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?)


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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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout] 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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hd/the_majority_is_always_wrong/], 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/ [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 :)
http://www.daskeyboard.com/model-s-ultimate/ [http://www.daskeyboard.com/model-s-ultimate/]
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 [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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratpoison].
More general answer: Category:Tiling WMs [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Tiling_window_managers]. (I personally use and help develop Xmonad [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xmonad].)
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 [http://www.sense-lang.org/typing/tutor/keyboarding.php?lang=EN_keypad]. Will post my results as I go on.
The thing that really worked for me was that I was writing a fanzine [http://davidgerard.co.uk/pf/] 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.

[-][anonymous]12y 36

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.
I did that once. At the end of a date, pointed at my cheek, 'kiss goodbye'. HAHAHAHA. Didn't work. Make sure you keep in mind that some skills must be mastered before others. Like being able to gauge interest level.
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.
[-][anonymous]12y 13

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.
"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 [http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/6886845] 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 [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 [https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/snapshot?FundId=0085&FundIntExt=INT]), 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 [http://robotstocknews.blogspot.com/] 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 [http://www.noloadfundinvestor.com/] that specializes in rating No Load [http://www.investopedia.com/terms/n/no-loadfund.asp] 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

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.]

[-][anonymous]12y 114
  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.

[-][anonymous]12y 14

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.

[-][anonymous]12y 11

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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/453/procedural_knowledge_gaps/3i8x]: 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.

I don't think this is accurate. People generally don't say "no" directly. It's not a matter of gender socialization, it's just how language works. A direct "no" is seen as rude [http://books.google.com/books?id=FSjEnDrb8QcC&pg=PA60&lpg=PA60&dq=saying+no+rape+linguistics&source=bl&ots=JsWPD-MCR3&sig=AbtqFD1jEtVT7PIBanZ3BFz2vlI&hl=en&ei=e-RRTf-_J4jSsAPTvIThBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false], and refusals are usually couched in vague or tentative language. [http://modusdopens.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/just-say-no-linguistics-in-real-life/]
But people seem to understand refusals anyway, which means the question is whether refusals are more vague and tentative in this case.
Valid point. Though I think people generally understand refusals even in this case. is a little extreme. Though this could be an very ambiguously worded "polite" refusal, it can also be honesty from someone who actually is interested. Whereas "I'm sorry, I can't, I've been really busy with life" is a clear refusal, "I'd love to but..." isn't always and is worth at least a follow up.
Your experience may differ, but I disagree. Unless she suggests another time, this is meant as a polite brush-off. For most women, pursuing potential mates is a very, very high-priority activity, and no matter how busy their schedules may be, they can clear out an evening for a guy they're truly interested in. In the few situations where the woman really is booked solid (such as the example where she's going out of town, or maybe if she's studying for a very important upcoming exam) she'll let you know when she expects to have some time free.
There is one alternative explanation - and that's a woman following "The Rules". In that case, you may not want to go out with her anyway, given that it's a book explaining how to manipulate men (much as PUAs do to women).

You have to ask women out on dates.

This is not strictly true from my experience. I've had three girlfriends thus far and in all three cases, we were basically just friends who eventually realized we wanted to date one another. Of course, all three were also housemates, so I may be an odd case.

I've tried the "ask women out on dates" approach from time to time, but keep coming back to the impression that I'm the sort of person who just slides into romantic relationships with friends, and that if I want more romantic relationships, I need to make my social circle -- not my circle of acquaintances, but my circle of folks I see on a daily basis -- more generally co-ed (kind of a problem since it's mostly folks I know from Singinst/Less Wrong these days).

Or become bisexual. If anyone posted a procedural comment on how to become bisexual, I would upvote it immediately =)

The way to become bisexual is to regularly extend your exposure to erotic stimuli just a little further than your comfort zone extends in that direction. I'll use drawn pictorial porn as an example erotic stimulus, but adapt to whatever you prefer: start with Bridget. Everyone is gay for Bridget. Once you're comfortable with Bridget, move on to futanari-on-female erotica, male-on-futanari, then futanari-on-male, paying attention to your comfort levels. You'll run across some bizarre things while searching for this stuff; if any of it interests you, just go with it.

By now, you should be fairly comfortable with the plumbing involved, so it's just the somatically male body you need to learn to find attractive. Find art featuring bishounen types, then pairing them with other male body types, and pay attention to what feels most comfortable.

It may take a while to go through this process, but I believe it's entirely achievable for most people who don't view heterosexuality as a terminal value.

The Bisexual Conspiracy commends your insidious efforts at propagating memes advantageous to us and has sent you several HBBs of assorted gender orientations by overnight delivery.

I wonder how much this would work for a homosexual male. I've actually been trying this essential thing, although with less persistence as it requires a certain amount of effort to attend to something that just seems so immediately boring to myself. Perhaps living in a hetero-normative culture ensures that when a man decides that he's gay, he is more likely to have discovered a roughly immutable biological fact?

Two related thoughts come to mind.

One is that male anatomy is more familiar, and therefore presumably less intimidating, to straight men than female anatomy is to gay men.

Another is that in a heteronormative culture, men who aren't strictly monosexual are more likely to identify as straight than as gay. If what this technique actually does is make men who aren't monosexual more aware of their non-monosexuality, then I'd expect it to get more noticeable results on men who identify as straight. (I'd also expect there to be a wide range of effectiveness among straight-identified men.)

Despite subcultural normativity being strongly biased against bisexuality, really quite a lot of gay-identifying men have experimented with heterosexual behaviour, but are - ha! - closeted about it.

If you're finding it boring, you may be trying to go too straight too quickly, or you may not be using your preferred form of erotica--I used hentai as as example, but I could've used textual fiction, videos, etc. Or you could just be immutably gay; I am generalizing from just a few examples.
Hmm, I'll experiment with a variety, and report back if I make findings.
I suspect how well this works probably depends on exactly how hetero- or homosexual one was from the beginning. (I'm basing that on personal experience with regard to both bisexuality and various fetishes.) Instead of a strict straight/bi/gay split, I prefer to think of it as a spectrum where 0 is completely straight, 5 is completely bisexual and 10 is completely gay. I'm guessing it's possible for you to shift yourself a couple of points towards the middle of the spectrum, but not an arbitrary amount. E.g. if you started off at 0 you might shift yourself to 2, or if you started off at 8 you could shift yourself to 6. I'd also note that there's a difference between sexual attraction and emotional compatibility. I'm rather mildly bisexual and using these techniques, could probably become a bit more so. But my main issue with pursuing same-sex relationships is not the sexual attraction as such, but the fact that I find it a lot easier to relate and connect to women on an emotional level. These techniques probably wouldn't help in that.

Instead of a strict straight/bi/gay split, I prefer to think of it as a spectrum where 0 is completely straight, 5 is completely bisexual and 10 is completely gay.

Hah! You're trying to squish two axes into one axis. Why not just have an "attraction to males" axis and an "attraction to females" axis? After all, it is possible for both to be zero or negative.

I would say there are more than two axes which could be meaningfully considered, here. Male and female body types, personalities, and genitals can exist in a variety of combinations, and any given combination can (in principle) be considered sexy or repulsive separate from the others. For example, there are those who prefer [feminine/curvy/penis] having sex with [masculine/buff/vagina] over all other thus-far-imagined pairings.
Dimension reduction [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimension_reduction] is not automatically an illegitimate move. That said, I grant that in this case it's worthwhile to keep at least two axes.
In a similar spirit, many discussions of sexuality separate "attraction" from "identity" from "experience" onto different axes to get at the differences between a man who is occasionally attracted to men but identifies as straight, vs. a man who is equally often attracted to men but identifies as bi, or various other possible combinations.
Something related is common in the asexual community: Many asexuals identify as hetero/homo/bi/pan/a-romantic. I could certainly see someone being hetero- or homosexual and bi- or pan-romantic, or bi- or pansexual and hetero- or homo-romantic.
An excellent point.
I would be surprised if the kinds of gradual-exposure techniques khafra endorses here for making same-sex partners more erotically compatible didn't work equally well (or poorly) for making them emotionally compatible. Of course, in that case you wouldn't want to use erotic stimuli. I'm not exactly sure what stimuli you would use, because I'm not exactly sure what you mean by relating and connecting to people on an emotional level... but whatever it is, I suspect you could test khafra's approach by identifying specific activities that qualify, and then looking for the closest thing to that activity involving men that you find easy, and attending to that thing. Let me stress here, though, that I'm not asserting you ought to change anything. There's nothing wrong with being heterosexual, and there's no reason you should feel like your heterosexuality diminishes you in any way.
Umm, no. To make erotic stimuli more attractive, it's enough that you think about the stimuli often enough and learn to like it. It may be slow, but there's relatively little risk. Learning to bond and relate to the kinds of people you've always had difficulty bonding and relating to requires you to open yourself up to them in an attempt to connect with them. At worst, you can end up embarassed and hurt and have an ever harder time trying to connect to them in the future. It's also a lot more complex, since it's not enough to modify your own reactions. You also need to learn how to get the right responses out of other people. I'm not saying it can't be done, or that you couldn't apply similiar techniques as you would to developing an erotic attraction. But those are techniques are only a small part of it, and it's a lot harder.
Agreed that learning to get the right responses out of other people, and risking social penalties, are eventually required for this sort of social conditioning. (Though not necessarily initially required.) It seems to me the same thing is true of erotic conditioning of the sort we're talking about. That is, if I want to train myself to respond erotically to X, sooner or later I have to stop exclusively interacting with pictures or books or whatever and start actually interacting with X, and that can be difficult, and risks social penalties. But I don't start there. That said, I'm pretty much speaking hypothetically here; I've never actually used this technique. So I could easily be wrong.
That shouldn't be as much of an issue, because there's so much variation in emotional compatibility with men. If you're sexually attracted to penises, it shouldn't be hard to find at least someone you're emotionally compatible with who has a penis. The main problem is getting attracted to the "other" set of genitalia. If you're attracted to one penis, you're probably attracted to all of them, whereas emotional compatibility is more complicated and subtle. There isn't really a one-size-fits-all emotional compatibility with men, the way there is with sexual orientation.
If Kaj_Sotala tells me that emotional compatibility is more of an issue for him than sexual attraction, I'm prepared to accept that... I don't see the value in challenging his observations about what "the main problem" for him really is. That said, like you, I don't consider it likely that this describes very many people. Then again, I also don't find it likely that "If you're attracted to one penis, you're probably attracted to all of them" describes very many people. Then again again, the world is full of unlikely things.
Well, think about it like this. I also get along better and generally find it easier to get closer to women than to men. But there are some men I can connect with as well, because there is so much variation in men's personalities. So the problem here is just finding the right ones. Now compare this to sexual compatibility, which requires the right sex organs. This is a much bigger obstacle. I'm attracted to female genitalia and not male ones. Unlike with personality, this is a binary issue: you either like male genitalia or you don't, and if you don't, this rules out half the population. Really? Why not? I would think it obviously describes everyone. You may not be attracted to the person attached, but you're either sexually attracted to male genitalia, or you're not.
Well, the short answer to "Why not?" is "Experience." The longer answer is, I suspect, longer than I feel like giving, since it's clear that you and I have very different models of how attraction works. Suffice to say that there are various attributes along which individual genitalia vary, to which I expect different people assign more or less value, resulting in different judgments. For many people I expect that this list of attributes includes the contexts established by the attached person.
I may not have spoken clearly. Let me try again, and tell me if this makes sense to you. A lot of people are strongly monosexual: that is, no matter what a person looks like, what their personality is, or how emotionally compatible they are, if the other person has the "wrong" genitalia, this will preclude any possibility of dating, sex, or a relationship, because they won't be able to sexually connect. If you think about dating as going through a series of hurdles, the first and most important hurdle is having the "right" genitals. After that, there are other attributes, like looks and personality, which I think is what you're talking about. But if someone has the "right" genitals, there is at least the potential for a sexual connection. That doesn't mean there will definitely be sexual attraction. Does that seem right? Am I missing something?
I think you're being clear; I just don't agree with you. Yes, I think you're missing things. For one thing, you treat gender as equivalent to having particular genitalia. It isn't. Even people exclusively attracted to men sometimes find themselves attracted to people without penises. For another, you treat all genitals of a particular category as being interchangeable for purposes of attractiveness. They aren't, any more than all voices or all hands or feet or all eyes are interchangeable. You may not care about individual differences in a particular category, but that doesn't mean other people don't. For a third, your whole structure of "the first hurdle" and "the most important hurdle" strikes me as arbitrary. The idea that someone to whom I am not attracted is someone I have a "potential sexual connection" with simply because they are a particular gender, or have the proper genitals, is a perfectly legitimate perspective... but to privilege that dimension over the myriad other parameters that allow or preclude attraction is not obviously justified.
No, I was thinking of gender as a separate hurdle. For instance, a straight cisgender male is most likely primarily attracted to persons with vulvas, whether they identify as men or women. He might secondarily prefer women, but that's a lesser "hurdle". that is, there would be a possibility of sexual attraction to a FtM (gender = man, bio-female) but not a pre-op MtF (gender = woman, bio-male) because of genital incompatibility. I don't think the attraction is "exclusive to men" as much as it is "exclusive to people with specific genitals." Though this is probably very variable, and monosexuals may well be divided on whether genitalia or gender is more important to them. I'd be curious to know the breakdown. I was thinking like this. Suppose you are a monosexual on a desert island with one other person. You will likely want sexual contact. At least for me, the most important quality of your island-mate (for purposes of sexual contact, that is) is that they have the "right" type of genitals; while other qualities may be unattractive or undesirable, they can be overcome if you want sexual contact enough, but having the "wrong" type of genitals can't. To put this another way, as a straight male, someone I am not attracted to who has a vulva may be less than ideal, but still sexually satisfying; someone without a vulva couldn't possibly be. I had thought this would be universal for monosexuals; your comments lead me to think I was wrong, and it's more complicated than that. I'm curious how common my view is, and the specifics of other views. (BTW, I wish I could upvote you several times just for using 'myriad' correctly.)

a straight cisgender male is most likely primarily attracted to persons with vulvas, whether they identify as men or women. He might secondarily prefer women, but that's a lesser "hurdle". [..] I don't think the attraction is "exclusive to men" as much as it is "exclusive to people with specific genitals."


So George, a straight cisgender male, walks into a dance club and sees Janey dancing. He can tell she presents as female from the way she dresses, her hair, her body shape, etc. He talks to her for a while, and he can tell she identifies as female -- or at least claims to -- from the things she says.

But her pants are still on.

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying George does not know at this point whether he's sexually attracted to Janey, because the "primary hurdle" hasn't been crossed yet?

If so, you and I have very different understandings of how sexual attraction works. It seems relatively clear to me that George makes that determination within the first few minutes of seeing her, based on a variety of properties, many of which are components of gender.

If not, then I'm not really sure what you're saying.

Yes, he does. And you're right: he is attracted to her even though he doesn't know what her genitalia are like. He's probably making an assumption that might or might not be correct, and this assumption is based on the gender properties he observes. If he's not correct, this may change his attraction. Or not. My mistake was using the word "attracted" in the quoted portion of my comment. What I should have said was "capable of sexual satisfaction with," "sexually compatible," or "genitally compatible," which aren't the same thing. While he may be initially attracted, he still doesn't know whether or not he's sexually compatible with her (though he assumes he is, which inspires the attraction). I think you are also right that genitalia is not the most important thing for all monosexuals. I would bet it is for most, though. And at some point this is just a matter of how we define 'monosexual' (or 'straight', or 'gay'). We could think of a 2-D version of the Kinsey scale, similar to what you discuss in an earlier comment, [http://lesswrong.com/lw/453/procedural_knowledge_gaps/3iou] where gender is one axis and genitalia is another.
I'm not sure that helps. Many people, even entirely monosexual people, are perfectly capable of sexual satisfaction with one another despite injury to or loss of their genitalia. So I would similarly object to defining "capable of sexual satisfaction with" and "sexually compatible" primarily in terms of genitals the way you do. I'll agree with defining "genitally compatible" that way, though. If you're willing to define people for whom genital compatibility is not primary as not-really-monosexual, then your claim is trivially true. That said, at that point you have also defined a lot of people as not-really-straight who would disagree vehemently with you.
(Well, you can -- just create multiple accounts for the purpose -- but I'd rather you didn't.) As I understand it, there are many cases of men who identify as heterosexual but who, in all-male environments, nevertheless participate in sexual encounters with other men. That suggests to me that for many heterosexual men, having the "right" genitals isn't as singularly definitive a property as it is for you. Granted, another possibility is that such men aren't actually heterosexual, they merely think they are, and your description is accurate for genuine heterosexuals. If so, it seems genuine heterosexuals are noticeably rarer than people who identify that way.
One theory is that there is a difference between sexual orientation and relationship orientation, so that there are men who prefer romance and relationships with women, but are sexually bi. Since our language and culture don't typically make this distinction, such people might just identify as straight. Another is that sexuality is flexible, so in the desert island example, or in all-male environments, the men adapt over time to become capable of getting sexual satisfaction from other men in a way that they weren't before. This is similar, in a way, to the gradual-exposure techniques khafra talked about. But -- and this was my main point -- before such a shift in sexuality occurs, a straight man would be out of luck even if he had 100 males to choose from. But once such a shift occurs, all he has to do is find one out of the 100 he's emotionally compatible with (assuming he's looking for emotional compatibility). This is why I said the sexual shift was the hard part: males are not an emotional monolith and out of 100, at least one should be more or less emotionally compatible.
I very frequently find someone attractive, or not, long before seeing their genitals. Indeed, there are dozens of people in the world whose genitals I have never seen, and yet I am still able to find them either attractive or not. Compatibility of genitalia is surely important for answering the more specific question "am I going to have sex with this person or not?" but that's not the same thing as attraction. For most of us, there are plenty of people in the world who are very attractive but with whom we will never have sex. Many people choose to have sex with people they find not all that attractive (e.g. because they are in some sort of long-term relationship, and either their tastes or the appearance of the other person have changed over time). [EDITED once, to fix a trifling typo.]
By this metric, I started at a zero (unable to find other males sexually attractive,) and ended at a zero. My attempts to influence myself to have a sexual interest in men achieved null results. I have no problem finding other men attractive, but they're still about as sexually appealing to me as plants.
The scale you are talking about when used by psychologists and others when discussing sexuality is the Kinsey scale. Under the standard scaling it goes from 0 to 6 with 0 being complete heterosexuality and 6 being complete homosexualty.
I take it this is a process that's worked for you?

Accidentally, but yes. I've also seen it work on other people who frequent /b/, both for bisexuality and many paraphilias.

heh, I had a suspicion that /b/ had something to do with this

Within the nearby cluster in personspace: I think Robin Lee Powell has said that he chose to become bisexual, if you want to ask him to elaborate on that process. :) (I've gotten a bit more bisexual over time, and I occasionally wonder if I actually pushed myself in that direction (since I remember wishing that I could be, as early as 14 or 15), or if that's just the direction I was drifting in anyway and I happened to be open to it in advance. But it's probably hard to tell in retrospect.)
Beware that if you manage to become bisexual somehow, this can significantly damage a man's prospects with many women. For a huge percentage of women, bisexual men are not as attractive (manly) as strictly heterosexual men.
I have heard from some people that having a reputation as bisexual has increased their prospects with women. I suspect this is dependent on location, social circle, and attractiveness. It may also be that a large percentage of women are no longer interested, but enough of the women that remain are significantly more interested- and so you go from, say, 20 women who might date you to 10 women who might date you, of whom 2 want to. Overall prospects down, but easy prospects up. (I will comment, though, that this probably has to do way more with the masculine/feminine balance of the people in question than their sexual history or orientation.)
For the foreseeable future, I'm going to be exclusively dating poly or poly-friendly girls anyway. I don't think being bi would hurt me within that subpopulation -- does that seem wrong? (One data point: my girlfriend has only-half-jokingly claimed that if I really want to make her happy, I ought to make out with one of my male friends and send her photos)
It won't hurt in any way. The pure heterosexual or pure homosexual are slightly odd in most poly scenes. And everyone knows about straight guys kissing to get the chicks ...
I actually know a girl who succeeded in getting male friends of hers to pose for that kind of picture.
I suspect it would be trivial to do so in most modern US college-type situations.
Don't do it!!!! She definitely wants to have something she can blackmail you with if the need arises!

He can only be blackmailed with such photos if he would mind having them displayed to some third party.

Indeed. * Mother: Mildly awkward conversation * Boss: "Mike, that was kinda TMI" * Brothers: "Ewwwww" * Randomly Chosen Singularitarian Friend: High-Five ...that's all I can really think of.
But he might benefit from having her think she's blackmailing him.
No such luck -- I've already e-mailed her this thread.
I do not get how making out with a male is considered a blackmail worthy offense.
Well, it would likely prevent a guy from running for political office or becoming a CEO of a major corporation, for instance. Or at least make it very difficult. There are only a few openly gay politicians, and even then they have to fit certain social ideals.

I'm already quite publicly a polyamorous sex-positive atheist, I'm not running for political office any time soon

Okay, I cross that off then. How about naturism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturism]? In east Germany its a trivial part of the culture. In the US it seems to be a highly stigmatized lifestyle.
I'm trying to picture this scenario and can't stop laughing =P.
I didn't select my friends from (a conservative Christian) college for lgbt-friendliness or non-conformist dating styles or really anything at all, besides maybe an enjoyment of genre television or some connection to friends I already had. And yet it turned out that at least a third of the women in my social circle share my love of hot bi guys and m/m in general. Also, m/m fanservice for the benefit of female fans seems to be rather a common thing for hot young male celebrities to do in certain cultures, such as Japan.
I've found that just meeting more people solves this one nicely. The percentage difference is not overwhelming, and you really won't want those people anyway.
I disagree with the "you really won't want those people anyway." I suspect the loss of attraction many women feel if they hear a guy has been with another guy has marginal 'conscious choice' in it. But anyway, I've followed this thread too long. I don't really have any expertise on bisexuality - I've just heard lots of straight women tell me it turns them off.
[-][anonymous]12y 10

I think the reason for that is that so many gay men go through a phase, as part of their coming out, where they claim bisexuality for a while. This, combined with the fact that there seem to be relatively few numbers of truly bisexual men, means that a significant percentage of the pool of men presenting as bisexual are actually gay. So going out with a bisexual guy is really risky from the woman's point of view.

I'll admit, when I run into people who talk like this, I generally assume that they are weighting the costs of a relationship ending badly due to a boyfriend turning out gay significantly higher than the costs of a relationship ending badly for other reasons. But perhaps that's unfair of me; perhaps, as you suggest, it's really just about probability estimates. Would you mind putting some numbers around "really risky"? That is... if S is the chance of a relationship ending badly with a partner who identifies as straight, and B is the chance of it ending badly with a partner who identifies as bi, what's your estimate and confidence level for (B-S)?
I would say, speaking from other bisexual men I know as well as myself, that if bisexuality turned someone off that would in fact reduce their attractiveness, in the general case. But yeah, we both only have anecdotes at this stage :-)
I'm reminded of coming out as bi to a high-school friend of mine, who allowed after some consideration that he was pretty squicked by the notion, but he saw no particular reason why either one of us should pay much attention to that reaction. Which I can respect, actually. Though admittedly it would turn me off in a prospective partner.
Nobody is required to signal their sexual preferences far and wide. That is personal information, to be revealed if and when you deem it appropriate or beneficial. This means that becoming bisexual merely gives you more options, without interfering with your existing options unless you choose to let it change your signalling strategy. That said, humans are notoriously bad at making decisions when burdened with extra choices!

Is it purely a numbers game though? Most people have this thing nerdy academics call a 'mate value sociometer' and they use it to help decide how hot a female to pursue. Of course, this sociometer has to be calibrated, so you really want to be rejected often enough to know where you stand. My point is, it might be better to keep this sociometer in mind (especially since non-neurotypicals tend not to have this instinct), to at first target your proposals to be as informative as possible, and then later on target those girls your mate value can buy. (this is in fact what studies have found neurotypicals to be doing)

It's not purely a numbers game. However, it really helps if you can interact with a number of people that's at least in double digits. Get used to meeting new people. It's good for you. You grew this great big brain to do chimp-chimp interaction better, after all - you have an aptitude for this sort of thing. MEET MORE PEOPLE!
If someone takes my point as an excuse not to meet people, that person is wrong. Because that is not what it says at all. And also, meeting girls and meeting new people are not quite the same. Though the point does apply to the latter. Perhaps you are saying people already adjust their expectations in light of their successes and failures, in which case my pointing out that sociometer point does more harm than good.
Sorry, I was speaking more generally of "dating as numbers game", not disagreeing with you. I find many people who worry about the idea of a "numbers game" see that as a problem rather than an opportunity. I must note that I am almost pathologically gregarious and outgoing myself, and have an unfortunate habit of offering unhelpful advice on such to those who aren't - and if I seem to you to have done that, I most sincerely apologise.
Ah ok. I was puzzled I guess as that didn't seem otherwise very relevant. Yes, thinking of meeting many girls as a special case of meeting many people does make it seem less daunting to me!
I'm approximately 97% sure that at least one of the next five people I'll meet will be a woman. I'm also approximately 100% sure that at least five of the next five women I'll meet will be people. :-)
I mostly agree with this, although I suspect it might be more complicated than a single hot-or-not scale. Like, indie rock chicks are looking for a different kind of dude than cheerleaders are. Both the indie rock chick and the cheerleader might be blazing hot, but they're going to pick out different boyfriends. So if a guy is making a lot of passes at certain kinds of girls and getting nowhere, perhaps he should consider targeting girls who are closer to his own "type."
I was just trying to acknowledge caveats. Of which there should be many.

This seems like very good, thorough, general advice. However, I wonder how many of us (heterosexual males reading Less Wrong) have romantic preferences that are as general. I realize that the "reading Less Wrong" part of that descriptor wasn't specified in the question, but it seems implied.

In general, a heterosexual man might describe the set of his potential romantic partners in the following way: a woman whom he finds physically attractive, with whom he shares interests, and with whom his personality is compatible. (That the woman is currently single is also important for many, including myself, but I recognize that it's less general than the former three, given the existence of polyamory/fidelity.)

However, for myself, I would add to this a fairly strict qualifier, that the woman is an atheist. I simply don't feel that I would be able to be emotionally intimate with a woman who holds an irrational, i.e. religious, worldview. Atheist doesn't necessarily mean rationalist, but religious almost definitely means irrational, i.e. P(rationalist|atheist) >> P(rationalist|religious), and even more so for P(would be open to rationality|atheist). I find it to be a sound heu... (read more)

So this is an interesting challenge. My first thought is that it's actually a challenge shared by theists--Mormon men who want a Mormon wife, for example--but these people share a whole social structure (their religious community) that is already working to bring them together. Without this, atheists do face a special hurdle. Wow, those numbers are high. Yes, when you're limited to 14 percent of women, general dating strategies become a lot less useful. Other groups faced with numbers like these have to create (and advertise among themselves!) special spaces for meeting and flirting. (I'm thinking about gay bars now.) I hope others can suggest more, but the only one I'm coming up with is political activism. If you are in the U.S.A., you could look for events put on through http://secular.org/ [http://secular.org/] or any of the Member Organizations [http://secular.org/member_orgs/]. Even though men are more likely to be atheists, women are more likely to be volunteers [http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/newsroom/releases_detail.asp?tbl_pr_id=402], so you may find that the gender balance evens out.
From what I recall, if you filter for "active in atheism/rationalism/secularism" you get an even stronger male skew than if you just filter for "atheist/rationalist/secular" =(
The reason to go into environments where you interact with a lot of women isn't only an issue of having a lot of opportunities. It's also a matter of practice. Even if you don't like to date the woman at a dance class the class will still teach you basic skills about interacting with women. If you don't have the practice with regularly interacting with women than you are unlikely to have success when you find a woman who would be a good match because she fulfills your criteria.
It's probably a little bit easier if you don't live in the U.S.; the U.S. is unusually religious when compared to other First World countries.
From reading your whole comment, it seems this: would be the easiest bit to change to remove the problem from your life.

I'm not interested in a relationship in which I can't interact honestly with the woman, because I wouldn't find it to be fulfilling. I'd rather be single than have to tiptoe around my romantic partner's irrational beliefs. Changing that implies either ceasing to care about rationality, or dramatically lowering my expectations for a relationship. Neither of those sounds particularly appealing.

Are you suggesting that a non-religious person would have no irrational beliefs to tiptoe around? This seems unlikely. Are you suggesting that if you didn't tiptoe around religious beliefs that would be a problem? Because it seems that religious people are extra-resilient in their beliefs, so that might be less of an issue than you fear. Are you suggesting that it isn't possible to have a relationship where one person is religious and another atheist without them having to fight about it or lie about it? That your relationships must have zero tolerance and absolute agreement on all points?
No, but a religious person is definitely going to have such beliefs. Yes, I am. It's not a matter of resilience in beliefs; telling my significant other that I can't take their opinion on [evolution/gay marriage/abortion/insert religiously-tinted issue of your choice] at all seriously doesn't sound like a recipe for a harmonious relationship. It's not possible for me, because I believe atheism is the rational position and religious belief is objectively unjustified. I don't think the idea that relationships between religious and nonreligious people are unlikely to succeed is an uncommon one; I've had religious friends express agreement with it. This is a straw man argument, as I did not make such a statement.
Many people are religious without really examining the consequences of their beliefs [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2l6/taking_ideas_seriously/]. Also many people have religious beliefs that do not cause them to think irrationally about evolution, gay marriage, or abortion. I would expect many of these people to move toward atheism during a long-term relationship with a LessWronger.
Yes, I've made that argument [http://lesswrong.com/lw/35h/why_abortion_looks_more_okay_to_us_than_killing/38zb] for abortion. However, that generally doesn't stop such people from being extremely convinced of their beliefs. I haven't had any success changing someone's mind about abortion with the aforementioned argument, despite how obvious it becomes that the person is merely acting out instructions without thinking about them. Those were meant as examples, not a definitive list of topics. There are very few people whose religious beliefs don't cause them to think irrationally about some important issue. I understand that, but I would be setting myself up for disappointment to expect that from any specific romantic partner who fell into that category.
I realized this, but there seems to be a cluster in personspace of theists who are no less rational about the concepts on your list than the average atheist. If there are any topics that even these theists are irrational about, can you give examples? Good point.
To be honest, I really haven't met enough theists in that cluster to be very confident about any examples. I can see the matter of church attendance (in general, in terms of the course of the relationship if it moves toward marriage, and later in terms of raising children) being an issue. It's not necessarily something that will come up right away, but I would see the specter of it hovering overhead. There's also the irrationality of religious beliefs themselves, e.g. the idea that God is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, or the idea that Jesus performed miracles.
Could you be comfortable with an agnostic? That would expand your pool somewhat.
Yes, most likely. I don't see much of a difference between agnosticism and atheism in practice. If a person doesn't know if God exists (agnostic), ey probably won't hold an active belief in God (atheist). There are exceptions to that, of course, but in a minority of cases.
Have you tried using OkCupid? It allows you to filter by religion, and it appears to be the preferred dating site [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2tw/love_and_rationality_less_wrongers_on_okcupid/] among Less Wrongers, and possibly young intellectuals in general. We already have a thread dedicated to optimizing your profile for positive attention, so it may worth trying out.
I haven't ventured into online dating, but if I do, I will keep OkCupid in mind.
Thanks, this is what an informative answer looks like.
Even better than book groups, though, are dance classes. Amen to that. I'd add a slight caution that chemistry generated on the dancefloor can sometimes just be about the dancing, and telling when it is more than that is possibly an advanced skill. So, as this Mefi comment says [http://ask.metafilter.com/172378/On-Facebook-you-can-be-friend-or-strangers-no-acquaintances-or-colleagues-or-jilted-fiancees-allowed#2480810], don't push your luck on the dancefloor itself. Workaround: ask after the class or when you're standing around chatting (assuming you don't dance all the time). Don't be the guy who asks everyone in turn: the women talk to each other :-) EDIT: I elaborate on what I mean by this below...
This can backfire if you live in a small town. [http://www.inmalafide.com/blog/2010/06/09/when-you-shouldnt-play-the-numbers-game/]
If anyone figured out the asexual variant of this, I'd love to know, too. (Gender shouldn't matter that much.)

If anyone figured out the asexual variant of this, I'd love to know, too.

Alas, asexuality among humans is notorious for making it difficult to form long-term romantic relationships.

(Gender shouldn't matter that much.)

When it comes to following protocol it is matters more what it is than what it should be. The various permutations of gender and romantic preference do matter that much. (And looking at things as they are instead of how they 'should be' is probably step one.)

It sounded to me like muflax was asking about making friends, not asexual romantic relationships. It's true though that when making friends gender matters quite a bit more than it seems like it should, at least in some social circles. If I'm wrong and that's not what muflax was asking about, I'll ask it myself: how does an adult make friends with other adults?
There are a million ways to start, but this is the most formalizable method I have used. 1. Go to craigslist.com. 2. Look at personal ads from women seeking men. 3. Respond to ads you like. If she responds positively, talk online for awhile. 4. Schedule a meeting. 5. Go on casual date (i.e. meet for drinks at a bar). 6. Be attractive, wealthy, and interesting. 7. If you like her, suggest another date. 8. Go on another date. (repeat 8 until LTR)

There are a number of web sites that present such implicit and procedural knowledge. such as: http://www.ehow.com/ http://www.wikihow.com/Main-Page http://www.howcast.com/ http://www.howtodothings.com/

I might be useful to somehow select the most generally useful ones of these in one place.

I haven't come across any of them except eHow. eHow is awful. Useless. Bad. I have ended up there unwittingly from google searches a half dozen times or so. Not once has it answered what I wanted to know. The information on their site is optimised to be written as quickly as possible while getting the best google rank possible, with no thought as to quality of information.

Huh. I use eHow and WikiHow all the time, and always find it incredibly useful.
eHow is frequently accused of being a content mill. I switched search engines to DuckDuckGo when the founder announced he was dropping eHow and all other Demand Media properties from his results (Blekko has also dropped them). eHow articles are cranked out by paid writers who typically know very little about what they are writing, resulting in a lot of completely inadequate explanations. WikiHow, on the other hand, is a genuine wiki (go ahead; edit it) which rivals Wikipedia for process-oriented queries.
Sure hope he keeps Cracked. It's Wikipedia, rewritten with jokes!

Great link, especially this quote from Part 2:

One probably could not devise a better system for keeping people with humanistic values away from power than by confining them to decade-long graduate programs with a long future of transient adjunct positions making less than the minimum wage.

I agree. The odds are very much against you. And I say this as someone who likes the humanities and admires humanities professors. If you have incredibly strong evidence in your favor that you're a special case, go for it, though -- but it should be incredibly strong evidence. It's possible that it's easier to publish a philosophy book than to become a philosophy professor, if you're good at networking. Or to get some attention for your ideas through podcasts, etc., which you're already doing. If your goal is to do and write philosophy, optimize for that -- it's a different goal than becoming a professor.
This is a stronger argument against a doctorate than a Masters degree, but I imagine that the same kinds of considerations apply.

I recently found myself thinking about this same topic. I have figured some of these out by trial and error, but feel that some formal training would have been useful (others I have not encountered):

  • How should you interact with a police officer - what are your obligations, your rights, and how should you conduct yourself?

  • If you want to move from one residence to another, what steps should you take? If you are credentialed in one state and want to move to another, what do you do?

  • If you get into a minor car accident, what should you do? What about a major one?

  • What's the best way to quit your job?

  • How do you vote in an election? A primary? What should you do if you want to run for office?

  • If you find that someone has died of non-suspicious and natural causes, what steps should you take? Whom should you call?

How should you interact with a police officer - what are your obligations, your rights, and how should you conduct yourself?

I'm a law student. I'll take this one. This applies to the US specifically, though being polite and deferent are probably universal.

In short: TL;DR answer: Be polite, calm, and friendly. If you are guilty of a crime, admit nothing, do not give permission to search anything that would be incriminating, say that you don't want to talk to the officer (unless answering extremely general questions), and, if you are detained, ask to speak with a lawyer. Be more compliant if you are innocent, but if you get the slightest hint that they think you're responsible, stop complying and ask for a lawyer if detained. For more mundane interaction (i.e. speeding tickets) be polite and deferent, and don't confess to anything unless they totally have you nailed. Arguing with cops will very rarely advance your case; save that for court if you care enough to challenge the ticket. More detail follows.

In minor cases (e.g. speeding tickets), you generally want to be polite, deferential, and honest, but probably don't volunteer too much information, except insofar as it's obvious.... (read more)

Especially if you are guilty, you should ask if you are free to go, and if you are not, ask for an attorney. This is advisable even if you are innocent if the crime is significant.

I want to emphasise this. The prisons in the U.S. (and probably most countries) are full of people who believed that they were safe, despite being suspected, due to their innocence. Remember, innocence is no excuse if they find you guilty anyway. (This is even true after the fact; new evidence of innocence is not enough to get a new trial, as long as your rights were not violated in the old one, according to the Supreme Court.)

Wait, what? [citation needed]
Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993) Four months later, a person who was legally guilty (so found by a jury in a valid trial) but actually innocent (probably) was killed by the State of Texas. This is the best short coverage that I found in a few minutes' Googling (using the defendant's full name): http://www.executedtoday.com/2009/05/12/1993-leonel-herrera-v-collins/ [http://www.executedtoday.com/2009/05/12/1993-leonel-herrera-v-collins/] ETA: As the court's opinion points out, there is a procedure for relief when one finds new evidence of innocence: clemency. Good luck getting that in Texas!

I'm just gonna add: Say "Sir" all the time. It really calms them down.
He asks you a question? ("have you been drinking?") Say "Yes sir" or "no sir"
"I stopped you because you were speeding" - "I'm very sorry, sir"
and so on. This has saved me countless times.

Just don't say "Sir" if the cop's a woman!
Even more effective in my experience is giving them an authentic pleasant greeting. "Good evening officer". For some reason saying sir constantly makes me feel nervous and like I'm ceding too much power. I usually say it once or twice and never in my first couple answers.

Must-watch with regard to the police: Why You Should Never Talk to Cops, parts one and two.

(US-specific, but a lot of the general content is probably applicable worldwide.)

Many sources, including that one, if I recall correctly, say that if you talk to cops, they will lie about what you said, but no one ever says that they will fabricate the fact of talking.
This is another good video which touches on many of the same ideas: BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqMjMPlXzdA] Also, here's [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc] the video you posted in one part. I completely loved it.
If you don't know which, just ask. Note that being detained is less serious than being arrested.
I think your comment got cut off? It was really interesting and I'd like to read the rest of it. I think you're talking about the U.S., too, and we should probably specify that since obviously laws are different in different countries.
Voting: all the official info from the US government is here. [http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Voting/Register.shtml]

I do not have health insurance currently. I could obtain health insurance, but that's not my question.

How often is it appropriate to go to a doctor or general health person (in the US), if I think I'm mostly okay, and how much should I pay? How do I control how much I pay rather than setting up an appointment without mentioning price and allowing them to charge me? How do I find someone based on their skill/price rather than choosing randomly or following a recommendation from a friend?

Off the top of my head: Visit the dentist regularly, like once or twice a year for a checkup, or whenever a reason pops up. Problems with teeth should be taken care of ASAP, otherwise they grow big. The normal doctor needs no regular visits. (For females the gynecologist might be useful regularly, for males there is no equivalent yet.) You should take care of vaccinations. Some like the flu are done annually, others in much rarer sequences like every 10 years. If special once are recommended in your region your doctor or some kind of health information center will know. If you have special reasons to do an occasional checkup you probably know about that already. Like: I am a vegetarian and have my blood levels checked every few years. If you are generally healthy no visits are necessary. For people above a certain age some general prescreenings are recommended. I dont have the numbers here, and they differ by country, but that generally only starts at 35 or more. I don't bother my doctors with minor illnesses that go away on their own, like the cold. But sometimes do go there with seemingly minor stuff that does not go away on it's own. As a preparatory measure you could find out where your next general doctor, and the next emergency room is and how to get there. It probably pays to take care of oneself. After all we only have one body to run with. No information on payment rates since I live in another place.
There are a couple of ways you can ballpark how much you should be paying. You can look up what Medicare pays here [https://catalog.ama-assn.org/Catalog/cpt/cpt_search.jsp]. To use that you'll need to know the appropriate CPT code(s), which is not easy. If you're a new patient just going for a check up, you probably want 9920[1-5]; for an established patient, you want 9921[1-5]. The range from 1 to 5 varies by how "complex" the medical decision making is and how comprehensive the examination is. You can also go to a site like healthcarebluebook.com to look up the prices. I think their goal is to report what a private insurance company might pay, so the numbers are somewhat higher. It also gives some tips on how to negotiate the payment if you don't have insurance.
When calling for prices, tell them that you have no insurance and offer to pay on the day of service (assuming that you can), then ask what kind of discount they can give you. Sometimes you won't even have to ask.
If you are under 50, I agree with the other comments that you don't really need to see a doctor regularly. I would want a baseline examination, though, to see if you have any tendencies toward bad cholesterol or blood sugar, so you can maintain a diet that will keep you healthy and able to continue skipping the doctor visits. I agree with MartinB that you should see the dentist at least once a year for a checkup and cleaning. If you are approaching or over 50, you should really get a prostate exam every year or so. Prostate cancer is very common, relatively slow to progress, and very treatable if caught early on. Apparently (I just learned this in checking the web that I'm not giving you bad info) it is possible to do self-examinations, but combined with all the other things (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc) that have increasing probability with age, you should probably be seeing a doctor once a year anyway. Whatever doctor you call, you can ask them what their fee is before making an appointment. You can also ask what their fees are for specific tests and procedures. Calling several doctors and asking the same questions (i.e. shopping around) is the only way I know of to find cheap doctors. As for skill, recommendations are the way to go. You may be able to find recommendations/reviews online.
If you are male and under 30 you should see a doctor every so often to get blood work done--say every 3-5 years. This is to check your blood sugar (diabetes) and establish a cholesterol baseline. If you're a drinker also start tracking your liver enzymes. From 30 to 40 every other year is OK, unless you want to watch something more closely. If you're heavily involved in shooting sports and/or reloading, or some other sport with exposure to heavy metals or toxic chemicals discuss this with your physician and get the appopriate tests. After 40 you're really better off getting blood work done annually. As you hit your mid-40s getting your A1C baselined and then checked every so often is a good idea. But yes, if you're paying out of pocket call around and see who will give you the best deal. Also you really SHOULD consider a class of insurance (if you can find it anymore, idiot politicians have priced it out of some markets) called "catastrophic health care insurance". This doesn't cover you if you want an HIV test, or blood work, it doesn't cover your breast enlargements or vasectomy, but if an uninsured drunk car thief knocks you off your bicycle it WILL cover the bills he won't pay.
Pro tip: if you donate blood, they check it for free.

Dealing with serious clutter-- the kind of situation where the house has never been in good order and there isn't any obvious place to put most things.

Sometimes I take a crack at it, but there's so little progress and so many non-obvious decisions to be made.

The key point I have discovered in my own recent massive household declutter:

Distinguish "generally useful" or "potentially useful" from actually useful.

No, you'll never eBay it. No, you'll never wear that shirt or those boots. No, you'll never fix that laptop. No, you'll never get around to finding someone who really wants it. No, that weird cable won't actually ever be used for anything, because it hasn't been used in the past five years. No, you'll never get around to taking it to the charity shop. No, it may be a shame to throw out something so obviously useful, but it's a curse. No, you never did any of these things in the past so there's no reason to assume you will in the future. No. No. Stop making bullshit excuses. JUST NO.

Get a big roll of garbage bags. Delight in having so many full bags of discards that your bin overflows.

You have to be utterly uncompromising. Set the "when did I last use this?" to one year. Anything unused in longer than that better have a REALLY EXCELLENT justification.

If you swear you're going to eBay it, give yourself one week to do the listing. If it's not done, throw it out.

A very helpful method is to have someone els... (read more)

Sounds like the "outside view" approach to cleaning. It seems to me the “really excellent justification” heuristic could be generalized into expected value, with some danger of overfitting—something with infrequent but important use like a fire extinguisher might earn its place just as easily as a bic pen you use twenty times a day.

I think it's more generally the phenomenon Paul Graham talks about: stuff used to be valuable and people didn't have much of it; these days, it's actually not of value and most people have too much of it. That is: we're all rich now, and we don't know how to cope with the fact.

It's moving up to a better class of problem. Like how Britain has a major health problem in 2011 with poor people being too fat, whereas in 1950 food was rationed. It's a great problem to have. Though it's still a problem.

Yes, it really helps to get in an outside view - the friend to help and berate you - until you get the proper visceral loathing of stuff.

I think this explains a lot of it. Another part is that people don't think about the costs of owning stuff: it occupies your space, you have to keep it organized, and you have to move it around whenever you move. These costs are easy to ignore, because they aren't in mind when you're thinking about buying a specific thing. The mentally-available facts are "what will I get by using this?" versus "how much money does this cost?" Similarly, when you're looking for stuff to get rid of, it's hard to bring those costs back into light, because they're so general to everything you own I don't have lots of stuff, and I'm pretty willing to get rid of stuff or give stuff away. I think this is largely because I highly value my space, my attention, and my time, and I've practiced being sensitive to those values when I'm making decisions about stuff.

"you have to move it around whenever you move."

Usually I'm adverse to reducing clutter, due to the cost of going through, organizing it, and throwing away most of it. Every time I move I end up losing a huge chunk of my stuff because suddenly it's much cheaper to throw it out instead of moving it :)

Good point. My heuristic is to say: My house cost $100/ft^2. A $2 knickknack with a square foot footprint really costs $102.
But could you really have saved $100 by having decided to buy that same exact house except without that extra square foot?
Probably not. But, if you had rather less stuff, you could have probably bought a pretty similar house with one fewer closet for a few thousand less.
This. My housemates and I needed a three-bedroom apartment instead of a cheaper two-bedroom because some of them have so much stuff. Especially large furniture.
Yup, also, the incremental cost of space in a self-store unit is of the order of $1/month-ft^2, say $240/ft^2 capital cost at a 5% annual rate - and that is a true incremental cost. The more severe approximation is ignoring which items stack well and which don't, and ignoring the additional costs of maintaining the items, keeping track of them and so on.
[-][anonymous]12y 11

Paul Graham's essay Stuff talks about the problem. He lists books as an exception. THEY ARE NOT AN EXCEPTION. Be as ruthless with your book pile.

Better yet, get a Kindle.

I'd love a Kindle if it wasn't a hideously locked-down proprietary money funnel. I'm waiting for something with an eInk screen that just opens documents if I put them on it, in whatever format. I've wanted something like that to read PDFs with approximately forever. I already don't read my paper books. I'd rather download a PDF than read the book that's on the shelf just over there. This appears to be unusual amongst my friends.
The Kindle 3G has native PDF support. It also supports .mobi ebooks from any non-DRM'd source. (And most other formats can be converted to .mobi using a program like Calibre.)
I got my hands on a Kindle a year back, and it just opened PDFs and text documents I put on it using it as an USB drive. Amazon even provided an app [http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000234621] for rolling your own Kindle-format ebooks from hypertext files, which you could again just plop on the Kindle over USB. My main problem was that the regular Kindle was too small for viewing technical article PDFs full screen. I can already use my smartphone for reading stuff that's easily reflowable, like most fiction. The Kindle DX should be better for this, but I haven't had a chance to try that.
There are other e-readers that have far less stringent requirements for getting books. The Nook and Kobo are an example (as are the Sony E-Readers). I have a Nook and have yet to purchase any books from the Barnes and Noble store. I constantly put DRM free books from Project Gutenberg on it and just placed the Less Wrong sequences on it as well. There are also FLOSS programs for editing PDFs to make them easier to read on an e-reader. A little research goes a long way!
I use my thinkpad tablet--my main computer--for reading anything I can manage to get in .pdf, but I do really envy the Kindle screen. And battery life. I keep checking back to the PixelQi site hopefully... I read paper books because 1) I can get them really cheap used (cheaper than the library fines I always get from borrowing them...), 2) they require no batteries, 3) dropping them or stepping on them will not damage them irreparably, and 4) they are not likely to attract unwelcome attention on the buses through the rougher parts of town.
Books can be valuable even if you never read them again, in several ways. If you have kids, you never know what they might read, or just what attitudes they might pick up from the presence of books. If your books are in a public part of your house, guests may see them and either start a conversation or be impressed. If they are behind where the guests sit, you may see a book a guest will like and give it to them. Also, of course, there's the potential for bathroom reading, a page of an old favorite. That said, when you're moving house, you should be more ruthless than usual with books.
Throw stuff out/give it away. Lots of stuff. If you have two of it, or don't really like it, or plan to replace it soon and won't need it till then, get rid of it. Completely clear out some place, like a closet or a drawer or a shelf - do this by putting its contents in obviously inappropriate temporary locations, like on a bed, if necessary. Decide from scratch what belongs in this place. Put those things there. Repeat with the next space. If you don't have a way to efficiently use the space, buy an organizer of some kind suited to what you plan to put in. (Wire racks, drawer dividery things, bookends for open-ended shelves, etc.)
Don't know if anyone still follows this 7 year old thread but- I strongly recommend Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The gist is you declutter by category of item instead of by room: first do all of the dishes, then do all your clothing items, then books, etc. For instance, to declutter your closet, take out all the clothes and sort into two piles: clothes that make you happy and clothes that don't. I've also found that goodwill will accept lots of different kinds of items not just clothes. And remember, it's not about becoming angry about all the useless garbage you have in your house, but about choosing to keep what makes you happy and being surrounded by lovely things that you appreciate.
Leo Babauta from zenhabits is a good source to go to. Decluttering was a personal struggle for me, that I think to have handled now. Here my current model for how to de:clutter. Note that I mix actual experience with theory, also some might not be universally applicable. Also I don't know which points to elaborate on and which are obvious. Preface: Order is a process, not an end state! Much progress is achieved early on. Like optical decluttering the visible areas, when everything is nicely boxed up. (80:20 principle) Tools: I use stackable plastic containers like these [http://www.ajprodukte.at/Produkte/Lagersysteme_Boxen/Plastikboxen/Plastikbox/462923-61079.wf]. The important factors are the volume that allows to store all kinds of things, transportability by hand, and the possibility to stack them onto them self. Lots of garbage bags. (Get some of the big ones, some the smaller once9 Tape [http://www.google.de/images?q=kreppband] that can be written on + marker pens. It might be a good time to install more shelf space Timing Depending on your schedule you can use like half an hour each day, or some hours once or twice a week to attack it, and make as much progress as possible. Use a kitchen timer. Get family involved if applicable. Target areas Choose a room, or an area smaller than a room to attack. Common rooms or your own are best. (I think that parents should not clean up their kids rooms, safe for fire and health hazards.) If you are into planning, make a list of all areas and their order, so you can cross them off. Find out which parts of the process give you pleasure and optimize accordingly. (Some people find it helpful to know exactly which steps to take, some get anxious from it. It helps to know which one you are.) Maybe clean floor space first. And tables. Depending on level of entropy you can go in one swipe, or do multiple rounds. Methodology Put everything that is obviously to throw away in a garbage bag. Put everything else into t
Lots of good advice here! I'd also add: don't get bogged down in details. Many, many are the times I've set aside time to properly clear up and found I've spent an hour sorting through one stack of papers... I'd suggest: start with the big things first. You can sort which papers to keep and which to throw after you've picked up the bigger things and put them in boxes out of the way. There's a huge amount of relief in cleaning up even just the easy 80% of the clutter, so tackle the low-hanging fruit first and leave the details for the second pass.
I like this site: http://unclutterer.com/ [http://unclutterer.com/] It includes advice, examples, a forum to ask advice/share stories, and the weekly "Ask Unclutterer" column. Not to mention some hilarious examples of unitaskers.

Just want to throw this one out:

Choosing the right size for a collared shirt (men) : Look at the seams that run from the collar down the neck and along the tops of your shoulders to the beginning of the arms. When you try the shirt on, that seam should reach exactly to the point where your shoulders curve downwards. In this case the shirt will accentuate the broadness of your shoulders.

Another good idea is to go somewhere you can try shirts on (if you don't have one) and find one you like (seams at shoulders, wrists covered but sleeves not ruffled) and look at the size. If worn with a tie, the neck should button and not be tight, but you should not be able to fit more than one finger in between the shirt and your neck, otherwise a tie will cause the neck to crumple when tightened. Memorize or write down the size of the shirt, given in a neck measurement (inches, like 15 1/2) and a sleeve length (inches, and often a split value like 32/33). This will help if you enter a department store where the shirts are bagged and not easy to try on. Look for your size (neck + sleeves) and hope for the best. These numbers are good to know, as neck sizes may be sold with wide sleeve ranges (30/31, 32/33, and 34/36), and those buckets make a huge difference. Lastly, find a particular brand that seems to fit well, if you can. I shop a lot at thrift stores and am of a narrower frame and really have a hard time finding 15-15 1/2 necked shirts with the right sleeves that aren't very "blousy" (where once tucked in, there is a huge "balloon" of shirt sticking out in the back). Pay attention to labels like "classic fit," "modern fit," or "athletic fit." Classic and athletic tend to be slimmer/tapered, and modern tends to be more of a static width, extending the width at the armpits down to the bottom hem.

No, nor that they print their own names. They just have to sign their names and date the signature. It's also a good idea to have each of them initial every (numbered) page of your will; this proves that no pages have been inserted or deleted.

When I first started asking how to write a will, a couple of years ago, the best advice I got was to write the will myself — because this is free — and then reread it in a few months. Repeat this process until I couldn't think of anything to add or change. Then visit a lawyer and have them translate it into legalese.

I believe there should be a subject in school (and text books to go with it) that goes through all the things that adult citizens should know. I believe this was part of what was called Civics but that is dead or changed to something else. The idea is somewhat dated but it included things like how to vote, how to read a train schedule, that different types of insurance actually were, simple first aid, how to find a book in a library and all sorts of things like that. Today it would be a slightly different list. Somewhere between 10 and 14 seems the ideal age to be interested and learn these sort of things.

I agree. I've also long held a different but complementary view: that all establishments should (hopefully, out of the goodness of their hearts) put up signs that basically say, "this is how it works here".

(For example, at a grocery store in the US, the sign would say something like, "This store sells the items you see inside that have a price label by them. To buy something, take it with you to one of the numbered short aisles [registers] toward the exit and place it on the belt. If you need many items, you may want to use one of the baskets or carts provided near this sign. The store employee at the register will tell you how much the item costs, and you can pay with ...")

While most of it would be obvious to everyone and something parents automatically teach, everyone might find some different part of it to be novel. And I suspect that this easily-correctible "double illusion of transparency", in which people don't think such signs would convey anything new, prevents a lot of beneficial activity from happening.

This is particularly helpful for anyone new to the area - immigrants, emigrants, tourists, etc.

As I live in Germany I have experience with such rule sets. People don't follow them and instead do whatever they consider to be the obvious thing to do.

Our public transport system has for example the rule that you should stand on the right side of an escalator if you choose to stand.
If you choose to walk the escalator you take the left side.

It's a smart rule and it would be in the public interest if everyone would abide by it. It would make life easier for those who choose who walk the escalator. Normal people however don't care and simple stand wherever they want to stand.

Introducing a formal rule set when people are used to following informal rules is hard.

In London, the same convention is in effect on the Underground. Unlike Germany, it is almost always followed, and enforces itself. If you stand on the left, it won't be long before someone walking will ask you to step aside to let them pass. There are notices here and there asking people to do this.
The idea is for the sign to describe how it in fact works, not necessarily how they'd like it to work. (A sufficiently detailed sign might explain the distinction, potentially allowed for coordinated punishment of defectors.) That's why I mentioned the bit about "the goodness of their hearts". It would probably require a law because of the problem of people stating outright how something "really" works. (I've been to the Hauptbahnhoffs btw -- "links gehen, rechts stehen" is the phrase, right?) I agree -- so the idea instead is to have a sign that can quickly teach people this informal system, since it may be so hard for a newcomer to infer it.
Huh. Would you similarly endorse putting a link up on the front page that explains that "this website displays user-generated content, both in the form of discrete posts and in the form of comments associated either with a post or another comment. To view a post, click the title under "recent posts." To view comments... etc. etc. etc."?

Maybe not specifically that, but I recall a lot of new users (and regular users, and critics of users...) complaining that they don't know e.g. what kinds of comments are appropriate to post under articles, what the pre-requisites for understanding the material and generally stuff that we might just assume they know.

LW does have a good "about" section, though.

It needs a "how to use the site" section. When the envelope turns red, it means you have a reply or a message. The help link at the bottom of the comment box will tell you how to do formatting, but it's different formatting methods if you post an article.

There may be useful features on the site that haven't crossed my path. Finding them seems to be a semi-random process.

The "Preferences" button is worth exploring. In particular, the anti-kibitzer will hide usernames so that you can vote without being biased by your overall like or dislike of various users.
Note on the anti-kibitzer: I use it by default, and find that it prevents me from getting to know the individual users and their views. Although I have gotten to the point where I can sometimes recognize certain posters from their content (Eliezer, Clippy, and Wedrifid mostly).
Some anti-kibitzer users have reported mistaking me for clippy at times! :D I don't use anti-kibitzer so I have to allow for hindsight bias - but I'd be willing to bet that I could pick nearly every comment by HughRistik and, if reading with the context as opposed to just the recent comments feed, most of Vladimir_Nesov's too. Oh, and a lot from Perplexed and timtyler. Picking Alicorn's posts based on most of them these days being 'speaking as the Word of God on Luminosity fiction' would just seem like cheating. ;)
Lesswrong is certainly designed for the advanced user. Most everything on the site is non-standard, which seriously impedes usability for the new user. Considering the topic and intended audience, I'd say it's a feature, not a bug. Nonetheless, the site definitely smacks of unix-geekery. It could be humanized somewhat, and that probably wouldn't hurt.
Civics, at least in my area of the United States, is mainly education about government and ethics. I do believe they may discuss how to vote and other information that would be useful to the democratic process, but nothing like going onto trains. (Although in the United States, this could only ever discuss the subway, and only in certain metropolitan areas - culturally, the elegant train is dead here, which is sad, since I've had much more positive travel experiences on trains than planes.)

I am terrible at remembering names. This is bad in itself, but exacerbated by a few factors:

  • I regularly have lengthy conversations with random strangers, and will be able to easily summarize the conversation afterwords, but will have no recollection of their name.

  • I am fairly noticeable and memorable, so even people whose names I have no reason to know will know mine.

  • I am not particularly good with faces either.

This isn't a memory problem, I can quote back conversations or remember long strings of numbers. I often cope by confessing to my weakness in a self-deprecating manner, or by simply not using names in direct address (it's generally not necessary in English), but these don't actually help me learn names. If I remembered to ask their name early on, I sometimes pause mid-conversation to ask "Are you still x?" but that is somewhat awkward and I'm wrong half the time anyway. The only time I can reliably remember is if they share the name of an immediate family member.This is bad enough that I'll sometimes be five or six classes into the semester and have to check the syllabus to figure out the professor's name, or will have been in multiple classes with someone and shared several conversations and still not know their name.

Thirding the request.

I have sometimes contemplated taking out my frustrations by following people around to learn their names, scrounging up any background material on them that I can get, and then pretending to be an old high school acquaintance of theirs, and watching them squirm as they try to remember me.

I'm not entirely certain people aren't already doing this to me.

People have done this to me. I was amused. In general, I avoid claiming to actually remember people if I don't, but I'm happy to engage with them as though we were old friends if they are engaging with me that way. If it turns out that we don't know each other, well, I've been friendlier than our relationship obligated me to be, which is not a big problem.
Me too; nothing wrong with it and some people will be positively impressed with how friendly you are even to people you barely know! Also, being straightforward and not embarrassed to ask someone's name again helps. A simple "I'm sorry, but I've completely forgotten your name; could you remind me?" is usually not too awkward unless you've met often enough that you should be expected to remember. (Also, I am in DC, which is a very business card-exchanging area; remembering getting the card and seeing the name after being introduced is very helpful.)
I've started some great friendships by doing just this. Don't just pretend to run into an acquaintance. Pretend that you just ran into your old best friend X (X is totally awesome BTW, it's been way too long since you've seen them, and OMG do you remember when X did Y? It was so cool). Requirements: an upstanding and respected mutual friend, an endorsement that a prank will be well received, and a victim with a sense of humor.
When I started running study groups in college, the training included teaching how to learn student's names. The trick to remembering names is to say the name out loud, with focus on the name and the person at the same time. So, Joachim introduces himself, and you say "Joachim? Nice to meet you, Joachim!" Give the name and face enough time to sink into long term memory. If they don't introduce themselves, ask them their name, simply apologizing if it turns out you've met before. Then, at the earliest good opportunity, reinforce the name. Using it during the conversation is good. Any time the topic goes in a new direction, or you or your interlocutor have a new idea, you say "So, Joachim, I have another way of looking at that..." or "Joachim, that is an excellent point." This is totally normal, but might not feel that way to a person who doesn't use names frequently. Finally, it is minimally awkward to, at the end of a conversation, say to the person "Well, Joachim, it's been so good talking to you!" Or, if you've totally lost the name, say with a smile "I've enjoyed talking with you so much I've managed to forget your name!" And they will be quite pleased to remind you. Not using people's names is like a microcosm of this thread--if you don't use the name, rightly or wrongly, you won't get affirmation or correction. That all works if you have the capability of recognizing people but just have not practiced it. But you say specifically that you're not good with faces. A large number of people are partially or completely face-blind [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosopagnosia]. Many (maybe most) don't realize they have differently functioning brains from the majority of people when it comes to faces. They often recognize people by their distinctive hair color or facial hair, by particularly large or small noses, chins, etc, or even in some cases, by learning the wardrobes of people they are frequently around. I read about one fellow with 4 young children and he is
It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I first consciously noticed that I was incapable of using other people's names to their faces. I could do it with immediate family, and I could do it in third person "Howard was telling me..." I have since made strenuous efforts to get better at it, but it is still really psychologically difficult. That's also when I realized that it was almost impossible for me to leave a message on an answering machine. I'm working on that one too, but doing so is a serious effort. One of my roommates my freshman year of college had the same issues, but neither of us had a clue why.
It might help to find a friend you can practice with, for the names - if the issue applies to IM/Skype/etc. as well, then you can probably find a practice partner or two right here. Otherwise, hopefully you have an in-person friend who you'd trust to explain this to, and who can encourage you to refer to them by name frequently :) For answering machines, the same friend can probably help, or you could practice on your own answering machine. I've found that, for most skills, doing really impractical-but-safe practice exercises like this actually really pays off. Even if it doesn't 100% resolve the issue, it still gives you a good foundation to build on, and helps remind you that the activity CAN be safe.
I sometimes have trouble usings people's names - I think due to fear that I haven't remembered them correctly, even if I'm 95% certain or more. If I don't know the person well it may also seem overly familiar.
At the beginning of 2010 I made it my mission to remember the names of everyone I was introduced to. I haven't quite managed everyone, but I've gotten pretty close. My technique: when someone tells me their name, I think of something that rhymes with it, and imagine the person in conjunction with the rhyme. I have a general policy of picking the first thing that comes to mind, since that presumably suggests my brain already has some sort of reliable connection between them. For example, when meeting Sam for the first time, I will think of the first rhyme for 'Sam' that comes to mind, which in the case of a recent Sam was 'ham'. I imagine Sam holding some ham, with a big grin on her face (she has quite a striking grin anyway, so this detail just sort of cements it in place). When I next meet Sam, I will have a striking image of her holding some ham with a big grin on her face, which I can then follow back to her name. Over the past year or so I've built up quite a menagerie of associations. All people called Sue are now in a large group of Blue Sues in my head. Anyone called Vicky is covered in something sticky. Anyone called Kate has an expression of hate. Sometimes I have to reach for tenuous rhymes. 'David' was a bit of a tricky one, but I eventually settled on 'shavéd', and imagine Davids to have a partially-shaved scalp. If anything, the more tenuous rhymes are more memorable, because I also have the memory of the difficult rhyme to hang the name off. This does occasionally create some odd effects. Last September, for example, I know I met two people called Amanda, but can only remember one of them. The act of remembering their name has persisted in memory, but actually meeting them hasn't. The most important aspect isn't the actual technique (as there are plenty of other name-remembering techniques out there which presumably work fairly well), but getting into the habit of using it. It doesn't do any good just knowing it; you have to consciously choose to
I remember names after I've seen them written in association with the face. I remember unusual names better, because I can ask the person then and there how to spell it. So for anyone with whom I speak rarely, I basically only consistently remember the names of facebook friends. Method: Add people on facebook immediately after meeting them. Then review the RSVP list before going to any events with an events page!
I had this problem for a long time, which can be embarrassing doing phone support, especially one with frequent callers that know my name and voice (one of only two men and we have distinct voices and greetings). I started intentionally using callers name's three times in every call and reaped several benefits: 1) I actually remember their names when they call back, 2) I'm better at remembering names having been told only once (even outside of work), and 3) my customer satisfaction scores had a marked and sustained increase.
I'm also normally terrible at learning names, but I've learned how to get around it. This may be terribly specific to people who learn like me; if so, I apologize. I have found that I am incredibly focused on learning through actually seeing things written. I am excellent at spelling because I see the written form of words in my head, and even when I can't immediately recall the precise letters, I always have an accurate sense of how many there are (which is often enough to select the correct spelling from a shortlist of plausible alternatives). Given that, I find that I can trivially remember people's names after having emailed them and typed their names.
If there is some metadata about names that you can remember more easily (rhymes with X, name of Y character from fiction, would have been taunted on the playground because of Z) use that. I tend to ask people how to spell their names so I can embed the information as text instead of much-more-slippery-for-me sounds.

the procedure here is how to consistently feel better after a few weeks (vs typical lazy cheap diets)

breakfast, buy:

  • plain (unsweetened) yogurt
  • honey
  • fruit (bananas or whatever berries are on sale)
  • granola (again, unsweetened)

dump together in bowl and eat. if you don't feel hungry in the morning just do a very small serving at first.

lunch: whatever, avoid sugar/white bread

dinner, buy :

  • rice-a-roni red beans and rice when it is on sale (goes to 75 cents a box once every couple months at my local store)
  • bell pepper (or spicier pepper to taste)
  • olive oil

boil, then simmer 20 minutes

yes, this procedure can be improved upon. the advantage of this one is low activation cost as it is about as difficult as the regular bachelor diet of instant foods. if you're trying to eat healthier but can't find the motivation this is a decent compromise.

major thing to avoid besides the obvious: fruit juice and fruit flavored anything. you're subverting your body's desire for actual fruit. fruit juice is no better for you than soda.

I'm guessing this is mostly preaching to the choir here, but if this helps one person it was worth the 5 minutes.

Another easy healthy thing: Just about any vegetables can be boiled till soft, then put through the blender, salted and peppered to taste, and yield soup (cream is optional). A quartered peeled onion, half a bulb of peeled garlic, and a quartered peeled potato or two, plus a fair amount of peeled and roughly chopped whatever else (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, turnips, fennel, leeks, celery root or stalks, whatever) is a good template. Dump it all in a pot with water or stock. Boil till it'll smoosh against the side of the pot when pressed with a spoon. Blend. Salt & pepper.
Less appetizingly, but probably more nutritiously, most green leafy vegetables can be blended with water or milk and consumed in milkshake form. I'll often take three or four cups (that's a lot) of spinach and blend it with two cups whole milk and chocolate protein powder. This actually tastes good, if not delicious; a portion half that size is probably a solid amount of food for most people. Even without the protein powder or other flavoring, it is drinkable. Lower portions of vegetables give you better taste for less nutrition. Not a great culinary feat, but a very efficient way to improve diet quality, and eating vegetables raw is probably more nutritious than boiling them extensively.
Is there any nutritional reason to distinguish between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or did you give separate suggestions just to be compatible with american traditions about what to eat when? Am I missing something when I eat 2-4 meals per day all drawn at random from the same menu consisting mostly of what other people might call "dinners"?
I'm not sure about the other traditions, but eating foods with a high amount of carbohydrates (especially sugar) for dinner in my experience isn't a good idea. Even fruit. It raises your blood sugar, so when your blood sugar drops again you find yourself hungry. It happened to me a quite a few times that I woke up in the middle of the night in desperate need of sweets. If don't eat sweet things in the evening this doesn't happen. Obviously this only speaks against eating "breakfast" for dinner but not against eating "dinner" for breakfast. Which seems to be what English Breakfast is all about. ;-)
well I don't have anything to back it up with, but I've heard that your blood sugar is low in the morning which is why you crave sugary stuff. the fruit alleviates that without being a shock to the system like fast sugars and the protein is more slow calories. I presume many people eat out for lunch if they work a normal job. but certainly if you aren't forced into a rigid schedule eating 5 meals is better.
Regarding the fruit juices, I agree that fruit-flavored mixtures of HFCS and other things generally aren't worth much, but aren't proper fruit juices usually nutritious? (I mean the kinds where the ingredients consist of fruit juices, perhaps water, and nothing else.)
One orange is one or two servings of fruit... but a serving of orange juice is four oranges. You're getting all the sugar and calories of four oranges (4 - 8 servings of fruit!) without any of the fiber. Fruit juices aren't exactly the devil, but they're not especially nutritious either.
But I drink orange juice with pulp; then the fiber is no longer absent, though I guess it's reduced. The vitamins and minerals are still present, though, aren't they?
Are you making this juice yourself by chucking a whole orange in the blender and then drinking it? In that case, you probably - I don't know - have enough fiber that it's not that much different from just eating an orange, and fresh juices are said to be more nutritious than bought anyway. (Admittedly, the people who say this are people who own juicers, but that's probably beside the point.) But if you're buying it from the store, then... no. It's still mostly just sugar with a little bit of texture floating in it. If you're not gulping it by the gallon daily I wouldn't worry about it, but it's part of your healthy balanced breakfast - and not a huge part :)
You still get an enormous amount of sugar, with or without the pulp. Regarding the vitamins and minerals, my understanding is that you need a certain amount of each of those to avoid various nasty and fatal diseases, and an amount over a certain limit can be poisonous, but there isn't any real evidence that anything in-between makes a difference. From what I understand, it also requires a very extreme diet (by modern developed world standards) to develop provably harmful micronutrient deficiencies. (One exception might be vitamin D if the winters are especially dark and cold where you live, but you won't get that one from fruit juice.)
Fruit juices are very bad. They concentrate the sugar content of a lot of fruits into a small mass and volume. For instance apple juice is usually considerably more sugary than Pepsi, with around 11-12 g/100g sugar content, and also with a worse sugar profile, with 66% fructose, compared to HFCS's 55 percent as it is commonly used in soft drinks (note: fructose is the worse sugar). Other fruit juices are usually above 8% sugar too.
They're still high in sugar relative to how much you are likely to consume, and don't offer the fiber or unprocessed-ness of entire fruit. It would usually be better to either eat a piece of fruit or drink water. (I ignore this advice because I hate water, so when I thirst between meals I drink juice.)
Incidentally, the lack of fiber is important for diabetics to consider. My grandmother is diabetic and is prone to insulin shock. She was told to drink fruit juice if she feels woozy. Well, she prefers fresh fruit, and she felt woozy one day and ate a peach. That pushed into full blown shock and another trip to the hospital. I had to explain to her that the fiber in fruit is like plant-based insulin--it prevents sugar from being used quickly. That's why it's important for healthy eating, but exactly the reason she needs to drink fruit juice to prevent diabetic shock.
I don't like water myself. In my part of the world (a corner of India) we generally drink water boiled with a herbal powder and then cooled. When the herbal powder is not available we just boil water with a pinch of cumin seeds. Not sure if you'll like the taste any better than plain water though..
This is great! Thanks for your 5 minutes.

Ok- folding a fitted sheet is really fucking hard! I don't think that deserves to be on that list, since it really makes no difference whatsoever in life whether or not you properly fold a fitted sheet, or just kinda bundle it up and stuff it away. Not being able to deposit a check, mail a letter, or read a bus schedule, on the other hand can get you in trouble when you actually need to. Here's to not caring about linen care!

Here [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHTyH2nuFAw] is a YouTube video (496,000 views, time 2:26) demonstrating how to fold a fitted sheet.
I want to know how to put a cover on a duvet (doona, quilt) without feeling like I'm going to pop a vertebra.
I'm glad I can actually answer something! This is how I do it and it works really well: 1. reverse the cover so it's inside out. 2. stand with it's opening facing you, reach into it and grab the far corners, from the INSIDE. If it's hard to find them, simply let the edges (from the inside) guide your hands all the way to the ends. 3. Now using your two hands (which are already holding two corners of the cover from the insides), grab two corners of the duvet 4. Now this is the fun part: Lift the duvet, so the cover falls all around it. This is like reversing a bag when you pick up dogpoop. 5. release the corners and you're done. (you may need to adjust things a bit if it isn't prefect)

Regarding investment, my suggestion (if you work in the US) is to open a basic (because it doesn't periodically charge you fees) E*TRADE account here. They will provide an interface for buying and selling shares of stocks and various other things (ETFs and such; I mention stocks and ETFs because those are the only things I've tried doing anything with). They will charge you $10 for every transaction you make, so unless you're going to be (or become) active/clever enough to make it worthwhile, it makes sense not to trade too frequently.

EDIT: These guys appear to charge less, though they also deal in fewer things (e.g. no bonds).

This is right. But to put it much more generally, and as an exercise in seriously trying to bridge information gaps:

To buy stocks you need what is called a Brokerage account. The way a brokerage account works is that you give money to the Broker to invest for you. (Generally, you will do this by transferring it from an existing bank account.) This money generally gets put into a highly liquid account in your name, such as a money market fund. You can get your money back by instructing your broker to send it back to you.

When you want to buy stocks or other financial investments, you direct your broker to use the money in your brokerage account to buy stocks or other financial investments in your name. Your broker will use the money that is in your account to do this. Your brokerage account now also contains the stock you bought.

When you want to sell stocks, you tell your broker to sell, and the proceeds get put back into your cash-like account.

Brokers make money by charging you a fee each time you buy or sell a stock or other financial investment through them.

There are full-service brokerages and discount brokerages. Full service brokers (such as Merrill Lynch) give you extra help ... (read more)

I've had good experience with ShareBuilder.

I feel like it is useful to mention that because of efficient markets (which implies assets are "fairly priced") and the benefits of diversification (lower risk), it's almost always better to buy a low fee mutual fund than any particular stocks or bonds. In particular, Index Funds merely keep a portfolio which tracks a broad market index. These often have very low operating costs, so they are a pretty good way to invest. You can buy these as ETFs, or you can buy them through something like Vanguard.

I think some more detail is called for here too, on mutual funds vs ETFs:

When you buy part of a mutual fund, you are giving your money to professional fund managers to invest for you. Mutual funds are often devoted to a single investment strategy (value, growth, index...) or a specific business sector (energy, health care, high technology), or even a specific kind of investment vehicle (stocks, bonds, commodities...).

You pay the fund managers a small percentage of your assets each year (the number you want to look for here is the "expense ratio"). Something on the order of 1%. Sometimes you also pay a fee when you put your money in or when you take it out; funds that do this are called "load" funds, funds that don't are called "no-load" funds.

When you buy into an ordinary mutual fund, it's a similar process to having a savings account: you send the fund money, they use it to buy financial investments. Mutual funds are generally sold and redeemed at par; each dollar you invest in the fund buys a dollar's worth of investments. When you cash out, each dollar of investments they sell is a dollar that goes back into your pocket.

ETFs are similar to stocks. ... (read more)

This is very, very good advice, and is worth understanding in more detail. My favorite article on index funds is this one [http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/best-investment-advice-youll-never-get], which angles its discussion of index funds around the unusually good investment advice many Google employees received when they became millionaires after the IPO in 2004. My second-favorite is this one from Overcoming Bias [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/07/investing-in-in.html] (LessWrong's sister site). Investing in index funds should be one of the big instrumental wins of rationality. It requires the ability to defend against overconfidence bias, the ability to defend against the wily marketing of financial advisers who don't have your best interests in mind, enough understanding of economics to comprehend what Yudkowsky called anti-inductive markets [http://lesswrong.com/lw/yv/markets_are_antiinductive/], and some not-especially-common knowledge about what investment options are available.

When you have a spare hour, set your alarm to go off every five minutes and practice 'being asleep', hearing the alarm, jumping out of bed, turning it off, and running to the shower. After 20 repetitions, the idea is that the next morning, when you hear the alarm, you'll run to the shower without needing to get fully conscious first. I dunno, something to try at least.

In case you are wondering why people have downvoted you, it's because you have bastardized the computing usage of 'portable' almost beyond recognition. Word documents are one of the classic examples of unportable file formats - formats locked into Microsoft software, which are portable neither over time nor computing platforms.

Although it might also just be because you are apparently wrong when you say you can't email a PDF to your Kindle like you can your Word documents.

(Even the XML MS format is pretty terrible, as groups like Groklaw analyzed back when MS first began pretending it was a real alternative to OOXML.)

I approve of explaining heavily-downvoted posts (FSVO 'heavily'). Thank you on behalf of LessWrong!

Thank you for explaining that! I didn't realize "portable" had a technical meaning; I was reffering to how I can carry them around on a Kindle. I've edited the grandparent.
You may find these links helpful for understanding what people expect 'portable' to mean in a computer context: * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_portability [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_portability] * http://www.faqs.org/docs/artu/portabilitychapter.html [http://www.faqs.org/docs/artu/portabilitychapter.html] * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_format [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_format] * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DataPortability [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DataPortability]

I have a kind of embarrassing one, but that's kind of the point of this discussion so here goes.

For some reason I've always had an aversion to social networking websites. I remember when all my peers used xanga, then livejournal, then myspace, and now facebook, and I always refused to use them whatsoever. I realize now though, that they represent a massive utility that I desperately need.

I am worried though, about starting new. Maybe I'm being overly paranoid, but it seems that having few friends on such a website signals low status, as does getting into the game this late.

So should I just create an account and add every single person I am even tangentially acquainted with? Is there a feature on facebook where you can hide who your friends are? Is it appropriate to ask someone you just met to friend you? What other cultural and social knowledge am I missing in this area?

I think people have very different standards as far as social networking goes. I would recommend deciding from the offset what you want to use Facebook for, and establish friending policies on that basis. If it's for keeping in touch with your nearest and dearest, keep it to a select few. If you want a conduit for talking to everyone you've ever met, add everyone you meet.

If I see someone who only has a handful of FB friends, I assume they're towards the more private end of the spectrum rather than thinking they're somehow socially retarded. Likewise if someone has 800+ FB friends, I don't think they regularly hang out with them all.

There is such a thing as a late adopter advantage. I don't think most people make these kinds of decisions when they first enter into that kind of environment, so you actually have the benefit of deciding off the bat how you want to use it, and how to optimise your usage for that aim.

For people I actually care about, I have better means of staying in touch. My inner circle has had a private voice chat server for years now, and that's part of the reason I haven't really been forced to use a social networking website. But I'm trying to dramatically change who I am as a person, and this is a necessary step. I have severe issues with self-consciousness and social anxiety (despite acknowledging that this is unjustified as I am affable and attractive) so I am generally looking for ways to ease myself into social normalcy.
Quentin, I worried too about the "few friends = low status" thing when I started on Facebook. But speaking now as an old hand I'm fairly confident that the only people who make such judgments or worry about them are newbies! And yes, you CAN hide who your friends are.on Facebook. There are many other privacy settings as well. It would be too complicated to go into it here but they have a Help Center which will tell you how. You can find the Help link on the menu that will open up when you click on "Account" (at the top right-hand of any page) or, in small letters, at the very bottom of any page on the far right. It's OK to ask someone you just met to friend you. Not only do some people friend every last acquaintance, it's also common to friend people for the purpose of game play (there are numerous game applications you can access through Facebook, and for one reason or another it's often advantageous to play with people who are friends, so people will friend one another for the sake of the game). Then there are people who friend friends of friends because of shared interests or whatever. Bottom line: If somebody has 1,000 friends, nobody assumes that he is best buds with all those folks in real life. Don't worry too much about the etiquette--if you spend some time with it you'll pick it up. Most people will be happy to help you out if they can (though a lot of people don't know about all the privacy settings. They're really not hard to set but you have to look for the info.)
A very good friend of mine created her Facebook account just a few weeks ago, and I still think she's cool. So getting into the game late is at least sometimes recoverable from. Adding everyone you are even tangentially acquainted with seems to be the social convention, including people you've just met; it's common for me to receive facebook invites after meeting someone at a party, for example. FB has some tools for bulk-link-farming... e.g., it will look at your email if you let it and contact everyone whose name appears in it who has a FB account. I did this when I created my FB account (a couple of years ago) and it worked pretty well. As far as I know, there's no way to hide your friends. The teenagers of my acquaintance frequently use fake names on Facebook to subvert searches. The adults frequently create multiple Facebook profiles, more or less for the same reason.
I quit social networking sites because they made my life significantly worse. If you really need to use them, you can, but don't worry. There is a wide variety of ways to use them, ranging from adding hundreds of people to just a few friends. Yes, you can do this, but you don't have to. This is one reasonable way of using the site that a lot of people use, but it's also common to restrict things to people you know better. YES. Absolutely. And it's an essential feature. If you do use Facebook please pay close attention to the privacy settings. You can make everything about yourself private, to the point where no one else, even your friends, can see anything except messages you specifically send them. Yes, it's pretty common to do this, though you may be surprised by how many people don't like to use these sites.
When you make an account there is a high chance you will get flooded by friend requests right away. Facebook does some shady things with user data for their convenience. Also there are still enough non-Facebookees that you will not be the last to get online.

Keep a regular sleep schedule.

This is something I completely failed to learn so far. Sure, I have some issues with procrastination or a lack of certain time-management skills, but even if I create a schedule for my whole week in advance and manage to follow it through for a couple of days at some point I completely mess it up because I sleep through half a day since I stayed up until 4AM the night before. Or I end up not getting enough sleep for several days in a row and getting sick (which happens far too often). Mostly, if I wake up at a certain time I don't get tired early enough to get a sufficient amount of sleep before I wake up at the same time on the next day (and unfortunately they don't make these time-turners yet).

It seems like every failed attempt to establish a working day routine can be mainly narrowed down to this single thing. I managed to get through High School and still get good grades even though I missed a lot of school days (due to being sick or too tired to go) because it was easy. Even at university it's still possible to pass the exams when you miss half of the lectures (although your results probably will suffer). However, I'm already afraid of my first real job.

I had that problem but melatonin seems to have solved it.
I found that having a full-time job fixed my sleep schedule - if I have to get up, I will. Then I'll usually be tired enough to go to sleep at a reasonable time too.
I've been fighting to regulate my sleep schedule for about 30 years now, and I've tried lots of things. These are the things that seem to help me, or that Studies Have Shown. What works best is to simply "man up" and regulate your sleep schedule, to quote the international sweat-shop shoe company "Just Do it". 1 Pick a "get up time", set you alarm and GET UP. This helps to make sure you're ready to go to bed on the other side. If you stay up until 4 in the morning playing Warcrack, play another 2 hours then go for breakfast. You'll be tired all day, but that night you'll be able to reset more effectively. 1.1 Do Not Nap, this makes it more difficult to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. 1.2 OTOH some people do really well to take nap in the afternoon (every afternoon) and stay up a little later. I can't do this. YSSMV. 1. When the alarm goes off GET UP. Do not set your alarm for 5 minutes early, if anything set it for 5 minutes late. 3 Avoid caffiene after noon to start with. If this helps you may want to let it slip to 3 or 4 in the afternoon, depending on how you metabolize it. Definately no caffine with dinner or afterwards. NONE. 4 When the sun goes down start to darken your surroundings a bit--turn off unnecessary lights, use desk/table/spot lights instead of room lights etc. 5 Set a realistic bedtime and stick to it. 6 Your sleep quarters should be used ONLY for sleeping, sex and dressing. Do not read yourself to sleep, no computers or television. 6.1 Heavy curtains and limit light as much as possible. The goal is not only to sleep, but to sleep WELL. 6.2 A fan, or some source of "grey noise" might help as well. 6.3 A regular sex partner can help you get to sleep :) Well, so can an irregular one, but the sheets may need changing more often. The other side of this is that some people seem to have body clocks that insist on running a certain way. I've been getting up at about 10 to 6 for the last 2 months every day of hte week. F'ing HATE IT. I can
If on a computer, software like F.lux [http://stereopsis.com/flux/] or Nocturne [http://nocturne.en.softonic.com/mac] can help with this.
When you are getting into the routine this one of the hard parts. So use whatever assistance required. For me that has included a bottle of energy drink and a modafinil tablet sitting on top of the alarm clock. Sure, you can turn it off but it isn't much more effort to down the stimulants at the same time. A sledge hammer approach. It more or less guarantees you will be able to get up 30 minutes later. I often deliberately allow myself another 30 minutes to sleep after I've taken the stimulants so as to cooperate more effectively with my instincts. They don't like me @#$@#$ing with them and forcing them up but they don't care at all if I give them stimulants and let them do their own thing. (The above is not something I tend to use long term.) At about this time you can also take a dose of melatonin (which is essentially what you are doing with the light manipulation anyway). I have found this useful from time to time.
Put your alarm clock far out of reach so you have to get out of bed to switch it off. Put everything you need for your morning routine next to the alarm clock. This will make you much less likely to go back to bed.
I did this when I was a teenager. A few months later I found myself regularly jumping out of bed, taking two long running strides across my room, hitting the snooze button, running back to bed, and getting under the covers without ever properly waking up.
I solved this problem by maxing out my alarm's volume and putting it in the shower.
That is...genius. And hilarious.
Did you keep everything you need for your morning routine next to your alarm clark? I found that was the key element to stop me from jumping back into bed. It's habit forming. You get to the alarm clock and then go through your routine. Otherwise, if everything's out of reach or disorganised, it's easier to just go back to bed than deal with it.
I use this technique from time to time. But as Cyan suggests it isn't a reliable long term solution. It still amounts to trying to bully yourself into compliance. And that just isn't the best way to deal with allies - be they internal or not. I know myself and know how I respond to attempts at dominance. I'll do it if necessary but it rapidly burns out any sense of loyalty. And I want myself on my own side.
Do you exercise?
My biggest problem for keeping a sleep schedule stable is not being able to fall asleep early if I'm stuck with a late sleep schedule. Once I get an early wakeup, early bedtime routine going, it can stay on for weeks, but it can likewise get messed up for weeks. One nice thing for waking up is a timed light box. It gradually lights up, and is a lot less stressful to wake up to than an alarm. Combine this with a regular alarm that goes off after the light has been getting brighter for a while. I also somehow got addicted to taking daily cold showers since they were mentioned here or in the IRC channel. A couple [http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1423273] of [http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2031470] Hacker News posts talked about cold showers helping people fall asleep, so I've started taking a shower an hour before bedtime. I've been doing this for three weeks now and have managed to maintain a pretty stable sleep schedule.
The key is the wake-up time. You can always force yourself to get up once the alarm goes off, no matter how little sleep you've gotten. The opposite is not true without drugs to assist you (though it sounds like the cold shower helps, makes sense). I do this about every four weeks. My work schedule is such that I work 160 hours in two weeks, and then don't work at all for the following two weeks. This means I have to get up very early when I'm working and not at all when I'm not. The net result, since I lack discipline when I don't have a goal set for the day, is that by the time I go back to work I am regularly staying up until 3am or later and waking up around noon, while I need to be at work by 7am when I'm working. The fix for this is to force myself to get up at 6am the very first day I'm back at work. No easing in to anything, just cold turkey - alarm goes off I've got to get up. This means for the first day or two I'll be running on 3-4 hours of sleep, but the need to sleep builds fast and by the third day I'm usually going to bed at a respectable time. The key for me is that I must have a purpose for the day. I've tried to maintain this in my off time, but since I don't have a specific place to be "on time" each day I tend to let my wake up time drift instead of getting up on-schedule. The fix for that is apparently having a regular morning schedule during my off time, but I haven't put much effort into it. Another important thing to remember when you are forcing yourself awake after insufficient sleep is to not dilly-dally. If you are tired when you wake up, the worst thing you can do is hit "snooze" and go back to sleep. It probably won't make you any less tired unless you sleep for another hour (at which point you are almost certainly late for whatever it is you were getting up for) and it will make it a lot harder to get up.
There's an extra problem I run with drastic sleep cycle changes. Say I'm sleeping from 3 AM to noon. Then I do the cold turkey wake up at 6 AM, so far so good. Next evening I go to bed at 21:30, then my brain apparently goes, "hey, it's a lot earlier than usual, must be an afternoon nap", and helpfully wakes me up sometimes at 1 AM. (Other people's brains might not have this feature.) This tends to lead to having to go multiple consecutive days with little sleep if I want to change the cycle, instead of just the one, which gets considerably less fun. The fix to this might be to do something on the cold turkey day that gets me sufficiently tired that I'd just sleep 9 hours straight on the next night, whatever the bedtime. The cold shower thing is still working, so far I've had only one night when I've failed to fall asleep after taking the shower.

This would best be done on a wiki of some sort, I think.

Many of the instructions on this thread would fit well on wikiHow. It would be better to put them there than on Less Wrong Wiki or a new site because wikiHow is already known by more people as a source of information on basic things.

Aside from time (a non-trivial consideration) is there any reason not to put them on both wikiHow and the LW wiki?
A hard-earned lesson from my days as a technical writer: "a man with two watches never knows the time." That is, any piece of information maintained in two places will sooner or later progress inconsistently. Putting it in one place and a pointer to it in the other place might be better.
Gosh, if only we had a wiki to hand ...
[-][anonymous]12y 12

How do you speak clearly?

I have a bad speaking voice -- my sibilants ("S" sounds) come out mushy. If I record my speaking voice and play it back, even when I'm concentrating on enunciation, I sound... terrible. It's a voice that sounds geeky at best, retarded at worst. A little too high-pitched and monotone, as well. People have been telling me they can't understand what I'm saying all my life.

It's quite likely that I'll give many public presentations throughout my life, so being better at speaking might be worthwhile. I've lost my fear of public speaking (knowing the material well takes care of that) -- I'm just talking about the mechanics of speech. I want to be audible, comprehensible, and not sound like a moron.

I found that frequently recording my voice and playing it back immediately afterward helps immensely. Up through the start of my junior year of highschool I did a very poor job with pronunciation in general and what I thought I sounded like, sounded nothing like what I did in fact sound like. I got a portable voice recorder midway through my junior year. I like poetry, so a few times a week I would spend a while (maybe a half hour) in the evenings reading poetry into the recorder and playing it back a stanza at a time. If I didn't like the way it sounded, I would repeat the stanza (or the particular line in that stanza that sounded wrong) until it started sounding right. Within a few months I very much liked the way my voice sounded, and instead of having people telling me I talked funny, I occasionally had people complimenting my enunciation. (As I side effect I also became able to read out loud which was something else I used to have a lot of trouble doing)

4Paul Crowley12y
Sounds good. If anyone else reading this tries this, please report back on how well it works for you!
Just noticed this thread after someone linked to it. For the last year and a half, I've been writing and recording a 100-word story every week, in response to a prompt word, and sending it off to a web site that runs a weekly drabble [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drabble] challenge. I use a proper voice recorder for this (the Edirol R-09), and do as many takes as it takes to get the best possible result. I don't just record them once a week, with 80 stories in my head by now I often just recite them for practice when I'm alone. Less work [http://lesswrong.com/lw/f1/beware_trivial_inconveniences/] than picking up a book to read aloud from. If you don't write, memorising poetry would provide the same advantage. I used to find that my voice was fine first thing in the morning, but tended to get very hoarse by mid-morning, but that has abated substantially. Maybe I just don't talk enough otherwise to keep it exercised. I don't actually do enough talking in everyday life that anyone has spontaneously commented, but I have had a few compliments in the comments at the web site.

I think there may be some psychological element to finding one's own recorded voice unpleasant. When I hear my own recorded voice played back at me, I find it incredibly unpleasant, but my acquaintances assure me that it doesn't sound bad to them. Likewise, I've had people tell me that they can't stand the sound of their own recorded voices, when they sound perfectly fine to me.

If your acquaintances agree that your speech could use work, I agree with the recommendation of speech therapy, but it's possible that the problem is in your perception.

I dislike my own recorded voice as well. I've heard that because the sound of our own voices is partly transmitted to our ears via our heads, everyone's voice sounds higher in a recording. The difference is probably enough to be unnerving and I think that's what it is for me.
I think the job title of someone who helps with that kind of problem is "speech therapist". And, for what it's worth, I kind of like your voice...
What you're asking may require practice, rather than just following a new set of guidelines. I have had some formal vocal training, so I can offer some activities that could help. One important factor in public speaking is breath support. Practice breathing deeply and smoothly, with erect posture and tense abdominal muscles. (Doing this daily can be very refreshing, anyway.) Practice speaking at various sound levels--softly and loudly--alone (or with a supportive friend) in a room with hard walls and/or floor, so you can hear yourself clearly. Tense the muscles of your throat and soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth) in different ways to change your voice in ways that may feel and sound unnatural. This should help you gain a better sense of how to use your voice. When you speak more loudly, does the pitch of your voice go up? Many people do this, because our ears are more sensitive to higher pitches. Try forcing more air through your words to gain volume instead of raising the pitch. In other words, use more air to say the same words by increasing the pressure of your abdominal muscles. When we speak loudly, we can generally feel a vibration, if we pay attention. When you speak usually, you may find that the sensation is in your throat, or in the far back of your mouth. Force yourself to yawn, but then activate your voice during the yawn (i.e. vocalize the yawn), to place the sensation more in your sinuses and the front of your face (the front of the face is called the masque). This may take some practice, but the most pleasant sonority of most people's voices is achieved by using the face as a resonator. I hope one or more of those activities can help the sonority and pitch aspects of your voice become more like what you want. I haven't heard your voice, so it may be that I'd think it doesn't need any fixing :) My husband hates his voice, but I think it's great!
I don't think there's any really quick way of dealing with this. I had about 4 years of speech therapy which helped a lot. Note that a speech therapist will generally have lots of things that are tailored to you in particular to help out. For example I have a list of words that I still have trouble with so I make sure to always be ready to use their synonyms when speaking. Unfortunately there really isn't any simple solution to this.
If you don't want to go to a speech therapist, a friend with some linguistics training or a voice (singing) teacher may be able to listen and tell you where to put your tongue, etc. I, too, have a related problem. I have great difficulty controlling my volume. That is largely hereditary (or nurtured by my family environment), but the real problem is that I can't hear when I'm too loud. There are certain triggers (being excited, interrupted, or in the presence of my mother) but they are not really triggers I can avoid, and I can't see a way to fix it. The obvious solution is to have someone tell me when I'm too loud, but being interrupted for that purpose tends to make me involuntarily louder.
Similar: I would find it useful to learn to speak slowly. I have to repeat myself a lot. The trouble is that I lose track of what I'm saying if I try to speak at a normal pace - I cannot seem to focus on speaking slowly and think of things to say at the same time.

(Edited the last few paragraphs to be more useful.)

I actually teach this to college students, to some degree. This is in the context of moderately scripted competitive speech, though.

The first basic trick is to consciously try to speak at half-speed. Once you've done that, halve your speed again. This will at least be close to the right speed.

Another trick is to tell friends or family to rudely (or politely) interrupt you if you speak too fast. This technique can also be helpful for eliminating um, uh, like, y'know, and similar disfluencies. I will write "SLOW" on a piece of paper and hold it up while a student is speaking, for example.

I admit I am surprised that you find speaking slowly more difficult in terms of keeping track of what you are saying. In almost all cases I encounter, people actually speak much more coherently when they speak slower. Either use the extra time to think of what to say, or insert a few judicious pauses for the same effect.

I would say there is a non-negligible chance that your rapid speech comes off as very clear to you, but not to observers. I know that when I get really engaged in an idea, I will often talk rapid-fire in a way that I think ... (read more)

I don't have much practice with public speaking, and I've tried this. To speak slowly while you think about what you're going to say next takes practice. When I try this, I'm likely to confuse my thoughts with my current speech. And this is what I'll actually do: pause a bit between sentences, so that the audience can think about what I just said, and I can think about what to say next. Much easier than trying to talk and think at the same time.
There's your problem right there. Optimally, public speaking should require very little on-the-spot thinking with respect to word choice. Depending on exactly how important (and predictable) the subject matter is, you should have a relatively set vocabulary and set of concepts you wish to discuss. There's being competent at public speaking, and there's being good at public speaking; this comment is about how to do the latter. Before I get started: one general useful piece of advice: if giving a speech, your first few sentences matter far more than everything else, because people will decide whether or not they want to listen to you and will frame their understanding based on it. If you're giving a speech, you should have a moderately detailed bullet-point outline of what you're going to say, and you should have thought (or actually spoken) your way through it in advance. (Often many, many times)(In some cases, and for some people, it's ideal to have a verbatim script. But such circumstances tend to be relatively rare.) When you are actually speaking, you shouldn't need to think too hard about your exact word choices. For relatively high-stakes public speaking, I will have thought the issue over so many times it takes some effort to prevent myself from saying what I've been thinking of saying at a hundred miles an hour. In other words, if you're doing serious public speaking, you should be clear enough on what you want to say in advance that you can afford to devote a significant amount of your mental effort to your tone, movement about the stage, and speed of speech. This is admittedly advanced-level, but it's how one excels. When answering questions (as opposed to controlling exactly what you say) it doesn't change much. 90% of questions can be easily anticipated. The remainder, you pause a bit before answering (or, if appropriate, reframe (honestly) to make easier to answer, "If I understand your question, you're asking _"). If you'll forgive a rudimentary spo
A useful additional trick is to practice a few generic units of body language, such as walking thoughtfully across a stage or making eye contact with several audience members, until it looks and feels natural to do them. You can drop them into the stream when you need to give yourself a longer break, and they will usually "read" as part of your presentation.
1Paul Crowley12y
Recording yourself can help with this too. I recorded myself rehearsing for my first ever presentation, and found that when it seemed to me that I was speaking so slowly that I was sarcastically calling the audience stupid, when played back I was speaking at the right pace.
The right pace for whom? I hate it when other people talk slowly, too. I don't think I'd calibrate properly if I aimed at making myself sound slow enough to myself.

I'd be surprised if there are any of us who don't have some gap in knowledge that a majority of the rest of us found surprising. But really I can't think of any knowledge of this type I'm missing that I can't just look up (rather than ask here) if I realize that I don't have it. (Things of this type I can recall looking up in the past few years: ordering at a bar, dialing international phone numbers, reaching someone at a phone extension, getting a cashier's check from a bank, how to properly wear a suit jacket, how to read facial expressions and make small talk.)

I like wikihow, ehow, and similar sites--and I also find that guides intended for recent immigrants or people with autism are useful for "things everyone is supposed to know".

So it's true: Finnish is so insanely difficult that even the Finns can't speak it! :-)

Which makes their PISA [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment] scores and educational practices [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8601207.stm] all the odder, to me.
It's a bit odd how people keep citing the PISA results, but don't seem to ask the follow-up question of why Finns don't seem to be exactly the international science superstars having top academic performance in the world would indicate. For instance, there are about twice the number of Swedes than there are of Finns, but Swedes have 30 Nobel laureates, while Finns have 4, according to Wikipedia. (Ragnar Granit, who emigrated to Sweden, is on both lists, so maybe the numbers should be 29.5 and 3.5 instead.)
It doesn't necessarily bother me. I know that there are some biases in the Nobels (iirc, Literature has a bias towards Scandinavian authors), and there are plenty of other explanations. Perhaps Finland simply has an atrocious higher education system, which may not reflect in PISA scores. Perhaps Finland and Sweden are similar and some of Finland's better scores come from it being smaller and more susceptible to variation (kind of like the smaller school [http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/09/the-small-schools-myth.html] effect). Perhaps their techniques improve the average but squash extreme variation - like potential Nobelists. Without knowing more, I take the PISA at face value. Now, what would bother me a lot is if a country had very low PISA scores but very many per capita Nobels. (The other way around only bothers me a little.)
The BBC article that you cited suggests precisely that Finland has flattened the extremes. They're proud of this on one end but acknowledge that they need to quit this on the other end.
D'oh! Perhaps I should re-read references before I link them.

The thing to do with telemarketers, I have learned, is not to immediately hang up.

No, it really is to hang up.

I prefer this to simply hanging up because doing the latter always makes me feel bad for several minutes afterward for having been rude to somebody who is, after all, trying to make a living.

Your emotions seem to be doing both you and the telemarketers a disservice - perhaps due to an instinctive misunderstanding of what kind of social transaction is taking place. The telemarketer is not socially vulnerable and nor are you in a position where perception will have future consequences. They also don't WANT to have an extended positive interaction that has no chance of success. Wasting five minutes on a mark that has no chance of giving a commission is strictly worse than an instant hang up. Your instincts are right that they are "after all, just trying to make a living" and you are just getting in their way.

I'm not saying it is necessarily worth retraining your emotional attachments in this case. You seem to attach pride to the act of wasting telemarketer time and guilt to the act of hanging up. This, combined with assertiveness practice you get and the cost of retraining yourself may mean that it is better to stay in the behavioral local minima.

I think it's more that the word is dated. People still spend time together getting coffee to get to know each other. It's just not called a "date" because that sounds so 1950s.

[-][anonymous]10y 10

This should really be a recurring (or otherwise highly visible) thread.

Much-belated edit: Here

Yeah, car batteries can do about a kiloamp into a dead short so we can treat them as ideal voltage sources for this 'application'. However, even with wet hands and solid contact, 12 volts is too low to get much current flowing.

Soaking my hands in saturated salt water got my hand to hand resistance down to 10-20kohm (0.5-1ma), which is still at least a factor of 250 above the 40 ohm resistance you'd need to draw 300ma, which is the lower figure wiki gives for DC caused fibrillation. Putting one hand on either terminal didn't get me so much as a tingle.

I know tingle levels are possible when soaking for longer (hours) and 9v will tingle your tongue (2-4milliamps), but it seems exceedingly hard to get to a dangerous level, considering that most models I've seen had the internal resistance of people at hundreds of ohms (350 is the number that sticks in mind). Also nerves are somewhat AC coupled, which brings the fibrillation limit up and makes people push away from the source instead of clinging on.

I guess it might be possible for someone with thin skinned thoroughly soaked hands making good contact and having a poorly shielded sensitive heart, but I'd call it a 'freak accident'.

It's worth noting that the reason we use clamps on the ends of the jumper cables is because pressure increases surface area in contact, which decreases resistance for the simple reason of Ohm's law applied to parallel resistors. (Three 1k Ohm resistors have a parallel resistance of only 333 Ohms. It's meaningless to give a single figure for copper -> wet skin resistance without also giving the surface area for which the figure is valid.) This means that incidental touching of metal is extremely unlikely to kill anyone, but accidentally clamping your finger, gripping metal tightly, or anything else that applies pressure to your skin will dramatically raise the risk.

Something else I've had to look up: how to convincingly dress like a grownup. (By which I mean less casual than t-shirts and jeans, work-appropriate, flattering, not looking like I just stepped out of a sci-fi movie or an art school.) There are some sites for female style advice I've found interesting and helpful (and edited to remove one I used to like that has gone off the rails).

I've found that for men, the style articles at http://artofmanliness.com/category/dress-grooming/ [http://artofmanliness.com/category/dress-grooming/] are an excellent resource, the authors of them often go out of the way to explain why particular choices are appropriate for particular situations.
Related to this, I have immense difficulty dressing well and casually. I'm quite adept at dressing smartly, but there's a nebulous area between "jeans & t-shirt" and "shirt, no tie" where I just can't seem to figure out how to look stylish.
The secret to that is clothes that are simple and fit well. So well-fitted dark jeans with shirt, no tie or a nice sweater/cardigan is a good look. Even 'jeans and a t shirt' can be a really nice look if the jeans fit you well and the t shirt is something classic like plain white (this also works well with a shirt partly or wholly unbuttoned over the top). There's also chinos which can work (just don't get them in too light or bright a colour if you're not confident about pulling off that look). If you live somewhere cold, peacoats and longer, slightly fitted coats are everywhere right now and they look good. Advanced level - pick colours that complement your complexion. This is easier to gauge in person, but generally redheads rock green and jewel tones, blonds look good in cold colours and brown-haired guys are more likely to rock warm colours (though there are few people who don't rock blue). Brown-haired and darker-skinned guys are also a lot better at wearing white without having a tan. Oh and practically nobody looks good in orange or yellow.
There is a decent subreddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/malefashionadvice/ [http://www.reddit.com/r/malefashionadvice/]

I think I have lots of gaps to report, but I'm having lots of trouble trying to write a coherent comment about them... so I'm going to just report this trouble as a gap, for now.

Oh, and I also have lots of trouble even noticing these gaps. I have a habit of avoiding doing things that I haven't already established as "safe". Unfortunately, this often results in gaps continuing to be not detected or corrected.

Anyway, the first gap that comes to mind is... I don't dare to cook anything that involves handling raw meat, because I'm afraid that I lack the knowledge necessary to avoid giving myself food poisoning. Maybe if I tried, I would be able to do it with little or no problem, but I don't dare to try.

I don't dare to cook anything that involves handling raw meat, because I'm afraid that I lack the knowledge necessary to avoid giving myself food poisoning.

Short tip: If the raw meat smells or tastes bad, don't eat it.

Longer tip: the reason there are so many raw meat warnings are not because you will get sick from eating or handling raw meat. If you don't have a clogged nose, there is almost no way for you to get sick from raw meat, because you will smell or taste any problems before you swallow it.

What's NOT safe is mxing raw and cooked foods. The safety warnings are because the same bacteria that will make raw foods smell bad, will not produce the same smell warnings in the cooked food. This means that you can have highly-contaminated cooked food that gives off no warning whatsoever, and get terribly sick from it.

I have eaten raw meat -- including raw chicken and raw eggs -- for many years, and had fewer incidences of stomach upset with them than I have had with cooked foods. The worst reaction I ever had to a raw food was when I ate a bad egg raw, that was too cold for me to properly taste or smell. (I vomited it up a few minutes later, when some less-impaired part of my... (read more)

I used to be a semi-frequent raw egg consumer. I figured that risks should be rather low. However, once I did get food poisoning, and it was such an excessively bad experience that I decided that I'm avoiding even small risks from raw food consumption.

Generally, it is mainly chicken that one needs to be careful about, because it is sometimes contaminated with unhealthy bacteria, even when bought "fresh". A general procedure with all meat, and especially chicken, is to wash any surface that raw chicken comes in contact with when you are done preparing it and have started to cook it, then wash any utensils you used that touched the chicken, and wash you hands. To be extra cautious, you can do that for any raw meat. Raw meat should be refrigerated soon after purchase and now allowed to stand uncooked at room temperature for more than the time it takes to prepare it.

Thanks for explaining that! But, um... I still have more questions... What is the procedure for washing the surfaces, the utensils, and my hands? How do I know when the meat is cooked enough to not qualify as raw? And for stir-frying raw meat, do I need to pause the stir-frying process to wash the stir-frying utensils, so that I don't contaminate the cooked food with any raw juices that happen to still be on the utensils?
Salmonella bacteria is killed instantly at 165°F. Cooking small chopped or sliced pieces of meat is hard to do wrong because the surface area to volume ratio is high enough that they will be sterilized even before they start to appear cooked. Make your slices less than 1/2 inch thick and cook them until they start to turn golden brown. As long as the business ends of your utensils are in contact with the food as it cooks they will be sterilized along with it. Assuming that you already know how to wash things in general, you don't need to do it any differently. Normal washing is good enough because bacteria can't grow without a source of nutrients and moisture, and you need to ingest a fairly substantial amount of bacteria in order to get sick.
We should add that soapy water does not kill the bacteria, but rather makes it impossible for them to adhere to anything, so they get washed down the drain.

Washing bacteria down the drain is certainly the primary purpose for using soap, by far, but surfactants like soap also kill a few bacteria by lysis (disruption of the cell membrane, causing the cells to rapidly swell with water and burst). In practice, this is so minor it's not worth paying attention to: bacteria have a surrounding cell wall made of a sugar-protein polymer that resists surfactants (among other things), dramatically slowing down the process to the point that it's not practical to make use of it.

(Some bacteria are more vulnerable to surfactant lysis than others. Gram-negative bacteria have a much thinner cell wall, which is itself surrounded by a second, more exposed membrane. But gram-positive bacteria have a thick wall with nothing particularly vulnerable on the outside, and even with gram-negative bacteria the scope of the effect is minor.)

In practice, the big benefit of soap is (#1) washing away oils, especially skin oils, and (#2) dissolving the biofilms produced by the bacteria to anchor themselves to each other and to biological surfaces (like skin and wooden cutting boards). Killing the bacteria directly with soap is a distant third priority.

For handwash... (read more)

This is true, but it probably helps to state explicitly that a) the even for small pieces of meat the inside might not be at 165 F even if the outside is (so make sure that it is hot for a fair bit of time) b) This is more of an issue for larger pieces of meat (luminosity's comment below is relevant). There's a related issue: if the meat is raw and frozen, life will be much easier if you defrost it before cooking it. Weird things can happen if you try to directly cook large bits of frozen meat. Generally it won't result in health problems, but it does make stuff more likely to be burned in part or simply not taste good.
However, I find it much easier to slice meat for stir-frying which is still partially frozen. (This also speeds the thawing process.) Probably if you use a cleaver or other heavy, extremely sharp type of instrument, no prior thawing would be necessary; but I don't trust myself with those.
For cooking larger pieces of meat than saturn addresses, the way I learnt what was and wasn't needed was simply cooking meat, waiting until the outside looked cooked, then taking a piece out and cutting it in half. You'll be able to see if it's still bloody inside, or if it's chicken you'll be able to see if it's turned white yet. Personally I prefer meat entirely cooked, but depending on your taste pinkish in the middle should be fine. Doing this over time has given me a good feel for how long to cook meat for my preferences, though even now I still often slice pieces open to be sure.
For beef, not chicken.
I'm not much of a stir-fryer, but my general method for meat cooking is to have separate utensils for "before cooking" and "during-to-after". So if I put the meat in the pan with a fork, that fork goes to the sink. But the wooden spoon that is cooked with the meat doesn't get washed until I'm done eating, and is usually used as my serving spoon, too. If you are really concerned for safety, you could always use one cooking spoon until the surface of the meat is obviously brown, then switch to a fresh spoon. If dealing with a low-fat meat (like moose), burger is much easier to cook than other meat, and is still healthy. It is hard to overcook, and easy to tell what's safe, because all the little chunks of meat go from red to dark brown. High fat burger (like cow) is still tasty and easy to cook, but not terribly healthy. One trick that I will immediately adopt is using an infrared thermometer to check for the 165F that saturn mentioned. Thanks for the info!
This is one of the things I struggled with a bit when first learning to cook for myself as well. It may help to keep in mind that some meats are safer than others. My heuristic goes roughly: chicken < pork < beef/lamb < fish, in increasing order of safety. If I'm handling raw chicken, I'll wash my hands and utensils thoroughly in warm soapy water before doing anything else. If I'm handling fish, I'll usually just give my hands a quick rinse. The same ordering also applies roughly to doneness; it's a much bigger problem to have undercooked chicken than beef, for example. A good starting place for meats is braised dishes like stews and pot roasts, because the typically long cooking time makes it hard to accidentally undercook something while still producing tasty results (as opposed to e.g. a steak grilled until it turns into shoe leather).
Also it should be noted that ground meats are not as safe as meat that is whole. A steak doesn't have to be cooked to the same level of doneness as a hamburger.
One bit of food safety is to use a designated cutting board ONLY for chopping raw meat. One board for fruits and vegetables (and if they're wooden I find it's helpful to use a separate one for onions) and one for raw meat. You'll want to buy two that look dissimilar so you can't confuse the two. When you're cooking, be sure to wash the knife between chopping up your raw meat and chopping up anything that might not be cooked to the same temperature. (Practically, this means to wash the knife or switch knives after the meat, no matter what.)

Yeah, scary. And scariest is that he said it with a dismissive tone of authority and my brain just accepted it. It took me a couple minutes to notice it and convince myself the “expert” was completely ridiculous (I was almost a complete beginner skier at the time).

By the way, it’s not like short skis are new: I checked afterwards and found that their ease of use has been known for decades. It seems trainers insist on long skis just because they can give more lessons, rental shop guys can charge more for the bigger “better” skis, and I suspect most everyone else doesn’t even try them because they’re think they look like child skis or something.

In addition to "Learn to touch-type. Learn to type with ten fingers.":

I am often amazed and astonished that people do not know how to operate the search engine of their choice properly and thus fail to find their desired information. It is your main internet-information retrival-tool, make yourself familiar with its advanced possibilitys, also know as operators. e.g. for google, see this chart: http://www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html

I found most useful (for google) the following ones:

Quotationmarks around a phrase, e.g. &... (read more)

Nice link. I'd been thinking a-b was the same as "a b" all these years. For the record, it means ("ab" or "a-b" or "a b").

Certainty is irrelevant, even if you are certain you still have serious problems making any use of this knowledge; there is no convenient stock named RBTS you can just buy 500 shares of and let it appreciate.

Example: in retrospect, we know for certain that a great many people wanted computers, operating systems, social networks etc - but the history of computer / operating system / social networks are strewn with flaming rubble. Suppose you knew in 2000 that "in 2010, the founder of the most successful social network will be worth >$10b"; just... (read more)

Ahh good point. I mean, hence the argument to start your own company. But right, you won't necessarily win.

Even a metric that can be gamed is possibly useful when not being gamed.

[-][anonymous]12y 8

Vladimir, I'm not sure about the orientation bit. Imagine constructing a sphere of fish around the lightning strike, so that the fish tile the sphere and are flat against the sphere (actually, hemisphere). Necessarily, all the electricity flows through the fish, because they completely tile the hemisphere. Now re-orient the fish without otherwise changing their location. Now, because the fish are thin, they no longer cover the sphere, and between them is a lot of seawater. So only a small fraction, now, of the electricity flows through the fish, and the re... (read more)

Constant: You are correct! I hastily analogized from the human step potential, ignoring the fact that fish, unlike humans, may well be much poorer conductors than the surrounding (or, in the human case, underlying) medium. Sadly, it seems the electrical engineering courses I took long ago haven't left many surviving correct intuitions. After a bit of googling about this question, I'm intrigued to find out that the problem of electrocuting fish has attracted considerable research attention. A prominent reference appears to be a paper titled Electrical stunning of fish: the relationship between the electrical field strength and water conductivity by two gentlemen named J. Lines and S. Kestin (available ungated here [http://www.silsoeresearch.org.uk/animal-welfare/jeff/conductivity.pdf], and with a gruesome experimental section). Alas, the paper says, "No publications appear to be available which identify conductivity measurements of fish tissue at the frequencies being used." It does however say that we might expect something in the hundreds or low thousands of uS/cm, whereas Wikipedia informs us that the conductivity of seawater is around 4.8 S/m, i.e. as much as 48,000 uS/cm. So, yes, this was definitely a blunder on my part.

the fear definitely fully extends to never cooked chicken (cutting boards, knives)

Because bringing them into contact with cooked foods actually is dangerous. You won't have any way of knowing the cooked food is contaminated.

Here's the thing: if your food's not that fresh, cooking can make an unsafe food safe (from a bacterial point of view) at the cost of destroying some other nutrients. (e.g. creatine and vitamin C). However, that same piece of food you'd spit out due to taste or spit up via whatever the backup test mechanism is.

So it's not that I'm... (read more)

It's easy to tell when an egg has gone bad, but not easy to tell whether it's contaminated with salmonella. I'd take a bet on that. I haven't read any statistics on this, but I have read that before refrigeration, people were often less picky about what constituted expiration in food, by necessity. People might be able to smell most dangerous food contamination, but before refrigeration and pasteurization, people were often faced with a choice between eating potentially dangerous food and not eating. I recall Bill Bryson writing (in Made In America) that a contemporary noted that at one meal, George Washington put away his food without eating it, because he thought it was off. His wife cleaned her plate.
I have found my senses to be particularly sensitive in this regard and they do seem to work with cooked foods. I've definitely 'rejected' cooked foods early enough that the experience wasn't more than a mildly unpleasant inconvenience. (ie. Eating more a minute later doesn't seem at all unnatural.) Closer inspection confirmed the instinctive judgement and I gave my reflexes a gold star. Yet I would certainly agree that this is much easier when it comes to raw foods. Did you find it took you time to adapt to raw meats after switching away from cooked meats? It seems like something that would take some adjustment. I find, for example, that my instincts scream at me if they discover I am eating chicken that isn't cooked through. And eating large slabs of raw fish takes a lot of willpower too.
Not much. Once I was prepared for the idea, I eased into it by trying things like raw egg smoothies, sushi, beef tataki (meat that's just seared on the outside - available at many sushi restaurants), and so on. After that, I was psychologically ready to try chicken. There really wasn't any adjustment to the food itself, only to the idea of eating it. What I found consistently was that raw food tasted better than cooked, in terms of flavor and texture. The main drawback I have found to eating raw food is the temperature: hot food is generally more appetizing, except for sushi and sashimi. I have very little interest in cooked fish, but I love sushi and sashimi. I can't stand beef well done any more, I want it to be at least extremely rare if not raw. (I just don't like it cold that much.) These were almost immediate changes in my taste preference. Texturally speaking, raw meat is 100% superior to cooked. It feels better in the mouth, it's juicy... damn, I'm making myself hungry now. Really, the main thing at this point I like better about cooked meat is that the fat portion is more appetizing when heated to the point of softening, and it has an above-ambient temperature. I suspect that this is once again an evolutionary thing -- a fresh kill would not likely have cold-hardened fats and would be hotter than ambient temperature. It would not surprise me if early humans began heating meat for the simple reason that it tastes better if it's at least body-temperature warm.

Enforcement in software players is lax for whatever reason, but makers of DVD players need to agree to honor the Prohibited User Operations flags in order to get a patent license to use the DVD video format. So the general point stands that if you're skipping previews, someone is either in breach of contract or breaking the law.

Any atheist here, and equally irrational? That's a bet I'd take.

It's one thing to disagree with a person on a number of points, and another thing to be unable to respect their epistemology. On difficult matters, where it's hard to locate an error, you can consider another person's reasoning sound to respectable standards without agreeing with their conclusions (we're only human after all,) and on matters of opinion, disagreement does not necessarily imply conflict of epistemology. Religion falls into neither category.

I used to be open to relationships with... (read more)

My deficiency is common manners. I think it's a lack of attention to the world outside of my own thoughts. I've been known to just wander away from a conversation that is clearly not over to the other participants. I notice a sneeze about 10 seconds too late to say "bless you!". I'm appropriately thankful, but assume that's clear without my actually saying or writing something to convey the feeling. Depending on the context, my preoccupation leads me to be perceived as everything from a lovable nerd to an arrogant jerk. It's something I'd like to change.

When I interact with people who behave the way you do (there a lot here at NASA), I generally do not hold it against them.

However, since you said you'd like to change, here are some suggestions that don't require a great deal of attention because they are responses to specific events (which you would need to practice noticing):

  • Always say "Thank you" for everything. Assume that no one thinks you're thankful unless you say so. It's not necessarily true, but it is true sometimes, and it's virtually never true that saying "thank you" will annoy someone that has just done something for you.
  • Learn people's names and use them when you see someone for the first time each day (assuming you're in an anglophone culture--romance cultures greet more often, I don't know about other cultures). For many people, saying "Hi, JoAnn!" instead of just "Hi" or "Mmf" helps make them feel valued and respected by you.
  • It's OK to leave a conversation that others are continuing, if they're not actually speaking to you at the time you leave. Tell everyone "Bye" or "Talk to you later" or whatever is appropriate for your expectations of interacting in the future, and then step away. If you don't want to interrupt a lively discussion, you can just raise your hand in a quick wave, try to make eye contact with at least one person if you can and smile or nod, and step away.
I'll second the "thank you", and append that "please" and "you're welcome" are also wonderful phrases. I tend to read out as exceptionally polite as long as I'm managing those three. I have, ONCE in my life, had someone upset with me for my politeness, but that was because I was overusing "sorry". I do find apologizing is a useful trait, but it's definitely easier to overdo that one :)
I used to think it was worthwhile to think of strangers as human beings. Now I prefer to ignore them until an actual reason to interact presents itself. This doesn't apply to people I expect to encounter at least several times. Just strangers. I suppose learning to comfortably make eye contact and engage strangers was useful, but now I choose not to do it when I have no reason to. It conserves energy and makes me happier not thinking about how I'm perceived by them. Maybe it's true that crowded/urban living isn't "natural" or "healthy", but the solution isn't to waste energy trying to constantly "connect" with strangers - that's an exercise in futility. The solution would be to find a subcommunity where you can behave "normally".
I have replaced the stock replies to normal social banter with something just on the edge of what most people expect. That little change has had a positive impact on my everyday life. When you ask someone how they are doing they will usually respond with the standard, "I'm Good". A simple smile and a, "Are you really good, or just sorta good?" tends to bump them away from the script and engage with you a little more. Whether it's a waitress or a mechanic, that simple statement (no matter how scripted it is on my part) tends to bring out a higher level of service from them. There is no wasted energy in trying to "connect" with them, as I usually don't care... but stepping outside of their hum-drum routine gives them the perception that I care. That can make all the difference!
Interesting. The smile, and the fact that you're really saying something, are probably what really matter. I don't ignore my mechanic or waiter - there is a reason to interact :)
*shudder* I'm going to have to say that I find that very surprising (on the basis of the typical mind heuristic, of course. :P ). While I like the idea of changing up the standard greetings, that specific question is one I would probably react hostilely to.
Welcome to the LessWrong / Autism Spectrum club.
I learned these things because for years my parents corrected me every time I was wrong. Is there someone close to you whom you can ask to give you a prearranged signal when you forget certain things? It would be a little odd to have your friend prompting, "What do you say, dear?", but maybe you can come up with something more subtle.
that's what you're doing to me!

Where can I get an IQ test? I am an adult and was never tested as a child. Searching google has only given me online tests. I want a professionally done test.

I considered myself intelligent, but some of the sequences/posts on this site are quite challenging for me. It has made me curious on exactly how intelligent I am. I don’t want to be too over or under confident when it comes to intelligence. I try to learn new things and that helps me find the limits of my intelligence, but I figure my IQ will also be interesting to know as well.


Per saturn's comment, online tests can be pretty accurate, especially the ones which are imitating (copying) the matrix-style tests; I keep a list as part of the DNB FAQ [http://www.gwern.net/DNB%20FAQ#available-tests]. Note the many caveats. In particular, you cannot take multiple tests! Obviously for most of them you can't take it twice because the questions don't change, but less obviously, they're all similar enough that if you take one, you can expect your score on the second to be noticeably increased just from familiarity/experience. (This is why I suggest that people doing dual n-back do before/after IQ tests with a minimum of months in between, and preferably years.)
Note however that IQ is not a property of individuals measurable on an individual basis like, say, height or weight is. Its utility lies in its statistical power to predict the average performance of large groups of people. When it comes to testing a specific individual, except perhaps for the greatest extremes (like diagnosing mental retardation), the fact that you achieved a certain score gives only probabilistic information about you. Moreover, for individuals scoring in high percentiles, to which you probably belong if you find the stuff written on this blog interesting, there are strong diminishing returns to high scores even statistically. It's like e.g. wondering about your height with regards to your basketball prospects: your potentials are indeed likely to be much greater if you're, say, 6'2" rather than 5'10", but if you already know that you're more than a few inches above average, the difference between, say, 6'9" and 6'5" won't matter anywhere as much.
This doesn't seem to be so up to at least the 1 in 10,000 level [http://www.vanderbilt.edu/Peabody/SMPY/Top1in10000.pdf]. However, I agree that the predictive power of theses tests is still small relative to the remaining sources of variation (although it is one which we are relatively good at measuring) and they shouldn't be over-weighted.
Strictly speaking, the weight of an individual can fluctuate even in the course of a day, due to the consumption or excretion of fluids. It can fluctuate more permanently when you lose or gain body mass in the form of fat or muscle. I'm under the impression that, in contrast, measured I.Q. of an individual is supposed to stay more or less within the same approximate range throughout the course of that individual's life (with obvious caveats for brain damage, senility, and as you say, exceptional individuals at the extremes of the distributions).
From what I know, there are high correlations between an individual's IQ test scores at different times, especially in the short run. Depending on the study, it ends up being something like 0.95 in the short run and 0.7-0.9 between different ages (I'm just quoting rough ballpark figures from memory -- they of course differ between studies and age spans). Some impressively high correlations were found even in a study that compared test scores of a group of individuals at 11 and 77 years of age [http://homepages.ed.ac.uk/ijdeary/papers/SMS32_98.pdf]. On the other hand, people can be coached to significantly improve their IQ test scores. At least so says Rushton [http://psychology.uwo.ca/faculty/rushtonpdfs/Skuyetal2002.pdf], of all people. Then of course, as with all issues where you might want to make some sense of what IQ scores exactly imply, the Flynn effect throws a wrench into any attempt to come up with a neat, plausible, and coherent theory. But even regardless of all this, one should still not forget that the connection between IQ and any realistic measure of success is itself just probabilistic. This is especially true for high-scoring individuals: instead of worrying whether one's score is 120, 130, 140, or whatever, one would be better advised to worry about whether one is deficient in other factors important for success and accomplishment in life.
Mensa runs IQ tests frequently, worldwide, for a small fee. That's the best choice (and the only thing they're useful for).
Private psychologists will probably perform them, but there is also the convenient option of finding out when your local branch of Mensa is having its next round of testing. One of the cheaper options, plus access to Mensa services such as the Travel special interest group (staying for free with interesting people around the world) if you're above the requisite percentile.
There is a rough correlation between IQ and standardized test scores. [http://www.iqcomparisonsite.com/GREIQ.aspx]
Some private psychologists will do them. If there's a research university near you, you might be able to get one for free by participating in a study. However, I discourage you from doing this. The usefulness of knowing your own IQ is already limited at best, and the extra accuracy compared to a good online test isn't worth the amount of time you'll need to spend on it.
I grew up with a very weird opinion about my place in the world as a result of a kindergarten IQ test (they never told me a number, but I knew it was good, because, for example, I got to the point where I had to ask the proctor what it means when someone writes a fraction - of course I didn't know it was called that). Everything I've done since then has been a let down :) You're better off not knowing. Just use whatever you've got. There are many high-IQ-tested people who have crazy views and behavior, and are unsuccessful and unhappy (I don't deny that there exists some meaningful single general intelligence number, but what does knowing it give you?) Besides, such tests can definitely be studied for as a skill, as much as any game (waste of time warning: Cambridge Brain Sciences games [http://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/my-scores/challenge]). So caring about the result just means you're going to effectively waste time practicing.

800+ comments now. I think you may have been right that lots of people have basic procedural gaps that need addressing, Alicorn... :)

I'm kind of weirded out by the fact that a three-paragraph post originally put in Discussion that took me ten minutes to write is now my most upvoted post of all time.

It's like the joke about the mechanic who fixes a car's engine by hitting it once with a hammer. He charges the owner $200 and the guy complains: "All you did was hit the engine with a hammer, I'm not paying $200 for that." So the mechanic gives him an itemized bill: Hitting the engine with a hammer, $5; Knowing where to hit it: $195.
You identified a need and acted on it. Well done. You probably do net get to choose where you make the biggest impact. PS: my most voted comment used to be just one word
Unlike some of the more abstruse topics, this one is likely of at least some interest/value to nearly everyone reading the site...
It's more that this is just a good way to start interesting conversations, I think.

This should probably be turned into a quarterly (monthly?) thread.

Dry hair is more likely to break, split, and peel.

Thank you.

And now you know what jokes about the letter "elemenopee" are referring to.

Although that's not the only way to divide up the ABCs to sing it to the melody of Baa Baa Black Sheep. You can also do abcd efg hijk lmn opq rst uvw xyz. Took me ages to figure that out after I learned how to sing the alphabet backwards and realized that backwards there was no rushing part.

Yeah, that kind of advice is not going to fill any procedural knowledge gaps, sorry.

Previously I've tried "exercise" with fitness machines, aerobic and resistance both, an hour apiece on both, and it doesn't seem to do anything at all. I currently walk a couple of hours every other day. I have no idea whether this does anything (besides exhausting me so much I don't get any work done for the rest of the day, of course). I once read that 40% of the population is "immune to exercise" and I suspect I'm one of the 0.40.

If I have enough m... (read more)

I once read that 40% of the population is "immune to exercise" and I suspect I'm one of the 0.40.

I've been a competitive distance runner for a decade. In that time I've watched maybe 100 people join track or cross country teams, and every one who stays on the team more than a month has shown clear improvement, at least at first.

I've also known many recreational runners, and there's a big difference between a median runner on a cross country team and a median recreational runner of the same age and gender. In fact, of the fifty or so recreational runners I've talked to in some depth, and thousands I've seen at races, I have never met someone who trained themselves independently from the beginning and could beat me at 1500 meters. Meanwhile, I've known scores of people who could beat me at that distance, but they all ran on teams or had run on teams in the past.

In my experience, the slowest guys who joined the team and practiced every day would run a mile in about 5:30 after a year, with a median around 5:00, and 4:40 if they kept at it for a few years. For women it was about 7:00 at slowest, median 6:00 and around 5:30 for women who trained for some time. (Talen... (read more)

In that time I've watched maybe 100 people join track or cross country teams, and every one who stays on the team more than a month has shown clear improvement, at least at first.

Okay, but which way does the causality run?

Are you suggesting that people join track teams because they have the capacity to improve at running? Maybe a third of those people had no prior experience with running and could not have known whether they would improve. Or are you suggesting that people who don't improve quit in less than a month? I can't really answer that, except that it seems unlikely that all the people with no inborn ability to improve are also the people who will give up on something in less than a month.
The way it works in normal people seems to be that exercising regularly feels really awful at first, but after the first few times it doesn't feel that bad (indeed, it starts releasing endorphins) and the person starts getting in shape. Let's imagine that it works like that for one segment of the population, but for another segment it never stops feeling awful and doesn't have the same fitness effects. You'd see the exact same effect you note. Obviously, what you say is evidence that regular running can make anyone more fit as long as they persist– but it's not necessarily strong evidence.
I'm in a segment where it does have fitness effects, but never stops feeling awful. I was in the Army, and it was possible for me to meet the physical fitness standards, but even exercising strenuously every day during eight weeks of Basic Training never produced the exercise high that people speak of.
This is addressed in the parent's next-to-last paragraph (which may have been a late edit, for all that I know).

I once read that 40% of the population is "immune to exercise"

If you mean, 40% of people don't lose weight by exercising, that's probably correct. The OP said "basic level of fitness", though, which does not necessarily mean weight loss.

I currently walk a couple of hours every other day. I have no idea whether this does anything (besides exhausting me so much I don't get any work done for the rest of the day, of course).

There is a fair amount of study (for citations see "Body By Science") that longer exercise does not result in greater health gains, and that it is rather the intensity of exercise that makes the difference.

In my own personal experience, long walks are pleasant, but I felt a greater increase in energy levels from using one of Sears's 10-minute PACE workouts (1 minute walking, 1 minute all-out running, repeat 5 times, then cool down). A few days of this and my general energy levels throughout the day went up. (I would guess the OP's suggestion of hill sprints is based on the same principle of alternating high intensity and low intensity activity for a short period.)

There are quite a few ways in which conventional or popular wisdom about exercise is wrong; the idea that more exercise is better is one of them. (The idea that exercise will help or cause you to lose weight is another.)

This is confusing. It seems like somehting a good rationalist should not have any problem with. And you're supposedly the greatest rationalist around. Are you sure you've actually applied your rationality skills and done stuff like sat down for 5 minutes (each) and thought about questions like "What exactly am I trying to accomplish with exercise, and is there any other way to accomplish it", "How can I find out what kinds of exercise will give results" , "can I replicate what a fitness trainer does myself, find the information online, or find someone willing to act as one for free?", etc.

There are probably a decent number of people with medical knowledge here, who knows these things. Heck, if a few things (like living on the wrong continent) were different I could've just given you my athlete sisters number.

Edit: Also, why is everyone talking about expensive equipment? I'm pretty sure you only need equipment for advanced training if you want to compete or because it's easier/more comfortable, general fitness and health I can see no reason to do anything other than running and stretching and push-ups and such. I'm also pretty sure you can use normal stuff lieing around even for the things you need props for. I'm no expert thou.

... goodness I can't believe I just typed this. -_- Feels like heresy telling Eliezer what to do, especially in an area I consider myself to know nothing about. I'm fully prepared for this to be down-voted to oblivion.

I once read that 40% of the population is "immune to exercise"

Where did you read that?

(I'd be pretty surprised if that turned out not to be untrue, overstated, or overgeneralized.)

I am hoping it was advice specifically given for wait loss, emphasising that just adding light exercise will not see large results in many cases. As an independent observation it would be terrible.

I was skeptical as well, but Googling for "immune to exercise" produced this: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6735-some-people-are-immune-to-exercise.html. It seems like an area that could really use further research; if the universally-dispensed advice is ineffective for nearly half the population, that's a huge problem.

Yes, but that shows that Eliezer probably misremembered what the 40% referred to. In that study, "40%" refers not to how many didn't benefit, but rather to the maximal benefit on a particular measure of fitness received by any of the participants:

For example, the team found that training improved maximum oxygen consumption, a measure of a person’s ability to perform work, by 17% on average. But the most trainable volunteers gained over 40%, and the least trainable showed no improvement at all. Similar patterns were seen with cardiac output, blood pressure, heart rate and other markers of fitness.

Alternately, he might've been rounding the subsequent statistic:

Bouchard reported that the impact of training on insulin sensitivity – a marker of risk for diabetes and heart disease – also varied. It improved in 58% of the volunteers following exercise, but in 42% it showed no improvement or, in a few cases, may have got worse.

So, how many is many? What fraction of the subjects were resistant on the various metrics? Unfortunately, the NS article doesn't give exactly what we want to know, so we need to find the original scientific papers to figure it out ourselves, but the... (read more)

I recall originally reading something about a measure of exercise-linked gene expression and I'm pretty sure it wasn't that New Scientist article, but regardless, it's plausible that some mismemory occurred and this more detailed search screens off my memory either way. 20% of the population being immune to exercise seems to match real-world experience a bit better than 40% so far as my own eye can see - I eyeball-feel more like a 20% minority than a 40% minority, if that makes sense. I have revised my beliefs to match your statements. Thank you for tracking that down!

Do you have an opinion concerning whether this is better characterized as "non-response to the benefits of exercise due to pathology" vs. "immunity to the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle"? Basically, is being a non-responder good or bad? Eyeballing that graph it does look like untrained non-responders might be a bit fitter than responders - but of course the first thing we should assume is ceiling effect. (And of course there's many 3rd options - orchid/dandelion trade offs and such)

I once read that 40% of the population is "immune to exercise" and I suspect I'm one of the 0.40.

.4 of the population unlikely to have evolved? I can't take this too seriously I suppose.

Did you try working on strength first? A lot of cardio is claimed to not be very helpful.

Also, consider a coach or a fellow rationalist with some domain knowledge to work with, it's pretty important to optimize this area (esp. if it puts you out of commission for the rest of the day).

One hack that helped me work throughout the annoyance is reading kindle on a stationary bike. Lost 20 with that trick.

Pounds or kilos? (I'll assume not stone.)
Why not just use a trainer at the gym. Also, if you can't afford that you should really talk with me. It's obviously a high priority.