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There's been a trend for several years now to lower the minimum effort required for social interaction.  Emailing is easier than letter-writing, blogging is easier than emailing, tweeting and texting are easier than blogging.  I predicted a couple of years back that soon services would come along and automate the horrible burden of tweeting mundane details of your life.

Now there's a new service that provides scripted sexy text messaging.  This way, you don't have to actually think about what you find attractive about your partner; you just choose between message "a" and "b".  Any button-pushing monkey can do that.  The dialogue system reminds me of early 1990s adventure games.  Of course the reason those dialogues were limited is because you were dealing with a primitive NPC (non-player-character) with no artificial intelligence.  In this case, you're dealing with two humans who (presumably) love each other, or at least want to get in each other's pants.

I doubt this is the decline of Western civilization; after all, Hallmark pre-packaged sentiment cards have been around for a while.  But I think if I found myself unable to carry on an actual conversation about my sexual desires with a partner, it would be time to move on, not use a handy crutch.  
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On the ski lift today:

Me:  The fall wasn't bad. I had knee pads.
Woman: You have knee pads?
Me: Yeah.  I also have a tailbone pad and body armor -- that's wrist, elbow, shoulder, back, and chest pads -- and a helmet.
Woman: Wow... you must have been in a terrible accident.
Me:  (laughs)  No.  I want to avoid being in a terrible accident.  That's why I bought all that stuff.  
Woman:  Oh.  That makes sense.



---

People don't get it.  You can do more cool things in your life if you lower the cost of failure.  I was able to learn to snowboard faster because I was less afraid to fall and because the falls I did take bruised me up less, allowing me to spend more time on the slopes and less time sitting around feeling achey.  

This is one of those useful general purpose life lessons.  "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is true, but many kids are likely to ignore it because it sounds burdensome.  However, if it's reframed as "You can do more fun things if you also take care of these precautions", it's more positive and gets the point across better.  

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Apparently Facebook messages are a major factor in divorces now.  This isn't surprising.  If you tell your spouse you'll be in Place A doing Thing A, but you end up going to Place B and doing Thing B, it's getting easier for them to find out.  Even if you turn off Google Latitude and other location-based services and don't post about your actions, you still might run into someone else who will photograph you, put it online, and tag you.

This goes for non-relationship things as well.  If you email someone that you're too tired to go to their party, but you really aren't going because you heard about another party that you want to hit up, they're more likely to find out now.  You could tell *everyone* at the party not to post online that you went, but that's a lot of work, it requires their cooperation, and it makes you look bad.  

I imagine that relatively soon there will be "stalker" software that will track a person's appearances, actions, and movements across multiple social networks and location-based services, allowing you to synthesize all online information about them available to you into a coherent story of their actions.  However, it won't be called "StalkPro"... it will be something more like "FriendFinderPro" and will be marketed as a way of seeing what cool stuff a specific friend is up to and what you could join in on.  It will be the newest, most efficient way to catch up on what the people you care about are up to.  Everyone will love it.  

Opting out of the digital world entirely is not an option, since others will post about you.  So ultimately, the only two options are to live honestly or quickly acquire a reputation for being dishonest.  Your choice.  
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This week I finished up my 4th hang gliding class.  I've made a lot of progress, and I'm now going off the top of a 60ft hill, staying on course, and landing safely.  My mental relationship to hang gliding is kind of like teenage pining love.  I think about hang gliding all the time, and when I'm not hang gliding I'm prone to longing thoughts of when I'll be hang gliding again.  Okay, it's not that bad, but it's a loud enough presence in my mind to be annoying.  

So what is it that I like so much about it?  In my dreams I fly from time to time.  I'll often float in midair and then zoom along like superman.  Hang gliding provides the closest real-world experience to it.  I have a full 360 degree view of the world, and no sound of an engine to distract from the sumptuous visual panorama.  Just about any other kind of airplane would provide a much more limited view, although I greatly enjoy even what I see out of little airline windows.  I do enjoy aerial views in general -- they give me a chance to take in the grandeur and beauty of both natural and man-made features, and, in some trick subconscious metaphor, help me focus on the big picture in life.  

Separately, I find the process of flight control fascinating.  I envision each flight as a movement through a high-dimensional possibility space of different positions, velocities, orientations, wind conditions, and other factors.  I need to learn intuitively to navigate this high-dimensional possibility space in a way that keeps me safe.  Over my various flights I have wandered toward the edges of the safe zones as I learned the control process but I've always had enough room and knowledge to recover back to stability.  The training process is fascinating, as the instructors need to provide brief and safe excursions through small pieces of this possibility space that allow beginners to pick up their bearings without getting themselves into trouble.  

One of the big challenges of learning to hang glide has been the light controls.  Basically, any attempt to hold on to the control bars results in the glider clamming up and diving, so you have to learn to gently handle the control bar.  Unfortunately, it's hard to fight the biological impulse to grab the nearest solid object when you suddenly find yourself several feet off the ground.  Any sort of fear or frustration will cause you to grab the bar even more, which is exactly what you don't want to do.  I've found the most effective technique for overcoming this is to spend some time with my eyes closed visualizing possible flights and responding to controls the way I want to in my mind immediately before launch.  I'm sure the techniques I'm having to develop are applicable to coping with fears in other areas.  

I do wonder though if the learning process could be accelerated in other ways.  In a single five-hour lesson I get to take maybe 15 flights, and that translates to roughly 5 minutes of actual airtime.   If I was able to hang in a simulator for an hour or so, I could probably get a lot more experience controlling the glider in different conditions.  All it would take is a harness and control bar, a treadmill, some sensors, a simple flight simulator, a big fan, and a couple of projectors.  Unfortunately, I'm guessing the market for this is probably too small (maybe 200 students a year nationwide) for this to be interesting.  On a side note, I do predict that indoor vertical wind tunnels will have a huge impact on skydiving training.   It really only takes a few minutes to learn how to freefall properly, but you only get 30 seconds of freefall per $200 skydiving lesson and it takes 15-20 skydives to get certified.  With just five to ten minutes of windtunnel time, you could probably cut that down to five lessons or so.  Plus, experienced skydivers can use the windtunnel to work on maneuvers, so the market is larger than just students.  

Update:  People have built a hang gliding simulator, though it doesn't say if it's been used for training hang gliding students.

Anyway, I should stop gushing now.  On to other things.  Hang gliding is glorious -- give it a try if you have the chance.
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I already self-track numerous metrics, such as weight, body fat %, cholesterol, sleep, stress, and happiness.  However, the Life Extension Conference helped me realize that there are far more things that I should track.  Here's why:

- You might discover that you are abnormally low or high in a particular metric, and this knowledge will allow you to quickly and cheaply take corrective action that will improve your quality of life or prevent you from developing a disease.
- Although it is useful to know how well you stand relative to the rest of the people your age and gender, knowing how you are doing relative to a past version of yourself is also very helpful as it can indicate some physiological change that has taken place.  For example, the PSA test, which tests for evidence of prostate cancer, is notoriously inaccurate, but it has been found that a significant increase in PSA over time is much more predictive.
- Frequently collecting data on a particular metric allows you to do self-experimentation to see what affects that particular metric.  The more frequent the testing, the more we are able to learn about ourselves.  The self-experimentation approach is especially good when trying to deal with diffuse conditions that have a range of possible causes, such as insomnia, allergies, anxiety, and depression.

So what is worth tracking?   Here's my first cut at things I might want to check periodically:

Physical performance:

Cardiovascular fitness:

- One of the biggest indicators of cardiovascular health is something called VO2Max, which is the maximum rate of uptake of oxygen by your lungs.  Actual VO2Max testing requires a doctor and lots of specialized equipment.  However, there is a way of indirectly testing VO2Max that's very simple, very accurate, and just about free.  It's called a beep test or shuttle run, depending on which side of the Atlantic you grew up on.  You basically run between two cones 20m apart at a particular rate, and the rate gradually increases until you can't make it in time.  

Agility/speed:

- I'm tempted to measure my performance on a particularly hard song on Dance Dance Revolution, but perhaps something simple, boring, and technology-free like the Hexagon Drill would be better, especially if I want to be able to do the same test in 20 years.

Strength & Power:

- Max # of pull ups.   (In high school I could do 1-3, now I can do 12-14. :-) )
- Max bench press for some # of repetitions.  
- Standing long jump
- Standing vertical jump

Flexibility:

- I could do the sit & reach...  (ah, memories of high school)
- This site also recommends a trunk rotation test and groin flexibility test

Physical health:

- Body composition (body fat %, water %, total weight).  My current scale has decent but probably somewhat inaccurate measurement of this.  
- Glucose levels fasting and after eating a high-carb meal.  This is easy to measure.
- Sleep quality (sleep latency, time in each sleep stage etc.  Technologies like Zeo and FitBit allow for some measure of this.  

I can also order specific tests for levels of various minerals, fats, and other components.  While these tests are somewhat expensive, I really can get by doing them every 1-5 years, with possibly more frequent tests around things I'm trying to change.  The way my health insurance works (high deductible, low monthly premiums) I would order these tests myself from sites like directlabs.com and lef.org (their testing and supplements business is way more respected than their monthly magazine).  

[LOTS OF RESEARCH CONDENSED INTO A GOOGLE DOC]

The above table, and the decisions of what to take, took a couple of hours of research.  Doing all the tests I want to do will take about $500, and I estimate that I'll spend a fraction of that each subsequent year.  I'm still not sure about the food antibody IgG vs IgE tests -- I have heard that some of them are highly inaccurate.  


Mental performance:

This is a tricky one.  There are so many possible things to measure, some of which are extremely difficult to quantify repeatably.  In addition, while I like the automatic data gathering of computer software, anything I use has to still be available in 20 years so that I have consistent methods of measurement.

I could use a brain training suite not to train my brain (only a subset of the tests appear to generalize to other situations) but to periodically test it.  The best brain software appears to be the web-hosted lumosity.com, but I'm worried that the tests may change over time (the site brags that they're making changes and improvements *all the time*).  In addition, the service costs around $80 a year, which is a lot if I only use it a couple of times a year to assess mental performance.  I started looking for desktop software and quickly realized that the low/mid end desktop software market died several years ago.  There's very little, and most of it is crap.  One alternative would be to get iphone/ipad software.  (I'm imagining myself 20 years from now, turning on some ancient hardware to run some games.)  However, getting access to the performance data will be an issue.  


In terms of specific things to test, it would be interesting to cover:
- Working memory
- VIsual attention and tracking
- Ability to focus with distractions
- Multitasking
- Visual/Spatial processing
- Audio processing
- Logic
- Mental flexibility (Boggle?)
- Face recognition (lots of these exist)
* Idea generation / creativity (Ability to plan and prioritize short and long term goals simultaneously)
* Organization
* Self-awareness of emotional states
* Emotional processing
* Recognition of social cues
* Reading comprehension
* Performance under stress
* Willpower 

The eight starred items do not appear to be easily testable in an automated way with the software I've found.  There are a couple of ways of measuring willpower, such as resisting a particular temptation or enduring a painful but harmless sensation.  

Any suggestions on brain testing technique (or any of the things I'm considering, for that matter) are highly appreciated.

Also, if you're interested in doing a testing/discussion group with me (these things are more fun with friends anyway), let me know.
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While I was traveling in Greece, I spent some time exploring Meteora with a young substitute teacher who told me about the principle of "Brain, Book, Buddy, Boss".  It's something he frequently explained to his students as the proper order to try to figure out something you don't know.

1. Brain.  Think about the question.
2. Book.  Look it up.
3. Buddy.  Ask a classmate
4. Boss.  Ask the teacher. 

It's catchy, but is it correct?  Does it apply well to life in general?

"Brain" -- Going first to "brain" helps you build connections between concepts in your mind, enhances critical thinking skills, and, generally speaking, rewires your brain to more efficiently process issues you are facing in your environment.

"Book" -- This really means "just google it".  Given that a web search is only marginally more work than thinking these days even when you're on the go, it seems like we should really get in the habit of seeing if a fact we don't know for certain is easy to work out with a simple web search.  So perhaps we should use "book" first unless we are sure of a particular fact.  I think people tend to underutilize online resources when in social settings.  I've been in lots of stupid conversations where people are arguing over facts right next to a computer.  I usually threaten to look up the answer if the conversation continues.

"Buddy" -- the modern form of this is basically "your social network".  What's nice about "buddy" is that your social network has a reputation system.  You know your friends well enough to trust (or apply the appropriate bias correction to) the things they tell you.  Your social network can also personalize answers for you.  Question answering is also a form of social connection, and some questions may be asked more with a primarily social intent.  However, I have seen lots of questions that should really be answered by "book" get asked of "buddies".  This is sometimes out of laziness, but sometimes a person is so new to a subject that they don't even know what the proper knowledge resources are.  The smart answerer (or even better yet, the smart asker) would reframe the question in terms of orienting the asker toward the resources they need to become more self-sufficient or providing a high-level knowledge framework that would make the knowledge processing more efficient. 

"Boss" -- Of course the boss wants you to try every other source of information before asking them.  This is how a teacher can manage a class of 30 students.  However, the "boss" is most likely to know the answer, so it's in the question asker's interest to go directly to an expert.  This is part of why people pay for instructors rather than trying to learn a skill on their own.   A skillful teacher can package and deliver knowledge in a customized way to a student that will result in faster learning than any other technique.  I do think a lot of people tend *never* to ask the experts questions out of a fear of looking stupid.  This is actually a bad strategy, as asking good questions of experts is a way of building rapport with them and establishing a social connection with them.  In the end, most successful people can point to one or more mentors who helped them find the way when they were young and inexperienced. 
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The classic trolley problem, in which you have to decide whether to take an action that will save some number of people but kill a smaller number of people, has now been tried with race mixed in.

As it turns out, race is a factor in trolley problems, but not in the way you might think.  Read about the study here.  On average, political conservatives are more likely to sacrifice minorities, while liberals are more likely to sacrifice whites.  Of course, this whole political conservative/liberal one-dimensional axis is a gross oversimplification... I'd be interested to see what specific moral beliefs it lines up with.  I'm guessing that people with more in-group bias and more xenophobia are more likely to sacrifice someone of a different race. 

Side note:  Haidt's research on moral underpinnings of liberal vs conservative ideologies is interesting.
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 A year ago, I posted this:

I went on a walk this morning and found I could run through my entire trip (all 4 1/2 months of it), day by day, recalling the major highlights of what I did every day. I can say with confidence that I would not have had that ability nine months ago. Even though my job was interesting, Monday through Friday often slurred together into a big mush. I could probably have remembered the last couple of months of weekends, but that would be it. Routines make my top level of consciousness sleepy.

I've found that in general the human mind will compress experiences that are repetitive so as to store them in less space. Experiences that are not repetitive cannot be compressed as much. I value the presence of variety in my life, so I think it's a reasonable goal to live my life such that I can recall what I've done every day for the last couple of months.

Now there's psychological research supporting it.   From the NYT article:

On another level, the research suggests that the brain has more control over its own perception of passing time than people may know. For example, many people have the defeated sense that it was just yesterday that they made last year’s resolutions; the year snapped shut, and they didn’t start writing that novel or attend even one Pilates class. But it is precisely because they didn’t act on their plan that the time seemed to have flown away.

By contrast, the new research suggests, focusing instead on goals or challenges that were in fact engaged during the year — whether or not they were labeled as “resolutions” — gives the brain the opportunity to fill out the past year with memories, and perceived time

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Facebook has a feature called Friend Finder that allows you to import your email contacts into facebook so that you can add all your contacts to your facebook friends list.  However, this requires that you provide Facebook your email address and password.  A lot of people don't trust Facebook, so people are understandably leery about providing the keys to their personal correspondence.

However, recently Facebook has started using peer pressure to convince you to use Friend Finder.  What they do is show a couple of your friends who have used it, and suggest that you use it too.  However, these friends are not chosen at random.  It always seems to suggest people who are either
(1) Very influential members of social circles I'm in
(2) Women I've dated that I'm still on good terms with
(3) Close friends

In other words, it's the people who are most likely to influence me.

It's not that hard to take guesses at who these people are.  (1) can be easily quantified by creating a formula that combines a person's # of friends, how many comments they get per day on their wall posts, how many events they organize, how many photos they've been tagged in, and how often people message them.  (2) and (3) can be determined by looking at how you spend your time on facebook -- the wall posts you comment on and the photos you look at.  I'm surprised Facebook hasn't turned it into a public metric, with people being given an influence and closeness level rating they can share.  It would make it more crass, but probably more addictive as well for a lot of users.

It's interesting to extrapolate forward what all this will look like in a few years.  Targeted advertising doesn't bother me.  I'd rather have the ads I see be interesting and relevant than uninteresting and irrelevant.  However, socially targeted advertising might be a different game.  Imagine an ad system that figures out your particular weaknesses and exploits them ceaselessly -- it can figure out exactly what you're insecure about and use the activities of your social network to embarrass, intimidate, frustrate, or otherwise pressure you into action.  For example a gym company could pay a social network to run ads of the form "[Name of girl who is more physically fit than you and who just started dating that guy who you had a huge crush on after he turned you down last week] loves going to [Name of gym].  Join now at a discount!" at the appropriately weak audience.  It's going to be an interesting future, and we'll have to learn to anticipate these sorts of tricks so as to be more immune to them.   (On a related note, see Paul Graham's Acceleration of Addictiveness)

On a side note, I think the password sharing issue is kind of silly because there's a fairly easy alternative.  Web services should allow you to have alternative passwords with limited access rights.  For example, gmail could have one password for full access and another password for read-only access to contacts only.  I'd give the second password to Facebook.  This would also fix my issue with Mint.com.  For Mint to work, you have to give them all your passwords to all your different financial accounts.  I like the fact that I have money in different places protected by different passwords, and putting them all in one place seems like a bad idea (eg Mint could be hacked).  If I could get a read-only password from each financial institution, I'd happily give those to Mint. 
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I found my old diary from my senior year of high school and reread it.  (It's a file on my hard drive.  I keep everything.)  Holy shit folks, it's worth keeping a diary.  Not only is it useful at the time, but it also will dramatically appreciate in value as it ages.  It's the intellectual version of preserving your embryonic stem cells.  More than anything else, it will help weave the disparate threads of your evolving personality and mindset into a coherent trajectory through your life.  Themes will recur, and you can witness the birth and propagation of dramatic changes.  Blogging is great for encouraging yourself to share via social reinforcement, but the lack of self-censoring that happens in a more private setting is incredibly valuable.  As for Facebook and Twitter, unless you use them *really* well, it just isn't the same.  How do I know?  I wrote a twitter-length summary of what I did and felt every day for a year in college, and reading it over again isn't nearly as valuable.  Reading the summaries can sometimes trigger more full memories, but it doesn't give a good sense for what *I* was like back then.

One thing my past self was very aware of was that I was a work in progress that was changing over time, and that at some point a future version of myself would find it and read it.  It turns out that my diary is peppered with references and bids to my future self and earlier past selves that ranged from funny to bittersweet to oddly prescient.  I am not a single person but a range of people along a timeline, and strange things happen when those people talk to each other.

To make your life more meaningful:
1. Go deep.
2. Write it down.
3. Back up your fucking data so you don't lose it.
4. Wait.
5. Reread.
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I spent several hours today taking care of little things around the house (and on my computer) that have been annoying me for days/weeks/months.  I finally realized that I had reached a point where every couple of minutes I'd run into some old mess or some half-broken thing that needed attention, and that the stress of having all these things crying out for attention everywhere I turned was starting to get to me.  My living environment doesn't look that different now, but it feels a lot better. 
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There's now a substantial body of work on willpower that shows it is governed by a distinct biochemical pathway.

Some really interesting discoveries:
- Willpower is a limited resource.  If you expend it on one activity (eg putting up with a loud noise) it will be weaker when you need it for another activity (eg not getting mad when someone yells at you).  Thus it';s worth choosing what to focus your willpower on wisely.
- Willpower can be increased with strength training, just like a muscle.
- Low blood sugar decreases willpower.  (I used to tell high school teachers that eating in class helped me stay focused on the lecture.  Now I finally have evidence of this)
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is higher during high-willpower tasks.  This is REALLY interesting.  It's not mentioned in the article, but I know that high HRV can be induced by slow-breathing techniques used in meditation.  Biofeedback systems (eg the StressEraser and Journey To Wild Divine) train people to increase HRV. 

http://www.inneridea.com/library/how-to-strengthen-willpower-part-1
http://www.inneridea.com/library/how-to-strengthen-willpower-part-2

(via Christine Peterson)
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One common criticism of polyamory is that it tends to be something that's only undertaken in the short term or when people haven't found the "right partner".  I have observed some people do it for reasons that are not conducive to building a healthy long-term relationship.  However, I do believe that stable long-term polyamory is possible, and I have looked to find examples of couples in stable long-term open relationships.  Most of the polyamorous people I know have only been together for a few years at most. 

As a result, I've been curious to find someone who studies open relationships with the same level of detail and scientific rigor as John Gottman uses to study relationships in general.  Unfortunately no such person exists but I did find a PhD student (Elaine Cook) who sought out stable long-term polyamorous couples to see what they all have in common.  Everyone in the study had been in an open relationship for at least 5 years,

You can read the full journal article here and the fully-in depth master's thesis here, but if you wish to quite literally jump to conclusions, read on:

Most of the conclusions about what is necessary for long-term polyamory seemed quite applicable to relationships in general -- appreciation of your partner, closeness, clear communication, good listening skills, willingness to be flexible.  Here's what popped out that was specific to polyamory :

- Willingness to deal with jealousy and not let it become a controlling influence.
- Willingness to strip off the cultural baggage associated with the act of sex.
- Willingness to see the issues that come up in the relationship as a result of polyamory as growth opportunities.
- Willingness to approach adherence to relationship agreements in a flexible way instead of a lawyer-like way.  Agreements may need to change over time. 
- Not having the main reason for pursuing polyamory be the desire to have secondary partners as ways of filling needs that are not met by the primary relationship. 

The "conclusions" section of the paper )
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I spent about six hours yesterday attacking the contents of my remaining storage locker. 

I encountered a variety of old memories ranging from my childhood to recent times.  Some things I've observed.

- I had rich memories of my young childhood (4-10) until I went off to college.  A few months into college, I noticed that the majority of these memories were gone.  It appears that the same thing happened with memories of college, though I recall those memories were still strong until I was 24 or so. 

- I found a box of old notebooks, containing various private writings from the age of 8 or so up to 23.  They were powerful to read... seeing versions of me at various ages struggling with similar challenges and making progress was fascinating.  It was amusing to see a couple of pages I wrote on the eve of my 20th birthday.  I made a prediction about my life at age 30 by thinking about what 10 year old me would have expected for 20 year old me and realizing how wrong he would have been -- I concluded that I really had very little predictive ability whatsoever.   Overall though the experience was incredible, better than any old photos or mementos.  This is why blogging is a wonderful thing.  It encourages us to share in ways that will help our future selves incorporate our present selves into their lives. 

- I found a box of ordinary objects designed to trigger memories.  There was, for example, a spiky seed pod I found when I took a walk to think about the fascinating girl I had met at a wedding the previous day (back in early 2001).  Objects have no meaning save for the value we give them, and this box full of ordinary objects illustrated it rather well.

- I stopped looking at my analog photos the moment I got a digital camera.  They sit there in boxes, wrapped in little paper cocoons.  Each one is another reverse fortune cookie, offering portents of your past.  I should spend a few hours going through them and tossing the best ones through one of those high speed rolling photo scanners. 

- I found a newspaper from 2003.  It had articles about the Iraq war.  Yes, we have been at war for that long.  Today's 13 year olds don't remember a time when we *weren't* at war with Iraq. 

- In my day to day activities I sometimes forget the bigger picture of the trajectory of my life.  These sorts of visits to the storage locker solve this, but I don't get daily reinforcement that way.  I could have a wall full of old pictures, but I notice that static backgrounds tend to be ambient and end up getting ignored after a while.  I could solve this by adding hundreds of photos to my computer desktop background -- that way I'd always be getting semi-fresh surprises. 

------

As far as purging, I didn't have too much to show for my work.  About 2/3 of the space of the locker is taken up by three art projects.  The biggest project is this giant Settlers of Catan game, which I'm looking to find a new home for. 

The rest of the locker contains various supplies and records of my life going back to elementary school. 

Of the ~40 boxes I went through, I managed to generate 4 boxes of trash and about 6 boxes of stuff to donate.  I also found numerous possessions that have been eluding me for a long while, packed hastily in heterogeneous and unlabeled ways before my trip.
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I injured my hand slightly a couple of days ago.  The injury is such that I want to avoid using a couple of the fingers in my right hand for a few days.  I was amazed that my brain quickly and subconsciously came up with new ways of picking up and moving objects, getting dressed,  carrying out other daily tasks, and even typing, a skill that ordinarily takes a very long time to learn and one for which I have subconsciously developed a nonstandard approach I cannot verbally describe.  Accidental stresses on the hand have been very rare. 

I want to harness this sort of rapid rerouting for other types of physical motion learning such as improving posture or riding a snowboard properly. 
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Supermemo and its various free clones (eg Mnemosyne) have become popular over the last couple of years because they interactively quiz you on facts in such a way that they optimize your rate of learning.  It's based on research into when the brain decides to forget vs remember new information... the data show a power law of forgetting that's remarkably clear given the usually dismally fuzzy data seen in the social sciences.    In the Supermemo system, you're given a series of virtual flashcards.  In addition to trying to remember what's on the opposite side of the flashcard, you also rate how well you remembered the answer, from 1 to 5. A 1 means you didn't remember the answer, a 3 means you remember the answer with some difficulty, and a 5 means you remember the answer effortlessly.

Implementing habit changes is difficult.  Habits are moment-to-moment choices that require constant attention to change.  The trouble is that it's difficult to remember in the moment what changes you're trying to make unless you're receiving frequent reminders of it.  Often, there are a lot of changes you'd like to implement, and it's hard to focus on them all without letting most of them drop?

Hey, so why not use Supermemo-type systems as a way of reminding yourself what you want to focus on?  In this case, there's no question-and answer flashcard.  Instead, the flashcard is simply something you want to change or work on, and when it comes up you go through the motions of the habit you want to form in your head and then rate how well you're doing at making that change occur.  If you give it a low rating (1-2) the system will remind you of it more often.  If you give it a high rating (4-5), you've internalized the habit and it can stop reminding you of it. 

So I've started doing this.  I'll report back on how it goes.
mattbell: (Default)
Hard-core atheists often forget that religion provides people with lots of warm fuzzy things that make them happier.  (Religious people are happier than atheists... Seligman and other psych people have shown this).  They're great at poking fun at the inconsistencies in the Bible and showing how religion has been used to justify various unspeakable evils, but if they want to win over the believers to their side, they need to offer the good things that religion offers.

In my opinion, these things are:
1. A sense of purpose in the world and answers to the big questions in life.
2. A community of friendly, caring, like-minded people.
3. A chance to connect with a greater whole... a shared consciousness.

Dance Church attempts to address (2) and (3).  Dance Church occurs on Sunday mornings and is a space where people of all ages gather to listen to entrancing dance music and move together to it.   D and I went to it for the first time today.  It was a lovely way to start the day, and it left us physically tired but emotionally energized.  We'll likely go again in the future, so you local folks should join us. :-)

PS... as for satisfying (1), science does that job rather well for me.  I think it could do the job well for most people if presented in an engaging fashion.  Although he was before my time so I didn't experience him directly, Carl Sagan was in a way a televangelist for science, tantalizing us with the wonders of the universe.   
mattbell: (Default)
Even if football is totally uninteresting to you, the story behind the Saints fans is very interesting

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/sports/football/05bag.html?scp=1&sq=saints%20dress%20as%20woman&st=cse

Anything that convinces straight conservative football fans to cross-dress in public is likely a good thing.
mattbell: (Default)
Houston just elected an openly gay mayor.

Several smaller cities in other regions have chosen openly gay mayors, among them Providence, R.I., Portland, Ore., and Cambridge, Mass. But Ms. Parker’s success came in a conservative state where voters have outlawed gay marriage and a city where a referendum on granting benefits to same-sex partners of city employees was soundly defeated.

When I visited Houston in 2001, it seemed to me to be a time warp back to the 1960s in terms of race and gender roles.

It blows my mind that a gay mayor could be elected in a city that doesn't support domestic partner benefits. Maybe it's the force of personality that an individual politician can bring to bear that makes the difference. Perhaps some voters object to homosexuality as an abstract concept but can relate positively to Mrs Parker as an individual person. Of course this is silly cognitive dissonance, so perhaps over time these individual examples may start to help people overcome their abstract distaste for it.

Meanwhile, the most powerful person in Houston can't get her employer's healthcare to cover her wife.
mattbell: (Default)
A friend of a friend died suddenly at the age of 35 a couple of weeks ago.

Now, whenever I log into Facebook, it suggests "You haven't talked to [name] in a while. Reconnect with him." Facebook wants to make sure it's as sticky a medium as possible, so whenever anyone stops using it, it uses various tricks to pull them back such as encouraging all of their friends to message them. Facebook's software probably noticed that he went from posting several times a day to not posting at all, and that triggered the system to start working hard to pull him back in.

It's creepy as hell. It's probably far more awful for those who knew him well. It's also probably totally unintended on Facebook's part.

As we move toward having automatic systems taking an ever-more-active role in our social lives, expect this sort of thing to increase.

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