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 yourself 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 awesome things they have done. Not "will do". Not "are working on"Have already done. This is to cultivate an environment of object level productivity rather than meta-productivity methods.

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

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Ran 21k for the first time, within a few seconds of 2h. Reasonable grounds to hope for a sub-2h finishing time in the half-marathon I'm signed up for this coming March 8.

I memorized a 20-digit number in under a minute, then repeated it forward, backward, and forward again, and lastly repeated it while adding 1 to each digit.

Out of curiosity, what's the greatest number of significant digits that you've ever memorized, in any time frame?

Also 10 (EDIT: 20) (random) decimal digits is about 70 bits of entropy, which is an extraordinarily strong password and borders on being a usable cryptographic key (not for long-term safety against high-resource opposition, but well out of "easily brute-forced by a modern computer" territory). Do you use the same kind of memorization you did here for passwords? I can (and do) memorize passwords longer than 20 characters, but I don't really count that because I generate the mnemonic first and then the password from it. Memorizing the password doesn't take long, but sometimes getting the mnemonic into my head does...

I use multiple passwords of consisting of 12 elements of a..z, A..Z, 0..9, and ~20 symbol characters, generated randomly. Total entropy of these is around 76 bits.

10 decimal digits is actually more like 33 bits of entropy.

Yeah, I (roughly) computed for 20 digits (what Alex said) and then wrote the wrong thing, because... derp? Also, yes, it's up to 66.4 bits, not 70. My bad

Did u use any special mnemonic technique? Or you succeded just because of continiual repetition?

Do you memorize digits by groups of 2 or 3, or it depends on a context of actual output number?

I will repeat part of the number out loud and memorize another part of the number. Then, when I recall it, I string the two together.

I find patterns in the numbers. Even quite long sequences are like 'names' which I can connect to draw a story from.

I know of the major system but it doesn't work very well for me. My imagination is of the non-visual and abstract kind and thus the vivid imagination required costs more than it gains (for me).

Yeah I understand what are you talking about, such patterns can be found in many random numbers, but sometimes there's nothing to hook, numbers don't repeat, ascend or descend in vivid order. In this case we move to the next level where "non-storiness" becomes the memorable feature?

Let me tell you the 'story' behind the number I memorized:

286718338524635465625 (actually 21 digits which I got by something like 12345^5)

What is the pattern or story?

I grouped it as follows (the grouping is no fixed step, it happens as the 'story' unfolds):

286 718 3385 246 354 65 625

  • 286 is an old intel CPU

  • 7 is the lucky number of a friend (which incidentally has lots of old PCs possibly with 286s even)

  • 7+1 is 8 (which is my lucky number thus connecting us, his birthday is also very close to mine)

  • 33 is a double which stands out and 8 is the sum of the neighboring 3 and 5.

  • 246 35 are +2 stepped interleaved runs. The last 4 is between 3 and 5.

  • 65 was my hourly rate.

  • 625 is 5^4 a quite memorable number and just adds a 2 between the 65 before (thus backward connecting it).

In this case there is not much story but the patterns are memorable enough even without a real story,


Note that the memorability of the last few digits is a direct consequence of the way you constructed the number (yes, it's 12345^5). The last 4 digits of n^5 when n ends in 5 are always among {0625,1875,3125,4375,6875,8125,9375}. If the digit before the 5 is even you always get one of {0625,3125,5625,8125}. At the very least, the final 3 digits are always a multiple of 125 and you probably recognize all of those.

Still, even a completely random number typically has lots of little patterns in it to help this kind of memorizing. For instance, I just generated a random 20-digit number: 66474746605022249923. The first things that occur to me, looking through it in order:

  • 66 4747 -- two pairs of repetitions
  • 466 -- overlapping 46 (one less than the 47 we just had) and 66 (same as first two digits, and a pair)
  • 050 -- symmetrical, all multiples of 5 (of which there aren't many among the digits :-))
  • 222 --- threefold repetition
  • 499 -- one less than 500
  • 23 -- not a particularly interesting number but e.g. the number of chromosome pairs you have.

(I also noticed in passing that 60502 is reminiscent of 6502, the processor in the first few computers I used. Lovely instruction set. Having some overlap between the features one notices is useful because it makes it easier to remember what order things come in.)

I tried the obvious experiment: after writing the above, could I look away from it and reproduce my 20-digit number? Why yes, I could; and still could a couple of minutes later. I think I'd find things like reversing the digits quite painful, though.

Yes. Using x^y as a random number is bound to show patterns of this kind. I know enough number theory to recognize this. But it does alter the result only very slightly.

And yes. Your 'story' has the same basic structure as mine. I would have told it somewhat different but I think you got my approach. Note that it doesn't scale though. The major system beats it in that. But for small sequences of passwords it works nicely.

You made up this stories in a minute? Wow, fast system 1

There is not that much to make up. For me numbers (digit sequences) are somewhat like words. And building a story from words is mostly easy - compare to this xkcd. Compare this:

  • 286 718 3385 246 354 65 625

  • cpu my-friend symmetric-hill stairs broken-stairs earning 5-squares.

The latter is not exactly how I read the digits but close enough to get an impression I hope. Constructing a story for the latter is easier than for the 'meaningless' digits themselves.

I guess it must be the same or rather much deeper for many mathematicians, esp. the number-theory ones. It was said about Ramanujan that every positive integer was one his personal friends.

Finally I mastered the skill) The trick was to put effort and make you sys2 to come up with a stories and then decode them into numbers again. I don't have deep mathematical and programming understanding like most of people here, so I had to use word almost time after time, for example "727" is almost Boeing 737


Have you ever tried dual n-back programs like Brain Workshop? They might interest you if you're into working memory training.

My dad(I'm only 10) has had me do Dual N-Back programs for quite a while, since I was about 5.


After all Eliezer's warnings, you constructed a superintelligence in your own house.

And it looks to be a candy maximizer. :)

Which method did you use to improve memory? Can you still recall the number?

What I did was start from 9 digits, and once I mastered that, I moved up one digit. Yes, I do recall the number still.

Took me 1,5 mins (on a pseudorandomly generated number). I was very slow during reverse and +1 mode. I do not train for this but I always had a very good memory for numbers.

I overheard a normal-speed conversation between two native speakers of a language I'm learning and understood over 90%.


I've applied to graduate from my Ph.D. program, and I've applied to several post-docs. I also secured an interview at a lab.


Update: The interview was a success. I have an offer, and it is certainly better than any feasible postdoc. I intend to accept the offer within the week.

What is 'a lab' compared to a 'postdoc'?


A non-university-affiliated research group.


I successfully applied CBT to stop scratching my beard and plucking hairs until it looks apalling (blank spots, irregular). Not awesome but really satisfying for me personally. Earlier I shaved the beard once I started this. Or avoided growing a beard in the first place. But beards are attractive and I got positive feedback about mine. Thus I tried to get rid of my not unusual behavior.

I used this CBT approach from Attention Control is Critical:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has a highly successful approach for breaking habits, which requires only a very subtle alteration to this process. You notice that you are biting your nails. You immediately focus your attention on what you are doing, and you stop doing it. No rage, no blaming yourself, no negative emotions. You just stop, and you focus all the attention you can on the act of stopping. You move your arm down, focusing your attention on the act of movement, on the feeling of your arm going down, away from your mouth. That’s it. You can go back to whatever you were doing.

Actually I enhanced it by using positive reinforcement on myself (I took this from Seligmann); I praised myself whenever I succeeded in keeping my hand away. It worked quite well. Took me about a week. One relapse when I didn't pull thru until the behaviour was extinguished. But now I'm stable. I can even stroke my beard thoughfully.

Donated $300 to SENS foundation just now. My company matches donations, so hopefully a large cheque is going there. Fightaging is having a matching challenge for SENS, so even more moolah goes to anti-aging research. Hip Hip Hurray!

Realized that my business partnership was gradually falling apart, and jettisoned myself from it. Instead of waiting for my partners to come to me with problems(I was the analyst geek of the group - shocking for a LWer, I know), I'm going out there and drumming up clients of my own. I feel better about work than I have in months.

Solved a Rubik's cube in under 15 seconds. Still having trouble getting my averages below 25, though.

That is quite fast and I understand that it requires a lot of practice but it impresses me only moderately.

Thus I think on the failed simulation effect matrix it falls into the middle ground (moderately difficult and moderately impressive).

I like puzzles too and there was a time where I'd put enormous amounts of effort into solving them. But nowadays for me the more interesting puzzles is how to attack the problem. The algorithmic solvability. Could I write a program to solve this? Or is the problem hard just by the number of permutations/edge cases involved? In the latter case I quickly loose interest as the difficulty is accidental complexity added to make it look hard.

That's consistent with my experience. That is, most people aren't particularly impressed, or don't want to let on that they are, and I'm only moderately impressed with myself. And I'm fine with that, since these days I make an effort not to indulge the urge to optimize for impressiveness, except evidently in threads like these.

Contrast this with juggling 5 balls, which is for me about the same level of difficulty (both in terms of learning the skill and performing it once learned). People are much more likely to be visibly impressed, though the way they show it isn't always agreeable or complimentary.


Clearly you need to learn to do both at once.

I make an effort not to indulge the urge to optimize for impressiveness,

Interesting point. I don't have much trouble getting things done and my goals are mostly not of the impressive kind. I only recently learned to optimize impressiveness as a tool for 'winning at life'. Reconsidering this and rereading Kays post I notice that I do aim for impressiveness (or at least visibility) of my work to some degree.

I wonder whether the impressiveness optimization desire can be hacked to work for actual goals. I'd think that impressiveness measured by actual effort seems to do the trick. The hard part being of course the measuring outcome. If our scientitic system already fails at that it presumably is a hard problem.

Early in November, I saw an announcement of a local-to-me meetup group for my current hobby, software-defined radio, and requested presentation topics.

I saw an opportunity to get around to working on an idea that I'd had scribbled down for a while, so I went and did it. In about one weekend of programming and writing, I prepared my presentation, and here's the video: “A Visual Introduction to DSP for SDR”.

I got a lot more praise for it than I was expecting. Besides the obligatory applause, people came up to me afterward to tell me how remarkable my visualizations were. And from Twitter afterward:

After I reviewed the video, I saw I'd flubbed my intro (I meant to follow up the "I have no credentials" speech with "so if I can do this, so can you", but I forgot), though I managed a satisfactory amount of looking-at-the-audience-not-the-screen and lack-of-"um" — but, I think the content of my presentation would have made up for all of those mistakes if I'd made them.

And if you're interested in digital signal processing, or if the Fourier transform is a mystery to you (that you want to solve), then you should watch my presentation.

(Also, in news of Being An Adult While Still Feeling Like You're Faking It, as of this month I have successfully navigated two major upheavals this year in my previously-arranged-to-my-satisfaction life which could be broadly described as outside forces telling me “You won't be able to keep that thing you currently have. Find a new one.” And I'm glad that worked out and I consider it a substantial accomplishment. But the above thing is considerably more awesome.)

Received the results for a master's degree in computer science which I completed this summer. I passed and got a "merit", with which I'm fairly happy. Translating grading conventions between countries is challenging, especially the UK's byzantine system for grading degree- and postgraduate- level qualifications, so I'll simply say that a merit is good though not astounding, being the category below "distinction", the best possible.

Nonetheless, I'm happy, especially given that I really struggled with the thesis which was a requirement of the course. I learnt (well, actually, confirmed, since I already suspected as much) the hard way that self-directed, large-scale, academic projects are Not For Me. Actually, I found it so hard that I had to get a substantial (!) extension on it. (I also posted on here at one stage asking for advice as I was struggling so badly with the thesis, so anyone who remembers that post and wonders what became of the situation can now breathe a sigh of relief that it has at least a moderately happy ending.)

And now I'm seeking a job in software development, which was the reason why I did the degree in the first place.

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine has published my flash piece "To the Point" in their January/February issue. It's short (250 words) but at 10 cents a word, it's my first Mystery Writers of America qualifying sale.


Today I completed the "minimum viable product" portion of my final project for a coding bootcamp I'm currently attending. I ended up cloning Less Wrong's favorite prediction tracker.

You can find my project here. Don't take it too seriously yet; it's undergoing rapid development and you may lose your data during major updates.

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I started getting programming gigs.

I've been writing programs and bug fixing for my other work and personal environment for twelve years, always loved programming more than the other work, but...

Any suggestions of where to get programming gigs?

I've only been looking at online freelance sites and have had the most success at oDesk. In the past I've picked up a gig or two on Craigslist, but there was more legwork required to get gigs and I stopped.

The amount time spent reviewing and applying to jobs is such that I don't intend to keep at it for a long time - but it is definitely a means to keep an eye on what (mostly) small businesses and hackerless startups out there want enough to pay someone for.


Got my first tutoring student.

Went through my first job interview of my current application submissions, for a position in Alameda, CA. In spite of having to do it by phone, I still came in at number 4 on the list. Waiting for further developments now.

Opened my first mutual fund investment.

I asked and answered a question on Math StackExchange- the first of three related questions. The third question will characterize all faces of the Tridiagonal Birkhoff polytope. The first question is about vertices of certain Tridiagonal Birkhoff faces, and the second will be about the combinatorial type of the facets of these certain faces.

I finished up to the first major plot twist/divergence in the rationalfic(well, sort of. I'll just call it an attempted rationalfic) I've been working on for 3 months or so, and it's now in the top 15 most followed fics in the fandom(Danganronpa). Link: light in despair's darkness