Sorted by New

Wiki Contributions


December 2013 Media Thread

Some books I liked this year:

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg

Maximum Willpower: How to Master the New Science of Self-Control by Kelly McGonigal

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit Banerjee

The New Few: A Very British Oligarchy by Ferdinand Mount

The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better by Tyler Cowen

The God Species: How Humans Really Can Save the Planet . . . by Mark Lynas


Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction by Damien Keown

I think the titles are self-explanatory . . . if I had to recommend just one book it would be The Power of Habit

December 2013 Media Thread

The two things I really enjoyed watching this year were The Queen's Classroom, a Japanese Drama serial from 2005 about the elementary school teacher from Hell, and WataMote, an anime serial which is a black comedy about a high-school student with social anxiety disorder. I loved both of them, and would happily watch them again.

December 2013 Media Thread

Some novels I really enjoyed this year:

A Song of Fire and Ice. This is the series of books that the TV show Game of Thrones is based on. I read if for the second time this year and enjoyed it more than I did the first time.

The OreImo light novel translations by NanoDesu (online). This is a Japanese light novel series - a comedy about a teenage brother and sister with a love-hate relationship. If you like anime and manga, you might like it.

Wool by Hugh Howey and its prequel Shift. Wool is a dystopian science fiction novel set in an underground community (I mean, literally under the ground). I'm looking forward to reading the third book in the trilogy, Dust.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and its sequel Little House on the Prairie. These are children's books about life on the frontier in North America in the late 19th Century (I think?). I found them very interesting in their portrait of what life was like for a mostly self-sufficient frontier family.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. This is a fluffy but entertaining British chick-lit comedy-romance about a high-powered financial lawyer who messes up big time at work, runs away, and becomes a maid to a middle-aged nouveau riche couple.

December 2013 Media Thread

I read Yotsuba&! (all volumes) for I think the fifth time this year. It's a gentle comedy about a five year-old girl and her single-parent father. It's currently Japan's bestselling Manga.

2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey

I took the survey, then tried to sign up for Less Wrong.

Only to discover that I already had an account. So my answers to the questions of whether I had an account and how many karma points I had were wrong!

I just wanted to say - firstly, I'm surprised that "Liberal" is given as an option on the short political affiliation question, but not on the longer one! I wrote it in.

Secondly, I STRONGLY object to the UK Labour Party being given an example of a liberal party! I imagine that Americans would have the same reaction to the Republican party being given as an example of a liberal party (they freed the slaves, didn't they?). To my mind, the Labour Party of the 21st Century is both illiberal and right-wing.

Do Fandoms Need Awfulness?

The fact that something has flaws gives you a reason to think about it. A memeplex with no flaws would not stick in your head as long. I'll give some examples.

I can imagine writing Dr Who fanfic, because I know in my head what a good Dr Who story ought to look like, and very few of the actual Dr Who stories measure up. I can't imagine writing Lord of the Rings fanfic, because to me the book is perfect as it is.

Even though I'm not a Christian, I have read a lot of books on Christianity. For a while, I kept expecting, or hoping, to find a book that explained how the various different aspects of Christianity fit together to make a logical, internally coherent system. Then I started reading books about the early history of Christianity in order to try and understand how such a poorly designed set of beliefs came about. I have also read many books by liberal Christians because there are aspects of Christianity that I really like, and it would be nice to discover or work out a memeplex that takes these aspects and divorces them from the aspects that I don't like. I sometimes call myself a Taoist, but I don't have anywhere near the same desire to read books on Taoism because I feel I already get it, and I already know how to divorce the "bad" aspects from the "good" aspects.

I will make a prediction. In the coming century, Christianity will gain far more converts from Islam than Islam does from Christianity, because Christianity is the more interesting religion. It's memes have evolved over a longer time and in more demanding environments.

In romantic fiction, at least one character must have some character flaw. Elizabeth Bennet can see that Mr Bingley is a nice person, but it is the rude and arrogant Mr Darcy that she ends up falling for. In real ife, two people who spend a lot of time jocularly arguing or teasing one another often end up as a couple. People with no character flaws are just boring!

In Dungeons and Dragons, some people (myself included) prefer the earlier editions to the later editions. Later editions have rules that are more comprehensive, complete and elegant. But a game with rules that are sparse, incomplete and wonky is a game that implicitly invites you to tinker about with it, and change the rules in whatever way you want. It's a game with more possibilities!

So my conclusion is that flawed memeplexes can thrive because they engage the intellect and imagination of people with certain personalities. Perhaps this eventually leads people to have positive emotional reactions to the flaws in the things they love, so that you go all gooey inside when you think of your girlfriend's bossiness, or the saving throw tables in early D&D. People can be very good at explaining how features of the things they love, that might appear to the casual observer nto be flaws, are actually desirable features.

To move on to a slightly different subject, I was discussing this idea of "fannishness" with my wife (who cannot imagine that anyone can think Star Wars a bad movie) and we decided that in order to have Fans a work of fiction needs to be set in an imaginary world, have a number of important recurring characters, and take place over a number of episodes.

Another thought that struck me: I just got a book out of the library called "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder". The author's thesis is that "moderately disorganized people, systems and institutions frequently turn out to be more efficient, more resilient, more creative and in general more effective than highly organized ones". I haven't read the book, but it strikes me that there may be some relation between the supposedly greater effectiveness of moderately disorganised systems, and the supposedly greater appeal of moderately flawed works of art.

The Most Important Thing You Learned

I don't know about "most important", but the one post that really stuck in my mind was Archimedes's Chronophone. I spent a while thinking about that one.