Since it had a decent amount of traffic until a good two weeks into September (and I thought it was a good idea), I'm reviving this thread.


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

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

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

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I finished my math PhD thesis in September!


What's it about?

I released my first game to the App Store on Oct 1. It's a dual n-back game with a rhythm component called Double Dynamo. (Previously mentioned in the July what are you working on thread.)

Bought it. It's awesome!

Thanks! I'm very much open to feedback and suggestions, so fire away.

Some suggestions:

  1. It would be nice if you can choose a particular wave inside a stage so as to practice. Currently, I'm on stage 4 and Waves 1&2 are really easy for me but Wave 3 is much harder.
  2. Possibly increase the tempo of the music for faster waves?
  3. A nicer font?
  4. More variety in the music?

I don't have an iDevice. Is the game directly playable from PC from within iTunes?

Not at this time. I am planning on porting the game to Android in the coming months, but this is not my top priority, so I can't guarantee when it'll be available.

I got a 167 out of 170 on the Verbal portion of the GRE (97th percentile). And this was a triumph of effort over raw ability -- I was only pulling a 159 (81st percentile) before I did some intensive practice.


If you did correspondingly well on the quantitative section, you can get a free snp genotyping

(I'm taking the GRE soon too, and using this as an additional incentive to do well on it)

Unfortunately, the quantitative score did not go up with training. I got a 161 there (81st percentile).

My first keynote talk at an IT conference abroad. Touched on rationality as one aspect of what makes programmers valuable.

(This is from last month, but since the previous thread technically only covered August, I think we should also include September's achievements.)

My "Doing Good in the Addiction Economy" article spent about 16 hours on the front page of Hacker News, and has accumulated close to 11K hits overall since I posted it in early September.

(For comparison, with 113 karma, The curse of identity is my most highly-voted LW article, and it has accumulated about 8K hits over a period of two years.)

This sounds like an interesting stat to know about in general. How do you find out how many hits a Lesswrong post has?

No public way - there's a Google Analytics account whose stats some people (me included) have access to. (If there's something in particular you want to know, I can look it up.)


I'm taking an engineering course this semester in which the only task is to create a robot to compete in a "hockey" competition. I have a great team with competent, talented, and hard-working guys and I've been thoroughly enjoying it.

I mistakenly assumed that since we knew what we were doing and were working hard (I have never been on such a team before), that we'd have no problems. Turns out that even a good team needs project management, hard deadlines and all that other fun stuff.

Come the night before the preliminary competition, we were about two weeks away from ready. About 3am we finally had seemingly working hardware. I was the code guy, and at long last it was my turn to start testing the fancy code and algorithms I'd been churning out for months. I had way too much to do with five hours to go and no sleep, but I started incrementally testing the pieces regardless.

It is this point that I am proud of myself.

  • I noticed that one of my team-mates was unhappy, as though he'd already given up. Younger me would not have done this.

  • I realised that this mattered. Slightly less younger me might have noticed, but would have ignored it since he was already in a position to have his way without regard for what others wanted. After all, he'd waited so long for his turn to call the shots.

  • I asked my team-mate how he felt about our current position. I intended to convince him not to give up and aid me unreservedly.

  • After several minutes, I let him convince me that there wasn't time to test complicated code, we just needed something quick and simple which would work with little tweaking.

I had spent dozens of hours writing sophisticated code, stretched myself, mulled over algorithms and strategies morning and night - and now I was supposed to abandon all that because the rest of the project was behind schedule?

Well, I was supposed to. That was rational decision which might give us a chance at 9am and I made it with almost no internal fuss. Past me never could have made that decision, too stubborn even if it cost him, and here it wasn't even hard.

That I can point to and declare is progress. Well done me.

I'm halfway through switching over from an ancient windows XP to Ubuntu. I've had loads of help with all the technical stuff, but all the new stuff that needs learning and habits that need changing and stuff not working yet that has to be done without is mind boggling. Not that I have any choice since the old computer has broken down almost completely, but still something I've been meaning to do for many years and way scarier than can be in any way communicated given how many things I'm completely dependent on it for.

Good luck! I've recently had to start using Windows on and off for work, and yikes everything is different and I suddenly don't know what's going on.

I got to tell lots of musicians why they can't find enough work to live on. Hit Slashdot then Reddit. It's Reddit that provides Slashdottings these days. 80,000 hits later (on a blog whose normal daily hit rate is in the twenties) ... The article appears to have generally been well-received; the annoying responses were people who thought I was talking about major labels and rock stars, when I was talking about small-time musicians.

If you're on the Internet nothing it says will be news. But it was written from the perspective of musicians, obsessive record nerds and the crossover between the two, and apparently reached its audience.

I'm quite pleased because I've spent somewhere over a year thinking about this one, ever since I read Gwern's essay that I nicked the title from. I've written enough extended think pieces that got no hits to be pleased this one did well.

And I'm even more pleased because the comments directly on the post are generally high-quality and apposite.

Interesting article. I think it's fascinating to compare the economic situation in the music industry to the one in the board game industry. The board game industry has enjoyed a huge renaissance at about the same time as the music industry has been pummeled. Astoundingly, the board game renaissance appears to be entirely due to a clever packaging trick.

Basically the quality of a board game is determined by the interactions created by a small set of rules (it is a huge turnoff if it takes more than ten minutes or so to learn the rules of a new game). So the actual core value of the game is essentially just a small quantity of information. However, people don't buy just the rules; no one would pay anything for a sheet of paper with some game mechanics written on it. Instead, the rules come packaged with a set of physical game pieces like playing cards, a game board, or colored tokens. These game pieces are trivially easy to manufacture; they are just little pieces of paper, wood, or cardboard, and they are worthless in and of themselves. So somehow when you package together these two components - a piece of paper with some high-quality information written on it, along with a set of dumb cardboard pieces - you can get something that people are willing to pay $50 or $70 for.

Nice piece. I wrote a somewhat similar one some years back, with the spin that illegal file sharing only made the inevitable happen earlier - that even if people hadn't been illegally copying things, it would only have been a matter of time before new entrants would have started selling their products at such low prices that the more established companies would have been forced to follow suit.

Yeah. My key points were (1) massive oversupply (2) basic microeconomics, and a bit of (3) most people aren't record nerds. I was disconcerted at just how many of these people who'd been working musicians for decades apparently didn't understand (2) at all.

Got a job at a large petroleum company beginning next summer after I finish my degree. Will be pulling a pretty nice salary and have a lens to build useful skills with, so I'm pretty excited.

ETA: This is likely the wrong place to do this, but I'd be really interested in hearing from other LWers working in oil and gas.

Today I taught a bunch of 5th grade kids how to convert decimals into fractions and vice versa.

A bunch of 5th grade kids taught you how to convert decimals to fractions?

... I really don't think my syntax is that unclear.

Tough crowd.

Well, strictly speaking your syntax is ambiguous, though of course there's no real ambiguity about what you meant.

Still, it would be awesome if you'd gotten a bunch of 5th grade kids to teach you how to convert decimals to fractions. My fifth-grade teacher got me to teach her how to convert from decimal to binary once; it was a great pedagogic tool.

Also, yay you for teaching kids math!

I guess that was supposed to be a joke.

At a bodyweight of 145 pounds, I deadlifted 350, squatted 305, benched 225, and overhead pressed 145 pounds!

I now also frequently receive compliments on my clothing style and muscles/physical appearance.

Not that brag-worthy, perhaps, but still feels good after a tough break-up a few months ago.


Considering that I weigh 175 pounds and would be incapable of coming close to any of those records that is pretty amazing. I've always had the physique where working out my lower body has rapid effects, but cannot make upper body training do anything at all.

Thank you!

Hm, interesting. Are you currently weightlifting? What's your routine like?

I'm not an expert or anything, but I have done quite a bit of research on weightlifting-type stuff, so I can offer some advice if you wish.

I oversaw the translation of an entire issue of a cardiology journal into Spanish in record time, finished edition of a book on pediatric dermatology that's scheduled for publication next month, and bought the materials to sew my own Cookie Monster Halloween costume.

I had to read this three times before I figured out that you didn't edit a book on pediatric deontology.

I got to use rationality techniques to not only solve a friend's problem that had been ongoing for months, but also managed to completely change the way he thought about problem-solving in general. Not sure if that second part will actually stick.

On a related note, that was when I found out that I've internalised the basics of how to REALLY approach a problem with the intent of solving it, to such a degree that I'd forgotten that my thought process was unusual.

What techniques did you use, and how did you apply them?

The main technique I used was bypassing the "trying to try" fallacy, as well as some HPMOR-style thinking; Obstacles mean you get creative, rather than give up. The most important thing was just not giving up upon finding the first reasonable-sounding solution, even if it's chances of success wasn't particularly high.

As to how I applied it, that was the best part, and what the second paragraph alluded to; it was my default response, to the point where I was briefly stunned when my friend was throwing up easily circumventible roadblocks to my ideas as if they were impossible obstacles. (And I did talk to him, in case he had other motives for wanting to not do the plan and was thus actively trying to come up with reasons not to do it.)

It was only then that I reviewed my own thinking and realised how far I've come since I first found HPMOR and LessWrong; I'd ceased to think of this particular method as unusual, I thought it was how any intelligent person attempted to solve their problems, but my friend matches me intellectually.

If you meant "how" as in specifics; my friend needed to earn extra money, and his reasonable-sounding solution was to find employment, despite the poor prospects for it in his area, and despite the fact that he'd looked before and hadn't found anything. To him, the solution stopped at there, because it could work, whereas that didn't meet my goal of solving my friend's problem on it's own due to it's unreliability. So I helped him leverage some of his other talents, in addition to looking for work. (Which is a good plan, just not sufficiently reliable on it's own.) None of my ideas were particularly brilliant, but I wouldn't have found them if I'd stopped at the reasonable-sounding solution and decided that was sufficient effort for victory.

Honestly, it's still weird to me right now. I was actually embarrassed writing this comment, because writing it out made it seem so trivial and not worth being proud about, and I had to remind myself that if it really was that obvious, my friend would have done it himself. Not to mention that a couple of years ago I'd have done the exact same thing in his position.

Started an additional job where I wrote some voice recognition software to automate video lecture transcription with a fairly high success rate (82.13%). I also streamlined the training process for non-technical people.

Hopefully, if there's a thread next month, I'll be posting about the GRE subject test in Mathematics.

I published the fourth edition of Java Network Programming. In the first edition in 1996 I wrote about the sort of dynamic, distributed network applications I thought Java would make possible. One of the most exciting parts of writing subsequent editions has been seeing virtually all of the applications I foretold come to pass. Java has gone from being the excessively hyped newcomer that couldn't do very much of practical use to the gray-haired incumbent to which new languages are compared.

This book has come a long way, too. The fourth edition focuses even more heavily on HTTP and REST. HTTP has gone from being one of many network protocols to almost the network protocol. It is often the protocol on which other protocols are built, forming its own layer in the network stack.

There have been lots of other small changes and updates throughout the and supporting packages in Java 6, 7, and 8, and these are covered here as well. New classes addressed in this edition include CookieManager, CookiePolicy, CookieStore, HttpCookie, SwingWorker, Executor, ExecutorService, AsynchronousSocketChannel, AsynchronousServerSocketChannel, and more. Many other methods have been added to existing classes in the last three releases of Java, and these are discussed in the relevant chapters. I've also rewritten large parts of the book to reflect the ever-changing fashions in Java programming in general and network programming in particular.

Finally, I tightened up, compressed, and improved the text substantially. This edition is several hundred pages shorter than the last two. I actually pulled the last chapter on JavaMail out into a completely separate book that can stand on its own. Otherwise I doubt anyone will notice anything missing in this edition. I shrunk example code, combined sections, removed obsolete technology, and generally took the time to say everything as concisely and clearly as I could manage. This is the strongest edition yet, and I hope it's going to last another 10 years.

I'm almost done learning the Lindsey Stirling song "Crystalize" on electric guitar.

Please, please do "Shadows"!

Seconded. This must happen.

I made my massively-parallel fitting package support OpenMP in addition to CUDA, with no more than a compiler switch visible to the user. Instant orders-of-magnitude increase in the possible user base!