What are you working on? June 2012

by David_Gerard1 min read3rd Jun 201277 comments


Personal Blog

This is the bimonthly 'What are you working On?' thread. Previous threads are here. So here's the question:

What are you working on? 

Here are some guidelines:

  • Focus on projects that you have recently made progress on, not projects that you're thinking about doing but haven't started.
  • Why this project and not others? Mention reasons why you're doing the project and/or why others should contribute to your project (if applicable).
  • Talk about your goals for the project.
  • Any kind of project is fair game: personal improvement, research project, art project, whatever.
  • Link to your work if it's linkable.
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The goal is to date successfully. The subgoal is to get one date. Despite meeting a lot of single women, flirting with them, and getting some phone numbers, none of them have been willing to actually go out, or they've made plans and then cancelled. The working theory is that I'm way less attractive than I think. So I'm debugging my appearance and behavior.

Clothes. My process was this: go online, read about fashion, put clothes on, stare at mirror. "According to this, none of my shirts actually fit!" Go to the store, try shirts on, "and none of these fit either!" Go to a tailor, spend $180 to get five shirts ruined (N.B. test a tailor before giving them a big chunk of your wardrobe). Go to a new tailor, and finally I now own a shirt that fits like it's supposed to.

I had tried improving my clothes before without effect, but I think the latest batch of changes bumped me up a level. I've also been testing out these high-status behaviors, so it's hard to isolate changes, but these are new in the last two months:

  1. People walking on the street get out of my way (this led to a lot of "sidewalk dancing" for a while, because I was still expecting them to expect
... (read more)
8Alicorn8yUpvoted for a very granular description of what you're up to and how it's going.
7David Althaus8yWell, I would be interested if you don't mind sharing such personal information. I want (to want) to embark on a similar journey and I could use some motivation.
3wmorgan8yAlright, I'll PM you something this month; we can see if you get anything out of it.
1Paulovsk8yYeah, man, your journey is most interesting than you think. PM me too, if possible.
1Metus8yCan you hit me up too? I am in the process of improving myself and getting a girlfriend is subgoal and part of that process.
0David Althaus8yThanks a lot!
4shminux8yGet a successful dater as a mentor to go out and score dates together, let him observe you in action and give you feedback [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1570728/].
2Paul Crowley8yUm. Many of those high-status behaviours sound pretty rude. Others lead to low epistemic hygeine. If we start behaving in those ways to each other, it won't work out. It's hard to be confident about these things, but people say that I manage to come across as confident about myself without doing other people down, which is certainly both what I aim for and how I feel. I'd like to imagine that I'd be happy if other people behaved the way I do. It's hard to hit that target - indeed, hard to know whether you've hit it or not - but it seems the right one to aim for. EDIT: at least one person seems to have carried away the impression I'm saying that all of those behaviours are always rude and should always be avoided. That definitely isn't the case; I think it's nearly always rude to interrupt before you know what you're going to say, but I'm not, for example, against speaking in complete sentences.
2wedrifid8yYou execute many of them in this very comment, your objection would seem not to be too fundamental.
1Paul Crowley8yI'd be interested to know what other people think about this; I'd like to be a polite contributor to Less Wrong. Most of the stuff in that list is physical and can't be done in a comment; here's what can AFAICT: * Speaking in complete sentences. * Talking matter-of-factly about things that the other person finds displeasing or offensive. * Speaking authoritatively, with certainty. * Making decisions for a group; taking responsibility. * Giving or withholding permission. * Evaluating other people's work. * Speaking cryptically, not adjusting your speech to be easily understood by the other person (except that mumbling does not count). E.g. saying, "Chomper not right" with no explanation of what you mean or what you want the other person to do.
1wedrifid8yThe troubling underlying message here and particularly in the earlier comment is that the behaviors that improv actors would describe as 'high status' are intrinsically rude or that avoiding them is polite. On those lists politeness serves both as a high status move and as a low status move - so does rudeness. An improv actor tasked with roleplaying "I manage to come across as confident about myself without doing other people down" would execute behaviors predominantly from the high status list while avoiding rudeness. That seems about right. Of those the only one that doesn't apply to your comment (to some degree) is the last point - you were not cryptic. The reasoning to apply here isn't "ciphergoth is using high status moves therefore ciphergoth is bad" but rather "ciphergoth is using high status moves from that list without being objectionable therefore executing behaviors from that list is not inherently objectionable." I suggest that rather than judge and avoid actions from the "high status behaviors" list you apply your wariness to the "Lowering another person's status" list, somewhat lower on the page. That list is somewhat more representative of the kind of thing that "sounds pretty rude".
0Paul Crowley8yI don't believe that all of those behaviours are always rude. The discussion of my comment I'll leave aside unless someone else is interested.
1wmorgan8yFor what it's worth, I think you make great points in your comment and I agree with all of them :-D I'm reminded of what Joe McNally said about tradeoffs between goals and principles: There's a difference between behavior that's obviously harmful and seriously harmful. Status games are silly and rude and promote bad epistemology, I agree, but they're everywhere, I doubt I'm really hurting anyone on the margin of my participation, and the potential payoff, AFAICT, is of life-changing importance. So I'm treading carefully, but moving forward.
1NancyLebovitz8yContact info for your tailor?
1wmorgan8ySure thing [https://plus.google.com/107532243737094246874/about?gl=us&hl=en]

I'm doing mechanism design for eliciting information without money. Most people here are aware of scoring rules and prediction markets, which reward participants according to the accuracy of their predictions. Drazen Prelec's Bayesian truth serum (BTS) is an alternate mechanism that rewards predictions relative to the answers of others instead of the actual event. Since verification is done internally, the mechanism works for questions that would be difficult or impossible to evaluate on a prediction market, e.g. "Will super-human AI be built in the next 100 years?" or "Which of these ten novels was the most innovative and ground-breaking?".

All three types of mechanisms assume the participants want to maximize their score from the mechanism. In many circumstances though, people care much more about influencing the outcome of the mechanism than their score or payment. Consider a committee making a high stakes decision, like whether to fire an executive officer. Paying committee members based on their predictions would be gauche. Scores could be ignored if it meant getting a favored outcome, so BTS is easily manipulated without money. The usual fallback of majori... (read more)

6cousin_it8yWhen you have a draft, can you post it to the discussion section of LW? I am very interested in these things.
0badger8yWill do.
-1wedrifid8yWhy? Isn't it just more expensive to manipulate? More people to bribe and all?
0badger8yIndividual participants don't want to manipulate their own vote between two candiates, absent external incentives. Incentive compatible is more accurate than non-manipulable. Votes are manipulable through sybil attacks -- voting many times under false identities. I'm treating majority vote as the status quo to improve upon, with incentive compatibility the basic standard for new mechanisms. Also eliminating vulnerability to sybil attacks would be great, but not high priority.

Psy-Kosh and I are exploring Alice Springs, seeing if you really can make money in Australia. We have harassed all the local restaurants and bars but they say they have no jobs at the moment. I'm making enough to pay the bills at a local fast-food joint, but Psy-Kosh has scruples about serving meat.

I am currently looking for a fruit/vegetable picking as it would:

  • Pay enough to allow me to make a profit.
  • Enable me to renew my visa in a year.
  • Be compatible with Psy-Kosh's ethics.

But even this is a challenge. I may migrate to Darwin or Katherine, where I've heard farm jobs are more plentiful.

1David_Gerard8yAustralians themselves don't see decently-paying jobs just fall from the sky, so it's not clear why you thought you would without research comparable to that a local would have put in.
2Mitchell_Porter8yExcept for the Hayabusa retrieval teams [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayabusa#Reentry_and_capsule_retrieval].
0wedrifid8yWe certainly wouldn't expect to find a decently-paying job in the middle of the desert in a locale with nothing but a minor tourist industry.
-4MileyCyrus8yWell aren't you smart.
0Psy-Kosh8yWhile I appreciate it, you're only bound to follow my ethics to the extent that the ethics themselves are binding ethics, if you get what I'm saying. (ie, the mere fact that they're my ethics doesn't obligate you. But again, I do appreciate it. ^_^
0MileyCyrus8yI meant I was looking for something you could do if they hospitality stuff doesn't work out. ;)
0Psy-Kosh8yWell then, doubly thank you. :)

I am working on a tournament simulator for iterated prisoner's dilemmas. The goal is to be able to run another IPD tournament for LessWrong in light of new insights (Afterparty, etc), that allows for some of the more interesting ideas (variable length, evolution, message corruption) to be in play as well. You can view progress here. It is unlikely to be updated in the next few days, though: I've set aside some time for my other project...

Which is: learning Clojure. Both for the sake of knowing Lisp, and so that I can write an IPD simulator that does the really interesting ideas: reading each others' source code, simulating each other, viewing the results of previous games, and so on. Progress on this goal is good: I have a clear idea of how to implement the features. What's remaining is mostly learning about how Clojure handles mutable data structures, and then putting them together.

I'm working on a video game in which the player controls a horde of orcs and attempts to take over the world. The game is narrated, however, from the perspective of the humans who are being crushed. You get lots of opportunities to commit atrocities, of course.

As far as mechanics go, it's simplified grand strategy tuned so that a typical game takes no more than a couple hours. Haven't gone much beyond design writeups and figuring out my platform (Unity), but I'm only about five hours of actual work into the project.

My realistic goal for the game is for it to serve as a portfolio piece (I work as a game designer). My stretch goals are to get it into the IGF and/or release it on Steam/Desura/etc.

1Alicorn8yI wish to hear more about this game, possibly offsite.
0FiftyTwo7yDid this ever come to fruition?
0WrongBot7yHahahaha, nope.

Any kind of project is fair game: personal improvement, research project, art project, whatever.

Oh, I had no idea.

I somewhat recently finished a Flash animation, Manly Brawl on a Big Tree, and I'm working on a sequel. (Warning: this movie is very manly.)

4falenas1088yI really liked the dialog at the end.
3David_Gerard8yThat is ridiculously amusing.

Not sure how much people would want to read about this, but I recently started the /r/NoFap challenge. I've been abstaining from masturbation because I do it too much. While I don't feel like I shouldn't do it at all, I need to get to at least the level of self control where I can do it not at all. Just a few days successfully, and a few weeks of unsuccessful attempts, but I feel like this time it's really coming along.

This is part of a larger plan to increase my general self control, and a concrete first step while I try other various little things.

4gwern8yWhat data are you recording and how would you know if abstention helps?
0windmil8yWhat data am I recording? The days since I last did it. There are TED talks and other things people have said exist that say when you've messed up some of your reward circuitry in this way that keeping away from it for a while is a good way to go. I haven't really looked at them. I don't claim that it's the best way for everyone, or that people should abstain in general, but I do know that if I don't stop entirely for a little while it won't work. When I give in it's harder to keep from doing it again and I tend to binge. I suppose I would know if it helps if this goes well.
[-][anonymous]8y 8

I bought a commercial EEG monitor called Mindwave ($100). I'm interested in two things:

(1) Can reliable, useful signals be extracted from EEG?

(2) If so, can this (bio)feedback be used for training mental states?

Extra info:

(2) This appears to be the main gimmick for selling these devices. It includes proprietary measures of "attentiveness" and "meditation". You can record these signals over time and see if you can improve your mental state. I was also intrigued by a connection with a program called "Vitamin R", which suggested ... (read more)

1Kevin8yFrom my experience: Mindwave has unusually good algorithms for filtering out blinks and facial movements, but the utility of a single electrode EEG is limited. Larger EEG arrays don't have algorithms as good at filtering out blinks and facial movements.
0[anonymous]8yThanks! I think you're right. I found a program that gave me "raw" EEG signals from Mindwave at different bands (theta, gamma...) and blinks and muscle movements caused huge spikes. But the Neurosky attention/meditation metrics were relatively unaffected. Unfortunately, this is a wheel I'll have to re-invent to extract good signals. (I assume so, since neurosky's metrics are proprietary.) Though I hope some literature exists about this.

I am one month away from the official deadline for completing my PhD thesis. It is about Natural Language Processing, more concretely about building a set of tools for morphological disambiguation, shallow parsing, named entity recognition, sentence alignment and such. The topic is a bit parochial, engineering rather than science, as much of it is just applying well-known techniques to Hungarian. Some of our tools are used by the broader language technology community, though.

I would really appreciate feedback. Send me a PM if you'd like to have a look. (You can decide whether you'd like to give feedback after you have looked into it.)

4Miller8yIs that made easier by the fact that in Hungarian they prefix each word with it's type? . [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungarian_notation]
4Daniel_Burfoot8yIs it written in English? If so, I will take a look at it, at least the first couple of chapters. I try to keep abreast of developments in NLP.
1DanielVarga8yYes, it is written in English. I PMed you a link.

I just made a chain mail dice bag. Making chain mail is one of the most relaxing activities I've discovered.

I'm inventing, and writing a description of, an alien species as an exercise in creativity.

I develop a vector drawing program. It seams to have a good balance between archivability and ambition for me. So far it has 80% of the functionality i use of Inkscape. Currently i'm struggling with getting the performance from barely usable to smooth.

4David_Gerard8ySo what's the motivation? What's it for that Inkscape doesn't do?
1ema8yI want a UI that suits me better. Concretely this means: More keyboard shortcuts. Dragging the mouse only changes the selection. In Inkscape it also moves paths which can get annoying. Non destructive boolshe operations, makes shading way easier.

I'm trying to learn to program. Again.

In my previous attempts I became frustrated by my slow progress, but now I've finished Learn Python the Hard Way and I'm reading through The Django Book while working on a prediction market webapp that uses points instead of real money. Not a particularly original or groundbreaking project, but it's good to actually be making something that might be useful at some point.

An example that it could be useful for could be gaming communities like Minecraft, when it comes to prioritising the implementation of features reque... (read more)

1reup8yOn the html side, grab a free template (quite a few sites out there offer nice ones). I find that it's easier to keep working when my project at least looks decent. Also, at least for me, I feel more comfortable showing it to friends for advice when there's some superficial polish. Also, when you see something (a button, control or effect) on a site, open the source. A decent percent of the time you'll find it's actually open source already (lots of js frameworks out there) and you can just copy directly. If not, you'll still learn how it's done. Good luck!
  • Finishing to program, in Python, an interactive fiction game, targeted at my D&D group. Doing this for fun, to please some friends with whom I have become geographically separated, and to improve my knowledge and programming practices in Python.
  • Aiming to take the JLPT N2 this year, I´m starting to focus my studies in order to identify and address what I still need to learn. Having the certificate would look nice on the CV, and passing the examination would surely be personally satisfying.

I am attempting to transition from a beginner exercise program to an intermediate program. the first day of the new program is tomorrow. I reviewed all the intermediate programs that are popular and attempted to synthesize the common elements. I tried not to stray too far from an established program that has worked for lots of people, so I chose the one closest to my goals and tried to only tweak the non-essential bits or make changes others have successfully made.

I believe I was successful as the program looks very good to me and had positive reactions... (read more)


I'm authoring/managing this collaborative fiction project.

The format I'm using for this project is one that is ultimately yoked to reader input. So I feel it would be valuable if a few rationalists inclined and entertained by the content contributed some input of their own.

The ultimate goal of this piece is to be an exemplar of the world and creatures I constructed, which I intend to make available as a complete visual/cultural element available for free creative commons use by anyone who has need of beings to fill various roles in the drama.

I'm working on the pick-up project I mentioned on the open thread. I'm also doing a narrow AI project using constraint solvers for scheduling and researching for a main article on rationalization.

I have some data here. The waiting time between two eruptions and the duration of the eruptions for the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.

The question is of course, what is the underlying math, governing the lengths of these eruptions and pauses between them?

I have found a nice approximate algorithm. In fact, I have evolved it. In fact it is still evolving, I'll give it here, when the evolution will stop giving ever nicer results - in C programming language.

5othercriteria8yUsing a high-powered black-box technique to regress a one-dimensional continuous outcome against a one-dimensional continuous predictor seems misguided. If you want to characterize how well your evolutionary learning idea works, try it on data that you've generated, where you know the "underlying math". See if you can recover the program that generated the data or one that's equivalent to it. Or try it on really big, messy data where no one knows the right answer and see if you/it can do better than the obvious competitors like SVM, k-NN, CART, etc. The middle ground of working on an easy/messy problem, where any sane method will give you and adequate answer but there's no known ground truth, is not going to make a very compelling story.
1Miller8yI don't get this. You could have a rather complicated generator for this data set. A simple regression would imply the data points were independent, but the value at time T may have [likely has] a relation to value at T-3. So it seems a good problem to me.
-1Thomas8yhttp://lesswrong.com/lw/9pl/automatic_programming_an_example/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/9pl/automatic_programming_an_example/] Was this better? I always want the shortest possible generating algorithm. Everything else, any "dimensionality" is just irrelevant.
2othercriteria8yYes, I think that was better, because the ground truth is Kepler's third law and jimrandomh pointed out [http://lesswrong.com/lw/9pl/automatic_programming_an_example/5t94] your method actually recaptures a (badly obfuscated and possibly overfit) variant of it. "Dimensionality" is totally relevant in any approach to supervised learning [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_dimensionality]. But it matters even without considering the bias/variance trade-off, etc. Imagine that you have an high-dimensional predictor, of which one dimension completely determines the outcome and the rest are noise. Your shortest possible generating algorithm is going to have to pick out the relevant dimension. So as the dimensionality of the predictor increases, the algorithm length will necessarily increase, just for information-theoretic reasons.
0Miller8yHow do you overfit Kepler's law? edit: Retracted. I see now looking at the actual link the result wasn't just obfuscated but wrong, and so the manner in which it's wrong can overfit of course (and that matches the results).
1othercriteria8yTo the extent that Kepler's laws are exact only for two-body systems of point masses (so I guess calling Kepler's third law the ground truth is a bit problematic) and to the extent that the data are imperfectly observed, there are residuals that over-eager models can try to match. Edit: More generally, you don't overfit the underlying law, you overfit noisy data generated by the underlying law.
2Thomas8yKepler's law holds well. The influences of other planets are negligible for the precision we dealt with.
0Thomas8yDimensions irrelevant for the output, will fall out. Regardless if they are random or not. If they somehow (anyhow) contribute, their influence will remain in the evolved algorithm. The simplest algorithm in the Kolmogorov's sense is the best you can hope for.

Reading Learn You a Haskell. Currently on chapter 6. LYAH is humorously written, but it is not something you can read through all in one sitting. I am slowly drawing inferences to Lisp/Scheme and Forth/Retro (which is the language I've spent the most time on.

I've been running my message flasher in the background as an experimental anti-akrasia mechanism. (Apparently priming from subliminal stimuli can prime you to do what you already intended to do, though the effect is more muted than some claims that have been made.)

My tentative goal is to be employable ... (read more)

1gwern8yHow would you know if it works?
1lsparrish8yMy plan is to watch for apparent increases in concentration level and reductions in willpower expenditure. The trick is differentiating that from ordinary habit and skill formation effects. Past experience [for what it's worth] leads me to believe the effects tend to kick in when I stop using a given message rather than while it is flashing. My explanation for that is that the brain becomes accustomed to the stimulus and starts generating it on its own, which somehow triggers internalization of the associated behavior.

I continue to work on my converter for making Arsenal of Democracy savegames from Victoria 2 savegames. I created a webpage to store my finished converters and to record progress on this one. My immediate goal, obviously, is to finish the converter for use in the long-running multiplayer strategy game I'm playing; I also have a small hope of getting some additional cash from the donation button on the website, and perhaps from Google Ads.

I'm working on reaching level 60 as a Barbarian in Diablo 3. I'm currently level 58. Longer term goals include reaching level 60 with all 5 classes in Softcore, beating Inferno difficulty on at least one character, reaching level 40 in Hardcore mode and beating Normal difficulty with at least one HC character. Diablo 3 is more addictive than WoW (or perhaps I'm burnt out on the latter) because the characters feel more individually powerful, the rewards are faster and more randomized, the game can be played in smaller chunks, and solo play is viable throughout.

[-][anonymous]8y 0

Currently I'm working on passing two CLEP exams for college. I recently came to the conclusion that the best way I could help with reducing Existential Risk was to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible so I could donate more to Singularity Institute. So I have to finish with college as soon as possible. I've been experimenting with different accelerated learning methods and I've found that Mind Mapping works best so far.

Not much in progress. Main thing is the planned J.G. Ballard quotes Twitter. Ballard wrote many marvellously quotable sentences, but they're mostly 180-200 characters long, not <=140. I have about 200 quotes from each of The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash and am slowly going through The Complete Short Stories, which has yielded about 80. When I have 800 total I'll run the pile past the jgb list for suggestions, then set up a simple Twitter bot. No ETA for this project.

[-][anonymous]8y 0
  • I am obtaining IT certifications in order to get a job as a sysadmin. I recently obtained my CompTIA A+ Certification. I am currently studying for my CompTIA Network+ Certification.

  • I am launching a health services start-up with my wife. We recently got a contract to provide services for a large agency. We are trying to hire qualified employees at the moment.

  • I am trying to leverage peer pressure to improve the quality of my self-experimentation by subjecting my data and analysis to public scrutiny (mostly family and friends, but Less Wrongers are welc

... (read more)
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