What are you working on?

post by jsalvatier · 2011-08-15T14:43:48.314Z · score: 8 (9 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 68 comments

This is the fourth bimonthly What Are You Working On? thread. Thanks to atucker for reminding me to make this post. Click here to see previous threads. So here's the question:

What are you working on? 

Here are some guidelines:


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by gwern · 2011-08-15T18:52:30.549Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. I am continuing recording predictions on PB.com, focusing right now on importing predictions from Intrade. I recently passed 1000 registered predictions (currently at more like 1070), and as I make more predictions, I'm taking notes for an article on what I've learned.
  2. I am almost finished with my blind testing of Adderall pills; my main conclusion is currently shaping up to be 'it works for me, but they're expensive and they can badly mess up my sleep; armodafinil is better'. (Once I'm done, I can put the daily predictions of placebo vs Adderall into PB.com as well; then I need to check my Zeo records to see whether I am imagining the sleep thing or not.)
  3. I continue my alternate-day 'standing on one leg before going to bed' experiment, based on Seth Roberts' results. So far I don't see much difference, so I'm probably going to have to continue this for at least as long as my melatonin Zeo experiment (EDIT: I've decided to stop it today. 70 nights of data ought to be enough. The analysis is at http://www.gwern.net/Zeo#one-legged-standing-analysis )
  4. I'm a few characters away from finishing my half-Japanese character database; this is a silly non-rigorous project to see whether anime is biased and contrary to reality in presenting mostly characters with foreign mothers rather than foreign fathers. When I finish researching the last few characters, I can start posting requests for omitted characters in various forums and graph what I've found so far.
  5. I have begun a new Wikipedia project: collecting all the instances where I posted a link or a link + excerpts on Wikipedia talk pages, so I can see whether they are almost universally ignored and rarely actually used in the article (as is my impression). I expect to find that my non-anime link/excerpts are incorporated more than the anime ones, inasmuch as the anime community on Wikipedia has been decimated.
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-08-15T21:16:32.548Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I look forward to the article about predictions.

comment by gwern · 2012-01-07T02:07:39.922Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's up at http://lesswrong.com/lw/7z9/1001_predictionbook_nights/ Hope you enjoyed it.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-08-17T20:17:51.444Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Regarding 1: It seems like for most predictions you are taking whatever estimate people are making and then putting the same value in but with 5-10% less confidence. Is that your primary approach? You seem to be getting extremely accurate calibration this way especially when I compare the overall calibration to your calibration.

comment by gwern · 2011-08-17T20:29:29.215Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's my primary approach when making predictions on things I'm not familiar with (any prediction starting with 'I'...). My general view is that when people aren't being outrageously incorrect in whatever fashion (like XiXiDu's recent Khan Academy prediction), they tend to be overconfident; the solution to that is adjusting their prediction towards 50%.

If you look at my Intrade-based predictions, you'll see that while sometimes I just punt and copy Intrade, sometimes I differ severely. It's a case by case thing.

(Also, I'm not sure you're interpreting the graphs right. My understanding is that the graphs show that I am substantially underconfident as compared to PB in general. EDIT: I seem to be wrong here.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-08-17T20:49:23.898Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Also, I'm not sure you're interpreting the graphs right. My understanding is that the graphs show that I am substantially underconfident as compared to PB in general.)

Every 10% range should have an actual certainty about midway in the range right? So for example, for the "50%" range a perfect calibration would be 55% (assuming equidistribution over the whole 50-60 range). For PB as a whole, every category is at least 10% off. For PB as a whole we get: 55% compared to an abysmal 37%, 65% compared to 58%, 75% compared to 58%, 85% compared to 70%, 95% compared to 79%. And the real kicker is that the 100% category is wrong one fifth of the time. In contrast, your numbers are 55% going to 41%, 65% going to 51%, 75% going to 60%, 85% going to 86%, and 95% going to 92%. Your 100% goes to 93%. Thus, with the exception of the 60-70 range every one of yours is better calibrated, and your 80-90 and 90-100 ranges are nearly spot on. Am I misinterpreting the graphs?

comment by gwern · 2011-08-17T21:02:29.125Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You know, I thought that I was supposed to have as flat a line as possible, but now I'm not sure. Re-reading the two axis, I guess the ideal graph is not the green line, but a line at a 45 degree angle going from 50%/50% in the middle-left to 100%/100% in the upper-right.

Have I been misreading the graphs this entire time? How embarrassing! I guess these graphs could be clearer, and explicitly graph the 'ideal' line...

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-08-17T21:27:47.254Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You know, I sort of presumed you were one of the people who had been involved in setting up PB because you spend so much time with it and seem to know its ins and outs. But your comment suggests that's not the case. Who does run it?

comment by gwern · 2011-08-17T22:40:36.291Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tricycle runs it, like LW (see Eliezer's ANN). Matthew Fallenshaw seems to be the one most involved with it - at least, I've always corresponded with him about it.

comment by James_Miller · 2011-08-16T05:18:21.491Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How are you blind testing Adderall? Have you ever been mistaken about whether you were taking the placebo?

comment by gwern · 2011-08-16T15:29:18.095Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Both of those questions are answered in the link.

comment by Raemon · 2011-08-15T22:12:30.867Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I originally intended to spend this year working on a computer game to submit to the IGF this fall. Then I found out that, having recent transitioned into adulthood, that adulthood is hard, and lots of things came up (and during the period earlier this year when I was putting in 20 hours a week on top of my regular job, I was able to do so mostly because I had just moved and didn't have any friends at the time. Thanks in part to the NYC Rationality group... I have friends now. So... thanks Less Wrong!)

Over the past two months, I've modified myself into someone with more flexible goals. I feel that I've been accomplishing worthwhile things in the past several weeks, even if those things are less grand in scale. I'm assigning myself smaller projects that can completed in a week or two. I'm not sure which of whether this is right call. It was embarrassing to give up on a project after putting a lot of work on it. I think it was a good learning experience to be able to accept the sunk cost and move on. But I'm not sure if I wasn't also saying "gah, this is too hard, I'm giving up." I'm pretty sure I overcame SOME kind of bias but I'm not sure which bias it was.

What I HAVE done, this week, was create some Harry Potter Fanfiction Fanart Fanart. I am not entirely sure how I feel about that, but I tried not doing it for a while and that wasn't working... and I think I'm pretty proud of the result. I wasn't going to post here because it seemed only tangentially relevant, but since you asked:

Spoilers for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Maximize your window before clicking for optimal effect.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-17T06:05:44.755Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by Raemon · 2011-08-17T19:24:41.764Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-08-17T20:01:08.043Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is pretty damn awesome.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-08-17T20:02:51.390Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you made the right call in appreciating it as a sunk cost, presumably you also got other benefits from teh process regardless. What are the smaller projects you've had success on?

comment by Raemon · 2011-08-17T21:16:51.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The actual "self-assigned goal for a week" thing is recent. The Harry Potter poster is the first, the next will be to finally record and compose accompaniment for the humanist song I wrote a few months ago.

But prior to that, basically I realized that it was summer, and I wanted to enjoy the sunlight and meet new people. So I've been spending a lot of time walking around with a sketchbook, introducing myself to people in parks, drawing them and having good conversation. The sketchbook isn't a "project" per se, but watching it fill up and being able to see how I've improved in a short time is both useful and gratifying. Two weekends in a row I ended up on impromtu pseudo-dates with people I met while out sketching, which was also rewarding. I feel like I'm doing a good job blending my social and artistic goals. (Originally I thought I wanted a summer fling, but I've realized that I don't want a sexual or even romantic relationship so much as just people to wander around outdoors with in beautiful summer weather).

I've also realized since my original post in this thread that I've been improving in less exciting ways. Learning Python at work. Getting more exercise (when I find myself walking somewhere, and it isn't crowded, I run instead of walk, and if I don't feel like it I say out loud "I am the sort of person who runs when they have the opportunity" and then do it. Got that trick from Less Wrong, can't remembe the author).

comment by komponisto · 2011-08-15T20:17:23.233Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Currently, the most important or interesting projects that I am comfortable discussing under my pseudonymous internet identity are mostly translations:

  1. With a collaborator, just recently completed a translation of the Conti-Vecchiotti report, written by two forensic geneticists from La Sapienza University in Rome who were tasked with reviewing the DNA evidence in the Knox-Sollecito case.

  2. Working on a translation of the Singularity FAQ into French; currently on section 4.1.

  3. Started projects to translate the Sequences into French, Italian, and Spanish; I haven't done much on these recently myself but a couple of collaborators on the Spanish project (jaimeastorga2000 and farsan13) have been running with it (yay!).

  4. Improving proficiency in a few other languages in order to possibly undertake more projects of this sort in the future, and/or for the heck of it.

comment by JAlfredPrufrock · 2011-08-18T16:29:08.618Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Currently Working On

  • I'm finishing the first week (of eleven) of my half-marathon training.
  • I'm finishing the second paper (of four) that I need to write in order to receive my masters.
  • Cultivating and maintaining a new romantic relationship.

Recent Success/Back story

More broadly I'd like to share some of my backstory. I hope it will be informative and maybe somewhat inspiring. Four years ago I had just graduated from College with a double major in Mathematics and Economics. My mind was set on getting a PhD in Economics and getting a job as a tenure-track economics professor at a research university. I was disappointed and a little surprised at how few schools accepted me and how even fewer schools offered me a decent stipend. (While I graduated top of my class, my school was not well known and the econ dept was generally weak.)

I decided to take the offer that gave me the most money (even though it was the worst school.) I knew this was risky (I have a history of underachieving and "playing to the competition") but I felt I could overcome some of my past flaws, perform to the best of my ability, and hopefully transfer to a better program. I'm not sure if this was the right decision, but it did not end well. Initially, my performance was excellent. My knowledge and skills in math were well above my classmates, and this made things profoundly easy. Very quickly, though, things began to fall apart. I was bored in my classes. I had trouble making new friends. I wanted to do theoretical work, but my professors all did empirical stuff and I soon realized I would have to graduate from a top program in order to do theoretical work.

At this point, if I had been a rationalist, I would have accelerated my efforts and tried to transfer to a better program. Unfortunately, I did the exact opposite. I decided to stay in the program, but do absolutely nothing. I would occasionally go to class, refused to do homework (so long as I did well enough on my exams and felt I "knew" the material) and never completed term papers. I refused to study for my prelims, passing the 'hard' one (micro) and failing the 'easy' one (macro). I stayed for another year, continuing my decline. I partied a lot. I got a new girlfriend. After my second year I decided to leave (although, I would have been forced to leave, so my 'decision' was moot.) I moved back to my home state, got a job, broke up with the girl, and wallowed in my own self-pity and the injustice of the world. If only people would just recognize my genius and throw money at me!

Talking (read: complaining) to my older brother, me made an excellent point. He said that I choose to fail. Somehow, until that moment, I had considered that the actions had anything to do with where I was. It was the universe that failed to provide me with the right opportunities. I didn't have the right mentors. I wasn't born into a wealthy family. Then I decided to figure out what I wanted, and get it.

So, a year ago, I moved back to the town where my grad school was. Without a job, or school, or plans, I packed up my things and drove. I had some savings. I found an apartment and a job. I tried to get my ex girlfriend back. Another spectacular failure. I wallowed a bit longer, then I discovered Less Wrong. I decided I need to start a success spiral. I started examining my life. Looking for what behaviors were leading to these results and thinking about ways to fix them. I started working with my old professors, who were generous enough to let me complete my term papers years later (and thus turn my incomplete grades into actual grades and thus salvage a Masters degree out of my two years spent in grad school.) I joined an adult kickball team and met a host of new friends (through which I met the girl who is now my new girlfriend) and starting giving myself other self-improving goals (I feel that I lack self-discipline and mental toughness, so I decided to train for a half-marathon.)

As a result, my quality of life and overall satisfaction has sky-rocketed. I still have a lot more to do (one big thing, is to figure out what I want to do with my life career-wise, which is something I still haven't figured out how to determine.) but I'm moving, and accelerating, in the right direction.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-08-16T15:25:16.689Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most of my current completed and in progress projects relate to my personal life and mental health, rather than larger aims. However as I have been trying to take a systematic approach to them it seems within the scope of this post. It has also been an interesting exercise setting them out in this way.


Caffeine dependence removal

Having had a functional but dependent relationship to caffeine for several years I decided on medical advice to go off it. I did a near complete 'detox' for one month and since then have started reintroducing it slowly and at a lower level. As expected, in the first few days I experienced headaches and extreme tiredness. However since then my general physical and mental health seems to have improved, in particular I have been sleeping far more easily. Previously I had regularly spent several hours in bed awake, and not realised the connection with my caffeine consumption. Now I am falling asleep more quickly as a norm. Also, I now get a more beneficial effect from individual doses of caffeine, which I am taking irregularly. My plan is to limit my caffeine dose to a level that stops me becoming dependent on it, and only do so when I am awake early or need to work particularly hard, rather than the constant low level I had previously. A word of caution as it is not strictly possible to separate these effects from other lifestyle changes, but I am reasonably confident of the causation (say 80%). If this was ideal testing conditions I would rotate month on month off and measure the effect, but as studies already exist with large control groups this seems unnecessary.

One interesting factor I have not tested for is how much of the perceived caffeine effect is environmental, ideally I would set up blind tests with decaf and caffeinated coffee, but that is impractical at the moment. Anyone had any similar experience?

Competitive Debating

I have just competed and achieved a good position at an international British parliamentary style debating tournament. [Apologies for vagueness, results are online so details would make it easy to guess my identity, though if you suspect you know me already feel free to PM me.] This was a considerable improvement over my past results, and has been the product of both practice and abstract thought about technique. I also received excellent benefit from feedback which will aid future improvement, and had very enjoyable social interactions and made a number of useful future contacts.
I have also been assisting teaching competitive debating to schoolchildren, which I have found surprisingly rewarding despite having disliked the idea of teaching in the past. [Relatedly, I've been considering for a while doing a LW post on competitive debating and rationalism.]


Lifestyle changes to combat depression issues and raise general health

I have been taking SNRI's for a while and they appear to be helping my general mental state. Overall my moods are good, however I am still less productive than I would like, and suffer from anxiety issues when attempting to do work I know to be important (see below). I have also altered my thought patterns to avoid ruminating on past mistakes, which seems beneficial (though which way the causation runs here is difficult to say).

Regular exercise

I have been attempting to do a gym session at least every two days. Anecdotally it seems to be improving my mental health. I definitely notice a difference when I don't go. Also notable increase in strength over time, which is a positive self esteem factor. Not so sure about weight/fat loss as harder to separate from other things and haven't been examining as closely.


Have been attempting to move my diet away from carbohydrates towards protein and vegetables. Preferably self cooked rather than bought or in ready meals. Also attempting to avoid sweets and other sugary snacks. Diet change was based on reading advice on reddit's r/fitness.

Pursuing relationships

Being in a mental state where I feel I can cope with it, and realising the desire for a long term relationship is a significant element in my utility function I have been actively seeking to form one. I haven't had any long term success as yet, however I have found that a degree of directness is very beneficial for both subjective stress and success. (e.g.. if you are wondering if someone likes you, ask.) I am still having casual encounters as before, but ave come to realise they are not my main aim. A possible future change would be to actively avoid them, and see if that makes forming long term relationships easier. My current theory is that they are unconnected processes, but would be interested in comparable advice if anyone has it.

Academic work

I am currently in the process of writing an essay for my degree. This has been delayed several times due to my ongoing depression issues, which thankfully the academics in question have been very understanding about. The subject is 'expressivisim' in meta-ethics. Roughly the view that moral language is not an expression of beliefs in the same way that saying 'the sky is blue' would be, but that it is more similar to an expression of something about the speakers attitude (similar to booo! or hoorah!). I haven't been making as much progress in this as I would like, this is in part due to the complexity of the subject matter and confusing literature. But mostly it has been due to my habitual procrastination and bad work habits, which are partially caused by and enhance my anxiety issues.

So my larger project is not just to deal with this, but to learn how to study well in the future and manage my anxiety to that end. Given that this is one of many academic assignments I have had to delay in the last few years this is a fairly major problem. Current ideas are reducing procrastination as much as possible by avoiding temptations (such as posting on less wrong...), removing the ugh fields associated with working on essays and thinking about my psychological issues (thinking about why I'm anxious makes me anxious, which is counter productive) and more generally tackling tasks like this in a more strategic manner, learning to plan my work in advance etc..

Employment and career choice

Short term I want to get a job for the remainder of the summer break, though this should probably wait until I've completed my academic commitments. Ideally I want a relatively simple but tiring job like bar or restaurant work, my previous jobs while interesting have been similarly intellectually demanding to my academic work, and I suspect physical exertion and tiredness will be good for me psychologically.

In the long term I need to begin making decisions about what career I will take up after finishing my studies. In the past I had been interested in research, but I find that I have had difficulty working and feeling motivated in solo situations, so I might prefer work as part of a team, which makes research seem less optimal. I have very little idea what would be an optimal career choice for me at this point, my current plan is to consult with the careers office and so on with the hope that their expertise will assist me.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-08-16T09:27:54.746Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. Finishing two paper submissions to the Special Issue on Mind Uploading of the International Journal of Machine Consciousness. (That page says the deadline is on August 1st, but it's been pushed back a bit.) One draft I have already posted here, for the second I am still waiting for my co-author to finish his parts.
  2. Somewhat lazily looking for a day job to pay my rent until such a time that Imagination Empire starts turning a profit (if ever): had one job interview last week, waiting for them to get back to me.
  3. Writing a series of summaries about the book Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite here on Less Wrong.
  4. Trying to maintain a habit of regular exercise (running/jogging each day) as well as doing my Anki repetitions.
comment by Alicorn · 2011-08-15T17:07:15.174Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm in the middle of writing another novel, this one not-fanfiction and not particularly rationalist. It's not as popular as Luminosity et. al. even now that Luminosity's not updating with anything but metafanfiction, but Elcenia is an old friend and I want it done justice. (This will include not just the one novel, but more like ten of them, and many shorter subsidiary works, to cover all the plot me and my co-creator generated the first time around.)

comment by Alicorn · 2011-08-16T18:07:07.835Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Now I have a TV Tropes page for Elcenia in addition to its discussion thread :D

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-08-16T13:08:26.019Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was unaware of your new novel up until now, despite having read Luminosity et al extensively. I will definitely read it now, and might I suggest taking the opportunity to shamelessly promote it to readers of Luminosity?

comment by Alicorn · 2011-08-16T16:44:33.135Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I put an announcement on the Luminosity RSS feed and plugged it on the TV Tropes discussion thread. What channel of promotion would have made it to you where these did not?

comment by FAWS · 2011-08-16T19:02:28.747Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You could mention it more explicitly in your FFN profile, perhaps right at the end, in bold and prefaced with"New:"

comment by Alicorn · 2011-08-16T19:20:41.133Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Will do.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-08-16T17:28:28.859Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I tended to just go to the 'latest' function on the luminosity page, so I may not be a very typical example. Maybe a note at the end of the story or the index?

comment by Alicorn · 2011-08-16T18:05:50.029Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

At the end of Luminosity, Radiance, or the last Flash?

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-08-17T19:55:00.082Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I recall correctly you can directly scroll through all of them until the last flash, so a note or page there would be good so people can move on. [Also I'm several chapters into Elcenia now and greatly enjoying it]

comment by Alicorn · 2011-08-17T20:03:21.233Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Done. Glad you're liking Elcenia :D

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2011-08-15T19:09:03.891Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll be reading it. I loooved all of the Luminosity/Radiance/Flashes stuff. Keep on writing!

comment by Owen · 2011-08-15T16:24:06.419Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm about 15% through the lessons on Gregg shorthand here: http://gregg.angelfishy.net/ (This is my first comment, so I'm not sure how to do links. If someone would to point me to instructions, I'd be grateful.)

Mostly this comes under the "productive entertainment" heading, like knitting, but there's the possibility that knowing shorthand will come in useful in the future, e.g. for taking more complete lecture notes or fitting more words on a postcard.

My goals for this project are to (1) work through all the units on the website, (2) improve my speed to at least my current longhand speed, and (3) write shorthand as fast as people talk.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-08-15T17:05:40.721Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(This is my first comment, so I'm not sure how to do links. If someone would to point me to instructions, I'd be grateful.)

See this wiki page. It looks like a bug ate the help button that used to be located near the comment forms.

comment by EvelynM · 2011-08-15T19:06:24.683Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm working on a novel,

Walking 60 minutes six days a week. Eating paleo. Glad I stopped drinking milk. Continuing to refine my supplement stack.

Planning house renovations for the fall.

Planning a software project to aid in cognitive calibration.

Successfully meeting new people in a variety of on the way by daily encounters.

Testing a new trading system.

Along with the usual running a business, reading a lot, studying statistics, programming python...

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-15T20:50:54.250Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you mean cognitive calibration like uncertainty calibration?

comment by EvelynM · 2011-08-15T22:39:24.211Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. Both correctness and appropriate confidence in correctness.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-15T22:45:19.486Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What kind of software? What kind of questions are you using/going to use?

comment by EvelynM · 2011-08-16T21:57:48.562Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm focusing on the core engine now, so likely the first revision will be a command line tool or api.

It's still in the planning stage, but it's unlikely to be something which is strictly predictions you make, or entirely canned questions. I have some thoughts, but no implementation yet.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-17T05:35:17.035Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, interesting. I'm interested in seeing where you take this.

comment by BenLowell · 2011-08-15T19:05:12.495Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Two months ago I said:

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.

This is going quite well! I've worked through a good amount of material on my own, and am satisfied with my progress.

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.

So, I've started writing an article related to this in collaboration with another LWer. One of my goals is that like the idea of contributing content to the site. I was also curious, and I feel that the majority of my personal curiosity is satisfied, and finishing the project by communicating what I learned to others is what is being difficult. There are several reasons for this. One is that I can always learn more, and make a better article. I've also realized this is a lower priority than my school/work activities, so it keeps being put off.

I was a summer camp counselor for a gifted education camp, and many of the kids there are quite lonely, so I am writing an article about keeping in touch with the friends they made there.

I have an incomplete in a class, and I have the final paper about halfway done.

Also more than halfway done with a report/presentation for work.

There are many things that I'm trying to learn on my own.

Separating work and socializing, so that I can do each more effectively. Allocating time for each. Writing this made it more apparent how I keep adding new things to do, without finishing old ones, so that right now I have so many projects that I go from one to the other, and everything seems to be at a standstill. I procrastinate by working on less important projects.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-17T06:02:11.250Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm glad the quantum learning is going so well! We should definitely talk about the physical intuition post when we see each other.

comment by atucker · 2011-08-16T04:06:51.084Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To avoid inaccuracy, I'm only listing things that I've actually substantially worked on in the last week.

On trying to learn about various things:

  • Reading the Ethical Slut to better deal with Jealousy. (Done, willing to summarize if there's lots of interest)

  • Reading Good Calories, Bad Calories; taking notes for a LW article

  • Making anki decks for GCBC and GTD

  • Migrating to GTD. Will summarize for LW if there's interest, and I'm sure that doing so would be legal.

Habits I want to install/various maintenance improvements:

  • Cleaning/organizing my room. It was ridiculously messy, and I'm about one third of the way done.

  • Attempting to get in the habit of practicing social skills on strangers. Like, literally going to some public place and trying to talk to people on various subjects.

  • Consolidating my diet. I've been following a paleo-influenced low-carb diet for about two weeks now, doing more experimentation before that. Right now I just need to learn more recipes so that every day isn't the same combination of cocoa-coconut milkshakes, eggs, omelettes, olive oil on everything, milk, salads, guacamole, and dark chocolate.

Stuff I'm doing for LW:

  • Working on the public goods projects, I intend to try and make a virtual machine image for the site when I get back from vacation.

  • Trying to increase DC meetup group attendance, I plan to start experimenting more with scheduling and location again. Seeing if that affects who shows up, and other things like social cohesion.

Stuff I'm doing for money:

  • Counseling my mother on GTD and diet. Working part time for her company in various tasks.

  • Looking for a programming job.

  • Looking for scholarships.

Right now I'm on vacation in California, apart from pretty much all of my stuff. The only tasks that are actually moving forward right now are the ones that involve reading things, diet, and working for my mom.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-08-17T20:53:59.896Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would be very interested in a LW article on diet. I've been trying to move away from carbs and towards more meat and veg myself over the past few months.

comment by DanielVarga · 2011-08-16T01:33:29.160Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am currently working on an unhealthy amount of different things in parallel. These are the three most important ones:

  • I do data mining for a friend's company called Prezi. prezi.com is an online presentation tool based on an infinite, zoomable 2D canvas. The coolest part of the work is mining the spatial structure of presentations, but the regular stuff (spotting trends, regularities and outliers, user clustering, etc.) is interesting, too.

  • I help a sociologist colleague with his mathematical model of aiding the poor. Actually, it is just one specific situation that we model: Let's say you can observe a poor person's current wealth. You model his wealth as determined by two hidden variables: his effort and his luck. You want to compensate him for his bad luck, but not for his lack of effort. The paradoxical situation we are interested in is when decrease in luck implies a decrease in compensation. (Because a decrease of the observed 'wealth' variable causes you to downgrade your estimation on the hidden 'effort' variable.)

  • The open source translation memory service I mentioned in my last post like this is already fully functional, but the user interface really needs more polishing. Unfortunately, we lost much of our enthusiasm when we recently realized that a German startup called Linguee does something very similar, very professionally. But we will finish our system anyway. I don't like unfinished projects.

comment by Alexei · 2011-08-16T01:44:04.305Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Be careful not to fall prey to Sunk Cost fallacy.

comment by DanielVarga · 2011-08-16T02:08:08.560Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Our system was originally not intended to be a for-profit service. It was an open source university project, a work of love, and a chapter in my PhD. Then we realized that it has profit potential, and increased our efforts. Seeing Linguee, we had to seriously downgrade our expectations of startup fame. But we are still interested in the project for the sake of it. The previous version has several thousand users who would love to see an upgrade, and Linguee currently only works for a few language pairs.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-08-15T18:32:43.658Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. I'm teaching myself Java. My goal is to complete an app for analyzing raw genotypic data from personal genomics services (like 23andme) by summer 2012.

  2. I'm training 6 days a week to score 300 points on the USMC PFT (I have no intention of joining the military, I simply think it is a good goal in terms of overall physical fitness). I am increasing my running speed at a rate that is 75% slower than my previous attempt (at which I accumulated several injuries that prevented me from going to the gym for over 5 months). If I don't get injured again, then I expect to reach this goal by 9/2012.

  3. I'm trying to diminish the amount of folk activism I engage in. I tried going cold turkey once before, but failed after only 3 weeks. This time, I flip a coin every time I notice myself about to start. I only allow myself to continue if it lands tails up. So far, so good.

  4. This project is none of the Internet's business.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-17T19:22:41.440Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting tactic for weening yourself off of folk activism.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-08-16T05:23:22.008Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by Barry_Cotter · 2011-08-15T19:16:15.289Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am learning Javascript from Eloquent Javascript. Given my copious free time I hope to have worked through it by Friday. If I can do that I'll then move on to HTMLDog and consider what I want to do after that. Advice appreciated.

comment by malthrin · 2011-08-15T17:26:48.367Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been working through Russell and Norvig's AI textbook - reading and implementing key algorithms in F# - but I've recently gotten derailed due to a multiweek vacation. I'll get back into it this month.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-15T18:25:52.159Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you like F#? I've been thinking about trying it out since functional languages are pretty rad and I do most of my professional work in .NET.

comment by malthrin · 2011-08-15T18:54:42.005Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like F# quite a lot. It's my recreational programming language of choice these days. It's significantly more expressive and concise than C# for a few reasons: function currying, tuples, pattern matching, and excellent type inference. Coming from .NET, you have the advantage of knowing all the library functions already.

It's the first functional language I've gone beyond toy programs in, aside from some Prolog in undergrad. From what I've seen of Haskell, it seems like a close cousin in both syntax and semantics.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-15T20:44:18.466Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Awesome! I'll have to try it out.

comment by Bill_McGrath · 2011-08-28T20:49:02.581Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • I've recently started my blog about music. So far I've updated once a week, all posts being several hundred words in length or longer, with the exception of this week. I intend to keep up this frequency when I return to college next month. I started this blog at the suggestion of my college lecturer; I am using it to practice my writing skills (both academically and journalistically), and to promote my own music. I'm also hoping to use it as a forum to thrash out some ideas for my upcoming college thesis on the works of György Ligeti. (On this topic, I'd be curious to know if there are any contributors on LW who are musicologists or composers.)

  • I'm learning the bass guitar - I got one in January but didn't get to put a lot of time into it until the summer. It's coming along well. I took up bass because though I was already able to play piano and clarinet, my goal was to play popular music with my friends, and there weren't many bassists in my group, so bass seemed liked a good choice. I also love the instrument. My long-term goals are to reach a level of technical ability and flexibility where I can play proficiently in a range of different musical styles; my short-term goals are to sort out some minor technical issues, increase my picking speed, and learn to comfortably play with a plectrum.

  • I have a list of pieces I intend to write over the coming months, with deadlines. A planned revision of an old piece was discarded today due to the old piece being terrible. Instead, I'm working out ideas for a piece for percussion ensemble, and spent some time this afternoon working on polyrhythms specifically; I've just about cracked how to beat 3:4. I wrote up this list of pieces and set deadlines because I am entering my final college year, and need to increase my compositional output.

comment by arundelo · 2011-08-29T00:42:38.908Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


Dead link. I found http://billmcgrathmusic.wordpress.com/.

comment by Bill_McGrath · 2011-08-29T08:39:02.370Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that's the one. I keep making that mistake, somehow!

Edited, and cheers for pointing it out.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-08-17T19:03:21.256Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't really have anything in the way of projects. The LW related ones I had failed. :(

That said, some writing practice I did on a site might be interesting to LWers. Although indication which parts I wrote due to appearing anonymous (and sort-of being so. The method of collaboration and norms of the site are kinda subtle and hard to explain. ) Here are some links that may interest LWers: http://www.epicsplosion.com/epicsploitation/1369 http://www.epicsplosion.com/epicsploitation/1474 http://www.epicsplosion.com/epicsploitation/1272 http://www.epicsplosion.com/epicsploitation/38

I also invented and tested two games last week, that I think may be good for training certain intuitions relevant to rationality, or act as good testing grounds for decision theories. Sadly, I've been unable to explain them in words, and were only able to communicate them by examples and diagrams, so I can't put them here. Any help on resolving this and/or formalizing them in a way that can be easily plugged into existing math would be welcome.

comment by Multiheaded · 2011-08-16T14:55:49.002Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Plotting out a science fantasy novel. I completed the (heavily anime-inspired, although free of any direct rip-offs) setting first, originally intending to make a tabletop RPG from it, but then my priorities shifted. My technical skill at writing is adequate (I DM'd over the internet quite a lot, and people complimented me), but I need to learn more about constructing an exciting, tight and action-packed plot.

comment by Raemon · 2011-08-17T14:45:31.175Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good luck. My one note of caution (not sure whether it has or will be a problem) is to remind you that worldbuilding feels a lot like writing and satisfies the same itch, but is not writing. Make sure to write!

comment by scientism · 2011-08-15T23:09:19.001Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been working on a non-representationalist, non-computationalist, dynamicist account of human cognition for several years. My basic methodology has been to study different areas of empirical psychology and neuroscience and see if I can find any results that look like they won't fit my account. This generally helps me better understand an area. For the past year I've been mostly concentrating on perception and especially vision. I feel like I've made as much progress as I can in that area, and have sufficiently convinced myself that I'm on the right track, and am thinking about what to take on next.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-08-16T16:19:39.601Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For us lay people, what does it mean for something to be non-representationalist and non-computationalist?

comment by scientism · 2011-08-16T16:59:33.175Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Orthodox cognitive science takes cognition to consist of or be best explained in terms of computational processes, generally operating on internal representations, whereas non-representationalism and non-computationalism reject this. I.e., the orthodox account of vision sees it as a process of transforming one representation into another (it starts with the retinal image, performs some operation on it, say, finding edges, to give a new representation, then performs some processing on that, etc, until you have a three-dimensional representation or a symbolic representation of the content of the scene). Dynamicism is the view that cognition is best described in terms of the evolution of systems over time and rejects computationalism (which holds that cognition is best described by algorithms; algorithms have an order but do not evolve in time). Non-representationalism just denies that there are any internal representations involved in cognitive processes.

comment by Morendil · 2011-08-15T16:00:40.828Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been giving cold showers a try, those were mentioned previously a couple times. They seemed like a totally harmless and quite easy thing to try, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Assessing results is harder - I'm primarily interested in the effects on my mood, but I'm also doing several other things at the same time with a view toward mood elevation.

comment by zntneo · 2011-08-28T05:08:27.628Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Well i'm still trying to find a better job. I am thinking i need a better job search method. Any suggestions on a good method of job search would be great
  • Working on getting my self to actually do things instead of sleep as much as i do.
  • Reading a book by susan blackmore about consciousness *Just finished a book called "Philosophy Toolbox"
comment by spqr0a1 · 2011-08-16T07:43:48.591Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have taken up baking. I'm baking a loaf of bread or batch of biscuits every day. It requires little effort to prepare and I quite enjoy the taste.

Trying to train myself to only sneeze while looking at a bright light. Over the last three weeks I have sneezed roughly 50 times and just twice without looking at a light. If this works, it will make sneezing less frequent and inconvenient.