist. If there are any topics that even these theists are irrational about, can you give examples?

To be honest, I really haven't met enough theists in that cluster to be very confident about any examples. I can see the matter of church attendance (in general, in terms of the course of the relationship if it moves toward marriage, and later in terms of raising children) being an issue. It's not necessarily something that will come up right away, but I would see the specter of it hovering overhead. There's also the irrationality of religious beliefs themselves, e.g. the idea that God is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, or the idea that Jesus performed miracles.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T08:29:00.300Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are, in fact, plenty of couples who have diametrically opposed ideas on politics or religion. You just need to either a) agree to not discuss it or b) be willing to honestly debate and challenge each other without getting upset.

I agree that you should interact honestly and not tiptoe around what you think, but that doesn't mean you have to agree on everything, even religion.

For what it's worth, as irrational as religion is, I'm willing to bet that any atheist here has equally irrational ideas that they stick with.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-09T14:24:12.964Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Any atheist here, and equally irrational? That's a bet I'd take.

It's one thing to disagree with a person on a number of points, and another thing to be unable to respect their epistemology. On difficult matters, where it's hard to locate an error, you can consider another person's reasoning sound to respectable standards without agreeing with their conclusions (we're only human after all,) and on matters of opinion, disagreement does not necessarily imply conflict of epistemology. Religion falls into neither category.

I used to be open to relationships with religious individuals, but eventually I came to the realization that I had been putting more effort into convincing myself that I was tolerant than being realistic about my preferences. I couldn't be happy with such a relationship beyond the extremely short term.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T14:27:53.646Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Desrtopa makes the main points below; I'd like to add:

For what it's worth, as irrational as religion is, I'm willing to bet that any atheist here has equally irrational ideas that they stick with.

Even accepting that premise, the difference is that I'm willing to update my map. If a religious person had the same willingness, ey already would no longer be religious.

comment by PaulWright · 2011-02-08T12:21:45.570Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by MBlume · 2011-02-09T00:41:30.119Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Don't be the guy who asks everyone in turn: the women talk to each other

This has mostly frightened me off so far. I've been tentatively pushing at it the last couple weeks.

comment by PaulWright · 2011-02-09T12:38:42.282Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps I should amend that to "don't be obviously indiscriminate in a sleazy way". The bad thing isn't finding lots of people attractive, it's apparently caring nothing for them as a person (which is about having had no conversational interction with them before asking them out, some small amount of buildup is necessary, though as siduri says, if you're a decent chap, it's probably less than you think) or alternatively appearing desperate (which is about demeanor, I think). Things I've heard remarked upon have been bemusement at dinner invites following a dance with a stranger with no prior conversation, or demeanor problems.

If you actually like more than one person and have talked to the people concerned a bit, I don't see the harm.

(There's usually a niche for being the confident guy who flirts a lot with absolutely everyone: you get a name for yourself, but it's more as the loveable rogue than the creepy guy. That's possibly an advanced skill, though.)

Bonus link: only try these moves with a consenting partner ;-)

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T01:21:51.374Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This has mostly frightened me off so far.

Don't let it. I actually disagree with the original advice for this reason: any benefit you get is likely to be outweighed by the additional anxiety from worrying what other people think.

My general take on this is the opposite: go ahead and ask many people if you're interested. Don't worry about what they think. Most of them won't care or mind anyway, as long as you're not rude or hostile about it. There's nothing wrong with asking out a lot of people.

In fact, this is a common internal obstacle to asking people out. A lot of guys seem to have the idea that it's somehow wrong or dirty to do so, as if they were being the bad guy by expressing interest in someone.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-07T23:48:34.451Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, this is what an informative answer looks like.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-05-13T01:55:48.711Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

This can backfire if you live in a small town.

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-02-08T16:28:41.091Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think dates are... well... dated. Maybe they still do them in the US Heartland, but on the coasts people just hook up.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T01:26:43.071Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's more that the word is dated. People still spend time together getting coffee to get to know each other. It's just not called a "date" because that sounds so 1950s.

comment by pwno · 2011-02-08T18:57:48.669Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Dating is for people who have trouble hooking up without making their intentions explicit.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T22:24:39.625Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · LW · GW

YMMV. "You're hot, but I'm really quite keen on knowing if I can bear to be around you for a few hours" can be a good thing to establish.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T17:03:26.266Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in San Francisco, and people date here.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-02-08T07:28:04.498Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, you really made an effort to understand the male perspective.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-07T23:07:31.194Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The auto-formatting has changed my #2 to a (duplicate) #1--can anyone tell me how to fix that?

comment by arundelo · 2011-02-07T23:36:38.466Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If each list item consists of multiple paragraphs, your source code should look like this:

1. First paragraph of first list item.

####Second paragraph of first list item.

####Third paragraph of first list item.

2. First paragraph of second list item.

####Second paragraph of second list item.

except replace the "#" characters with spaces.

Alternatively, you can defeat automatic numbered list formatting like this.

Great comment, by the way.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-07T23:46:05.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you!

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-07T20:34:05.332Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-07T22:09:02.690Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

(Gender shouldn't matter that much.)

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

comment by Antisuji · 2011-02-10T17:51:48.259Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It sounded to me like muflax was asking about making friends, not asexual romantic relationships. It's true though that when making friends gender matters quite a bit more than it seems like it should, at least in some social circles.

If I'm wrong and that's not what muflax was asking about, I'll ask it myself: how does an adult make friends with other adults?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T17:58:53.121Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What works for me is engaging in group activities that interest me (in my case that's mostly community theatre), and spending time talking with other adults engaging in that same activity, and from time to time inviting them to hang out together away from that activity. (The latter is useful for identifying people who aren't actually interested in being friends with me, just in the group activity.)

At the very least, they share an interest with me, which is a plausible place for a friendship to start.

comment by knb · 2011-02-07T23:44:22.930Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

There are a million ways to start, but this is the most formalizable method I have used.

  1. Go to craigslist.com.
  2. Look at personal ads from women seeking men.
  3. Respond to ads you like. If she responds positively, talk online for awhile.
  4. Schedule a meeting.
  5. Go on casual date (i.e. meet for drinks at a bar).
  6. Be attractive, wealthy, and interesting.
  7. If you like her, suggest another date.
  8. Go on another date. (repeat 8 until LTR)
comment by Benquo · 2011-02-07T22:12:13.765Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Depending on exactly what you mean by "begin", this question is likely to be way too complicated tor a comment-sized answer. Since there are lots of different ways to do this, depending on local culture, etc., you would pretty much have to write a fairly thick book to get into anything close to the level of detail necessary, while addressing the variety of possible cases.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-08T00:01:42.194Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is why I didn't ask about cooking... well, minus the "local culture" part (that restricts what food you can obtain, but that's not really the relevant part).

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-08T01:32:45.781Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I recommend the book "Now You're Cooking" -- it's a cookbook explicitly written for people not familiar with cooking techniques.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T00:10:28.989Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Judging from the comments, cooking seems to be a big area where Less Wrongers feel tentative. I'm really surprised, as I'd think that paying attention to recipes and following the directions carefully would be an activity that analytical types would master quickly.

I like cooking and I do it a lot. I'd be happy to give advice if you can explain what the specific barrier to entry is? Is it understanding the terminology, choosing the equipment, finding reliable recipes...something else?

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2011-02-12T09:27:31.261Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Recipes are typically badly underspecified for someone inexperienced at cooking, and the sense this creates, that there's some optimal thing to do that I'm expected to figure out but probably not going to be able to, is something I can find seriously demotivating (despite any explicit knowledge that whatever I end up doing will probably be satisfactory). I wouldn't be surprised if (something like) this is a common problem for LWers.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-12T17:22:26.491Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This problem definitely exists and I've been bitten by it personally(1), but it used to be harder to get around than it is now. In previous generations it was assumed that basic cooking knowledge would be transmitted within the family--daughters learned by helping their mothers in the kitchen, and sons, well, they'd go through a brief bachelor period of poor nutrition, but people married early and getting hot meals again would be a good inducement towards "settling down."

When this cultural context died, cookbooks were slow to catch up--they were still mostly written for people (women) who already knew their way around a kitchen. However, this has changed, and there are now excellent cookbooks available that will explain all the things other recipes assume you already know. Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything" and Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food" are two good ones.

The "America's Test Kitchen" show on PBS is also good for seeing what the cooks are doing when they talk about julienning carrots or making an herb chiffonade or whatever.

(1) When I first started cooking for myself I didn't understand the true purpose behind browning meat, and of course none of my cookbooks explained the Maillard reaction directly. I noticed that all recipes involving meat would specify that the meat be "browned on all sides" in separate batches over high heat, but I thought the purpose was simply to get it cooked more quickly. As a result I would sometimes skip this step, or even if I performed it I would crowd as much meat into the pan as I could--resulting in meat that wasn't truly brown, but grayish because it had actually been steamed rather than seared. It also tasted dull, for which I blamed the cheap cuts of meat I was buying. Actually it turns out that some of the cheaper cuts of meat have the most flavor, if you cook them right. (Filet mignon is pricey because it's a very tender cut of meat, but it has much less flavor than a cheap sirloin steak.)

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-12T17:52:35.223Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This advice to brown all the meat's surface area, and to even cut it into smaller pieces to increase the available surface area, to increase the effect of the Maillard reaction is setting off superstimulus warnings for me.

What are the nutritional effects of this reaction? A Google search has turned up mostly academic papers that discuss feeding large quantities of treated food to rats and chemical analysis of the result of applying heat to some mix of organic chemicals, which I am not sure how to draw conclusions from. This abstract has negative conclusions about the nutritional effects, but doesn't really answer the question: How does the nutritional value of a piece of steak change when you brown it?

comment by saturn · 2011-02-13T04:32:46.908Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The nutritional effects do seem to be rather negative.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-13T05:34:08.697Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That article, and its external links, indicate the chemicals resulting from the Maillard reactions (AGEs) accumulated over time and contribute to the aging process. Young, apparently healthy people may have accumulated lots of AGEs but don't realize it because the symptoms are delayed.

I would say that the fact that browning meat (and vegetables) can accelerate aging is among the things that people should systematically learn before they become adults.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-13T05:52:32.847Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would say that the fact that browning meat (and vegetables) can accelerate aging is among the things that people should systematically learn before they become adults.

How much accelerated aging do you get per unit of tasting really really good? Do I stop browning meat before or after I consider it worthwhile to start a calorie restriction diet?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-12T20:33:07.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This advice to brown all the meat's surface area, and to even cut it into smaller pieces to increase the available surface area, to increase the effect of the Maillard reaction is setting off superstimulus warnings for me.

Why? Roasting meat over a hot fire produces the same reaction. This is caveperson science.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-12T20:55:01.174Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The effect only occurs near the surface of the meat, as the interior moisture limits the temperature. So roasting a large piece of meat over a hot fire will cause the reaction in a much smaller proportion of the meat than cutting it into small pieces and deliberately browning all surface area. So roasting the large piece could make the surface tastier while leaving nutrition of the much larger interior intact, while cutting and browning can make the entire piece of meat tastier and less nutritious. The superstimulus is the non-ancestral concentration, and possible disassociation with indicated benefits, of the ancestral stimulus.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-12T21:42:58.685Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Cutting meat into small pieces is hardly a modern invention. Shish kebabs go way back.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-12T22:11:18.791Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How way back? Ancient (thousands of years ago) civilizations may have had variants of kebabs, but did we have them pre-agriculture?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-12T23:43:32.894Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is not high technology: all you need is a knife, a stick, a fire, and some meat. I'm pretty sure the technique is about as old as cooking. It just wasn't until Maillard that people understood what was happening.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-13T00:17:33.738Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be trying to convince pre-agricultural hunter gatherers who did not even eat meat all that often and had to work hard for every calorie of food they consumed to put a substantial extra effort into cooking their meat that you yourself, with your modern access to inexpensive raw ingredients and pre-manufactured metal cookware, often skipped when told to do so by a recipe because you didn't think it did anything more than cook the meat faster.

comment by gwern · 2011-02-13T00:49:36.958Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be trying to convince pre-agricultural hunter gatherers who did not even eat meat all that often and had to work hard for every calorie of food they consumed to put a substantial extra effort into cooking their meat

They didn't have to work hard, and they ate meat more than most humans could eat. I just finished reading the part of Clark's A Farewell to Alms where he covers how hunter-gatherers where far better off than basically any farmer. Going through my notes, I see:

The surprise here is that while there is wild variation across forager and shifting cultivation societies, many of them had food production systems which yielded much larger numbers of calories per hour of labor than English agriculture in 1800, at a time when labor productivity in English agriculture was probably the highest in Europe. In 1800 the total value of output per man-hour in English agriculture was 6.6 pence, which would buy 3,600 kilocalories of flour but only 1,800 kilocalories of fats and 1,300 kilocalories of meat. Assuming English farm output was then half grains, onequarter fats, and one-quarter meat, this implies an output of 2,600 calories per worker-hour on average.32 Since the average person ate 2,300 kilocalories per day (table 3.6), each farm worker fed eleven people, so labor productivity was very high in England. Table 3.13 shows in comparison the energy yields of foraging and shifting cultivation societies per worker-hour. The range in labor productivities is huge, but the minimum average labor productivity, that for the Ache in Paraguay, is 1,985 kilocalories per hour, not much below England in 1800. The median yield per labor hour, 6,042 kilocalories, is more than double English labor productivity....Primitive man ate well compared with one of the richest societies in the world in 1800. Indeed British farm laborers by 1863 had just reached the median consumption of these forager and subsistence societies.

In contrast [to the monotonous English diet] hunter-gatherer and subsistence cultivation diets were widely varied. The diet of the Yanomamo, for example, included monkeys, wild pigs, tapirs, armadillos, anteaters, alligators, jaguar, deer, rodents, a large variety of birds, many types of insects, caterpillars, various fish, larvae, freshwater crabs, snakes, toads, frogs, various palm fruits, palm hearts, hardwood fruits, brazil nuts, tubers, mushrooms, plantains, manioc, maize, bananas, and honey.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-13T03:52:18.471Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Since Clark seems to know so much about hunter-gatherers eating habits, does he say how they cooked their meat?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-13T04:08:01.352Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Since Clark seems to know so much about hunter-gatherers eating habits, does he say how they cooked their meat?

Just a guess... but probably not with enough precision that they could avoid getting the outer layer particularly hot if they hoped to cook at all.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-13T04:11:35.409Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think we are all in agreement about that, the question is about how much surface area relative to volume the meat has.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-13T17:01:31.002Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, look at the list: these people are eating (among other things) "...rodents, a large variety of birds, many types of insects, caterpillars, various fish, larvae, freshwater crabs, snakes, toads, frogs..." In other words, small animals.

The bottom line is that the Maillard reaction is not a modern superstimulus. It's not in the same class of things as a candy bar. It's a reaction that occurs naturally when meat is seared, not something like a Snickers bar that can only be created through a tremendous amount of artificial processing using modern technology. This whole debate over whether cavepeople had the tools and insight to make toad shishkebobs is absurd. The basic question is settled: Humankind has unquestionably been exposed to the Maillard reaction ever since we started cooking, and has been deliberately exploiting it for a very, very long time.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-13T18:22:09.216Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The bottom line is that the Maillard reaction is not a modern superstimulus.

The bottom line is that the products of the Maillard reaction are unhealthy for humans and taste better to humans that healthy alternatives. Whether or not the Maillard reactions were less concentrated (note, this does not mean non-existent) in our evolutionary path has bearing on a possible explanation of this bottom line, which we can directly observe in modern times.

It's not in the same class of things as a candy bar.

A candy bar does involve more processing and is a greater superstimulus in absolute terms, though the Maillard reactions are in a way more insidious. Any adult human eating a candy bar will be aware that they are consuming an unhealthy desert, but most adults consuming browned meat will be under the false impression that they are eating something healthy.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-13T18:37:12.383Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The bottom line is that the products of the Maillard reaction are unhealthy for humans

I'm kind of stunned at your ability to jump to certainties based on extremely flimsy evidence. And the way you're clinging to a hypothesis that has no historical support. This is strongly anti-rational behavior.

It doesn't seem like continuing this discussion would be productive.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-02-14T22:06:14.434Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're missing part of JGWeissman's argument, which is somewhat understandable as he hasn't explicitly spelled it out.

The fact that the Maillard reaction was, most likely, present in ancient cooking does not imply that the results of that reaction are harmless. It's evidence in that direction, but it's not conclusive. In particular, the fact that the compounds caused by the Maillard reaction build up over time and lead to a somewhat earlier death, rather than being a faster-acting kind of poison, make it hard for evolution to select against liking those compounds. (It's similarly hard for evolution to select against other things that happen after organisms are mostly done raising their offspring, such as Alzheimer's.) Thus, it's not particularly improbable that both 'the Maillard reaction has been used by humans for many thousands of years' and 'the products of the Maillard reaction reduce human lifespan' are true, and if there are studies that say the latter, they aren't in conflict with the former.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-14T22:48:53.180Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that the Maillard reaction was, most likely, present in ancient cooking does not imply that the results of that reaction are harmless.

Yeah, that's a somewhat different topic than the question of whether the Maillard reaction can be described as a "superstimulus" in the way Eliezar defined the term here--if you read the link, you'll see that he's talking specifically about "a point in tastespace that wasn't in the training dataset - an impossibly distant outlier on the old ancestral graphs. Tastiness, formerly representing the evolutionarily identified correlates of healthiness, has been reverse-engineered and perfectly matched with an artificial substance." This description applies well to a Snickers bar, but does not apply at all to the Maillard reaction, which was in fact very present "on the old ancestral graphs."

The question of whether cooking food makes it less healthy is one that applies to all food, not just meats and veggies that have undergone the Maillard reaction. One of the mistakes JGWeissman made was to do a quick Google search looking only to confirm his preconceptions, and to stop there, instead of trying to figure out how the research he'd found fits into the broader picture of truth (rather than how it could be twisted to score a point in a silly argument). In fact, the overarching question is one that's being rather hotly debated, as you can figure out quickly if you Google terms like "raw food diet." The food science on this is complicated, not at all settled, and I am not an authority on the subject so I'm not going to try to summarize it here--but suffice it to say that if we start wading into this we won't be just talking about the Maillard reaction anymore.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-15T02:45:17.442Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One of the mistakes JGWeissman made was to do a quick Google search looking only to confirm his preconceptions

My "preconceptions" were that this process I just read about which breaks down amino acids and carbohydrates (which makes them tastier) might be destroying the nutritional value of the amino acids and increase the amount of of simple sugars that cause blood sugar spikes. I was very uncertain about the size of the effect, expecting it to be somewhere in between this completely destroys the nutritional value of the affected meat, to this is a negligible affect that leaves most of the nutritional value in tact (and I should use this technique when cooking). I was surprised to learn (not from my own Google search, but from following links from Saturn's comment), that the results of the reaction are actively harmful.

and to stop there

I posted a comment expressing my dissatisfaction with the amount of information I got from search, including the closest thing I found to an answer and further questions that I had.

instead of trying to figure out how the research he'd found fits into the broader picture of truth

Fitting things "into the broader picture of truth" sounds like a nice ideal, but I don't see how to cash that out into a concrete action here.

(rather than how it could be twisted to score a point in a silly argument)

The question of nutritional effects is what I have been primarily interested in here. It seemed appropriate to me to clarify that the hidden query I was really asking with "Is this a superstimulus?" was about nutritional values and what I should do about it, not the ancestral environment.

In fact, the overarching question is one that's being rather hotly debated, as you can figure out quickly if you Google terms like "raw food diet."

It usually works better to separate out a single question, and control other factors when conducting experiments to answer it. Trying to figure out the effects of advanced glycation end products, phytonutrients, killing bacteria, and pure veganism all at once is likely to cause confusion.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-02-14T23:52:35.697Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(The existing downvote isn't from me. I'm probably not going to respond to this, but if I do it will be no sooner than tomorrow - I don't have the time or energy to properly parse it right now.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-13T01:48:39.620Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that much extra effort, and if I ate more meat at the time I would have discovered the (substantial) effect much sooner. Also, if I'd been taught to cook by a human being instead of teaching myself from cookbooks, I would never have made the faulty assumption about that step being skippable. The insight about browning meat fully is easy to discover, and once discovered is normally transmitted to other cooks as part of their training.

Respectfully, you seem to me to be clinging rather hard to an unevidenced theory.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-13T03:50:55.233Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that much extra effort

Try cutting up the meat with a bone knife that you make and sharpen yourself, instead of your metal store-bought knife, and skewering it on a stick you find that is strong enough to skewer the meat, but small enough not tear apart the small pieces of meat, instead of browning in a metal pan or skewering on a metal skewer, and then tell our hunter-gatherer ancestors that it's not that much extra effort.

if I ate more meat at the time I would have discovered the (substantial) effect much sooner.

That is speculation. What we know is that you didn't discover it from the amount of meat you did in fact eat.

The insight about browning meat fully is easy to discover

Hindsight bias.

Respectfully, you seem to me to be clinging rather hard to an unevidenced theory.

I don't accept your theory that humans have been cutting meat into small pieces and browning all the surface area since they invented cooking. Your theory has no evidence stronger than tenuous speculation based on modern cooking that doesn't seem to take into account the differences of the ancestral environment.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-13T04:20:11.544Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Try cutting up the meat with a bone knife that you make and sharpen yourself

How do you imagine that the hunter-gatherers are skinning and butchering the animal? With their fingernails?

I don't accept your theory that humans have been cutting meat into small pieces and browning all the surface area since they invented cooking.

Okay. I don't claim to know that for certain or anything. You've already accepted that the technique is at least thousands of years old, which is as far as I can feel really sure--although I'll admit that it seems to me much more likely that the technique of cutting meat into small pieces was discovered substantially earlier, given its utter simplicity.

comment by JGWeissman · 2011-02-13T04:33:57.992Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Edit: quoted parent as when I responded, the 2nd part was added after

Try cutting up the meat with a bone knife that you make and sharpen yourself

How do you imagine that the hunter-gatherers are skinning and butchering the animal? With their fingernails?

Of course they skinned and butchered the animal with knives. That doesn't change the fact that producing and maintaining those knives is a lot of work for them, and they are more difficult to use than our modern knives, and this does have impact on the marginal costs of additional preparation of the meat.

Seriously, I found your reply to be sarcastic and unsubstantial.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-13T04:44:27.402Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry. You may have seen it before I edited to add the less-sarcastic second half.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-13T04:35:36.171Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Would they be using bone knives or flint? How good are flint knives?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-02-11T16:42:16.352Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How early did people have knives that were good enough to make cutting meat into small chunks reasonably easy?

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-02-11T17:13:06.170Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I couldn't find it, but I would guess when we moved from bronze to iron.

comment by apophenia · 2011-03-15T08:06:53.088Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Find a cookbook, which often contains more fleshed-out recipes, instead of searching online. You can of course evaluate a cookbook for this property before you buy one. I find watching Alton Brown (Good Eats) helpful, in that he covers things too simple to be a recipe (eggs), mentions specific problems you might have, explains such things, and of course you can see it being done, which helps. He also explains some of the science behind cooking, which is fun. I assume other cooking shows fix many of these same problems (Julia Child? I haven't watched). I often cook Alicorn's recipes, and can ask her for help if something is underspecified. Finding a somewhat experienced cook to help (preferably in person) might be useful?

German recipes are even worse. They don't specify things like pans, oil, how to combine ingredients, or sometimes even baking temperatures. They're basically a list of ingredients and assume you know... well, more than I do. Plus I don't speak German very well, so I had a nightmare making the one recipe I properly translated.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-13T01:06:05.329Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, this is part of what I am tring to get at. What's needed are not cookbooks but cooking textbooks. Though apparently these exist now - I recently got one - but since I've not yet had time to actually start learning to cook I can't personally vouch for it.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-08T14:43:01.404Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Judging from the comments, cooking seems to be a big area where Less Wrongers feel tentative. I'm really surprised

I don't find it surprising at all. At least for myself, my brain tags cooking under the category of "boring housework chores", giving me negative motivation to actually learn it. The "pay attention to recipes and follow directions carefully and it's easy" part may actually be making it worse, since it strengthens the image of a dull, uninteresting task.

Intellectual types often find basic household chores as the kind of things that aren't worth wasting their time and smarts on, not when there are more interesting / important things to do. I can certainly admit being guilty of this.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T17:08:21.557Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Intellectual types often find basic household chores as the kind of things that aren't worth wasting their time and smarts on, not when there are more interesting / important things to do.

Cooking is applied chemistry, and at the higher levels, it's art.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T17:30:30.180Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I categorize cooking as an organizational skill - I have some ingredients, and I'm going to arrange them in a way that suits me. The algorithms I engage aren't that different from the ones that come into play when I organize the junk on my desk.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-10T21:56:16.451Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The algorithms I engage aren't that different from the ones that come into play when I organize the junk on my desk.

A task many people also find boring and painful, sadly.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-08T17:33:48.718Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I see it as a process. The few things I can cook and cook regularly I tend to optimize to their absolute minimum effort needed.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-08T18:45:34.394Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't dispute that. Nonetheless it easily gets emotionally tagged as "boring chore", even if it could be made interesting once you overcame that emotional tag.

comment by Mystfan · 2011-02-10T18:47:05.952Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I definitely used to have the same attitude towards cooking, back when my dad and I were first learning to cook. There's a few things I did to alter my perceptions (in no particular order):

  1. Start thinking of cooking as nifty biology/chemistry. There's a lot of books out there that go in-depth on this, but I think my favorite is "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" (Harold McGee 2004), which covers pretty much every foodstuff I've ever used.

  2. Think of the last time you went out to a nice restaurant to eat, specifically of the best portion of food you got. Imagine being able to eat food of close to this quality multiple times a week, at much lower cost (I generally pay as much to make an 8-serving dish as a restaurant charges for 2). This probably only helps if you're big on food and/or eating fairly low-quality food now, but I found it a big motivator when I was learning.

  3. If you're one of the many people posting in the dating advice comments above, consider the fact that cooking is an attractive skill in a romantic partner, so the time taken to learn it could be a useful investment.

  4. Try starting with recipes you don't need to pay much attention to, such as stews; this helps to minimize the feeling of wasting time, as you just combine the ingredients and leave.

As always, your mileage may vary, especially if you don't think with your stomach like I do.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-08T00:45:53.850Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Duplicate comment?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T00:51:39.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Alicorn and I aren't the same person, if that's what you're asking!

I didn't see her comment before I started writing mine.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-08T01:42:36.903Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just a goof on my part, I was thinking in terms of verbatim duplicates. I actually realize, on some level, that reading a post twice -- even several minutes apart! -- doesn't mean it's been posted twice, but didn't quite put this knowledge into action...

My apologies.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T00:10:32.473Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure I could summarize the basics of cooking simple things in a non-book-sized piece of prose. Is there something in particular you wanted to know?

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-08T01:31:44.583Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In truth, I don't really have anything to ask right now. This is not due to a lack of knowledge but rather due to a lack of having any sort of handle on the subject. As it happens I've actually gone and gotten a book, one which seems like it actually explains things (Cooking for Geeks, Jeff Potter), but starting a big project like learning to cook isn't something I really have time for right now, probably not till summer. (And then we'll see whether the book is actually as helpful as it looks.)

Though if you want anyway to know where I'm coming from I could repost from elsewhere my rant about what sorts of things I would have to understand to get a grasp on cooking. :P

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T13:02:53.147Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see any easy way to provide a useful answer without extensively polling your current knowledge first. And still text is a problematic medium still.

comment by gwern · 2011-02-07T04:35:08.448Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

These 2 methods may not be generally applicable.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-07T15:53:19.909Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Nisan · 2011-02-08T05:30:24.431Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by SRStarin · 2011-02-08T17:21:29.817Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I learned the alphabet very early (~2 years old), and when I was about 4 or 5, I learned how to say it backwards without referring to any outside cues. I can remember saying it backwards and really having to focus on visualizing the alphabet while doing it. It's perhaps because of this forward-backward learning that I know the alphabet in the same way I know the digits 0-9. There is no process to create the list in my mind, it's just there, permanently.

So, maybe practicing saying the alphabet backwards is a good memory aid. But also, visualizing the letters should also be helpful if you are able to visualize letters at all (some people aren't).

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-08T05:35:39.363Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Type out every two-letter string, in alphabetical order.

A similar method works for developing one's ability at scrabble. The "two letter scrabble words" deck in Anki seems altogether too much like an exhaustive enumeration of permutations.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-07T16:07:52.311Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Benquo · 2011-02-07T18:02:21.860Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by D_Malik · 2011-02-08T13:59:25.034Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T20:50:55.774Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Like D Malik, I did this as a kid. I managed to invent modular arithmetic as a game; the big insight for me was that, although I had originally set ‘Z’ = 26, it was also true that ‘Z’ = 0. I suppose that it was doing these arithmetic problems (for fun) that allowed me to actually complete the memorisation.

After deciding that counting should begin with 0, I've tried to relearn them, but it didn't take (it's easier to just add or subtract 1).

comment by Malovich · 2011-02-09T06:27:31.690Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

While the song helps to remember the specific order, in order, of the alphabet, I just went ahead and found patterns in the alphabet. Can you remember the vowels? What does the alphabet look like without them? What letters are between a and e? e and i? Which letter is in the middle of the alphabet? Knowing those answers (and others) helps break the entire string up into chunks that you can manage easily and cross reference unconsciously with the entire song memorized so you can recall the relevant information quickly and easily. The practice also familiarizes oneself with the alphabet itself overall and other connections and patterns will be recognized in an out-of-conscious manner.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-08T10:22:55.401Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oddly enough, I seem to "just know" this automatically and extremely quickly. On the other hand, I am sometimes at a loss for a while when I have to do mental arithmetic.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-02-08T16:51:51.298Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've never really thought about it before, but I'm pretty sure I "just know" as well, in most cases. I think there's a bit of ambiguity from P through U, (if you asked me whether Q or T came first, I'd have to think about it for a second), so that suggests that certain parts of the alphabet are easier for my brain to sequence than others.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T20:58:41.392Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also just know it, even with the same range (‘P’–‘U’) of uncertainty. (And yes, I'd composed enough of this reply before reading the parent comment that this is an independent datum.) I sometimes even mix up ‘R’ and ‘S’ after thinking about it. (I never go back to the song, although I certainly do know that too.) I have been known to touch-type the alphabet in order when checking out a new font.

This has been useful to me. As a teacher, I alphabetise papers before recording grades, and it's handy to be able to do this quickly and correctly. (I'm pretty sure that I just knew it before I started regularly using that knowledge, however.)

comment by beriukay · 2011-02-08T02:16:13.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've never had the need to be very fine in detail, but I've always treated it a an ordered set (much like the numeric values that Benquo suggested, except without as much memorizing). Then I would compare the letter I want with M (being the 13th element, it serves as a useful midpoint), to decide if the element belongs to the first half or the second.

I suppose that doing something similar with the (6th or 7th) letter, and the (19th or 20th) letters could tell you what quadrant of the Alphabet space you were in. So if it comes before F, between F and M, between M and U, or after U, you can focus your attention there. That takes more analysis, but if you are normal in your memorization methods, maybe keeping the alphabet in chunks of 5 to 7 elements could really help your memorization.

Or you could be like Derren Brown, and just use a mnemonic to tie the letters to numbers... searching... he calls them peg words. I use it when jogging to keep track of distance, and he seems to have a way to memorize 52 elements, which could make 26 elements seem pretty trivial.

comment by Elizabeth · 2011-02-08T06:24:04.786Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you know the alphabet song, the melody naturally (at least to me) separates the alphabet into a few groups: ABCDEFG HIJKLMNOP QRS TUV WX YZ. This may be easier than memorizing divisions.

comment by NihilCredo · 2011-02-08T08:16:32.877Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Today I learnt that the two alphabet songs I was taught in age 7 pre-English aren't at all what American kids learn.

(For the record, the slower one went: ABCDEFG HIJKLMN OPQRSTUV WXYZ, while the faster one was: ABCDE FGHIJ KLMNO PQRST UVWXYZ.)

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-08T10:20:54.359Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The alphabet song I learned (and Elizabeth is probably referring to) is to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star".

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-08T08:42:43.508Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And now you know what jokes about the letter "elemenopee" are referring to.

comment by Conuly · 2011-02-09T03:46:44.316Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Although that's not the only way to divide up the ABCs to sing it to the melody of Baa Baa Black Sheep. You can also do abcd efg hijk lmn opq rst uvw xyz. Took me ages to figure that out after I learned how to sing the alphabet backwards and realized that backwards there was no rushing part.

comment by komponisto · 2011-02-08T16:06:27.403Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the melody naturally (at least to me) separates the alphabet into a few groups

It's not just you! (And FWIW, it's actually the rhythm: with the exception of W-X, the last letter of each group is held for at least twice as long as any of the others -- four times in the case of LMNO-P.)

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T20:53:21.131Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Even W-X is no exception, if you count syllable length instead of letter length.

comment by bogdanb · 2011-02-08T15:02:49.630Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

We don’t have an alphabet song where I’m from, but I simply remember the list of letters. I’ll just mentally recite “a, b, c, d, e...” very fast. If I need to do figure out what letter’s next after one somewhere in the middle I don’t need to recite all of it from the beginning, but I also don’t immediately recall the next letter; I just start reciting it a bit before, e.g. if you’ll ask me what’s after “N” I’ll do a very quick “m,n,o,p” in my mind and then say “O”. I’m not exactly sure how I pick the starting point, it’s automatic; it seems there are some “fixed” starting points for some reason (that come up often) and I usually pick the nearest one; for instance if you asked me what’s after “o” I’ll also start at “m”. Very rarely it happens that I start with a letter following the reference one, then I’ll stop after a few letters and try again with an earlier stop-point.

(I recite the alphabet mentally in my native language, and I suspect the rhythm of the syllables generates some break-points unconsciously, and they probably differ with language. Though I just tried it and it works in English too, it just seems like it takes a bit more time to “think of” a starting point; I wouldn’t be surprised if my brain did a two-way conversion before I could notice it.)

ETA: I just tried singing the song, and I noticed that after H or so I actually have to stop and do it “my way” very fast to remember what’s next. Apparently having to think of the notes (as I said, I’m not used to it sung) is enough to disturb the recall.

Also, this seems to be my an automatic method for memorizing lists; I have terrible memory and it’s very hard for me to memorize abstract things like names, numbers and dates, but the few that I do manage—a few phone numbers and the first 25 or so decimals of π—I remember as a quick list of individual digits. When I have to tell someone my phone number, for example, I’ll recite quickly digit-by-digit in my head and then pronounce it in a more common format (i.e. grouped into tens and hundreds). Similarly to the alphabet, if the translation to groups is slow enough (e.g. if I have to say it in French or something), I’ll start forgetting after a group or two and have to recite it mentally again to keep going.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-21T22:42:25.100Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We don’t have an alphabet song where I’m from, but I simply remember the list of letters. I’ll just mentally recite “a, b, c, d, e...” very fast. If I need to do figure out what letter’s next after one somewhere in the middle I don’t need to recite all of it from the beginning, but I also don’t immediately recall the next letter; I just start reciting it a bit before, e.g. if you’ll ask me what’s after “N” I’ll do a very quick “m,n,o,p” in my mind and then say “O”. I’m not exactly sure how I pick the starting point, it’s automatic; it seems there are some “fixed” starting points for some reason (that come up often) and I usually pick the nearest one; for instance if you asked me what’s after “o” I’ll also start at “m”. Very rarely it happens that I start with a letter following the reference one, then I’ll stop after a few letters and try again with an earlier stop-point.

Me too, and I seem to have a checkpoint at M too.

(I recite the alphabet mentally in my native language, and I suspect the rhythm of the syllables generates some break-points unconsciously, and they probably differ with language. Though I just tried it and it works in English too, it just seems like it takes a bit more time to “think of” a starting point; I wouldn’t be surprised if my brain did a two-way conversion before I could notice it.)

Fun fact: it takes me much shorter (not much longer than my usual reaction times) to translate the words for ‘left’ and ‘right’ across any two languages I know than to actually tell which side is which -- I have to imagine I'm holding a pen and that's the right hand, which can take as long as one second.

ETA: I just tried singing the song, and I noticed that after H or so I actually have to stop and do it “my way” very fast to remember what’s next. Apparently having to think of the notes (as I said, I’m not used to it sung) is enough to disturb the recall.

No problem at all with the song, but it's still slower than the other way, by about a factor of 2. Also, I don't have checkpoints with the song, I have to start from A. (Well, I have one at W but it's not very useful.)

Also, this seems to be my an automatic method for memorizing lists; I have terrible memory and it’s very hard for me to memorize abstract things like names, numbers and dates, but the few that I do manage—a few phone numbers and the first 25 or so decimals of π—I remember as a quick list of individual digits.

Some strings of numbers I remember as sequences of digits spoken, others as sequences of digits written, others as a series of finger movements I make to type them -- or in certain cases, to play them on a guitar if they were a tablature. (And I remember the digits of pi through the mnemonic “How I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics”.)

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-08T16:15:43.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK, this is actually how I do it now. I shouldn't have said alphabet song, because it's really more of a list. However, I normally find that I have to start at the beginning.

I think I also do this for other common things: social security number, phone number, I think even spelling words.

comment by gwern · 2011-02-07T17:09:11.570Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For me, after a while, I think of a letter, say, 't', and then know that 'u' comes next. I don't need to sing 'a, b, c d, e...' and wait until I get to 't' to know what comes next. Like indexing into an array rather than iterating through a list, if that comparison makes sense to you.

comment by zedzed · 2014-04-16T00:19:36.004Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Study math; when mathematicians point letters to things, they typically do it alphabetically. For instance, if we're naming functions, the first is f, the second is g, the third is h. Vectors go u, v, w, and variables go x, y, z. I'm sure there's other triples that just aren't springing to mind.

Anyway, I use triples for fine-tuning and a general sense to know the letters typically used for functions come after the letters typically used for constants, but before the letters typically used for vectors.

comment by FAWS · 2011-02-07T05:22:55.060Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious: Do you generally have unusual trouble with memorizing ordered lists compared to other people? Do you remember when/how you learned to count, for example?

comment by gwern · 2011-02-07T15:14:29.802Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No to both.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T21:07:04.817Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A middle-school history teacher once had me memorise the classical Greek alphabet (without diacritics or ligatures, just the 24 uppercase and lowercase letters, including both lowercase forms of Sigma) 4 at a time. Each weak, I'd recite the entire alphabet up to what I had learnt, completed after 6 weeks.

This was largely useless for history but has been helpful for me as a mathematician.

I learnt the modern Hebrew alphabet in high school, using a song (to the tune of Frère Jacques) that a Jewish friend had learnt in shul, but I really only learnt the names. Later I learnt the Russian alphabet by brute force; now I'm back to Hebrew and working (but not hard) on getting the shapes of the Jewish script.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-08-08T01:01:33.425Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think of the Greek alphabet as being the Latin alphabet with a couple of extra letters tossed in here and there (and a couple removed, or un-duplicated). Unfortunately, this doesn't help me remember the positions of theta, xi, phi, psi, or omega.

comment by false_vacuum · 2011-02-08T06:00:20.638Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is fascinating! I've been told I memorised the alphabet before I was a year old... But it wasn't until I was in college that I finally memorised which hand is called 'left' and which one is 'right'. (Never had an analogous problem with compass directions.)

A possibly related deficit is that I typically think of the wrong word first when I want to name a colour; i.e. for example I want to refer to purple and I have to choke off the impulse to say 'yellow'. And yet I have letter/colour synaesthesia!

Brains are weird.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2011-02-07T07:17:30.083Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Finnish has separate words for the intermediate compass directions, northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest are "koilinen, kaakko, lounas, luode". There's no pattern to the words. I still can't automatically match directions to these words, the only way I remeber them is from having learned to list them along the clock face and working back and forth using that.

Finnish also has separate words for the various types in-law relatives such as 'lanko' or 'käly'. I have no idea which is which. I remember other people in my high school English class complaining about not knowing what the Finnish words mean when discussing in-law vocabulary.

Finnish month names don't come from Latin like the English ones do. Most of them have some common Finnish word as their root, but 'maaliskuu' and 'huhtikuu' for March and April both have nonsensical-sounding root words and are right next to each other, so I still have to think a bit sometimes about which is which.

comment by Bongo · 2011-02-07T15:59:58.505Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW
LUKO
LOKA
comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T20:47:57.477Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

English has some similar ones: ‘lay’ vs ‘lie’, ‘set’ vs ‘sit’. (Actually, these both derive from a standard construction in Germanic languages that we no longer use. There are equivalents in other Germanic languages.)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-07T08:26:30.055Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hey, I have all of those same problems. Except worse, since I wouldn't know the intermediate directions even if given a moment's thought.

(Going to a Swedish-speaking elementary school is probably partially responsible.)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-02-07T09:46:26.276Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

So it's true: Finnish is so insanely difficult that even the Finns can't speak it! :-)

comment by gwern · 2011-02-07T15:13:11.647Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which makes their PISA scores and educational practices all the odder, to me.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2011-02-07T18:02:45.005Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's a bit odd how people keep citing the PISA results, but don't seem to ask the follow-up question of why Finns don't seem to be exactly the international science superstars having top academic performance in the world would indicate. For instance, there are about twice the number of Swedes than there are of Finns, but Swedes have 30 Nobel laureates, while Finns have 4, according to Wikipedia. (Ragnar Granit, who emigrated to Sweden, is on both lists, so maybe the numbers should be 29.5 and 3.5 instead.)

comment by gwern · 2011-02-07T20:01:44.986Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't necessarily bother me. I know that there are some biases in the Nobels (iirc, Literature has a bias towards Scandinavian authors), and there are plenty of other explanations. Perhaps Finland simply has an atrocious higher education system, which may not reflect in PISA scores. Perhaps Finland and Sweden are similar and some of Finland's better scores come from it being smaller and more susceptible to variation (kind of like the smaller school effect). Perhaps their techniques improve the average but squash extreme variation - like potential Nobelists. Without knowing more, I take the PISA at face value.

Now, what would bother me a lot is if a country had very low PISA scores but very many per capita Nobels. (The other way around only bothers me a little.)

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T20:44:28.456Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The BBC article that you cited suggests precisely that Finland has flattened the extremes. They're proud of this on one end but acknowledge that they need to quit this on the other end.

The Finnish system supports very much those pupils who have learning difficulties but we have to pay more attention also to those pupils who are very talented. Now we have started a pilot project about how to support those pupils who are very gifted in certain areas.

comment by gwern · 2011-02-08T21:59:45.331Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

D'oh! Perhaps I should re-read references before I link them.

comment by Thomas · 2012-02-12T12:03:24.396Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder how many people (here) know the number of days for every month.

comment by DSimon · 2012-02-12T13:44:21.416Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's a great mnemonic for that which helped me a lot: put your hands into fists and hold them side by side, palms down. Now starting from your left, each knuckle represents a month with 31 days, and each valley between knuckles represents a month with 30 days (or fewer, for Feb). The space between your hands does not count as a valley.

comment by kpreid · 2012-02-12T16:05:44.838Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Except for the rightmost finger? Else there are 14 items.

comment by DSimon · 2012-02-12T16:11:06.216Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, you stop when you run out of months.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-02-12T17:05:29.842Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh no! December is the end of the knuckle calendar! The world is going to end then!

comment by Thomas · 2012-02-12T13:54:46.993Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

AFAIK many use this technique. I have an instant knowledge about the number of days for every month. Once I thought almost everybody has it, but apparently it is not the case.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-21T22:25:36.257Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have an instant knowledge about the number of days for some months; for the others I use the knuckle mnemonic (sped up by the fact that I remember that the two consecutive 31-day months corresponding to the index fingers are July and August.) I don't even have to actually close fists anymore, I just do it in my mind now.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-02-12T16:37:19.238Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I still remember this one via the children's rhyme.

Thirty days have September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty one, except for February alone, which has twenty eight days clear, except for every leap year.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-02-12T17:01:26.303Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I used to try to remember it this way, except that the rhyming parts don't actually cue the important info, so I was always "30 days have September, April,.... um.... something, and... December? November? Something like that." So I use the knuckle trick instead.

I also never learned the last part of the rhyme, it was taught to me as "...except for February, which is all kinds of messed up."

comment by thomblake · 2012-02-21T20:23:06.332Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't learn the alphabet

I didn't know the 12 months of the calendar

I have the same deficit in most languages other than English.

comment by Johnicholas · 2011-02-08T22:49:39.554Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T05:40:52.544Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Off the top of my head:

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by qsoc · 2011-02-09T17:16:42.847Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T09:56:07.816Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by SRStarin · 2011-02-09T15:00:38.987Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by BillyOblivion · 2011-02-10T12:01:03.679Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2012-05-08T10:38:53.016Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-02-09T02:40:37.685Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know about negotiating out of pocket price, but you should definitely get a significant discount from retail (just like the insurers do).

I would never see a doctor unless you had a reason to, even if it were free. This is based on a general belief that doctors have a high false-positive rate in recommending dangerous procedures (that are only warranted in case of true positives).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-08T19:05:51.989Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T20:25:45.982Z · score: 41 (41 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by khafra · 2011-02-08T22:37:39.107Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T22:46:48.539Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by fiddlemath · 2011-02-09T16:11:00.129Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by handoflixue · 2011-02-15T22:45:48.279Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by soreff · 2011-05-07T02:07:32.662Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Ian_Ryan · 2011-05-07T02:18:02.604Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But could you really have saved $100 by having decided to buy that same exact house except without that extra square foot?

comment by fiddlemath · 2011-05-07T03:15:11.922Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Probably not. But, if you had rather less stuff, you could have probably bought a pretty similar house with one fewer closet for a few thousand less.

comment by juliawise · 2011-08-08T17:27:21.931Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This. My housemates and I needed a three-bedroom apartment instead of a cheaper two-bedroom because some of them have so much stuff. Especially large furniture.

comment by soreff · 2011-05-07T04:47:19.860Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, also, the incremental cost of space in a self-store unit is of the order of $1/month-ft^2, say $240/ft^2 capital cost at a 5% annual rate - and that is a true incremental cost. The more severe approximation is ignoring which items stack well and which don't, and ignoring the additional costs of maintaining the items, keeping track of them and so on.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T23:56:20.601Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

Better yet, get a Kindle.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-09T00:37:10.139Z · score: 8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I'd love a Kindle if it wasn't a hideously locked-down proprietary money funnel. I'm waiting for something with an eInk screen that just opens documents if I put them on it, in whatever format. I've wanted something like that to read PDFs with approximately forever.

I already don't read my paper books. I'd rather download a PDF than read the book that's on the shelf just over there. This appears to be unusual amongst my friends.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2011-02-10T15:37:22.247Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I got my hands on a Kindle a year back, and it just opened PDFs and text documents I put on it using it as an USB drive. Amazon even provided an app for rolling your own Kindle-format ebooks from hypertext files, which you could again just plop on the Kindle over USB.

My main problem was that the regular Kindle was too small for viewing technical article PDFs full screen. I can already use my smartphone for reading stuff that's easily reflowable, like most fiction. The Kindle DX should be better for this, but I haven't had a chance to try that.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T03:50:45.903Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The Kindle 3G has native PDF support. It also supports .mobi ebooks from any non-DRM'd source. (And most other formats can be converted to .mobi using a program like Calibre.)

comment by ruhe47 · 2011-02-11T19:04:16.800Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There are other e-readers that have far less stringent requirements for getting books. The Nook and Kobo are an example (as are the Sony E-Readers). I have a Nook and have yet to purchase any books from the Barnes and Noble store. I constantly put DRM free books from Project Gutenberg on it and just placed the Less Wrong sequences on it as well. There are also FLOSS programs for editing PDFs to make them easier to read on an e-reader. A little research goes a long way!

comment by mindspillage · 2011-02-09T06:46:07.713Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I use my thinkpad tablet--my main computer--for reading anything I can manage to get in .pdf, but I do really envy the Kindle screen. And battery life. I keep checking back to the PixelQi site hopefully...

I read paper books because 1) I can get them really cheap used (cheaper than the library fines I always get from borrowing them...), 2) they require no batteries, 3) dropping them or stepping on them will not damage them irreparably, and 4) they are not likely to attract unwelcome attention on the buses through the rougher parts of town.

comment by sfb · 2011-02-09T06:58:55.217Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

keep checking back to the PixelQi site hopefully...

The first batch of Notion Ink Adam tablets have shipped, they have a PixelQi screen and run Android. Can't yet buy one unless you caught the pre-order, but to me that means they've moved out of 'vapourware'.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2011-02-09T21:35:20.199Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you know that your dislike of paper is weird, you shouldn't be giving general advice about it. (you said we should throw out books)

Your dislike of the Kindle sounds like status quo bias to me. Maybe the proprietary format means that the books will only last a few years, but is that so bad? In return, you get a searchable format and no physical clutter. And if you switch to another format and lose everything, you're purged of electronic clutter!

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-09T21:53:21.170Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, you should definitely throw out your books. For everyone else it was obvious hyperbole for literary effect, but for you I mean it literally. What on earth?

Yes, that is so bad. I'm not paying paper prices for bits that evaporate, and I'm not giving Amazon a hundred quid's encouragement to pull that sort of stunt. That's an even more direct incentive to piracy than trying to watch a commercial DVD. In return, I get a searchable format and no physical clutter!

Although purging my life of digital clutter is actually an attractive idea. Hence the notion of "inbox zero". Like not really appreciating minimalism until you've been subjected to horrible aesthetic noise for a long time.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-09T22:04:14.603Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's an even more direct incentive to piracy than trying to watch a commercial DVD.

I liked that cartoon, but it's not completely accurate. I can skip over all of those things on my computer with software DVD players, whether the DVD was commercially authorized or not. This is a problem with some DVD players, not really a "piracy" issue.

comment by saturn · 2011-02-10T05:47:23.858Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Enforcement in software players is lax for whatever reason, but makers of DVD players need to agree to honor the Prohibited User Operations flags in order to get a patent license to use the DVD video format. So the general point stands that if you're skipping previews, someone is either in breach of contract or breaking the law.

comment by false_vacuum · 2011-02-09T02:51:30.502Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

to read PDFs with

and DJVUs. So there isn't anything like this yet. Thanks for saving me some research time.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T02:38:40.622Z · score: -3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I don't like PDFs because Word Documents can be sent to your Kindle, which makes them more convenient for me. Edit: Apparently, this isn't so. Never mind then!

One other comment: I like being able to annotate things, or copy/paste parts of things, and I know more about how to do that in Word or with a Kindle.

comment by gwern · 2011-03-11T18:17:16.280Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

In case you are wondering why people have downvoted you, it's because you have bastardized the computing usage of 'portable' almost beyond recognition. Word documents are one of the classic examples of unportable file formats - formats locked into Microsoft software, which are portable neither over time nor computing platforms.

Although it might also just be because you are apparently wrong when you say you can't email a PDF to your Kindle like you can your Word documents.

(Even the XML MS format is pretty terrible, as groups like Groklaw analyzed back when MS first began pretending it was a real alternative to OOXML.)

comment by CuSithBell · 2011-03-11T18:26:26.068Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I approve of explaining heavily-downvoted posts (FSVO 'heavily'). Thank you on behalf of LessWrong!

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-03-11T20:30:37.866Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for explaining that! I didn't realize "portable" had a technical meaning; I was reffering to how I can carry them around on a Kindle. I've edited the grandparent.

comment by gwern · 2011-03-11T21:28:20.395Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You may find these links helpful for understanding what people expect 'portable' to mean in a computer context:

comment by CuSithBell · 2011-03-11T21:07:07.926Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Aaaaand also upvoting this for related reasons.

comment by homunq · 2011-03-11T17:29:51.170Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Books can be valuable even if you never read them again, in several ways. If you have kids, you never know what they might read, or just what attitudes they might pick up from the presence of books. If your books are in a public part of your house, guests may see them and either start a conversation or be impressed. If they are behind where the guests sit, you may see a book a guest will like and give it to them. Also, of course, there's the potential for bathroom reading, a page of an old favorite.

That said, when you're moving house, you should be more ruthless than usual with books.

comment by MartinB · 2011-03-11T17:33:39.253Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh boy. I also have books I do not agree with at all. And a hole section on my shelf for »stupid s*it«. It can be weird if your books lead people to form mistaken opinions about you.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T22:25:06.297Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I own more books than would fit on a kindle.

Also I really like them and don't want to get rid of them... but that's a totally different pathology ;)

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T19:36:17.555Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Sinal · 2018-07-24T06:05:40.882Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Don't know if anyone still follows this 7 year old thread but-

I strongly recommend Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The gist is you declutter by category of item instead of by room: first do all of the dishes, then do all your clothing items, then books, etc. For instance, to declutter your closet, take out all the clothes and sort into two piles: clothes that make you happy and clothes that don't.

I've also found that goodwill will accept lots of different kinds of items not just clothes.

And remember, it's not about becoming angry about all the useless garbage you have in your house, but about choosing to keep what makes you happy and being surrounded by lovely things that you appreciate.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-09T07:29:48.213Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

Preface:

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

Tools:

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

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

Tape that can be written on + marker pens.

It might be a good time to install more shelf space

Timing

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

Target areas

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

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

Maybe clean floor space first. And tables.

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

Methodology

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

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

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

Appendix:

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

  • children toys should have their big box, where they go
  • work related papers should be packed into folders together alongside projects
  • (physical) mail needs its one place to go into
  • electronics should not block the living space
  • it pays to think about how to arrange an area. Maybe an inefficient design contributes to a higher ugh
comment by taryneast · 2011-03-10T12:40:45.523Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Lots of good advice here!

I'd also add: don't get bogged down in details.

Many, many are the times I've set aside time to properly clear up and found I've spent an hour sorting through one stack of papers...

I'd suggest: start with the big things first. You can sort which papers to keep and which to throw after you've picked up the bigger things and put them in boxes out of the way.

There's a huge amount of relief in cleaning up even just the easy 80% of the clutter, so tackle the low-hanging fruit first and leave the details for the second pass.

comment by MartinB · 2011-03-10T16:31:25.819Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Lots of good advice here!

Maybe to much of it. From the reactions so far it seems not to be too useful in practical terms. I guess the amount of hacks acquired by any one person is difficult to transport onto others.

comment by NickiH · 2011-02-12T15:51:14.921Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like this site: http://unclutterer.com/

It includes advice, examples, a forum to ask advice/share stories, and the weekly "Ask Unclutterer" column. Not to mention some hilarious examples of unitaskers.

comment by pepe_prime · 2016-02-15T23:22:49.356Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A book I recently heard was good: the lifechanging magic of tidying up

comment by alexflint · 2011-02-08T09:15:22.691Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Just want to throw this one out:

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

comment by jwhendy · 2011-02-08T19:47:50.029Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by jkaufman · 2011-09-15T19:15:39.201Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I still have not figured out how to find work shirts that won't ballon when tucked in. I may be smaller than most people who give their clothes to the thrift store, or it may be there's something about this I don't understand.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-09-16T20:10:49.200Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Most shirts are "classic fit" or something along those lines. Well fitting shirts for slim people are "fitted" or "slim fit" or some such. "modern" is usually in between. The same goes for tshirts and pants. http://www.primermagazine.com/2011/field-manual/how-to-wear-a-tucked-in-shirt-without-looking-like-an-old-man

You can also get a tailor to slim your shirts. This runs about 30 USD/shirt at a tailor shop but sometimes you can find people offering such services on craigslist for less.

comment by thomblake · 2011-09-15T19:27:21.962Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

shirt stays

They will change your life.

comment by jkaufman · 2011-09-15T20:58:04.994Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That is an excellent concept: reverse suspenders.

I go barefoot a lot, including walking to work, so I'd need to figure something out with that. Possibly just putting on the shirt stays when I put on my shoes, socks, and dress shirt at work.

comment by khafra · 2011-09-16T19:28:14.179Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can wear shirt stays while walking barefoot if you leave the bottom disengaged, because the elastic pulls them up into your pantlegs. Also, there are different types. Some clip to your socks like they do to your shirt; some loop around the bottom of your foot. The latter type would be possible to wear completely engaged while (aside from that) barefoot, if you really wanted to. They also have the advantage of not leaving deep, red, itchy, clasp-shaped impressions in your ankles.

comment by Maniakes · 2011-02-08T17:43:39.280Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This works for any shirt, jacket, or coat. In addition to the benefit you cite, it also make the garment hang more naturally on your body as you move your arms, since the sleeve is designed to be able move with your arms on the assumption that the cap of the sleeve is aligned with the top of your shoulder.

The test I usually do is to try on the garment and raise my arm without moving my shoulder. The spot where my arm starts moving should be at or just below the shoulder seam.

comment by Threedee · 2011-02-07T06:23:49.093Z · score: 15 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by luminosity · 2011-02-07T09:18:26.758Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by knb · 2011-02-07T23:19:54.585Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. I use eHow and WikiHow all the time, and always find it incredibly useful.

comment by bayleo · 2011-02-08T21:26:26.583Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

eHow is frequently accused of being a content mill. I switched search engines to DuckDuckGo when the founder announced he was dropping eHow and all other Demand Media properties from his results (Blekko has also dropped them). eHow articles are cranked out by paid writers who typically know very little about what they are writing, resulting in a lot of completely inadequate explanations. WikiHow, on the other hand, is a genuine wiki (go ahead; edit it) which rivals Wikipedia for process-oriented queries.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T22:32:30.454Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

when the founder announced he was dropping eHow and all other Demand Media properties from his results

Sure hope he keeps Cracked. It's Wikipedia, rewritten with jokes!

comment by spriteless · 2012-03-26T19:29:14.010Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

stack exchange network too.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-02-08T13:14:59.699Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I use these regularly. I like very much that I don't need to store all this stuff in my meat-brain, because it's all there on the web - even in video!

comment by Bo102010 · 2011-02-08T03:21:16.191Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Psychohistorian · 2011-02-08T04:36:56.939Z · score: 42 (42 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T23:09:22.726Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Baughn · 2012-02-12T20:04:12.589Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

new evidence of innocence is not enough to get a new trial, as long as your rights were not violated in the old one, according to the Supreme Court

Wait, what? [citation needed]

comment by TobyBartels · 2012-02-18T15:19:15.441Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993)

Four months later, a person who was legally guilty (so found by a jury in a valid trial) but actually innocent (probably) was killed by the State of Texas.

This is the best short coverage that I found in a few minutes' Googling (using the defendant's full name): http://www.executedtoday.com/2009/05/12/1993-leonel-herrera-v-collins/

ETA: As the court's opinion points out, there is a procedure for relief when one finds new evidence of innocence: clemency. Good luck getting that in Texas!

comment by folkTheory · 2011-02-08T23:28:14.381Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T07:50:55.107Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Just don't say "Sir" if the cop's a woman!

comment by sumguysr · 2016-03-08T07:23:37.052Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Even more effective in my experience is giving them an authentic pleasant greeting. "Good evening officer". For some reason saying sir constantly makes me feel nervous and like I'm ceding too much power. I usually say it once or twice and never in my first couple answers.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-02-08T15:00:40.349Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2011-02-08T22:39:56.409Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Many sources, including that one, if I recall correctly, say that if you talk to cops, they will lie about what you said, but no one ever says that they will fabricate the fact of talking.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T12:28:41.664Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is another good video which touches on many of the same ideas:

BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters

Also, here's the video you posted in one part. I completely loved it.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T23:02:13.148Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T04:54:42.702Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think your comment got cut off? It was really interesting and I'd like to read the rest of it.

I think you're talking about the U.S., too, and we should probably specify that since obviously laws are different in different countries.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2011-02-08T06:22:10.382Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fixed. Thank you. Just forgot to finish off the last paragraph. And added a disclaimer about the US.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-08T05:11:08.059Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're talking about the U.S., too, and we should probably specify that since obviously laws are different in different countries.

I note that the above advice is applicable in Australia too. I'll add in that if you decided to stop talking stop talking (except under legal advice). You do not want to try to cherry pick which questions you answer. For details see the Australia section on wikipedia.

comment by sumguysr · 2016-03-08T07:17:59.146Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The specific words I've found most helpful have been "I decline to answer".

comment by komponisto · 2011-02-08T16:20:05.518Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

For U.S. residents, the ACLU's "bust card" is a convenient reference.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T23:01:12.381Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One thing that I have trouble with in the U.S. is how much information the police can compel me to give when stopped on the street. Unless you're operating a motor vehicle (or have some other special circumstance), you don't have to carry ID, but in many States, you do have to show it if you're carrying it, and you usually have to give your name and address regardless. Since this varies from State to State, the national ACLU information is vague, so check with your local branch.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T03:32:33.306Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Voting: all the official info from the US government is here.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-02-07T19:27:11.463Z · score: 13 (21 votes) · LW · GW

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

breakfast, buy:

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

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

lunch: whatever, avoid sugar/white bread

dinner, buy :

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

boil, then simmer 20 minutes

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

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

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

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-07T19:52:06.902Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Another easy healthy thing:

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

comment by Psychohistorian · 2011-02-08T04:10:51.336Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Less appetizingly, but probably more nutritiously, most green leafy vegetables can be blended with water or milk and consumed in milkshake form. I'll often take three or four cups (that's a lot) of spinach and blend it with two cups whole milk and chocolate protein powder. This actually tastes good, if not delicious; a portion half that size is probably a solid amount of food for most people. Even without the protein powder or other flavoring, it is drinkable. Lower portions of vegetables give you better taste for less nutrition. Not a great culinary feat, but a very efficient way to improve diet quality, and eating vegetables raw is probably more nutritious than boiling them extensively.

comment by sfb · 2011-02-08T06:00:14.136Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm surprised by the amount of cooking posts here so, questioning my own assumptions: is anyone put off doing this because you lack knowledge about preparing vegetables in the "whatever else" class, or picking the "wrong" whatever else foods, or even peeling things/etc.?

I feel silly even asking this ("Don't be so patronising, who wouldn't know how to peel an onion?"), but I'm interested to see if anyone replies.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T06:06:13.216Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Peeling onions can be surprisingly confusing. For instance, just under the really papery skin there is sometimes a layer which is partially or entirely thin, greenish, and rubbery. It's not all that pleasant to eat unless it's de-texturized (a puréed soup as described above will do the trick), but unlike the papery bits it's technically food. Keeping it or removing it is a judgment call, but I could imagine finding it an intimidating decision to make if I didn't know. The bits of garlic cloves that attach them to the base of the bulb are in a similar category. (I cut them off.)

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-02-09T03:24:55.608Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When in doubt, trim.

I cut the onion into a few chunks then remove the inner part. losing 1/8" or 1/4" of the outermost stuff doesn't bother me.

If it looks different from the rest, trim it away.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-08T06:07:23.487Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm confused as to what exactly you're asking here.

comment by sfb · 2011-02-08T07:21:05.404Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone have a knowledge gap preventing them from cooking Alicorn's "easy" soup?

I noticed myself thinking it was so basic that nobody would, but then wondered that such a thought might be completely wrong (given the overall post topic). Maybe there are people daunted by... not knowing how to prepare common vegetables, for instance.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-08T08:36:54.354Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well here's what I would say as someone who doesn't understand cooking - certainly, that looks mostly very understandable and straightforward, though I'm not so clear on the exact procedure for boiling. (And pressed with what sort of spoon, if it matters?) Also there's definitely some stuff that I think I can figure out but has not been made explicit (e.g., if I'm guessing correctly, we don't want to include the water when blending, and that should be dumped/strained out first).

But since I don't actually have an underlying understanding of cooking, I'd stil hesitate to actually use it. Because without that, I have no idea what corrections to make if I messed up, etc. If you just follow recipes without understanding, you can only handle the best case.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T14:59:25.707Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

exact procedure for boiling

Dump vegetables into a pot. Pour in water or stock until it reaches the same level as the veggies (less if you plan to add cream, more if you're nervous about burning it, less if you want thick goopy soup and more if you want thin soup). Put it on a stove burner, turn it up to High, stir at least once to prevent stuff from sticking to the bottom, and check on the smooshability of the vegetables every 5-10 minutes. Add more water if the vegetables are still unsmooshable and the water level has gotten significantly lower.

what sort of spoon

The only reason this would matter would be if you use a short-handled spoon, you will have to have your hand much closer to the boiling water, which is physically uncomfortable. Otherwise the spoon could be wooden, plastic, metal, slotted or not, whatever.

comment by monsterzero · 2011-02-08T18:08:47.499Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I definitely wouldn't use the disposable plastic spoons that fast food places give out with their food. Those might actually melt, especially if pressed against the side of a hot metal pot.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T18:11:35.213Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While I wouldn't prefer a fast-food-place plastic spoon, I don't think it would be in danger of melting in this specific case. Boiling water is a fixed temperature and it will stay that temperature until the water is all boiled off, if I understand it correctly; and the spoon doesn't spend much time pressed against the pot itself, since the idea is to smoosh a vegetable between spoon and pot.

comment by pengvado · 2011-02-09T00:58:38.219Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The pot itself can't get hotter than boiling either, as long as there's a bunch of water in it. (This, btw, is how rice cookers detect when the rice is done.)

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2011-02-09T03:23:25.178Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The inside of the pot can't get significantly hotter than ... right, he water just turns gas phase more rapidly.

comment by saturn · 2011-02-09T20:21:36.232Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It won't melt, but depending on the type of plastic it might become too soft and flexible to be useful for vegetable smooshing. From experience, some types of plastic spoons become too soft to even support their own weight when placed in boiling water.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T21:42:46.152Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

what sort of spoon, if it matters?

Any solid object will do, as long as it tolerates the heat. The only reason for using a utensil at all is that your hand does not tolerate the heat (and if it could tolerate the heat, then it would be unsanitary).

When stirring, the important aspect of the spoon is that it's wide; a flat utensil would work just as well. (However, a spoon has the added benefit of allowing you to taste the soup, as you add salt, herbs, and spices. Use the spoon to pour a little into a small bowl, let it cool there, and then taste it, or you can just blow on the spoon.)

we don't want to include the water when blending

You can if you want. It's a trade-off between the trouble of removing the water and the capacity of your blender (or how many batches you want to blend).

In the final product, it's best to keep as much water as possible, since thrown-out water includes thrown-out vitamins. (The exception is when the water is used to draw out unwanted flavours or other chemicals, which is not the case with ordinary vegetables but can apply to dry beans, for example.) If you have too much water after blending, return everything to the pot and simmer it uncovered until the water level has gone down, stirring occasionally. (Conversely, if your soup is too thick, return it to the pot, add more water, cover, reheat to boiling, and then turn it off.)

If you're serving the soup right away, it's nice to return it the pot anyway to keep it warm as people go back for second and third helpings. Use low heat (so that the soup is never too hot to eat), either cover or add water occasionally as needed (let it come back to temperature before serving after adding new water), and stir occasionally to keep it from sticking.

(Boiling water in uncovered pots escapes into the air, but the air inside a covered pot is quickly saturated with water vapour, after which no more water will leave the soup, or at least very little more water if the cover is not air-tight. However, it's harder to remember to stir when the pot is covered. I often just let the soup thicken a bit through the meal, neither covering the pot nor adding water.)

comment by soreff · 2011-05-07T03:28:02.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the final product, it's best to keep as much water as possible, since thrown-out water includes thrown-out vitamins.

One way to avoid this trade-off is to microwave the vegetables rather than boiling them. It produces rather similar results otherwise, but doesn't leach out water-soluble vitamins.

comment by KrisC · 2011-02-09T03:19:28.609Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Regarding the blender, and mortar if you are a traditionalist, I would recommend blending without any liquid if possible. The liquid you use should be only enough to carry the food down to the blades in the blender. Any more liquid and you risk the food lifting away from the blades.

A similar problems occurs when mashing, for instance, beans in the mortar and pestle. Liquid allows the larger pieces to glide more easily out of the pestle's mashing grind.

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-08T08:46:35.303Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would bet yes. Part of the problem is not knowing the tolerance range of the parameters. Like when does the precise timing matter and when does it not.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T22:54:42.856Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Precision generally only matters with desserts (which is really a form of kitchen chemistry).

Any other meal has a lot of leeway.

Your first meals may involve veggies that are a bit extra squishy (overcooked) or crunchy (undercooked), or a nasty combination of the two (the temperature was too high or you didn't stir often enough), but in all the above cases, unless there's actual carbon (black) on the outside, then you'll still be able to eat it.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-08T14:29:06.285Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds like a case for apprenticeship. Is there anyone who'd be willing to have you be present, help with the easy bits (maybe-- I'm not sure if that would inappropriately add to the stress level), and ask questions while cooking? I'm not talking about just once, though that would be better than nothing.

comment by pengvado · 2011-02-09T07:05:21.163Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by dinasaurus · 2011-02-10T01:19:18.117Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-10T01:52:39.564Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is there any nutritional reason to distinguish between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or did you give separate suggestions just to be compatible with american traditions about what to eat when?

There is a difference, but some say that traditions have it backwards. For breakfast you want to include at least 30g of protein. It contributes to both weight loss and energy levels.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-02-10T01:13:58.802Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

well I don't have anything to back it up with, but I've heard that your blood sugar is low in the morning which is why you crave sugary stuff. the fruit alleviates that without being a shock to the system like fast sugars and the protein is more slow calories.

I presume many people eat out for lunch if they work a normal job.

but certainly if you aren't forced into a rigid schedule eating 5 meals is better.

comment by janos · 2011-02-08T03:30:12.614Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Regarding the fruit juices, I agree that fruit-flavored mixtures of HFCS and other things generally aren't worth much, but aren't proper fruit juices usually nutritious? (I mean the kinds where the ingredients consist of fruit juices, perhaps water, and nothing else.)

comment by Conuly · 2011-02-09T03:04:02.973Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One orange is one or two servings of fruit... but a serving of orange juice is four oranges.

You're getting all the sugar and calories of four oranges (4 - 8 servings of fruit!) without any of the fiber.

Fruit juices aren't exactly the devil, but they're not especially nutritious either.

comment by janos · 2011-02-09T04:57:01.279Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But I drink orange juice with pulp; then the fiber is no longer absent, though I guess it's reduced. The vitamins and minerals are still present, though, aren't they?

comment by Conuly · 2011-02-09T05:53:30.015Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you making this juice yourself by chucking a whole orange in the blender and then drinking it?

In that case, you probably - I don't know - have enough fiber that it's not that much different from just eating an orange, and fresh juices are said to be more nutritious than bought anyway. (Admittedly, the people who say this are people who own juicers, but that's probably beside the point.)

But if you're buying it from the store, then... no. It's still mostly just sugar with a little bit of texture floating in it.

If you're not gulping it by the gallon daily I wouldn't worry about it, but it's part of your healthy balanced breakfast - and not a huge part :)

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-02-09T05:08:43.724Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You still get an enormous amount of sugar, with or without the pulp.

Regarding the vitamins and minerals, my understanding is that you need a certain amount of each of those to avoid various nasty and fatal diseases, and an amount over a certain limit can be poisonous, but there isn't any real evidence that anything in-between makes a difference. From what I understand, it also requires a very extreme diet (by modern developed world standards) to develop provably harmful micronutrient deficiencies.

(One exception might be vitamin D if the winters are especially dark and cold where you live, but you won't get that one from fruit juice.)

comment by Kutta · 2011-02-08T05:56:09.205Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fruit juices are very bad. They concentrate the sugar content of a lot of fruits into a small mass and volume. For instance apple juice is usually considerably more sugary than Pepsi, with around 11-12 g/100g sugar content, and also with a worse sugar profile, with 66% fructose, compared to HFCS's 55 percent as it is commonly used in soft drinks (note: fructose is the worse sugar). Other fruit juices are usually above 8% sugar too.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T03:38:25.623Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

They're still high in sugar relative to how much you are likely to consume, and don't offer the fiber or unprocessed-ness of entire fruit. It would usually be better to either eat a piece of fruit or drink water. (I ignore this advice because I hate water, so when I thirst between meals I drink juice.)

comment by SRStarin · 2011-02-08T18:04:28.403Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Incidentally, the lack of fiber is important for diabetics to consider. My grandmother is diabetic and is prone to insulin shock. She was told to drink fruit juice if she feels woozy. Well, she prefers fresh fruit, and she felt woozy one day and ate a peach. That pushed into full blown shock and another trip to the hospital. I had to explain to her that the fiber in fruit is like plant-based insulin--it prevents sugar from being used quickly. That's why it's important for healthy eating, but exactly the reason she needs to drink fruit juice to prevent diabetic shock.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-11T16:48:38.187Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't like water myself. In my part of the world (a corner of India) we generally drink water boiled with a herbal powder and then cooled.

When the herbal powder is not available we just boil water with a pinch of cumin seeds. Not sure if you'll like the taste any better than plain water though..

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-11T16:56:21.639Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Cumin seeds are an interesting possibility. I might try that sometime.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-08T22:59:50.041Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Try tea - works for the English (among others) :)

comment by Alicorn · 2011-03-08T23:17:00.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't like tea, except the kind they serve at Chinese restaurants, and that I only like with two or three little packets of sugar per teacup.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-09T15:56:18.893Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ok - well on a related note... I find that I only like the taste of water if I'm actually thirsty... if I'm just drinking as a kind of fidgeting (or when some diet-book had told me I should "drink 8 cups a day") I hate the taste too.

YMMV, of course, but worth considering.

As to the "8 cups a day" - my aunt's a dietician and she says that the 8-cups is inclusive of the water that you consume via other sources (eg in your food or your morning cuppa joe)... whereas most diet books assume it's 8-cups on top of all your other dietary sources.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-03-10T09:35:27.091Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's no evidence that 8 cups a day does any good-- I can't find a link, but when the debunking first came out, it turned out that there was no source for the idea that 8 cups a day was worthwhile.

I've found that drinking until it's no longer a pleasure (I generally don't mind the taste of water, though I think Aquafina tastes of plastic) leaves me feeling better than just drinking until I'm not thirsty, and the former takes a good bit more water.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-10T10:05:02.118Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yup - I also recall that the human sense of thirst is particularly unreliable (though cannot remember the source).

It's definitely less reliable than the sense of hunger - and we all know that that can be faulty.

There's a "dieting trick" that I've heard of whereby if you feel a little like snacking - you should first try drinking a glass of water... because your body can often mistake one for the other.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-02-11T16:18:29.728Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Around here, Chinese restaurants tend towards jasmine tea. If you care, you could ask someone who knows about tea what's typical in your area.

comment by gwern · 2012-02-11T16:37:40.474Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Around here, Chinese restaurants tend towards jasmine tea

Jasmine oolong specifically? (I read once that oolong was the traditional kind of tea to drink after/during a Chinese meal, but haven't seen any sources for it.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-02-11T17:42:02.022Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know. It tastes flowery, is light-colored, and doesn't get bitter if it sits for a while.

comment by gwern · 2012-02-11T17:53:12.062Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Light-colored? Probably a kind of green, then; oolongs are usually pretty dark-colored (but on the other hand, greens can get bitter if they sit for a while).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-02-11T18:45:03.427Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible that I don't leave jasmine tea that long.

comment by Kevin · 2011-02-08T16:58:20.451Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You hate water? That seems like a very odd thing to hate.

Try learning to gulp rather than drink water. Or, what is the minimally flavored liquid you can consume that isn't water? Are you already drinking 3:1 water:juice or something? Or why not drink low calorie liquids?

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T17:26:49.468Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've watered down some juices in the past, though usually thick ones that contain purées instead of just juice. I can drink water without hating it too much if I am really thirsty and if it's really cold. I will tend to drink water automatically if there is some nearby (and wind up drinking a whole lot of it at restaurants). With meals (that do not take place at restaurants) I drink skim milk.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-08T17:48:54.585Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does the quality of the water matter? Tap vs. filtered vs. various brands of bottled?

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T17:55:01.451Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It matters, but not the way you'd think - I prefer tap water to filtered (have successfully distinguished them in a blind test) and hate bottled.

comment by Dustin · 2011-02-09T03:58:01.920Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Same for me.

Though, like you, I really dislike water. Unfortunately, I'm trying to cut back on my Dr. Pepper intake and the only other thing I find convenient is water.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-08T18:50:39.018Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have preferences (or at least lower distaste levels) about tap water from different areas?

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T18:52:33.850Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I do. The water in my grandma's house is less pleasant than most others (she lives in a suburb of Buffalo). I live in Durham, NC now and the water here is about as good as it gets.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T22:04:23.489Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Everyone in my area (Lincoln NE) hates the local tap water, but I think that it's fine. They think that I'm going to die or something, while I think that they're all chumps.

comment by sketerpot · 2011-03-08T23:53:30.174Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Having lived in Lincoln and enjoyed the nicely watery tap water, I think they're just looking for something to grouse about. You often see groups of people start to dislike something because the rest of the group speaks ill of it, in a positive feedback loop.

Water is mostly tasteless, so people's perceptions of its taste are especially sensitive to weird psychological stuff.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-01-10T07:31:26.963Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're mistaken, or at least I find-- without discussing it with anyone-- that the taste of Philadelphia tap water varies a lot --from good to nasty.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:18:16.378Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not unless your tap water really sucks. (e.g. Adelaide levels of suck, rather than mere London levels of suck.) Given this is a matter of taste, do whatever tastes nice to you - first-world tap water is unlikely to harm you.

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-08T22:02:19.383Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like real juice, but (except for orange juice with pulp) I always water it down. It tastes the same when compared to long-term memory (although not when directly compared).

comment by lukeprog · 2011-02-08T13:24:14.960Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is great! Thanks for your 5 minutes.

comment by Dorikka · 2013-01-10T07:02:36.423Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Especially for breakfast, what proportions do you recommend for the ingredients?

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2011-02-08T15:16:02.503Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

how to consistently feel better after a few weeks

A significant fraction of the population will IMHO feel even better by avoiding all gluten, including of course the pasta in the Rice-a-Roni.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-02-08T19:16:52.871Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

rice is gluten free AFAIK.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2011-02-08T20:16:28.454Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but Rice-a-roni is pasta and seasonings. It is added to rice (or to rice and beans).

Alternative suggestion though I'd skip the Knorr beef bouillion which is mostly salt and MSG.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-02-08T23:33:00.215Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand what you're talking about. I eat the rice-a-roni red beans and rice almost daily. it is a box with dry beans, rice, and a packet full of spices.

comment by Conuly · 2011-02-09T03:00:06.638Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

http://www.ricearoni.com/Products/Rice-A-Roni/Classic_Favorites/Red_Beans_and_Rice/Ingredients

The ingredient list says it contains "hydrolyzed protein" made from, among other things, wheat. That means it has gluten in it and it's not gluten-free. It's also not kosher for Passover.

Edit: Reading further, it also has "hydrolyzed gluten", so... yeah.

The packet full of spices has much more than just spices in it, and it's that which has the gluten.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-02-09T05:30:01.688Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

ah, in that case i'd suggest replacing it with cumin, pepper, garlic, and bouillon cube.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2011-02-09T19:35:31.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, sorry for the misinformation.

I was remembering a different flavor of Rice-a-Roni (and forgetting that the rice comes in the box).

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2011-02-07T19:45:14.485Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It certainly helps me. I'll probably add that breakfast plan to my diet. The dinner looks like it could use some chicken or beef.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-02-08T19:16:25.130Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

alternatively you can add half a bouillon cube to increase satiety. it doesn't "need" meat in the nutrition sense.

comment by JanetK · 2011-02-07T11:33:11.125Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-07T20:43:43.896Z · score: 36 (36 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2011-02-07T21:08:24.439Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ChristianKl · 2011-02-09T22:23:37.349Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-02-13T20:28:15.288Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-10T00:08:28.385Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-10T07:13:10.315Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I thought the right-ide standing was a social convention, not a rule.

What sometimes trips me up is weather I am supposed to weight my vegetables before going to the counter, or if they do it there.

comment by ChristianKl · 2011-02-13T17:05:10.444Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When you put social convention into writing and hang them on the walls they become a rule.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-10T07:33:56.182Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately it only seems to be a social convention among those who consider it to be a social convention. :P

comment by TobyBartels · 2011-02-10T06:37:16.142Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Normal people however don't care and simple stand wherever they want to stand.

That's too bad. Large airports in the United States have (flat) automated walkways with a similar rule, and people follow it. Very handy!

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-04-21T16:39:30.675Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's regional variation-- I'm told that in DC, people follow escalator "slow on the right, fast on the left" etiquette. In Philadelphia, it's pretty random.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-07T21:05:41.494Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Huh.

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

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-07T21:11:28.348Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-08T05:57:49.709Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Pavitra · 2011-02-09T04:47:56.287Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The "Preferences" button is worth exploring. In particular, the anti-kibitzer will hide usernames so that you can vote without being biased by your overall like or dislike of various users.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-03-05T20:49:22.431Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note on the anti-kibitzer: I use it by default, and find that it prevents me from getting to know the individual users and their views. Although I have gotten to the point where I can sometimes recognize certain posters from their content (Eliezer, Clippy, and Wedrifid mostly).

comment by wedrifid · 2011-03-05T22:27:50.453Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Although I have gotten to the point where I can sometimes recognize certain posters from their content (Eliezer, Clippy, and Wedrifid mostly).

Some anti-kibitzer users have reported mistaking me for clippy at times! :D

I don't use anti-kibitzer so I have to allow for hindsight bias - but I'd be willing to bet that I could pick nearly every comment by HughRistik and, if reading with the context as opposed to just the recent comments feed, most of Vladimir_Nesov's too. Oh, and a lot from Perplexed and timtyler. Picking Alicorn's posts based on most of them these days being 'speaking as the Word of God on Luminosity fiction' would just seem like cheating. ;)

comment by avalot · 2011-02-12T17:55:54.195Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Lesswrong is certainly designed for the advanced user. Most everything on the site is non-standard, which seriously impedes usability for the new user. Considering the topic and intended audience, I'd say it's a feature, not a bug.

Nonetheless, the site definitely smacks of unix-geekery. It could be humanized somewhat, and that probably wouldn't hurt.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-12T19:12:44.537Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What specific changes would you recommend?

comment by avalot · 2011-03-30T03:20:22.430Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Very tricky question. I won't answer it in two ways:

  1. As I indicated, in terms of navigation/organization scheme, LW is completely untraditional. It still feels to me like a dark museum of wonder, of unfathomable depth. I get to something new, and mind-blowing, every time I surf around. So it's a delightful labyrinth, that unfolds like a series of connected thoughts anyway you work it. It's an advanced navigation toolset, usable only by people who are able to conceptualize vast abstract constructs... which is the target audience... or is it?

  2. I've been in the usability business too long to make UI pronouncements without user research. We've got a very specific user base, not defined by typical demo/sociographics, but by affinity. Few common usability heuristics would apply blindly to this case.

But among the few that would:

  • Improved legibility, typographic design, visual hierarchy
  • Flexible, mobile to wide-screen self-optimizing layout
  • More personalized features (dashboard, analytics, watch lists, alerts, etc.) although many are implicitly available through feeds, permalinks, etc.
  • Advanced comments/post management tools for power-users (I'm guessing there might be a need, through I am not one by any means.)

But, again, I think we have a rare thing here: A user base that is smart enough to optimize its own tools. Normally, the best user experience practitioners will tell you that you should research, interview and especially observe your users, but never ever ever just listen to them. They don't know what they really want, wouldn't know how to explain it, and what they want isn't even close to what they actually need. Would LW users be different? And would design by committee work here? I'm very dubious, but curious.

Does anyone know the back-story of how this website evolved? Was it a person, a team, or the whole group designing it?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-03-30T06:52:46.702Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

LW does more to bring its past into the present than any other site I've used. I'm thinking that this is partly structure, and partly that the users consider its past posts (much less so with the comments) to be important.

I might be an advanced user-- I'm able to use LW and I think I've found the major features. [1] On the other hand, I would not have been able to identify the site as being from the style of a particular operating system.

My history goes back to usenet, which is why I keep mentioning that the site needs trn or the equivalent. Still, the way comments are presented is the Least Awful I've seen on the web. Trn or slrn might be the kind of thing you mean by advanced comments/post management.

The other thing I think would do the most to keep weaving the past into the present is a better search system. It would help if I could just do a string search which was limited to the posts from a particular user. And if there were a way to get search results arranged chronologically. As far as I can tell, they're arranged randomly. Something like the advanced search from Google Groups would be really helpful. It can take 10 or 15 minutes for me to find a comment if I manage it at all, and it's apt to feel like luck.

Only having Recent Comments for LW proper and for LW:Discussion rather than being able to choose Recent Comments for particular threads is of mixed value. I think it does make the site more like one conversation for those who want to put in a lot of time, but that means it's less useful for those who don't want to put in that much time and a temptation to kill time for some of the rest.

[1] The site has an abstract resemblance to a bit from one of Doris Piserchia's novels (Mr. Justice?), in which a school for brilliant children doesn't offer a map of the buildings, just a map of the local geography. The students are expected to figure out where the buildings are supposed to be.

comment by ruhe47 · 2011-02-12T18:24:19.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am very new to the site, and have, in the short time I have been here, found it to be both a pleasure to navigate and easy to use.

Although I could very well fit under the category of "advanced user".

comment by tenshiko · 2011-02-07T15:05:57.119Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Civics, at least in my area of the United States, is mainly education about government and ethics. I do believe they may discuss how to vote and other information that would be useful to the democratic process, but nothing like going onto trains. (Although in the United States, this could only ever discuss the subway, and only in certain metropolitan areas - culturally, the elegant train is dead here, which is sad, since I've had much more positive travel experiences on trains than planes.)

comment by knb · 2011-02-07T23:18:54.223Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Intercity rail is very common here in the northeast.

comment by tenshiko · 2011-02-07T23:36:34.294Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ahahahahahahaha where do you live take me with you now. The last time I checked, northern Virginia qualified as the Northeast and the Metro is the only thing like that for miles and miles.

comment by knb · 2011-02-08T00:04:01.852Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Virginia will always be the south to me. I live in Philadelphia, so for local public transit we have elevated rail, subway, electric trolley bus, light rail, and intercity commuter rail. And then of course there is the high-speed Acela Express connecting the rest of the Northeast Corridor.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-07T15:51:42.975Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Home Economics" and similar courses teach life skills like cooking, paying bills and doing your taxes.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-07T23:51:52.672Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The question, then, becomes how common useful home ec courses actually are. E.g. I had one of those back in middle school, but it was close to useless. IIRC, it consisted of cooking and sewing; the former half did nothing to actually explain cooking and so was useless to anyone who didn't already understand cooking, while the latter half seemed to successfully teach the basics (at least, I think I understand the basics) but isn't something I've ever really had reason to apply. (I think we also discussed nutrition some, but that was redundant as it was already covered in other classes.)

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-08T16:18:56.183Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Incidentally, on cooking, if you're a nerd, learning some of the science of cooking is actually pretty rewarding. Learning how browning occurs, how fats work etc. can improve your cooking somewhat and it's fun to know. I found The Science of Cooking to be pretty informative.

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2011-02-07T16:53:15.633Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When I was in middle school, anyone not in band (or sports, I think) took "Family and Consume Science" - FACS. Basically home economics with a spiffy new name. But to be honest, it didn't teach much that was useful. In HS, there was no course like that. Well, maybe an elective.

comment by LauraABJ · 2011-02-08T06:34:01.322Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by michaelkeenan · 2011-02-09T11:22:38.385Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here is a YouTube video (496,000 views, time 2:26) demonstrating how to fold a fitted sheet.

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-02-16T12:25:35.892Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Arg! Not that it mattered, but how on Earth did I never just realize to put the corners inside like that instead of trying to hold them together?

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T20:56:22.553Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I want to know how to put a cover on a duvet (doona, quilt) without feeling like I'm going to pop a vertebra.

comment by folkTheory · 2011-02-08T23:23:34.965Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad I can actually answer something!
This is how I do it and it works really well:

  1. reverse the cover so it's inside out.
  2. stand with it's opening facing you, reach into it and grab the far corners, from the INSIDE. If it's hard to find them, simply let the edges (from the inside) guide your hands all the way to the ends.
  3. Now using your two hands (which are already holding two corners of the cover from the insides), grab two corners of the duvet
  4. Now this is the fun part: Lift the duvet, so the cover falls all around it. This is like reversing a bag when you pick up dogpoop.
  5. release the corners and you're done. (you may need to adjust things a bit if it isn't prefect)
comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T23:32:33.010Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you! That's more or less what I think I'm trying to do ... so I'm just not doing it well enough or something, or something.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-08T21:30:06.851Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Could you be more specific about what goes wrong?

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T21:36:48.064Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I try to grab the far corners from the inside and sort of WHOOSH the cover over the duvet. I get tangled up in it! And I can never quite find the opposite corners! And I can never quite pull off that magical get-it-to-turn-itself-inside-out WHOOSH and suddenly it's done! Perfectly!

If I knew what I was doing wrong I would know how to do it right ...

comment by saturn · 2011-02-10T06:50:32.600Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's still hard to tell what exactly you're doing, but I'll try to spell out how I do it.

  • Lay the duvet flat on the bed with the top edge towards you, and then lay the inside-out cover flat on top of it with the opening towards you.

  • Stick your arms into the cover up to your elbows and grab the sides of the cover from the inside. Hold on to the sides and pull your arms most of the way back out, gathering the fabric towards you. Keep going until you can reach the corners.

  • Holding the corners from the inside, bring your hands up to shoulder height and shake them slightly until most of the fabric is draped around your elbows.

  • Grab two corners of the duvet through the cover. Still holding the corners, pull your hands together, gathering the duvet between them. Pull the whole edge of the duvet through the cover opening.

  • Lift your arms over your head, then shake them slightly as you move them apart, keeping them over your head. The cover should drop partway over the duvet.

  • Forcefully bring your arms down. WOOSH!

comment by Elizabeth · 2011-02-09T18:46:33.826Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

  • I am not particularly good with faces either.

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

comment by SRStarin · 2011-02-09T19:35:40.644Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Elizabeth · 2011-02-09T21:32:06.086Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by handoflixue · 2011-02-15T21:05:26.987Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2011-02-09T23:47:54.457Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by SRStarin · 2011-02-09T23:52:47.028Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That does make it difficult to use the techniques I suggested. Some people do not like other people to use their names because they experience it as an attempt to control them emotionally. They feel it invokes automatic parent-child responses that others ought not have access to.

I think the number of these folks is very low (I've only met one person who feels this way). But, if he feels that way, it makes sense that there would be people who might be overwhelmed by the emotional burden of invoking such an emotional response. I certainly feel more burdened when I use his name in the first person. I'm not claiming that's what's going on with you. But, your description reminded me of this other person, and we can often gain great insight in hearing something even approximately related to our own difficulties.

As for suggestions, I would suggest that a good, small place to start, if you are able, is to repeat a person's name immediately after they introduce themselves to you, and leave it at that. I suspect it will help cement a few more names than you otherwise would have, and it might have less emotional impact on you to have a formulaic circumstance in which you can think of using another person's name with them.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-02-10T09:58:56.166Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by aelephant · 2012-03-25T03:32:19.246Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent explanation & examples; everything elucidated effectively.

I don't understand the final example though. Is the memory device just to help you remember some of the letters in the name and the symptom or is there some connection my brain doesn't make that yours does? HoMoNymous - HerMioNe, HemiAn - HArry, OPIa - OPIum?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2012-03-25T19:22:30.773Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The word "homonymous" takes care of itself in my case, since it's a word I'm familiar with already. The "hermianopia" bit is a not-quite-portmanteau of "hermione" and "opium".

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-09T19:38:05.162Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Thirding the request.

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

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

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-09T19:58:35.483Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

People have done this to me. I was amused.

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

comment by mindspillage · 2011-02-11T04:02:41.630Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by solipsist · 2013-08-05T17:25:11.829Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've started some great friendships by doing just this. Don't just pretend to run into an acquaintance. Pretend that you just ran into your old best friend X (X is totally awesome BTW, it's been way too long since you've seen them, and OMG do you remember when X did Y? It was so cool).

Requirements: an upstanding and respected mutual friend, an endorsement that a prank will be well received, and a victim with a sense of humor.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-09T22:25:06.795Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ViEtArmis · 2012-07-23T17:37:22.613Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by TabAtkins · 2011-03-09T06:41:46.243Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Elizabeth · 2011-03-10T13:07:36.845Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, if I have emailed someone and typed their name, I will remember it. My problem is that generally I have no reason or means to write the names I'm having trouble remembering.

comment by MartinB · 2011-03-10T16:12:56.457Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Simple habit is to start using Names in conversation way more often. It feels a bit unnatural at first, but can help.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-09T19:42:53.819Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Elizabeth · 2011-02-09T21:28:41.469Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Having people spell their names does sometimes help, but also tends to be a bit awkward. I occasionally wish everyone would just get their names tattooed on their foreheads!

comment by solipsist · 2013-08-05T17:26:33.261Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've had good results with flashcards. One side write a person's name, and on the other write conversation details, physical descriptions, and mnemonics for physical descriptions. A few days of reviewing that Michael Jones is a friend of Lisa's who a grad student at Brown studying Fluorochemistry and looks a bit like O'Brian from Star Trek, and you'll probably remember his name (and other tidbits about him too).

comment by Manfred · 2011-02-09T19:25:51.580Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Same problem here (exacerbated if not outright caused by the habit of not using peoples' names often), but I can remember peoples' names when really necessary by using a simple trick:

Say their name at least once in every phrase you say to them, for at least five minutes worth of you-saying-things. Lots of normal people do this already without even noticing. Without much practice it will be awkward, though, so you can just mention that you're bad at names and turn it into a joke.

comment by Torben · 2011-02-09T19:18:00.063Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I second this request. I am good with names of politicians or actors, but terrible with people, I meet IRL.

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-02-09T18:50:07.889Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Same situation here, same solutions tried. Also, even if I've known someone for a while, if I don't see them for a long time and then one day spot them, I may have lost memory of the person's named. Not often, but once or twice.

What's worse is that there's this woman I had met at a weekly group, and after like 4 weeks and three times of asking her name, I forgot, asked another, more socially adept woman there, and she gave me the wrong name! Argh!

comment by janos · 2011-02-07T04:23:02.225Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-07T15:49:47.776Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Benquo · 2011-02-07T17:49:01.680Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by michaelkeenan · 2011-02-09T11:11:23.481Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2011-02-09T12:22:24.005Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps you are still being insufficiently cynical. Yes, index funds outperform managed funds, and investment professionals get rich off their fees and their media, not because they personally know how to beat the market.

But if I am to believe the analyses poured out daily at zerohedge.com, volume in the US stock market is now dominated by a few large institutional investors, looking for a place to put the free money they get by frontrunning the Fed's purchases of Treasuries, and this is a political choice: US federal debt is being monetized, and the US dollar debased, but since the bankers are all buying equities with their play money, the stock market is being driven up, which creates the illusion that growth is happening somewhere in the economy. :-)

I don't know how much of that is true, but my real point is that a revival of the financial crisis (this time because of sovereign debt rather than corporate debt) could put stocks into a zero-growth doldrum - of frequent crashes and long-term decline in value - for a decade or more. It's happened before, if it happens again then even index funds will be losing value, and it is precisely the sort of thing that would happen after the comprehensive discrediting of an overgrown and politically connected financial sector. People would go back to seeing stocks as a game of risk for the rich, rather than a happy place to put their retirement savings.

The result of making everyone an investor is that when everyone loses their money, they become a mob and burn the casino down, and run the people who were connected with it out of town. That hasn't happened in the US yet, but you can be sure that more than a few politicians are readying a line of populist nationalist outrage, for the day when the big banks become even more politically radioactive than they are now. Politics might even come down to who can mount the more convincing attack on the banks, the left or the right; and I would guess that the political red line will be the bankruptcy of cities and states.

You can already see the basic choice in Europe: Ireland, or Iceland. Ireland, so far, is agreeing to pay off the debts of its failed banks with taxpayer money, and the IMF has come in to supervise the process. Iceland's people said no way will we do that (even though they were happy to partake of the boom while it was still on), and had a small revolution in which they disowned responsibility for the actions, and the debts, of their financier class. It's part of how they ended up playing host to an entity as subversive as Wikileaks for a while.

So what I'm saying - what I'm predicting - is that you will see that same dilemma being faced at all levels in the US as the debt pyramid implodes, and in a country as big and diverse as the US, there will be cities and regions who take the radical option. Local politics will trump external economics, and they will disown or rewrite the agreements which would otherwise leave them in debt to outsiders for a generation. In some places, this will manifest as a reversion to the traditional local economy. In others, there might be some new thinking - green futurism or digital fabricators might be touted as the way forward. In such a turbulent context, even traditionally superior insights ("invest in index funds") may cease to apply, as the system undergoes a bigger change than most had imagined possible.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-09T16:06:43.047Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

People who claim that the "dollar is being debased", don't know the basic facts. Inflation has actually been significantly lower than typical, the last couple of years. See for example http://investingforaliving.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/cpi-us-vs-japan.png

Market based inflation expectations (TIPS spreads) also indicate lower than typical expected inflation.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-09T14:46:46.348Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've been worried about index funds for a while. They're predicated on the assumption that someone is doing to the research while you free ride on their work.

Are enough people doing the research?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-09T14:57:21.179Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are enough people doing the research?

Absolutely. You can not beat that market. There is too much money involved and more than enough people interested.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-09T16:01:18.385Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yep.

comment by michaelkeenan · 2011-02-09T13:59:29.990Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So - if I understand you correctly - you're saying we have a market with some actors who are buying at higher-than-justifiable prices, and the rest of the market lacks the liquidity to short-sell, adjusting the prices downward? That doesn't match my understanding of these things...but my lack of understanding of these things is part of why I delegate my decision-making to index funds, rather than trying to time or beat the market.

comment by Benquo · 2011-02-07T13:04:57.936Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-07T20:16:15.380Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I've had good experience with ShareBuilder.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-02-08T04:25:47.872Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Me too, although that was 3 years ago.

comment by Alexei · 2011-02-09T22:45:52.489Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Scottrade is another well known company that provides the same services. They only charge $7 dollars per transaction (more more for penny stocks). I've had very positive experience with them.

One thing to keep in mind is that doing stock trading will make your taxes more complicated and more expensive to fill out.

comment by quentin · 2011-02-10T22:26:36.120Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-02-10T23:28:13.976Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by quentin · 2011-02-10T23:55:44.483Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by jhuffman · 2011-02-15T18:06:30.437Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You need to be more specific though; or at least you have the advantage of being able to choose specifically what you want to use it for. For example, I pretty much only use Facebook for sharing pictures and videos of my kid. I may go weeks without paying attention to it. I have a wide mix of people including both people at work, family and old friends from highschool who I would normally share this type of thing with when they ask. So now when someone asks about my kid I'll just ask if I can friend them.

comment by StacyK · 2011-02-13T23:21:31.496Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T23:03:35.683Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by mail2345 · 2011-02-11T17:51:28.430Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The Friend List feature is a subsitute for multiple accounts. You can have diffrent privacy settings for each list, such as hiding tagged images.

comment by Blueberry · 2011-02-11T10:35:07.764Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by MartinB · 2011-02-10T23:48:43.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2012-01-14T22:09:10.835Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can also send friendship requests to people who don't have a FB account yet, if you have their email address. I received the first such request about one year before signing up, and when I eventually did sign up I had about ten such requests.

comment by Jodika · 2014-10-31T06:18:48.513Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

These days having few friends frequently signals maturity or coolness - someone who doesn't add everyone they've ever met to look like they have lots of friends.

I think the sweet spot is between 10 and 200 - go over that and people tend to imagine 'there's no way he could actually have that many friends, he just adds people at random and cares too much about popularity'.

Edit: Having said that, I just went back to my fb, which I no longer really use, and I'm on over 350. But largely that's because I've had it for a long time and not removed people I no longer see or have any real intention of seeing, so I don't only have actual friends as friends either.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-08T10:56:19.420Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by roryokane · 2011-02-11T02:41:37.313Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-11T10:31:23.698Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Aside from time (a non-trivial consideration) is there any reason not to put them on both wikiHow and the LW wiki?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-11T14:22:34.628Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A hard-earned lesson from my days as a technical writer: "a man with two watches never knows the time." That is, any piece of information maintained in two places will sooner or later progress inconsistently.

Putting it in one place and a pointer to it in the other place might be better.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-11T03:55:43.981Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's kind of what I was hinting at.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-02-08T20:54:31.739Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Gosh, if only we had a wiki to hand ...

comment by mindspillage · 2011-02-11T06:20:28.289Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by lextori · 2011-02-12T01:39:23.142Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-02-11T09:51:06.494Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Jodika · 2014-10-31T04:17:09.558Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

Oh and practically nobody looks good in orange or yellow.

comment by beza1e1 · 2014-07-12T18:34:46.281Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by EvelynM · 2011-02-11T17:12:51.986Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you so much for this! Dressing well is one of the factors that can increase opportunities of all sorts, and an area I need to work on.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-08T03:27:10.455Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

How do you speak clearly?

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

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

comment by afeller · 2011-02-08T04:31:04.587Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2011-02-09T08:10:14.135Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-05T07:51:07.849Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just noticed this thread after someone linked to it. For the last year and a half, I've been writing and recording a 100-word story every week, in response to a prompt word, and sending it off to a web site that runs a weekly drabble challenge. I use a proper voice recorder for this (the Edirol R-09), and do as many takes as it takes to get the best possible result.

I don't just record them once a week, with 80 stories in my head by now I often just recite them for practice when I'm alone. Less work than picking up a book to read aloud from. If you don't write, memorising poetry would provide the same advantage.

I used to find that my voice was fine first thing in the morning, but tended to get very hoarse by mid-morning, but that has abated substantially. Maybe I just don't talk enough otherwise to keep it exercised. I don't actually do enough talking in everyday life that anyone has spontaneously commented, but I have had a few compliments in the comments at the web site.

comment by SRStarin · 2011-02-08T18:29:19.291Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, some recording technologies make your voice sound higher and thinner than it really is. Voice answering machines are really bad about this. But for enunciation, rhythm, and that sort of thing, this should be very helpful.

comment by listic · 2011-02-08T14:14:26.552Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you know of a modern recording technology that would make this kind of recording convenient? An iOS app would be best, I think; alternatively a computer software.

I can well imagine recording myself reading the poems with a cassette recorder, but not with any software that I know.

comment by sfb · 2011-02-09T07:32:28.245Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe useful - Everyday Looper is an iOS app for recording short looping samples, up to four at a time. That is, you record a sound and it plays it from start to finish over and over in a loop, and you can record another sound up to the same length and play them next to each other, or adjust the volume on them individually.

It's intended for musical use, but might do for what you ask. It is not free, so you might check it out on Youtube to see how it works and why it might be good for quick record-hear-compare feedback.

(iOS / iPhone does have a basic sound recorder in it, as you may know).

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-08T16:40:34.173Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-02-09T02:45:55.353Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I dislike my own recorded voice as well. I've heard that because the sound of our own voices is partly transmitted to our ears via our heads, everyone's voice sounds higher in a recording. The difference is probably enough to be unnerving and I think that's what it is for me.

comment by monsterzero · 2011-02-08T17:28:55.388Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I used to be extremely self-conscious about my voice before I became a volunteer DJ at my local college radio station. After six years of listening to myself through headphones, I speak much more slowly and clearly, and people who don't know about the DJing have told me that "I should be on the radio".

But my ability to be understood by phone systems that depend on voice-recognition doesn't seem to have improved at all. Any suggestions there?

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-08T17:36:52.059Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure I've never used a phone system that depends on voice recognition, and I'm afraid I have no idea what the relevant issues are, sorry.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-08T03:33:07.665Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by SRStarin · 2011-02-08T18:47:52.564Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What you're asking may require practice, rather than just following a new set of guidelines. I have had some formal vocal training, so I can offer some activities that could help.

One important factor in public speaking is breath support. Practice breathing deeply and smoothly, with erect posture and tense abdominal muscles. (Doing this daily can be very refreshing, anyway.)

Practice speaking at various sound levels--softly and loudly--alone (or with a supportive friend) in a room with hard walls and/or floor, so you can hear yourself clearly. Tense the muscles of your throat and soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth) in different ways to change your voice in ways that may feel and sound unnatural. This should help you gain a better sense of how to use your voice.

When you speak more loudly, does the pitch of your voice go up? Many people do this, because our ears are more sensitive to higher pitches. Try forcing more air through your words to gain volume instead of raising the pitch. In other words, use more air to say the same words by increasing the pressure of your abdominal muscles.

When we speak loudly, we can generally feel a vibration, if we pay attention. When you speak usually, you may find that the sensation is in your throat, or in the far back of your mouth. Force yourself to yawn, but then activate your voice during the yawn (i.e. vocalize the yawn), to place the sensation more in your sinuses and the front of your face (the front of the face is called the masque). This may take some practice, but the most pleasant sonority of most people's voices is achieved by using the face as a resonator.

I hope one or more of those activities can help the sonority and pitch aspects of your voice become more like what you want. I haven't heard your voice, so it may be that I'd think it doesn't need any fixing :) My husband hates his voice, but I think it's great!

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-02-08T06:07:07.394Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think there's any really quick way of dealing with this. I had about 4 years of speech therapy which helped a lot. Note that a speech therapist will generally have lots of things that are tailored to you in particular to help out. For example I have a list of words that I still have trouble with so I make sure to always be ready to use their synonyms when speaking. Unfortunately there really isn't any simple solution to this.

comment by Elizabeth · 2011-02-08T06:00:42.371Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you don't want to go to a speech therapist, a friend with some linguistics training or a voice (singing) teacher may be able to listen and tell you where to put your tongue, etc.

I, too, have a related problem. I have great difficulty controlling my volume. That is largely hereditary (or nurtured by my family environment), but the real problem is that I can't hear when I'm too loud. There are certain triggers (being excited, interrupted, or in the presence of my mother) but they are not really triggers I can avoid, and I can't see a way to fix it. The obvious solution is to have someone tell me when I'm too loud, but being interrupted for that purpose tends to make me involuntarily louder.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-02-08T03:31:09.915Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Similar: I would find it useful to learn to speak slowly. I have to repeat myself a lot. The trouble is that I lose track of what I'm saying if I try to speak at a normal pace - I cannot seem to focus on speaking slowly and think of things to say at the same time.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2011-02-08T04:46:15.889Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

(Edited the last few paragraphs to be more useful.)

I actually teach this to college students, to some degree. This is in the context of moderately scripted competitive speech, though.

The first basic trick is to consciously try to speak at half-speed. Once you've done that, halve your speed again. This will at least be close to the right speed.

Another trick is to tell friends or family to rudely (or politely) interrupt you if you speak too fast. This technique can also be helpful for eliminating um, uh, like, y'know, and similar disfluencies. I will write "SLOW" on a piece of paper and hold it up while a student is speaking, for example.

I admit I am surprised that you find speaking slowly more difficult in terms of keeping track of what you are saying. In almost all cases I encounter, people actually speak much more coherently when they speak slower. Either use the extra time to think of what to say, or insert a few judicious pauses for the same effect.

I would say there is a non-negligible chance that your rapid speech comes off as very clear to you, but not to observers. I know that when I get really engaged in an idea, I will often talk rapid-fire in a way that I think makes perfect sense, only to be stopped or slowed down by those around me, whom I've lost completely. My thought process feels a little more muddled when I have to slow down and think about exactly what I'm saying, but this is not because my communication is worse; it's because I actually have to run a mental check to make sure I have a cogent point, rather than simply having a cogent point internally and saying whatever happens to feel right. Rapid-fire speech may create an illusion of transparency, but I'm not familiar with it actually helping people speak better.

Of course, YMMV and I could be totally wrong. But from the couple dozen or so students I've worked with, I never remember hearing a complaint that it is harder to think cogently while speaking slowly, only that it is difficult to remember to speak slowly.

comment by fiddlemath · 2011-02-10T13:58:57.324Z · score: 1 (1 votes) ·