More "Personal" Introductions

One of the things I loved about studying liberal arts is that you actually got to know your professors. They would discuss their personal experiences in a topic ("Here's what I did during the feminist movement.."), you might get slide shows from their vacation in the country of study, or even invited to their house for a group dinner. 

Going into engineering was rather jarring for me in that regard. The vast majority of professors would come to class, lecture on the topic, and that would be it. They might share what their specific field of study was, but they rarely shared any personal details. It actually made it harder for me to learn, because it was like "Who is this person who is talking to me?"

(I think a large part of this for me personally was because I am motivated by a desire to please, and so if I liked my professors, then I wouldn't want to inconvenience them by handing things in late, or bore them by giving them another sub-par paper to read. But that's another discussion...)

I've noticed that Less Wrong is similar in some ways. We may know about each other's views on particular topics, and general fields of study, but we know very little about each other as people, unless a personal topic happens to be related to a particular rationalist study. Even the intro thread set up here focuses mainly on non-personal information.

For example, a Generic Intro post right now would be something like: "I'm X years old. From place Y. The fields I study/want to study are Z. Here's what college/HS was/is like for me. I have akrasia." Pretty boring, right? INSTEAD, the things I would be interested in knowing about my fellow LWers include: "On my time off I enjoy underwater basketweaving and climbing Mt Kilamanjaro. I have 6 young daughters and a dog named Grrr. I love pesto. etc"

From a rational perspective, an argument could be made that it's easier to have constructive arguments that remain civil when you humanize the people you are speaking with. 



I was wondering how other LWers feel on the subject. Do you like that our discussions are un-hampered by personal data? Do you like the idea of providing personal intros? Do you not want to provide personalish information for safety reasons, or because you don't think it's anyone business?

If you think you might need help writing a personal intro, I wrote [a general guide]( on the topic in the comments below. 

Note: I predict there will be two types of response to this post. People discussing how they feel about this (Meta-Comments), and people giving personal introductions (Intros). To make navigating the responses easier, I am trying an experiment where I set up a meta-comment thread and a personal introduction thread. 



Edited to make it more clear to focus on personality, hobbies, likes/dislikes, and NOT on what you study, or school.
ETA- Added link to "How to Write Personal Intro" comment

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I have a tangential comment that doesn't really fit into either subthread, but I still think is worth making. Namely, you say:

One of the things I loved about studying liberal arts is that you actually got to know your professors. They would discuss their personal experiences in a topic ("Here's what I did during the feminist movement.."), you might get slide shows from their vacation in the country of study, or even invited to their house for a group dinner.

In my experience, these kinds of contacts in your life can be dangerous, because they may provide you with very bad advice that you end up believing with high confidence.

On the one side, you are faced with accomplished, impressive, high-status people who are friendly to you and who don't seem to have any ulterior motive, so you'll be inclined to trust and value their advice. On the other side, however, even when people themselves believe they're giving honest good advice, it takes a very extreme degree of altruism -- normally displayed only towards immediate family members and very close friends -- to focus on a real no-nonsense perspective and avoid falling into signalling behavior. This may easily lead to a situation where high-status people dispense advice that is by all realistic standards horrid nonsense, while basking in the glow of its great signaling qualities -- and honestly believing that they're doing you a favor by giving it.

The general lesson is that if you have a chance to hang out with high-status people, by all means do so, since it's enjoyable and has numerous potential benefits -- but make sure to take their advice with a grain of salt. They may be honestly friendly to you and fond of you, but you must be aware that it still doesn't make you a member of that tiny and exclusive inner circle of people with whom real insider knowledge is shared.

I have a tangential comment that doesn't really fit into either subthread,

There actually is a meta-comment thread going right now that is discussing the issue of professor friendliness. This would have fit great there!

I think you made a bit of a jump there from my statement that I like to know my professors as people, to some sort of assumption that this includes taking their advice in all things, and being part of an "inner circle". In fact, my OP primarily talks about how professors behave in class towards all their students. (with the exception of the mention a group dinner, but that was not the norm). Mainly if I am asking a professor for advice it would be for resources/books for a project. I don't know how you get from that to:

these kinds of contacts in your life can be dangerous,

I didn't say that you committed any mistakes of the sort I was describing. I merely pointed out that this is a common failure mode for those who establish some sort of relationship with higher-status people that goes beyond purely formal professional interaction, but falls short of achieving real insider/intimate status. I used the second-person pronoun only in the generic sense, as a less awkward replacement for third-person sentences using "one."

I also didn't say that this needs to involve any special status relative to the rest of the class. The same effect I described above can kick in even if it's just a professor interacting with the whole class in a way that comes off as friendly and informal.

For all I know, your instincts may be very well calibrated when it comes to situations of this sort, and none of my statements are directed at you in particular. (Except for this disclaimer, obviously.) I am merely pointing out a general pattern in human relations, and one that is relevant in this context because it is often manifested in situations where relations between people become more personal than what the interaction strictly requires, but still fall short of real closeness and mutual recognition of insider status.

Another problem with advice is that even if it's not just about about signalling, it may be wrong. People's ability to predict is pretty limited.

Seth Roberts does a very interesting analysis of why professors just try to get students to duplicate what the professor would do, rather than cultivating the student's particular qualities.

Roberts displays his usual mix of lucidity and senselessness in that post, which would take some effort to disentangle with full accuracy.

Regardless of that, though, there is a more important point here. Namely, professors will typically advise students to duplicate some ostensible aspects of what they have done -- the ones that make for a good status-signaling story -- not the truly important things that enabled them to succeed under the existing system. The latter sort of information is the truly valuable one, which you can get only with an extraordinary power of insight or (maybe) if you happen to be among the close friends and family of someone who possesses it.

As for bad advice that's not due to signalling, I think that's actually rare among smart and accomplished people, and it usually comes in a form that's easy to see through. When people give advice about something where they have no accomplishment to show, it will look like bullshit to anyone with any intelligence. Even people who give consciously malicious bad advice are usually not very hard to detect.

I think some examples of the kinds of advice you're talking about would help your comments. I don't have a solid sense of the advice you're thinking of. They don't have to have real examples.

Look at it this way: a professor is, by definition, someone who has managed to achieve a specific high-status position under the present bureaucratic system for awarding academic titles and selecting people for academic jobs. If someone like that gives you career advice, there are many ways how it may end up being awful signaling nonsense despite the good intentions of the advice-giver. For example:

  • Education in your area may well be a zero-sum signaling game, which however nobody engaged in it will admit. The professor will speak with the implicit assumption that by pursuing the same path as him, you're enhancing your real market value -- whereas in reality, you're wasting time and effort on signaling in ways that were effective back in his generation, but have been superseded by more advanced developments in signaling since then.

  • The professor's advice will not at all reflect the real way he managed to fight his way through the system. He'll give you an idealized version that sounds like the road to success means obeying all the official respectable norms and satisfying all officially advertised standards by the letter. Yet, of course, the real story would be very different.

I would pay $0.99 to hear Zack_M_Davis sing the first sentence in the parent.

(groans) Look, I agree that it worked well the first two times, but I would rather that "Zack M. Davis provides an artistic rendering of Vladimir M.'s comment" not become a running joke; these things have a tendency to become old and not-funny very quickly.

(That having been said, I expect a dollar at the Berkeley meetup on the twenty-first.)

This is a bad idea. Attempting to create personal relationships will just accelerate LW's degeneration into a typical internet hugbox. People will start supporting or opposing ideas based on whether they are "e-friends".

I strongly agree with this, and I am seriously disappointed that more people don't see it as an obvious problem.

It is a fairly obvious problem, and what's more it's already been brought up, so maybe people have noticed it and just decided the game is worth the candle? For myself, I figure I'm really not capable of feeling neutral toward people for any length of time, and the almost complete lack of any positive social interaction on LW, combined with the continual arguing, had left me feeling sort of annoyed and uncomfortable toward the average LWer. I'm not looking to join any kind of e-clique, just trying to shift the balance back the other way a bit.

the almost complete lack of any positive social interaction on LW, combined with the continual arguing

Funny, I see that as the defining feature of LW, and as its principal advantage over other places. You get to see the distilled essence of concrete things that people have to say on a given topic, unobscured with distractions that would otherwise inevitably follow. (Don't get me wrong, in real life I'm much more personable and merry than I choose to be here, but outside of strictly technical discussions, this has an inevitable large cost when it comes to the precision and rigor of discourse.)

had left me feeling sort of annoyed and uncomfortable toward the average LWer

Are you sure it wouldn't be much worse with people trying to be "friends"? As they say, familiarity breeds contempt.

Hypothesis: People who IRL are relatively well-connected socially (but feel obliged to conceal many of their views from their meatspace associates) and people who actually feel socially isolated or alienated IRL will have divergent views about the optimal level of familiarity in this online community.

For what its worth, I think abrasiveness breeds more contempt than does familiarity.

Hypothesis: People who IRL are relatively well-connected socially (but feel obliged to conceal many of their views from their meatspace associates) and people who actually feel socially isolated or alienated IRL will have divergent views about the optimal level of familiarity in this online community.

Probably true, but if one suffers from social isolation and alienation in meatspace, trying to remedy that situation by seeking internet friends in a place like this one would likely be a highly suboptimal (to put it charitably) way of addressing that problem.

For what its worth, I think abrasiveness breeds more contempt than does familiarity.

It might conceivably breed more ill feelings in general, but not contempt in particular.

I agree that abrasiveness is better avoided too, though.

Agreed, though I also think "abrasive" and "familiar" are terms that only make sense relative to some specific notion of what the unmarked baseline is. Personally I find very most of the discussion on LW neither of these things.

Upvoted, and completely agree.

Although, I have instead come to the realization that I should stop trying to change LW to suit my needs, because most the people on here like it as is. The fact that, like you, it makes me "annoyed and uncomfortable" is my own problem, and it is unfair of me to try to force my social preferences on others. It makes more sense to instead find a community that already matches those preferences.

The fact that, like you, it makes me "annoyed and uncomfortable" is my own problem, and it is unfair of me to try to force my social preferences on others. It makes more sense to instead find a community that already matches those preferences.

Honestly, I'd much rather you stay and help us fix it.

the almost complete lack of any positive social interaction on LW, combined with the continual arguing, had left me feeling sort of annoyed and uncomfortable toward the average LWer.

I note that arguing can be a positive social interaction (although it often isn't, granted).

Based on my experience in the in-person community in Berkeley, this seems not like a thing to worry about.

If we really can't have a discussion about rationality without keeping one another at arms length, I think we're failing from the start.

Of course you don't think it's affecting your judgments. Most people accept the religious or political tradition their parents follow, but they feel like they're just making the objectively correct choice. It's an obvious extension of the halo effect. Ideas that come from your e-friends will seem better than ideas that don't.

Even if that's true, the comparison you have to make is between the expected value of business as usual, and on the other hand the expected value of making friends.

My calculations say: Hugboxen for everyone!

I down-voted you, not because you don't like my idea (that's fine. A lot of other people don't too, and I didn't down-vote them), but because you didn't follow the directions to put comments about the idea in the "Meta-comment" thread, in order to keep the discussion here nice and organized, and not all over the place.

Maybe we should embrace an opportunity to put our rationality skills into practice.

Personal Introductions

Feel like going ahead and giving a personal intro? Please put it as a thread to this comment!

...but my biggest bugbear is still concentration. I have a very hard time making my eyes move evenly from left to right over lines of text. It's easiest between 2 and 7 am. I don't know why.

Possibly this is just me taking idiomatic speech too literally again, but it sounds like you should try holding the book upside down and reading.

A speed-reading application that uses rapid serial visualization might help.

Try this:

I live in an apartment with my husband, another couple, and their baby. I think housemate situations are underutilized. Someday I would like to buy a house and share it with friends and family.

I'm a lot less outwardly geeky than I was as an adolescent.

I love clothes but am too cheap to buy new ones. Also, I don't want people to think I'm fussy.

Despite having a minor in gender and sexuality studies and a belief that people should do what suits 'em, I'm more conservative on that stuff in my own life than I think I should be.

I'm in social work school but wonder if I shouldn't find something higher-earning so as to be able to give more money away. Philanthropy is one of the most important things in my life. Another important thing is folk dancing.

Former jobs include cook, farmhand, daycare worker, and administrative assistant. My current internship for school is on a psych ward. I'm finding the patients there are far less different from other people I know than I was expecting them to be.

At times I've been conversational in Spanish and French, halting in Russian and Danish, and literate in Esperanto.

In a mock trial, I was once convicted of being "entirely too wholesome."

I used to keep quail in a studio apartment. This is not something I would do again.

I used to keep quail in a studio apartment. This is not something I would do again.

I want to hear more about this.

I was on a home-agriculture kick, and quail are the only animals small and quiet enough to keep indoors while producing a reasonable amount of food (eggs and meat). I wanted them partly as a project and partly as a way to avoid factory-farmed food, since I could make sure they had a reasonably good life. I built them a pen and ordered eggs online, and my husband built an incubator with a styrofoam cooler, light bulb, and thermostat. Our hatch rates were pretty bad, and most of our hatchlings turned out to be boys. Boys don't lay eggs, but they do crow. We ate the boys. The girls died in various ways. We only ever got a few dozen eggs.

Suprenprivoĉdonita pro "malplimalpravano".

(Though I must admit, if there is ever an Esperanto version of LW, it might be worth putting some effort into more elegant translations of the basic terms...)

Thank you! Another perfect intro! I think everyone is starting to get the hang of this, good job!

What sort of folk dancing do you do?

I love clothes but am too cheap to buy new ones.

Ditto, but nobody can tell, because I have a bunch of stylish friends that hand stuff down to me. I end up dressing really nicely for next-to-nothing!

What sort of folk dancing do you do?

Mostly contra dance (a social dance from New England) and Morris (a performance dance from England).

I am doing this, because it was pointed out to me by MBlume and Alicorn.

I'm Elizabeth.

I am currently in the process of reading: The Once and Future King, The God Delusion, The Book of Numbers, The Lady Tasting Tea, GEB (I've been reading this for three months,) the Feynman lectures (on volume two,) three Python textbooks, Satan, Cantor and Infinity, Commentaries on Living: Series 3, and Diaspora. I'm told that's kind of a lot.

I was in high school for a year and a half before giving up on public education and acquiring a GED. Autodidact ever since, although I have vague and higher hopes for tertiary education. I've been studying through Khan Academy and MIT's Open Courseware classes, both of which are really awesome resources - I am very very pleased to live in the 21st century.

When I was five, I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS ("Kind of like autism, but different!") and hyperlexia. The former diagnosis was modified to Asperger syndrome a few months ago. What this means in terms of anticipated experiences is that I'm literal to a fault, have bad auditory processing, get overstimulated easily and am pretty anxious about conversations with people. I have a typing speed of 70wpm and a reading speed of 1,000wpm, and have never actually trained either.

I keep carnivorous plants, and enjoy singing, kung fu and cuddles. I am bisexual and polyamorous, and unreasonably pleased with that arrangement. I'm teaching myself computer programming, but I am NOT VERY GOOD AT IT. I have six friends and several dozen acquaintances, and ten rabbits.

EDIT for link formatting fails.

I suspect I've already put a fair bit of personal info out here, but let's consolidate.

I've been mathy and technophilic all my life. In Jr. High and High School, I added theater geek to these affiliations.

I am a huge fan of Weird Al and sincerely think he is badly underrated as a musician.

I was pretty widely disliked as a child. If a kid was assigned to sit by me on a bus or something, they'd usually get a "cootie shot" from one of their friends. This has left me persistently inclined to form aliefs about others actively disliking me. Thankfully, these aliefs are usually pretty widely divorced from reality these days.

Alicorn and I have tried dating, as well as not-dating. Between the two, we prefer dating.

Alicorn and I are some relatively conservative flavor of poly, which seems to suit me pretty much perfectly.

I live in an apartment in Berkeley with Alicorn, AnnaSalamon, and CarlShulman.

I don't always watch TV shows geared toward little girls, but when I do, I prefer My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

I have a beard.

I grew up in some relatively harmless variant of Christianity. I still sing with our church choir if I'm home on a Sunday. Our pastor knows I'm now an atheist and once counseled me and my (Christian) then-girlfriend about our religious differences.

While Christian, I figured the proper way to do theology was to understand the conditions prevailing at the start of the universe, so I studied high-energy physics.

I have most of a Master's in physics. My first girlfriend dumped me a year into grad school, and I spent most of the next year depressed and pretty useless (well, except for my first few LW posts). Anna met me at a LW meetup and I wound up joining the 2009 summer fellows program. While there I further developed my programming ability, kibitzed with Rolf Nelson on his startup, and wound up with a job as a frontend engineer at Loggly, where I still work today.

I tend to listen to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas records on repeat around this time of year.

I sing. Most people who've heard me claim to be rather impressed by it. It's one of my favorite things to do. Alicorn and I sometimes go out for karaoke on Tuesdays.

I have ADD. I tend to forget things a lot. I am currently on my sixth laptop -- I tend to lose them/get them stolen.

I didn't get a driver's license until I was 24 and living with the Singinst fellows program (where hardly anyone could drive). Shortly thereafter I learned to drive stick, which I still miss doing. I probably drive faster than I should.

I am a brony. There. I said it.

I suspect the Venn diagram of people who know what this term means without looking it up and people who would hold it against you consists of two non-overlapping circles.

(I had to look it up, but am indifferent to the TV preferences of others.)

This has left me persistently inclined to form aliefs about others actively disliking me.

Since you said this, I feel the need to comment that I think you're an awesome person, and if you end up coming anywhere near Europe I wanna hang out with you again.

I'm 26 and live in Seattle, Washington. I have a long term girlfriend with whom I enjoy giggling. I like reading technical books. My mom died when I was young and my dad didn't know how to cook so I learned and learned to enjoy it, though now my younger brother does most of the cooking in the house. Recently I've liked salads especially since they can be pretty simple and come out great. I discovered rock climbing a couple of months ago and I like that because it actually gets me to exercise and I feel skillful when I do it. I like the feeling of actually having muscles.

I have a good programming job but spend little money. I want to move out of my parents house and I'm in the process of trying to be more social. I pride myself on being unflappable.

I like dancing a lot but I don't "know how to dance". I mostly dance to techno music in my room and occasionally out and about. I've been complemented on my dancing and that makes me beam with pride. I'm thinking of taking salsa lessons.

I'm very non-judging, possibly less than I should be. For one reason or another, when I see people groping each other (doesn't happen that often) it warms my heart a surprising amount.

In school I swam a lot and I enjoy the feeling of water moving around my body as I move.

I have very coarse hair so I have had a pretty rocking mowhawk several times in my life.

I organize the lw meetups in my area. I've never thought of myself of a leader/organizer person before, but I think I want to be more like that.

I really like whisper videos and bob ross videos. I find them really relaxing and they trigger AMSR (beware lots of fluff) for me.

I'll give this a quick go.

I'm Michael. I'm 24 and live in West Sydney. I'm in LW because I pretty much stalk Lukeprog. I'm an ex-christian, who got married way too young, but got lucky in that me and my wife have grown out of faith together and really come to a place where we really support each other in everything we want to do. I love learning and all subjects, but I'm not really an expert on anything, except maybe people, which is probably one of the best places to be an expert. I'm studying professional writing next year. I find communication fascinating, and like exploring ways to close inferential gaps between people. I'm a bit of a co-ordinator. I've hosted weekly discussions groups pertaining toward Rationality and Political issues, but I find that I'm still not disciplined enough to keep persevering in them. Soon I will be changing states, and moving to Ballarat, Victoria. I plan to start attending the Melbourne LW meet up when I do (come january). The good thing about this move is that it gives me and my wife a chance to re-invent ourselves without the expectations of our friends and family defining us. I like video games, and getting good at them, but this eats more time than it's worth, so I'm aiming to quit entirely (after Diablo 3). I'm a brilliant musician, but have never been able to take it too seriously, due to the industry being flooded already, but also by getting burned by a band that had the potential to go international but was saboutaged by immature members with drug addictions. Now I just use it as a form of therapy and creative expression.

I mostly lurk on LW, I personally don't have a lot to add to the conversation here, but I think once I start going to a meet-up there will be a lot I can contribute.

That'll do for now.

I plan to start attending the Melbourne LW meet up when I do (come january)

We look forward to meeting you!

I'm 23 and currently live in Berkeley with my primary. I'm seeing some not entirely clear number of secondary people ≥ 2. Sometimes I write things. I cook delicious pescetarian foods. I have absurdly long hair and a collection of many bandanas to keep it tied back. I read and speak very quickly. I hope one day to own a king snake which I will name Periapt of Proof Against Poison and habitually wear around my neck. I wear jewelry-esque digital watches, which are hard to find, and have a few of them (all made by the same person). I used to play the piano and the flute but don't really do that anymore. I hate moving, but I'm turning out to be really bad at staying put. I have inappropriately strong opinions about trivial topics (hair dye, midnight being at twelve instead of one, corn syrup, etc). I like musicals and snowtubing and windy weather and flannel and Renaissance faires and cute animal pictures.

Is this more or less the sort of thing we're supposed to do here? I feel boring saying all of that without having been asked more direct specific questions.

THIS! Yes, this is exactly right! Thank you, thank you!

You seem like a wonderfully interesting person. Not at all boring! This is perfect :)

You know, one of the things I originally liked about the LW community was that even though it wasn't a poly-specific group, that people were still able to be relatively open about it. It would be like joining a book club and finding out that people are generally ok with poly there. I'm poly as well, with no current primary, and about 3 secondaries (I hate that term, though...), one of which is moving to Texas in a month where his fiancee got a job. Once that happens, I highly doubt I'll get to 3 again, since I like to see anyone I'm dating at least once a week.

I'm probably one of the oldest here at 54. As a child my superior intelligence was lauded. I empathize with rationality because to a man with a hammer, the hope is the world is a nail. Coming from middle class Long Island (Farmingdale High School) what I have enjoyed most has been contributing research and analysis and working around superbly interesting, motivated, and intelligent people. My great luck has brought me to Swarthmore College, Bell Labs (when it was still Bell Labs), Caltech, and Qualcomm. I was a Physics major philosophy minor for my B.A. and Applied Physics for my PhD. I took nearly enough math and economics to be minors, and have continued to learn primarily practical economics since then. I beleive in the Physicist/Mathematician/Chemist distinctions where I fall strongly on Physicist: Ithink I understand something when I can build a machine (usually program) that does something based on my understanding, and care not one whit for proofs which don't help me do something.

I live in Sandy Eggo with my wife and 12 & 14 year old daughters who are charming and wonderful and, near as I can tell, not particularly rationalist although I don't thiink they have anything aginst rationality. We have a Golden Doodle name Lucy that I refer to as "the doctor." My hobby is reading, I love economics, evolutionary psychology, futurism, science fiction. I also watch a lot of girls U14 soccer.

That's great. I have a cat named Walter (after the PTSD afflicted character from The Big Lebowski). I regularly accuse him of being a know-it-all because he got a PhD and I didn't. It's quite ridiculous.

Walter is also known as 'The Fat Baby,' 'The Bat Faby,' and 'Koshka Belaey' (White Cat in Russian)

Thanks for the intro! 54 isn't that old!

What are some of your favorite books?

What have you accomplished in your work that you are most proud of?

Thanks for your interest!

More than 20 years ago, I built a radio reciever using a superconducting device for my thesis. It was the most sensitive radio in the world for a while, in the 300 GHz to 500 GHz range. My one and only wikipedia article is about that:

I designed a data compression scheme for information about GPS satellite orbits. As dull as that sounds, the exciting part is that millions of downloads of the data are done a day. That jazzed me good.


The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein Blindsight by Peter Watts A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street by William Poundstone Genome by Matt Ridley Freakonomics (and super, the sequel)

That list is weighted towards more recent, and I left out my "stock porn" books like "The Big Short" and "Too Big To Fail." But the bio of Buffett is incredible in my opinion.

Oh wow, that's awesome! When my dad was in the USSR, one person would have a really good radio, and everyone would gather in their basement to try to listen to Voice of America, which the Soviets would try to block. I bet they wouldn't have any problems if they'd had your radio! lol

I tried reading Anathem by Stephenson. That didn't last.

I'm 19 years old at the University of Chicago, originally from Maryland. I'm a biochemistry major and physics minor, and have almost no idea which area of these field to go into. My only expressed goals for work are to do research somewhere and to have my work improve the overall quality of life by some amount.

I was raised in a Jewish household, but slowly turned atheist between the ages of 14 and 16. My parents were rarely around due to work, and they took little interest in my schoolwork, assuming I could handle it. As an only child, I was essentially raised by the internet. Honestly, I'm shocked I turned out as well as I did. I have little trouble with akrasia, as I use the method of procrastinating work with different work.

I'm called a morning person, but that's just because I always get almost exactly 7 hours of sleep every night. So, if I stay up until 2, I'll be awake by 9. Unless I get bored by a teacher's lecture, this method ensures that I'm almost never tired during the day but still able to fall asleep easily in the evening.

At the beginning of the year, I joined my school's circus club, which was surprisingly fun and fairly easy to pick up. I previously did glowstringing (poi) which is what got me into circus, but now I do various acrobatics, some stilt work, and a bit of juggling.

Additionally, I recently got a research position modeling protein folding that requires the use of unix and python. I'm pretty happy about this, as this will force me to actually learn a programming language, a mid-priority goal of mine for a while now.

One of the things I like best about LW is that it's the closest the Internet gets to U of C dining hall conversation, which I've missed ever since graduating.

Also, do Scav Hunt. You won't be disappointed.

Yeah, I'm definitely doing Scav.

Unfortunately, I was placed in a house where less intelligent conversation takes place, but I've found some other people I can sit with who are pretty good with that.

I seem to be succeeding in helping to convince my graduate program in bioinformatics to ditch Perl in favor of Python. I'm very happy about this! When you don't have a programming background, and you're going into a field with heavy programming, Perl will hurt you -- it's likely to make you dislike programming. Python OTOH is like the fuzzy kitten of programming languages -- but it still has claws! (By which I mean, you can do serious stuff with it, despite its apparent adorableness.)

Also I've just started juggling again after a longish hiatus. I just decided to try a four-ball pattern the other day, and was absolutely shocked when I kept it going for like four complete cycles. Next mileposts will be: five-ball cascade, and three balls one-handed. I think 3/1 is probably harder than 5/2, but I'm not sure. I did a 3/1 flash the other day after ten tries, but I've never been able to complete a 5/2 flash. OTOH I've only recently begun to regard a 5-ball pattern as even achievable.

Thanks for writing! I do circus-y stuff too! What other sorts of hobbies do you have?

One thing I do is make gimp/lanyard ( for an example of something that I have the ability to do, but won't because of the time/money involved in doing a project like that.)

I also love playing diplomacy, but haven't been able to for a few months due to the time input needed.

Wow, those are pretty impressive! I can understand them taking a lot of time, but I would have expected plastic lanyard to be rather cheap. That's one of the things I love about both tiny embroidery and tablet weaving: A small monetary investment can get you enough material to work with a looong time! Is it expensive because you can work through a large amount of lanyard fairly quickly?

I've only ever seen diplomacy mentioned here on LW. What sort of game is it?

Diplomacy can best be described as Risk with minimal luck, so the biggest part is negotiating with other players.

Hm. You're right about the cost, it would be pretty cheap. Probably less than $15 counting the cost to buy each color. You seem to be familiar with this sort of thing, what did you do?

No experience with lanyard in particular, but the basic concept reminds me of tablet weaving, which I did do a good bit of.

I have a rather personal introduction that I will X-Post from Welcome to LessWrong (For highschoolers) I will edit it slightly for this context and edit more as appropriate once I finish my essay due in 5 hours.

My name is Matt and I recently graduated from Poway High School about one and a half years ago in Southern California . I have always studied my own interests and tend not to pay to close attention to what my teachers were asking the class. This often forced them to ask me questions just as often as I questioned them which usually sets us up as having some kind of discourse which leads to mentor-friendship. I quickly learned if the appearance of your intellect is large then you can usually form a friendly relationship with your teachers and they wont fail you if you put in a modicum of effort. I never really worried about my GPA in high-school and carried an SAT study book around about a week before my exam to force myself to study and absorb some of the carbon atoms through diffusion while I slept on the book. Somehow I got a good score and ended up at a nice cost effective CSU that people tell me is one of the best in the state. In college my GPA has been a good letter grade or so higher than high school but it feels like I'm doing a ton less work so I just applied for a few transfers to top tier schools because being lazy and getting accepted to good schools is what currently keeps my family supplying me with funds.

Eliezer was the first writer to ever draw me away from the endless super-stimuli of the internet long enough to make me feel bad about not being more altruistic. Once I met him and saw how overworked you guys are compared to my lazy lifestyle I started a fun plan to hopefully be able to supply SIAI and myself with useful amounts of capital till I am out of school which recently has taken a $400 hit after initial successes. I will persist as long as I can delude myself into the sunk cost fallacy however so don't worry too much about me :)

My family is amazing and I would give anything to be able to pay for their cryonics payments today but right now we are still trying to put my brothers and I through school. Once I graduate and can put my engineering degree to work I hope I can work with my father who has a brilliant work ethic that I have previously been able to copy in his presence and convince them to let me pay for their cryonics as well as continuing to hobby in coding and supporting SIAI through the primary unit of caring.

I game competitively, mainly in MOBA style games with my hometown friends when I have free time. We have won several prizes to date from tourneys but have never gotten to the #1 spot. I have always felt like I waste time gaming especially since I read LW literature about super stimuli, and recently succeeding in tourney's has greatly bolstered my hopes at being able to game in my free time and someday profit from it but I still would quit if I had a urgent need to acquire more than a steady cashflow of funds.

Thanks for reading :)

I got to go to California once with my high school marching band. It was fun! What do you think about living in California? Is it at all like the rest of the US thinks it is? Have you gotten to travel anywhere interesting?

I love California for its liberalism, scenery, cities and weather. I love Oklahoma for the opposite reasons but the grass does not seem greener to me :) I have traveled to Europe and Alaska on cruises and each time I had a ton of fun but I would love to travel to the Far East. I thought Hawaii was close to paradise but I don't know if i'll ever get to live there full time.

Ok. I don't think I've actually done a regular LW style intro yet, so I'll roll them both into one intro.

I'm 27 years old, from Springfield Ohio. Areas of interest are mathematics and computer science. I hope to turn my wide angle focus on those topics into a narrow beam focused on either AI or neurology, depending on what I discover while I'm still exploring. I have a personal vow to follow path of Tetlock's Fox until I discover the 'best' thing to do with my life. I went to ITT Tech and got an Associate in software development, not much of the degree has been useful, post college. I toyed with the idea of getting a bachelor's, even going so far as to move to Columbus for a while in an attempt to get into OSU but found the area I was in too hostile, and my job was terrible. I met a guy named Max there who is very much a Less Wrong type, but I don't think he gets on much. He was going to go back to school as well but ultimately decided self-education was the better option. I eventually came to same conclusion, and moved out of the area. I've been trying to take Stanford Online classes and work full time since moving, but it's not going well. I hope the next round of classes in January go better. I'll only be taking PGM so hopefully I'll have time for both schooling and working.

On a personal level, I have several geeky hobbies. I play D&D or D20 Modern as often as time allows with a group of particularly talented roleplayers. Our group has been coalescing for years now. We have got enough players with enough talent to produce some of the best roleplay sessions I've ever seen or even heard of.

The group includes my friend and roommate Roux (pseudonym) who is very much the yin to my yang, or what have you. We are very complimentary to each other, and have been assisting each other in every imaginable endeavor for a very long time now. He and his girlfriend have one of the most stable and beneficial relationships I've ever seen. We all three live in a rental house in downtown Springfield.

Roux and I play lots of action games, primarily FPS. If we can, we play cooperative storyline games. We are quite good. For example, Roux was the #1 player in the US in Halo: Reach Team Deathmatch for a couple months according to the site

Not a lot more springs to mind that would make good intro material. I spend a lot of time these days thinking about how to get stable financially. It's very hard to do. About a year and a half ago my finances went into a tailspin and I've been desperate for money ever since. I hope my new job can clear up the problems, but I'm really trying to figure out a good way to get on my feet and stay there on my terms. I don't like the idea of selling my time and labor. I'd prefer to keep my labor for myself.

Fellow Ohioan here! (Cincy-> Dayton-> Cbus) I played D&D 3.5 for a while. Sounds like your game rocks! What are your favorite characters that you've ever played? I liked being a high level druid..something... with a pet battle briar that I named "Fluffy", lol.

What's your new job in? Do you like it?

Well, D&D wasn't where all the best roleplay happened at, but I did have some characters that I was quite proud of.

Just as an example, we played a 'Drow' campaign that was set in a heavily modified version of Faerun. For the first half of the game we were underground in the primarily matriarchal Drow empire below the Silver Marches. We took some care to not only flip the politics of the Drow, but also their gender roles as well. This led to some very fun interactions that provided some deep insight into gender roles in modern industrial society.

My character was Hecat, the beautified son of a noble Cleric of Lolth. He was groomed from birth to be the perfect sacrifice to their dark god. He was very proud of his fate, but circumstances conspired to eject him from that life and into a life of adventure. He had Helsinki Syndrome pretty bad at first, but eventually went through stages of denial, regret, anger and eventual acceptance that perhaps it was quite a bad thing to be sacrificed to an evil deity. This acceptance did not prevent him from feeling as though his life was without meaning, however.

He found a purpose in the second half of the campaign, where the party leaves the underworld and proves themselves to be good people to the city of Silverymoon. The characters all became heavily involved in the happenings of the new country, and eventually settled down as a feature of the place. Following campaigns set in Faerun would often have a side-trip to Silverymoon where the characters would be introduced to the characters from a previous campaign. It was all very fun.

In D20 Modern I guess I haven't had characters as fun as in D&D, but I was GM for a game that was pretty much the best one I've ever seen, to date. The game was set in New York, 2015. Fox Thompson is an insightful and caring beat cop with an artistic streak who's moving up in the force. Michelle Kasher was an author and journalist for several music magazines. Michelle was having trouble with her boyfriend. They had, by all accounts, the perfect relationship up until the new year. More recently, he had been acting off, and she was worried there might be someone else. Fox was occasionally tackling odd calls in to the PD concerning a drug called (and I swear I didn't steal this from Dungeons and Discourse) Alethia. Fox and Michelle eventually meet and realize the vividness of each other. Compared to Fox, Michelle can see, others are dim and muted. They interpret these observations as a kind of love at first sight thing, though neither one goes so far as to mention it to the other. The news catches wind of a startling discovery: the speed of light is fluctuating! Dr. Archer (whom I based off of Richard Dawkins) is a physicist from Oxford that came to the USA to use a specialized piece of equipment that was available at NYU. Upon running tests for an extended period of time, he finds that the fluctuations in his data are not going away, and are not likely to go away. He makes a public call for help.

The campaign really picks up when Fox goes to a routine investigation (having been promoted to investigator earlier) and has a startling insight. The site he is investigating seems fairly normal, but the people are . . . wrong. He realizes that it's not himself that is odd or unusual, but the people of New York that are acting funny. They give canned responses, react the same as another unrelated person in comparable circumstances, even going so far as to mimic body language. Disturbed, Fox tells Michelle. They both begin to suspect that something very scary is going on in the world.

Shortly afterward, my favorite D20 Modern character is introduced: Jude. Jude is a tortured high school kid that finds everyone around him impossible to communicate with. He is alone. His social role as far as he can tell is to be stepped on, and as desperation mounts, he slowly hatches a plan for revenge.

The day Jude launches his revenge, Fox Thompson gets a call about a shooting at a local high school. He walks in on a hellish scene of violence, clearly premeditated as the intercom system is blaring some kind of heavy metal. Fox eventually confronts Jude and realizes they are very much alike. Jude breaks down and explains he feels alone and desperate, but Fox, horrified, does his job and Jude is sent away.

Eventually things in New York get very bad. Alethia has a monstrous effect on the 'normal' people of the city, turning them into more or less rabid animals in a desperate search for more. Dr Archer meets the two player characters Fox and Michelle and they discuss what could possibly be going on. Archer settles on the conclusion that the world they live in is a simulation. The hypothesis explains the slowly degrading behavior of the populace easily, and also the bizarre readings he got with his equipment at the university.

The story goes on from there, but I'm not sure I should be posting the outline in this thread! I suppose I could write up the whole thing on my blog, if anyone wants to read it.

Actually, I think I may have to do that anyway, as I plan on doing this story for next year's NaNoWriMo. I could gauge reactions to the story to see if anybody takes interest.

Oh, as far as jobs go... I just work in a plastics factory. Middling pay for unskilled manual labor.

Oh, and I have dreadlocks. They're getting pretty long now as I've had them about 2 1/2 years. My sister inspired me to get them and I hear they look pretty good.

I am somewhat of a hobby collector, in that I really get into some strange random hobbies, but when I move on, instead of completely abandoning them, I just add them to the list of Fun Things I Do Sometimes.

When I was a teenager, I did high-level colorguard, winterguard, and drum corps. Drum corps is like a marching band that sleeps on a bus and rehearses all day, every day, for three months. It's sort of an all-or-nothing activity, so I don't do it at all anymore.

For a couple years, I was really active in the SCA, a big medieval re-creation group. Now I just do Pennsic. It's the biggest event with 11,500 people, and lasts 2 weeks. It's pretty awesome. LWers might be interested in the Class List (scroll down a bit, because the first week is all boring stuff).

One of my favorite things to do is dance. Besides bellydancing, I used to professionally teach and perform a bunch of circus-style dancing. At professional level I did poi, fire arts, and hooping (my favorite). At a decent level is diabolo, stilt dancing, staff, hat manipulation, and maybe meteors. Things I worked on and still suck at include: contact juggling, club juggling (I can do 3-club cascade and that's IT!), unicycling, and devil sticks.

I performed at Cincinnati Music Hall, Cincy Fringe Festival, Saks 5th Ave, and more. But I primarily focused on teaching, and that's what I'm most proud of. At a time when, at least in Ohio, standards were very wishy-washy, I started a group whose focus was to educate and inform. Get anyone who wants to able to spin, and do it safely. I am told that some of the teaching methods I developed are in use in a lot of local burns and pagan festivals (I'm not pagan, but a lot of fire folk are).

When YouTube was new, and people would post vids of their hooping performance, but never vids explaining how to do any of it, I was among the first to post tutorials on hooping tricks. I am really proud of this, because it started the ball rolling, and now everyone posts tutorials, which means that anyone anywhere can learn. (Random bragging: I still have about 900 subscribers to my YouTube channel, despite the fact that I haven't posted anything in years.)

Especially since I was often bellydancing at places that didn't have canned music, I wanted to learn how to play stuff. I learned doumbek, a middle-eastern hand drum, which I am pretty good at so long as you don't want frilly stuff; and I learned oud, a ME fretless 11-stringed instrument, which I suck at, unless you want one of the eight folk songs I know to be played badly.

Other types of dancing I do are social swing which I am pretty good at, and bharathanatyam, a classical Indian dance, which I only got to study for about a year total, because each time I'd find a new teacher (hard in the first place), they'd end up moving away. :/

Other hobbies I've focused on include: wall climbing, embroidery, and dabbled in a lot of things through the SCA.

I did the whole "Married with a House in Suburbia" REALLY young in life. Got divorced (pretty amicably) about a year ago, and I moved to Columbus, OH. My brother lives in cbus, and he really helped get me back on my feet. I absolutely love this city, and if "exploring Columbus and doing fun stuff" can be considered a hobby, I guess that's what I'm doing now. I go laser tagging with friends. Right next to that place is a trampoline park, which is awesome. This weekend I'm going to the Zoo Holiday Lights (and seeing polar bears! yay!) Columbus is also known for having LOTS of these really great non-chain restaraunts. And Jeni's Ice Cream.

I'm a vegetarian. I have a Australian Shepherd puppy named Griffyndor who has been my best friend for 11 years now. I have a 10 foot shelf of (primarily loose-leaf) tea, but I'm normally lazy and just stick with whatever bags I got at the grocery this month. I work with children, and people (or children) with disabilities. I like Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, Miyazaki, GRRM, and more! I think everyone should see Life is Beautiful at least once.

Can I pick your brain about SCA sometime? My husband loves medieval-y stuff, and I'm vaguely crafty, so I've been curious about it, but shy of just showing up at a meeting.

It is likely that I have watched, and attempted to learn from, one of your hooping tutorials! (I don't know your account name. But I have watched a lot of them while trying to find people who explain things in a way I understand.)

One of the most interesting personal stories I've ever heard, both in real life and on here; I often wish I had enough time to develop more unique hobbies. If it's not too personal, where did you find the time? Do you think your relatively eclectic talents helped or hindered your overall rationality?

Thanks for sharing!

ETA: I love that you're trying to add a more personal touch to Lesswrong; your personality - as conveyed through your writing style - seems especially suited to this by the way.

I am a 28-year old lady. I live with my husband, who has type 1 diabetes, and my cat, who likes to play fetch and bite people. For money, I tutor high school and college students in math and science and work as a home health aide. I have my bachelor's in biochem, but I'm taking an awfully long time figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

I have a disagreeable temperament: by nature I am proud, prickly, and contrary. I speak being nice to people as a second language, and over the years I've become moderately fluent. It's important to me to be a helpful person.

Ways in which I am a great big dork: I am clumsy. I like puns and doggerel. When something funny happens, I may continue laughing long after everyone else has stopped, often to the point of tears. I like uncool music like Christmas carols, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Elton John, and I often burst into song without warning.

My hobbies: botany (knowledgeable but lapsed), scuba diving (novice), playing RPGs with my husband and friends (less than previously), writing (much more than previously, but less than I'd like), and cooking (pretty solid; I make good pizza and gumbo from scratch).

I tend to understand what I'm told quickly and to accurately infer what I'm not told, which makes me a quick study and an unusually good test-taker. That's a very flashy type of intelligence for a young child to have, and I was marked as scary smart in elementary school when I taught myself to draw realistically (though without any particular skill or flair), write rhymed and metered verse, and sum an arithmetic series. In later life I found that I wasn't actually much better at doing stuff (with a few exceptions) than "regular people," and began to suspect that either I'd overestimated my own intelligence, or that intelligence itself was widely overvalued. Without abandoning either of those suspicions, I've lately updated toward the hypothesis that, just as most wealthy people don't know how to use their money to become happy, most bright people don't know how to use their intelligence to become successful. The relevant strategies may not be obvious.

People interest me, and for the most part I like them. I get along well with old ladies.

Any advice for the novice speaker?

That's a surprisingly difficult question. I've improved slowly and unsystematically, and to the extent I’ve succeeded, I think it's because I was trying really hard. So maybe the most useful tips I can give you are about how to try really hard: First, identify yourself as a nice person, someone who always tries to be kind, so that if you hurt someone, you’ll think, “That’s not the kind of person I try to be.” Second, attempt things that require you to be nice in order to be successful—teaching and health care worked for me.

Here are a few (not particularly original) suggestions on practical niceness:

  • Smile a lot. Pay attention to what your body language is like when you interact with animals and small children (assuming you like them), and try to act more like that toward everyone else.
  • Be interested in people. Make mental notes of the interests and characteristics of the people you talk to, especially things you like about them. Ask questions about things that seem to interest them.
  • When someone seems upset, indicate that you have noticed this and are concerned by it. Exactly how will depend on the situation (it may be best not to draw attention to the problem), but it’s basically never the right answer to ignore how someone is feeling or act as if it’s unimportant to you.
  • Disagreeing is very tricky. Most of the time, arguments are veiled hostilities at least as much as they are exchanges of ideas, and if you start an argument you will almost inevitably find yourself in a status war. Before you open your mouth to disagree with someone, consider whether you are starting an argument, and be very, very careful.
  • Keep in touch. Quick notes, texts, phone calls, etc, don’t take much effort, but they’re important to people.
  • Be appreciative. Thank people a little bit more, and in more detail, than you’re used to. If you’re like me, you probably often notice good things about people that you don’t mention—this is a missed opportunity to give a sincere compliment.
  • Patience is often necessary. Sometimes someone wants to yammer on about something that bores you, or demands your sympathy when you think they’re being wrongheaded, or just needs some time to get over their mood. You can become more patient with deliberate practice.

(Note that I suggest these as ways of being nice to people, not of making people like you or of accomplishing any other goal.)

Have you heard of the trick where you can get people to like you by getting them to do small favors for you? Examples include getting them to: loan you a book, help you through an important decision, or watch your dog for a day.

You can reverse this trick, and make yourself like other people by doing small favors for them. Offer to loan someone a book, offer to pick up a tab for something small, etc.

Before you know it, you'll like everybody. Actually liking everybody leads to being nice.

I'm 25. I live on my own in an apartment that's pretty small but large enough for me, especially since it has a bathtub. I used to love taking hot baths all the time when I was younger, but these days my skin gets easily irritated so I've had to cut down on those.

I've lived in Helsinki since 2006, when I moved here to study at the local university. Before that, I lived my whole life in Turku. I've moved twice since coming to Helsinki: originally I lived in a student apartment where I had my own room but shared a kitchen and bathroom with two other people who randomly changed. Then I wanted a bit more privacy and moved together with two people that I at least knew (though not very well). Then I wanted a bit more privacy and moved to where I live now.

I have the typical geeky hobbies: reading, writing, role-playing games, board games. My bed has currently been broken for a month or so, so I've put my mattress on the floor and slept on it. If I had a hammer and nails, fixing my bed would probably take an hour or so, but I don't mind sleeping on the floor so I haven't gotten around doing it. I still keep a number of stuffed animals around, partially because I've grown used to hugging something while I sleep. I currently sleep hugging a Triceratops toy I've had since elementary school, and a rabbit a friend gave me some years back. Christmas Cthulhu and Hugs sit on the bookshelf next to my mattress and make sure no monsters attack me while I'm asleep.

I'm skinny and have long red hair; before I grew a beard, people regularly mistook me to either be a woman or underage. Now that I have a beard, I no longer need to present my ID when buying alcohol, but someone is occasionally still drunk enough to think that I'm a woman. I have a long green dress that I liked to sometimes wear before, but I don't really think that it fits together with the beard, not even when I'm drunk.

If introversion/extroversion is defined as losing/getting energy from being social, I seem to move back and forth the spectrum. Through experience, I've noticed that I need to hang out with people every 2-4 days or I grow lethargic and unable to get almost anything done.

I'm still not sure what I want to do when I'm a grown-up, but something writing-related seems like one plausible option. If that doesn't work out, I need to get a real job within a year or so.

I'm a first-year graduate student in Plant Biology at Penn State University. I just got married in August, and we live in a one-bedroom apartment with two cats. One of them is nocturnal and incredibly skittish; the other one is incredibly friendly and behaves like a dog in many ways. I like to rough-house with her. My wife and I met through swing dancing, which we continue to do intermittently. I studied martial arts for 8 years, but I am now trying to get into parkour. I enjoy wasting time with video games, so I try to limit that activity when I have important things to achieve. I used to play tabletop RPGs but don't have anyone to play with anymore. I consider myself pretty nerdy, but I try to be a charismatic one like Feynman. I'm writing this intermittently in class, so I've lost the flow and am going to end it really abruptly.


Feynman is a good one to try to imitate. Sagan seems like a good choice as well.

I am a grad student in physics in Wisconsin, I'm 26. I had another LW account for a while and participated some, but found the forum really frustrating. I strongly disagree with many of the aspects I encountered then, such as (but in no particular order) style of discussion, closed mindedness or willingness to nitpick, difficulty to convey opinion, sense of establishment set of correct opinions, poor writing styles, overly analytical discussion, ineffective karma system, and so on. Then again, it also appeared to me a place of unusually high quality discussion on the internet. Nevertheless I still reserve the right to be extremely critical, but maybe it's time to start looking at some of the stuff again.

I just got a hernia surgery yesterday and I'm currently on painkillers. I'm taking two philosophy courses now but when I'm done, I'll be done with classes, so I'm very happy about that. I'm not sure if I see myself staying in my specific field of physics, long term. After I graduate, I want to move to a very big city. I think of humor as being very important in my major relationships, perhaps the single most important thing for me for having fun with others. I definitely lean towards the absurd end of the spectrum, I love satire and I hate the sense of people taking themselves so seriously. I really believe in a sense of justice and I am dismayed by people who behave as assholes. I have a tendency to perceive and act in a formalistic way, writing very formally, and so on, perhaps through the personality of my dad who raised me. I am a big fan of literature and philosophy and the art of writing, but my mind and memory tend to be very visually oriented so that I don't tend to remember a lot of word-for-word type details, but I remember images really well. As a theoretical physicist, I am extremely interested in mathematics but my aptitude in pure mathematics, while appreciable, is not academically competitive. Last but not least, I am finding it very difficult to meet women and make long lasting relationships (or even short relationships) with the opposite sex, and it is increasingly bothering me as I start to get older and find more biological urgency in the situation.

Oh, go on then.

I'm a hetero single white 29 year old male, recently moved to London, UK. I enjoy candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach.

I work with databases and web technologies for an ignoble private company which I'm not allowed to identify. A decade ago, when you're supposed to do it, I failed abysmally at my first higher education attempt (in Astrophysics), and I'm now working my way through a part-time bachelors degree in Economics and Maths, with the intention of applying to a reasonably prestigious institution for a Masters in algorithmy-mathsy-information-theoretic-stuff when I graduate in a few years. If successful, I will be over ten years older than most of my peers, and can't decide whether this is fantastic or horrifying. My long-term goal is to make awesome things for people to use. I sometimes do this anyway.

My primary hobby is swing dancing. I've been doing it for a little over four years, and by most people's standards I'm probably pretty damn good at it. I travel all over the country, and occasionally internationally, to learn and dance with similarly enthusiastic people, but I'm starting to reach a point of diminishing returns with it, in that it's not getting any more fun and I'm not getting that much better.

Last November I started to learn to play the piano. I'm still not very good at all, but I now have a much more solid grounding in musical theory. Previous to this, I attempted to learn to play the saxophone (I had a pretty good version of the Pink Panther theme tune going). I am also a strong tenor, and the quality of my singing voice is enough to really surprise most people.

Earlier this year I developed a minor obsession with figure drawing. The human body is amazing and fascinating to look at. There are a lot of crossovers between this topic and dancing, and I have recently started a blog where I discuss these things.

I'm quite tall and stocky. I used to be very overweight, but lost over 45 kilos between 2005 and 2008. I'm currently trying to properly trim up by dancing more regularly, with some success. I don't read a lot of books these days, but I suspect my information diet is larger than it has ever been before.

Recently (the past couple of years) I have been discovering that I am a lot more competent than I previously thought. This is simultaneously pleasing and unnerving.

Recently (the past couple of years) I have been discovering that I am a lot more competent than I previously thought. This is simultaneously pleasing and unnerving.

Care to elaborate on that?

After growing up wanting to swim around academia as an astrophysicist, I dropped out of my first attempt at university, bummed around for a bit and eventually got a fairly rubbish tech support job. You reach a point and think "ah well, this is what my life is like, then. I guess I'm not as smart as I thought I was".

But maybe I am. I've gotten progressively less and less rubbish jobs doing more and more sophisticated things, because it turns out I'm good at solving progressively harder and harder problems. I've resumed formal study, and discovered it's easy once you have some sort of work ethic and care about the subject matter. I might be running a decade behind schedule, but it's my goal to solve the biggest problems I can get my hands around. In retrospect, that's many times more exciting than the astrophysics plans I had when I was younger.

That's quite wonderful, actually, and one decade is not that much, if you are on the right path.


Please place discussion about this idea/topic as a thread to this comment.

I'm somewhat conflicted about this. I enjoy this stuff, but I'm probably not going to contribute. Writing personal stories always feels like narcissism, and I'm very unsure if I'm ever creating anything of value with it.

Also, I'm actually quite boring as a person, and reading about others is a decent substitute for having an interesting life. It substantially reduces my need to be awesome, at least in some areas. I'm not sure if this bothers me, as it also removes all the hard work, so I might actually be better off. For a simple example, I feel Reddit has pretty much covered my need to own a cat, without having to care for one. This seems like a good deal. I'm not sure how strong this substitution is, or if its good on net.

Writing personal stories always feels like narcissism, and I'm very unsure if I'm ever creating anything of value with it.

I'm going to narcicassate myself by indicating I agree. My senior year of high school we did a Memory Book project where we gather photos of trips and write essays about our lives thus far. Mine was mostly just essays because not many photos of me exist. I ended up with a C because I cut up all the family photos of me that my parents had and went through all the pics my friends owned as well and only had enough photos for half a book.

Do you like that our discussions are un-hampered by personal data?


Do you like the idea of providing personal intros?


Do you not want to provide personalish information for safety reasons, or because you don't think it's anyone business?

Neither. I provide my personal data on the LW IRC channel all the time. I don't see this as the place for that. I see this as the place for the sanest possible discourse, as uninhibited as possible by prejudice. I know it's a problem for me, since my memory is such that if I ever read a comment by someone and I really hate that comment, I will be far more likely to down-vote or ignore that person's comments in the future. (This just occurs with a few special cases, though, so it's not really enough to turn on the anti-kibitzer.)

Maybe even post a (small) picture, so we can put a face to the name.

Don't these tend to increase page loading times? A link to a picture may be better.

I don't feel a need for that sort of personal intro-- I don't model people all that intensely.

I'm also not comfortable doing that sort of intro, though I'll try if it seems necessary.

For people who use pseudonyms, would you care to explain why you chose yours? I don't necessarily mean why you're using a pseudonym at all, I'm more interested in why you chose the particular one you've got.

At long last, for the first time anywhere on the internet, the origin story of (the name) "arundelo"!

  1. After my parents picked "Aaron" as my first name, Mom asked Dad to suggest a middle name. He suggested "Dale", inspired by the last name of a news correspondent named Arthur W. "Nick" Arundel. ("Arundel" --> "Aaron Dale".)
  2. When I got a Hotmail address, "aaron-brown" and similar usernames were taken. Brainstorming for other options and remembering the above story, I gave "arundel" a try, but that was taken too. I was spending a fair amount of time with Esperanto at the time, so I tried adding an "o", which is what Esperanto nouns end with. "arundelo" was not taken, so that's what I chose.

Since then I've used it for many other websites and have never run into anyone else who uses it. It does not function as a true pseudonym, since it's dead easy to connect it with my real name. I make no effort to keep them separate.

ah-roon-DELL-oh and air-un-DELL-oh are both acceptable pronunciations. I (mildly) prefer the first.

Mine is a math term, and my use of it dates all the way back to my religious days, when I thought of Catholic theology as a sort of orthonormal basis to my understanding of the world, helping me to see everything in its proper context. I may or may not have kept a blog with that title, which may or may not be both charming and embarrassing to my current self.

Every once in a while, I feel like I need a new identity, like when my personality has shifted a lot or when I notice an aspect of myself I'd like to express, but can't merge with any existing identity. I then choose a name and go by that. So I don't think of "muflax" as a pseudonym, but the actual name of the personality "muflax" in my head.

muflax is simply mu) + flax. I like the look of the name. It doesn't have a preferred pronunciation (I don't speak it unless absolutely necessary), but someone once thought it looked like "a Turkish medication", so I recommend a thick Turkish accent.

I've used "Alicorn" practically as long as I can remember. The fantasy-geek variant on being a horse crazy little girl is being a unicorn crazy little girl, and I was rather enamored with my vocabulary too. Started using "Alicorn" as one among several screen names and eventually stuck with it over all the others.

'rysade' is just 6 characters I strung together one day. It is always a lower case 'r' on the front. I've used this name for so long, I basically consider it to be another way of giving my full name on the internet. To my chagrin, it looks like my old Xanga account is the first result from a Google search . . . that is very old.

The name has no particular pronunciation. I think of it as being similar to 'xkcd' in that Randall once explained that 'xkcd' is "a treasured and carefully guarded point in the space of four-character strings."

You'll find googling 'rysade' to usually return me, and also some very obscure pages in what I think is Russian if you go back far enough. If it is, or ever was, a word in any language, it is certainly not a common one.

Sometimes I'll add an 'h' on the end. Echoing many other posters ITT, I use that version for roleplay characters on occasion. 'Rysadeh' has a pronunciation: rye-SAW-deh, with an emphasis on the 'eh' at the end as well, giving it an abrupt end.

I enjoy creating unusual characters and character names -- I used to do this more, when I sometimes GM'ed at a .hack// roleplaying forum. Dorikka is just a name that I came up with for a boss creature. I liked the name, so I continued to use it. shrug

The only name use that originates from somewhere else is Miroki, which is a modification of Mitsuko Souma's name from Battle Royale, a book that I really liked. I don't think I've ever used Miroki as a psuedonym before, though, only a character.

For people who use pseudonyms, would you care to explain why you chose yours?

I use it elsewhere, including sometimes in real life. Here are the general reasons I chose the name:

You don't want to choose a name that starts with a vowel, because they are hard to understand. For example if I said "I'm Arya," or "My name's Arya." A good percentage of people would confuse where the name actually started and hear "I'm Marya" (Maria) or "My name's Sarya" (maybe Soraya?). (I learned this the hard way a couple years ago with a different name) So you want your name to either be very common, or to start with a clear consonant.

Having an unusual name allows the person you are talking to to ask you about it. It allows them to start a conversation with you ("Daenerys? That's an unusual name. Where did you get it?")

Having a name that is an somewhat-rare reference to something interesting causes people to feel an instantaneous kinship with you if they happen to "get it". Unfortunately, this hasn't worked too well for me, as I've only met a handful of people IRL who caught the reference when I introduced myself.

As to what the reference is to, it's to one of my favorite book series; "Game of Thrones" by George RR Martin. I actually like the character Arya better, but I've already mentioned why that name won't work. Daenerys is a bad-a$$ chick with an army and dragons. It works. :)

Unfortunately, it makes you essentially impossible to google. (It may also be a feature, of course.)

Unfortunately, this hasn't worked too well for me, as I've only met a handful of people IRL who caught the reference when I introduced myself.

Alicorn and I were both immediately inclined to like you when you started commenting, due to the name =)

Tips for Making Good Introductions

(Note: A lot of this info can be extrapolated to sites like OKC)

I think there are some really great intros posted, and I really appreciate everyone participating. I would love to read more. I thought maybe it would be useful, and encourage more people to post, if I put up some pointers. Feel free to add more of your own pointers!

1) Avoid overly-general comments that are likely be true of the vast majority of your audience. They don't really give any information. Examples for LW might include: I like rationality and AI. I like to read. I am in a STEM field.

2) DO get specific. Instead of saying "I like music" say "Watching Fiona Apple perform gives me the shivers". Instead of saying "I like gaming", say "My favorite board games are Alea Iacta Est, Smallworld, and Oregon, and I am a cheap date, in that I enjoy spending dates gaming or reading"

3) Mix things that make you fit in, and things that make you stand out.

3a) Things that make you fit in- You want your audience to relate to you. A good way to do this when they see things you wrote and think "Me too!". However, we still need to get specific (aka an "I like music" won't elicit a "Me too!" response, it will elicit a "Duh! So does everyone" response). To be able to mention specific things that you think other people will relate to, you really have to know your audience. Some perfect examples of this include:

I'm a lot less outwardly geeky than I was as an adolescent.


I like musicals and snowtubing and windy weather and flannel and Renaissance faires and cute animal pictures.

These are both specific and very relatable.

(Hope people are ok with me quoting them as examples. If not, let me know)

3b) Things that make you stand out- If you fit in completely with everyone else, none of your uniqueness is going to come through. People will consider you "Just another average LW-er/ OKC-er/ whatev-er". For this, think of what are some things that are relatively unique to you. If you are lucky, a couple people will relate personally to them too. This is actually GREAT when it happens. Some good examples:

I joined my school's circus club [...] now I do various acrobatics, some stilt work, and a bit of juggling.


More than 20 years ago, I built a radio reciever using a superconducting device for my thesis. It was the most sensitive radio in the world for a while.

4) Readability- Make sure everything is easy to understand. Break long paragraphs up! Short paragraphs are easier to read, less likely to be skimmed. Anything longer than about 5-6 lines on here, just throw a paragraph break in. Even if you think it doesn't belong!

5) Topics- Most of a personal introduction falls under the small-talk category. This is difficult for a lot of people because they don't know what to talk about, unless someone asks them specifically. Here's a pretty good list of ideas for things you can write about. In fact, if you ignore everything else I talked about in this comment, and just focused on answering some of these prompts, you are pretty much good to go.

  • Hobbies- Things you do or collect.
  • Where you live, and how you like it.
  • Who you live with, and what your dynamic is like.
  • Your friends and why you like them/what they do.
  • Anything unique or weird you've done.
  • Strangest thing that's happened to you.
  • Any labels you apply to yourself. How did you come to accept that label?
  • Favorite Vacations, or interesting vacation stories.
  • What do you do when you aren't at school/work. Be specific!
  • What do you like to read/watch/listen to.
  • Something you're proud of (can be anything).
  • Family and pets. Do you have any stories about them?

PS- My goal is to encourage people to post by giving follow-able guideline, but my worry is that this post will make people nervous about posting. If you think having such intensive guidelines are more of a hindrance than a help, please let me know, so I can remove the post. Thank you!

Would it be appropriate to say that I laughed out loud when I read this comment?

Lol has become overused, to the extent that if I actually 'laugh out loud' it no longer seems appropriate.