I am beginning to suspect that it is surprisingly common for intelligent, competent adults to somehow make it through the world for a few decades while missing some ordinary skill, like mailing a physical letter, folding a fitted sheet, depositing a check, or reading a bus schedule. Since these tasks are often presented atomically - or, worse, embedded implicitly into other instructions - and it is often possible to get around the need for them, this ignorance is not self-correcting. One can Google "how to deposit a check" and similar phrases, but the sorts of instructions that crop up are often misleading, rely on entangled and potentially similarly-deficient knowledge to be understandable, or are not so much instructions as they are tips and tricks and warnings for people who already know the basic procedure. Asking other people is more effective because they can respond to requests for clarification (and physically pointing at stuff is useful too), but embarrassing, since lacking these skills as an adult is stigmatized. (They are rarely even considered skills by people who have had them for a while.)

This seems like a bad situation. And - if I am correct and gaps like these are common - then it is something of a collective action problem to handle gap-filling without undue social drama. Supposedly, we're good at collective action problems, us rationalists, right? So I propose a thread for the purpose here, with the stipulation that all replies to gap announcements are to be constructive attempts at conveying the relevant procedural knowledge. No asking "how did you manage to be X years old without knowing that?" - if the gap-haver wishes to volunteer the information, that is fine, but asking is to be considered poor form.

(And yes, I have one. It's this: how in the world do people go about the supposedly atomic action of investing in the stock market? Here I am, sitting at my computer, and suppose I want a share of Apple - there isn't a button that says "Buy Our Stock" on their website. There goes my one idea. Where do I go and what do I do there?)

New to LessWrong?

New Comment
Rendering 1000/1496 comments, sorted by (show more) Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:53 AM
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

Please, please, please, I beg you:

Learn to touch-type. Learn to type with ten fingers.

Computer programs and websites to do this abound. If you find one that's horrible to use, find another. But persist until you do.

I am appalled at how many people I know who use computers typing for hours a day, and never learned how to drive a keyboard. They insist they're just as fast as they would be touch-typing (they're not), and then complain of sore fingers from doing weird stuff to adapt to their inability to type properly.

Anyone reading this site uses computers enough they should know how to type. I would estimate (based on my geeky friends I've seen at a keyboard) less than 20% of you can touch-type properly.

Set up your desk, chair etc per the handy how-to-avoid-RSI diagrams that one can hardly get away from in any setting. Then LEARN HOW TO TYPE. And don't make an excuse for why you're a special snowflake who doesn't need to.

By the way, when I discovered IRC big time (1996), it took my speed from 60wpm to 90wpm. Complete sentences, they're your friend.

My daughter is three and a half. She is already more skilled with the computers at nursery than the staff are. (Can get from the CBeebies games to watching Octonauts on the iPlayer in the blink of an eye!) I'm going to make sure she learns to type properly as soon as possible after she learns to read, dexterity allowing.

I've always been amused by the "magic feather" nature of my typing.

I don't touch type. I ask my brain about this, and it reports without hesitation that I don't touch type. Honest. Never have.

That said, I am perfectly capable of typing at a respectable clip without looking at the keyboard, with my fingers hovering more-or-less above the home row. I get screwy when I go after unusual punctuation keys or numbers, but when it comes to letters and commas and so forth, it works fine.

For several years, this only worked when I didn't notice it was working... that is, when I became sufficiently absorbed in what I was doing that I just typed. This became clear to me when a coworker commented "Oh, hey, I didn't know you could touch-type" and suddenly I couldn't.

It has become less fragile since then... I am typing this right now without looking at the keyboard, for example.

But my brain remains fairly certain that I don't touchtype.


I learned only a little while ago that I don't type, I dance. Words are regular, common movements... maybe like the finger movements of an incantation. Kinda cool.

Upvoting this did not seem adequate.

I would also like to tentatively suggest an optimized keyboard layout such as Dvorak or Colemak, since the inconvenience is minimal if you're starting from scratch, and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that they improve comfort and lessen RSIs in the long run, but if fretting about what layout to use causes you to procrastinate for even one day on learning to type already then you should forget I said anything.

Getting people to learn to type will be, however :-D


Yeah, there's a reason i didn't mention Dvorak or whatever ;-) So as not to put another "thing to do first" in the way. I know in person nobody at all who actually uses Dvorak. I can't think of any Dvorak users amongst online friends I haven't seen typing. (Perhaps there are some and they've just never said anything.)

I use Dvorak. It's no faster and no more accurate, but it does tire out your fingers a whole lot less, and just typing one sentence in Dvorak will enable you to see why. I switched to Dvorak after a bout of RSI, and the RSI never came back.

If you work someplace that allows you basic administrator privileges, or just has a friendly systems administrator, it isn't very difficult to change the keyboard layout in Windows. It can be set on a software level, or you could just bring a Dvorak keyboard in to work. Unfortunately, half the jobs I've had wouldn't allow this, so it's not a guaranteed solution. And the software switch is only useful if you have a cover you can throw over the existing keyboard, or can touch-type sufficiently well. Still, don't think being employed eliminates the Dvorak option. I looked in to it just recently to make sure that learning Dvorak wouldn't give me too much of a headache at work :)

Colemak user here. It didn't magically improve my typing speed as I hoped, top speed is 70 wpm and used to be the same with qwerty. I'm pretty sure it's more ergonomic to type with than qwerty, and I do have some wrist problems, so I'm going to stick with it.

I don't think non-mainstream layouts are something people should feel obliged to adopt unless they are having wrist problems. Beyond the ergonomics, it's mostly a weird thing to learn for fun.

Didn't like Dvorak because it makes you type 'ls' with your right pinky, and I type 'ls' a lot on unixlike command line shells.

It occurs to me that 'l' is also 'move right' in vim. I think I find my rightmost three fingers hovering on the top row when I move about for this reason. Wonder if I should try to remap those movement keys...
The vim movement keys actually work surprisingly well in Dvorak. Up/Down are next to each other on your left hand, right/left are on the appropriate sides of your right hand.
that never occurred to me. I may write some bash aliases with a view to reducing long movements today.
The Wikipedia article on keyboard layouts is very interesting and informative.
The nice thing about keyboard layouts, now that we have reprogrammable computers, is that there's little need to have holy wars over them. Having more people use the same layout is mostly inconsequential to a single user of the layout. It's very different for operating systems, programming languages and programs, where a lack of users means a lack of support and a slow slide into obscurity and eventual unusability.
Eliezer uses Dvorak, or at least used to four years ago:
Except I've been typing for a living for 13 years on QWERTY and never had carpal tunnel syndrome. It's not clear to me that it has anything to do with keyboard layout.
Reasons one may not have carpal tunnel syndrome may be: 1) independent of their keyboard layout, e.g. their carpal tunnels are very resilient, or they may not type enough to injure them; 2) dependent on the keyboard layout, e.g. for the typing one does one layout may be “efficient” enough not to trigger the syndrome. The observation that one never had CTS doesn’t separate the two hypotheses (i.e., you can’t tell if you never had carpal tunnel because of 1 or 2). My personal experience, as well as reports from others (e.g. Eliezer), is that typing on QWERTY did cause CTS, and after switching to Dvorak (for many years now), without any other visible change in typing (quantity or kind) the symptoms disappeared. From this evidence, the conclusion is quite clear that Dvorak is better for CTS than QWERTY. To be unclear about it you’d need to also have observations of people that had CTS with Dvorak but not with QWERTY. (However, it’s also clear that QWERTY is enough for some people, and that you’re likely in that category.) (Of course, the conclusion is “clear”, as I said, based on the evidence cited. It’s not a lot of evidence, so it doesn’t mean that the conclusion is definite in general. I just pointed out that you have more evidence than your personal experience that you’re ignoring.) (ETA: Also, it appears that you don’t quite need to worry about it. Similarly, I picked Dvorak when I had CTS, my CTS went away, and I don’t need to worry about layouts better than Dvorak. That doesn’t mean I’m not clear about Dvorak being less efficient than other layouts.)
Incorrect. As QWERTY is the standard, most people who have no problem with QWERTY don't switch. Therefore, people for whom QWERTY is more efficient than Dvorak are highly unlikely to ever use Dvorak enough to develop problems (such as CTS). If, say, 10% of the population was better off with Dvorak and 90% was better off with QWERTY, you still wouldn't expect to see people developing CTS with Dvorak, then going to QWERTY, because most people start with QWERTY. I'm not saying that QWERTY is better for anyone than Dvorak (personally the only reason I stopped using Dvorak was because I couldn't work out how to change the commands for ctrl-c, ctrl-x, ctrl-z, ctrl-s etc. to be in the same positions, rather than spread all over the keyboard) merely that it's a perfectly reasonable possibility given the evidence presented.
My brother has used Dvorak for the past 10 years. It's easy to learn. You can still retain qwerty proficiency. It does feel nicer for typing English. It doesn't help programming. It's annoying to use multiple/public computers. There are quite a few layouts that may be better than Dvorak. But probably not by enough to justify the extra effort of choosing one.
I first learned how to touch type on Dvorak, but switched to qwerty when I went to college so I wouldn't have issues using other computers. I found that I could not maintain proficiency with both layouts. One skill just clobbered the other.
Maybe that's true once you try to get extremely fast with both. Since elementary school typing class, I've been 80+ wpm qwerty. I only learned and used dvorak up to about 50-60 wpm. Perhaps I never could have built maximum competence in both. I definitely noticed some mode-switching overhead.
I know at least 2 Dvorak users, 1 Colemak user, and 1 NEO user personally, and a few who are interested to learn. For anyone interested in switching layouts: skip Dvorak and go to one of the newer computer optimized layouts right away. I found it an interesting experience to have to re:learn how to type.
There's a really interesting comparison of popular keyboard layouts and proposed optimizations here: http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/ The author uses dynamic programming to calculate the various costs involved with typing (like finger movement, distance from home row, etc) and uses that to generate better layouts via simulated annealing. I thought it was a nicely quantitative take on a subject that is usually so subjective.

They insist they're just as fast as they would be touch-typing (they're not)

I would estimate (based on my geeky friends I've seen at a keyboard) less than 20% of you can touch-type properly

This seems like dogmatic adherence to tradition. Is there actually evidence that the traditional method of touch typing, where each finger is assigned a keyboard column and returns to the "Home Row" after striking a key, is at all faster, more efficient, or ergonomically sound than just typing intuitively?

I ask because I type intuitively with ten fingers. I know where all the keys are, and I don't see the need to return each finger to the home row after every single keystroke, which seems inefficient. If I type a common sequence like "er" or "th," I do it with a single flick of the hand, not four separate ones.

Also, I cover a much larger portion of the keyboard with my right hand than my left, because it's stronger and more natural for me than assigning each finger the exact same amount of keyboard real estate.

Skilled touch typists certainly don't make four separate motions to type "er" or "th". Keyboards are specifically designed to accept multiple keys being pressed at the same time, because a skilled typist naturally presses the next key before they have finished the motion for the previous one. Nearly all keyboards will accept two simultaneous keypresses, with higher-quality ones accepting 3, 4, or arbitrary numbers of simultaneous keystrokes. To be specific, typing "er" involves lifting my hand upwards, hitting "e" and "r" with my middle and pointer fingers in quick succession, and then dropping my hand back down. Typing "th" involves lifting my left hand at the same time as I shift my right hand slightly leftwards, and striking the "t" slightly before striking the "h" (though I often transpose the two actions and end up typing "hte" or "htat").
You do "th" with one hand? I suggest that is less efficient than coordinating two shorter moves by the respective nearest fingers. "rt", of course, is a hand flick. Perhaps my vim navigation has biased me. "h" totally belongs to my right trigger finger and moving my left middle finger all the way over to the 't' so that a left hand flick can pull of a 'th' rapidly sounds like far too far out of the way.
Then you're fine. Two-fingered typing is the curse that we must quash. (But I don't speak for David.)
Until about a year ago I couldn't touch-type either. I fixed it painlessly by removing my keyboard's keys and reinserting them in random positions. This would only help you if you already know more-or-less where the keys are, but you're too lazy to go a bit further and type without looking at the keyboard. It works because looking at the keyboard no longer helps, and you have to keep your fingers on the home keys to keep your sense of where the keys are. If you manage to memorize the new letter arrangement, just rerearrange.
I find typing an entire sentence with my eyes closed is one of the best ways to develop good typing skills. It's really weird feeling myself correcting typos before I can svn see them. It also penalizes errors a lot more, and thus encourages a "get it right the first time" style of typing, instead of my usual "make mistakes and fix them" style. (Typed the preceding paragraph blind. "svn" is a typo for "even", and I was only aware I screwed it up ^^) It's also a fun "party trick" - I like to creep out co-workers by turning to listen to them and continuing to type :)
One can get fast enough using intuitive typing that I would imagine that the main bottleneck would be the need to pause and think of what you're writing, not the speed of your fingers. Although it's frustratingly slow, I seem to have the impression that writing by hand sometimes produces higher quality (unedited) text, because you have more time to think about what you're writing. Of course, because it still isn't good enough without the edits you can really only do with a word processor, overall it's still an inferior choice.
Depends. If I could type as fast as I talk, I would write more and better. (I write, speak and think pretty much identically. This is necessary to being a certain species of good writer.) Typing "cat>>tmp.txt" gives me a terminal where I can only add lines, not remove them. This gets me writing a first draft brain-dump pretty efficiently - to the point where I plug in a larger keyboard, because this netbook keyboard is too slow. (Need a Model M.) I've seen many authors say that writing in a medium where you can't go back and edit as you're writing gives better results, as you train your brain to get stuff right the first time. Also, typing a second draft completely afresh (rather than word-processing the first draft) gives good results. These are, of course, in the class of techniques for writers to try applying to see what works for them personally. Back in the olden days, before this "web" rubbish, my friends and I would write multi-page first draft letters to each other, rambling on about whatever rubbish (generally indie music).
Anyone who doesn't touch-type: If you don't need to type faster, don't learn to touch-type to type faster. Just learn it.
To free your eyes so that they can "hold on to" and follow your ideas. ETA: for this reason I also use texmacs instead of latex.
If you are reading this and want some typing practise: http://www2.ie.popcap.com/games/free/typershark It's a "sharks are going to eat you, type the word on the side of them to kill them, get more, faster sharks and longer words as you progress" game.
Hm, I seem to be another exception and a new kind of exception. I had a typing class (3rd grade) and used software for learning typing (Mavis Beacon on a Mac). Neither helped me to touch type, but I still learned to use all fingers when typing, and today I can do ~90 WPM -- although that's brain-to-typed letters; I go slower for transcribing a given text. I also use an ergonomic split keyboard that's much harder to use one-handed. And the way that I learned was through gradual adjustment after needing to type a lot. Basically, I started out as a hunt/pecker (after trying Mavis and the classroom) and then made it a habit to, every once in a while, type a letter with a nearby finger instead of the forefinger. Over time, my hands moved less and less until they just settled on the method that is touch-typing, depending on what you count as T-T, since I have some quirks. For example, I usually do capital letters with one hand (pinky on shift, one of the remaining other fingers for the letter) rather than using the opposite hand to shift. And I actually prefer using the keyboard when possible: for a while I was on a quest to see how long I could go without using the mouse, even so far as to add and edit a firefox extension that let me browse the web with one hand on the keyboard. (I took one of the existing ones and changed it so it only used keys on the left side of the keyboard.)
At an earlier job we moved buildings, breaking down and setting up our workspaces. I had been working away as usual for over a week thereafter before realizing I had neglected to actually plug in the mouse.
For mouse haters who use a Unix: Ratpoison.
More general answer: Category:Tiling WMs. (I personally use and help develop Xmonad.)
3Wei Dai13y
From this, it sounds like I was lucky that I took a typing class in in high school (mostly because I wanted some easy credits). Do most schools not offer this?
The typing class I took was by far the best, most useful class I had in four years of high school -- and the only one where I could not have learned the material better by simply being left alone in a quiet room with the textbook. (Although being left alone with a computer and a decent learn-to-type program would probably have done just as well; but this was 1994 and my school had typewriters, not computers, so the teacher was actually useful.)
My 6th grade class was taught touch typing, reinforced with some typing games that became surprisingly popular. High school also had a typing class for the business path, which was dropped when the administration realised that most of the students didn't need the course or were failing. Nothing about proper posture in either though, which needless to say is quite essential to proper touch typing.
Many years ago I learned to touchtype by typing: a few times everyday, using the 'proper' finger positions. In a week or two, I was touchtyping. Some months ago I injured my left hand and had to type using my right hand only (I switched to the right-hand dvorak keyboard layout). I did not have much patience for the above practice sentences; I just practiced them a few times then jumped right into actual typing. A couple of weeks later I was touch typing comfortably with only my right hand. It may just be a matter of patience.
I'm learning to touch type at the moment using some of the information on here. Currently I am practising with the key board covered using the lessons here. Will post my results as I go on.
The thing that really worked for me was that I was writing a fanzine at the time (1990), so had plenty of stuff I had to type. So I learnt all the keys, was at 20wpm which was slightly less than the 23-25wpm I could do two-fingered, and went ahead typing actual stuff I had to type properly with ten fingers. tl;dr Have actual stuff to type, use your new skill.
I tend to type with just one hand a lot of the time. I've trained with touch-typing software, but I never managed to learn to type all that quickly. My "one-and-a-half-handed" typing is about as fast as I've ever gotten when trying to touch type properly, so I haven't bothered to try to practice more. (I think I do about 30 WPM.) My father, on the other hand, is a 62-year-old engineering professor who still can't type with more than two fingers. When he tried to get tech support from a chat room once, the support guy kept asking if he was still there.
I never had the self-discipline to stop looking down at the keyboard. I eventually forced myself to learn to touch-type by switching to Dvorak. I still have to look at the keys to type numbers (which are the same under both layouts); I should probably paint over those keys with whiteout or something.

I don't know if anyone can help me with this, but how do I tell the difference between flirting and friendliness? I grew up in pretty much total social isolation from peers, so neither really ever happened, and when they happen now I can't tell which is which. Also, how do you go from talking to someone at the beginning/end of class (or other activity) to actually being the kind of friends who see each other elsewhere and do activities together?

Edit: Thank you, this is good advice. Does anyone have any advice on how to tell with women? I'm bi, and more interested in women, and they are much harder to read than men on the subject, because women's behavior with female friends is often fairly flirty to begin with.


It's not always this clear-cut, but if a guy touches you at all while he's talking (brushes your hand, etc.), makes an unusual amount of eye contact, or makes a point of being alone with you, it's flirting. If he's talking or joking about sex, it's more likely to be flirting.

How do you become the kind of friends who see each other outside of class? That used to confuse me SO MUCH. The easiest way to transition from "person I've spoken to" to "actual friend" is to say "You want to get lunch together sometime?" It's also possible to ask "are you going to event X?" (I used to find this step nervewracking. But remember, most people are not offended by offers of companionship. Most people want to make new friends.)

Also, notice how people hang around after an event. Most people don't leave right away, briskly. They sort of mosey and talk. If you're like me, your instinct will be to think, "Well, I'm done with that, time to go do something else." But more social people spend a colossal amount of time just hanging around, and they exchange more closeness that way. You can't make friends with people who only see you in brief bursts.

Well, that's the whole idea of flirting - that you can't really tell the difference. If it's clear and upfront, then it's not called flirting anymore, but rather an advance (friendly or more explicit).

You have a lot of uncertainty arising from a simple gesture/look/invitation, and (I believe) this is where all the fun really comes from: dealing with a lot of different scenarios that have very similar initial contexts but have a wide range of possible outcomes, and choosing the outcome you want with so little effort.

I also believe that your ability to tell the difference between one person's flirting and friendliness is strongly influenced by how well you know that person.

http://www.wrongplanet.net/ is a community page for asperger/autism people that contains social descriptions on a level that might be helpful. I do not read too much of it, but maybe it is useful.


There often is not any difference at all between flirting and friendliness. People vary very much in their ways. And yet we are supposed to easily tell the difference, with threat of imprisonment for failing.

The main effects I have seen and experienced, is that flirting typically involve more eye contact, and that a lot of people flirt while denying they do it, and refusing to to tell what they would do if they really flirted, and disparaging others for not knowing the difference.

My experience is also that ordinary people are much more direct and clear in the difference between flirting and friendship, while academic people muddle it.


yet we are supposed to easily tell the difference, with threat of imprisonment for failing.

It can be hard to tell the difference, and it can be easy to mess up when trying to flirt back, but it takes rather more than than simply not telling the difference between flirtation and friendliness for imprisonment. There has to be actual unwelcome steps taken that cross significant lines.

The way the mating dance typically goes is as a series of small escalations. One of the purposes this serves is to let parties make advances without as much risk of everyone seeing them turned down, and lose face. It also lets people make stronger evaluations and back out in the middle gracefully.

Flirtatious talk is not an open invitation for a grabby hands. It is an invitation for further flirtatious talk. It may be an invitation for an invasion of personal space and increasing proximity. This in turn can be invitation for casual, brief, touches on non-sexual body areas. The point of no return, where it's hard to gracefully back out and pretend nothing was happening, is usually the kiss. That's usually done as a slow invasion of space, by the initiator, who must watch for the other to either... (read more)


That's usually done as a slow invasion of space, by the initiator, who must watch for the other to either lean in and take position, or lean and turn away.

If you're reasonably confident in the other person's interest, simply announcing "I'm going to kiss you now," followed by a brief pause, works quite nicely, signals confidence, builds anticipation, and still gives them the opportunity to back out.

Another version: "I'm thinking about kissing you", and offering your cheek.

And really, you can talk and ask for clarification from people you're flirting with. Heck, asking "are you flirting with me" is itself a reasonable flirt-and-escalate move. Being explicit can kill the mood for some people, but if you're not actually sure where in this dance you are or which direction it's headed, it's generally safer than risking unwanted boundary crossing.

If you need verbal feedback, you're probably better off finding out fairly early whether the person you're flirting with is comfortable with questions or not.

What I'm particularly frustrated about is not telling the difference between flirting and friendliness (the line is blurry and that's okay) but when specifically it's okay to escalate to physical touching.
I'm afraid this isn't going to be helpful, but like everything else, it depends. Touches too can straddle the line between friendliness and flirtation, and mere physical contact needn't be an escalation at all. A glancing contact with someone's hand when passing them something isn't. Prolonging that contact is. Clapping someone on the shoulder is usually just friendly, but adding a squeeze intensifies that.
Surely this is more general than that? I mean, you didn't say it wasn't, but ISTM it wouldn't be worth mentioning if that was what you meant. Did you actually mean it in a more inclusive sense? Or am I just very wrong about interpreting/doing this? :-/
I didn't mean to imply that trading glances like this was exclusive to strangers. However: it is a larger portion of the initial signaling, because fewer signals are available than between friends or people otherwise interacting. Secondly, it's more noticeable in strangers, again because of the relative lack of other interactions and signals.

and that a lot of people flirt while denying they do it

Or without even realising. Several years ago an acquaintance on whom I was developing a crush told me she was aware of this; this puzzled me since I thought I hadn't yet initiated anything like flirting, so I asked how she knew. Then she took my hand and replicated the way in which, a few days before, I had passed her some small object (probably a pen). I didn't realise I was doing it at the time, but in that casual gesture I was prolonging the physical contact a lot more than necessary, and once put on the receiving side it was bloody obvious what was going on.

how do I tell the difference between flirting and friendliness?

Flirting is tinged with sexuality, either explicit or subtle. Maybe a touch on your arm, a wink, or innuendo. A lot of it is context-dependent, as well: for instance, the exact same words and behavior can be flirting when a guy says it to a girl, but not when a guy says it to a guy (the social default is that everyone is straight; this is different in a gay bar, for instance).

Also, how do you go from talking to someone at the beginning/end of class (or other activity) to actually being the kind of friends who see each other elsewhere and do activities together?

You have to actually be active and ask the person for their phone number, invite them to get coffee, go bowling, whatever. It doesn't always work out -- you may not meet up with 90% of them -- but the other 10% will become your friends.

There is a good argument that this is intentional. (See slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/26/conversation-deliberately-skirts-the-border-of-incomprehensibility/)

An incidental note: lack of these sorts of skills can also create ugh fields around the subjects or surrounding subjects.

Quite. Now that I think about it, I suspect this might be causally related to several social anxiety problems.
Well, they say some people are better at public speaking than at socializing. Note such people know what to do when public speaking, but they still have no idea what to do in social situations. So the procedural skills we are talking about here may not actually help with social anxiety per se. It might help one deceive oneself into thinking so though.

After having about 50 different housemates, I'm shocked by how few people have basic home-maintenance knowledge. Things like:

  • Change the oil in your car every 4000 miles.
  • Don't mix colored and white laundry and then set the temperature to "hot".
  • Remove the lint from the dryer screen before each load.
  • Don't put wool clothes in the dryer and set it on "hot".
  • Change the air filter in your central heating every few months.
  • Wash the stovetop after cooking with grease.
  • Use dishwashing detergent in the dishwasher.
  • Don't put knives or pots with metal/plastic or metal/wood interfaces in the dishwasher.
  • Don't put tupperware in the dishwasher lower rack.
  • Don't fill the dishwasher lower rack with pots so that no water reaches the upper rack.
  • Open the fireplace vent before starting a fire.
  • Wash the bathtub sometimes.
  • Knives must eventually be sharpened.
  • Turning the thermostat up extra-high does not make it get warm faster.

Don't put knives or pots with metal/plastic or metal/wood interfaces in the dishwasher.

Don't put tupperware in the dishwasher lower rack.

The others were obvious to me, but I don't understand these two. I've been disobeying them for a long time without any problems.

Tupperware runs the risk of melting close to the heating element. Metal and plastic/wood expand at different rates in dampness and warmth, so the interface can weaken if they're washed in the high heat of the dishwasher. That said, you can usually get away with both of these things.

Most tupperware should be "dishwasher safe", meaning it's been tested to high temperatures and won't melt even in the lower rack of the dishwasher. The real problem with putting tupperware, or indeed any plastic container, in the bottom rack is the water jets. The jets shoot out of the aerator (that's the plastic spinny thing on the bottom), and will blow light objects around the dishwasher instead of scrubbing them out. Putting tupperware on the top rack restricts their movements.

Most tupperware should be "dishwasher safe", meaning it's been tested to high temperatures and won't melt even in the lower rack of the dishwasher.

I think there is vocabulary confusion happening here.

Real Tupperware -- the expensive stuff -- is nigh-indestructable. Some of it is made out of polycarbonate, the same material used for windshields in fighter jets and in presidential limos. At the thickness used in the Tupperware line, it is not quite bulletproof, but it is still very, very tough. You don't have to worry about it in the dishwasher.

Lower-end Rubbermaid plastic containers are much cheaper and not made out of the same material. (Rubbermaid does have a "premier" line that is supposedly comparable to true Tupperware.) These bins should not be placed in the lower rack of the dishwasher.

Agreed. Also, for light objects, it is handy to have something to hold them down, even on the upper rack. I have a small plastic-covered-wire rack which I put over light objects (normally plastic ones) on the top rack of a dishwasher to prevent them from getting flipped over.
many people would say: don't put knives in the dishwasher at all. Meaning, good kitchen knives...tableware is fine. But kitchen knives (slicers, dicers, etc) depend on very thin foils at the blade edge. The chemicals and heat involved in dishwashers can damage the blade. (this is only marginally resolved by using serrated knives...those may not be damaged by dishwashers as much, but I have yet to find one that works as well as a pretty good kitchen knife that is even marginally maintained)
Aside from melting the plastic, lightweight containers can get flipped in the dishwasher, fill up with water, and then get not quite clean. If you put them on the top rack, they're farther from the jets of water, and are less likely to be tossed around.
(Or replaced with our lifetime stay sharp guarantee!)


Those are not called "knives", those are called "saws".

We (family) got some knives at marriage, and just sort of puttered along. Then I bought her some "good" knives, which arrived fairly sharp.

Oh. My. Sourdough bread in SLICES instead of ragged hunks.

Then we used them for a couple years, and I realized that since these were low-end "chef quality" knives (I'm not a chef. I don't much care about cooking, and I don't talk shop with real chefs, so that may not be an accurate statement, but the reviews I read indicated that these were as good as MUCH more expensive knives except in maybe the quality of the handle), that maybe we should get them sharpened, so I found a place in STL that had a knife sharpening service for local restaurants and went there.

They refused to even consider sharpening our steak knives. The guy called them "cheap junk". So we bought some of of the same brand as our other knives (basically the cheapest he had in stock). (Victorinox "Fibrox")

Oh. My. Steak is SO much easier to deal with now. Bread (on the rare occasions we have it ) cuts cleanly. Tomatoes and oranges can can be sliced as thin as you want. Limes for your gin/vodka? Clean cuts.

Knives are tools. Tools need maintenance or replacement.

Ok. I confess that this one more than any of the others makes me seriously worry about how good my theory of mind is. How do they think their heating systems work?

They think that the furnace burns at a different temperature depending on how high the thermostat is.

Couldn't it just be an erroneous application of (an intuited version of) Newton's law of cooling, which says that heat transfer is linearly proportional to heat difference? They assume that the thermostat temperature is setting the temperature of the heating element, and then apply their intuited Newton's Law.

Seems pretty rational to me.

For example, this absolutely works with say, an electric stove.

This is actually implementation dependent. Though the most common implementation of a thermostat is just an on-off switch for the heater, it is possible to have a heater with multiple settings and a thermostat that selects higher heat settings for greater temperature differentials.

Also, turning the thermostat up extra-high means that you don't have to go back and make the temperature higher if your initial selection wasn't warm enough.

Even with an ordinary thermostat, cranking it up can be effective in some realistic situations. If some corners of the house take longer to heat up than the location of the thermostat, they'll reach the desired temperature faster if you let the thermostat itself and the rest of the house get a few degrees warmer first. Or to put it differently, scoffing at people who crank up the thermostat is justified only under the assumption that it measures the temperature of the whole house accurately, which is a pretty shaky assumption when you think about it.

As the moral of the story, even when your physics is guaranteed to be more accurate than folk physics, that's still not a reason to scoff at the conclusions of folk physics. The latter, bad as it is, has after all evolved for robust grappling with real-world problems, whereas any scientific model's connection with reality is delicately brittle.

That's an important lesson, generalizable to much more than just physics.

This general point is seriously deserving of a top-level post.

Since about 50 years ago all but the lowest-end thermostats are designed to be "anticipators" — they shut off the heat before the requested temperature is reached, then gradually approach it with a lower duty cycle. More often than not, the installer doesn't bother to fine-tune this, in which case it can take a long time to reach equilibrium. Turning it a few degrees warmer than you actually want isn't a completely stupid idea.

(reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermostat)

Thank you for reassuring me that I'm not crazy :)

Do you actually think a typical person has a coherent theory of how a heating system with a thermostat works?

It's a very human and intuitive way of thinking. People bundle together various things that seem like they should somehow be related, and assume that if something has a good or bad influence on one of these things, it must also influence other related things in the same direction. When you think about it, it's not a bad heuristic for dealing with a world too complex to understand with full accuracy.

I would imagine it's simply an application of the extremely general (and useful) rule of thumb "if doing something has an effect, doing it a lot will probably have a lot of that effect".
Depending on the type and size of the heater relative to the area to be warmed that statement could very well be false. I have lived in some places where turning up the heater produced much hotter air than at a lower temperature, which would heat a house much more quickly. These houses had relatively modern central air conditioning systems with electric furnaces, or really good gas furnaces. I've also lived in places with radiators or really crappy wall mounted heaters where it wouldn't make any difference at all.
Arent these self correcting? I would expect to make this mistake only once. The combining factor seems to be an ignorance into how things work, and how to maintain them. At least that is my observations of flatmates..
Washers and dryers really need to come with more thorough instructions printed on them, for people who don't know anything about clothes. It would be nice to know what the different settings actually meant practically.
Many articles of clothing have instructions like that on their tags, along the line of "machine wash warm with like colors, tumble dry low". This doesn't help someone figure out things like 'red and blue are not 'like colors' but blue and yellow can be' or what to do with a red-and-blue striped shirt, but it's a start.
Especially if you like green. :P
Do not leave pieces of colored paper in the pockets of clothing before washing.
I wash my dark blues with my black and dark brown clothing, and my medium and light blues with my other non-red medium and light colored clothing, and haven't noticed any cross-contamination of colors. I haven't tried it with reds, but my understanding is that red things are much more prone to bleeding than any other color and should definitely be washed separately.
I wash all of my colours together, with no problems, but I also always wash them on cold/cold. If I ever have to wash something red on hot, I hope that I'll remember to separate it from the blue clothes, but I might not.
I wash my red things with my other colorful clothes. I haven't had problems.
Apart from the first few washes of a red thing I wash all my clothes in together. I haven't had problems either. :)

I have had exactly one load of laundry go wrong ever due to colors running. (Purple.) I pretty much blatantly ignore washing directions, except for formalwear and business suits. If something cannot survive being thrown in with the regular wash, it's too much trouble to keep. (It helps that I thrift the vast majority of my wardrobe, so I'm rarely out more than $5 or so if something is ruined.)

And those are easy to handle - drycleaners!

I wish I knew how to politely and nicely end conversations, either with friends, strangers, whatever.


There is also the somewhat related problem of how to transition from pleasantries and chit-chat to the real point of the conversation when someone calls you on the phone. Sometimes people can stay in this mode for several minutes, and it's hard to convey the message "So, why are you calling me?" in language that is socially acceptable. My solution--which I believe I borrowed from Randy Pausch--is to say, in a friendly tone of voice, "What can I do for you?"

Thank them for their time, sincerely, making sure the beginning of the statement acknowledges the value of the current thread of thought ("that's absolutely fascinating...and thank you for sharing that with me") and make sure your tone of voice descends at the end of the sentence; if they respond with confusion at this abrupt ending (it may appear so to them) let them know why you must go now or soon.

If your reason is impolite ("you're a boring jackass") you may wish to omit what you specifically think of them (the reasons why you think they are a jackass may have less to do with them and more to do with you and how you see the world subjectively, it's something that needs to be checked out at some point) and simply indicate that you are in disagreement with them and that you lack the time and energy to properly present your position and that you may or may not get back to them later.

Works 5/6 of the time.

This overlaps something I was wondering-- whether there are subtle clues you can give that the conversation is winding down.

Yes. You can look at your watch, phone, or appointment book. You can adjust your posture and body language to turn slightly away, step back, and shift your weight to the foot farther away from the person, as if you were getting ready to walk away.

You can make comments that summarize the conversation or comment on it more generally: this kind of abstraction is a natural signal that the conversation is winding down. "This is a really good conversation," "It's really good to talk to you," "You've given me a lot to think about," and so forth.

You can also mention other things you have going on, such as "I'm working on homework for X class," "I've got a test coming up," "I've been doing a lot of work getting my house ready to sell," which gives the other person a natural close: "Well, I'll let you get back to your work. Good luck with X."

Well, there are specific cues that can be given which indicate non-specific information; descending tones in a sentence tend towards definitive announcements and represent an appearance of authority, while ascending tones are inducements of affirmation or agreement. They are both useful in their context...but when you need to communicate the end of your involvement in a conversation, you may find it less than useful to seek consensus (which is what you would communicate with the ascending tone); instead you may wish to firmly communicate your boundary or limit (which you are more likely to do with a descending tone). Blueberry's suggestions are methods of breaking rapport, which is usually established by full-body mirroring in most people (mirroring posture, hand position, leg position, head tilt etc); rapport is a method of gaining comfort with someone you are dealing with and people in rapport are usually reluctant to leave it. Making a deliberate choice to do so can be an important step in easing oneself out of a conversation. However, there are people out there who associate breaking with rapport with rejection of sorts; the reasons vary greatly and it usually boils down to a lack of clear boundaries between involvement in one's life and involvement in another's and where the line of separation is supposed to lie in their model of the world. At times like this, clearly stating your stance and your priorities (I have enjoyed spending time with you; I have a lot going on and need to attend these other things) helps clear some of this up (or at least gives them something to work with and induce a learning in them if you're lucky) as does declaring when you expect to see them next as you go. Just make sure you are congruently communicating to the other person as you do so; mixed signals, as always, confuse things.

I don't know how polite or nice it is, but what I generally do is wait for it to be my turn in the conversation, visibly react to a timepiece of some sort, and claim an appointment or pressing task that requires my attention. "Oh, geez, is it that late already? I'm sorry, but I really do have to (get going, do X, finish what I'm doing)."

I've known some people who are oblivious to this and essentially reply "Sure, that's fine. Say, let's talk about this other thing!" I find them troublesome. The best solution I know is firmness -- "No, I'm sorry, but I really do have to work on something else now."

In one particularly extreme case, I actually had to say "I need you to go away now," but by that point I'd given up on polite.

Point behind them and say "Look, a three-headed monkey", then run away.
8lionhearted (Sebastian Marshall)13y
"I've got to head out soon, anything else going on?" For more formal/professional occasions, "I've got to head out in about 10 minutes, anything else we need to cover?"
Make them laugh and walk away. The laughter distracts them long enough for you to get far enough away that you are not in conversational proximity. Even a chuckle is sufficient. As an added bonus, people who are not introspective will often hold opinions based around the last emotion they experienced in your presence. I don't think this method is polite, but it seems to work pretty well.
How do you make people laugh?
Yeah, I walked into that question. Inducing laughter in general is too big a question to answer, but I will explain the technique. As background reading, I would recommend Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Mostly because it validates my belief that humor is often cruel. Really it is great reading for any alienated smart person. I tried to observed my actions today as I used humor to escape conversation, and I was conscious of using the technique five times. I have concluded that actual clever wordplay or other comedic art is not necessary. While I have gotten in trouble for not "speaking like a human" before, this conversational strategy seems surprisingly effective at work or office situations (US, east coast). * Do not attempt this technique in situations when you can not guess at the social hierarchy or on solemn occasions. * Be adequately certain that the dominant member of the group you are trying to escape from is not disagreeing with you. * Demonstrate through tracking eye movement, reactive micro-expression, and body stance that you are engaged in the conversation. Failing that, watch the mouth of the person speaking focusing on the formation of words and sounds. * Wait for a pause in speaking, lean forward and start to smile with the edge of your mouth and eyes. * Magic part: Any inane thing you say will be taken as a joke. It's the setup that triggers the response allowing the escape. If you don't want your listeners to think you a moron, say something sarcastic or hyperbolic about yourself, about the topic being discussed if it is innocuous, or about the task you are going to perform. Remember not to step on their memes and to respect their status hierarchies. * Walk away at a leisurely pace if you want. If they are laughing with you, you may want to stay. Well, at least I tried to answer the question.

Thanks. This reminds me of something I've found which works well in the short run. I admit I haven't checked for long term consequences.

It makes me crazy when people repeat themselves in short succession. If you listen, it's possible to discover that Waiting for Godot is more realistic than a lot of more interesting theater.

Hypothesis: People repeat themselves if they aren't sure they're being heard, or, oddly (and I've done this myself) if they're unsure of how what they're saying will be received.

Solution: Smile at the person and repeat back what they said. Your body language is "I was so interested I remembered what you were saying" not "I heard it already and I'm bored".

Observation: People stop repeating that particular thing. Yay!

However, they tend to seem a bit taken aback, though not hostile. I don't know to what extent they feel comforted and heard and possibly surprised because they weren't expecting that, and to what extent they've been embarrassed that their amount of repetition has been noted.

I have worked hard to stop doing this. As a teen I'd often repeat something when it wouldn't provoke a response. This is silly. I now realize that 9 out of 10 times the other person heard you perfectly well, so repeating what one said is counterproductive. Also I've figured out that I should be louder. Everyone knows that one person who nobody likes because ze is too loud, but being too quiet is low status. Awesome I've tried this and it totally works. Thank you!
My word, I do it too, and I never realized! I hated it when it was done to me in my youth, and I still hate it when it's done to me now. In fact, most repetitious and nagging patterns of speech make me shut up like a clam. I'm hardly as loquacious in person as I can be through text. Except... I teach piano and guitar to children. And, in my teaching of habits of practice, I tend to repeat myself maybe a bit too much. I'm really trying to improve. And also... hehe... I noticed myself introducing rationality techniques. ^_^; How to analyze and target your confusion and lack of understanding whilst reading new music that contain hitherto unseen musical notations or phrases. That's how I'm used to learning.
What kind of issues do you have at present with ending conversations? How is your current technique deficient?

I'm mystified as to how to shave smoothly without cutting myself and without razor burn. I've never been able to accomplish all three of these in one shave. (This is facial shaving I'm speaking of, as I am male). Not shaving is not an option, as I quickly develop a distinctly unfashionable neck-beard whenever I neglect shaving.

Update, one year later: I can report that shaving during a warm shower with no shaving cream has increased the smoothness of my shaves, has drastically reduced shaving cuts and has eliminated razor burn almost entirely. Thanks, Less Wrong!

I had the same problem, but it went away immediately after one simple change: stop using shaving cream. Instead, just apply warm water before you shave (it helps to do it after a shower). Before I made the change, my face was always irritable the day of a shave, and exercising would make it flare up; now, nothing. (Having a good multi-blade razor still matters though.)

I was pointed to this idea by some article by Jeffrey Tucker on lewrockwell.com sometime in '06.

I second this. Shave in the shower. I haven't used soap or shaving cream in years. My skin is happier too.
I stopped using shaving cream for a while, and tried to get by with just hot water, and my results were markedly negative. Much more irritation, and a lot of ingrown hairs.
This article is supposed to be a life changer when it comes to shaving. I haven't tried all of the suggestions, but the ones I have tried have improved my shaving experience.
I second the recommendation to learn the art of wet shaving. If you're frugal about it you can make an initial investment of around $75 and have it amortized over a few years compared to cartridges. The real benefit is that the shaves are much better, and more importantly, it has become an enjoyable ritual that starts my day off with a little class and luxury.
While I've never had serious problems shaving such as you describe, I did find it a humungous bore and wholely unsatisfying until someone on Hacker News linked to this guy's videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qSIP6uQ3EI What made the real difference for me was going from multiblade razor with can of shaving foam, to multiblade razor with shaving oil, to multiblade razor with shaving soap and a proper brush, and finally that but with a neatening up afterwards using a single blade disposable. That final solution gives me a close shave and leaves my skin feeling lovely. I actually make the time to have a proper shave every day and really look forward to it!!! YMMV, but like all hygiene stuff experimenting with new techniques is pretty useful..
before anything else, if you want to stick with blades, get a "reverse" razor (i.e. gillette sensor, mach3, fusion, etc.) from a reputable brand (gillette or schick, not a drugstore brand). this is a razor where the handle joins the cartridge at the bottom, rather than the top, and this setup (somehow) makes it much, much harder to cut yourself. second is to figure out if your skin can handle against-the-grain shaving--shaving up (which is, again, much less likely to cut you with a "reverse" razor) produces much smoother skin than shaving down, but my skin can't cope--about 36 hours later i break out in red welts and tiny little sores. beyond that, experiment with different soaps/creams/gels/foams--i know people who swear by things like aveeno oatmeal foam, and others who insist shaving in the shower with nothing but the incoming hot water is the best. or try electric. :)
I got sick of trying to shave with a sharp razor, and now use a cheap electric shaver instead. It doesn't get quite so much of the hairs off though. Also I've found shaving in the morning easier if I've already shaved the night before.
I am astounded by how little people talk about shaving, considering it's an activity that most of the people in our culture carry out on a regular basis. My tips: * Seconding SilasBarta's suggestion on just using warm water rather than shaving foam * Try shaving while actually in the shower, since the humidity helps a lot * Find an optimal frequency for shaving. (I have a magical shaving period of about 50 hours, at which my facial hair is long enough for a razor to gain easy purchase but not so long to need a lawnmower. I have pretty fair hair, though, so I can get away with only shaving every two days) * Get some sort of post-shave moisturising product.
I use a powered shaver rather than a blade.

How to Buy Stocks

First Option:

  1. Acquire at least $3,000 in a checking account, and grab your account number and routing number. (It's written on the bottom of your checks.)
  2. Go to Vanguard.com and open an account.
  3. Buy into VTSMX, the total market index fund, or VFINX, the S&P 500 index fund. If you have trouble picking, flip a coin; they're very similar funds.

Second Option:

  1. Go to Sharebuilder.com and open an account. They shouldn't require a significant starting balance, but might.
  2. Sign up for automatic investing to take advantage of dollar cost averaging.
  3. Buy VFINX or VTSMX.

Third option:

  1. List out what you know about a company.
  2. List out what the market knows about that company.
  3. If your knowledge is better than the market's, then proceed. Otherwise (including if you don't know how much the market knows), go to option 1.
  4. Go to your bank and read about their brokerage accounts. If the fees aren't excessive (check Sharebuilder and other banks and stuff like etrade), open a brokerage account, or go to option 2 and open a Sharebuilder account.
  5. Transfer money to your brokerage account.
  6. Plan out your trades: under what conditions will you buy a stock? (not "the price now is o
... (read more)
Why the S&P index (VFINX) and not the Total Stock Market Index (VTSMX), which has broader coverage and the same expense ratio?
How to Buy Stocks Note: This is just nuts and bolts. Any terminology you may need can be found on Investopedia. 1. Have a bank/checking account 2. Sign up with any of the many online stock brokerage sites(ScottTrade, Ameritrade, Sharebuilder,etc.) 3. Send the broker an initial deposit of funds. (You'll require your routing and account numbers. You have to transfer funds to the broker, who needs this money to purchase your stocks.) The usual minimum is $2000 but can be as little as $500.00. 4. In trade section, you'll need to input the company's stock symbol, #of shares to be bought, and the order type. 5. Click Review order and double check you've made the right selections. 6. Finalize order. Shameless Plug: If you happen to fancy Scottrade, I can be listed as your referral so we can both benefit from free trades. Referred by: SOLOMON KNOWLTON ReferALL code: OPRH6640
Somehow along the line, there should be a check of: "Can I be sued for insider trading if I make this trade"
I have a related question about buying stocks. Suppose (for example) that I knew with 100% certainty that the global demand for home robotics would grow tenfold in the next decade. If this was the only information that I had that wasn't generally known, is there any action I could take based on this information to reliably make money from the stock market (at least over the next ten years)?
So, from a time savings perspective you would want a fund that specializes in home robotics. If one of those exists, though, that suggests that your knowledge isn't as unique as you'd like. What I would probably do is find a news website for home robotics producers- a trade magazine is what used to fill this niche, and might still do so- to have a good idea of how relative companies are doing. This looks like a promising place to start, but that gets you as informed as similar investors, and you'd like to be more informed. Then, try to keep a portfolio that's fairly balanced in all noteworthy home robotics companies. I'd probably go the 'buy and hold' route- try and keep your portfolio roughly apportioned relative to market share by buying up shares of companies underrepresented in your portfolio every month. This is the 'indexing' approach- basically, you trust that the home robotics market as a whole will go up, and that the market is better at predicting who will go up than you will. If you're more confident in your ability to predict trends, you want to hold companies relative to their expected market share at the end of your trading period- to use an old example, the first strategy would have you holding lots of Blockbuster and some Netflix and the second strategy would have you holding lots of Netflix and some Blockbuster. There is a giant obstacle here, though, which is that a large part of the stock price is determined by the financials of the company, which take a relatively large investment of time and energy to understand. If you're indexing, you basically offload this work to other investors; if you do it yourself, you can have a decent idea of what the companies are worth on the books, and then adjust by your estimate of how well they'll do in the near future.
If I was keeping my porfolio indexed to the market, wouldn't I be selling Blockbuster shares each month as Blockbuster lost market share? Why would I end up holding lots of Blockbuster?
I apologize, I was unclear; I'm recommending 'buy and hold indexing' where you correct imbalances by buying the stocks you have less of with new investment income, rather than correcting imbalances by selling stocks you have too much of to buy stocks you have too little of. This is a good way to invest for individual investors who have a constant influx of investment funds and who pay trading fees that are a large percentage of their order sizes. If you have a large pool of capital that you begin with, or you want to actively manage money you've already invested, then you may want to actively correct imbalances. It's helpful to work out the expected value of a rebalancing trade, and make sure that's larger than the fees you pay (and you may decide to only rebalance once it gets above some larger threshold). Here, you do end up with mostly Netflix- but you bought a lot of Blockbuster when it was expensive, and sold it when it was cheap, whereas the projection investor who knew that Netflix was going to worth 30 times what Blockbuster would be would have put 3% of their money into Blockbuster and 97% into Netflix, and so the majority of their current shares would come from when they put a lot of money into cheap Netflix stock. I haven't heard about that sort of projection investing playing well with rebalancing- and if I remember correctly, it was designed for allocating a large pool which you have complete access to, rather than doing dollar cost averaging with a constant income stream.
If you have 100% confidence in something, you then logically should go for maximum leverage, regardless of the risk, and so stock up on derivatives, like options and futures, rather than buy and hold stocks or indices. But of course people are generally poorly calibrated, so someone who thinks they are 100% right will probably be wrong half the time.
I've been investing in stocks (occasionally) and mutual funds (consistently) for about thirty years, and I endorse Vaniver's advice heartily. I think overall, I'm up on stocks, due to doing most of my stock investing in cyclical stocks that I can buy and sell repeatedly over the course of many years. This has worked for me with both SGI and Cypress, which I repeatedly bought at low prices and sold at high prices. If you try this and find that you're not buying low and selling high, then you should stick to mutual funds and a buy-and-hold strategy. I've dabbled in other stocks where I thought I knew something and could time it, but few of those have turned out well. Happily, I knew I was dabbling, and kept the amounts low, so I got a valuable less for a relatively low price. Mostly, I invest in mutual funds. I have subscribed to a newsletter that specializes in rating No Load funds (there are a couple). This gives me a monthly opportunity to review the performance of the funds I'm invested in, so I can tell when they stop being in the top performers and roll my money over to a different investment. I record the monthly performance of each of my investments in a spreadsheet (used to be a paper notebook). The newsletter tells me which quintile the performance is in compared to the fund's peers. I highlight 1st and 2nd quintile in green, and 5th quintile in red. When the number of reds gets to be high compared to the greens, I look for a different fund with better recent performance. The commercials always say "past performance is no guarantee of future returns", but it's the only indication you can use. Most of the time performance is consistent over periods of a few years, so you have to look back a year or so when evaluating, and monitor continuing performance in a consistent way. This whole process takes far more attention than most people are willing to put into it (a few hours a month on an on-going basis, and several hours every six months or so when choosing

2 deficits of my own come to mind. I didn't learn the alphabet until middle school or so; I covered up my ignorance by knowing pairs of letters and simply looking it up whenever I needed to sort something. (In middle school I realized how silly this was and studied diligently until I could finally remember the alphabet song. For years after that, whenever I needed to know something, I would mentally sing through the alphabet song until I had my answer.)

Until 2 years ago or so, I didn't know the 12 months of the calendar. I got around this by generating a bunch of month flashcards for Mnemosyne. (The cards should be obvious, but if anyone really doesn't know how that would work, I can post them.) I'm still a little shaky but I more or less know them now.

These 2 methods may not be generally applicable.

Wait; singing the alphabet song is still how I order letters. Is there a more efficient way?


I had a Hebrew teacher who assigned the following exercise on the first day of class: Memorize the alphabet backwards. Once the pupils knew the alphabet backwards and forwards, we were able to look things up quickly in the dictionary.

I became much more familiar with the Latin alphabet after I performed the following exercise: Type out every two-letter string, in alphabetical order. This was laborious because I didn't know where the keys were on the keyboard; perhaps that contributed to its effectiveness.

Inquiry seconded. I have a vague sense of whether certain letters appear early or late in the alphabet (I don't need to sing to know that B comes before X) but for any finer-grained distinctions I need the song.
You could memorize the numeric values of the letters (A=1, B=2, ... , Z=26); if you can figure out which number is bigger without counting, you can figure out which letter is later. Disclaimer: I have not actually done this, because memorizing 26 separate, individually useless items is a pain.

I did this a few years back while bored at school, and it has actually been surprisingly useful.

I find the easiest and quickest way is to try to write the number in a way that makes it look like the letter; eg for H imagine drawing two lines above and below to make it look like an LCD 8. Using this I thoroughly memorized the letters' numbers in about 15 minutes. You'd need to periodically rememorize to keep the numbers fresh, though.

While the song helps to remember the specific order, in order, of the alphabet, I just went ahead and found patterns in the alphabet. Can you remember the vowels? What does the alphabet look like without them? What letters are between a and e? e and i? Which letter is in the middle of the alphabet? Knowing those answers (and others) helps break the entire string up into chunks that you can manage easily and cross reference unconsciously with the entire song memorized so you can recall the relevant information quickly and easily. The practice also familiarizes oneself with the alphabet itself overall and other connections and patterns will be recognized in an out-of-conscious manner.
We don’t have an alphabet song where I’m from, but I simply remember the list of letters. I’ll just mentally recite “a, b, c, d, e...” very fast. If I need to do figure out what letter’s next after one somewhere in the middle I don’t need to recite all of it from the beginning, but I also don’t immediately recall the next letter; I just start reciting it a bit before, e.g. if you’ll ask me what’s after “N” I’ll do a very quick “m,n,o,p” in my mind and then say “O”. I’m not exactly sure how I pick the starting point, it’s automatic; it seems there are some “fixed” starting points for some reason (that come up often) and I usually pick the nearest one; for instance if you asked me what’s after “o” I’ll also start at “m”. Very rarely it happens that I start with a letter following the reference one, then I’ll stop after a few letters and try again with an earlier stop-point. (I recite the alphabet mentally in my native language, and I suspect the rhythm of the syllables generates some break-points unconsciously, and they probably differ with language. Though I just tried it and it works in English too, it just seems like it takes a bit more time to “think of” a starting point; I wouldn’t be surprised if my brain did a two-way conversion before I could notice it.) ETA: I just tried singing the song, and I noticed that after H or so I actually have to stop and do it “my way” very fast to remember what’s next. Apparently having to think of the notes (as I said, I’m not used to it sung) is enough to disturb the recall. Also, this seems to be my an automatic method for memorizing lists; I have terrible memory and it’s very hard for me to memorize abstract things like names, numbers and dates, but the few that I do manage—a few phone numbers and the first 25 or so decimals of π—I remember as a quick list of individual digits. When I have to tell someone my phone number, for example, I’ll recite quickly digit-by-digit in my head and then pronounce it in a more common forma
Me too, and I seem to have a checkpoint at M too. Fun fact: it takes me much shorter (not much longer than my usual reaction times) to translate the words for ‘left’ and ‘right’ across any two languages I know than to actually tell which side is which -- I have to imagine I'm holding a pen and that's the right hand, which can take as long as one second. No problem at all with the song, but it's still slower than the other way, by about a factor of 2. Also, I don't have checkpoints with the song, I have to start from A. (Well, I have one at W but it's not very useful.) Some strings of numbers I remember as sequences of digits spoken, others as sequences of digits written, others as a series of finger movements I make to type them -- or in certain cases, to play them on a guitar if they were a tablature. (And I remember the digits of pi through the mnemonic “How I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics”.)
For me, after a while, I think of a letter, say, 't', and then know that 'u' comes next. I don't need to sing 'a, b, c d, e...' and wait until I get to 't' to know what comes next. Like indexing into an array rather than iterating through a list, if that comparison makes sense to you.
This is fascinating! I've been told I memorised the alphabet before I was a year old... But it wasn't until I was in college that I finally memorised which hand is called 'left' and which one is 'right'. (Never had an analogous problem with compass directions.) A possibly related deficit is that I typically think of the wrong word first when I want to name a colour; i.e. for example I want to refer to purple and I have to choke off the impulse to say 'yellow'. And yet I have letter/colour synaesthesia! Brains are weird.
A middle-school history teacher once had me memorise the classical Greek alphabet (without diacritics or ligatures, just the 24 uppercase and lowercase letters, including both lowercase forms of Sigma) 4 at a time. Each weak, I'd recite the entire alphabet up to what I had learnt, completed after 6 weeks. This was largely useless for history but has been helpful for me as a mathematician. I learnt the modern Hebrew alphabet in high school, using a song (to the tune of Frère Jacques) that a Jewish friend had learnt in shul, but I really only learnt the names. Later I learnt the Russian alphabet by brute force; now I'm back to Hebrew and working (but not hard) on getting the shapes of the Jewish script.
I think of the Greek alphabet as being the Latin alphabet with a couple of extra letters tossed in here and there (and a couple removed, or un-duplicated). Unfortunately, this doesn't help me remember the positions of theta, xi, phi, psi, or omega.
I'm curious: Do you generally have unusual trouble with memorizing ordered lists compared to other people? Do you remember when/how you learned to count, for example?
Finnish has separate words for the intermediate compass directions, northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest are "koilinen, kaakko, lounas, luode". There's no pattern to the words. I still can't automatically match directions to these words, the only way I remeber them is from having learned to list them along the clock face and working back and forth using that. Finnish also has separate words for the various types in-law relatives such as 'lanko' or 'käly'. I have no idea which is which. I remember other people in my high school English class complaining about not knowing what the Finnish words mean when discussing in-law vocabulary. Finnish month names don't come from Latin like the English ones do. Most of them have some common Finnish word as their root, but 'maaliskuu' and 'huhtikuu' for March and April both have nonsensical-sounding root words and are right next to each other, so I still have to think a bit sometimes about which is which.
I wonder how many people (here) know the number of days for every month.
There's a great mnemonic for that which helped me a lot: put your hands into fists and hold them side by side, palms down. Now starting from your left, each knuckle represents a month with 31 days, and each valley between knuckles represents a month with 30 days (or fewer, for Feb). The space between your hands does not count as a valley.
I still remember this one via the children's rhyme.
I used to try to remember it this way, except that the rhyming parts don't actually cue the important info, so I was always "30 days have September, April,.... um.... something, and... December? November? Something like that." So I use the knuckle trick instead. I also never learned the last part of the rhyme, it was taught to me as "...except for February, which is all kinds of messed up."

Not to be annoying (as I often have questions like this as well), but I've found that Google is remarkably helpful in answering those questions. In fact, I tried two of the example questions and the answers seemed very reasonable to me:



I also use Google's suggestions (ie, by typing into Google Instant or Firefox search bar) to help phrase my question in the most common way, or to provide alternative related questions that might be more what I mean. For example, when typing "how to buy stocks" it suggested:

"how to buy stocks with out a broker"

"how to buy stocks online"

"how to buy stocks for beginners"

Khan Academy also has a sequence of videos on stock market basics.
The idea of educational videos on "stock market basics" for amateurs strikes me as about equally sensible as having educational videos for amateurs on abdominal surgery. Unless of course these videos limit themselves to explaining the concept of weak EMH, but somehow I doubt it.
The videos are basically explanations of investing terminology. On second thought, my suggestion was not really on point as a source of procedural knowledge.

How does a heterosexual male begin a long-term romantic relationship with a heterosexual female? Be sure to cover such issues as pre-requisites and how to indicate what intentions and when.

[For balance, others can post the dual (which is not necessarily the same) question for the other categories of people.]

  1. You have to put yourself in environments where you'll be able to interact with a lot of women. College is in a lot of ways set up perfectly for this: if you're not in college right now, consider joining a class or an activity group. Try to make it one where the gender balance will be in your favor. Book groups are one example--they're wildly tilted towards women (I suspect men just, you know, read books, and don't tend to see the value in sitting around sipping coffee and talking about reading books). But if you like girls who wear glasses, try finding a congenial book group. You'll probably be the only man.

    Even better than book groups, though, are dance classes. Swing and rockabilly aren't super trendy anymore, but the scenes still exist in a quieter way, and these classes are great for single men: a) they're filled mostly with women; b) dance is an inherently flirtatious activity, and the physical leading/following dynamic is one that many women find very sexy; c) even if you don't find a date in that class, you'll have learned an attractive skill, and you'll be able to participate in events that will introduce you to more women; and d) physical exercise is good for building b

... (read more)

Lots of good advice here.

One change I'd make is that, imo, a movie makes a poor first date. Do something fun and active where talking is possible, instead.

Agreed! Can you suggest any specific good first-date activities?
Depends on your interests. Can be as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee. Could be going for a walk on the beach. Take some sandwiches and go hiking. Pick a shared interest and enjoy it - go to an art gallery, or go ice-skating. Something active is good - and/or something where you get to sit down and chat...

This is excellent advice, and I up-voted it. However:

If she seems annoyed or condescending or whatever, try to shrug it off; just smile and say "okay, no problem" or something along those lines. Do the same thing if she says "I'd rather just be friends." (But for the love of Pete, do not spend a lot of effort trying to actually cultivate a friendship. Moooooove on.)

I may just be reading too much into things, and I acknowledge that this comment is written primarily as a response to the question "how to get into a relationship". Nevertheless, this bit bothers me a bit, as the "for the love of, don't try to actually cultivate a friendship" part seems to imply that there's no point in being friends with women if you're not going to have a relationship with them. That strikes me as a bit offensive.

Even if we're assuming that you're purpose is solely to get women, I don't think befriending lots of them is as useless as you seem to suggest. You say yourself that one's friends may introduce one to somebody one might be interested in. People tend to have more same-sex friends than opposite-sex friends, so being friends with lots of women will incr... (read more)

Befriending women is sometimes useful for becoming attractive to other women. (Allow me to skip the obligatory part where friendship is good in itself, of course it is, but I want to make a different point.) For example, you can ask them to help you shop for clothes, relying on their superior visual taste. Most of my "nice" clothes that I use for clubbing etc. were purchased this way, and girls seem to love this activity. Also they can bring you to events where you can meet other women; help you get into clubs; offer emotional support when you need it; and so on. If you make it very clear that you're not pursuing this specific girl sexually, being friends with her can make quite a substantial instrumental benefit.

That said, of course I don't mean the kind of "friendship" that girls offer when they reject you. That's just a peculiar noise they make with their mouths in such situations, it doesn't mean anything.


Sorry, that line wasn't clear. If you'd truly like to be friends with a particular woman, then by all means, be her friend! What I'm specifically counseling inexperienced men to avoid is the pitfall where they befriend a woman when they really want to be her boyfriend, and then spend a lot of time pining after her fruitlessly.

And I did mean it when I said, "It is true that established friendships can make a wonderful basis for romance..." My husband was my friend first, so I'm not knocking these kinds of relationships at all. However, it'll either happen or it won't; if there are strategies for making it happen, I don't know them; and I don't think hoping it will happen is a good strategy at all for men specifically looking for a relationship. My impression is that ending up in "the friend zone" with a woman you want to date is a fairly common failure mode for inexperienced men, so I advise SilasBarta to take some care to avoid it. I may have stressed that part too heavily.

There's a big difference between "If I approach someone for a date, and s/he rebuffs me, it's best not to spend a lot of effort cultivating a friendship with that person" and "It's never worth cultivating friendships."

Yes, making friends is worth doing. Agreed. And if it so happens that the person I'm making friends with is someone I'd previously wanted to date, great! I have numerous friends in this category, and some of them are very good friends indeed.

But even with that in mind, I mostly agree with siduri.

Mostly that's because I know very few people who can make that decision reliably immediately after being turned down. Taking a while to decide whether I'm genuinely interested in a friendship with this person seems called for.


I also meant the "spend a lot of effort" part to act as a qualifier, since for me true friendships tend to develop spontaneously and easily, in contrast to a situation where I'm actively courting the other person and they're kind of pulling back. In my own life, I've learned it's better to just let those second kinds of friendships die in the bud.

However, I recognize on reflection that for more introverted people, developing any friendship probably takes significant effort--so advice along the general lines of "if you have to push it, it's probably not meant to be" is actually probably bad advice for a lot of people. Instead, I think the question should be "would you be satisfied with friendship alone, if nothing further ever developed? Would the friendship be a source of happiness to you, or a source of frustration and pain?"

I just don't think guys should spend the time and energy being friends with women if friendship isn't truly what they're after. In a case like that it's much better for them to focus their attention on other women, who might reciprocate.

Fair enough. I can agree with that.
I believe the point is that if you want a romantic relationship with a woman, cultivating a friendship with her in the hopes that romance will develop is almost always a bad idea. Occasionally such romance sparks "out of the blue", but more likely nothing will ever happen, and it is a huge investment of time and emotion that basically never pays off. So if you aren't interested in the woman for the sake of friendship alone, it is better to just forget about her and move on. If you find a person interesting and worth being friends with, by all means don't reject such an opportunity just because the person is a woman. That's idiotic. It's just a terrible dating strategy, that's all.
sark hit upon a good point here: think of meeting many women as a special case of meeting many people. How good are you at generally meeting people? Improve that and you'll meet more of the half of them you're interested in. General social skills are good to exercise.

b) a lot of women have trouble saying "no" directly (we're socialized not to).

I cannot possibly stress enough how non-obvious this is to "geeky" males.