Happy new year to those who observe the Gregorian calendar!  This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for January 1-15.  

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.

Immediate past diary:  December 16-31 

Rationality diaries archive

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During my 2013 review, I've noticed one habit I've strengthened over the year: a certain curious skepticism.

When people share interesting facts with me, I've moved from responding "wow" or "I didn't know that" etc and filing the fact away to share myself, to something like "how fascinating, I wonder if that's true?" or "huh, I want to know more about that!" followed by taking out my phone and googling (or making a note to research it later.)

This includes wonder the same when I'm the one sharing the fascinating fact - "hang on, I've never checked if that's actually true."

I'm quite proud that to the best of my knowledge I can do this without offending people, or dropping out of the conversation.

On a related note, I've sometimes spent my morning compute write carefully phrased rebuttals to junk my family / friends share on facebook. Asked mum recently if I have been successful in arguing respectfully, learnt that I had, and in fact had caused something to be taken down. "Yeah, I hadn't looked deeply into that."

I usually don't make enough eye contact with people, so I tried the eye contact exercise described by Nick Winter, which involves pairing up with someone unfamiliar and gazing into each other's eyes for 15 minutes. This was just a week ago, and I already noticed mild improvements in my ability to maintain eye contact. I haven't yet noticed anything as dramatic as described by Winter or Luke (who did a much more intense version of this exercise, starting over when eye contact was broken), though to be fair both accounts sound like the effect did not get noticed immediately.

"Eye contact" is a misleading term. People who say they want more eye contact don't mean they want you to look at their eyes for extended periods of time. It helps to move your gaze to a different part of their face every five seconds or so.

I did this over 3 years ago, and I still notice the effect today. I look directly in people's eyes much more.

Whether this is a good or bad things is debatable. I have seen that it makes me more noticed in (small) crowd. If a teacher or presenter is saying something, my default is to make eye contact. They usually maintain this for a bit, and from then on tend to speak more at me than others.

I do sometimes have to consciously break eye contact, because very prolonged eye contact does make some people uncomfortable.

If you look in between of people's eyes, instead of directly into them, most people won't notice and you should get less distracted. This might even make staring a bit too easy and people might get uncomfortable if you're not careful.

Based on recommendations here by PJEby, I'm trying to work through Byron Katie's Loving what is

So far, I'm really enjoying the concreteness of the approach - she focuses a lot on how to address your problems. For comparison, another book I read recently talked about 'reparenting' and 'setting respectful limits' and when I'd finished reading it I had more insight into my issues but no idea what 'reparenting' looks like, and so no foothold on addressing them. I've also found myself spontaneously starting to use her framework to think about some current problems I'm dealing with, which I take as a good sign. I'll report back in when I've finished reading it and/or I've tried applying the techniques for a month or so.

This is a minor optimization, but I just got an aeropress for coffee. It'll save me some time in the morning vs my espresso machine, take less work/time to clean, and produces much, much, much better coffee. I'd highly recommend anyone that likes more intense coffee brews to check it out.

I switched from an espresso machine, to a Clever dripper. The coffee tastes great, and is much simpler to clean up.