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Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015

I occasionally see people move their fingers on a flat surface while thinking, as if they were writing equations with their fingers. Does anyone do this, and can anyone explain why people do this? I asked one person who does it, and he said it helps him think about problems (presumably math problems) without actually writing anything down. Can this be learned? Is it a useful technique? Or is it just an innate idiosyncrasy?

Open thread, Jan. 12 - Jan. 18, 2015

To piggyback on this:

I'm currently a vegetarian and have been for the past three years, before which the only meat I consumed was poultry and fish. I've been reading a lot about the cognitive benefits of consuming fish (in particular, the EPA/DHA fatty acids); unless I'm mistaken (please tell me if I am), EPA and DHA cannot be obtained from vegetables alone. ALA can be obtained from seaweed, and while our bodies convert ALA into EPA, we do it very slowly and inefficiently, and ALA wouldn't give us any DHA.

I looked into fish oil pills. Apparently pills contain much less EPA/DHA than fish meat does, and it's more cost-effective to eat fish (depending on which species, of course)... and based on other research, I'd expect that our body would extract more fatty acids from a fillet than from a pill with the same quantity of acids.

I still have a visceral (moral?) opposition to eating fish and supporting horrendous fishing practices, and I worry about where fish I might be eating would come from. If it's coming from the equivalent of a factory farm, then I don't want to eat it. On that point, I've read many articles suggesting that extracting fish oil harms certain species of fish.

Ideally there would be a vegetarian, eco-friendly, and health-friendly source of EPA/DHA. Is there?

In the meanwhile, I will try fish again and see if it has any noticeable effect on me. I'll continue to investigate whether vegetarian or eco-friendly sources of EPA/DHA exist, especially if I notice any positive effects from eating fish.

And, the undermining question: does not having any EPA/DHA really matter? (I think it does, since it apparently boosts cognitive function, and I want my brain to operate at its maximum potential; but maybe I'm wrong.)

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

Every night as I'm lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I think of five of six things I want to remember habitually or in the short-run, so I get up and write them down. This costs me at least 25 minutes of sleep. I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem; does anyone know good ways to store or record these ideas?

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

On this note: did your social skills improve after joining?

... And, more generally, how should one pursue the development of social skills? How much time should one put into it, vs. into coding, studying, etc.? Based on what I've read, being friendly and someone people can get along with and want to spend time with can work wonders in all sorts of circumstances. Relative to my peers, I've put less time into meeting and hanging out with people, and I think I'm less socially adept.

This is something I'd love to get better at.* Any suggestions?

*That, and finding people with whom I'm compatible. I frequently run into people I don't want to spend time with, but rarely do I meet people whose presence electrifies me.

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

I'm unsure this is the right decision for me, given that I don't particularly enjoy partying or drinking. Why did you join a frat? What did you get out of it?

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

Thanks for the response.

Re: 1) I'm not as focused on the money as on the programming opportunities it might later lead to.

Re: 2) I agree with everything here. What do you mean in your last sentence?

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

I was unsure where to post this question; let me know whether it merits its own thread. I also apologize if this post is a bit messy.

If I had to title this post, I might name it, "Optimizing College Activities for a Future Programmer".

I'm a college student at an American school. It's quite a lot of work -- more than I can do in the time given, and I have a study routine that's more efficient than a lot of people I know. I was handling it relatively well last year and still getting enough sleep, exercise, socializing, etc. -- basically all the things I would consider essential for keeping me sane.

I do not do drugs. I do not watch television or movies. I am vegetarian. My room is not decorated and I do not buy expensive items. My socializing thus far has consisted of talking with people over meals while walking around campus. I am not in a relationship. I spend most of my time studying and doing school assignments. I have a relatively good GPA and have worked hard to maintain it. But the work is getting harder and I'm thinking I'll need to start putting less work into my classes and accept a lower GPA, because I cannot compromise the essentials (meditation, sleep, etc.). It's been too stressful to do as much coursework as I've been doing and to skip the essentials.

I plan to pursue a career in software engineering / outside academia. I'm double-majoring in math and CS. I do not plan to get a master's degree or a PhD (at least, not any time soon). I understand that CS students' grades don't matter much, though I do think I can benefit from doing as well as I can in my classes. (But I'm also willing to work less in college to be happy.) I also have a great coding job that I've been neglecting because of my studies, but I don't want to neglect it any longer.

Some questions:

  1. Should I let my grades drop a bit and instead work my coding job and ensure I'm doing the "life essentials" on a daily basis? I will be replacing some of my academic work with programming, which is in my estimation pretty valuable. I'm on a scholarship and it requires that I maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, but I'm quite confident my GPA isn't in danger of dropping that low.

  2. Should I put more emphasis on socializing and forming a network? I don't use Facebook much, and my interests don't intersect with most of my peers' (see the partying / drinking / buying expensive food stuff above). I'd rather spend time with people who are doing interesting things and who I can relate more with (is this bad?), but I'm having trouble finding such people on my campus. How do other "rationalists" form social networks in these kinds of environments, or do they?.. I don't want to miss out on something essential (like developing social skills and / or a network) if it is actually essential. (To be fair, I am a bit awkward and often find I don't have anything to say to my peers, but I think this is again because my interests differ from others'... But maybe I'm wrong.)

  3. How should one pursue the development of social skills? How much time should one put into it, vs. into coding, studying, etc.? Based on what I've read, being friendly and someone people can get along with and want to spend time with can work wonders in all sorts of circumstances. Relative to my peers, I've put less time into meeting and hanging out with people, and I think I'm less socially adept. I'd love to improve. Any suggestions?

  4. On a related note, how can I find people with whom I'm compatible? I frequently run into people I don't want to spend time with, but rarely do I meet people whose presence electrifies me.

  5. Any other general advice? e.g., I haven't read anything outside of class since the summer, and I'm thinking it would be good to read during the semester.