What are you working on? February 2012

post by David_Gerard · 2012-02-05T12:33:09.175Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 91 comments

This is the bimonthly 'What are you working On?' thread. Previous threads are here. So here's the question:

What are you working on? 

Here are some guidelines:

  • Focus on projects that you have recently made progress on, not projects that you're thinking about doing but haven't started.
  • Why this project and not others? Mention reasons why you're doing the project and/or why others should contribute to your project (if applicable).
  • Talk about your goals for the project.
  • Any kind of project is fair game: personal improvement, research project, art project, whatever.
  • Link to your work if it's linkable.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by jimmy · 2012-02-05T22:32:56.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Still working on hypnosis

I picked up python and wrote a program that goes onto the internet and hypnotizes people, so I can throw some real empiricism at the problem now.

It's really paying off now that I can do things like go snorkling with my girlfriend who had been terrified of the ocean for her whole life, and snap my fingers and make people stop craving sugar :)

I've writing up my thoughts as I go on my blog

Replies from: cousin_it, cafesofie
comment by cousin_it · 2012-02-07T23:58:55.516Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wanna be as awesome as you are.

Replies from: jimmy
comment by jimmy · 2012-02-08T18:59:26.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks :)

If you (or anyone else) want awesomeness in the same direction, I'd be happy to help bring you up to speed. There's a scarcity of clear thought on this topic, and I want more good minds to bounce ideas off.

Replies from: katydee, cousin_it
comment by katydee · 2012-02-12T11:08:51.249Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would love to be brought up to speed here.

comment by cousin_it · 2012-02-08T23:04:16.989Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the offer! How much and what kind of effort is required to get up to speed?

Replies from: jimmy
comment by jimmy · 2012-02-09T05:44:04.251Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmm.. that's a tough question. It depends on your background, which skills you're interested in picking up, and to what level of mastery.

I've taught someone some text hypnosis and had him getting real results (amnesia/hallucinations included) in an evening - but that was mostly a surface level learning. I suppose you could do a fairly large amount of useful stuff with even a shallow appreciation of suggestion though.

I've put a lot of time an effort into piecing together the theories and wrapping my head around it all, but I'm sure it would be much faster if I had access to my key insights written down in one spot. I'm just not sure how much time it takes just for it all to sink in - I'm still picking things up just from viewing normal human interaction through a new lens.

I guess I'd recommend skimming parts of my blog, maybe chatting with me a bit, and see what you want to do from there?

comment by cafesofie · 2012-02-05T22:58:56.010Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is the source code to Hypnobot available? You seem to make some pretty strong claims about its effectiveness, but I'm not about to grind Omegle chats until I run in to it.

Replies from: jimmy
comment by jimmy · 2012-02-05T23:27:57.415Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It only comes across as strong if you aren't familiar with hypnosis. It's not currently outperforming the standardized hypnotizeability testing procedures, which are generally recognized as being pretty poor compared to a skilled live hypnotist. (though, I might guess that it would if given the same subject pool)

I'm hesitant to hand out the source, but I'm very willing to give a shot at hypnotizing you - either using hypnobots script directly, or using my full capability.

Replies from: jpulgarin
comment by jpulgarin · 2012-02-06T03:01:51.845Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm totally willing to by hypnotized by you. I'm also willing to bet I cannot be hypnotized.

Replies from: jimmy
comment by jimmy · 2012-02-06T05:32:29.912Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Be specific. Exactly what experience do you think you are incapable of having? Why do you think this?

Replies from: jpulgarin
comment by jpulgarin · 2012-02-06T10:39:49.016Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Name amnesia (I saw you mention this on the link you gave).

I think this as a result of:

  1. My prior that you're a good hypnotist
  2. My prior that I am a suggestible person
  3. My prior that this can be done through online means
comment by wmorgan · 2012-02-05T21:28:43.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dating: The girl from my previous post cancelled on me 30 minutes before we were going to meet. Then the next week she invited me out to lunch and cancelled again, an hour out. So I guess she didn't actually like me.

Then I went on a blind date with FOAF and that went OK. I took her out again but there was just no romantic chemistry, so it was a couple of nice times but that was the end of that.

I've been trying to get better at reading the subtext of social interactions to tell when someone is interested. I noticed that a single friend had been getting touchy with me when she hadn't been before, calling me by a cute new nickname, getting flustered when I teased her, etc. So when she offered to make me a dinner I decided it was worth taking a chance, toward the end of the night I held her hand...and she DID NOT like it. Unambiguous (but friendly) rejection. Confirmation bias on my part, I suppose.

So still failing. Still working hard to improve.

I'm beginning to suspect that there's a big difference between the way I see myself and the way others see me, i.e., I'm actually unattractive to most women. This is a hard pill to swallow, but if it's true, then I want to believe it's true.

So here's what I'll be doing over the next two months:

  1. Improve appearance as much as possible. Get shirts tailored, start lifting, whiten teeth.

  2. Work on empathy. Imitate the gestures of whoever's speaking. Dedicate time to thinking about others when they're not around: "I wonder what he's doing right now?", "I wonder what she thinks about that?"

  3. Meet lots of people. Start more conversations with strangers. Go to some of the tech meetups in the city and mingle. Go to some cooking classes. Keep notes and review them.

This is gradually becoming the hardest thing I've ever done. Hopefully that will make it all the more rewarding when it finally works out!

Replies from: jpulgarin, hamnox, jsalvatier
comment by jpulgarin · 2012-02-06T03:00:07.985Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I noticed throughout your post you said "turns out she didn't like me" twice, as if this was a simple boolean value that you have to find out the value of.

The truth is that attraction is pretty malleable and it's totally possible that your friend had romantic interest in you which disappeared while having dinner with her, or that the potential date that cancelled on you twice was turned off through non-physical interactions (texts, phonecalls).

Your 3 step action plan sounds solid though. The fundamentals of pick up artistry will also help a ton.

comment by hamnox · 2012-02-06T02:59:04.904Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good plan! I'll have to add #2 to my own practice list.

If you're going to be meeting lots of new people, I'd also make an emphasis on remembering their names and using them often. It's a subtle but effective compliment. I've gotten much better at the remembering part, but I'm not very good at casually dropping them into a conversation.

comment by jsalvatier · 2012-02-08T17:37:54.266Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For fashion stuff, I've found r/malefashionadvice very useful, though it targets a fairly conservative look by default. In particular the guides on the sidebar often provide pretty specific advice and it's a good forum for asking questions. Ignore any internet drama currently on the front page (not typical).

Replies from: arundelo, dbaupp
comment by arundelo · 2012-02-09T00:30:51.111Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It looks like you meant to include a link but it disappeared. This can happen when you put the URL first rather than the link text.

Replies from: jsalvatier
comment by jsalvatier · 2012-02-12T17:37:01.399Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, fixed.

comment by dbaupp · 2012-02-08T23:35:12.091Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've found very useful

Is there something missing?

comment by jpulgarin · 2012-02-05T16:03:42.540Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am currently trying to become really socially effective. During the next 8 months I plan to:

  • Take voice coaching *
  • Take a public presentation class at my University *
  • Join debate club *
  • Join toastmasters *
  • Get a telemarketing job
  • Get a door-to-door sales job
  • Become a competent pick-up-artist
  • Take an improv acting class

"*" means I'm currently doing this activity.

Replies from: Pfft
comment by Pfft · 2012-02-05T16:19:34.723Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you say more about voice coaching? What does it cost, what kind of exercises do you do, where do you find a coach?

Replies from: jpulgarin
comment by jpulgarin · 2012-02-05T16:32:37.824Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I used a combination of google and reddit.com/r/waterloo to find voice coaches in my city (Waterloo). I settled on the two that looked best, and am now getting 1 half hour session a week from each of them to A/B test which one is better. It costs $20 per half hour session.

I told them that my goal was to have a captivating voice that gets people's attention in small/large groups. They both said that learning how to sing was really important in terms of my stated goals, so right now I'm learning the basics of singing. This includes how to warm up your voice, properly breathing with your diaphragm, bringing up the soft-palette on command, etc...

We also go over the speeches that I am going to present in my public presentation class, which I find incredibly useful. For example, we'll go over the same sentence in a paragraph about 15 times, ensuring that I have correct diction, tone of voice etc...

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-02-05T13:01:51.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The loved one is working on a novel. It turns out that "I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp" (W. Somerset Maugham) is a good way to get a lot of first draft turned out. Inspired by this, I've been attempting to write something vaguely song-shaped every day for a month. Doesn't have to even be any good at all, it just has to be an actual thing. I've missed two days in the past couple of weeks, but am attempting to keep at it. When I have thirty days down I'll probably put all thirty days up as an mp3.

I've also submitted two pieces for the Homestuck album competition: "Salmon" (Feferi Peixes) and "Kingdom" (Eridan Ampora). I doubt they'll get anywhere, but it provoked me to get them into some sort of finished form.

At work, we have until the end of this month to move all our live sites from the old Solaris SPARC servers to a new bunch of hosted Ubuntu VMs. (Our stuff is Java webapps running in Tomcat, so this is not at all difficult conceptually.) So I've spent the last couple of months making as absolutely as much as possible deployable in a completely automated fashion - automating everything I've done by hand for ages, and actually defining all the accumulated cruft (magical symlinks, etc.) the apps rely on. Since we use ant for builds, I've been using that. Even with ant-contrib mixed in, it's like playing with an esoteric programming language whose particular conceit is requiring all code to be correctly-formed XML. As such, I've evolved a new law of the universe:

If your hammer is Turing-complete, you will one day have to use it as a screwdriver, spanner, soda siphon and nail.


Every Turing-complete domain-specific language evolves into brainfuck.

It's the largest useful piece of coding I've ever done. Even as a non-coder I think the code is horrible, but the spaghetti is mostly concealed behind not-very-horrible targets and macrodefs, and working to the rule "get the data format right and the code will follow obviously" is giving good results. And - and this is the important thing - it actually works. Everything I've been doing is directly useful. The eventual goal is to have the ant-based deploy automation controlled by Puppet, and be able to say "Puppet, go install an instance of that app over on that node, taking care of all the little details." "Righty-ho!" (done)

Replies from: EStokes, None
comment by EStokes · 2012-02-05T21:48:05.518Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh boy, Homestuck music stuff. Nice. Salmon sounds a bit dark though- seems more like a Feferi and Condesce combo. Kingdom makes me think of his time on LOWAA, kind of actiony but dark or sad or something. Anyways, cool.

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-02-05T22:10:51.933Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you :-) I was consciously filling out "Kingdom" with bits that might go well with an animation (e.g. the piano figure). Yeah, "Salmon" does sound more like power realised rather than just aspired to.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-05T15:41:35.717Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like Salmon! I want to like Kingdom, but Eridan is just such a dooooooouche~ ;_;

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-02-05T19:16:12.616Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

:-D Both are actually old pieces, but the contest pushed me to get them polished in that particular direction and call them "done". "Kingdom" is just like Eridan: angsty and humorless. So "Salmon" (which was its working title all along, but the fish theme fits Feferi) went well as the other half of the pair. I can hear the failed moirallegiance and why it was doomed: she's just utterly out of his class and he'll never understand.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-05T21:57:09.514Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by mgmobrien · 2012-02-05T21:09:03.592Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm working on a site that lets people map the logical relations between ideas in a massively collaborative environment.

My background is web development (I run the site songlyrics.com) and philosophy (I'm in a MA program at UChicago doing philosophy of language, logic, and epistemology).

The project is currently just shy of a working prototype. The idea is to do things differently than sites like debategraph.org, where arguments are organized hierarchically. We want to simply have propositions, and logical relations between propositions. Our aim to develop a single contiguous map of ideas. A graph rather than a hierarchy. If anyone's interested in hearing more, let me know.

Side question, does anyone have any data on how big the community is here at LW? I'm applying for a social business competition and I consider the users of this site to be squarely positioned within my target audience.

Replies from: Fredrik
comment by Fredrik · 2012-02-07T18:30:08.949Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am trying to build a collaborative argumentation analysis platform. It sounds like we want the almost exact same thing. Who are you working with? What is your detailed vision?

Please join our FB group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/arguable or contact me at branstrom at gmail.com.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2012-02-06T00:26:00.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm putting the finishing touches to my program that converts EU3 - Divine Wind saves into Victoria 2 saves.

Replies from: Multiheaded
comment by Multiheaded · 2012-02-07T09:23:24.632Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Will it be compatible with the V2 expansion that got released just recently? Cause that would be kickass.

Replies from: RolfAndreassen
comment by RolfAndreassen · 2012-02-07T18:46:48.808Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As it happens, those are the finishing touches. It was already pretty good for vanilla. So, yes, it'll be compatible with AHD. The main changes were to the province files, where AHD apparently enforces that they must be organised by region; and the tech system, since AHD has a cap on the number of research points you can accumulate. For vanilla I could just say "From your EU3 techs you get X amount of RP, spend them as you like", but for AHD I need to do the spending in the converter.

comment by ryjm · 2012-02-09T21:39:40.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The substantial amount of mathematics related posts has encouraged me to emerge from lurker status and post my own 'project'.

I have spent the last 5 months recording every minute of rigorous mathematical practice here in an attempt to test the limits of my modest intellect. I used a stopwatch and paper for the first couple of months, but I have now graduated to Emacs and org-mode (and to tracking all of my time, out of pure curiosity - I like knowing that every aspect of my life is searchable. It frees a (possibly imagined) mental burden).

A (long) background for whoever is interested: I've never been very good at math, and I struggled throughout all of my high school math classes. Toward the end of high school, however, I became absolutely enraptured with something about mathematics, something that I can't really put into words. It's been a kind of a curse, to be honest. I feel like Paul Erdos without any semblance of mathematical intuition; maybe close to how he felt for that week of no amphetamines.

So I spent the summer after senior year with my nose in every math textbook I could find. I have huge piles of paper filled with exercises from Apostol, Rudin, Munkres, that I spent upwards of 10 hours a day on. But it didn't help much... I went to university, took a fairly heavy, but not impossible courseload, and didn't do so well. Not horrible, but definitely not what you would expect from someone who spent every waking moment on this stuff. Same thing happened the next semester.

I breezed through an Analysis course last summer, and that gave me some confidence. It also prompted me to figure out exactly why this was happening to me... Is there something fundamental I am missing? What can I do about it?

So I took another heavy courseload for the fall semester, but this time I decided to track every moment of really vigorous, concentrated practice - no light reading, leisurely thoughts, a skim through a couple chapters; but actual, no bullshit, rigorous mind work. The kind where you get tired after 15 minutes. Lectures were the most brutal - I made it my goal to get ahead of the professor, to ask every single dumbass question that I honestly could not think of the answer to, and even attempted to completely re synthesize as many proofs as possible when there was any downtime. And I recorded it all.

It didn't help. I spent an average (I think) of 40 hours a week on this kind of work. The rest was 'regular' work - mostly math related (I did play skyrim for a bit, but didn't get very far), but not quite so intense. I got three B's and one A-. Disappointing.

Well, here I am now. No happy ending (yet). I took a much needed break for the winter as a test to see whether I was just running on steam. Definitely not the case. By the end of the month, I was itching to get back.

So what have I learned? I don't know. I'd like to blame it on exams - I do very well on the homework, but I can't seem to get in the right mindset for solving problems in such a small window of time, and they practically count for your entire grade. But exams DO test your understanding... perhaps I haven't understood anything deep enough yet.

If you read all this... thanks! I haven't shared this with anyone, and it feels like I'm letting out a dark secret.

Last note: I have almost no problems whatsoever with akrasia. Not sure why... but I would gladly trade it for a modicum of the deeply inspirational intelligence I see here.

Replies from: David_Gerard, Alex_Altair
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-02-11T00:00:52.576Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm finding it inspirational that you'll work that hard to try to level up in something you're interested in but not sure you have any talent in. This is pretty much how I'm approaching music ... still haven't learnt to actually play an instrument yet, of course.

Replies from: ryjm
comment by ryjm · 2012-02-12T00:06:54.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Funny that you mention music. My experience with practicing guitar all through high school was what led me to believe that natural talent is dwarfed by hard work. This is a oft repeated phrase, but I don't think it does anything for anyone until they experience the results of it themselves.

You can find my instrumental metal project here.

comment by Alex_Altair · 2012-04-10T12:50:52.655Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would gladly trade [akrasia] for a modicum of the deeply inspirational intelligence I see here.

Don't ever, ever say that. Without the will to act you become akin to a non-person, more like a sentient rock that observes and reacts according to past rules, but cannot move towards a goal.

comment by shminux · 2012-02-05T19:18:27.150Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Trying to port my personal anti-akrasia technique (based on raising the activity-switching threshold) from the office to home setting.

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-02-05T19:26:31.980Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sounds interesting! More details please?

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2012-02-06T01:38:41.561Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's easy for me to get distracted and switch from productive work to just browsing LW or whatever. So I decided that every time I switch to a new activity, whether work-related or not, I will document it: time the last activity stopped, the details of what its status was at the time of suspension, whether the original goal was achieved or not, and any notes relevant for future resumption of it. Also record what the next activity is, it what stage it is at, what the intended goal is, and optionally anything else pertinent. ONLY THEN switch to the new activity. I set no restrictions on what the new activity can be, none whatsoever, just made sure I document every switch. It only takes a couple of minutes at most (I wrote a quick-and-dirty google docs spreadsheet to simplify entering the notes).

So far I have noticed a couple of benefits: I rarely switch to an unproductive or frivolous task, partly because of the hassle of having to document it in advance, and partly because writing down something like "gonna browse some LW forums, cuz I don't want to debug this code anymore" is plain embarrassing. Additionally, I ended up having a reasonably well documented diary, which is helpful when resuming a suspended task some time later.

In retrospect, it's raising the switching threshold that seems to provide the benefit. Apparently also works for dieting. Having to write down what you are going to consume and why, before you ever open the fridge, may reduce spontaneous munching for some.

The part I like is that I put no restrictions, so there is no guilt after due to breaking them. As long as everything is written down, including the motives and the outcomes.

Replies from: folkTheory, folkTheory, jpulgarin
comment by folkTheory · 2012-02-13T03:14:30.755Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey, I've been doing this for a few days and it's been extremely helpful. Thank you for posting this!

A bit more about it: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9z4/on_journaling/5vdf

comment by folkTheory · 2012-02-06T04:42:35.917Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you, this seems very interesting. I'll try it out soon.

comment by jpulgarin · 2012-02-06T03:05:21.198Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How long have you been doing this?

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2012-02-06T05:05:40.223Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Only a couple of weeks. Easy in the office, still haven't got into the habit at home.

comment by Rain · 2012-02-05T17:44:02.804Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm working on getting my warrior to level 85. I'm up to level 62 already, which is pretty good for about 28 hours put into it. I wanted a warrior to replace my Death Knight main because tanking as DK is getting its theme wrecked over time, block from shield is a much better mechanic than 2-handed tanking, and we have too many people rolling on the same token in my guild, along with another DK in the 10-man group. Once I'm 85, I can start on heroics and eventually Looking For Raid, which will be the first time I've done LFR on any of my characters.

I'm also working on getting 3 stars on every Angry Birds level, trying to max out my distance on Jetpack Joyride (currently in the top 600), and trying to get through all the fiction currently stored on my Kindle.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2012-02-05T18:29:16.437Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think that's really in the spirit of these pages.

Replies from: RobertLumley, Rain
comment by RobertLumley · 2012-02-05T18:36:16.045Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean... I'd tend to agree. But it says "any kind project is fair game" so...

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2012-02-05T18:44:29.401Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consuming media and playing games is very passive; I thought the emphasis of the 'working on' pages were about stuff that was in some way creative or productive. If you just want to discuss what media you plan to consume, well, isn't that what http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9t4/february_2012_media_thread/ is for?

Replies from: RobertLumley, David_Gerard
comment by RobertLumley · 2012-02-05T19:02:15.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consuming media and playing games is very passive

Would you say the same thing about playing chess, with the goal to reach a certain ELO rating? I agree about the former, but not about the latter. Many (video) games require a tremendous amount of memory, decision making, modeling of others, that make them arguably productive. I wouldn't describe playing Starcraft (or really any game) as "consuming" media at all, it's a very active process. In some cases, Starcraft is actually replacing Chess as the model system for cognitive science. It's always really bothered me that video games are considered to be very low brow, while certain other games (chess, go, bridge) are (rather arbitrarily) considered very high brow. I love chess, I love bridge, and I've never really tried Go. But I also love Starcraft, for many of the same reasons. Not every video game is like chess, certainly; there are many that are more analogous to checkers. But many are just as good at cultivating the same skills chess does - and some do it better.

Edit: I will say though, (I think) the OP was about World of Warcraft, which, while I have never played it, I don't particularly think very highly of it. It seems much more like an addiction machine. But, like I said, I haven't played it.

Replies from: David_Gerard, gwern, Rain
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-02-05T19:25:25.540Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The older teen uses it to socialise. She met her last two boyfriends on MMORPGs. She's moving in with the latest one this month. I expect that counts as winning.

comment by gwern · 2012-02-05T19:27:23.972Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would you say the same thing about playing chess, with the goal to reach a certain ELO rating?

I'd say the same thing I'd say to David Gerard, which is that deliberately trying to attain a certain improvement in skills is much closer to work than fun, and is 'deliberate practice' of the sort so valuable in other areas (pace Ericsson), and to be encouraged. If you're reading hard literature and entering words you don't know or striking quotes into Mnemosyne, that's more appropriate for this page than just reading Discworld or something.

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-02-05T20:47:59.546Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, it's approaching art to level up in art appreciation and general comprehension of humanity, or to unwind. That said, the two aren't incompatible.

comment by Rain · 2012-02-05T19:15:13.742Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some World of Warcraft strategy discussion.

Replies from: RobertLumley
comment by RobertLumley · 2012-02-05T19:16:15.511Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a good point. There's a lot of math that goes into any power-gaming build.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-02-05T19:12:09.517Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I dunno. I've just finished reading through Actually (the last collection of essays and reviews) by Christopher Hitchens, and it's inspiring me to go out and read some of this stuff he's going on about. The one I'm on right now is Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West, the 2007 Penguin edition with a lengthy intro by Hitchens. The book is a doorstop-sized travelogue of Yugoslavia in the 1930s, a subject I have little interest in; I'm bothering only because a literature fan like Hitchens raved about it. And so far it's page-turningly good. So yeah, attempting to level up in books and media - to improve one's mind by becoming more highly literate - could indeed count as a project (personal improvement), I think.

That said, I agree that MMORPGs are pushing it just a bit.

comment by Rain · 2012-02-05T18:33:36.150Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How about trying to get to the number two spot on this leader board, which I'm well on my way to accomplishing? Because they feel a lot alike to me.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-02-06T12:11:45.266Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am painfully slowly finishing my textbook on high-school computer science. The text is ready, only the pictures are missing, but there are still many pictures missing. If I write a book next time, I will always make sketches of pictures while writing, so that I don't have to decipher my notes months later.

Why am I doing this? Mostly for signalling. The textbook market in Slovakia is heavily regulated -- only the textbooks written for government contract can be used in schools, and the terms of contract are very bad for authors. This is why (updates for) many textbooks are missing for decades, because there is no volunteer to write them. Unfortunately, this policy will probably not change soon, so I decided to do it. My expected gains: First, writing a non-fiction book was always my dream, so I don't mind not getting much money for the first one. Second, if I write some books later, I could use this textbook as an advertising.

I also started writing a simple computer game. When it is ready, I will write blog articles about making the game. Then I will do the same with a bit more complex game, etc. Expected gain: signalling and adsense income. If the project is successful, I could later publish it as a book.

A long term goal (to which both these activities contribute) is to be a writer, not a code monkey. Expected gains: independence, time flexibility, more pleasant work. Main hindrance: heavy akrasia.

comment by hamnox · 2012-02-06T00:34:49.503Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For the past week, I've been experimenting with a morning and night ritual when I wake up and before I go to bed.

The morning ritual consists of an affirmation about winning, a recitation of the heuristics I'm currently trying to get myself to employ (things like flipping a coin when my options are close enough in utility to make thinking too hard about it a waste of time and energy, checking my to-do list as soon as I walk through the door, or not putting off necessities like sleep and food for "just a minute while I finish this..".), and a brainstorming session. I finish by repeating the winning affirmation. The idea here is to get myself into the right mindset to tackle the day and keep the tools for doing so on the brain.

The bedtime ritual consists of me listing what happened that day with minimal commentary, reviewing my morning idea list, scheduling any ideas that warrant further thinking about or doing, and a declaration that the day is over and that I can do better tomorrow, starting with a good night's sleep. I also stuck a "Cthulhu fhtagen" at the end of it because it seemed to lack a cool note of finality. The idea here is I suck at remembering things as they actually happened, and all my self-reflection about today's mistakes and plans for tomorrow need to be acknowledged or I'll be up all night worrying about whether I'll forget everything by morning. I plan to review these lists weekly, starting today.

I'm not allowing myself to alter these rituals more than every two weeks, so it has some consistency.

How it's going: I feel like I've been considerably more effective. I do remember the first few heuristics more often in the situations when I need them. I also notice when I FAIL to use them a lot more, both right after the fact and during the daily review. I've gotten more things accomplished each day (smaller tasks especially, so I probably need to work on granularizing my bigger projects) and noticed several little slots of usable time that previously seemed to blend into big blocks of "Morning","Work", and "Evening". I'm sure it helps that I haven't touched fanfiction.net at all this week. Some of the heuristics in the morning ritual are poorly defined and so harder to implement than I'd realized.

The no-modifying stipulation is killing me. I know that tinkering with these every few days like I want to takes away from the overall ritual effect and stops me from being able to accumulate long-term information on what does and doesn't work, but I keep wanting to do it anyways. This new version was bound to have some bugs that obviously need fixing from the first run, but I'm trying to break my habit of ignoring my own rules as soon as they get a little inconvenient.

I notice I've been getting up early since I started clearing my head of loose ends before bed. I'm not sure what's up with that. I actually started timing my rituals the last two days and realized that I could not have sustained this new habit if that wasn't true, because my current versions take around 45 minutes to get through.

Ideas from the morning's brainstorm get a significant delay in implementation, which was in part by design so I don't start 75 different half-baked schemes that sounded good at the time I thought of them. I schedule anything obviously time-sensitive right away. But the delay till reviewing it, then another delay till morning to start on it still irritates me. I wonder if there isn't a better way of doing it.

Replies from: adamisom
comment by adamisom · 2012-02-06T02:12:54.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm no stranger to trying different rituals myself. In fact, I've read a lot of personal development. But I still find it hard to implement things for any length of time.

One of the lessons I've learned is keep things as simple as possible--simpler than you think is reasonable. For example, my bare morning ritual, which I stick to most of the time, is about 15 minutes, but makes my mornings far more pleasant. A second lesson that is 100% ingrained in me is to wait awhile before thinking something is a success.

It's so cool that another SLC LWer takes these things seriously - which is why you should help me put together an instrumental rationality subgroup.

EDIT: I didn't see that you stop yourself from changing the ritual more frequently than every two weeks. That's something I myself have trouble with--I kept wanting to update my rituals every few days for awhile, until recently, when i decided to just say heck with the rituals for now, I'll just start with something easier.

Replies from: jpulgarin
comment by jpulgarin · 2012-02-06T03:04:32.013Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is your 15 minute morning ritual?

Replies from: adamisom
comment by adamisom · 2012-02-06T03:46:29.723Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Haha, well that takes openness: first, I wash out my eyes, pee, drink about 8 oz water, and eat a bowl of cereal. This takes about 5 minutes. Then I log onto my computer and read a few posts from the archive of one of my favorite bloggers for about 10 minutes; this allows me to both wake up gradually and painlessly, and to start the day feeling a bit smarter and more inspired. After this I try to work on some of my most important work for the day to get that done early.

Replies from: MileyCyrus
comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-02-06T04:30:57.780Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You work at home?

Replies from: adamisom
comment by adamisom · 2012-02-06T04:33:37.113Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I kinda wish I did. No, I'm "just" a student. I mean, I'm going to be studying my whole life, so this is just a more concentrated, and credentialed, time of study. I don't even have a part-time job, although i did recently. The 'most important things' can be for school, psychology labs, clubs (including the LW Meetup I've started), or for more personal endeavors (like working on self improvement goals).

comment by Thomas · 2012-02-05T13:56:46.600Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am pondering the usefulness of neodymium magnets. What could be another cool use of them. Or the usage already known, but not very widely?

For one, I like the so called "neodymium magnets fishing", where people attache a strong magnet on one end of a rope and fish for iron objects in the river or lakes nearby. You can see on youtube what do they catch. I could do it in the lake Bled several miles from here, where a lot of Bronze and Iron Age artifacts have already been found by divers. Many haven't, I suspect, so I could hunt from the lake shore or from a boat.

Or I could go a little south to the river Ljubljanica, where the underwater archaeology has a long history and underwater archaeologists have filled several museums already with the stuff fallen there in the last 3000 years. I could fish for Roman swords from any bridge above. Of course, I would catch a lot more bicycles and other modern garbage, but I might get lucky, too.

I might fish on a field as well, to catch an iron meteorite lying there for ages without being noticed. With this magnet on a short rope behind me, walking across the field whole day.

Well, I could just attach many of those magnets to farmers tractors (plows) running around. The deal with farmers could be beneficiary for them and for me. It is not necessary that they catch something valuable. A nail would be good, be cause a cow will not swallow that one. That's another use of the neodiums.

What are your ideas? You don't need to tell, just have one and do something (lucrative).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-05T22:47:24.337Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Inspired mostly by Tom Fiore's presentation in his excellent Music and Mathematics writing (found via John Baez from week 234 of TWFIMP), I am trying to understand the extent to which group theory can be used to analyze music. I've narrowed my sights at the moment to trying to understand the so-called ice cream changes (see also here), which is analyzed briefly on page 28 of Fiore's writing above. Since I don't know music theory or group theory very well, I'm picking up what I need as I go along. The next thing I'm trying to understand is centralizers, specifically in the context of the T/I and PLR groups.

I also recently spent time setting up Overtone, a music programming environment for Clojure. This is the best means I have for producing musical sounds at the moment, and I also find a programmatic environment to be pretty convenient for generating transpositions/inversions/other transforms of chords and sequences. It helps that I'm already familiar with Clojure.

Replies from: grouchymusicologist
comment by grouchymusicologist · 2012-02-06T00:18:58.577Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good for you for learning this material. Let me know if you want more suggestions for things to read concerning group theory and music theory.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-02-05T22:45:59.137Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Procrastinating on writing up a decision theory post (which is about 1.5 months late now) and figuring out what's relevant for agents with provability oracles to be able to solve PD, by instead mostly studying math.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-08T18:42:14.694Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Creating Anki cards for all the bolded words in Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. (I will post a link on LW when this is done.)
  • Trying to level up in writing ability by writing some short stories and some blog post-style intuitive explanations of computer science concepts.
  • Trying to level up in Python programming by doing the examples in "Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming: Case Studies in Common Lisp" in Python. (A few years ago I picked up PAIP and learned Common Lisp from it, but from what I've heard Lisp is pretty much useless in the "real world," so I want to get better at more popular high-level languages; the only other ones I am competent at are Java and some .NET stuff. But I do enjoy AI programming, and PAIP is a great book.)
  • Rearranging my schedule to make myself more productive. I've known for a while that procrastination is a problem for me, but I haven't started figuring out what to do about it until recently.
Replies from: Risto_Saarelma
comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-02-09T06:49:49.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll be interested in knowing how you fare with translating the more metaprogramming-intensive parts, such as implementing a logic programming framework, of PAIP to Python.

Lisp doesn't show up much these days, but it still does appear here and there. Moshe Looks developed a program optimization AI framework in Lisp, got hired by Google, and got to continue using Lisp there, despite Google generally taking a pretty dim view on programming language proliferation, since his system apparently needs the sort of metaprogramming features that aren't easily available in other languages.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-09T13:01:42.455Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

According to Peter Norvig, manipulating the parse tree in Python is extremely difficult, so some I might have to skip a few of those sections.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-02-05T19:02:00.831Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A proof copy of the dead tree version of my novel Summons is in the mail to me. If that works out, I'm going to buy seven to give as gifts and six more to sell to people who say they want them signed. (If you want a signed one let me know - it's $10 list price plus a bubble mailer plus media mail shipping from me to you.) Silver should be done in about a month and a half and then that'll be available in dead tree or typeset ebook too.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2012-02-05T19:13:01.361Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you planning to get it published in a conventional sense?

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2012-02-05T19:15:18.815Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, I'm not interested in traditional publishing. I have my beta readers, I got a professional proofreader friend to look through Summons, and I traded a free signed copy of the dead tree for typesetting help. And it's all still mine and I can still do whatever I want with it (including Creative Commonsing the whole thing without having to have Cory Doctorow's clout).

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2012-02-05T23:38:23.559Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suppose you can still ebook it on amazon...

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2012-02-05T23:40:29.068Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by erratio · 2012-02-05T15:13:58.895Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • I'm still working on my blog series about the cogsci of humour, based heavily on Dennett's Inside Jokes, with some contributions from my virtual meetup group. I estimate that I'm about halfway through the series, but have had to go on hiatus while I do school-related stuff. I'm hoping really hard that I'll have enough spare time during spring break to re-read the relevant bits of the book so that I can write up the rest. Link is here.

  • Trying to extend my research project from last semester to new domains, while juggling an ambitious course load.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-05T15:55:28.928Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So the result I was working on previously is done -- four or five weeks after I finished writing my proposal. Suck it, planning fallacy. Today and tomorrow I'm going to work on writing it up carefully.

The new direction my project is taking is to get some quantitative idea of when exactly the result will hold. It's one of those things where we know it will hold for small epsilon, but that's useless to everyone unless we know how small epsilon needs to be. Given my schedule and teaching responsibilities this semester, I imagine I'll make reasonable amounts of progress before the end of the month.

For summer, I still need to apply to various summer schools and conferences.

I'm still thinking about continuous-time causal models, but I'm no longer convinced that I have the right definitions for things. The phase space treatment I gave in an earlier discussion thread really does only make sense if the paths have well-defined derivatives everywhere, and not just outside a set of measure zero. If they have well-defined derivatives everywhere, then the process is no longer Markov.

I'd like to have a second post written by the end of the month, but this project has to take lower priority to my research.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-02-08T06:52:43.694Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Getting up to speed on C++11 after 10 years of steering clear of C++, now that they finally came out with the standard. Writing a roguelike game from scratch in modern C++ and looking for ways to express complex game logic in as readable and maintainable code as possible using various tricks and idioms.

I still haven't found the settings panel in my head that lets me switch the focus of obsessive tinkering into something other than game programming.

comment by iemfi · 2012-02-08T02:12:03.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been lurking for some time but finally cannot resist posting in this thread. I've been working alone for some time now on an education startup. It's basically a website with math notes and questions for students. I've noticed that educational software hasn't really changed much over the last 2 decades. I could really really use some proper critism/feedback. Link (only works properly on Firefox for now). Feedback

How would you have done it? What probability do you give it of succeeding? How should I proceed? Thanks!

comment by amcknight · 2012-02-07T20:37:41.682Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Studying neuroscience! Specifically going through Molecular Neuropharmacology: A Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience, which does a deep dive into different neurotransmitters and receptors among other things. Creating Anki cards as I go. I'm working on this for a bunch of reasons including hopes that it will help build a foundation I can use for letting me reduce mental properties people talk about down to neuroshit. More idealistically: it seems that almost no one in history has known what they actually are and that knowing this will (in some unknown way) positively change my life.

comment by Alex_Altair · 2012-02-05T17:30:45.877Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a math class where I get to work on anything I want. I'm currently researching ways to approximate Solomonoff Induction. I'll need to use some subset of the recursively enumerable function so that it's computable. Recently I found total functional programming as a way to accomplish this.

Replies from: AlanCrowe
comment by AlanCrowe · 2012-02-06T00:19:56.682Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Primitive Recursive Functions appear quite attractive as a subset of all computable functions. They always terminate, so one can use an enumeration to get a computable upper bound on Kolmogorov complexity. They look like they are rich enough that the upper bound could be low enough to be interesting.

comment by rlp10 · 2012-02-08T08:45:46.787Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been working on anti-akrasia software. Currently it allows a person to log their daily activities, and assess how 'productive' they have been each day.

What I envision is a program with a modular facility: people can suggest and code modules providing anti-akrasia techniques.

A user would configure the program: my goals are X and Y and the anti-akrasia techniques I am using are A, B and C. Then the user would operate the program for a few days logging their daily activities, including how much closer towards their goals this takes them.

A user could then analyse the success of different techniques, with the software doing the heavy-lifting (i.e. applying bayes to suggest how much the user should believe that a certain technique is effective in helping them achieve their goals). Based on this information, the user would reconfigure the software, varying their goals or changing which techniques they are using.

If the user was willing, anonymous data could be collected to provide wider information on what techniques work and for what kinds of goals.

Any people capable of coding would be able to submit (a) modules for anti-akrasia techniques and (b) modules for analysing the data.

Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated!

comment by Andy_McKenzie · 2012-02-07T04:44:58.077Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One of my side projects is attempting to categorize all of the trade-offs that decision-makers in our universe face. As of a literature search in June 2010, I could find no good system to classify trade-offs, even though (and perhaps because) this is a topic that cuts across many disciplines (see Wikipedia). My main goal in doing this is to attempt to parse out the parameter space so that people can share insights across fields, although I have other goals as well.

The simplest example is probably speed vs accuracy. This comes up all the time in computer science, it comes up in athletics, it comes up in molecular biology (e.g., DNA polymerase is more accurate, RNA polymerase is faster); it comes up, as far as I can tell, pretty much everywhere it could come up. Once we know this, can we say how people or agents have tended to solve this problem, and apply those same sorts of solutions to our own decisions where we must make a trade-off between speed and accuracy? My working hypothesis is that this will be the case.

If you have any ideas or interest, please let me know.

comment by Manfred · 2012-02-06T02:02:56.154Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, inspired by teaching a class on interference recently, I'm writing a program that will output pieces of music that hopefully sound like interfering waves.

comment by alexvermeer · 2012-02-07T14:12:15.439Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Motivation/anti-procrastination life hacking research. Specifically, ironing out what specific things I can do to procrastinate less, and making them as easy to do as possible. Research is basically done, just working on implementing what I've found out. Pretty successful so far!

Understand Keith Stanovich's taxonomy of thinking problems, such as in Rationality and the Reflective Mind, to organize all my debiasing/rationality-increasing projects. Motivation for this is two-fold: One, it's helping me get up to speed on the dual-process literature, and two it's helping me understand where our rationality goes wrong.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-22T17:53:43.599Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Motivation/anti-procrastination life hacking research. Specifically, ironing out what specific things I can do to procrastinate less, and making them as easy to do as possible. Research is basically done, just working on implementing what I've found out. Pretty successful so far!

Think you can give a few pointers?

Replies from: alexvermeer
comment by alexvermeer · 2012-02-26T02:48:08.164Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mostly I'd say try actually doing some of the stuff in How to Beat Procrastination and related posts, instead of just reading about them I'm completely guilty of doing this - I repeatedly caught myself putting off implementing advice by doing more and more research. Probably the most useful thing for me so far is this poster which helps trigger these behaviors.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-22T17:52:03.004Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am running an Ms Paint Adventures inspired adventure in their forum so far with some light rationality themes: Blockstuck.

I am also giving thought to designing a lazy-evaluated LISP derivative with CAS features, DSL for assembler JIT, category theoretical constructs, innocations in type systems, etc. So far not much in terms of code, since I lack a good language to implement it in. C++ has load of libraries but no GC, D has good GC but lacks libraries.

comment by oliverbeatson · 2012-02-14T19:38:10.868Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been working on a personal organisation web-app. Partly because it's fun, partly because hopefully it'll get to stage of being useful. Currently all data is basically private to each user (I have the only user account, though now that it's online it is open to new users). Features right now are calendars and diaries, with users being able create multiple iterations of each for whatever differing purposes.

One planned feature is the ability to have dialogues with oneself, (Alicorn's Luminosity Elspeth-style) between 1-8ish other named personalities / selves / sides. The idea is that you can talk to yourself in different styles or with different opinions, so that you can evaluate more precisely any internal conflicts, be they between values or ideas or choices. Then if you feel the conflict come up again you can check the log rather than worry about it all over again, maybe with additional insights the next times.

Very reluctantly posting link: http://buytherooftop.com/yourder/ (because it's only slightly of use to me at the minute, although I anticipate making it more so).

I made it because I didn't see anything similar on the web. I'm hoping to add a few other more complex things to it (like full hierarchical task / goal management systems) but those will wait for a while.

I may post about other personal projects, but this was the most obviously relevant.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-02-09T02:37:02.739Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Too many things.

I have my RA project, my project class project, 2 online classes through Stanford, 3 non-online classes, and then the things I'd like to do. It cashes out as 70-80 hours of work a week if I do as much as I should for everything.

I think my project for this week is trying to schedule everything effectively, and (relatedly) work on motivation management techniques to make sure that work is being done ahead of time instead of behind schedule. It's easy for me to crunch and finish everything that needs to be done today, at the cost of taking tomorrow off- which, if I haven't budgeted for that, will then put me behind, and things snowball. So I want to make sure that doesn't happen.

The worst thing about it is that everything is simultaneous. I think I would be fine pulling 60 hour weeks working on one thing until it's done, then moving onto the next one, but having many different things that each want 10 hours a week is rough.

comment by DanielLC · 2012-02-05T20:42:27.827Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does it count if I'm probably not going to make progress on it for a while? I never feel like I have time at school.