This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for July 16-31. 

It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like: 

  • Established a useful new habit
  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief
  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations
  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior
  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something
  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life
  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you
  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves. Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

Thanks to cata for starting the Group Rationality Diary posts, and to commenters for participating.

Previous diary: July 1-15

Next diary: August 1-15

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Bought new headphones

A friend of mine noticed that I'm often frustrated at work, and she asked if that's normal. I thought about it for a while, and found one low-hanging fruit to optimise: open-space office noise. Bought a new pair of headphones that offer decent noise isolation. My distractability dropped perceptibly. I'm satisfied with that change.


Contacted Rudi Hoffman.

I don't know what to label this under because a.) it's mostly just the beginning of a still undecided sequences of choices and b.) this is mostly just mental overflow. An "I have no one to tell about it but need to tell someone" sort of thing.

Three months ago, I accepted that cryonics was a worthwhile endeavor. Now that I have a job to match my needs, I can pursue setting up a policy and enrolling (once I save up the initial fees of course). I put in the call to Mr. Hoffman Thursday for a quote on an insurance policy for covering my preservation.

I'll admit to nervousness. I have Crohn's Disease. It is a chronic annoyance mostly. For those who aren't familiar with the condition, imagine feeling a set of car keys pass through your body every once in a while. Briefly annoying, but not debilitating or life altering at the moment. It requires little more of me than a handful of immune-suppressants daily, a good diet, and exercise, the latter two of which I'm perfectly content to provide.

Despite my young age, stable position, and otherwise good health, I'm afraid this pre-existing condition will bar my way right here at the start. I know I shouldn't let this bother me, since I have only loose estimates of the price of policies anyway. I don't have enough reason, yet, to worry. But I do because this is something important to me. I want to live, and, no, I don't feel I need to explain that.



Rudi got back in touch with me and discussed pricing and options.

As expected, my illness made prices higher than normal. Which is fine because it did not raise them too high for my goal. I had already accepted the fact that, given my current position, it would be unlikely I could start immediately to apply for cryonics. I plan to be in much better financial straits in a few years, which time will allow me to save up for initial fees and costs as well as continue researching the topic and my options.

Given the figures Rudi quoted me, and assuming my beliefs do not change in the next few years, I hope to be signed up when I start my next job. It'll be a nice way to ring in the new life.

For anyone considering cryonics: if you are healthy, start now, not later. I'm lucky. My health scare was not debilitating, physically or financially (so far). You may not be so lucky when life tells you "so what."

I've been using something very similar to this "autofocus" system as a to-do list / productivity tool for 6 months now - probably the longest I've ever managed to stick with a specific system and really feel like it's working. For the last month or so, one of the main motivating factors was that I was well on my way to completing a full notebook of list pages! I have now done so and started a new notebook on 30th June. Hopefully this one continues to work well too!

I would definitely recommend the system. One thing that I've always found I really need from a to-do list system is for it to give that feeling of every nagging thing-to-do being recorded somewhere outside my brain, so that my brain can chill out and get on with doing the things that are priorities. With this system, I have a reasonable level of confidence that nothing is slipping through the net and that, at any given moment, I'm probably working on something that is reasonably high on the priority list.

My main tweak to the described system is that I have two lists running simultaneously, one from the front of the notebook and one from the back. The front is for "work stuff" (fairly loosely defined; it can include things like topping up the snacks in my desk drawer, for instance) and the back for other stuff like personal finance things, housework chores, correspondence with friends, etc. I'm strict about working the front list according to the system when I'm in a work context, but way more relaxed about working the back list - I'll pick off random things from any current page that are appropriate to do right now, and don't mind going past a page without doing anything or rejecting all of the items. I think this works well because keeping the two lists separate enables me to have this sharp differentiation as to whether I have to be strict about the system or not.

  • Started learning programming. I set myself the goal of studying two hours per day and so far I have adhered to this plan. I follow The Odin Project, with Peter Hurford's suggested modifications.

  • Came up with a productivity system that has worked wonderfully since I adopted it three weeks ago.

  • Started tracking my time (using Toggl), which further boosted my productivity, by making me more mindful about how I spend my time and by providing me with information that I can analyze to draw useful lessons.

  • Together with a few other friends, experimented with a scheme involving reciprocal anonymous feedback. In light of the positive results, I plan to repeat the exercise and eventually write a comment or post about it.

  • Bought noise-cancelling headphones. I can now listen to audiobooks on airplanes, subways, and other noisy environments.

Continuing with the Art of Problem Solving: Introduction to Algebra book that I'm studying with the help of zedzed (see here for an explanation; last update was in the June 16-30 Rationality Diary):

Grades for chapters 12-15:

  • Chapter 12: 91 out of 106 possible
  • Chapter 13: 110.7 out of 125 possible
  • Chapter 14: 104 out of 106 possible (almost perfect that time!)
  • Chapter 15: 107 out of 121.5 possible

Also, finally(!) found an exercise routine that I think works for me. I've had multiple issues with other routines - I'm often very tired during the times I have available for exercise; my knees / ankles / back / neck hurt sometimes when exercising; I have frequent stomach problems and vigorous exercise often makes me very nauseous; and I'm not so great at self-discipline. The program I've been using is The Complete Book of Pilates for Men, which my wife discovered. It starts out very low-level and builds up from there, so at least for now it's not so active that I can't do it when tired or when my stomach hurts; it has modifications for hurt knees / back / neck; it's very low time commitment (at least for starters); and I reward myself with a small cookie or piece of cake when I'm done (+ it makes my wife happy).

Some recent drama has emphasized a couple obvious weaknesses of mine:

  • The one that arguably started the whole mess: I am way too relenting to people, especially those who come across as on the nice side. I suspect this is sort of a "reverse stupidity" scenario based on overdoing the opposite in the past.
  • There was a situation that looked likely to escalate to violence. My reaction was to go for the most easily-accessed weapon in reach (incidentally the one with padding). Then one of those involved in the dispute did the much smarter thing and handed me a phone. (Compare to HPMoR Chapter 11, IIRC)

Funnily enough, it was only a couple days ago that I was thinking of how harder it is to internalize meaningful rationality skills in the abstract rather than when confronted with them in real life. Though, in all actuality, "What would Harry James Potter Evans Verres do?" is probably a better huristic in most situations that don't involve civilized human interaction. I say this in full knowledge of HJPEV's flaws. After all, it's not like I'm going to eryrnfr n qnatrebhf pevzvany, trg zl orfg sevraq zheqrerq, naq cbffvoyl qrfgebl gur havirefr, right?

In ham-land:

  • For most of the past week, I have had to make do without internet at home. In the course of this, I have discovered how hopelessly I am dependent on the wifi for getting anything done. It takes internet just to access my to-do list, especially when I blow my phone data plan surfing imgur.
  • I Implemented some of the ideas I had for making my to-do system more robust.
  • Specifically, I reset my chron to 4am so I wouldn't have to freak out trying to finish everything before midnight. I'm taking snapshots of my to-dos now and again in case habit goes down. I categorized my habits. I estimated how many free pomos I could spare every day so I don't overload my daily stuff. I'm making a map of wifi hotspots I can travel to in a pinch.... etc.
  • High VOI: My self-model needs a lot of work. I'm trudging through a list of work skills, and trying actual activities involving them to see what I enjoy or excel at.
  • For changing emotional responses, I noticed my current set point for interpreting feedback is killing my motivation more than helping me improve. I therefore added a tracking habit for tasks I manage to get through without having a complaint or criticism directed at me. I'm +1ing myself everytime I get a neutral response instead of being angry that no one noticed the work I put into making sure no problems materialized.

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