Comment by strangeattractor on List of civilisational inadequacy · 2017-12-04T18:12:21.222Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Advice regarding the health issues of new mothers is even more lacking. Whoa Baby by Kelly Rowland and Tristan Bickman is a book I liked on the topic.

Another book for new parents, about relationships, that I liked: And Baby Makes Three by John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman.

Comment by strangeattractor on December 2017 Media Thread · 2017-12-04T17:19:30.470Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I enjoyed seeing Sydney Lallier's performance that won La Voix Junior, the Quebec version of The Voice Kids. She rapped a song that has verses in French and choruses in English with lyrics that seem timely in 2017.

The song she rapped is called La Force de Comprendre, which means The Strength To Understand.

Comment by strangeattractor on Heuristics for textbook selection · 2017-09-07T05:55:09.878Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you can physically get to a university library, then going to the section about the topic and looking at each book from the shelf until you find something that is comprehensible or otherwise meets your criteria, could be a good strategy.

I've found some good books that way.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, September 4 - September 10, 2017 · 2017-09-07T05:46:44.410Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It might help to cultivate your curiousity. Who are these people? What are they doing in the moment? What are they good at that you could learn from? Why are they in the same place as you? What are they up to when they are not at the same place as you? What are they enthusiastic about?

Sometimes when I talk to people I don't know well and I'm not thinking up many comments or questions based on our shared circumstances or environment, I'll ask some questions like "Have you read any good books lately?" or "What have you been thinking about?" or ask their advice about something.

I think from your question you want to be able to do this even when you're tired, but part of the solution might be to limit the times when you have to do this when you are tired by scheduling things differently, or making sure you have rested and eaten before you have to be in a social situation, or changing how you select which social events to participate in.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, August 28 - September 3, 2017 · 2017-08-30T19:47:41.363Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you mean where she hacked herself to become polyamorous? If so, you may be looking for this post

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, June 5 - June 11, 2017 · 2017-06-12T07:08:48.781Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like some poetry. Often in the form of song lyrics, or Shakespeare's plays.

Comment by strangeattractor on Acting on your intended preferences - What does that look like in practice? (critical introspective questions) · 2017-05-03T13:51:33.628Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One thing that I find helps with getting clear goals in my mind is to think of it in chunks of time, and revisit it every now and then, for example every 4 months. I think of them more as priorities than goals. For the next 4 months, my priorities are 1) X 2) Y 3) Z 4) A. Or I think of things in smaller chunks of time, such as 2 weeks, especially when there is more uncertainty in my life.

I think sometimes people get hung up a bit of thinking of goals as being eternal never-changing things. And there might be some like that, though I categorize those as aspirations.

Comment by strangeattractor on I Want To Live In A Baugruppe · 2017-03-17T05:06:52.599Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't live in the Bay Area, nor do I wish to move there, but I have some thoughts.

It may be that the way to accomplish this is to start a housing co-operative, or a non-profit organization.

The Rochdale principles, which many co-operatives adopt are: Open, voluntary membership. Democratic governance. Limited return on equity. Surplus belongs to members. Education of members and public in cooperative principles. Cooperation between cooperatives.

If that seems like something you can live with, then you might want to go the co-op route. If you want to have more control over who joins, and the "open voluntary membership" is a sticking point, then a non-profit might serve your needs better.

In Canada, where I live, becoming a registered charity is much more difficult than becoming a non-profit. In the United States, it is easier to get charity status. My friendly neighbourhood local makerspace, founded by a bunch of my friends, decided to be a non-profit rather than a registered charity or a co-op.

You might find resources related to housing co-operatives or non-profit governance that could help. They have some experience with being able to resolve disputes and keep community standards. I know of some where I live, but I'm not familiar with what's available in the Bay Area. Resources about intentional communites might help too. This is anecdata, but I've heard mostly horror stories about intentional communites, and mostly good things about co-ops, and co-ops near where I live in Ontario are sought-after places with long waiting lists even when they don't include government-funded subsidized housing, so if I was going to set this up I'd lean more toward the co-op side of things.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-28T08:47:56.587Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You say "intellectual masturbation" like it's a bad thing. :)

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-26T08:03:36.599Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think the impression you have of the people may have been influenced by seeing them primarily through social media. Have you talked to them in person? It might be different. The format of social media makes having nuanced discussions difficult, and emphasizes the more tribal posts.

Another thing to consider is that their priorities may have changed more than their approach to life. They may be applying empiricism to how to advance in a career, or how to be a good parent. There is a limited amount of time in a day, and they may have enough time to do only a few things well. Also, sleep deprivation, common among new parents, can make thinking clearly more difficult. Once children get older, parents get a bit of their balance back.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, Feb. 06 - Feb. 12, 2017 · 2017-02-08T17:28:33.571Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I once went to a workshop on Sumi-e painting at the local Japanese cultural centre, and it changed how I look at paintings. So I'd recommend taking a Sumi-e class, or these days, I suppose watching Sumi-e tutorials on Youtube might do.

In general, getting an idea of how different cultures look at visual arts can be eye-opening. In addition to learning by doing, going to different museums and galleries can be a way to learn about art from many different time periods and cultures in different mediums.

Another thing that changed my perspective is a book called An Eye For Fractals by Michael McGuire. It taught me to break down things into different types of shapes when looking at them, and to appreciate a different kind of beauty than is usually taught to children. It is an exploration of Benoit Mandelbrot's famous quote

"Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line." - Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature, 1983.

Comment by strangeattractor on Elderly discovered with superior memory and Alzheimer’s pathology · 2017-02-08T04:57:51.658Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Alan Macdonald has autopsied brains of people who had dementia and Alzheimers, and has pictures of the cystic form of Borrelia bacteria in those brains.

Comment by strangeattractor on February 2017 Media Thread · 2017-02-07T17:09:08.501Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And The Weak Suffer What They Must by Yanis Varoufakis

This is the book that Yanis Varoufakis wrote after resigning from being Greece's finance minister in 2015. It gives his perspective on the events he was part of, attempting to negotiate with the European Union and other creditors on behalf of Greec, and also on the history of the failed policies leading up to those events.

Comment by strangeattractor on February 2017 Media Thread · 2017-02-07T17:01:09.231Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Women Who Love Psychopaths by Sandra L. Brown, Liane J. Leedom is a book that I wish I'd had years ago. It might have saved some of my friends from learning about what it's like to date a sociopath the hard way.

The dynamic described in the book also seems sadly relevant to what's going on in the political realm these days.

Comment by strangeattractor on February 2017 Media Thread · 2017-02-07T16:55:10.130Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The Marcus 2012 paper references a 1999 Human Rights Watch report that has a few more details:

"The propagandist proposes two techniques that were to become often used in Rwanda. The first is to "create" events to lend credence to propaganda. He remarks that this tactic is not honest, but that it works well, provided the deception is not discovered. The "attack" on Kigali on October 4-5, 1990 was such a "created" event, as were others – the reported discovery of hidden arms, the passage of a stranger with a mysterious bag, the discovery of radio communications equipment – that were exploited later, especially during the genocide.

The propagandist calls his second proposal "Accusation in a mirror," meaning his colleagues should impute to enemies exactly what they and their own party are planning to do. He explains, "In this way, the party which is using terror will accuse the enemy of using terror." With such a tactic, propagandists can persuade listeners and "honest people" that they are being attacked and are justified in taking whatever measures are necessary "for legitimate [self-] defense." This tactic worked extremely well, both in specific cases such as the Bugesera massacre of March 1992 described below and in the broader campaign to convince Hutu that Tutsi planned to exterminate them. There is no proof that officials and propagandists who "created" events and made "accusations in a mirror" were familiar with this particular document, but they regularly used the techniques that it described.

From: Human Rights Watch, Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda, 1 March 1999, 1711, available at:

Comment by strangeattractor on February 2017 Media Thread · 2017-02-07T16:54:03.071Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This paper by Kenneth Marcus describes a rhetorical technique called Accusation In A Mirror, which was used in Rwanda in the events leading up to genocide. Here's a quote which summarizes the technique.

"The basic idea of AiM is deceptively simple: propagandists must “impute to enemies exactly what they and their own party are planning to do.” In other words, AiM is a rhetorical practice in which one falsely accuses one’s enemies of conducting, plotting, or desiring to commit precisely the same transgressions that one plans to commit against them. For example, if one plans to kill one’s adversaries by drowning them in a particular river, then one should accuse one’s adversaries of plotting precisely the same crime. As a result, one will accuse one’s enemies of doing the same thing despite their plans. It is similar to a false anticipatory tu quoque: before one’s enemies accuse one truthfully, one accuses them falsely of the same misdeed.

"This may seem an unlikely means of inciting mass-murder, since it would intuitively seem likely not only to fail but also to backfire by publicly telegraphing its speakers’ malicious intentions at times when the speakers may lack the wherewithal to carry out their schemes. The counter-intuitiveness of this method is best appreciated when one grasps that its injunctions are to be taken literally."

From: Marcus, Kenneth L., Accusation in a Mirror (2012). Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 357 - 393, 2012. Available at SSRN:

Comment by strangeattractor on February 2017 Media Thread · 2017-02-07T16:51:33.013Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's a good article. Schneier makes good points.

I like Cory Doctorow's perspective on the Internet of Things, including the EFF's Apollo 1201 plan to get rid of DRM within 10 years. Here's one place where he talks about it.

I also read the Internet of Shit twitter feed to keep up with the latest security flaw-ridden monstrosities. :)

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, Jan. 30 - Feb. 05, 2017 · 2017-02-07T16:09:49.203Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think you are going to have to find the relevant information yourself by looking through scientific papers. I don't think that asking your doctor will be sufficient. It is rare to find a doctor who keeps up with reading all of the newest scientific journal articles.

Where your doctor might help is in explaining the mechanism by which the infertility may happen, to help you get more keywords with which to look stuff up.

It may be that quantitative answers for your questions are not available at all. From the link you mentioned, it says that as of 2009 there have been no studies of fertility after prolonged use of estrogen. For people unfamiliar with the state of medical science, it can be disorienting to learn that a lot of things simply haven't been studied. There is so much that we as a civilization and society do not know.


Risks of Hormone Therapy: Infertility

Estrogen therapy usually eliminates the production of sperm. In 7 out of 10 trans women on estrogen, there was no >spermatogenesis.[53] A single male given estrogen had a pronounced drop in sperm motility and density by 4 weeks of >estrogen treatment, though it did recover after discontinuation of treatment.[54] As of 2009, there have been no studies >of restoration of spermatogenesis after prolonged treatment with estrogen. [52]

And those references are:

[52]Hembree, Wylie C., et al. “Endocrine treatment of transsexual persons: an Endocrine Society clinical practice >guideline.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 94.9 (2009): 3132-3154.

[53]Thiagaraj, D., et al. “Histopathology of the testes from male transsexuals on oestrogen therapy.” Annals of the >Academy of Medicine, Singapore 16.2 (1987): 347-348.

[54]Lübbert, Horst, Inka Leo-Roßberg, and Jürgen Hammerstein. “Effects of ethinyl estradiol on semen quality and >various hormonal parameters in a eugonadal male.” Fertility and sterility 58.3 (1992): 603-608.

If I was going to attempt to answer this question, I would start by reading those papers, to orient myself. I would also put as many keywords as I could think of into Google Scholar to see if I could find more papers on similar topics.

A quick search for "Hormone Replacement Therapy fertility cross-sex" and "male fertility estrogen hrt" found some papers on diabetes risks, cardiovascular risks, but not much about fertility. The search that mentioned estrogen seemed to find more specific articles and included studies of environmental exposures such as:

Effect of Occupational Exposures on Male Fertility: Literature Review Sheiner et al, Industrial Health, Vol. 41 (2003) No. 2 P 55-62

Wouldn't it be nice if there actually was good quantitative data available? I'm getting an impression from a quick search on the topic that it may not be. I think my next step, after reading a bunch of papers to get a better understanding of the topic, would be to contact some of the researchers I respected after reading their work, to ask them if they are aware of any studies. If the individual researchers doing work in the field aren't aware of any, then they probably don't exist.

Comment by strangeattractor on Stupid Questions December 2016 · 2016-12-22T21:07:15.155Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It varies a lot from culture to culture. That's part of what a culture is, what is thought of as default or background knowledge, or something people will know. So...who is your audience? What cultures or sub-cultures are they from? It's not going to be the same from country to country, or different regions within a country, or rural vs. urban, or age group or educational background.

When authors write books about a culture they are unfamiliar with, sometimes they hire someone from that culture to read over the book, and give feedback about what they could do better. For example Mary Robinette Kowal did this for her novel Of Noble Family.

I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all answer for a "general audience" that would apply to all people around the world. It might be helpful to be more specific about what you think a general audience means. People of a certain educational background within a particular region of a particular country who speak a specific language? There are few events aimed at a world audience - the Olympics, some United Nations events, so you could study some of those and see what they assume of people.

For specific words, a rough approach might be to google that word and look at the number of results, and see the relative popularity of them. For example "onion" has 148 million results, "carrot" has 90 million results, "artichoke" has 20 million results, so that might be an indication of how popular those vegetables are, relative to each other.

Comment by strangeattractor on Seeking Advice About Career Paths for Non-USA Citizen · 2016-10-20T04:56:30.129Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Farming is a completely different type of job than software development or designing integrated circuits.

When you program a computer, it does what you tell it to. You can diagnose what's wrong and fix it. Whether you can fix things is based a lot on your own skill and knowledge.

If you become a farmer, you can do everything skillfully and still have a crop fail. You are at the mercy of the weather.

Have you even grown a small vegetable garden? That might be a first step to get some idea what you are facing if you go into farming.

Don't assume farming will be easy. It can be one of the toughest jobs. Spend some time out on a farm helping out with whatever needs to be done to research this option. If you enjoy being outdoors, and are ok with the uncertainty of farming, then maybe it is for you. If you love the land, then farming may be for you.

Since your wife wants to move to another country, I think it is worth going through the immigration processes for various countries. Immigration processes can take years, and still have an uncertain result, so you might as well get started. If you can afford to visit some countries, that may make things clearer too. There are more changes to moving to another country than just money. Climate and culture can have a big effect on a person's life.

Where I live in Canada, a starting salary for a software developer can be about CAD $40 000. So the $100 000 figure other people are talking about isn't applicable everywhere.

Regarding freelance work, do you have enough time in the day that you could start doing freelance work while still working at the job you have? If you take on some side projects, you could see how that goes without quitting your job.

I think part of what this decision comes down to is what your goals are, and what the goals of your family are. What are your priorities? What is most important to you?

I think it could help to take the first steps on all three options at once, to get a taste of what each of them is like. Things might become clearer as you get more information. Right now I don't think you know enough about each option to make a good decision. Research is what is required.

Also, I read a book recently about making good decisions. It is called "Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. There are some techniques in there, like asking yourself, "Imagine a year from now the project I was attempting to do has failed. What are the reasons?" that have helped me figure some things out in my own life.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, Sep. 12 - Sep. 18, 2016 · 2016-09-13T06:07:50.793Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes a change is as good as a rest.

If you want to use your sense of wonder again, it might be good to seek out something completely new to you. Learn about something new, develop a new skill, or go to some place that you haven't been before. Then spend some time being quiet and observing or practicing.

Or spend some time in person with people who are enthusiastic about things you are not enthusiastic about, and get curious about why they like it, and listen to what they say.

I'm pretty sure you still have a sense of wonder in there, waiting to be used. It may be something that grows with practice though.

Also, remember that familarity is not the same thing as comprehension! You may very well be familiar with more interesting things about the world than you were before, but that does not me an that you understand them! And Less Wrong is certainly not a comprehensive compendium of all the interesting things in the world. For example, a topic that is rarely discussed on Less Wrong is Fluid Dynamics, which is something that awakes my sense of wonder. Here's a link to a blog about fluid dynamics:

I'm not sure whether to think up some strategies to help you find joy in the things you used to enjoy, or if what would help is spending time on completely new things, and making bigger changes in your life. Or some mixture, like remixing your past and present to make your future.

If there are still some minor things that you do find joy in, do those more often. Sometimes it is as simple as noticing what you like doing, what makes you feel even a smidgen happier, and doing it more.

I'm a bit confused as to how reading the Sequences could make it harder to find joy and excitement in minor things, or make you feel like you know everything. What happened, if you don't mind sharing?

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread, Sept 5. - Sept 11. 2016 · 2016-09-08T00:53:01.732Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Something that might help is writing things down. For example, if you had a notebook where you wrote down things that you had figured out, every time you came to a conclusion, and any details that might help you remember why you came to that conclusion. Then, whenever you encounter a problem you can read over the notes in the notebook from a variety of topics, and see if any of them match. Also, if you keep it updated frequently then when you go to write something down that would be another opportunity to review the notebook and see if anything matches something else that's bothering you.

Or if physically writing things in a notebook isn't something you want to do, sending yourself an email could work in a similar way.

In general, I've found that writing things down helps with remembering things.

Comment by strangeattractor on The Problem (TM) - Analyse a conversation · 2016-07-28T16:05:38.840Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"What do you think is the biggest problem here?" is a different question than "What do you think I could have successfully started to address in one conversation?"

Comment by strangeattractor on The Problem (TM) - Analyse a conversation · 2016-07-26T21:19:46.797Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If he kills himself, he hurts only himself. If he's violent toward other people, he can end up doing a lot more damage than that. He mentioned that one incident, but given his casual attitude toward it, there are probably more. It wouldn't surprise me if he was beating his girlfriend. Domestic assault (I call it domestic because it was against someone he lived with, even though housemate is not as usual a target as partner or child) is a huge huge huge warning flag. He had a bad day, and trouble sleeping, and suddenly someone else has to deal with the consequences of having a broken nose for the rest of their lives. The consequences for each of them are disproportionate, asymmetric. If he has another bad day, what next?

His girlfriend's life might be in danger.

Comment by strangeattractor on The Problem (TM) - Analyse a conversation · 2016-07-26T18:16:30.312Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

First of all, I think the concept of TheProblem is flawed. I don't think there is necessarily just one problem that is "the bottom of the problem" whatever you mean by that.

You presented a conversation, and asked us to read between the lines. So, I did. If I was actually attempting to figure out what was going wrong, if I was going to take action about it, I'd need way more information than this one conversation. I wouldn't describe anything I said as conclusions. My procedure for concluding these is "I didn't conclude them."

What specifically do you want to know about my thought process or procedure? I already put clues in what I've written. For example, some of the reasons I think he may be a sociopath is the combination of not finding pleasure in life, feeling no remorse, and not showing any thought for the effects of his actions on other people in his responses. I already said that. Also, sociopaths are about 4% of the population. It's plausible. Given that, and given some pattern recognition from having come across some people who turned out to be sociopaths, and given what I've read in the several books I've read about them, I would at least keep it as a possibility in mind while dealing with this person. It's also a question "Is this person a sociopath or not?" that affects how you may want to behave going forward and what is likely to work or not.

I can only bring my own knowledge and experiences to this, and there may be stuff I'm missing because I don't have experiences with it, or stuff that is a projection of what I've encountered, and not applicable in this situation.

I don't understand what you are asking me, or what specifically you want to know. I can go into more detail, but it's tough to know which details you are interested in or asking for.

Comment by strangeattractor on The Problem (TM) - Analyse a conversation · 2016-07-26T12:47:41.850Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The most alarming part of that conversation for me was "A few weeks ago I punched a housemate in the face ten times, breaking her nose;"

If I was having the conversation, I would ask him more about this, and talk at least a little bit about how he could stop hurting other people.

I'm not sure what you mean by the bottom of the problem. I will say some things that I think are problems. These are speculations. I don't have enough information to be confident in these answers.

1) I think it is a problem that, as far as I could tell, no one intervened and taught him not to be abusive after the punching incident. This is a problem with society.

2) I think it is likely that he has a brain injury from a head injury of some sort and/or from taking drugs such as meth. He mentioned both a head injury and meth. I would say to get treatment for brain injury, but doctors are still pretty clueless about how to treat brain injuries, though there are experimental possibilities.

3) I think it's possible that he's a sociopath, but there's not enough info to figure that out. The combination of not finding pleasure in life, and feeling no remorse, and not thinking about the effects of his actions on other people is suggestive. (Although there can be other reasons for that.)

4) I think there's likely something else wrong with his health. Maybe bipolar, since the bipolar meds are helping a bit, but I'm not convinced that accounts for everything.

5) I would guess that he did not have opportunities in childhood to be self-directed. His sense of not knowing what he enjoys, or what he wants, or how to make a plan, might be from lack of education and training in those areas, not just from physiological problems affecting his judgement.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, Jul. 18 - Jul. 24, 2016 · 2016-07-25T18:36:45.779Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I just looked at the Cambridge prices for overseas students and it made me feel poor. Might as well seen a 500,000 ILS debt in my bank account.

You might be able to get financial aid or scholarships, so I wouldn't rule out an expensive university right away. If you apply and get accepted, which admittedly itself costs some money, then you could have some talks with the financial aid people. And their first answer may not be the final answer, or there may be alternative sources of funding, so you may have to repeat yourself and keep talking to them for a while before you together figure out something that could work. Some universities claim to have the attitude that they don't want anyone to not be able to attend because of financial reasons, but in practice it is hit and miss to get them to live up to it, and easy to get into debt. It may depend on the individual person you are talking to. If one person isn't helping much, a different person in the same department may help more. Sometimes people unfamiliar with the system get discouraged by the first thing someone in financial aid says to them and walk away, instead of advocating for themselves more, or exploring the problem from a slightly different angle.

You may also want to look into universities that have a co-operative education program that involves paid work in between sessions of study. This won't completely pay for the costs of education, but it can help a lot.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, Jul. 18 - Jul. 24, 2016 · 2016-07-25T12:47:43.612Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, there are differences.

I talked to a person who was hiring for tech jobs in Silicon Valley, and he said that the Ivy League schools in the United States get a much better quality of training than other United States schools in the fields of engineering and computer science. For example, the Ivy League schools would have 3 hour exams where you have to show how you arrived at an answer as well as the answer. Most of the other schools had 1 hour multiple choice exams.

The situation is different in other countries. In Canada, unlike in the US, engineering is a regulated profession. That means certain types of designs have to be approved by a Professional Engineer. There are rules about how to become a professional engineer. One path to becoming one involves graduating from an accredited program at a university. So every engineering program at a university is monitored by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board. No matter which university you go to in Canada, you'll get the 3 hour non-multiple choice exams, and very good training.

For this reason, the person at the tech company liked to hire Canadians, since they have the good training, but not the entitled attitude of the Ivy League graduates. But he considered Ivy League graduates. He wouldn't even consider the non-Ivy League ones, unless they showed some other way that they actually have the skills and training, since they didn't get it at school.

Another difference between Harvard, MIT, etc. and the typical Canadian university is that Harvard and MIT have huge endowment funds and many wealthy alumni and donors, so they have access to a lot more resources than most universities. Like about 1000x more money. The MIT endowment fund reached $13.5 billion in 2015.

I also know someone who went to Harvard for a Masters degree in political science, and she said that after getting a degree from Harvard, she was taken a lot more seriously. People listened to what she said, and deferred to her, in a way that they didn't before she could say that she went to Harvard. So it seems to make a difference in public policy and government work.

Another difference between universities can be their intellectual property policy. The University of Waterloo, in Canada, has the most respectful intellectual property policy that I know of, among universities. Simply, if you do research or work there, it's yours, and you can use it in a startup company if you wish. Many students and professors do this. The University of Waterloo is well known for many technology spinoff companies. I know of one prof who doesn't even publish journal articles any more, he just documents his work with patents, and then uses them in his startup. This is seen as adding prestige to the institution, unlike in some other universities, where there's a bit more disdain for commercialization. The co-op program at the University of Waterloo also means that students get real-world experience and bring that back to the classroom, and is another reason for the more positive attitude to collaboration with industry.

The University of Waterloo's intellectual property policy is even more respectful and individualistic than the one at Stanford, which is also a university known for its spinoffs.

Oxford has more name recognition in North America than Cambridge. Within the UK, they are seen as mostly equivalent, to the point that "Oxford and/or Cambridge" is often shortened to "Oxbridge". It is easier to get work in government in the UK with an Oxbridge education.

Also, the people you meet at university are more likely to end up in powerful positions if you go to one of the big name universities. So the alumni network becomes more valuable.

It depends on what you want to study and what you want to do afterward. There are some fields where it wouldn't matter much.

Graduate education is a different matter. With some exceptions, like my friend who went to Harvard for political science that I mentioned above, it doesn't really matter much what school or department you go to for graduate school. The most important things will be 1) What did you do? and 2) Who did you work with? The rest is almost irrelevant. Finding a good supervisor who you can get along with, and who will help your career, is the priority when choosing graduate school.

I'm most familiar with Canada, and a bit with the US and the UK. I don't know the situation in other countries.

Comment by strangeattractor on Powering Through vs Working Around · 2016-07-03T07:47:29.093Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it depends on X. It may be something you have to evaluate on a case-by-case basis. I think if X was something that could have consequences for high-stakes or ethical decisions, I would prioritize working on it rather than working around it.

Pushing through it may not be the most effective strategy to deal with it in the long term. "Defeat X" may not be the most helpful metaphor. Defeat vs. work around could be a false dichotomy.

You may be looking for a general rule or rule-of-thumb for something where generalizations do not make sense. If you want a general rule, you may want to be more careful and specific about setting up the question. Right now, I have the impression that the question is too vague and the abstractions too mismatched to yield a useful answer.

Comment by strangeattractor on General-Purpose Questions Thread · 2016-07-03T07:07:19.976Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The city you live in may have more impact on you than which particular company you start at.

Banks and consulting companies may pay you more than a company focused on a software product, but the work is generally unsatisfying for software developers. Avoid those, unless high pay is more important to you than happiness. Though if you are choosing between them, banks are better than consulting companies. If you can find a company that has some understanding of how to treat software developers well so that they can do good work, and that makes money by research and developing their software, rather than by something else (eg. mergers and acquisitions to acquire customers) then you'll likely be happier.

As to topic it depends what you mean by topic. If you mean is it ok to make software that you're not particularly interested in using yourself, then I'd say the answer is yes. If you mean, you don't enjoy using the languages and technologies involved in the job, then I'd say the answer is no. For example, if you want to make software for chicken farmers, even though you may not be making software for chicken farmers the rest of your life, using the software language that you like working with, in a company that treats you well, I think that's ok. The next company you work for may not care how much you know about chicken farming, but may care that you have 3 years of experience using C++ (or whatever language.)

Getting involved in an open source project, or doing side projects, is another way to build up your reputation.

Before taking a job at a company talk to some people who have worked there. If you have connections on Linked In, for example, use them to find someone to talk to. Get a sense of what they like about working there. It's harder to ask about what they don't like, since people have to be careful how they answer such questions, although some will be forthcoming.

There are various ethical issues involved in creating software. It is good to be aware of them, and to think about them when considering whether to take a job. Many people around you will not think about them, so it's up to you to think it through and bring your ethics to your work.

Creating complex software is mostly about people. It's probably more important to like the people you are working with than to like the project you are working on, though that matters too. There are some work environments that can be toxic...avoid those and/or work to make them less toxic.

In fact, you may want to treat the job search as looking for a person to work with, more than looking for a particular company or task.

Regarding negotiating for a salary, these blog posts made me think.

Patrick McKenzie, a person who runs a software company in Japan, has written about salary negotiations in this blog post.

Mark Suster who has been both an entrepreneur and a venture capitalist, has written several posts abount negotiation. There's a list of them here.

The one that stuck in my mind the most was the post titled "Never negotiate piecemeal"

Also, regarding job interviews, if you're not used to them you might think that the questions that they ask you are the ones that they want an answer to. Not so! Most job interview questions have some sort of hidden purpose to them. If you take them literally, you might miss the point.

For example, "Why should you get the job, instead of another candidate?" means something more like "Tell me something that I can tell my boss to cover my ass about why I gave you the job." "Tell me how you see yourself in 5 years" has multiple purposes. Read up on interview questions and why people ask them and what they are actually asking.

You might know this already, but iterative design is better than the waterfall method of software development, since it allows people to catch problems early in the design stages. Nevertheless, many companies still use the waterfall method, or pay lip service to "agile" but don't actually do it well.

Writing software for nuclear reactors or medical devices is qualitatively different than writing software for lower stakes purposes that can have more bugs in the software.

I probably have more advice, if you have more specific questions. It's hard to know what to tell you, since I don't know much about what your concerns are, or where you're starting from.

Comment by strangeattractor on General-Purpose Questions Thread · 2016-07-03T06:26:24.992Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are software programs that have databases of drug and supplement interactions. Also, pharmacists tend to know more about these things than doctors. So, you could find a database and search it, and/or ask a pharmacist. There isn't as much information available on supplements as there is about drugs, so it's hard to answer the question with a lot of certainty.

Comment by strangeattractor on Meme: Valuable Vulnerability · 2016-06-28T12:43:33.658Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is usually defined as being in a state where what you observe is liable to create negative emotions in you (or in some definitions, a variety of emotions).

I think that the variety of emotions definition makes more sense. It's about being open to possibilities, even if some of those possibilities are heartbreaking.

In other words, it is about taking emotional risks. I suppose it would be possible to go through life taking as few risks as possible....but such a life would be stunted in some ways. Risk-taking is not always valuable, but it is sometimes valuable.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, June 27 - July 3, 2016 · 2016-06-28T09:51:35.484Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I read about pre-mortem-like questions in a book called Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Comment by strangeattractor on June 2016 Media Thread · 2016-06-21T16:18:05.872Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've been reading a lot about the UK's referendum about whether to stay in the European Union. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard was undecided for months, but finally decided to vote in favour of Brexit.

All of his articles about the referendum have been good. Here is the one where he reveals his decision.

Brexit vote is about the supremacy of Parliament and nothing else: Why I am voting to leave the EU

On Twitter, he is @AmbroseEP

Here are links some of his earlier articles.

Crippled EU is no longer the 'anarcho-imperial monster' we once feared

Wise Men warn on dangerous delusions of Brexit

Brexit threat looms over Britain's election and Europe's fate

Britain's Brexit tantrum grates in a brittle world but the die is cast

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread May 30 - June 5, 2016 · 2016-06-17T15:37:21.088Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I learned techniques for lucid dreaming and dealing with pain from what was called at the time the Silva Method course, taught by Marilou Seavey and Gerald Seavey.

I also sometimes use a Tibetan Buddhist technique called tonglen, explained by Pema Chodron in her book When Things Fall Apart.

The Silva Method used to be a collection of useful techniques taught in a secular context. However, at some point after I took the course, the organization that coordinated the Silva Method courses became more religious. So a lot of people who were teaching the Silva Method courses and who weren't happy with the religious direction the organization was taking continued to teach the techniques, but called their courses by different names.

Marilou and Gerald Seavey have a website. They travel to various places around the world to give workshops, and it looks like their focus has shifted to NLP and coaching. However, it looks like they still teach a Silva-Method-like course, and that they are calling it Essential Mind Power Training.

Here is another pair of former Silva Method instructors, who call their course Dynamind

Jose Silva, who came up with the Silva Method, wrote some books, but they are not a very good introduction to or explanation of the techniques. The workshops are superior.

I'm glad I learned those techniques, and also a bunch of others, including the ones to help memorizing long lists of things, from the workshop. However, these techniques may not be the best way to do lucid dreaming, or deal with pain, or the various other things taught in the course. I haven't done a comparison with other techniques for lucid dreaming from other traditions, for example. There may be superior ones out there. I'm telling you the way I learned how to do it, since you asked, but I'm not saying it's the best way to learn it.

At the workshop, I feel like the limitations of the techniques were not discussed, or what to do when you run into problems, or guidance on the nuances that arise after mastering the basics. There wasn't a support system of community or teachers. I was pretty much on my own after the workshop. I don't know if that has changed over the years. Also, the incentives of someone selling workshops to make a living don't necessarily line up with the best interests of the people taking the course, and there is a lot of hype, and a tendency to focus on the benefits, not the drawbacks, and to be less careful than a scientist would be in making claims.

In all, I think I do not wholeheartedly recommend it, but on balance it made my life better, so I recommend it with caveats.

Tonglen I learned from reading the book When Things Fall Apart, but it looks like there's a more detailed book about Tonglen by the same author Tonglen: The Path of Transformation by Pema Chodron.ödrön/dp/B000AN09FS/

I get the impression that Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns know a lot more about meditation techniques than I do, but it's rare that they write down what they know. It may be that they would teach more in person. I think finding a good teacher for this stuff would be helpful, but it is not straightforward to find such a person.

This is the hyssop flower aka Ezov extract that I was taking for a while. I don't like their marketing claims, particularly the way that website talks about it, but it did seem to have some small effect on my dreams, as opposed to no discernible effect, which is the case with most herbs and foods I consume.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread May 30 - June 5, 2016 · 2016-06-08T07:50:27.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are herbs that can encourage lucid dreaming. I've experimented a bit with hyssop flower, also known as ezov, but it didn't change my experience of dreaming much, except I woke up feeling like I had been sorting things through and having insights in my sleep. I didn't recall what I had figured out, but I had the feeling of figuring things out. But I could lucid dream before I started taking it, though I don't do it often, and I remember my dreams often and write them down. Keeping pen and paper by the bed and writing down dreams can be a way to start if you want to work up to lucid dreaming.

I don't usually feel pain while dreaming, but I sometimes wake up from too much pain, so that is not always the case.

Many years ago, I did some meditation techniques to shut off pain when I was severely ill, and it worked for a little while, the technique was successful and I didn't feel pain. But then I moved around and lived my life as if the pain weren't there and I ended up hurting myself, and being in a worse condition than before. The pain had been stopping me from doing things that my body couldn't handle. So, I've been reluctant to mess with the pain signalling system since then.

I guess I'm telling you these stories because neither lucid dreaming, nor shutting off feeling the pain were answers for me. But that's me. Different people have different experiences and different bodies, which makes exploring these options not something that one can outsource, and anecdotes and stories are not reliable guides.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread May 30 - June 5, 2016 · 2016-06-08T07:23:12.948Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When the pain gets intense, it helps to remind myself "Not all days are as bad as this." It can feel overwhelming in the moment, and it distorts the view of the future. So I remind myself of that too. "What I'm experiencing right now is a distorted view of the future. So I'm not going to make any major decisions based on it."

It can be hard to look forward to the future when I'm not enjoying the present, when it's so awful, and there's no known path or plan to make thing better. It can be extremely frustrating to just endure. It can feel so futile and pointless.

When I have a better day later, I notice and point it out to myself and remember the worse day when it felt like I wouldn't have anything to look forward to, and am glad that I stayed alive long enough to experience it. And then I can remember that little conversation with myself when it gets intensely worse again, even though I don't recapture the good feeling at that time.

Suicide can seem pretty attractive under conditions of intense pain. Thoughts of suicide can be something like a valve, or an escape fantasy, or a fantasy of having an off switch for the pain. Repetitive thoughts can be related to exhaustion or illness. I think a lot of these thoughts and feelings can have a physiological basis, and are not necessarily something to identify with. They are probably pretty good at signaling "something is wrong" but not very good at "this is an accurate and complete picture of my desires". Paying attention to what you physically did just before the thoughts sometimes could lead to insights.

Comment by strangeattractor on Thoughts on hacking aromanticism? · 2016-06-07T08:40:59.663Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Regarding validation, I don't think it's useful to combine that idea with romantic self-esteem. They seem to be different things to me, though somewhat related.

If it is just romantic self-esteem, then I'm confused. If the goal is to be aromantic, why care about romantic self-esteem at all? It seems like the level of romantic self-esteem is a measurement or variable that is irrelevant to the non-romance-based life that you are building. Like, sure "that person is checking me out" or "their partner just tagged me as a threat and staked their claim" is a neat little boost emotionally, but it seems irrelevant to the type of life that you'd be building. "I could be doing more to find partners" seems a matter of time management, and is probably a poor band-aid over insecurities. It seems to me that making this about romantic self-esteem is still putting it in terms that do not really fit with an aromantic mindset.

Validation makes more sense to me. One suggestion could be to get validation from other activities, where people see who you are, and what you do, and give feedback on it and appreciate it. But there may not be many contexts and opportunities for that sort of thing in our cultures.

When I think about the type of validation I get from being in a romantic relationship, it is subtle. I think sometimes that we see each other and ourselves though lenses, or mirrors (metaphorically speaking.) Sometimes, when I'm not sure about my own view of myself, I lean a bit on my partner's view of me. Usually, that picture of me is delightfully more pleasant than my view of myself. But, even within a romantic relationship, it is good to develop skills to assess oneself and the effects of one's behaviours, and one's place in the world, without relying on using the other person as a distorted mirror. Sometimes if the other person is in a bad mood or depressed it can distort in the other direction, showing a more dire view than is accurate. So...not relying completely on outside validation is a skill to develop even inside a romantic relationship, that makes the relationship better, and can help get through some tough times.

When I say "not completely relying on outside validation" I don't mean stop seeking it at all. I still pay attention to it, but I think of it more as a weighted probability input, with a much lower percentage weighting than I used to give it. That's better than leaning on it 100% without much other plan for how to form an accurate picture of oneself. It is nevertheless a more uncomfortable place to be.

On a slightly different topic, another way to keep the focus off of romance is to review what you are focused on and why, what you want to be the top thing on your mind. It may take writing things down and deliberate reminders. I think it's easier to not get caught up in thinking about "hey I'm not doing this thing related to romance" when there is something to keep your thoughts on instead.

Comment by strangeattractor on May 2016 Media Thread · 2016-05-24T22:15:40.136Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've been reading livetweets of the Oracle vs Google trial by jury, presided over by Judge Alsup, who learned to code. In a previous trial, Judge Alsup had declared that the software API in question was uncopyrightable. However, his decision was overturned by the federal court, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. So now they are redoing the trial with a new jury, with the premise that an API is copyrightable, in order to decide whether Google's reimplementation of a Java API from Sun at the time (later bought by Oracle) was "fair use" of copyrightable materials.

The decision in this trial has the potential to impact the future of software development. The 9 billion dollars being asked for by Oracle is actually not the biggest thing at stake in this case. It is being decided by jurors who were picked because they know very little about how software development works.

In the courtroom livetweeting the events are Sarah Jeong and Parker Higgins and a few other people, most of whom are on Sarah Jeong's list: or using the hashtag #googacle

Comment by strangeattractor on Suggest best book as an introduction to computational neuroscience · 2016-04-27T06:43:30.578Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How to build a brain by Chris Eliasmith is one possibility.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread April 25 - May 1, 2016 · 2016-04-26T05:35:44.252Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What non-english content do you consume?

I watch the Quebec French version of The Voice, called La Voix

I also listen to some french language podcasts, such as those from the CBC (SRC in French), and sometimes I'll watch documentaries in other languages, such as NHK documentaries in Japanese.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread April 11 - April 17, 2016 · 2016-04-15T05:05:04.325Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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Comment by strangeattractor on Lesswrong Potential Changes · 2016-03-26T08:29:30.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In terms of encouraging crossposting, what do you think would be the benefits and drawbacks of something like a RSS aggregator of rationality blogs on the Less Wrong site, especially if the posts on other blogs have a Creative Commons license, or something similar? That could make it relatively easy for someone with a blog elsewhere to share with Less Wrong, instead of manually crossposting all of the time.

Comment by strangeattractor on The Thyroid Madness : Core Argument, Evidence, Probabilities and Predictions · 2016-03-15T09:44:04.690Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for more details. Yay for the Scientific Method.

So, is your goal to find an individual researcher and some doctors to start a study, or a few studies, along the lines you have described here? If you want to make it happen, you may need to get together some money to fund that. Or it's possible you could take some time to find the people who would be interested and capable and talk them into doing it and find some other people with money and talk them into funding it.

Or is your goal to change in general how medicine and medical research is done? The problems you describe here are widespread, and apply to more than this particular issue. Changing the approach of the entire medical community is a bigger goal than finding a few people who will take this particular idea farther. However, I think the reasons that people have not already done this research have a lot to do with systemic problems with no quick easy fix.

I don't think it's just going to happen on its own. It's not enough to say to a receptive doctor or medical researcher "Hey, here is this promising idea, let's investigate it" and things fall into place. That's not how the systems work. If you want to make this happen, it's going to take a lot of work and a lot of time and likely a lot of money. Is that a project you want to take on? Not just, "Do you care about it a lot?", because you do, but are your life circumstances such that you can devote the time to taking this farther?

There is very little research being done on CFS/FMS at all. And even less done on MCS (though that's another issue.) And very little on many other health problems. It's tragic.

Comment by strangeattractor on The Thyroid Madness : Core Argument, Evidence, Probabilities and Predictions · 2016-03-14T23:06:58.015Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

in order that someone with real expertise in this area takes this idea seriously enough to have a go at refuting it?

What would it look like if someone did take the idea seriously? What do you want to happen?

EITHER (2.1) CFS/FMS/Hypothyroidism are extremely similar diseases which are nevertheless differently caused. OR (2.2) The blood test is failing to detect many cases of Hypothyroidism.

I don't think 2.1 and 2.2 are mutually exclusive. Both could be true.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open thread, Mar. 14 - Mar. 20, 2016 · 2016-03-14T20:59:26.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like John Gottman's books. He has written several, any would be good. My favourite is "And Baby Makes Three." He is a therapist who studies married couples in a lab, and can see what works and what doesn't.

Comment by strangeattractor on Open Thread Feb 29 - March 6, 2016 · 2016-03-10T10:38:17.829Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've read a book that delves into these issues. It's called The Critical Villager by Eric Dudley. I recommend it.

Comment by strangeattractor on Thyroid Hormones, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia: A Hypothesis and a Proposed Experiment · 2016-02-25T22:36:23.632Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If I understand what you're saying, you think that some subset of people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia have undiagnosed thyroid problems that do not show up on standard tests, therefore treating them with dessicated thyroid could help.

I think that is plausible, and more reasonable than something like "all CFS and fibromyalgia can be explained by endocrine problems". It also seems to match the experience of some doctors who treat a lot of patients with these conditions.

There is also a difference between "helps to some extent" and "is enough to completely cure".

I would add to that:

The manufacturer of dessicated thyroid in the United States a few years ago added different fillers to the pills that can interfere with the medication. So if you are thinking of experimenting with that, check up on the non-active ingredients used, and precisely who manufactures it. There are differences between the pills from different manufacturers, they are not all the same, even if it looks like they ought to be interchangeable at first glance.

There are a number of doctors treating people with bioidentical hormones, that is, hormones in the same format that the body uses, not synthetic hormones that have similar, but not identical, structures. Bioidentical hormone supplementation seems to help some people. If you want to read up on that, Dr. Alvin Pettle has some lectures and books available where he goes into why, for example, horse hormones, derived from horse's urine, are problematic when in human women's bodies. In the context of thyroid problems, an alternative to dessicated thyroid would be bioidentical T3 and T4.

Comment by strangeattractor on If there was one element of statistical literacy that you could magically implant in every head, what would it be? · 2016-02-25T21:55:39.431Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would explain about blocking, how people can be matched up by profession, socio-economic status, smoker or non-smoker, and various other traits, to make comparisons where those factors are assumed to be equal.

Comment by strangeattractor on Learning Mathematics in Context · 2016-01-29T11:27:54.755Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Your comment made me think, and I'll look up some of the recommendations. I like the analogy with musicians and also the part where you talked about how the analogy breaks down.

However, I'd like to offer a bit of a different perspective to the original poster on this part of what you said.

To summarize: the math I think you're looking to learn is proofy, not computational, in nature.

Your advice is good, given this assumption. But this assumption may or may not be true. Given that the post says:

I don't care what field it is.

I think there's the possibility that the original poster would be interested in computational mathematics.

Also, it's not either or. It's a false dichotomy. Learning both is possible and useful. You likely know this already, and perhaps the original poster does as well, but since the original poster is not familiar with much math, I thought I'd point that out in case it's something that wasn't obvious. It's hard to tell, writing on the computer and imagining a person at the other end.

If the word "computational" is being used to mean following instructions by rote without really understanding why, or doing the same thing over and over with no creativity or insight, then it does not seem to be what the original poster is looking for. However, if it is used to mean creatively understanding real world problems, and formulating them well enough into math that computer algorithms can help give insights about them, then I didn't see anything in the post that would make me warn them to steer clear of it.

There are whole fields of human endeavor that use math and include the term "computational" and I wouldn't want the original poster to miss out on them because of not realizing that the word may mean something else in a different context, or to think that it's something that professional mathematicians or scientists or engineers don't do much. Some mathematicians do proofs most of the time, but others spend time on computation, or even proofs about computation.

Fields include computational fluid dynamics, computational biology, computational geometry...the list goes on.

Speaking of words meaning different things in different contexts, that's one thing that tripped me up when I was first learning some engineering and math beyond high school. When I read more advanced books, I knew when I was looking at an unfamiliar word that I had to look it up, but I hadn't realized that some words that I already was familiar with had been redefined to mean something else, given the context, or that the notation had symbols that meant one thing in one context and another thing in another context. For example, vertical bars on either side of something could mean "the absolute value of" or it could mean "the determinant of this matrix", and "normal forces" meant "forces perpendicular to the contact surface". Textbooks are generally terribly written and often leave out a lot.

In other words, the jargon can be sneaky and sound exactly like words that you already know. It's part of why mathematical books seem so nonsensical to outsiders.