October 2014 Bragging thread.

by Joshua_Blaine1 min read7th Oct 201436 comments


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So, to quote myself all those months ago when I first had this idea (I haven't actually posted one of these since the original. funny how that happens):

In an attempt to encourage more people to actually do awesome things (a la instrumental rationality), I am proposing a new monthly thread (can be changed to bi-weekly, should that be demanded). Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to comment on this thread explaining the most awesome thing you've done this month. You may be as blatantly proud of you self as you feel. You may unabashedly consider yourself the coolest freaking person ever because of that awesome thing you're dying to tell everyone about. This is the place to do just that.

Remember, however, that this isn't any kind of progress thread. Nor is it any kind of proposal thread.This thread is solely for people to talk about the awesomest thing they've done all month. not will do. not are working onhave already done.This is to cultivate an environment of object level productivity rather than meta-productivity methods.

Anything not mentioned in a previous bragging thread is still fair game, even If it didn't actually happen in the last month.

So, what's the coolest thing you've done this month?

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I finally submitted my Alcor application form.

[-][anonymous]6y 12

Me too.



That's great! Are you planning on claiming your Hanson hour? (If you prefer, Hanson is fine with people selling their hours for other people).

Ooo, I completely forgot about that! Though I think I need to wait for everything to be finalized.

I guess I should see what people would bid so I understand the opportunity cost of my accepting it. Would anyone here like to bid for a 1 hour conversation with Robin Hanson? Bids by private message or comment.

This is not cool -- in some ways it is the antithesis of cool. But it is an important achievement where I overcame my own weaknesses to do what was necessary. And I add it here to add some diversity to the stories already posted.

I fired someone who objectively deserved to be fired because she was repeatedly harming the organization, despite the fact that I sympathized greatly with her situation. I believe I did so with clarity and compassion; she agreed that her conduct was intolerable. Continuing to tolerate it would have set a terrible standard for her peers. Firing someone is a negative event for both people involved, though it is obviously worse for one. So it was the right decision and you just have to pay the price.

Then I explained the reason to all her peers and showed the evidence for why, despite the fact that this is not the done thing in modern manageria. I believe that the message came across; informal feedback afterwards indicated that the group appreciated the openness and agreed with the action. Not talking about the reason openly would have led to speculation where all but one of the many purported reasons would have been false. Talking about this in a group setting is a professional risk because you never know how people will talk about it afterwards. But again, it was the right decision and you just pay the price.

Max L.

To start off with something everyone here will be interested in, I've recently and finally finished the first part of my video version of The Useful Idea of Truth (LW post here, Youtube link here). It seems well liked, and I'm even wondering if I should've posted it to Main. To understand what finishing this project means to me may be hard, as it means a lot. I have learned a ton doing this, and am really happy with the final look. My previous video editing experience was basically putting still frames and videos in sequential order with a spoken voice overtop. I'm 18 years old. I'm 18 and inexperienced and I just made something that I consider on par with CGP Grey in production quality, and he's been making videos professionally for years. It's so great to look at one of my idols, say "I bet I could do that too," and then actually do it. There's a real-world benchmark for this skill I've never really done before, and I matched it. I'm developing as a person, learning and training new skills, and it's feeling great. Of course, at >80 hours for that 6 minute video, my production rate isn't so great, given I still have schooling and work to worry about. I'm sure I can optimize, slim down, and otherwise improve my workflow, and I'd love to just jump right into doing this full-time, cranking out LW videos every other week, but I can't. I've got a bit of a pipe dream, of course, that crowd-funding or an official sponsor could keep me going until Youtube add revenue/Subable/Patreon can support me, but I'm not confident there's room in people's budget for something like this work to become a priority for them.

Less of public interest, I have made a lot of progress with my schooling. This last spring I made an arrangement with my High school to do my Senior year somewhat differently than is standard. Thanks to advanced placement classes completed in previous years, I had only 3 credits needed to graduate, so I had the option to just do those 3 courses at my own pace, over the summer. 2 have been completed (yay me, I can self-motivate!) , and all I have left to finish is my English 12 class. 4 days ago, I buckled down and finished the 1st of the 4 papers I need to do. The reading needed for the others is getting done quickly, and I'm happy with what progress I have done already. I look forward finishing High School without having to actually go to school, and the validation of my previous feelings toward self-paced lessons is nice.

Congratulations! I have never tried editing a video, but people I know who are good at it say it is a lot of work, even for a simple video. Well, you will have to prioritize: choose only the topics where you believe the value of the video is highest (or where you believe you will learn much more from doing this specific video than from other videos).

I'm even wondering if I should've posted it to Main

I'm conflicted. The video is awesome! The article itself, that's just two short paragraphs and two hyperlinks. Would it be possible to include the video in the article the next time? To make it more obvious that we are voting about the video, not about a link to the video.

Actually, I think this video deserves even better place than merely a link from Main, which will scroll down and disappear in a few months. Putting in on the LW front page would be probably too much. But I could imagine including it in a wiki page, and linking that wiki page specifically from the LW front page. Perhaps the wiki page should include more high-quality educational videos (I'm thinking about the "Straw Vulcan" lecture now). Something a newcomer who prefers watching videos to reading texts could easily find and see.

Opinions? Where should this video be? [pollid:780]

I have learned a ton doing this

Would you like to share what you learned? Either in comments, or in an article. If other people could learn from you, the work on future videos could be shared. (Yeah, you would also help your competition, but you already have thousands of competitors anyway.) You could also get some interesting advice in the comments.

I've got a bit of a pipe dream, of course, that crowd-funding or an official sponsor could keep me going until Youtube add revenue/Subable/Patreon can support me, but I'm not confident there's room in people's budget for something like this work to become a priority for them.

You'll never know unless you try. (You also don't know if you will be able to do the work for a long time, or if it gets boring later.) If it's not difficult/costly, you could just make a Patreon account now and see... worst case, nothing happens; at least you get empirical data. Also, there is a chance that the future will show you an alternative good outcome, for example, if you make a few good videos, maybe you will not get enough ad/Patreon money, but someone may pay you for making a few videos for them and you may enjoy that. If the videos are out there, people can see them; just remember to include a contact in case anyone wants to pay you (make a webpage, and put a link into youtube video descriptions).

Perhaps make an estimate of how much money would you want to get for making another video like this (then multiply it at least by two to compensate for the planning fallacy, for not working on your own favorite topic, and for the few changes in the video that your customer will want later), and write it on your website, so if someone is okay with the price they can contact you immediately. (That also includes anyone who thinks that more LW topics could be converted to videos, and is willing to pay for that.)

[-][anonymous]6y 15

I'm starting to get involved with the Seattle EA/LW group, and helping organize a Secular Solstice in Seattle.

Deal with it, internalized social anxiety.

Any more info available about this than what's on http://lesswrong.com/meetups/16r? It's on my calendar but I don't have much info about it and would definitely like to see it happening. I may be able to help out, if there's something needed.

Note: Explicitly not bragging here, just mentioning potentially-relevant info: I'm also looking into starting a Sequences-reading/discussing group with some other local aspiring rationalists. I know at least one of them is also working on the Secular Solstice thing.

I should focus more on making these things happen.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

More info on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/929245180436645

I've passed 200,000 words in the story I started writing at the end of May, and as far as I can tell, I'm still on track to keep writing daily and bring it to a finish, instead of just trailing off into... well... not. That's pretty close to four NaNoWriMos in a row, with more to come. And the next story I write will be that much better for the work I've done on this one; and if I can manage my motivation so as to keep it up, I just might be able to consider myself "a writer" instead of "someone who writes".

"On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow." -- Nietzsche

Tsuyoku naritai!

It's a really good original story and everyone should read it.


Your productivity destroyed mine! I couldn't put it down for a couple of days. I hereby blame you for creating the temptation. That way, I don't have to blame my own lack of discipline.

Please, please finish this, then find an editor and publisher. This is worthy of showing up in paper on physical bookstore shelves, not just self-published online. (I say "editor," not because I think your story falls below the level I want, but because I've always been amazed at what good editing can do for any complicated work. If a good editor hands it back to you with no changes, I'm happy to be wrong.)

And thank you for writing what you have so far.

Max L.

I hereby blame you for creating the temptation.

Hm... have you archive-binged on, say, Worm, or Homestuck yet? (If not - there go the next few weeks of your spare time... >;) )

Please, please finish this,

I certainly intend to.

then find an editor and publisher.

That's a bit trickier. I try to keep a weather eye on the publishing industry, and various authours' blogs - but I don't have any contacts that would get my manuscript out of the slush pile and to a real human's attention. I have no objection to the /idea/ of getting a professional editor to improve the manuscript; I just don't know how to play Six Degrees to actually /find/ such an individual, gain their attention, and convince them to spend the time to read 220,000-and-counting words. (Mind you, at least I wouldn't have to overcome the hurdle of convincing such a person to read a /fan/-fiction manuscript... :) )

And thank you for writing what you have so far.

You're quite welcome.

And feel free to add comments to the GoogleDoc for any particular details that you think could be made even better. :)


Worm destroyed my productivity for a really long time. I loved that one. That's another one where I hope the author will get it published. I've been holding off reading Pact until it is done.

I have to look up Homestuck. If it is anything like S.I. or Worm, it will be worth the lost productivity.

The only thing I would have changed so far is the part where the group brainstorms names. It goes on too long. It was humorous through about half-way, then its continuation made the point of "this is how to brainstorm," which I assume is what you were up to. But I'd stop about 75% through the list. But ... given that I liked all of the rest, I have to think that your judgment on it is better than mine.

Max L.

Tsuyoku naritai indeed! I haven't been keeping up with the story since my original binge back when book 2 as still in-progress, and you've really been getting things done, wow. Keep it up!

I missed September's and got ambushed by Akratic Goblins halfway through, but I think it still counts as in the last month (or did yesterday):

I went back to college, and immediately did what I should have done years ago and made a program for viewing images as sound or braille. I never managed to compile it into a distributable .exe, though, so no one cared. But it's still a huge step forward that I'm frustrated didn't happen a decade ago, at least.

I went back to college, and immediately did what I should have done years ago and made a program for viewing images as sound or braille. [...] But it's still a huge step forward that I'm frustrated didn't happen a decade ago, at least.

I'm pretty sure I saw a segment about this technology on Tomorrow's World over a decade ago, but I don't remember hearing a single thing about it since. I'd have thought it'd be an easy sell!

Maybe you saw the vOICe? It has a steep learning curve and does not mesh well with what I want to use it for (and is in grayscale). Also it doesn't do braille output so far as I know.

The vOICe uses sine waves to represent visual data: pitch for vertical position, volume for brightness, and stereo pan for horizontal position. My program treats regions of color as sound sources and positions them in 3D (I did want to use pitch for vertical, but this turned out less effective than I'd hoped), and lets the user map specific colors to wave files.

I'd not mind a head-to-head comparison of the two, once mine has more features. The vOICe has been used in research relating to how vision works neurologically. I'd be all for putting mine through the same hoops once it's stronger.

(You'd think the concept would be an easy sell, much like a free screen reader and electrostatic haptic displays. Of these three, only the free screen reader is catching on, and it's still more or less the Linux to Jaws' Windows.)

Maybe you saw the vOICe?

Thanks for pointing me to that website. Looking at one of the pages, I think what I saw was this:

On September 16, 1998, the BBC science program Tomorrow's World featured a musical image to sound mapping devised by John Cronly-Dillon, a neurobiologist at the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences at the University of Manchester (UMIST), UK. The broadcast showed examples in which the basic characteristics of transforming shapes into music for hearing images appeared identical to those employed by The vOICe [...] Cronly-Dillon's implementation was a computer program without live visual input, but he mentioned plans for a future portable system with a camera.

Apparently it's pretty similar to The vOICe. Both systems sound less flexible than yours could be, though, so you're probably onto a good thing here!

(You'd think the concept would be an easy sell, much like a free screen reader and electrostatic haptic displays. Of these three, only the free screen reader is catching on, and it's still more or less the Linux to Jaws' Windows.)


I won a game of Diplomacy). It's the third game that I've started, and the first that I've finished. I also did it without lying very much. (E.g. the only time that I said I would do something and then didn't, was when I didn't know whether the person I was talking to had got my message on time; and I don't think they minded, because we'd teamed up against another player and the effect of me doing this was that I took more from that player than I would have otherwise.)

Cooler than that was coming joint first in the IPD tournament

Ahh, my favorite game. Perhaps it'd be interesting to get a LW game going?

[-][anonymous]6y 10

Obtained an online tutoring job.

Generated a list of six schools that I want to work at and have an application in at five of them. The sixth (University of Texas) has yet to post a job within my target salary range.

Despite knowing no one at one of my target schools and having no personal contacts there, I was able to successful use networking to speak to someone in the department I plan to work at, who knows the current holder of the position, and who answered the major questions I had regarding the position (and, this may be bad to do in the bragging section, but I'd like to brag ON the people who made that possible by putting me in contact with the right people and the right places. Thanks.)

Developed a writing wager that now has four participants, each dedicated to writing a novel. Since each person is a talented writer whose abilities I respect, I am pleased to know that this will provide the world three worthwhile pieces of fiction plus what I will produce.

Last month: held a birthday fundraiser that ended up raising $500 to effective charities, mostly MIRI.

I made a robot fight with a lightsaber! (see work and result ) (more precisely I hacked together a basic arm control so I could easily trigger various sword moves, video game style; we were trying to make a system with an autonomous robot using image processing but as this was hacked together in a couple of hours on the demo booth we stuck to manual mode, which was enough for attracting a crowd).

My Captain Planet fanfiction has just reached 2,000 views. (Only about 5 of them are mine.)

Aaaand passed the 40,000 word mark. New chapter!

Turned in the ready-for-copyeditor-no-more-big-content-edits draft of my book to my publisher!

What is it about?

It's a tour through Catholic prayer, relying on the metaphors and frameworks I was most fluent in as an atheist (Shakespeare, topology, etc). I have a placeholder website up here http://arrivingatamen.com/, but I'll have a proper one up by the end of the month.

Could you briefly explain the reasoning leading up to becoming a "former atheist"?

The briefest version: I was more confident that morality was objective and independent of humans than I was that God didn't exist. And I was swayed by people like Aquinas and Feser. Longer whatnot at my site.

[-][anonymous]6y 3

After 20 years work, transcribed 1.2 million words (magazines, lectures, books) by the British philosopher George Walford.


This looks interesting. Thanks.