All of glenra's Comments + Replies

What makes "higher than 600 on ONE section" a cutoff above which counts as an "eminently respectable" score?

Anyone who claims that teachers are stupid is using propaganda instead of ETS data.

Would you accept "mediocre"? ;-)

First, the horrible spelling, grammar, and punctuation leap out at me immediately.

Me too. Good thing they're not trying to improve writing ability!

I just read that grant in its entirety. I noticed one possible typo, but did not find other bad grammar or spelling.

The VERY FIRST SENTENCE has minor punctuation issues and refers to "Excellence in Leaning (sp) Through Technology" - I refuse to believe that the original Senate bill being referred to failed to spell the word "Learning" correctly in its title. :-)

The second sentence pu... (read more)

Agree with everything but: If you look in an old enough style guide (the current standard is as you say), it will say to use an apostrophe when you pluralize an acronym. Wikipedia agrees.

Reciting the litany may or may not actually be useful for this, especially in group settings. I actually lean towards it NOT being that useful, but being harmless and fun.

I thought the Litany worked really well as a running gag, especially with the addition of the meta-litany as a punchline.

If reciting the Litany of Tarski in a group setting is valuable, I desire to BELIEVE that reciting the Litany of Tarski in a group setting is valuable. If reciting the Litany of Tarski in a group setting is NOT valuable, I desire to believe that reciting the Litany of Tarski in a group setting is NOT valuable. Let me not become too attached to beliefs I may not want.

Oh I thought it was fun and funny and worth including on those grounds, but I don't think it caused most people to actually reflect on anything useful in the long term.

I remember once saying, "Well, have we ever tried blindly throwing lots of money at the educational system?"

Kansas City was one of the more notable examples of having tried that; it didn't work out well:

I'm struggling to think of any actual examples of this behavior in action

If you've ever said or thought "Okay, just for the sake of argument, I'll assume your point X is correct..." you were holding a position back in reserve.

One typical example is arguing with a religious nut that what he's saying is incompatible with the teachings in his own holy book. Suppose he wins this argument (unlikely, I know, but bear with me...) and demonstrates that you were mistaken and no, his holy book really does teach that we should burn scientists as witches.... (read more)

And we do, in fact, have toys that achieve flight by being bird-shaped and flapping their wings.

The number of global warming skeptics who jumped straight from "it's not happening" to "well we didn't do it" to "well we can't do anything about it without doing more harm than good" should also...give us a bit of pause.

Actually, that move is perfectly consistent with real skepticism applied to a complex assertion.

To see why, let's consider a different argument. Suppose a True Believer says we should punish gays or disallow gay marriage "because God hates homosexuality". You and I are skeptical that this assertio... (read more)

This is a great point that's making me revise my position on some right wing commentators. Still, I'm struggling to think of any actual examples of this behavior in action: we don't actually tell religious people who believe wrong things "well god ain't real deal with it". We point out how their assertions are incompatible with their own teachings, and with the legal system, and scientific findings etc. We don't keep all the flaws we see in their position back in reserve. Moreover most of the serious commentators on the skeptical side of the issue argued only one of the points in question, whether it was the statistics showing warming or the economics implied by it or (cue rim-shot) sunspots, it's only journalists and politicians who skipped from one to the other, which is where I got the impression they'd only looked at the issue long enough to find a contrarian position.

As I understand it, ECA pills that contain actual ephedrine in amounts as high as you used can no longer be sold either in the US or in the EU - even the link you gave is now invalid because they've reformulated your pill. (The new Forza has "30 mg of Ephedra Extract" instead of 60 mg of ephedrine HCL; they recommend you take twice as many pills as before to get a similar effect.)

The good news for Americans is that we can still legally buy 25 mg Ephedrine. It can't be sold with weight-loss/bodybuilding claims but it's a legal over-the-counter tre... (read more)

I realize this is a reply to an 8-year old update on a 14-year old post, but on the off chance that this reaches you - what was the diet you described as "ultimately proved successful"? And would you still say that?  I'm diving into the rabbit hole of obesity & diet research and found this whole old thread on the shangri-la diet to be quite interesting. Thanks for sharing your self-experimentation, and updating, even after years. 

Who is going to teach them all the dating rituals that they missed during adolescence, and give them back the self-confidence that they lost? Society isn't.

Society used to teach some of this explicitly in the form of cotillion classes. One modern analogue for adults is PUA workshops. I took The Art of Attraction class from Pickup101 a few years ago and found it extremely worthwhile. My favorite part of the class was learning how to improve my body language in various ways. Confidence is a lot about physical behaviour - how to stand, how to walk, how to ... (read more)

Robotics is not advanced enough for a robot to look scary, though military robotics is getting there fast.

Shakey the Robot was funded by DARPA; according to my dad, the grant proposals were usually written in such a way as to imply robot soldiers were right around the 1967. So it only took about 40 years.

  • I took ECA Extreme which is claimed to contain 25 mg "ephedra extract", 200mg caffeine, and a few "woo" ingredients. So perhaps I just need a more ephedra-heavy mix.

  • I was just about stable in terms of fat, neither increasing nor decreasing.

  • Oops, my mistake - my bodyfat percentage is ~23% (measured by electronic resistance scale); my bmi is actually ~27(corrected in the post) . I don't really care about BMI - I expect that to be on the high side because BMI is a silly measurement and I'm trying for an "athletic" build. But

... (read more)
25mg of "ephedra extract" might as well be 5mg of actual ephedrine. Seems like the most likely point of failure. Try with stronger ephedrine - if you don't see decent appetite suppression I'll be surprised. Fat:carb ratio isn't really relevant, but most modern diets are pretty low in protein and micronutrients, barely enough. If you cut amount of your food by 1/3 without changing composition, you might put your protein and micronutrient consumption below healthy threshold, what will result in all sorts of badness. Micronutriens are easy (multivitamin pill). Most bodybuilders keep protein intake pretty much constant on cutting and bulking, so they're on moderate protein on bulking, and high protein when cutting. Plus proteins don't store well in our bodies (we have fat storage obviously, plus carb storage in liver and sort-of- in muscles (it's can only be used for muscle work, never gets released back to blood), but no protein storage), so you pretty much have to eat multiple small protein-containing meals a day if you want to efficiently lose fat without losing muscle.

There is one way to lose weight[...] - one ECA pill every morning until you're done.

I'm 86 kg (bmi ~27). I took your advice and tried taking one ECA pill every morning for the last few weeks and...I was gaining weight on it. I think I had a little loss of appetite right at first - along with a feeling of being "wired" - but the effect wore off after a day or two.

One confounding factor is that I normally consume a lot of caffeine (~200 mg) daily in the form of Diet Coke. I cut back a bit on the soda while taking ECA, so the change in my caffein... (read more)

Well, at least you tried. My points would be: * Primary effect should be appetite suppression. There are all kinds of things that can go wrong between appetite suppression and fat loss, but if appetite suppression is not present, something must be wrong early. So ignore possibility (b) - you might need to wait for fat loss, but appetite suppression should be almost immediate. * What kind of ECA was it? How much ephedrine/caffeine/aspirin? What I used had 60mg ephedrine and 200mg caffeine (plus probably as much caffeine in drinks). Also some pills are called "ECA" but do not contain any ephedrine and instead something supposedly equivalent. * And as you said, I wouldn't be surprised if you needed more caffeine if you normally take a lot of it. * Were you actually gaining fat? (as measured by clothing size, or body resistance meters, or other proxy) * By the way, why did you want to lose body weight if your bmi was normal?
Upvoted for reporting self-experiment result.

Let's have some examples to help those like me get what you're talking about.

I'll bite.

"Get (back) in shape" is one of my big specific goals. If I can significantly improve (and then maintain!) my physical condition this year there is a good chance I will have the opportunity to perform in an off-Broadway show. Which would be a significant-to-me artistic achievement - and there's a looming deadline. One difficulty there is forcing myself to exercise as much as is appropriate to the situation.

"Create and publish my first iPhone applicatio... (read more)

I'm unable to find any good statistics on the reliability of weighted dice, but 84% sounds about right.

here is a set of loaded dice for sale that are advertised to roll a seven (6 on one, 1 on the other, I think) 80% of the time.

1000 is extremely conservative. Every time you play any game with an element of chance - risk, backgammon, poker, scrabble, blackjack, or even just flipping a coin - the odds against you getting the exact sequence of outcomes you do get will be astronomical. So the limiting factor on how many unbelievable outcomes you perceive in a lifetime is how good you are at recognizing patterns as "unusual". Somebody who studied numerology or had "lucky numbers" or paid attention to "lucky streaks" would see them all the time.

In the case... (read more)

"the odds against you getting the exact sequence of outcomes you do get will be astronomical" People notice and remember things they care about. Usually people care whether they win or lose, not the exact sequence of moves that produced the result. For an event to register as unusual a person must care about the outcome and recognize that the outcome is rare. The Risk game was special because I cared enough about the outcome to notice that I was losing, because the outcome (of losing) with 26 vs. 1 armies was incredibly unlikely, and because I could calculate the odds against such an outcome occurring due to chance.

When you say "that is unbelievable control", you seem to be assuming the exact outcome with trick dice would be exactly and entirely predetermined. But there's no reason to think that. The trick dice would only have to make winning much more likely to pull your "impossible" odds down into the realm of the possible. What you describe as a die that "occasionally rolled every number except a 1" is what you would expect to see if the "1" side were weighted a bit - it would often roll a 6, sometimes roll a number adjacen... (read more)

" would often roll a 6, sometimes roll a number adjacent to 6..." Assuming standard probability applied to my three dice, the odds of my rolling at least one 6 are 1 - (5/6)^3 or approximately 0.4. Assume that the "trick" die rolls a 6 half the time. (Remember I was watching as my opponent also rolled 5's, 4's, and 3's.) Then the probability that I would win a battle is at least 0.4 x 0.5 = 0.2. The attacker odds are actually higher since the attacker would usually win if the defender rolls anything but a 6. My estimate is that with the trick die, the defender would win with frequency around 0.6. So the probability that the defender would win 24 battles is around 0.6^24 or about 1-in-100,000. "And yes, it's unlikely your friend would (a) weight your dice, (b) waste this ability on a meaningless game of risk, and (c) keep up the act all these years, but it's not 1-in-100-billion unlikely." There is also (d), even with a "trick" die the event would only be expected to happen with frequency 1-in-100,000. Now combine that low probability with the low probabilities of (a), (b), and (c) also being true. I agree that it is more likely that (a), (b), (c), and (d) are all true is more likely than that a 1-in-100-billion event happened. However, I'm not claiming a 1-in-100-billion event happened. I'm claiming that it is more likely that something unknown occurred, i.e., I have no scientific explanation for the event.

FWIW, one of the reasons Shangri-la didn't quite work for me at first is that I had acid reflux issues. My reflux belches apparently count as "a taste" and after I started taking Zantac to control them - and also drinking less carbonated soda - it worked much better. Another problem I had is an issue S-L has in common with some other diet systems such as Eat-Stop-Eat - any encouragement to "eat whatever you want" when on the diet/regimen is counterproductive if you're eating for any reason other than hunger. I sometimes eat due to bored... (read more)

Putting on my magician's hat for a moment, that sounds like a magic trick to me.

Given your description, the simplest answer consistent with the laws of physics is that another player switched the dice when you weren't looking. Perhaps you stopped the game briefly to take a restroom break or answer the phone or deal with some other interruption. Your memory tends to edit breaks like that out of the narrative flow, especially if they don't seem relevant to the story. Somehow, the other player had the opportunity to switch the dice. Dice can be gimmicked in ... (read more)

re: Magician's Trick My friends had the opportunity to trick me since we regularly played Risk (and I would have been highly amused if they had done so). Since the dice were mine and were distinctive they would have had to get trick dice that matched my own. Then they would have had to wait for the right game opportunity, e.g., my 26 armies against my opponent's last remaining army on his last territory. Knowing my friends very well, it doesn't seem likely to me that they would go to all that trouble and then never laugh about how they fooled me. My friends didn't appear all that surprised by the event. Both believed in "luck" and neither had a mathematical understanding of just how rare such a "chance" event would be. I interacted on a daily basis with these friends for several more years and they consistently expressed the view that it had been a "lucky run", unusual but nothing earth shaking. My impression was that they viewed it as a one in a thousand event consistent with their belief in lucky people and lucky streaks. To me it was amazing because I didn't believe in "lucky people" and could calculate how unlikely such an event was. ("Rare" events might happen frequently and pass relatively unnoticed because people just can't calculate how unlikely the events really are.) I have difficulty believing that trick dice would work well enough to fool me in this particular case. My opponent didn't roll a string of sixes. He beat me with sixes, fives, fours, threes, and even a two. (The two sticks in my mind because at the time I thought to myself that I seemed to be trying to lose.) We are talking about a trick die that occasionally rolled every number except a 1 but still managed to beat or tie my best die for 25 times in a row. That is unbelievable control of little plastic cubes considering we are rolling at the same time using die cups. I have no explanation for that event. I never saw my friend do anything similar before or after and I really don't think he

The book Licit and Illicit Drugs points out that one of the founders of Johns Hopkins was a heroin addict. Being a doctor, he was able to take it in pill form for many years and nobody was the wiser in terms of his productivity.

what is the most rational belief in God that you can think of?

One could imagine someone with a suitable archeological background reaching the conclusion that there used to be one or more interventionist gods around. These gods either lost interest in us or died out prior to modern times. If you take testimony from Biblical times seriously, it doesn't prove beings exist now who are immortal or omnipotent or able to perform magic, but it does suggest some people thought such beings existed in the past and if you take their testimony as more than good stor... (read more)

Also, fat cells are biologically active. Obesity is caused by hormone activity and fat cells provide inputs into that biological process as well as being part of the outcome of it.

Rats that overproduce insulin can die of starvation despite being obese - the body gets energy by breaking down muscle - including heart muscle - in order to preserve the fat.


The phrase "the consensus" is slippery as there is a large gap between what the science tells us and what is claimed about it in third-hand accounts - even large, well-funded, and well-intentioned summaries of summaries. As we go from published scientific papers to what's in the IPCC main report to what's in the IPCC "Summary for Policymakers" to what's in the press release that accompanies it to what's in the news articles written from that press release, at each step the level of doom-mongering increases and the amount of visible unce... (read more)

Ordinarily that would be true, but in this case I don't think it is. At the IRC meetup yesterday, we played a variant of Paranoid Debating where in addition to Red players who try to make the spokesman give the wrong answer, there was also a hidden, randomized time limit and a Deadlocker, whose goal was to make the spokesman miss the deadline (in which case the round ends and everyone else loses). The climate debate includes deadlockers, and their strategy is to increase the perceived uncertainty.

I have often thought new laws at the federal level should be treated much like new drugs are treated by the FDA. They should go through rigorous testing according to clear criteria. The proposer of a new law should specify in advance what effect they hope this law would have on the world and how we might measure this effect. Then when the law gets passed, a few small states (or perhaps counties) are initially chosen as the test group - the law only takes effect in those areas. To control for the placebo effect, we should also have a few regions in which th... (read more)

Not all things can be measured practically, and testing of politically-loaded topics (including most laws that have serious opposition) would be inherently biased. Also, as mentioned upthread, many laws would have no effect or drastically different effect when true at only the local level from the effect if national; for example, dry counties (counties with local prohibition) do not resemble the national-scale effects of Prohibition.

What evidence makes you think the US has lower levels of alcohol abuse than Europe? The US has relatively high rates of alcohol-caused liver disease and has more teenage drinking than many countries in which alcohol is more freely available and partaken of. Contrast the US with the United Kingdom on these two charts:

current national alcohol consumption per capita alcoholic liver disease per capital

Another issue is how to reduce fat weight per se. One of the eye-opening parts of Gary Taubes' talk was the fact that somebody can be simultaneously emaciated and obese. Fat cells want to survive and sometimes will do so to the detriment of their host.

Another Taubes insight: when it comes to vertical growth, we posit one causal direction. We say that a teenager eats a lot because he's a growing boy; we do not say he's growing taller because he eats a lot. It's accepted that the body of a teenager has somehow decided for itself that it wants to get taller a... (read more)

1Paul Crowley15y
Could you explain that without the metaphor of intentionality? Fat cells don't have their own germ line, so I can't reason about what they "want" the way I can reason about what a virus "wants". Thanks!

Weight loss efforts provide much opportunity for magical thinking and drawing false conclusions about causality. You mention a half-dozen factors you had to "tweak" in order to lose weight. So suppose I tweak factor A with no affect. Then I tweak B, then C, then D, and eventually I get up to tweak F and then... I start losing weight for a while! What can I usefully conclude from this? Nearly nothing! Most people conclude that Tweak F must have been an important factor. But perhaps Tweak C was what mattered and it merely took a long time for resul... (read more)

Hell, some of them are probably useless or counterproductive for me! ;-) (Hence the admonition to try different things.)

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes also claims aerobics doesn't work to lose weight and refers to a bunch of studies to that effect. Though he doesn't go so far as to deny there are cardiovascular benefits.

Incorrect, at least from my experience. I lost ~30 pounds, a little more, when I was 16 and doing aerobics one summer. The only diet element I had was eating slightly less. Mind, it was an hour, sometimes an hour and half of intense great aerobics with no breather pause and I was sweating a great deal by the end of each session. I did gain that weight back in less than a month, so fast that my classmates didn't even notice I had lost a lot of weight in the first place, so the end effect was that it didn't work, but the idea of aerobics not leading to weight loss at all is not true.