What are you working on? June 2011

post by jsalvatier · 2011-06-05T20:31:00.250Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 35 comments

This is the third What Are You Working On? thread. Click on the 'waywo' tag to see previous threads. I'm going to do these every two months instead of every month from now on. So here's the question:

What are you working on? 

Here are some guidelines


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by David_Gerard · 2011-06-05T22:32:12.574Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have just spent three weeks moving house and I'm still exhausted.

  • This exercised my arms and back.
  • In working out what to do with the landlord and our security deposit, Strategy of Conflict was most useful guidance: we cleaned the place immaculately (including the collapsing floor in the kitchen ... it's an immaculate collapsing floor), photographed the lot when we were done and left. We know he plans to keep our deposit (he mouthed off to someone who told us), but he doesn't know that we know this. It's been five working days since end of lease - five more and he's too late to ding us for any damages he wants to take. I think he's going to be stupid. At that point I get a small claims judgement and win. All good. Then I have to actually get the money back from the right bank account of the right shell company, which will doubtless keep me amused for some time.
  • Embracing the Dark Arts to get the loved one moving on shit that had to be done. Using someone's cognitive biases is okay if it's in a good cause and you describe everything you did afterwards. Possibly.
  • 415 volts of three-phase applied to the teenager to get her moving on stuff. Oh wait, I just wanted to do that.

I am working on music, though in a more desultory way than I should. (Akrasia!) I am failing repeatedly and learning, and persisting in failing and learning. e.g I am still no form of musician whatsoever, so I need to get much better at doing stuff in my head before tapping it into LMMS. "Persisting in failing and learning" seems to work.

I vastly expanded a Wikipedia article yesterday. Haven't done that in a while. It was fun. Google Books has stuff from the barely-remembered mists of prehistory, that being the period before 1995.

comment by BenLowell · 2011-06-06T03:11:44.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is what I said the last time I posted (In the first thread):

I've been working on being more sociable. I've been talking to people in my classes, and doing work in the lounge for my major. I'm not as productive as when I work on my own, but I'm getting involved in small talk. I think someone here mentioned that much of small-talk is just about being enthusiastic and friendly---once I started looking at it this way it became much easier---it is actually pleasant for me now.

This has gone great! I have new friends and it's wonderful!

I'm about halfway through reading Social Cognition by Gordon Moskowitz, which is helping me gain a better understanding of cognitive biases.

I finished reading this, and didn't learn about cognitive biases so much, but did get a better understanding of stereotyping and attributions. Mostly general theory, and lots of specific experiments (the book gives the details on every experiment for every fact, so is actually not very information dense in terms of psychological facts).

I've also been writing explanations of science topics for my grandmother, among other things like "what is an internet community?"

I haven't written anything else.


Learning quantum mechanics and so that I can have a better understanding of what my research group is working on. Quantum is the basis for most modern physics so it seemed the most useful/important of all the interesting physics things I wanted to learn.

Trying to break down what "physical intuition" is and creating a guide for to how to solve physics problems. I'm doing this because it seems like people get to a certain point when learning physics where their mysterious intuitions for how to set up problems do not work anymore. Many people don't know what to do and end up stuck, with grades and learning plummeting. If I can figure out a way to teach people certain problem solving heuristics, then hopefully we can get around this.

I'm reading literature, and taking ideas from here and summarizing them.

Replies from: jsalvatier
comment by jsalvatier · 2011-06-07T18:53:12.409Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Love the updates.

How are you approaching breaking down physical intuition? That seems very interesting. I'd love to talk about that at the meetup.

comment by mutterc · 2011-06-05T21:13:47.101Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just finished a new, improved sandbox. The prior one was irregularly shaped, hard to cover, and lined with a tarp so when it got wet it would stay wet. The new one:

  • Added a couple boards to make it strictly rectangular
  • Treated plywood lid in two pieces with handles, to make it easy to cover in a mostly waterproof way
  • Lined with landscape cloth, so if it gets wet it can drain, without letting in worms, ants and such from below

Motivation source: Starting a new (temporary) day job soon, so I could afford the materials, and would have little time to work on it.

comment by oscardelben · 2011-06-05T20:49:16.076Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

your waywo tag link is not working.

I'm currently working on improving my math skills through khan academy.

Edit: you need to add discussion before /tag

Replies from: XiXiDu, Vladimir_Nesov, jsalvatier
comment by XiXiDu · 2011-06-06T09:14:53.583Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm currently working on improving my math skills through khan academy.

Same. I am here right now. Looking at this at the same time.

Replies from: oscardelben
comment by oscardelben · 2011-06-06T14:02:10.027Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I'm slightly behind you, at least in the context of exercises. I recently completed all the age word problems on the exercises section.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-06-05T21:46:45.943Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by jsalvatier · 2011-06-05T22:25:26.480Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. What skills in particular?

Replies from: oscardelben
comment by oscardelben · 2011-06-06T14:00:13.434Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've started the exercises from scratch (I'm bit more of halfay of them I think) and after that I'll start the all the playlists from algebra from scratch.

I know there are a lots of videos, but I'm sure understanding the basics of math will help me tremendously. I'm a self learner with poor math background. I want to fix that.

comment by zntneo · 2011-06-06T05:51:24.451Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

*working on getting a better job I am currently a cashier at a gas station and is driving me nuts

*working on becoming more assertive using the book asserting yourself I have a really hard time asking anyone for anything which is probably related to point four below

*trying to make doing spaced-repetition flashcards a daily habit I want to learn some Arabic( so that I can understand some of what my wife is learning at DLI). I also want to learn less wrong deck and as many psychological biases as I can

*been trying to increase my self-esteem( it's not just low I would say it's a negative self-esteem)

comment by Perplexed · 2011-06-06T02:12:17.500Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I continue posting daily to the blog that I started two months ago. I'm a little disappointed at how little technical (or even technical-looking) content I have managed to publish so far, but I guess I can be a little bit proud of my sheer volume of published material.

A potential distraction from this self-imposed task just showed up. Sewing_machine's recent discussion posting on the hypothetical inconsistency of mathematics contained links leading me to this hot topic in mathematical logic. Because I have been interested in Martin-Lof type theory and Lawvere's program for some time, I think that this is something that I ought to try to understand. Even though homotopy theory has always been opaque to me. Anyone else want to try to work through the papers with me and then maybe try to make the core ideas accessible to the LW masses?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-06-05T23:04:03.886Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by Morendil · 2011-06-06T06:12:41.459Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


  • working on some new Web apps (the latest here but it's very much embryonic at the moment)
  • trying to figure out how best to deal with a bout of minor depression that's snuck up on me during the past few months (looks more like dysthymia than depression really, but any way it's quite annoying and a hindrance to being more productive)
comment by Morendil · 2011-06-06T06:07:57.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Collecting a series of podcast (fr) interviews of people in my tribe, inspired by two things:

Running and podcasts turn out to be an awesome combo. I used to worry - really a rationalizing excuse - that time spent exercising was otherwise "wasted". With hours of great content ensuring that when I'm running I'm also learning interesting stuff, that excuse is removed. And I used to think that podcasts were a very inefficient way of conveying information compared to reading - until I found myself with significant stretches of time when reading wasn't an option. So now I'm a podcast fan, and want to make my own.

Replies from: komponisto
comment by komponisto · 2011-06-07T05:58:01.552Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Collecting a series of podcast (fr) interviews

What is the meaning of agiliste? Neither dictionaries nor Google nor Wikipedia will tell.

Replies from: Morendil
comment by Morendil · 2011-06-07T06:31:13.387Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Literal French translation of "agilist" ("agilista" is also seen), someone who subscribes enthusiastically to the theses of "agile software development".

In practice they're a bunch of people I know who are more interested than is the norm in the underlying regularities of software development; as opposed to the latest and niftiest technologies in that space.

comment by RadiVis · 2011-06-05T21:52:19.541Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

1) I'm working on producing content for my new personal development blog Become Unrestricted ( http://becomeunrestricted.com ). Besides the usual stuff it also incorporates some philosophical thoughts and my most effective methods for improving my own life - most prominently life quantification and gamification.

Why? This year I had the realization that people behave in a rather suboptimal fashion not primarily out of stupidity, irrationality, or lacking benevolence, but rather because of a lack of self-management capabilities which restricts their potential and makes them resort to actions which look pretty bad from the outside. From my perspective already existing personal development sources don't solve this problem in a sufficiently systematic fashion.

2) I also started working on a science fiction story about a highly sophisticated planetary civilization in which artificial intelligence and intelligence augmentation are prohibited (this is enforced by a planetary AGI), and in which people are sent to the mysterious Beyond, if they reach a certain threshold of momentary emotional suffering.

Why? Actually, I wanted to continue my work on Storytellers' Chronicles, a post-Singularity science fiction story. The first part can be read on my personal site http://Radivis.com . However, I found that it was lacking a more human character, so I will use that previous story to introduce him into the Storytellers' Chronicles plot.

The deeper reason is to explore some kind of wildly optimistic and partially conceivable post-Singularity scenario. I think this is needed for several reasons, especially for creating some kind of positive vision which can serve as provisional blueprint for creating a future which is worth living in and for.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2011-06-06T03:11:35.912Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

and in which people are sent to the mysterious Beyond, if they reach a certain threshold of momentary emotional suffering.

That's good, that's real good!

comment by Mercurial · 2011-06-07T16:51:38.043Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Most of my time is focused on finishing a dissertation in mathematics education (read: psychology with a focus on mathematical cognition). I have my data collected and large chunks of it analyzed, and my results are pretty clear right now. My next step is to put together a presentation on this material for an informal dissertation committee meeting so I can get their feedback on my methodology and progress. I started working on this dissertation in part because I wanted to fix the way math is taught, although in retrospect this was probably not the most efficient way to do it. That said, at this stage it's definitely worth my time to finish it, and with it I'll have some resources (both the Ph.D. and a professorship) with which to work on fixing education in general, not just math.

  • I'm digging into locations for regular LW meetups in San Diego, CA. I don't know if there's enough interest this far south; there might just be two of us. But I know a number of people down here who would be quite interested in rationality training, I'm sure. Right now I have a few promising places available and just need to follow up on a few emails to get the ball rolling. (One of those is to Anna, so I'm posting this in part to undermine my inclination to get to this in the vague land of "later".)

  • I'm training my intuitions for physics with the book Thinking Physics. After this I intent to read Feynman's Lectures on Physics, and from there I might start looking through junior-level textbooks. This emerged due to it being pointed out at a recent LW meetup that my understanding for why certain Aikido moves work is actually utter balderdash, which means that I've been terribly overconfident in my intuitions about physics for many years. Also, I've always loved physics, so it's just a pleasure to work on this. Finally, Epstein's book is helping me to work on developing the habit of sticking with a difficult problem until I come up with a good answer and have beaten on that answer against all the weak points I can find; this is making me go through the book pretty slowly, but I'm gaining much more from doing this than I would by zipping through. (As an aside, if someone knows of a book that's comparable to Epstein's but for chemistry, please let me know! And if there's one for math, I'd like to take a look at it to see how they do it.)

  • I'm working on mastering lucid dreaming. There are a wide number of reasons for this and I'd rather not dig into all of them at the moment. The short version is that dreams seem to be a major gateway for accessing parts of the mind that are very difficult to safely access otherwise. Furthermore, the process of developing lucid dreaming skills helps with day-to-day skills like concentration. Finally, lucid dreaming is just a tremendous amount of fun!

  • I'm working my way through the Sequences. I'm somewhere past the halfway point, I think. I've read the four core ones and am around halfway through the quantum physics sequence.

I've a question, by the way. You mention:

Focus on projects that you have recently made progress on, not projects that you're thinking about doing but haven't started, those are for a different thread.

Which thread is that?

Replies from: arundelo, jsalvatier
comment by arundelo · 2011-06-07T20:42:02.508Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

probably not the most efficient way to do it.

It sounds like you have a more efficient way in mind. If so, could you summarize it?

lucid dreaming

Fun stuff. I started doing this sometime between 8 and 12 years old after reading about it in a book. On two or three occasions I've remained conscious all the way through a nap.

Replies from: Mercurial
comment by Mercurial · 2011-06-10T17:03:26.330Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It sounds like you have a more efficient way in mind. If so, could you summarize it?

Sure. As I pull together details I actually plan on posing them to the LW community here so get feedback and poll for interest.

I suspect that a semi-grassroots approach is more likely to affect education in a positive way than any educational research is at this point. I'm inclined to start a school of sorts that will freely throw out outdated assumptions about education and actually apply what we know from research, updating its practices as new findings come out.

If everything goes perfectly (!), this would have three effects:

  • It would create a tiny group of graduates who would be very competent in practical ways (basic rationality, knowing how to learn effectively, having economic savvy, knowing how to have rich and well-managed relationships with others, etc.). I have a fair amount of personal anecdotal evidence that suggests that one key component of this, mindfulness, can be made to be infectious at will at least in part. If that turns out to be as reliable as I've personally found it to be and have seen in those I've taught so far, then this generation of graduates would have pretty impressive leadership skills despite there being relatively few of them. So, in terms of raising the sanity waterline, this seems to me to have a promising payoff despite being assuredly pretty small.

  • If this works even half as well as the research and my personal experience suggest, the idea of this educational method might spread, at least in part. Should interest build, I'd do what I could at that point to make the exact methods by which the school does what it does available along with the reasons why it works so that others can emulate it. (I plan on being open about it from the beginning, but I know that openness and accessibility are very different things so some work would have to go into creating manuals spelling out the core principles and examples of implementation for people who aren't me.) This stands a chance of affecting already-extant schools, or it might spread more like Montessori schools have.

  • Finally, as per a suggestion Carl Shulman kindly offered me, this could also be a hub for training teachers. There's a learning curve to get over with applying effective educational measures because munchkin-like hacks on learning are often very counterintuitive at first and look almost nothing like the examples of teaching and learning that most of us grew up with. So, in addition to being a school for young students (I'm currently thinking high school), it would be a college for teachers to get a kind of certification in proven educational methods.

None of this actually requires the Ph.D. It's typical in my field for Ph.D.s to do a bunch of research and engage in political jockeying to try to get some bureaucrat to listen to the results of research. I don't think that's ever going to have a relevant impact. However, since I'm going to get my doctorate anyway, I'll also use this as an opportunity to run ongoing experiments to continually improve our educational methods and our teacher training methods.

lucid dreaming

Fun stuff. I started doing this sometime between 8 and 12 years old after reading about it in a book. On two or three occasions I've remained conscious all the way through a nap.

That's pretty impressive! I've done that just once. Most of my lucid dreams are during my last sleep cycle before I wake up.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-06-07T19:00:24.310Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

heh, I don't think it exists. If you want it, make it!

comment by knb · 2011-06-08T10:27:19.097Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Applying to grad schools! I also have started a small side business, which is reasonably successful, and low stress/undemanding.

Any advice about the grad application process would be appreciated. Some info:

  1. I'm applying to Clinical Psychology programs, either Psy.D or Ph.D (I want to be a clinician).
  2. My B.A. is in Psychology, with a minor in neuroscience.
  3. I have a low undergrad GPA for a grad applicant: 3.3
  4. 99th percentile score on the Psychology GRE
  5. 1360 on the general GRE, 730 Verbal, 630 Quantitative
Replies from: zntneo
comment by zntneo · 2011-06-12T02:38:03.465Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't go for a Psy. D if i was you. They take an approach of whats called "scholar-practitioner" which means that just have to know how to look at the available literature whereas a Ph.D you actually have to do science in order to get it the phd version is scientist practitioner.

man if you can't get in i am hopeless i have a 2.83 undergrad and probably won't do nearly as well on my gre

Replies from: knb
comment by knb · 2011-06-12T04:26:46.664Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you going into psychology?

Replies from: zntneo
comment by zntneo · 2011-06-17T03:12:49.978Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wanted to become a prof but have been talked out of it. (i have a bs in psych)

comment by magfrump · 2011-06-08T03:01:17.418Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recently picked up drinking; in large part because I am planning to travel to Europe and want to be able to appreciate the local flavors, and as an easy way of socializing and meeting new people.

comment by Manfred · 2011-06-05T21:07:32.003Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does general relativity make atomic clocks run fast by the simple mechanism of acting like a perturbation to the Hamiltonian?

Replies from: BenLowell
comment by BenLowell · 2011-06-06T02:33:57.772Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you a professional physicist?

Replies from: Manfred, Manfred
comment by Manfred · 2011-06-06T03:07:48.450Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, a grad student.

comment by Manfred · 2011-06-06T03:00:23.456Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, a grad student.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-06-06T02:53:41.850Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm currently working on figuring out why I can't submit any new articles to the discussion section of LW.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2011-06-06T03:09:27.818Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That doesn't seem like much of a project.

comment by JackEmpty · 2011-06-28T17:44:49.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am learning Esperanto, from here for grammar and word-building rules, as well as using Anki cards to build vocabulary.

I'm re-reading the Sequences and using the Anki deck made for them to help internalize some of the concepts.