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Comment by glenra on Problems in Education · 2013-04-11T18:02:32.397Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What makes "higher than 600 on ONE section" a cutoff above which counts as an "eminently respectable" score?

Anyone who claims that teachers are stupid is using propaganda instead of ETS data.

Would you accept "mediocre"? ;-)

Comment by glenra on Problems in Education · 2013-04-11T03:58:17.743Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

First, the horrible spelling, grammar, and punctuation leap out at me immediately.

Me too. Good thing they're not trying to improve writing ability!

I just read that grant in its entirety. I noticed one possible typo, but did not find other bad grammar or spelling.

The VERY FIRST SENTENCE has minor punctuation issues and refers to "Excellence in Leaning (sp) Through Technology" - I refuse to believe that the original Senate bill being referred to failed to spell the word "Learning" correctly in its title. :-)

The second sentence puts a space before the colon for no apparent reason.

"The moneys this school is requesting" => should probably be "money", though I'd accept argument to the contrary. "With request to ..." => should probably be "With RESPECT to"

"This shows community support for improvement and a move forward with the support of a technology plan." => You can tell what the writer is trying to say, but the writer is not actually saying it; the sentence is just broken.

"Teachers will...learn ho to integrate this technology" => should be "learn HOW to integrate..."

That's just the first page, and it's not even ALL the issues on the first page. Fortunately, the following pages are much better than the abstract page (which was painful). The second page is missing a bunch of hyphens - that's a problem throughout - but otherwise not too bad.

Third page: "A desired outcome of this project is an increase in tile number of students taking high level science." => change "tile number" to "total number" and possibly change "high level" to "high-level"

"By using MBL’s, less time is required" => change "MBL's" to "MBLs" - it's not a possessive.

"The purchase of this equipment would be in support of Colorado economy." has a missing article; change it to => "would support THE Colorado economy"

"accommodate this set Up." => "setup".

Under IMPACT: "By obtaining these funds and implementing this program more students will be able to participate in hands on leaning" => again, it should be LEARNING, not LEANING. Also it's "hands-on", not "hands on"

"This science lab will be in place alter the grant period is over." => AFTER the grant period, not ALTER.

Much of this suggests a very bad writer - less than 8th-grade level - who is using a spell-checker. But there some other mistakes that seem like the document might have been electronically scanned. For instance, the budget mentions "guides for teachers arid students" => should obviously be "teachers AND students" but I can't imagine a human writer accidentally writing "arid" for "and" and "ri" does look an awful lot like "n".

Comment by glenra on Ritual Report 2012: Life, Death, Light, Darkness, and Love. · 2012-12-24T23:03:44.749Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Reciting the litany may or may not actually be useful for this, especially in group settings. I actually lean towards it NOT being that useful, but being harmless and fun.

I thought the Litany worked really well as a running gag, especially with the addition of the meta-litany as a punchline.

If reciting the Litany of Tarski in a group setting is valuable, I desire to BELIEVE that reciting the Litany of Tarski in a group setting is valuable. If reciting the Litany of Tarski in a group setting is NOT valuable, I desire to believe that reciting the Litany of Tarski in a group setting is NOT valuable. Let me not become too attached to beliefs I may not want.

Comment by glenra on Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism · 2011-12-24T16:10:56.347Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I remember once saying, "Well, have we ever tried blindly throwing lots of money at the educational system?"

Kansas City was one of the more notable examples of having tried that; it didn't work out well: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-298.html

Comment by glenra on Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism · 2011-12-24T15:43:16.590Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm struggling to think of any actual examples of this behavior in action

If you've ever said or thought "Okay, just for the sake of argument, I'll assume your point X is correct..." you were holding a position back in reserve.

One typical example is arguing with a religious nut that what he's saying is incompatible with the teachings in his own holy book. Suppose he wins this argument (unlikely, I know, but bear with me...) and demonstrates that you were mistaken and no, his holy book really does teach that we should burn scientists as witches. Do you immediately conclude that yes, we should burn scientists as witches? No, because you don't actually hold in high esteem the teachings in his holy book.

Comment by glenra on Against WBE (Whole Brain Emulation) · 2011-12-24T15:15:07.211Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And we do, in fact, have toys that achieve flight by being bird-shaped and flapping their wings.

Comment by glenra on Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism · 2010-09-21T18:11:48.146Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The number of global warming skeptics who jumped straight from "it's not happening" to "well we didn't do it" to "well we can't do anything about it without doing more harm than good" should also...give us a bit of pause.

Actually, that move is perfectly consistent with real skepticism applied to a complex assertion.

To see why, let's consider a different argument. Suppose a True Believer says we should punish gays or disallow gay marriage "because God hates homosexuality". You and I are skeptical that this assertion is rationally defensible so we attack it at what seems like the obvious first link in the logical chain. We say "I doubt that god exists. Prove to me that god exists, and then maybe we'll consider your argument." At this point you can divide the positions into:

"god hates X"/god doesn't exist

Now let us suppose TB actually does it. He does prove that god exists. Does this mean that we skeptics immediately have to accept his entire chain of reasoning? Of course not! We jump to the next weak link. To establish the original claim, one would need to prove god exists and is benevolent and wrote the bible and meant those passages in the way TB interprets as applied to our current situation. Anything less, and the original assertion remains Not Proven.

If any link in the chain fails, we don't have to accept the compound assertion "God hates X, therefore we should do Y". We can reasonably express skepticism towards any link that hasn't been proven until the whole chain is sound. Right?

Now returning to global warming, the larger claim that is implied by saying things like "global warming is real" is "greenhouse gases are warming the globe; this process will cause net-bad outcomes if we do nothing and net-less-bad outcomes (including all costs and opportunity costs) if we do X, therefore we should do X". The skeptical position is that not all the links in that chain of reasoning are strong and the warmists need to solidify a few weak links. I don't see how disagreeing over which link in the logical chain is weakest or focusing on the next weak link when one formerly-weak link is strengthened constitutes "sophisticated apologetics". I would have rather called it "rationalism".

Comment by glenra on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2009-06-07T05:47:56.856Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

As I understand it, ECA pills that contain actual ephedrine in amounts as high as you used can no longer be sold either in the US or in the EU - even the link you gave is now invalid because they've reformulated your pill. (The new Forza has "30 mg of Ephedra Extract" instead of 60 mg of ephedrine HCL; they recommend you take twice as many pills as before to get a similar effect.)

The good news for Americans is that we can still legally buy 25 mg Ephedrine. It can't be sold with weight-loss/bodybuilding claims but it's a legal over-the-counter treatment for asthma, if you don't buy too much of it at one time. So we can make our own ECA stack using three separate pills. I used this stack: 25mg Ephedrine (Vasopro), 200 mg Caffeine (No-Doz) and 325 mg aspirin.

And...it's working! You were correct to claim real Ephedrine would have a significant appetite suppressant effect - this was immediately apparent the first day I took it. It'd probably be stronger if I doubled the Eph dose to approach what you were taking - I might do that in a bit. It's too soon to tell whether I'll reach my long-term goals but things are definitely moving in the right direction!

UPDATE (2009): it's still working. So far (about 3 months along), my BMI has dropped from 27 to 25.7; bodyfat has dropped from 23% to 20.5%, and weight has dropped from 86kg to ~81 kg.

I've been reading all the medical literature I can find on ECA and editing the wikipedia entry. A few things I've realized along the way: (1) the aspirin component really isn't necessary; all that matters is the ephedrine and caffeine. (to the extent that it's been studied, there's no clear benefit for most users). (2) It is possible - albeit pretty statistically unlikely - to overdose on ephedrine or ephedra or have bad health effects. When ECA was legal as a supplement there were a great many "adverse effect" reports including perhaps a dozen deaths attributed to it. The FDA banned the sale of ephedra supplements because there was what they regarded as a significant risk associated with it and they didn't count the fact that it enables easy weight loss as an offsetting benefit.

However, my estimate is that the benefit of this drug far, far outweighs the cost. Every plausible back-of-the-envelope calculation I've made says I should keep taking it.

UPDATE (2015): Much like Shangri-La, that initially promising effect of ECA reached a plateau. I didn't reach my target weight. It seemed like a bad idea to keep taking speed for the indefinite future so I stopped. After I stopped, I regained all the lost weight and then some.

(And as of today my current weight is low once again, but that was accomplished using a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT mechanism which is worth a separate post of its own. No oil or ephedrine were used in the method that ultimately proved successful for me.)

Comment by glenra on Mate selection for the men here · 2009-06-05T22:21:20.354Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Who is going to teach them all the dating rituals that they missed during adolescence, and give them back the self-confidence that they lost? Society isn't.

Society used to teach some of this explicitly in the form of cotillion classes. One modern analogue for adults is PUA workshops. I took The Art of Attraction class from Pickup101 a few years ago and found it extremely worthwhile. My favorite part of the class was learning how to improve my body language in various ways. Confidence is a lot about physical behaviour - how to stand, how to walk, how to look at people... The most interesting and persistently useful part was learning how to touch someone one doesn't know well and have this come across as friendly rather than creepy or awkward. Some people are naturally physically demonstrative - they find it easy to give a reassuring pat on the shoulder or the wrist or the back, or a hug. Most women have this ability; many men don't. But being able to touch people in an appropriately friendly and comforting way is a physical skill which can be acquired with training and practice. Now that I have had this training, I even find it easier to touch or hug my own parents than before I took the class.

Another option is dance classes - you can learn Salsa at any age. Anything that gives you lots of practice comfortably standing and moving in close physical proximity to members of the opposite gender can't help but help.

Comment by glenra on Changing accepted public opinion and Skynet · 2009-05-25T02:17:43.390Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Robotics is not advanced enough for a robot to look scary, though military robotics is getting there fast.

Shakey the Robot was funded by DARPA; according to my dad, the grant proposals were usually written in such a way as to imply robot soldiers were right around the corner...in 1967. So it only took about 40 years.

Comment by glenra on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2009-05-18T15:56:09.239Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW
  • I took ECA Extreme which is claimed to contain 25 mg "ephedra extract", 200mg caffeine, and a few "woo" ingredients. So perhaps I just need a more ephedra-heavy mix.

  • I was just about stable in terms of fat, neither increasing nor decreasing.

  • Oops, my mistake - my bodyfat percentage is ~23% (measured by electronic resistance scale); my bmi is actually ~27(corrected in the post) . I don't really care about BMI - I expect that to be on the high side because BMI is a silly measurement and I'm trying for an "athletic" build. But I do want to reduce fat. I'm hoping to get bodyfat below 20%. My bodyfat level is currently in an "acceptable" health range, but I've been working on some circus skills (aerial acrobatics) for which it would be a huge advantage if I could be on the low end of acceptable.

Comment by glenra on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2009-05-18T03:42:53.496Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

There is one way to lose weight[...] - one ECA pill every morning until you're done.

I'm 86 kg (bmi ~27). I took your advice and tried taking one ECA pill every morning for the last few weeks and...I was gaining weight on it. I think I had a little loss of appetite right at first - along with a feeling of being "wired" - but the effect wore off after a day or two.

One confounding factor is that I normally consume a lot of caffeine (~200 mg) daily in the form of Diet Coke. I cut back a bit on the soda while taking ECA, so the change in my caffeine consumption while taking ECA compared to baseline was quite small - perhaps being a prior caffeine addict renders ECA less effective?

As with Shangri-la, one might conclude any of the following: (a) I just need to take more ECA (b) I just need to stick with it for longer - eventually the effect will kick in (c) It works for some people but not others for as-yet unidentified reasons (d) it doesn't work, and other factors explain the apparent success in some

Comment by glenra on Share Your Anti-Akrasia Tricks · 2009-05-18T03:04:58.802Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Let's have some examples to help those like me get what you're talking about.

I'll bite.

"Get (back) in shape" is one of my big specific goals. If I can significantly improve (and then maintain!) my physical condition this year there is a good chance I will have the opportunity to perform in an off-Broadway show. Which would be a significant-to-me artistic achievement - and there's a looming deadline. One difficulty there is forcing myself to exercise as much as is appropriate to the situation.

"Create and publish my first iPhone application" is another goal. That one really tends to gets off track since it involves using a computer, which means it's easy to get sidetracked by email or reddit or stackoverflow or lesswrong. I know once I get "in the zone" on that sort of task it's hard to stop, but I'm not there yet - I'm at the early, frustrating stage of the project.

Also: keeping up and/or improving various artistic skills that might or might not culminate in future public performance... reading technical texts to keep up in my field...that's probably enough for a start.

Comment by glenra on Closet survey #1 · 2009-05-02T17:38:15.641Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm unable to find any good statistics on the reliability of weighted dice, but 84% sounds about right.

here is a set of loaded dice for sale that are advertised to roll a seven (6 on one, 1 on the other, I think) 80% of the time.

Comment by glenra on Closet survey #1 · 2009-04-29T16:32:03.843Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

1000 is extremely conservative. Every time you play any game with an element of chance - risk, backgammon, poker, scrabble, blackjack, or even just flipping a coin - the odds against you getting the exact sequence of outcomes you do get will be astronomical. So the limiting factor on how many unbelievable outcomes you perceive in a lifetime is how good you are at recognizing patterns as "unusual". Somebody who studied numerology or had "lucky numbers" or paid attention to "lucky streaks" would see them all the time.

In the case at hand, that same series of rolls would be just as unlikely if it had happened at the beginning of the game or in the middle or spread throughout the match and hadn't determined the outcome. Unless there was something special about this particular game that made its outcome matter - perhaps it was being televised, there was a million dollars bet on it, or it was otherwise your last chance to achieve some important outcome - the main thing that makes that sequence of rolls more noteworthy than any other sequence of rolls of equivalent length is selection bias, not degree of unlikeliness.

Comment by glenra on Closet survey #1 · 2009-04-29T16:26:39.209Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When you say "that is unbelievable control", you seem to be assuming the exact outcome with trick dice would be exactly and entirely predetermined. But there's no reason to think that. The trick dice would only have to make winning much more likely to pull your "impossible" odds down into the realm of the possible. What you describe as a die that "occasionally rolled every number except a 1" is what you would expect to see if the "1" side were weighted a bit - it would often roll a 6, sometimes roll a number adjacent to 6, and never roll 1. Contrariwise, it's possible that the three dice facing it could have been rigged to do poorly. If a die with the "1" side weighted faced three dice with the 6 side weighted, that could do the trick.

Some amount of dice rigging could make your loss expected or reasonably likely but not guaranteed. And yes, it's unlikely your friend would (a) weight your dice, (b) waste this ability on a meaningless game of risk, and (c) keep up the act all these years, but it's not 1-in-100-billion unlikely. People playing little tricks or experimenting on their friends is something that does happen in the world as we know it, therefore it could have happened to you.

Though I like Jack's explanation too.

Comment by glenra on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2009-04-26T19:54:20.229Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW, one of the reasons Shangri-la didn't quite work for me at first is that I had acid reflux issues. My reflux belches apparently count as "a taste" and after I started taking Zantac to control them - and also drinking less carbonated soda - it worked much better. Another problem I had is an issue S-L has in common with some other diet systems such as Eat-Stop-Eat - any encouragement to "eat whatever you want" when on the diet/regimen is counterproductive if you're eating for any reason other than hunger. I sometimes eat due to boredom or stress or habit; S-L won't stop me from doing that. And it definitely doesn't help to be parsimonious about the sugar or oil because you're afraid of calorie consumption - small amounts just don't work.

What did sort of work for me was to combine S-L with a certain amount of calorie counting - trying to make a conscious effort to cut back net calorie consumption a little, but not too much. To the degree that even that didn't work, it was mostly a matter of akrasy - the oil is nauseating and unsatisfying in the moment I take it so I often didn't feel like taking it.

It's especially hard to come to grips with the idea that even if it works, SL is something you pretty much have to keep doing for the rest of your life. It's the same problem many people have with antidepressants. You take a treatment and if the treatment works it seems like you're getting better and then that you've gotten better, so you start wondering if you really need to keep taking it. Eventually you fall off the treatment...and lose all the previous gains.

Comment by glenra on Closet survey #1 · 2009-04-25T21:04:55.544Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Putting on my magician's hat for a moment, that sounds like a magic trick to me.

Given your description, the simplest answer consistent with the laws of physics is that another player switched the dice when you weren't looking. Perhaps you stopped the game briefly to take a restroom break or answer the phone or deal with some other interruption. Your memory tends to edit breaks like that out of the narrative flow, especially if they don't seem relevant to the story. Somehow, the other player had the opportunity to switch the dice. Dice can be gimmicked in a variety of ways - they could be weighted, shaved, or simply printed with the wrong dot pattern - using a die cup wouldn't interfere with any of these. You'd played the same opponent before so he knew which type of dice you used; he could have brought fake dice of that type with him, swapped them in during the now-forgotten distraction, and swapped them back later. It's even possible the two friends were working together to play this joke on you, with one providing the distraction while the other made the switch.

At the moment he looked at you and said "not this time", the switch had already been made.

Comment by glenra on Where are we? · 2009-04-13T03:00:08.826Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Manhattan

Comment by glenra on Silver Chairs, Paternalism, and Akrasia · 2009-04-12T20:28:58.202Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The book Licit and Illicit Drugs points out that one of the founders of Johns Hopkins was a heroin addict. Being a doctor, he was able to take it in pill form for many years and nobody was the wiser in terms of his productivity.

Comment by glenra on Maybe Theism Is OK · 2009-04-12T20:11:25.658Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

what is the most rational belief in God that you can think of?

One could imagine someone with a suitable archeological background reaching the conclusion that there used to be one or more interventionist gods around. These gods either lost interest in us or died out prior to modern times. If you take testimony from Biblical times seriously, it doesn't prove beings exist now who are immortal or omnipotent or able to perform magic, but it does suggest some people thought such beings existed in the past and if you take their testimony as more than good storytelling you might conclude the existence of a sort of trickster deity a few thousand years ago., one that made a lot of false claims or had fase claims made about it, but that also could do a few cool tricks based on abilities no longer evident today.

Comment by glenra on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2009-04-12T17:56:14.266Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Also, fat cells are biologically active. Obesity is caused by hormone activity and fat cells provide inputs into that biological process as well as being part of the outcome of it.

Rats that overproduce insulin can die of starvation despite being obese - the body gets energy by breaking down muscle - including heart muscle - in order to preserve the fat.

Comment by glenra on The uniquely awful example of theism · 2009-04-12T16:05:08.596Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The phrase "the consensus" is slippery as there is a large gap between what the science tells us and what is claimed about it in third-hand accounts - even large, well-funded, and well-intentioned summaries of summaries. As we go from published scientific papers to what's in the IPCC main report to what's in the IPCC "Summary for Policymakers" to what's in the press release that accompanies it to what's in the news articles written from that press release, at each step the level of doom-mongering increases and the amount of visible uncertainty decreases.

The phrase "AGW" is slippery too. Nobody denies that humans do some things that have the effect of warming the planet. For instance, we pave roads and build cities and cut down forests. It's very hard to word a survey such that it excludes that sort of thing from the measured percentage of scientists who "think humans are warming the planet" and the people taking such surveys have little incentive to try. So attempts to quantify consensus tend to end up with large meaningless numbers. There is a fair amount of dissent within the IPCC - some of the scientists whose work formed a basis for it disagreed with the conclusions thereby generated - Chris Landsea would be a notable example - but the main problem is that the case presented within the IPCC reports isn't particularly alarming. To become alarmed, to think that AGW is urgent rather than simply interesting and probably worth further study to confirm and understand better, is to go beyond even what "the consensus" actually supports.

So AGW skepticism can be considered well-founded if one defines the terms carefully enough. Nonetheless, I don't think AGW is something one can reasonably assume everyone here has "seen the folly of". I'm sure some here have a worldview that renders the whole prospect dubious but I doubt many are followers of ClimateAudit and RealClimate or have even read the IPCC reports. Reflexive climate skepticism is common; informed climate skepticism is rare.

Comment by glenra on The uniquely awful example of theism · 2009-04-12T14:42:11.602Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have often thought new laws at the federal level should be treated much like new drugs are treated by the FDA. They should go through rigorous testing according to clear criteria. The proposer of a new law should specify in advance what effect they hope this law would have on the world and how we might measure this effect. Then when the law gets passed, a few small states (or perhaps counties) are initially chosen as the test group - the law only takes effect in those areas. To control for the placebo effect, we should also have a few regions in which the law is announced to take effect but is not, in practice, enforced. Then after ten years we look at the data and see whether the states with the new law are better off than they were before and better off than the states without it - better off specifically according to the previously-specified metric to a statistically significant degree.

Only after it passes that test, is the law extended to the entire nation.

Remember: "if it saves one life, it's worth it."

Comment by glenra on The uniquely awful example of theism · 2009-04-12T14:30:29.302Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What evidence makes you think the US has lower levels of alcohol abuse than Europe? The US has relatively high rates of alcohol-caused liver disease and has more teenage drinking than many countries in which alcohol is more freely available and partaken of. Contrast the US with the United Kingdom on these two charts:

current national alcohol consumption per capita alcoholic liver disease per capital

Comment by glenra on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2009-04-12T05:23:32.008Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Another issue is how to reduce fat weight per se. One of the eye-opening parts of Gary Taubes' talk was the fact that somebody can be simultaneously emaciated and obese. Fat cells want to survive and sometimes will do so to the detriment of their host.

Another Taubes insight: when it comes to vertical growth, we posit one causal direction. We say that a teenager eats a lot because he's a growing boy; we do not say he's growing taller because he eats a lot. It's accepted that the body of a teenager has somehow decided for itself that it wants to get taller and appetite/metabolism will accommodate that need.

Perhaps horizontal growth isn't all that different.

Comment by glenra on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2009-04-12T05:08:12.103Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Weight loss efforts provide much opportunity for magical thinking and drawing false conclusions about causality. You mention a half-dozen factors you had to "tweak" in order to lose weight. So suppose I tweak factor A with no affect. Then I tweak B, then C, then D, and eventually I get up to tweak F and then... I start losing weight for a while! What can I usefully conclude from this? Nearly nothing! Most people conclude that Tweak F must have been an important factor. But perhaps Tweak C was what mattered and it merely took a long time for results to become apparent. Or perhaps the timing is purely coincidental - I lose weight at random intervals or in response to stress at work or changes in my personal life and the latest downturn merely coincided with Tweak F. Or perhaps it's an observer affect, such as the fact that I'm paying attention to my weight in order to evaluate which tweak is working, is what made me lose weight.

In short, if there are really tons of variables that all have to be simultaneously satisfied for weight loss to work, there's a decent chance than any conclusion you draw from your personal observations will be useless or counterproductive for anyone else.

Comment by glenra on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2009-04-12T04:53:01.904Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes also claims aerobics doesn't work to lose weight and refers to a bunch of studies to that effect. Though he doesn't go so far as to deny there are cardiovascular benefits.