Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2nd Closest Possible Game

I played my final game of Frisbee for this league today. It was the second-closest possible game, 17-16 in a game-to-15 win-by-2 hard-cap-17. (the closest is 16-16 stop when the lights go out). I had a lot of fun and have improved dramatically - my errors now are things like "you made an awesome cut deep into the endzone and didn't manage to catch the disc" or "when defending, instead of catching the disc, you're still knocking it down" or "don't make perfect throws to someone cutting across the field if their defender has a good chance of running the disc down if they hustle".

jimmy and I finished up his infodump of hypnotism, I'm on deck for whipping up a couple of quick sketches of articles I would have liked to see given his content. Should be pretty easy.

John makes the good point that we should have lunch sometimes 'cause we work pretty close together.

And I'm going to use http://betterme.org/cleansweep to motivate me to improve some random stuff, 'cause I went there and clicked check boxes and was suddenly motivated to click more. Good opportunity. :) And there's some easy stuff there! "My bed is made daily." And some stuff I'd love to do, "I surround myself with music which makes my life more enjoyable.".

Monday, August 15, 2011

Two Days One Post

The Kirkland Street Scramble was fun! Kind of fucking brutal but fun. How did it get us to jog (and walk some, especially up hills) for 2.5 hours? Clearly Delay was greatly reduced since it wasn't 2.5 hours, it was a bunch of checkpoints to go find. Impulsiveness was far lower with 2 people than 1, neither wants to be the one to back down (public precommitment almost). Expectancy quite high since we keep succeeding and we had a fallback plan to make sure we arrived back in time. Value not much higher than standard exercise, except you're doing it with a friend which is good.

Then I played some 2HG with French Scars cards. Not sure that was worth it but it was entertaining. Afterwards I came home to people prepping to play Conquest of Nerath for the first time and I got in on that. Due to going last I had a huge advantage - everyone else royally screwed up something on their first turn and I got to see it so I avoided three mistakes. :D

Then it was Monday and I was sore.

I talked with jimmy about an article I'd like him to write on his readings on hypnosis. We didn't finish before it was time to talk with Victoria so we'll resume tomorrow. Then I talked with Victoria! She's been looking at IFS as well, and her niece more than her. We both think it's at the very least easier to talk to parts as people than any other similar method we've tried. She's got a big life choice ahead of her, PhD or industry - I'm grateful that I can stay in a very nice baseline state while making those sorts of decisions.

Oh and the Puzzlehunt teams are close to organized now. Or my part of organizing them anyway.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fort Awesome

Today I went to a party. A Scotch, Sausage, and S'mores party. At a place called Fort Awesome. It was pretty good, and I got in some good practice conversing with basically-strangers which was the main cause of my actually going, and I received some nice questions and compliments on my Feynman diagram necklace. But most importantly I learned I need to buy a firepit thing if Singinst fails to raise enough matching funds. Fires are the best.

Also I think I found the place the rest of my feel-good-charity is going. My cousin's likely going to try to get his GED and needs cash money to take some courses.

Just one night's sleep remains between me and orienteering, I'm excited.

Friday, August 12, 2011


A piece of my coding at work right now takes an hour to compile. That's terrible. I've put together a short list of productive things to do when I have to compile it, but it's still pretty bad. More thought required.

Puzzlehunt is going to be great. We've got 3 teams lined up, or at least enough people to fill 3 teams. Tomorrow I'll divvy 'em up and send an email.

Didn't do much else, spent time watching Buffy w/ roommates and roommate's sister.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


My glasses broke. I taped them up and they look quite bad. Tomorrow I'll go somewhere and try getting something new I guess? I forget how this works, these things are so old!

So I think I've detected some kind of coverup at work. Someone's trying to push a new spec through really fast, and several things just don't make sense. "I notice I am confused." Anyway I'm just going to play dumb and do the right-for-the-product thing and see if they'll come out more explicitly with whatever politics are happening. Silly politics.

I screwed up scheduling a chat with Victoria pretty badly, aka twice. First I was wrong about which day my frisbee game was on, then about which day sushi was on, so we talked for maybe 20-30 minutes today and will reconvene Monday.

At sushi my roommate coined a good word for mini-camp: fashionality camp. :D

Oh and I listened to a recording of my Tuesday presentation. Five notes: 1) I don't dislike the recorded sound of my voice anymore. Odd. 2) I say "Okay" a lot. 3) I say "So" a lot. 4) I say "Okay, so" a lot. 5) I actually didn't say "uh" or "um" much at all.

And there aren't any obviously good places to insert myself into the extant Giving Campaign structure. Everything is either too low impact or too high cost.


Well, I just complemented a coworker on his sweet shirt. wtf did you turn me into, Luke?

So yeah more people complimented me on my presentation. I got a "you are my new presentation hero". Spending the time to optimize is like the best thing ever, apparently. I applied several techniques: asking experts how they do it, not using my first solution, trying things (I ended up drawing all slides on a whiteboard and taking pictures of that and using those as slides), adding unnecessary but appropriate smiley faces, planning for the planning fallacy (aimed the 1-hour talk at 35 minutes), increasing motivation (decreased delay by thinking of intermediate rewards in showing drafts to coworkers, increased expectancy by working on it right after succeeding on other small things), and I recognized that delaying it by a couple weeks was better than trying to force myself into a tight schedule (whatever that's called), and maybe more?

So I'm going to force some other people to do their features now, or if they won't I'll do their features.

Arabian Nights and Dominion at home. OH YES, and potatoes are the best random food to cook up and eat. By cook I mean put in the microwave and hit "potato" and then stuff with cheese and butter and onions and sour cream and you're done.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Presentation Laser

Yeeeesssss. CSS presentation complete, and it was awesome. 121 slides and 3 question-answering periods in 50 minutes. And I used a high powered laser pointer for lulz.

Frisbee? Ran the hardest I've run yet, 'cause we had 0-2 subs for the whole game. We lost and it was a slog to 12-15 but I'm pretty satisfied.

I'm finally at a point where I've cleared out my backlog of oops signed up to do too many things. I'm still signed up to do some stuff but none of it's super-timeboxed. Anyway I feel free.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Broken Mug

I got months and months out of flipping and spinning my mug as I walked down the hall to fill it with delectable coffee or water or whatever. Finally it's over. A moment's inattention and bam, now I have 5 pieces of a mug, only one of which would hold anything. Ah well... that was worth it.

I did a new thing with a Wits & Wagers question. Just once so far but it seems maybe good. I tried putting a distribution over possible values by figuring out my most likely models, then how likely it is each is approximately correct, then figuring out my backoff model. I think this helped me confront which pieces of my intuitions are overconfident, or rather which processes that take my intuitions to hard numbers give results similar to what overconfidence would.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I went to a speech put on by one of the Microsoft toastmasters clubs about how to make technical points with PowerPoint. It wasn't very good. I expected to learn and be impressed. I didn't really learn and wasn't really impressed. This may have been exacerbated by the noob mistake of starting 10 minutes late and not using those 10 minutes to check the equipment and having to wait even longer when the clicker didn't work.

My exercise ball is interesting. I'm keeping it to ~half hour segments as instructed. Dunno if I like it yet.

And we played some Sons of Liberty in which we found that fake mustaches are the ultimate disguise. There's even one on the Liberty Bell now.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Planning Phase

I've never had so much fun planning for coding before. Maybe because I've never made such a... right plan before. Accurate? No, it's the lack of false precision that I'm enjoying so much. The proof will be weeks from now of course, but I think I'm overcoming the planning fallacy this time. And explicitly writing down the bits where my variance is really high makes it very easy to see which parts of the plan could do with further thinking.

Lara gave her crash course in machine learning for NLP today. It was probably valuable? I don't know, it still seems like few points delivered well just works better. If people follow up on her talk then it's the best thing ever, but realistically who's going to? Unless we push... okay, fine. I'll push.

I'm nearly done getting together my own presentation. Tomorrow I'll finish it up so I can get the LW one written out with time to spare rather than in a crunch.

I would totally purchase extra time. But not, I think, an extra year for a hundred million dollars. :D

Monday, August 1, 2011

frisbee wins

Giving myself little smiles for working on things I endorse when the random timer chimes, if that's really what caused my increased productivity, is like the best thing ever. Except for the future and lasers. I've got all my estimates for this last ish milestone in and bugs are wrapping up.

Frisbee is getting better and better... Now we beat the second place team too. I have a medium sized turf burn that was fun to reconceptualize the pain of in the shower.

Phone post complete.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lanchester's Square Law

Accidentally rederived Lanchester's Square Law again, in a different way than I'd seen before. If your units are X times as good as mine and each of your units hits p of the time and mine q, then each of your units should take out X times as much stuff as each of my units. You unit takes out p*1 of mine, and mine takes out q*1 of yours, and yours are X mine, so mine takes out q*X my-units of yours. But yours are X times better so we'd better have p*1 = X * (q*X) or X = sqrt(p/q). You'll need 100/X to tie my 100.

A coworker mentioned a Jeff Atwood post that points to Luke pointing to Richard Wiseman. Yessssss.

I traded off going to my favorite restaurant for everyone else having a better chance of not having bad service there (Friday). Definitely the kind of trade I want others to make, so I made it.

I wrote up most of the stuff Anna asked for in her "retrospective please!" mail, but it's not quite done. I'll finish tomorrow.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Talking with Partners

Very nice day at work today, avoiding all the mistakes of last milestone and actually ironing out all the potential problems with partner teams before we start coding. Yay for that! I didn't do much of improvement note, though I am sneaking in random reps of pushups and leg lifts. I finished a novel... still not sure what to think about reading science fiction. It's a lot of fun but does take up a lot of time. Maybe some kind of fiction budget is in order.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Orbital Bombardment

Hm, woke up and went back to sleep this morning. I'll have to start Brandon's 30 countdown thing again. At work my PM made me super happy, he stopped by my office and said something like "just so you know you're having an impact on the world, I was in a meeting and they were like 'hey Chris can you get this statistic?' and I asked them what actions they'd take based on what the answer was like you do to me and they couldn't tell me, also I'm watching for when I'm rationalizing now and when I catch it I just do the opposite".


Not sure about the opposite thing but hey it follows my other heuristic of "go to the other end of the spectrum first".

As for me, I hella procrastinated today in the name of "but my stuff's building". The random chime is great for not allowing me to make excuses, no excuse is a good reason for the paucity of "yeah I'm doing endorsed work now" entries today. So that's not great. Luckily I didn't totally do that at home, and I'm pretty sure I have a good activity for 2-weeks-from-now. Seeing that "opposing" goals don't actually interact too much just by trying some examples.

We played 3:16 and I'm burning through resources as quickly as I can, 'cause now it's in their best interest to just kill me and get promoted, jumping a bunch of levels. I think I can make Major before I get offed. Eric had some nice imagery for the result of me using orbital bombardment, my character was strapped to a red X over the hologram of where the planet used to be, interrogated by the Lt Col. 3:16 is living up to its promise.

Time for a shower, calibration exercise, and sleep.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I am typing this while palming a dollar coin. Now, while palming one in each hand. It feels weird but basically works fine, with my right hand. Left gets cranky. Anyway, work was good today, though I got super lethargic at around 3:30. Dunno why but it means I'm sleeping more tonight. As usual it cleared up completely after dinner. :S

I ran some calibration drills and learned some more Python. I'd say if I improved this much per day on average I'd be pretty satisfied. But not ecstatic so there's room to improve at improving. Tomorrow I won't have a lot of time but I plan to collect my notes on the lw-meetup discussion and look for any major missing pieces, and make a quick plan on organizing the work I'll need to do to put it together.

Interestingly mousing is much harder than typing.


This no-caffeine thing almost failed this morning but I compromised and got some decaf coffee. Whew! I got a big hit of less-motivation though, when I realized it was Two Weeks until M3 coding start rather than One Week like I thought. :S First off, I have no idea how I made that mistake. Second, once I realized, the thought kept popping up - "a whole extra week! you don't need to do anything right now!". I powered through it instead of fixing it, which was a mistake. Tomorrow if it happens I'm fixing it.

Frisbee was sweeeet. The opposing team was undefeated. We played a really good, tight game the whole way except for one dude getting pissy near the end of the first half (he managed to stop) and a bit of overconfidence during the beginning of the second half. I missed one really nice deep catch, sad cat, but made another couple and generally played some very good defense and above average offense. We won 15-13 and went out to dinner afterwards, about half a dozen from both teams. Now I have infinite cold noodles leftovers. Not infinite, but seriously about 5-6 meals. I managed to converse, both starting and continuing good conversations at dinner. I am sooo bad at it still, but I'm now able to see how bad I am by how much attention I have to pay to doing it rather than bad results. That's progress.

And I gave an intern a ride to and from dinner. True story.

Monday, July 25, 2011

LW meetup

Some memories from yesterday. Bring paper towels or napkins to the LW meetup. Also what are we doing next week? I'd host Space Alert, or some more-intense paranoid debating. :D And check to make sure my intuitions on Occam's razor make sense. My mom's coordinated her family to deal with my grandfather and aunt pretty well. This potato soup gets rather less liquidy on day two. I'm ready for some social effectiveness leveling at frisbee dinner and Tokyo night. I have no idea what the current political debt thing actually means economically or politically. I wish the Randi forums were better but they are not. Also palming a coin seems easier than I thought.

Some thoughts from right now: Fine, I'll write down thoughts that night, it works much better.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coding fun

I'm going to start doing TopCoder algorithm competitions again 'cause those were fun and I've lost some of those skills - I can tell because I did some practice problems and they were fun but I had more trouble with them than I remember. The problems seem to be about the same difficulty level they were a few years ago, which is pretty impressive. Also I started learning Python, 'cause why not.

Today would have been a great day for rejection therapy at Marymoor. Too bad weather is friggin' impossible. But I got in some running, walking, and ping-pong.

I made my second potato soup, turns out adding more butter and more cheese is a really strong play.

Other than that, I did mostly do-nothing stuff today. Recovery, I'm calling it. I don't know whether it was required but it felt like it. So starting tomorrow I'm back in full-fledged Improvement mode, after a week or two of wait-what-am-I-doing. I've got my list of Important Stuff and everything. Most important is choosing the first One Focus Area.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Today is Yesterday

Yesterday, Thursday the 21st, I took my takeaway to heart and canceled my commitment to the combo most arbitrary deadline, most cost item. So I'm not going to give my presentation at work until 2.5 weeks from now, now. This is great. I felt so freed up. Now to make sure I don't accidentally procrastinate. ;)

I've been enjoying my TAM9 necklace, but the bracelet seems to have better (more visible) results.

Meditation was all right, but not in the morning, and only for 15 minutes. I want to get back to the morning - my working hypothesis for some of my sleep-related issues in the last week or so is whoops I started drinking coffee during the day again. So I'm stopping caffeine again to see what that does, starting tomorrow which is today.

I used some of my confidence interval (credible interval) skills to estimate my next milestone's tasks. Excited to see how they end up compared to my estimates! My overall time estimate was super-close between two different methods: 50% confidence, call everything normal, versus 90% confidence, call everything log-normal. I did the two over two days, recreating even the tasks for the second one.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too much stuff

Takeaway: committing to a lot of things that require work at the same time is well worth taking plenty of extra upfront time to avoid.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Presentation O'Clock

No meditation today. Got up late, now I'm super sleepy, also I discovered a part of me prefers consistency in writing this to consistency in meditation or possibly my behavior-executer-thing for writing this just works somewhat better. Tomorrow I'm back, promise.

I checked in some bugs against strange motivational opposition. And I had a long talk with Lara about the CSS presentation, which was very helpful. Down to busy-work now before presenting next Tuesday. Also, Eliezer's implicit Bayes' structure post was directly responsible for my most significant contribution to Microsoft. lulz

Frisbee was fun, I played well, and we crushed the other team, which is a novel result. I handled some, kinda badly, but without reservation.

I am confused by this: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/6q3/link_the_bayesian_argument_against_induction/

TAM9 3: The Tamining

Fast forward to back in Seattle: Having a question/goal in mind feels like a good idea for me when doing insight meditation. Maybe eventually it will artificially constrain, but for now it's very motivating. And there are so many questions! I used "what does the breath 'look' like going in and out in my abdomen rather than in and out of my nose?" today.

Rewind to Vegas: Notes from today! Here they are:
Hyman's Maxim: Before you try explaining something, first make sure that there's actually something to explain.
Guaranteed-return managed mutual funds are a scam.
Common Sense on Mutual Funds by John C Bogle
PR - the art of getting media to spread your message for you, for free
You have a doctor? Have her write a blog post once a month, and fax it to the media. They need to know we're a source! Remove their trivial inconveniences. To be there at the right time, be there all the time.
Wikipedia! Tell others who we are, they can't find us

Negative affect correlates with motivation to ignore counterarguments
attitude/performance correlates with resistance to persuasion
usually: while "listening" we are evaluating others and thinking of how to dismantle their points. New form: speaker can't go until paraphrasing others' points to others' satisfaction
1. explore common ground
2. statement of listener's position
3. objective statement of speaker's positiong
4. thesis (and show willingness to accept something from listener's side)
- at any point, listener may object and require clarification/accuracy

it's irrational to ignore emotions
lack of emotional awareness is bad... Spock was irrational
specific examples inoke emotion, vague don't
find concrete, true examples that speak to shared values and make me care

motion - neurons for that type get overactivated (tired) and opposite direction don't
neurons actually get *surpressed* by higher cognition so we keep attention on spotlight
attention to meta is all that allows putting attention on *all* relevant areas

sound bite as poetry! dense information communication
activisim: include interests of people not-like-you. e.g. Vote - Education, Employment, Marriage law - Sex, reproduction, classism - etc. widening circles.
Diversity of tactics - militants good for beginning, overcoming activation energy, but they will and should become obsolete later. They move the acceptable-discussion window and make moderates less scary
objective -> audience -> message -> tactics

mental illness denial? counter with migraines

Sunday, July 17, 2011

TAM9 2

Sad cat didn't set aside time for meditation today and so only got the incidental mindfulness during the day. Not good enough, kitty.

Here are notes from TAM day 2. Friendly PR directors are MAGIC
Sadie Crabtree:
How do we win?
1. What's the goal
2. Who do we need to talk to
3. What do we want them to do
4. Which values can we tap
5. What beliefs will be obstacles
6. What's the message and who delivers
2 Convince those who don't feel strongly not those strongly opposed or already supporting
3 Change behaviors of others, not their values. This also sets them up for cognitive dissonance.
4 Find shared values: honesty fairness feeling smart and respected feeling right and co fident about it not feeling cheated or taken in
5 Feeling control over circumstances, making sense of an irrational world, wanting to feel right and respected
6 Frames, and who is ot that will deliver the message? People trust people with whom they feel they share a common interest
Don't use: critical thinking, educate, skepticism, nonsense
Its not what you say that's important its what people hear

Campus groups - secular >> homeopathy
To measure something hard to measure that seems easily games, pick 20 ludicrous bit correlated things measure them and correctly add the evidence
PLACEBO read literature this is a panel of six folks who know what they're talking about at a skeptics conference and they all think placebos don't exist for non-mental phenomena in general
Regression to the mean
Use three arm tests to check placebos
Bias! Can't double blind placebo?
*Brainstorm all situations with subjective impressions as inputs
Placebo response changes subjects subjective self reported metrics eg pain nausea but not eg  olume of air breathed
Imagination is key to implanting memories
*Random reminder on designed schedule to want want desire desire etc instead of reward to ramp
Keep baby picture in wallet so it os returned
Carol tavris
Motivated cognition actually different brain activation
18.11 Pp 1947 1958 journal of cognitive neuroscience
Students who got self help that didn't improve their performance changed heir memories of how well they did beforehand so they thought the help did help
I.e. to change identity let yourself want to not identify with the characteristic
Anger - anonymity speed and lack of consequences. Can lw malw commenting take more time
Do NOT put people into a state of dissonance they will just side wih the.selves even more strongly
Exercise: how to instill a piece of identity then set up cognitive dissonance
*Childcare at skeptical (science?) conferences - RDSF sponsors now? Ask them

Phantom was awesome. First, it's good. Second, this production was good. Third, for me it has soooooo much nostalgia factor.

Also we're putting a solar sail into space!!

Friday, July 15, 2011


Meditation comes after this post and before Penn's bacon donuts and rock & roll party today.
Here are my notes.
Whiteboards everywhere plzkthx
Why would their tactics work on us
9X10^21 / 10^22-10^24 stars
God will kill us makes them more or less threatening?
Set up testing station one minute
6000 "Total" IQ what
Notice your confusion - of course they checked the electronics
Community of rationalists - mc called us this
Make sure that your question's a question!!!
George singing freaking amazing
Skepticism isn't just about being correct it's also about doing the right thing
 False patterns for pattern matching were far less costly than false negatives.
calc how egregiously they should be able to cherry pick, beforehand
There is a place for a magician in the lab whenever deceit could be involved. We deceive ourselves all the time. Is there a place for a cogsci bias consultant in the lab?
Straws plaster of Paris and a gerbil!
PZ sez 5 extinction events makes 6 data points 2 don't count as life was only aquatic and out of 4 the first three didn't result including intelligence so...
OMG Neil don't do the that's such a biiiiiiiiiig number thing
Phd is twice the evidence of scientist given phd that a person is not religious.

Also, harry potter was good. But I have been infiltrated, no single part was better than a certain shining moment in mor... :S

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Meditation on a plane! Blogging on a phone. In Vegas for TAM9 but today is just walking around the strip. Should I play poker or write presentations or oh wait harry potter 7 part 2???????
I discovered I don't like typing more than a few words on this phone at one time. Or thought I did, it's getting better with practice.


I decided to do walking meditation today, in the sun. Focused completely on teasing apart the sensations and motions in my right foot. I found 6 separate physical sensations, each of which (with effort and balance) I could stop after, labeled (in some cases prematurely) down heel roll ball push lift. I also spent some time paying attention to how (say) heel felt, then not walking and calling to mind the same sensations to see what just the mental aspect felt like, then walking again to see the difference between the purely mental part and the mental + physical part.

I went over the draft of my presentation with Ravi. Looks like it's going to work out great! We found some areas to tweak, some to radically improve, one that needs to be redone or cut, and I know of one which I didn't finish the draft for yet... but overall easily done in a couple weeks. Lara, Ravi, and I will go over it Monday so I'll finish  up the draft changes and paper prototype at TAM - or I won't, either way. :D

We played Hunter and it went well. For me. I felt on a whole it dragged, but I was holding up my end pretty well. This is in marked contrast to my normal feeling of vague inadequacy while playing a non-game RPG.

The 3 axes worksheet seems right as I remember, and worked well when I tried it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


This morning my stuffy nose was like all grrr and argh. But that didn't stop me and I got in some good practice. I really want to go an hour rather than half an hour, it seems there's a longish ramp-up before my mind calms down, and the most interesting things are always near the end. I'll schedule that for Saturdays and see how that goes.

This Saturday though I will be in Vegas! Who knows what I'll be doing schedule-wise. Yay TAM. Or at least I anticipate yay. I've never been to one before.

I was pretty motivated again today to write up the presentation! Not super-motivated but pretty. I've got a good draft now and I'll go over it with my coworker tomorrow.

Then: Frisbee. After a week off I was so ready. We had a very tight game, 13-15, and I learned (viscerally rather than intellectually) some good tactics involving how to cut and how to clear out in a useful way.

I put together a draft of a worksheet on 3 axes to explore the emotional brain's map near a goal and plan. I'd like to do the worksheet now, but it's late. If I don't then I'll do it tomorrow. If it's fine then I'll send it John's way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Motivation and Dinner

I missed meditating this morning and didn't get to formal sitting until the night. That's unfortunate. Fortunate, though, is that I'm spending time noting more and more during the day - when walking to the restroom or between meetings or at lunch or whatnot. And I noted a thought I've never noted before, "explaining", when a legit reason for a thing I just saw popped into my head. Not rationalizing or story-telling, but explaining.

I was super-motivated during work, wrote up a note-version draft of my presentation, investigated and fixed some good bugs... I attribute it to talking about and getting excited about motivation yesterday. We'll see if there are long-term effects, magically! :) (Also this motivation is clearly evident in my log of what I'm doing when the mindfulness chime goes off)

I had dinner with John and then he and I and Ben talked/worked on career planning for a while. I feel like I don't have a good direction on the meta-level, like I never know what to do next when "working on career planning", like it's not broken down enough yet. Taskification. But I did get at least two very important things out of the evening... what I'm doing with my free time now is a choice on the career decision tree, and I have a feeling to investigate that I don't understand which manifests as a huge difference between a within-Microsoft job change and a change to another large software corporation like Google or Amazon. Realistically those two changes are not very different, but I feel far freer when contemplating what it would be like if I were currently at Google than when contemplating what it would be like if I were currently at Bing. I'm pretty sure this is Important and will work on it tomorrow night.

Hah, what are the odds. Fine, I'll enter "blogging" for what I'm doing right now, silly mindfulness chimes. :D

Monday, July 11, 2011


I tried having a chime ring every 5 minutes while meditating, but my phone locked after the first chime (I eventually inferred) and I didn't want to stop to try to fix things. I'll get it set up before beginning next time.

Game 4 is written up, so that's good. I'm not sure whether to write up Games 2 and 3 in their original form or with the changes I've thought of or what.

The LW meetup was today and it was very good. This marks the first time I would whole-heartedly recommend someone not invested in LW meetups trek from the eastside with 520 closed. ;) I found out I have a motivation-draining block partway through the pipeline required to prepare my context sensitive spelling presentation for work, and simply finding the block was enough to reconceptualize it away. (It was an anticipation that after writing a draft I would look at the draft and deem the structure unworkable.) Then I chose a couple of methods to increase my motivation in general - breaking out a couple of necessary subparts, and moving the rewards timing sooner (intermediate presentations/reviews with some coworkers I'd already planned but hadn't yet been anticipating any social rewards from).

Talking about motivation was super-motivating. Or maybe it was that Andrew said he read through this blog, then I pictured reading through it, then I realized I've been tapering off in the last week or two weeks. So I quickly planned things to do for the next (short) week and then wrote up the first half of my presentation.

Afterwards David and I talked for an hour or so initially about how some of the games went, and quickly moved to designing a new game aimed at being happy with good decisions regardless of outcome. Turns out what we were doing feels in large part like extracting that aspect of poker from the rest of the game.

Then I went to sleep before writing this up. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Space Alert: The Doubling

Today I did some hard running and then meditated in the park. Seattle in summer is good times.

I put together my resume. Such a simple thing but it was like pulling teeth. This area... I haven't found out what's so bad about it. But I haven't tried PJ's 8 directions thing either... Ugh is a very good name for ugh fields.

We played Space Alert with 10 people. That was basically great. But almost all of the greatness came from Space Alert, not the fact that we were playing two at once. In all I'd say the variant isn't up to snuff and probably won't be, there's just not that much room for improvement in the game.

Agh and somehow I missed writing up Game 4. Since tomorrow's Sunday I might as well do that now...? :( I should not, actually. Fine, I missed it for real.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I woke up late this morning, so I switched meditation to walking after lunch. At the end I checked for how long it took just standing to be able to visualize - after 5 minutes I could not. I tried again later that night, sitting, with the lights out, and I was getting something dim at 2:30 and got a sharp image of a taco at 3:40.

Yesterday I used Quixey to grab a random-alarm app for my machine at work. Today I noted what I was doing every time it went off - I'm distracted more than I thought!

At home I finished writing up Game 1 and posted it. Also I'm declaring the instilling-desire experimentation phase complete. A week of just noting did not move me toward a desire to clean the restroom, then another week of smile-reinforcement got me there easily. And a week of smile-reinforcement got me the desire to take a cold shower but did not remove my dislike for cold showers, so I'm guessing in general it's not a great plan to use this method on activities you know you actively dislike, just those you're fine with but hate to start. On the other hand Critch mentioned plugging his lust into grading...? I'll have to ask about that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Space Alert

I thought I might as well check a bunch of postures to see how they feel, so this morning I sat in a chair. Seemed basically fine, easier to keep sitting up rather than slouching for some reason.

I find I'm rationalizing far less often in a way that I explicitly notice at the time. (This leaves open the possibility I'm just becoming better at hiding it from myself, or becoming worse at noticing it.)

I wrote up almost all of the first game we played Saturday, so that's good, but I haven't been spending much time at all researching problem solving, so that's not.

Someone wrote me up a quick variant for Space Alert that supports 8-10 people. (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/671699/a-second-expansion-some-ideas) I'll be playing that this Saturday. Space Alert in general would be fun to play with the LW crowd... so I'll bring that up.

Oh and another independent person came up to me again today and said she thought I'd lost weight, this silly lengthening the face with facial hair thing is ridiculous.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I'm pretty much locked into insight practice for a while unless I find a place I can go with air conditioning. It gets too warm to concentrate.

I signed up to give a talk at work on a project I did a few months ago, at the information flow level. This should be loads of goodness, especially if I can get other people to give similar talks.

I've been reading and doing a bit of practicing with the Internal Family Systems material. It's been fascinating so far. I have found several Protectors and an Exile, using Earley's terminology, including one very strange Protector. I got the image (metaphor ;)) of a spindly being that turned off a TV set which I was using to show situations to myself. It seemed right to call him Goofy as he brought up associations with Goofy. I am working in and around certain mildly traumatic events from my childhood during my parents' separation and divorce.

Schwartz and Earley's description of the Self feels remarkably similar to Anna's description of curiosity and Ingram's description of accepting and investigating whatever arises. Either they're all describing something similar or I'm being taken in.

Given me another month and I feel I'll be more confident.

Oh yes and I would like to buy 3-year poorly-priced options on Bitcoin plzkthx.

July 4th

Try things, right? Well, lying-down meditation in the morning isn't something I'll try again too soon. I didn't fall asleep but it required constant vigilance. Maybe it would have gone better somewhere other than my bed? Maybe. In any case I won't be doing that again 'til maybe I'm ready to investigate the sensations of falling asleep. ;)

Then: 4th of July party. Always epic, each year more so. We had about 30 people over at the Johnson's place in Bothell and the changes I have made since mini-camp are freaking clearly great for parties. I was in a state of mild shock for much of the time except it wasn't most of me that was in this state, only that part of me that I allowed to think meta during the party, the rest apparently did a great job being interesting and good looking and looking cool and stuff. And I mean each of those, separately, were far higher than they've been before. I got lots of compliments on how I looked, I had fun conversations with many people, some of whom I didn't really have on my "can have fun conversations with" radar, and I was quite comfortable lounging in a chair outside being the center of attention over 30% of the time in a circle of 4-10ish people for over an hour. Edit: that doesn't do justice to the long period of time during which I was choosing who I was most attracted to and Rohini and Ryan swapped shirts for me...

Also we collected more donations for next year's fireworks than we spent this year, already, and that doesn't count the amount David and I will spend next year...

Monday, July 4, 2011

People are here

I am continually surprised out how interesting insight meditation is. Especially sitting. I mean come on, I'm sitting very still for half an hour. How could that be interesting? Even though as I write this I realize I sit very still for much longer while watching a movie...

Today was in large part a Day Of Rest. After yesterday and with full knowledge that tomorrow's going to be crazy, I needed one. Still there were tons of people around 'cause of the 4th weekend and I did things with them, played games, had dinner, etc... but I skipped the hike and left gaming early, neither of which is at all characteristic.

Every time-unit or so, I did go clean up some of yesterday's mess. Now I have a couple stacks of papers to record and a hungry hungry hippos board to return; I'll get to one of those tomorrow but not both. :D

I looked at migrating to Wordpress but it seemed to take more than 5 minutes so I'll get to that later. One nice thing, I've gained enough self-knowledge to know that these "I'll do such-and-such later" statements are factual and a good idea, not just procrastination. I was kind of surprised to notice that.

Also: simply noting without rewarding did not lead anywhere down the mind-path toward desiring to clean the restroom. Starting now I will move to smile-rewarding and see where a week of that takes me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Insight today, with focus on separating physical and mental sensations. Then the meetup! Overall it went all right, with some high points and some parts that felt like they dragged. Actually I take that back, for a first attempt it actually went fantastic. But it took a lot more work to organize than I thought. Next time we're just playing whirlyball. :)

Afterwards, Pasta Freska and Commander. Now it's late, I'll write more about the meetup later.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


This morning I felt as if I were at the back of my skull rather than behind my eyes, for maybe 5 minutes. Pretty weird... I basically spent all of my free time trying to get the last parts of the games/etc. tomorrow together. I finished the day with a bit more to do, but all of it pretty much known undones. I keep feeling slightly disappointed in the results because I know if I had another week the event could be better, but I think that's actually a rationalization - the real reason I'm disappointed is because I'm scared everyone will think it's lame. This is the haunted house problem, one part of me is actually pretty certain this is good.

Also I learned a brand-new awesome skill in preparation for tomorrow. And I'm writing this tomorrow so every time I write "this morning" or "tomorrow" I feel silly in a Playful way.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Too tired

Yep, I'm going to have to change some things around to get more sleep. This morning (Th) I was beginning concentration practice and felt very close to just sleeping several times, so I went to the other end and did some walking insight practice. Then David and I talked for half an hour - I've decided to ditch the 4th game for another, in its present incarnation it just doesn't work like I'd like.
I had trouble with The Experiment today and I'm not sure why.

I spoke with a dude at First Tech for a while, I've got concrete plans to get accounts and investments set up now.

At about 1:30 I realized I was sleep-deprived (as opposed to e.g. lunch-tired) and getting nothing done, so I went home to nap for 3h. Would this have been a good time to have some modafinil on hand?

John and I discussed meetups for an hour or so, coming up with several useful things like a control and experimental meetup, lists of topics we can present, and emailing people one-on-one.

I ironed out most (maybe all!) of the bugs with 2 of the games and now I'm set to write them out fully tomorrow. The third still needs additional scaling, and the fourth I have a version that will work if required but needs review since it hasn't been playtested or checked yet.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

David and I talked this morning about his presentation-to-roommates. He keeps mentioning that motivation equation, which is pushing me toward noticing it more often in random places. I have some reservations about talking in the morning, because I can't talk for more than about half an hour without actually deciding to go to sleep sooner at night or moving meditation. Tomorrow I'm trying the half an hour tack.
Also tomorrow I will have no caffeine, as I had two cups of coffee and a soda today, which is 3x more than any day in the last month. Danger! I brought up simple math / grounding features in real world effects with my manager and he was very interested, so I'm escalating up to my boss' boss' boss.
Over lunch I did 20 minutes of walking insight meditation. It was fascinating! There's so much that's going on... and you can try to note all of it, or just focus on say the sensations in the left foot, etc.
After work I talked with Ben some about our physical intuition project. We determined that there are two natural categories things seems to fit into, physics problem solving and cognitive science about learning, and that the next steps are to find and read more papers. He's focusing on physics and I on learning, both with an aim towards intersection.
Then we finished up playing The Mountain Witch, which was fun. Eric plays Tengu as slapstick incompetent thieves very well.
Oh and I sent out one of the games for Saturday to be playtested but my instructions weren't very good and I didn't get much data back. :( Worse yet I'm pretty sure I could have predicted that had I spent 2 minutes thinking.
Blogger is still down!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Concentration this morning was good, I kept slipping into a moar-grinning state and managed to briefly put my attention on the good feeling itself several times.

The dev team played Whirlyball http://www.whirlyball.com/what/ in the morning. I analyzed the game and how our group of complete amateurs played it, determined my best plan was all-time-defense (no one else did this on either team ever) to block up the poachers and break up any quick point attempts, and proceeded to stop lots of the other team's potential and pick up quite a few stray balls which otherwise would have been 50/50, while lessening our offense by at most a trivial amount - 5/10 cars on offense is so clumped that 4/9 might have even been better.

At home I worked some more on the meetup plan, then Skyped with David for like 2 hours brainstorming, thinking, etc. more on what's best to do, what structure to use time-wise, etc. It was very, very productive. Like a lot. Oh and there were some things with a certain experiment but I don't know if I'm supposed to talk about it, probably not.

Now I'm off to do a bit of reading before bed, I'm being Ben's assistant for a LW post on physical intuition.


Whoops this is late. I started the day off with some okay concentration practice, not as good as yesterday but hey practice. Then I discovered I didn't need emissions testing and got some plates and now my car's all right.

Work was super-fun today, as I got to check in 58.5% of my open bugs at once. Usually that's a bad idea on many levels but not this time! I skipped my regularly scheduled epistemic rationality subskills practice, and I'll be skipping several other things this week, because I'm planning for a super-awesome Gauntlet of Cognomancy event on Saturday. Rationality testing has to start somewhere, and... well, okay, it already started a little with calibration tests and those surveys but I'm claiming it's starting for realz now. Or Saturday.

Also I talked with Will, which was a lot of fun! Leads me to believe I should call up random other people from the mini-camp and not just wait for the rotation which will take months. We discussed what I've been doing, what variants of the mini-camp interest me, what variants of the mini-camp I think would interest those I know, and some more stuff.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Where did everyone go?

I chose to sleep in today, I think I've not been getting quite enough sleep. Concentration practice was very good, I reached access concentration quickly, dropped out later, and got back in. Or at least I think that's what happened. :D

David and I played some ping pong out in the beautiful Seattle summer. Got to take advantage of the two months while they're here...

I went to our weekly meetup in Seattle. But there were only 3 of us! :( Next week I'm going to host a meetup on the eastside and I plan to use my usual heuristic of going to the other extreme, very structured, so tomorrow I'll put together as much of that as possible minimum a plan to put it all together.

After coming back I finished the penultimate step of wrapping up the car purchase, now I just need to get it emissions tested and registered and get some tags. Also I wrote some more code for the utility app, and would have reached a nice milestone except I'm choosing to sleep more tonight also.

Thinking about career

This morning I did some fairly pleasant concentration. I was able to tell a very distinct difference between actually staying with the breath for several in+out breaths versus just thinking sort of "about" the breath. Later I did some walking insight meditation, and for the first time actually considered the three characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and no-self explicitly while noting. I saw the difference between feeling touching the ground and my mental representation/remembrance of it several times.

I got a temporary trip permit for my car until I get it emission tested and the title transferred and tags registered and whatnot on Monday, and got back in time to talk with Kate in our Skype chat rotation! Video chat is great, there was times I briefly forgot we weren't actually physically present. Not many times, but still. My two-week action item is to actually have my wardrobe basics finished up, and hers is to investigate some things around exercise. Then I went to John's place for optimancy practice. We thought a lot about what wants feed into which careers are best for us, how to go about evaluating careers, and things and stuff. ;) John sent an email to Carl describing this and that we want to share/practice career planning with the Seattle meetup.

We also spent some time thinking through John's choice of projects, whether working on making Bayesian statistics more accessible is a good sort of project, whether it hits his goals, etc.

I created a tentative budget for myself. Next week, Tuesday actually, I will go to First Tech and try setting up a bunch of accounts.

And I read through what we've written on OB/LW about testing rationality. There are some good ideas, but in general we don't have a good comprehensive idea or plan. The best I saw was Eliezer's "do something even if it's wrong because maybe we can bootstrap off of it".

Saturday, June 25, 2011


This morning I wasn't feeling very good so I decided to do concentration, which reminds me I need to post about whether concentrating on the shivery sensations I get while concentrating is a good idea.

I got a lot done at work this morning, and the afternoon was completely spent in a big retrospective meeting. Back home I watched some Angel and didn't really feel good about time spent doing that, then got a bunch of random paperwork together re: car. I'm pretty disappointed with the Angel-watching thing in retrospect, I'll do a "do I want to watch the rest" calculation this weekend, I'm pretty sure the answer is either no or "wait a month then start again" since I still have random obvious improvements cluttering ("cluttering") my schedule.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Did you lose weight?"

Insight practice, with a focus on sensations other than hearing. I feel like I want to make more time for meditation but unlike 30 minutes, I think a full hour in the morning might require some small restructuring of my schedule to work without sleep loss.

I shaved the facial hair on the sides of my head, between the sideburns and the chin area, and wore a black fitted v-neck t-shirt to work. My boss' boss' boss stopped me in the hall to ask if I had lost weight and that I was looking more like a German artist than an American developer, so that was fun, also I'm not sure wth he meant by German artist. :)

I am on my way to desiring to talk with people I haven't met. I haven't desired to do so yet, at all. I'm a bit worried that if I get the desire without removing whatever pushes me away from it, I'll get some kind of internal conflict, but at that point it should be fairly easy to pull up the conflicting pieces and examine them more closely and resolve them. That's how I'm guessing this will go, anyway.

I had a talk with a friend who enjoys "finance stuff" about how she has hers set up, what kinds of things she recommends I do or read up on, etc. Pretty useful.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Whoops nausea!

Today I moved meditation to other parts of the day, noting while walking and busing. That's because I had to get up early to bring the car to the mechanic. Result: it's basically fine, I'll give Tom a check tomorrow.

I got screened for Lasik. I think I'm going to have it done, but I haven't gone through and done the math yet. A strange thing happened during one of the tests - I suddenly got very nauseous, nearly passed out, and in general felt like I had a hangover. Apparently this is a not-too-uncommon reaction to the steps of numbing, dilating, poking, and putting strips in the eyes. So yeah that was fun.

After 6 days, I now desire to clean my stove. I used smiling as the reward.

I brainstormed a bunch of possible topics I could lead or present on at a meetup, and looked more in-depth to the topic of bounded altruism and trade between subagents.

Speaking of subagents, I'm reading Internal Family Systems, the book Critch? described as something he'd recommend everyone read though they'd think it was full of woo. :D Luckily I embrace pjeby's admonition "Therefore, a rationalist that wants to obtain useful information needs to have a lower threshold for rejecting source of information based on their epistemic hygiene, and focus only on the predictions made by a model.http://lesswrong.com/lw/6bj/community_roles_teachers_and_auxiliaries/4e7d


Yesterday I stopped practicing before the allotted time, for no good reason. This didn't feel good and I think wasn't good and I am resolved not to do that again for at least a week.

I re-read the first two chapters of Data Analysis and about half of the third, and I'm not sure what I was doing those months ago when I first read it, 'cause I got a lot out of reading them again (though most was rehash).

I'm buying the car, almost certainly. Getting it checked today, but it's a friend who just moved back to Redmond that's selling it and he says he just got it checked a month ago, and I've been driving it for a couple days now. It's above 95%, maybe even 98% at this point.

The accountant didn't actually have a ton of useful stuff to say. Or, rather, he had plenty of useful things, most of which I felt like I already knew, but knowing which things are the points that should be on my Finance Checklist (TM) is useful.

After work I went to Tom and Brandi's place, with Chris Brown, and we had pizzas Tom made and went to this beer place and had some beers and then went to Chris' and played Rock Band and had some scotch. Was it fun? Yes, but I think I can cut having more than 3 beers in a given night out from my life completely and be fine.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Zone Offense

Today I practiced insight. Whenever I got a glimpse of a mental image I noted everything I could about it and tried to lengthen its appearance. I don't know if that's a good idea or not but I would like to see if attention to the little imagery I have might help it arise more often.

Frisbee today was great, we learned to play zone, and really really looked like we were coordinated as a team out on the field. Afterwards we had dinner and while most of the conversation was about TV shows :S we did talk a bit about this one dude's upcoming 3-minute talk on perspective changes which reminded me about http://lesswrong.com/lw/1o6/adaptive_bias/ so I sent him a link.

I tried calibration exercises with 25%/75% and 25% is very hard. I think I'm going closer to 10% but it's hard to tell without doing a lot of questions. John reminded me I had given short shrift to Data Analysis: A Bayesian Tutorial half a year ago and it's much less of an energy commitment than Bayesian Data Analysis so I'm going to go back to it.

My next math project is to characterize when the following works and doesn't work as an approximation and by how much it fails when:
You want to estimate P(A|e1e2e3...) so you get estimates of lnO(A), lnL(e1|A), lnL(e2|A), etc. But e1, e2, e3, ... aren't independent. So discount them using intuitive simple arithmetic as if they're each a bunch of independent data points but some are shared with another grouping of evidence, or as if another grouping of evidence screens off some of the evidence, then add the results into lnO(A) and get your posterior estimate.
Example: I have either a d6, d8, or d10, each with probability 1/3. I roll my die and a d8 and report the sum X. I reroll the d8 and report the new sum Y. What's P(d6|XY)? Answer: lnO(d6|XY) ~= lnO(d6) + (1-0.5)*lnL(X|d6) + (1-0.5)*lnL(Y|d6) + 0.5*(0.5*lnL(X|d6)+0.5*lnL(Y|d6)). And if that just totally doesn't work, are there simple heuristics for combining correlated lnLs that usually work?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Meetup day

So... today I aroused myself by concentrating on the pleasant feelings I had while grinning. True story. It was really weird.

I spent some time bartering for fireworks. I feel like I could have done better than I did were I to just apply my knowledge that rejection's okay more, but I still got way better deals than last year. Actually that'd be a good stat to track, I got just under 25 shots per dollar this year, with one larger-shot portion, so that's ~26-27 shots per dollar. Next year I'll go for 30?

I wrote a bit more of my utility app, it crudely estimates utility from stated preferences between lotteries now. I need to make the estimation converge faster with a better model, display the utilities in a nice scale-and-translation-invariant way, and choose which lotteries to ask about based on current utility estimates as the three next steps.

We had a meetup! It was a lot of fun. People there: Chris, Jess, Yoni, Morgan, Ben, John, me, (Robin). We did some practice on wants/goals, and I have some homework: do the math of various things around not working, like "how long can I live at my current rate without any further salary", "how much does it cost to take 6 months off of work and do something random". During dinner Jess shared two tips that sound really useful: 1. Nordstrom personal shopper, where someone dresses you up for like an hour and you can take pictures and get advice and such. 2. Go to the Bellevue goodwill 'cause fancy people drop of like-new stuff there. At the very end the 4+1 of us left discussed briefly how our inner cognition goes on, which was fascinating. Some people talk to themselves, some have little subpeople holding conversations.


Saturday, June 18, 2011


Drip drop the remnants of rain kept distracting me while concentrating, so I switched to noting. I felt like I could just keep going forever, definitely in a flow state, there were just few enough drops per second that I could notice all of them.

I talked with David Jones and we brainstormed possible ways to target people to get them to come to meetups and different things they might enjoy while at meetups, split by field of study.

I'm buying the car. Unless something crazy happens when I take it to the mechanic for a checkup or when I tell my accountant (excited to see him for the first time Tuesday!), neither of which seems very likely at all. I'm also reading The Big Short, which is inspiring me to go try to break the world. It's been done before and will be done again. And I put together the stuff I need for my accountant visit, and scheduled an appointment to see how Lasik would work for me, and dropped off my shoes to get repaired.

Every time I noticed an ugh field while writing down a task in the past couple weeks I made a note. Today I tried the quick feeling elimination technique on each of them.

I got a haircut but still haven't decided what to do with my facial hair... and I spent a solid chunk of time in the mall watching people. I definitely have an ugh field about practicing social effectiveness, as measured by aversion effectiveness rather than the strength of my feeling.

Coming Out

This morning my meditation was interrupted by needing to carpool. Poor planning on my part. I had a real-live meetup at my house though! Jack from the lw-seattle mailing list came, as well as four of my friends and my three roommates, making about 3.5 / 9 regular LW readers. I figure I can get away with that once as a combo "LW meetup + tell everyone I know who's interested about mini-camp". We also did a series of three exercises:
1. Fermi calculation: two different ways, estimate the cost of the fuel required for a 747 to fly from Seattle to New York.
2. Calibration: 1x Wits & Wagers card with 50% and 95% confidence intervals.
3. Value of Information: estimate the value of being given a mapping from what you eat to outcomes like health, energy, social cost, etc.

I had hoped each would lead nicely to the next, but I should have chosen a simpler VOI with a greater magnitude like "college student choosing career" maybe.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Power Outage

Kasina again. I grew suspicious that my lack of visualization skills was actually a hindrance for this type of meditation and posted to Dharma Overground, and my suspicion was confirmed - it's only a problem for a very few things, and kasinas are one.

I did a bunch of calibration until I got decent at 50%/90% on Wits & Wagers cards. Let's see if that carries over past one session!

While roleplaying 3:16 there came a point where my mind went blank at a time when it was obvious what to do next, very clear that I needed to narrate a flashback scene related to a quality I could use to conclude the current scene. Upon reflection I am fairly certain the cause of the blankness was fear. I'm not certain what the root of the fear was... I can tell a story about being afraid my idea wouldn't be good enough or something, but I'm in fact only certain about the emotion itself. I'll have to find a way to trace that one back.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Kasina. I have been much less interested by concentration than I had been by insight. Here are the previous two starts to that sentence which I revised due to mini-camp training: "Concentration is much less interesting..." and "Concentration interests me less..."

I have a list of what I might need tomorrow, so I'll go get it today. Yesterday (I'm posting the following morning) I went to visit some old friends who moved back here. I found out he is selling his car. Now I have it and will look up its stats and such and my guess before looking anything up is that given that I will buy a car in the next month, I'll buy his with probability 80%.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spreading Rationality

Kasina meditation again, and I will be choosing a new object after today, one that is not white. Also I set 1-hour light reminders throughout the day to be mindful of the breath for the next minute or so.

I have to return both belts, they are slightly too big with new buckles. I'm gradually collecting my quest items though.

At work the dude I mentioned rationalization to came up to me today without prompting and said he was noticing other times when he was working from the conclusion backwards. Awesome!

Played frisbee, exercise is good. And we're coming together as a legit team.

I didn't really get much done on either metaness or finance today. I didn't set a timer this time, and I definitely got distracted more than usual. Back to timers. Good to know I guess.

I had my roommate do the calibration game with me, with one of the Wits & Wagers cards, 50%/90%. We both did horribly and he noticed anchoring explicitly once.

Don't Mix Learning With Exercising

Concentration with trying to find the joyful parts of the breath and move focus to those as much as possible. I'm nearly convinced I want to stay in concentration practice until I reach the first jhana. I tried the 1..10 out-breath counting during the day some and it's really friggin' hard while talking to people.

At one point during the day I told my PM ~"Don't come to a conclusion then figure out why it's certainly right. That's the wrong way around." This was mildly socially inappropriate (though we were alone so it wasn't hugely bad) which was probably fine except I didn't think it all the way through before speaking.

I went back over my quick Fermi calculations for whether buying a car is worth it and found one glaring math error and one glaring structural error. The math error was a completely dropped term which was in favor of buying a car, and the structural error was that I looked at the one-year benefits, not the one-time benefits minus costs plus the per-year benefits minus costs. Fixing the structure is also in favor of buying the car. Translating to dollars it looks like even buying outright gives about a 100% ROI capped at a $15,000 investment with a bonus $5,000 one-time gain, and that's without a loan. (note: those numbers aren't real 'cause some of the costs and benefits aren't dollars and unlike dollars can't scale up)

Then I tried to go back over my pen-and-paper estimate I did near the beginning of mini-camp of "would meditation bring me significant benefits?" and see what it looked like when I drew the full causal diagram of how the pieces of evidence I had brainstormed connected, then compare that math with the sketchy math I did to estimate. I got stuck when the undirected version of my causal graph had loops. This session was definitely evidence in favor of "Don't Try to Practice What You Don't Yet Know".

Frustrated, I decided to end with a couple Wits & Wagers cards 50%/90% calibration and call it a day. I got 4/14 and 8/14, so I'll be doing calibration exercises next time for sure.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meetup time!

I switched to a white disk concentration meditation to see how it went. It was very different than the breath. I'm not sure what (if any more than 0%) was actually interesting and what was mere visual artifact... altogether very strange. I just discovered the Dharma Overground forums, and they look pretty useful. Oh, and for the entirety of the half hour, I counted 1..10,1..10 on the exhale. After the first couple, I lost concentration and kept counting to 13, and after that I stayed 1..10 the entire time. Seems easier than wherever it was that suggested it led me to believe...

I spent some time learning about necklaces, and I'm going to price out a custom pendant. The first place I tried was super-busy so I'll have to get back to that. Also I found which tailor I'm going to use once my stuff starts arriving, and put Fabric in my hair for the first time.

The very-initial bits of the utility app are written, enough so that I can start writing interesting things without random barriers to beginning that would decrease my motivation. It doesn't sound like a lot but I think that's a really important step for me.

I didn't get to spend as much time optimizing my life as I wanted due to some bus problems, but I did sketch the beginnings of what looks like a reasonable budget. And I did a bit of meditating while walking.

The meetup was quite fun! Much better than at that burger+bar place. Everything seemed more comfortable and I was much more interested in people this time around. I don't know how much of that is due to the meetup changing and how much due to me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Raising the Second Derivative

Insight for half an hour today. I raised my cushion slightly which helped my posture a bit. I noticed for the first time that part of what I thought was my breath was in fact a feeling distinct from breathing - I first noticed noting it after noting "holding" which didn't make sense, then looked more closely and discovered I could switch back and forth between it and my actual in-breath.

I spent a good bit of time procrastinating on working on social effectiveness by purchasing some more of my wardrobe kernel and then some groceries. Now I have some good t-shirts, enough black socks, boxer briefs, and Fabric. I did eventually go talk with some random people. One dude was coming back from a playtesting session at Microsoft, I didn't even know we had those! But it makes sense. http://www.microsoft.com/playtest/default.mspx if you're in the area.

I've now got enough of a handle on what to do for next Friday's meetup at my place that I feel confident it will go fine, though not much beyond that. My procedure was to think of things that people might be doing, write down what would help them, find the things I hadn't thought about and make a list of things to get/plan/etc during the week. This list was surprisingly small. Apparently meetups are easy, but I guess we'll see after Friday rolls around.

Best for last: my hour of metaness was fan-friggin'-tastic. Here's a summary: I knew I wanted to go back over my schedule, so I did, and rearranged it somewhat, and transferred some time from meetup-planning to finance, since that's what I wanted to work on last week. Then I asked myself why I found it so hard to actually work on social effectiveness. The answer was that I had no cached thoughts on how to work on it! Well, I had one, but my day wasn't set up right to go to a bar. So I took 3 minutes per category of thing I had scheduled for the next week to brainstorm concrete activities to do. I got a bunch of great stuff (and a lot of crap, 'cause it's brainstorming) and I feel like next week's improvements are going to be larger than this week's improvements. Raising the second derivative of my life felt really, really good.

Also it was very amusing to brainstorm ways to be meta during my session set aside for being meta. And since I had about 15 minutes left, I got to implement a couple of the things I had just brainstormed, and they worked well. Namely searching for large categories of things from the mini-camp that I didn't currently have scheduled to work on (I found one - developing the skill of self-modification), and brainstorming non-brainstorming-ways to generate new ideas about how/what to do.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Game Design

I bumped up my concentration practice to half an hour. I'm finding I enjoy insight practice more, probably because it feels like a challenge.

I had a small breakfast, light lunch, light dinner, and light snack later, and my energy stayed high the whole day. Looks like breakfast may be a big win. Also, while getting breakfast, I talked with the woman at the grill and the man behind me in line and shook his hand (I had met him earlier, but only once). It felt weird but pretty much okay.

After work I spent some time turning Zendo into a rationalist betting game. If it's great then maybe it can be a meetup staple; even if it's not great I'm pretty sure it will be a lot of fun once.

Oh, and GAH, did you know if you sync "mydeck" for the first time from a blank desktop client it will erase all of your ankiweb cards?? I know that now. :( I re-entered... 41 of them.

Finally, I learned the very basics of real estate finances: http://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/2010/06/30/introduction-to-real-estate-analysis-investing/ and emailed a recommended accountant, and shaved the back of my neck.

Day Off

I sat easily for 20 minutes of insight meditation this morning, noting about 10ish things per 4 seconds over many breaths in a row at the peak. Nearing lunch I finished up my current task, noticed I had under half an hour until lunch, and instead of (essentially) losing that time to switching costs and not getting any significant portion of a large task done as usual, I explicitly chose a small task that fit in the time period. Earlier this week I made a rather long list of work-related tasks and bucketed them just like my others, Urgent/Important/Awesome/Easy, so grabbing a short task was just a matter of perusing my Easy tasks. I felt very lethargic about 1.5 hours after lunch, and used the Splashing Cool Water Technique to break the feeling. Tomorrow I'll try breakfast/light-lunch/light-dinner again. I also entered several techniques from Zen to Done into my Anki deck, bought a pair of jeans, and posted some arithmetic to Less Wrong, but in general today was a Day Off: after work I played a bunch of ping pong and then a role-playing game "3:16" with friends.

Oh, I also added an interesting Anki card: "finish reviewing:" -> "add a card". Seems like a good idea if I'm going to be continually learning new ways to improve.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Diet, Beliefs Pay Rent, and Fermi

This morning I was able to sit for 20 minutes of concentration easily and spent only about 2+2+10/4ish = 4.5 definitely distracted from the breath. I switched up my diet to an omelet for breakfast, a light salad for lunch, a light salad snack at 3 'cause it was there, and a light corn/chickpeas dinner. I had lots more energy throughout the day - tomorrow I'll go back to my regular schedule to see if I can switch back and forth. During an afternoon meeting, I applied the "do a simple calculation instead of trying to intuit directly to the answer" heuristic which directly led to our team making the right decision on a question with a ~$45k swing in cost-benefit, which we only had a ~75% chance of making right otherwise (partially due to sunk costs), so that's +$10,000. Although actually there's a subsequent spot (after spending some of the effort) we'd have a good chance of killing it, so call it +$5,000 for the team.

I brainstormed a bunch of beliefs I hold <count> 30 actually, and then asked foreach what things the belief prohibited. I didn't take long, but instead brainstormed what they prohibited until getting 1-3 things for each belief - I think that's an important thing, since I want to practice seeing what my beliefs prohibit quickly and automatically, not after a period of focused thought. Then I went back and checked and found 7 I could actually just go test, 4 of which were Fermi calculations and 2 others of which I could and did test without much effort (that leaves 1: Tomorrow after work I will see if I can run 600 feet in 1 minute :D). Finally I did the 4 Fermi calculations which yielded:

  • ~0 evidence in the model for or against buying a car being a good idea (which is some evidence for "buying a car is neutral EV")
  • Quite a lot of evidence in the model for writing an app which assists modeling your revealed preferences as a decision utility being a good idea
  • Quite a lot of evidence in the model that I should cut way back on playing Dominion online, by a factor of about 5 before it's EV neutral again.
  • Quite a lot of evidence in the model that I should tentatively start up working through some of the exercises in Bayesian Data Analysis.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


This morning I found it difficult to concentrate during concentration practice, but I was able to visualize lots of things which I can't do in a normal state of mind. I felt somewhat lethargic after a big Spicy Talk lunch but not quite as bad as yesterday. I got some shoes and a measuring tape in the mail - I'm not sure whether I like the size of the shoe, it has a long toe. In the evening I wrote up my task list and which were Urgent, Important, Awesome, or Easy, so now I have a quick and easy way to improve without upfront cost of figuring out how to improve. Then I did some work figuring out what my finances look like now, what I might make them look like, where a good accountant is, and a bit of reading on what it takes to buy and manage investment properties.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Does Learning Learning Subskills Count?

This morning when meditating I found 20 minutes a stretch. I only did insight meditation, no concentration, and plan to do just concentration tomorrow. Then working on subskills was solely walking my sister through Fermi/EV calculations for whether she should go to a conference. I didn't improve a lot, but I improved at teaching them quite a lot. Also I was quite productive in the morning at work but lunch made me more lethargic than I expected, and it lasted a while. I had Tomato Basil Bisque with Sriracha and 2 orange juices. I played frisbee which was a lot of fun and made a friggin' sweet knockdown, ran through, cut really deep and made an awesome catch for the point.

Takeaways from the Fermi/EV session:
1. KEEP YOUR MODEL SIMPLE, like 3-4 components, the first time!
2. Gaining new information can be much more valuable than more immediate benefits.
3. Lora should feel fairly confident about not going to the conference instead of angsty. ;)

The Beginning

On Sunday I spent a bit over an hour optimizing the really low-hanging fruit in my life. I gained $100/mo ($120/mo if I follow through on moar canceling today) and ~4 hour/wk. Then I spent about 2 hours researching clothes and buying some articles online: oxfords and polish, belts and buckles, and a measuring tape.

Statement of Purpose

I just got back from a Less Wrong rationality mini-camp, a week-long retreat where we learned many subskills of epistemic and instrumental rationality. In this blog I'll note what I did the previous day to self-improve, build rational community, etc.

My initial plan calls for:
Su: 1.25 optimizing my life, 1.25 fashion, 2.5 writing a utility app
Mo: 1.5 rationality subskills
Tu 0.5 meta, 1 finance
We 1.5 rationality subskills
Th --
Fr 1.5 organizing meetups
Sa 1.25 metaness, 2.5 social effectiveness, 1.25 organizing meetups
Every day in the morning 20m meditation, up to 30 as soon as I'm comfortable with it