Lesswrong real time chat

This is a short post to say that I have started and am managing a Slack channel for lesswrong.

Slack has only an email-invite option which means that I need an email address for anyone who wants to join.  Send me an Email PM with your email address if you are interested in joining.

There is a web interface and a mobile app that is better than google hangouts.

If you are interested in joining; consider this one requirement:

  • You must be willing to be charitable in your conversations with your fellow lesswrongers.

To be clear; This means (including but not limited to);

  • Steelman not strawman of discussion
  • Respect of others
  • patience
So far every conversation we have had has been excellent, there have been no problems at all and everyone is striving towards better understanding of each other.  This policy does not come out of a recognition of a failure to be charitable; but as a standard to set when moving forward.  I have no reason to expect it will be broken but all the same; I feel it is valuable to have.

I would like this to have several goals and purposes (some of which were collaboratively developed with other lesswrongers in the chat, and if more come up in the future too that would be good)

  • an aim for productive conversations, to make progress on our lives.
  • a brains trust for life-advice in all kinds of areas where, “outsource this decision to others” is an effective strategy.
  • collaborative creation of further rationality content
  • a safe space for friendly conversation on the internet (a nice place to hang out)
  • A more coherent and stronger connected lesswrong
  • Development of better ideas and strategies in how to personally improve the world.

So far the chat has been operating by private invite from me for about two weeks as a trial.  Since this post was created we now have an ongoing conversation with exciting new ideas being produced all the time.  If nothing else – its fun to be in.  If something – we are generating a growing space for rationality and other ideas.  I have personally gained two very good friends already; that I now talk to every day.  (Which coincidentally slowed me down from posting this notice because I was too busy with other things and learning from new people)

I realise this type of medium is not for all.  But I am keen to make it work.

I also realise that when people PM email me their email addresses – other people will not see how many of you have already signed up.  So generally assume that there have been others who are already signed up and don’t hesitate to join.  If you are wondering if you have anything to contribute; that’s exactly the type of person we want to be inviting.  By doing that thought you classify yourself as the type of person to try harder.  We want you (and others) to talk with us.

Edit: Topics we now host;

  • AI
  • Art and media
  • Goals of lesswrong
  • Human Relationships
  • Math
  • parenting
  • philosophy
  • political talk
  • programming
  • projects
  • Rational_Hell
  • real life advice
  • Resources and links
  • science
  • travelling
  • and some admin channels; the “welcome”, “misc”, and “RSS” from the lw site.

Edit: a week’s review for the first week of august in 2015: http://lesswrong.com/lw/msa/open_thread_sep_21_sep_27_2015/crk1

Edit – first week of October: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mub/open_thread_oct_5_oct_11_2015/csr3

Edit – 3rd week in october 2015: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mwt/open_thread_oct_26_nov_01_2015/cuq5

Edit – 3rd week in november 2015 http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mzz/open_thread_nov_23_nov_29_2015/cwyl

Original post – http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mpq/lesswrong_real_time_chat/

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How to learn a new area X that you have no idea about.

This guide was in response to a request in the Lesswrong open thread.  I would like to improve it; If you have some improvement to contribute I would be delighted to hear it!  I hope it helps.  It was meant to be a written down form of; “wait-stop-think” before approaching a new area.

This list is meant to be suggestive and not limiting.

I realise there are many object-level opportunities for better strategies but I didn’t want to cover them in this meta-strategy.

It would be very easy to strawman this list. i.e. 1 could be a waste of time that people of half a brain don’t need to cover.  However if your steelman each point it will hopefully make entire sense.  (I would love this document to be stronger, if there is an obvious strawman I probably missed it; feel free to make a suggestion for it to obviously read in the steel-form of the point.

Happy readings!

0. make sure you have a growth mindset. Nearly anything can be learnt or improved on. Aside from a few physical limits – i.e. being the best marathon runner is very difficult; but being a better marathon runner than you were yesterday is possible. (unknown time duration, changing one’s mind, if you think there are parts of you that think you will never be good enough; having systems will only help so far.  You should fix the underlying doubts)

  1. Make sure your chosen X is aligned with your actual goals (are you doing it because you want to?). When you want to learn a thing; is X that thing? (Example: if you want to exercise; maybe skiing isn’t the best way to do it. Or maybe it is because you live in a snow country) (5-10 minutes)
  2. Check that you want to learn X and that will be progress towards a goal (or is a terminal goal – i.e. learning to draw faces can be your terminal, or can help you to paint a person’s portrait). (5 minutes, assuming you know your goals)
  3. Make a list of what you think that X is. Break it down. Followed by what you know about X, and if possible what you think you are missing about X. (5-30 minutes, no more than an hour)
  4. Do some research to confirm that your rough definition of X is actually correct. Confirm that what you know already is true, if not – replace that existing knowledge with true things about X. Do not jump into everything yet. (1-2 hours, no more than 5 hours)
  5. Figure out what experts in the area know (by topic area name), try to find what strategies experts in the area use to go about improving themselves. (expert people are usually a pretty good way to find things out) (1-2 hours, no more than about 5 hours)
  6. Find out what common mistakes are when learning X, and see if you can avoid them. (learn by other people’s mistakes where possible as it can save time) (1-2 hours, no more than 5 hours)
  7. Check if someone is teaching about X. Chances are that someone is, and someone has listed what relevant things they teach about X. We live in the information age, its probably all out there. If it’s not, reconsider if you are learning the right thing. (if no learning is out there it might be hard to master without trial and error the hard way) (10-20mins, no more than 2 hours)
  8. Figure out the best resources on X. If this is taking too long; spend 10 minutes and then pick the best one so far. These can be books; people; wikipedia; Reddit or StackExchange; Metafilter; other website repositories; if X is actually safe – consider making a small investment and learn via trial and error. (i.e. frying an egg – the common mistakes probably won’t kill you, you could invest in 50 eggs and try several methods to do it at little cost) (10mins, no more than 30mins)
  9. Confirm that these are still the original X, and not X2, or X3. (if you find you were actually looking for X2 or X3, go back over the early steps for Xn again. (5mins)
  10. Consider writing to 5 experts and asking them for advice in X or in finding out about X. (5*20mins)
  11. Get access to the best resources possible. Estimate how much resource they will take to go over (time, money) and confirm you are okay with those investments. (postage of a book; a few weeks, 1-2 hours to order the thing maximum)
  12. Delve in; make notes as you go. If things change along the way, re-evaluate. (unknown, depends on the size of the area you are looking for.  consider estimating word-speed, total content volume, amount of time it will take to cover the territory)
  13. Write out the best things you needed to learn and publish them for others. (remembering you had foundations to go on – publish these as well) (10-20 hours, depending on the size of the field, possibly a summary of how to go about finding object-level information best)
  14. Write out things you tried along the way that did not work to save others’s from making the same mistakes.  (no more time than 13)
  15. try to find experiments you can conduct on yourself to confirm you are on the right track towards X. Or ways to measure yourself (measurement or testing is one of the most effective ways to learn) (1hour per experiment, 10-20 experiments)  (Don’t forget – what get’s measured get’s optimised for.  So consider measuring a few things that are close to your goal, but keep in mind that the measurement is not the goal)
  16. Try to teach X to other people. You can be empowering their lives, and teaching is a great way to learn, also making friends in the area of X is very helpful to keep you on task and enjoying X. (a lifetime, or also try 5-10 hours first, then 50 hours, then see if you like teaching)

Update: includes suggestion to search reddit, StackExchange; other web sources for the best resource.
Update: time estimate guide.
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list of apps that are useful to me

I have noticed I often wish “Damn I wish someone had made an app for that” and when I search for it I can’t find it.  Then I outsource the search to facebook or other people; and they can usually say – yes, its called X.  Which I can put down to an inability to know how to search for an app on my part; more than anything else.

With that in mind; I wanted to solve the problem of finding apps for other people.


  • Updates
  • The environment of your phone
  • Overlays
  • Normals
  • Quantified
  • Misc
  • Social
  • Not used

on the 22 August 2015, I wrote an apps list of useful apps, in the comments were a number of suggestions which I immediately tried.  This is an update.  Original can be found at this link:


I rewrote the whole list below.

But first – my recommended list in short:

  • Get an external battery block (and own more than enough spare power cables for when the one you uses breaks)
  • Wunderlist
  • Ingress
  • How are you feeling?
  • Alarm clock plus
  • Twilight
  • Business calendar
  • Clipper
  • Rain alarm
  • Data monitor
  • Rescuetime
  • Powercalc
  • Es File viewer
  • WheresmyDroid?
  • Google Docs/sheets etc.
  • (possibly pushbullet and DTG GTD but I have not had them for long enough)
The bold are the top selections, but I would encourage everyone to have all the apps in the above list.


for those who read the old list and only care for the updates

Timestamp Widget. – on clicking to open it – it logs a timestamp.  Can include notes too.  Good for noting a behaviour and action.

Wunderlist – Recommend it – for shared shopping lists, or any kind of list of things to do.  It’s not perfect but it works.

T2 mood tracker – as a second backup to my other mood tracker.  This one takes more effort to do so I only enter the data every few days.  I quit using it, it was too much to enter, I want an app that is as easy as possible to enter data into – which this is not.  I end up with less data as a trade-off but I end up with actual data rather than “I’ll do it later” which is pretty much never.  YMMV it might be useful to you.

HOVBX – an overlay for google hangouts that sits on top of the call buttons so you don’t accidentally call people (useful for groups who butt-dial each other).

Fleksy – A different keyboard – it seems faster but I am used to swiftkey so I don’t use this one.

Tagtime – useful to try.  reminds you hourly or so to tag what you are currently working on.  I used it for a while to help keep me on track.  I noticed I was significantly off track and eventually stopped using it because I felt bad about it.  I feel like I spend more time on-task now but because I want to.  This was a step in the journey of deciding to change my behaviour.

Alarm clock plus – it’s the best alarm clock app.  I don’t use alarms often but this one does everything.

Squats/Push ups/sit ups/pull ups – Rittr labs – good at a simple exercise routine.  Just tells you what to do.  designed to get you from zero to “up to N” of an exercise (250 or 100) so gives you instruction on how many to do each day.  Worth trying.  Didn’t work for me, but for other reasons about my lifestyle.  It won’t automatically solve your exercise problems but if not knowing what to do is getting in you way – this might help.

Twilight – mentioned above, replaces night mode and does what f.lux with a PC (filters to be less blue at night)

World clock – started talking to people in different time zones and this was handy.

CPU-Z – lists out all the phone’s sensors and tells you their outputs.  cool for looking at gyroscopes/accelerometers.

Coffee meets bagel – dating app.  One profile per day, accept/reject.  Has a different feel to tinder.

Bumble – US only; Like Tinder but the girl has to message you first or the connection disappears.

Business Calendar – Best calendar I have found so far.

Clipper – Clipboard app for holding the last 20 or so things you have copied.  Also for showing you what’s currently on the “copy”.

Pixlr – photo editor.  It’s a good one, don’t use it often.

Rain Alarm – Very good app.  Tells you if it’s raining anywhere nearby.  Can be enough to tell you “I should walk home sooner” but also just interesting to have a bit more awareness of your environment.

Audio Scope – Cool science app for viewing the audio scope.

Spectrum analyze – Cool science app for viewing the audio spectrum.

Frequensee – Fun science app for viewing audio spectrum data.

PitchLab lite – Neat for understanding pitch when singing or listening to musical notes.  Another science-visualisation app

Spectralview analyser – another spectrum analyser

Pulsepoint AED – Initiative to gather a public map of all AED’s worldwide.  To help; get the app and check the details of nearby AED’s

FBreader – Ebook reader.  Pretty good, can control brightness and font size.

KIK – Social app like whatsapp/viber etc.  Don’t use it yet, got it on a recommendation.

Wildwilderness – Reporting app for if you see suspicious wildlife trade going on anywhere in the world.  Can report anonymously, any details help.

DGT GTD – Newly suggested by LW, have not tried to use it yet

Pushbullet – Syncs phone notifications with your PC so you can access things via PC.


The following is a list of apps that I find useful (and use often) for productive reasons:

The environment

This list is long.  The most valuable ones are the top section that I use regularly.

Other things to mention:

Internal storage – I have a large internal memory card because I knew I would need lots of space.  So I played the “out of sight out of mind game” and tried to give myself as much space as possible by buying a large internal card.  The future of phones is to not use a microSD card and just use internal storage.  I was taking 1000 photos a month, and since having storage troubles and my phone slowing down I don’t take nearly even 1 photo a day.  I would like to change that and will probably make it a future bug of mine to solve.

Battery – I use anker external battery blocks to save myself the trouble of worrying about batteries.  If prepared I leave my house with 2 days of phone charge (of 100% use).  I used to count “wins” of days I beat my phone battery (stay awake longer than it) but they are few and far between.  Also I doubled my external battery power and it sits at two days not one (28000mA + 2*460ma spare phone batteries) This is still true but those batteries don’t do what they used to.  Anker have excellent service and refunded the battery that did not stay strong.  I would recommend to all phone users to have a power block.  Phones just are not made with enough battery.

Phone – I have a Samsung S4 (android Running KitKat) because it has a few features I found useful that were not found in many other phones – Cheap, Removable battery, external storage card, replaceable case. I am now on lolipop, and have made use of the external antenna port for a particularly bad low-signal location.

Screen cover – I am using the one that came with the phone still Still

I carry a spare phone case, in the beginning I used to go through one each month; now I have a harder case than before it hasn’t broken. I change phone case colours for aesthetics every few months.

I also have swapped out the plastic frame that holds the phone case on as these broke, it was a few dollars on ebay and I needed a teeny screwdriver but other than that it works great now!

MicroUSB cables – I went through a lot of effort to sort this out, it’s still not sorted, but its “okay for now”.  The advice I have – buy several good cables (read online reviews about it), test them wherever possible, and realise that they die.  Also carry a spare or two.  I have now spent far too much time on this problem.  I am at the end of my phone’s life and the MicroUSB port is dying, I have replaced it with a new one which is also not great, and I now leave my phone plugged into it’s microUSB cable.  I now use Anker brand cabled which are excellent, but my phone still kills one every few weeks.  The whole idea of the MicroUSB plug is awful.  They don’t work very well at all.

Restart – I restart my phone probably most days when it gets slow.  It’s got programming bugs, but this solution works for now.

The overlays

These sit on my screen all the time.

Data monitor – Gives an overview of bits per second upload or download. updated every second. ✓

CpuTemp – Gives an overlay of the current core temperature.  My phone is always hot, I run it hard with bluetooth, GPS and wifi blaring all the time.  I also have a lot of active apps. ✓

M̶i̶n̶d̶f̶u̶l̶n̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶b̶e̶l̶l̶ ̶-̶ ̶M̶y̶ ̶p̶h̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶m̶a̶k̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶ ̶c̶h̶i̶m̶e̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶r̶y̶ ̶h̶a̶l̶f̶ ̶h̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶r̶e̶m̶i̶n̶d̶ ̶m̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶c̶h̶e̶c̶k̶,̶ ̶”̶A̶m̶ ̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶h̶i̶g̶h̶-̶v̶a̶l̶u̶e̶ ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶n̶o̶w̶?̶”̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶t̶i̶m̶e̶s̶ ̶s̶t̶o̶p̶s̶ ̶m̶e̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶d̶o̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶c̶r̶a̶p̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶s̶.̶ Wow that didn’t last.  It was so annoying that I stopped using it.

Facebook chat heads – I often have them open, they have memory leaks and start slowing down my phone after a while, I close and reopen them when I care enough.✓ memory leaks improved but are still there.


The normals:

Facebook – communicate with people.  I do this a lot.✓

Inkpad – its a note-taking app, but not an exceptionally great one; open to a better suggestion.✓

Ingress – it makes me walk; it gave me friends; it put me in a community.  Downside is that it takes up more time than you want to give it.  It’s a mobile GPS game.  Join the Resistance. Highly recommend

Maps (google maps) – I use this most days; mostly for traffic assistance to places that I know how to get to.✓

Camera – I take about 1000 photos a month.  Generic phone-app one. I take significantly less photos now, my phone slowed down so the activation energy for *open the camera* is higher.  I plan to try to fix this soon

Assistive light – Generic torch app (widget) I use this daily.✓

Hello – SMS app.  I don’t like it but its marginally better than the native one.✓

S̶u̶n̶r̶i̶s̶e̶ ̶c̶a̶l̶e̶n̶d̶a̶r̶ ̶-̶ ̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶n̶a̶t̶i̶v̶e̶ ̶c̶a̶l̶e̶n̶d̶a̶r̶;̶ ̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶c̶a̶l̶e̶n̶d̶a̶r̶.̶ ̶ ̶T̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶s̶t̶ ̶b̶a̶d̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶f̶o̶u̶n̶d̶.̶ ̶ ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶ ̶a̶p̶p̶ ̶c̶a̶l̶l̶e̶d̶ ̶”̶f̶a̶c̶e̶b̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶s̶y̶n̶c̶”̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶h̶e̶l̶p̶s̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶e̶n̶t̶e̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶f̶r̶a̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶l̶i̶f̶e̶.̶

Business Calendar – works better, has a better interface than Sunrise.

Phone, address book, chrome browser.✓  I use tab sync, and recommend it for all your chrome-enabled devices.

GPS logger – I have a log of my current gps location every 5 minutes.  If google tracks me I might as well track myself.  I don’t use this data yet but its free for me to track; so if I can find a use for the historic data that will be a win. I don’t make use of this data and can access my google data just fine so I might stop tracking this.

Quantified apps:

Fit – google fit; here for multiple redundancy✓

S Health – Samsung health – here for multiple redundancy✓

Fitbit – I wear a flex step tracker every day, and input my weight daily manually through this app✓

Basis – I wear a B1 watch, and track my sleep like a hawk.✓

Rescuetime – I track my hours on technology and wish it would give a better breakdown. (I also paid for their premium service)✓

Voice recorder – generic phone app; I record around 1-2 hours of things I do per week.  Would like to increase that. I now use this for one hour a month or less.

Narrative – I recently acquired a life-logging device called a narrative, and don’t really know how to best use the data it gives.  But its a start. I tried using the device but it has poor battery life.  I also received negative feedback when wearing it in casual settings.  This increases the activation energy to using it.  I also can’t seem to wear it at the right height and would regularly take photos of the tops of people’s heads.  I would come home with a photo a minute for a day (and have the battery die on it a few times) and have one use-able photo in the lot.  significantly lower than I was expecting.

How are you feeling? – Mood tracking app – this one is broken but the best one I have found, it doesn’t seem to open itself after a phone restart; so it won’t remind you to enter in a current mood.  I use a widget so that I can enter in the mood quickly.  The best parts of this app are the way it lets you zoom out, and having a 10 point scale.  I used to write a quick sentence about what I was feeling, but that took too much time so I stopped doing it. Highly recommend I use this every day.

Stopwatch – “hybrid stopwatch” – about once a week I time something and my phone didn’t have a native one.  This app is good at being a stopwatch.✓

Callinspector – tracks ingoing or outgoing calls and gives summaries of things like, who you most frequently call, how much data you use, etc.  can also set data limits. I dont do anything with this data so I think I will stop using it and save my phone’s battery life.


Powercalc – the best calculator app I could find ✓

N̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶m̶o̶d̶e̶ ̶-̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶s̶a̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶b̶a̶t̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶(̶i̶t̶ ̶d̶i̶m̶s̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶s̶c̶r̶e̶e̶n̶)̶,̶ ̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶t̶e̶n̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶g̶o̶o̶d̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶w̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶d̶o̶e̶s̶.̶ ̶ ̶I̶ ̶w̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶s̶i̶d̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶n̶ ̶a̶p̶p̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶d̶i̶m̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶l̶u̶e̶ ̶l̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶e̶m̶i̶t̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶s̶c̶r̶e̶e̶n̶;̶ ̶h̶o̶w̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶i̶c̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶n̶e̶g̶a̶t̶i̶v̶e̶ ̶s̶l̶e̶e̶p̶ ̶e̶f̶f̶e̶c̶t̶s̶ ̶s̶o̶ ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶b̶e̶e̶n̶ ̶p̶u̶t̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶o̶f̶f̶ ̶g̶e̶t̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶i̶t̶.̶ ̶

Twilight – Does a better job and can filter red light as well as brightness.

Advanced signal status – about once a month I am in a place with low phone signal – this one makes me feel better about knowing more details of what that means.✓

Ebay – To be able to buy those $5 solutions to problems on the spot is probably worth more than $5 of “impulse purchases” that they might be classified as.✓

C̶a̶l̶ ̶-̶ ̶a̶n̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶c̶a̶l̶e̶n̶d̶a̶r̶ ̶a̶p̶p̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶t̶i̶m̶e̶s̶ ̶c̶a̶t̶c̶h̶e̶s̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶f̶i̶r̶s̶t̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶m̶i̶s̶s̶e̶s̶.̶ Nope just using business calendar now.

ES file explorer – for searching the guts of my phone for files that are annoying to find.  Not as used or as useful as I thought it would be but still useful.✓

Maps.Me – I went on an exploring adventure to places without signal; so I needed an offline mapping system.  This map saved my life.✓ Have not used this since then, but I will not delete it.

Wikipedia – information lookup✓

Youtube – don’t use it often, but its there.✓

How are you feeling? (again) – I have this in multiple places to make it as easy as possible for me to enter in this data✓

Play store – Makes it easy to find.✓

Gallery – I take a lot of photos, but this is the native gallery and I could use a better app.✓



In no particular order;

F̶a̶c̶e̶b̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶g̶r̶o̶u̶p̶s̶ was so annoying I got rid of it, Yahoo Mail, Skype, Facebook Messenger chat heads, Whatsapp, meetup, google+, Hangouts, Slack, Viber, OKcupid, Gmail, Tinder, Chatango, CoffeeMeetsBagel, Signal.  Of which I use very little.

They do social things.

I don’t really use:  Viber, OKC, Gmail, Tinder, Chatango, CMB, Signal, whatsapp, G+.

I use: Slack, Facebook messenger, yahoo mail  every day.

Not used:

(ticks here mean they are still in this category and are not used)




snapchat Deleted.

AnkiDroid – Anki memoriser app for a phone. ✓

MyFitnessPal – looks like a really good app, have not used it ✓

Fitocracy – looked good✓

I got these apps for a reason; but don’t use them.


Not on my front pages:

These I don’t use as often; or have not moved to my front pages (skipping the ones I didn’t install or don’t use)

S memo – samsung note taking thing, I rarely use, but do use once a month or so.✓

Drive, Docs, Sheets – The google package.  Its terrible to interact with documents on your phone, but I still sometimes access things from my phone.✓Useful for viewing, not effective for editing.

bubble – I don’t think I have ever used this Deleted

Compass pro – gives extra details about direction. I never use it.Deleted


(ingress apps) Glypher, Agentstats, integrated timer, cram, notify Don’t use them, but still there

TripView (public transport app for my city) Deleted

Convertpad – converts numbers to other numbers. Sometimes quicker than a google search.✓

ABC Iview – National TV broadcasting channel app.  Every program on this channel is uploaded to this app, I have used it once to watch a documentary since I got the app. Deleted

AnkiDroid – I don’t need to memorise information in the way it is intended to be used; so I don’t use it. Cram is also a flashcard app but I don’t use it. Not used

First aid – I know my first aid but I have it anyway for the marginal loss of 50mb of space. Still haven’t used it once.

Triangle scanner – I can scan details from NFC chips sometimes. Still haven’t used it once.

MX player – does videos better than native apps. Rarely used

Zarchiver – Iunno.  Does something.  Rarely used

Pandora – Never used Deleted

Soundcloud – used once every two months, some of my friends post music online.  Deleted – They have a web interface.

Barcode scanner – never used

Diskusage – Very useful.  Visualises where data is being taken up on your phone, helps when trying to free up space.✓

Swiftkey – Better than native keyboards.  Gives more freedom, I wanted a keyboard with black background and pale keys, swiftkey has it.✓

Google calendar – don’t use it, but its there to try to use.✓

Sleepbot – doesn’t seem to work with my phone, also I track with other methods, and I forget to turn it on; so its entirely not useful in my life for sleep tracking. Deleted

My service provider’s app.

AdobeAcrobat – use often; not via the icon though. ✓

Wheresmydroid? – seems good to have; never used.  My phone is attached to me too well for me to lose it often.  I have it open most of the waking day maybe. ✓ I actually set this up and tested if it worked.  It doesn’t work from install, needs an account (which I now have) make sure you actually have an account

Uber – I don’t use ubers. Deleted

Terminal emulator, AIDE, PdDroid party, Processing Android, An editor for processing, processing reference, learn C++ – programming apps for my phone, I don’t use them, and I don’t program much. Deleted some to make space on my phone.

Airbnb – Have not used yet, done a few searches for estimating prices of things. Deleted – Web interface better.

Heart rate – measures your heart rate using the camera/flash.  Neat, not useful other than showing off to people how its possible to do. ✓

Basis – (B1 app), – has less info available than their new app. ✓

BPM counter – Neat if you care about what a “BPM” is for music.  Don’t use often. ✓

Sketch guru – fun to play with, draws things. ✓

DJ studio 5 – I did a dj thing for a friend once, used my phone.  was good. ✓

Facebook calendar Sync – as the name says. ✓

Dual N-back – I Don’t use it.  I don’t think it has value giving properties. Deleted

Awesome calendar – I don’t use but it comes with good reccomendations. Deleted Use Business Calendar now.

Battery monitor 3 – Makes a graph of temperature and frequency of the cores.  Useful to see a few times.  Eventually its a bell curve. ✓

urbanspoon – local food places app. ✓use google mostly now.

Gumtree – Australian Ebay (also ebay owns it now) ✓

Printer app to go with my printer ✓

Car Roadside assistance app to go with my insurance ✓

Virgin air entertainment app – you can use your phone while on the plane and download entertainment from their in-flight system. ✓

Two things now;

What am I missing? Was this useful?  Ask me to elaborate on any app and why I used it.  If I get time I will do that anyway.

P.S. this took 3 hours to review and rewrite and rewrite again for the update.

P.P.S – I was intending to make, keep and maintain a list of useful apps, that is not what this document is.  If there are enough suggestions that it’s time to make and keep a list; I will do that.

Original post here: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/nh3/

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Magnetic rings (the most mediocre superpower) A review.

Following on from a few threads about superpowers and extra sense that humans can try to acquire; I have always been interested in the idea of putting a magnet in my finger for the benefits of extra-sensory perception.

Stories (occasional news articles) imply that having a magnet implanted in a finger in a place surrounded by nerves imparts a power of electric-sensation. The ability to feel when there are electric fields around. So that’s pretty neat. Only I don’t really like the idea of cutting into myself (even if its done by a professional piercing artist).

Only recently did I come across the suggestion that a magnetic ring could impart similar abilities and properties. I was delighted at the idea of a similar and non-invasive version of the magnetic-implant (people with magnetic implants are commonly known as grinders within the community). I was so keen on trying it that I went out and purchased a few magnetic rings of different styles and different properties.

Interestingly the direction that a magnetisation can be imparted to a ring-shaped object can be selected from 2 general types. Magnetised across the diameter, or across the height of the cylinder shape. (there is a 3rd type which is a ring consisting of 4 [or more] outwardly magnetised 1/4 arcs of magnetic metal suspended in a ring-casing. and a few orientations of that system).

I have now been wearing a Neodymium ND50 magnetic ring from supermagnetman.com for around two months. The following is a description of my experiences with it.

When I first got the rings, I tried wearing more than one ring on each hand, I very quickly found out what happens when you wear two magnets close to each other. AKA they attract. Within a day I was wearing one magnet on each hand. What is interesting is what happens when you move two very strong magnets within each other’s magnetic field. You get the ability to feel a magnetic field, and roll it around in your hands. I found myself taking typing breaks to play with the magnetic field between my fingers. It was an interesting experience to be able to do that. I also found I liked the snap as the two magnets pulled towards each other and regularly would play with them by moving them near each other. For my experiences here I would encourage others to use magnets as a socially acceptable way to hide an ADHD twitch (known as stimming) – or just a way to keep yourself amused if you don’t have a phone to pull out and if you ever needed a reason to move. I have previously used elastic bands around my wrist for a similar purpose.

The next thing that is interesting to note is what is or is not ferrous. Fridges are made of ferrous metal but not on the inside. Door handles are not usually ferrous, but the tongue and groove of the latch is. metal railings are common, as are metal nails in wood. Elevators and escalators have some metallic parts. Light switches are often plastic but there is a metal screw holding them into the wall. Tennis fencing is ferrous, the ends of usb cables are sometimes ferrous and sometimes not. The cables are not ferrous. except one I found. (they are probably made of copper)

Breaking technology

I had a concern that I would break my technology. That would be bad. overall I found zero broken pieces of technology. In theory if you take a speaker which consists of a magnet and an electric coil and you mess around with its magnetic field it will be unhappy and maybe break. That has not happened yet. The same can be said for hard drives, magnetic memory devices, phone technology and other things that rely on electricity. So far nothing has broken. What I did notice is that my phone has a magnetic-sleep function on the top left. i.e. it turns the screen off to hold the ring near that point. For both benefit and detriment depending on where I am wearing the ring.

Update: These devices are designed to deal with the fact that they will be used in environments with varying and changing magnetic fields.  Not quite the same as, “I wave my magnets over my phone all day every day” but it’s clearly not an issue for my phone.  My phone also has a magnetic sleep sensor, so it’s gotta deal with not breaking from that magnet either.

Metal shards

I spend some of my time in industrial workshops that have metal shards lying around. sometimes they are sharp, sometimes they are more like dust. They end up coating the magnetic ring. The sharp ones end up jabbing you, and the dust just looks like dirt on your skin. in a few hours they tend to go away anyways, but it is something I have noticed.

Magnetic strength

Over the time I have been wearing the magnets their strength has dropped off significantly. I am considering building a remagnetisation jig (to raise the magnet up to the curie point and then cool it in an electromagnetic field), but have not started any work on it. obviously every time I ding something against it, every time I drop them – the magnetisation decreases a bit as the magnetic dipoles reorganise.


I cook a lot. Which means I find myself holding sharp knives fairly often. The most dangerous thing that I noticed about these rings is that when I hold a ferrous knife in the normal way I hold a knife, the magnet has a tendency to shift the knife slightly or at a time when I don’t want it to. That sucks. Don’t wear them while playing with sharp objects like knives. the last think you want to do is accidentally have your carrot-cutting turn into a finger-cutting event. What is interesting as well is that some cutlery is made of ferrous metal and some is not. also sometimes parts of a piece of cutlery are ferrous and some are non-ferrous. i.e. my normal food-eating knife set has a ferrous blade part and a non-ferrous handle part. I always figured they were the same, but the magnet says they are different magnetisms. Which is pretty neat. I have found the same thing with spoons sometimes. the scoop is ferrous and the handle is not. I assume it would be because the scoop/blade parts need extra forming steps so need to be a more work-able metal. Cheaper cutlery is not like this, and would be case from a mould without reshaping.

The same applies to hot pieces of metal. Ovens, stoves, kettles, soldering irons… When they accidentally move towards your fingers, or your fingers are compelled to be attracted to them. Thats a slightly unsafe experience.


You know how when you run a microwave it buzzes, in a *vibrating* sorta way. if you put your hand against the outside of a microwave you will feel the motor going. Yea cool. So having a magnetic ring means you can feel that without touching the microwave from about 20cm away. There is a variability to it, better microwaves have more shielding on their motors and are leak less. I tried to feel the electric field around power tools like a drill press, handheld tools like an orbital sander, computers, cars, appliances, which pretty much covers everything. I also tried servers and the only thing that really had a buzzing field was a UPS machine (uninterupted power supply). Which was cool. Only other people had reported that any transformer – i.e. a computer charger would make that buzz. I also carry a battery block with me and that had no interesting fields. Totally not exciting. As for moving electrical charge. Cant feel it. If powerpoints are receiving power – nope. not dying by electrocution – no change.

Update: In Australia we have a test-and-tag procedure for electrical products.  The Portable appliance tester seems to put a massive jolt of electricity through a device to make sure it’s not going to short or anything.  This can be felt via magnetic ring.  If you imagine a phone’s vibrate function.  It basically does a short dzzzzz.

Boring superpower

There is a reason I call magnetic rings a boring superpower. The only real super-power I have been imparted is the power to pick up my keys without using my fingers. and also maybe hold my keys without trying to. As superpowers go – thats pretty lame. But kinda nifty. I don’t know. I wouldn’t insist people do it for the life-changing purposes.

Did I find a human-superpower? No. But I am glad I tried it.

Update: My original rings wore out over a period of a few months and I purchased new ebay-rings.  They are not as strong but good enough for my fun purposes.

Any questions? Any experimenting I should try?

Original post: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mjs/

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A very long list of sleep maintenance suggestions

Leading up to this year’s Lesswrong Australia megameetup, in the interest of improving people’s lives in the most valuable way possible, I was hoping to include a session on sleep, sleep quality and sleep maintenance.  With that in mind I put together A very long list of sleep maintenance suggestions.

Some of the most important take-aways:

  1. Do you think you get {good sleep/enough sleep}?  
    – If no then fix it.  This single thing will improve your life drastically.  (also don’t lie to yourself about this, research shows that people who are sleep deprived are bad at predicting how sleep deprived they are, if you are unsure; probably err on the side of caution.  As a measure – if you turned off your alarms – would you be able to get out of bed at the same time every day?)
  2. “I do this weird thing with my sleep but it works well for me, is that a problem?”
    – not really.  if it works – keep doing it.  if it works most of the time but falls apart every Monday, then maybe its time to consider a different plan.
  3. Uberman, and other polyphasic sleep cycles?
    – depends if it works for you.  Don’t force yourself to do it if it, don’t expect it to work for you.  Feel free to try it; lifestyle is also relevant in considering this sleep implementation, (if you have a 9-5 job you certainly can’t make it work, if you have a flexible life then maybe)

Also living a healthy lifestyle will make a big difference.

Some good highlights from the list:

  • limit caffeine, especially to earlier in the day
  • avoid using alcohol as a nightcap – it disrupts sleep maintenance
  • Avoid heavy meals and heavy exercise within 3 hours of bedtime
  • use bedroom for sleep and sex only
  • have sleep in your schedule (go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends)
  • decrease brightness of home lighting ~1-2 hours before bed
  • avoid electronics ~1-2 hours before bed
  • reduce light and noise (via earplugs / white noise) in bedroom as much as possible while sleeping
  • If you tend to sleep in a lot if you don’t set an alarm, you are not getting enough sleep on average – go to bed earlier, consistently.
  • If your alarm keeps going off in the middle of REM sleep, move your bedtime about 45 minutes in either direction – REM sleep occurrs in 1.5 hour increments.
  • Use melatonin.
  • avoid smoking.

The list is best formatted here:


But is also included below for convenience.

A very long list of sleep improving suggestions: -2 to 2
Area of interest: Evidence Rating Explanation by Adam K Comments by others
Everyday life
eat healthy 1 Being overweight reduces sleep quality and risk of sleep disorder
reduce sugar and refine carb intake ? These contribute to daytime sleepyness which may result in overnapping – Kat
be a healthy body weight 2 BMI over 30 puts you at risk of sleep apnea, if anything above Normal BMI w/ sleep apnea, losing weight may help reduce apnea symptoms being overweight can contribute to sleep apnea – Kat
limit caffeine (in chocolate or decaf too) 2 Caffeine response differs significantly in people Limiting caffeine to earlier in the day may also be of some use – Kat
quit smoking (stimulant and breathing) 2 Less deep sleep, less total sleep, and longer sleep latency
exercise daily (not around your sleep time by at least 2-4 hours) 2 Increased deep sleep, less sleep interruptions Even a small amount helps – start with 10 minutes of cardio and work your way up if you have to – Kat
reduce anxiety and stress 2 Anxiety increases sleep latency and sleep interruptions
limit irregular work shifts 2 Circadian rhythmicity important for all parts of health
avoid long commutes 1 Rising too early can miss REM, and less total sleep, some confounding factors to consider
Be physically healthy 2 Diseases generally lead to sleep disorder, e.g. diabetes, cancer, etc
Get enough sunlight 2 Light is most important zeitgeiber for circadian rhythmicity
Analysing your sleep setup
use your bed for sleep and sex only 1 Bed restriction in *older adults* I don’t really know, but older adults who dawdle in bed tend to get better sleep quality if they restrict bed times to reasonable sleep times
sleep in darkness – the more the better; including all LEDs 2 Light is most important zeitgeiber for circadian rhythmicity
Cool room temperature of sleep 15-25c 0 15 may be too cold for people with poor core body temperature control but good for younger healthier more active people. 25 probably too warm for everyone. In-bed, or rectal measurement are more accurate measures, too complicated for normal people to do
check if you are using comfortable pillows 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings I guess room temperature is only important if it is to cool down, because if it’s too cold you can always pile more blankets on until you are comfortable. Recommended room temperature would be 17-22C then
body pillow, neck pillow, arm pillow, to permit a better body position while asleep 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings
check if your bed is comfortable 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings
evaluate sleep location in bedroom – too close to window, door, other noise / light? 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings
Evaluate sleep distractions in the room 1 distractions, by definition, increase sleep latency
mattress life expectancy check (around 10 years) 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings
pillow life expectancy check (around 2-4 years) 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings
allergens in the bedroom 2 definitely affects sleep quality Easiest thing to do is buy dust-mite-proof pillow and mattress covers. Wash bedding weekly in hot water and a little bleach (kills mold). Vacuum regularly. Keep windows closed during known allergy seasons. If you have bad allergy symptoms, get tested and get immunotherapy shots if you can afford it. – Kat
limit pets in bed 1 Sharing bed space with anything decreases sleep quality, including sleeping with partners
limit children in bed 1 Sharing bed space with anything decreases sleep quality, including sleeping with partners
make sure there is enough room for those in the bed 1 Sharing bed space with anything decreases sleep quality, including sleeping with partners and enough sheets and blankets for each – consider separate sheet/blanket for each side of the bed if your sleep partner tugs on the sheets and wakes you – Kat
bedside notepad for anything you might want to write down – if something is keeping you up; you can use this to record things and effectively put them out of your mind so that you can go to sleep. ?? is this a distraction?
Understand approximate sleep hours needed (7-9 in most adults, different summer-winter) 2 Most people underestimate how much they need physiological ‘need’ for sleep doesn’t decrease with age, only ‘feel’ for need for sleep does
certain smells can help, certain smells can hinder. 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings
Have sleep in your schedule 2 Regular bed time important for circadian rhythmicity
have a sleep schedule that includes sleep on the weekends (no skipping the weekends) 2 Sleeping in on the weekend can be very good for people who undersleep during the weekdays, but it’s not as good as regular sleep of course ok
Turn your clock so you can’t see it while the lights are out / don’t check time on your phone 2 If you have a clock, make sure clocks are either dimmed or red LED
what is your bed and blankets made out of? Are these the best materials for you for this bed? 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings
don’t have a TV in the bedroom 2 Emits light, is a distraction, etc
Don’t have a computer, tablet, or phone in the bedroom 2 Emits light, is a distraction, etc even worse than TV
calming bedroom colour ( need source) 0 Unless referring to red light or candle light use at night, not sure what it’s referring to I suspect this is relating to the ‘look’ of the bedroom in general, and how you fee when you walk into it. I.e., if you hate mustard yellow, re-paint your room if the walls are mustard yellow – Kat
On the way to sleep
Pre-Bed food extreme diets (VHC or VLC) can ruin sleep quality, and carbohydrates for dinner can reduce sleep latency
go to bed neither hungry nor stuffed (food) 1 highly subjective, but true
don’t eat meals too close to sleep 2 either digestion slows, or sleep is disrupted, one or the other (subjective)
small evening meals 0 highly subjective, no guarantees, only moderate, weak or no associations with sleep quality and wakings
limit late night alcohol 2 alcohol reduces quality of deep sleep it only reduces sleep quality if it is in your system while you sleep, so you could drink in the afternoon and have it leave your system by the time you sleep and you’d be fine.
limit late night liquid 0 usually true one thing to note is marijuana, which is commonly consumed, also affects sleep quality, but far less is known about its effects, it seems it is variable
avoid sugar heavy foods -1 carbs will reduce sleep latency, though I don’t recommend sugar for general good health
avoid spicy or greasy meals before bed (or other food you know does not agree with you) 1 high fat meals correlated with poor sleep measure
tryptophan snack – if you are hungry try a light snack before bed -2 evidence for this actually working is non-existent, a well perpetuated myth Common suggestions included warm milk, a banana, cheese on crackers, cereal and milk, also turkey – combine carbohydrates and either calcium or a protein that contains the amino acid tryptophan to boost seratonin for calmness.
Things that aren’t food
Have set a regular bedtime 2 Circadian Rhythmicity important
have a bedtime routine or ritual which includes relaxation 1 highly subjective, but I guess true
decrease brightness of home lighting ~1-2 hours before bed 2
eliminate blue-spectrum home and screen lighting ~1-2 hours before bed 2 blue light increase heart rate, and wake inducing catacholamines and brain activity, reduces sleep quality Avoid fluorescent tube lights, compact fluorescent or LED bulbs labeled daylight, cool white, or bright white (instead, use sub-3500K color temps, sometimes called warm white or soft white), and screens without a red-shift application running – Kat
avoid electronics before bed 2 game-like activity increase heart rate, and wake inducing catacholamines and brain activity, reduces sleep quality
keep noise down while heading to bed 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
organise for tomorrow so you can stop thinking about it 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’ At its simplist, make a todo list for tomorrow. If there’s a lot on your mind, try a full-on ‘brain dump’ on a very large sheet of paper, several hours before bed: write down everything you think is important for the next month or so. Use that to inform your todo lists.
Bedtime media; book; audiobook; calming music (soft), 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’ I guess it’s up to the person
stretch (debatable) 0 more likely to be because of exercise
wind down an hour before bed 1 exercise too close to sleep increases heart rate, increases sleep latency
take a warm bath/shower 1 only if you need to lower your core body temperature (see temperature advice above)
before bed – write down what is on your mind and resolve to leave it for tomorrow 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
read before bed by soft light 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
don’t have a nightcap (alcohol) 2 alcohol reduces quality of deep sleep
neutral neck position in bed and before bed. 0 mostly supported by alternative chiropractic studies, which is poor form of evidence
hot pack on the neck 1 only if you need to lower your core body temperature (see temperature advice above)
do a simple armchair hobby to relax 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
Go to sleep when you are tired. Don’t wait in bed frustrated if you can’t fall asleep. 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
consider wearing socks to bed 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
sleep diary of if you felt sleepy during the day, things that you think might influence your sleep tonight. 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’ Include food, exercise, sleep details, # of awakenings in the middle of the night and their approx. duration, rate the sleep out of 10, time of last wakeup – naturally or to an alarm? If you were dreaming when your alarm went off, go to bed earlier so that your alarm is not waking you up in the middle of a REM cycle – Kat
Going to bed
Select nightclothes (or none) and bedding to keep yourself heat stable (thermoregulation) 0
If you are having difficulty getting to sleep – try imagine what you would like to dream about 0 only anecdotal evidence, but may be valuable, I personally recommend this technique If you are an artist or a crafter, imagine the design of a project you would like to do someday – Kat
deep breathing (or other relaxation technique – visualisation breathing, yoga) 2 sufficient evidence to say it works if you have good compliance with the practice
For while you are asleep
Noise / Light
earplugs 0-2 benefits depends on environment, will help (2) in high noise environment
white noise (device, fan, or app, pink noise) 0-2 white noise improves noisy environment, but silence is better
humidifiers for air quality 1 may improve breathing problems, if sleep quality is compromised by breathing problems, cpap etc Must be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent mold – Kat
air filter 1 may improve breathing problems, asthma and allergies specifically Tape a 20×20″ electrostatic furnace filter to a 20″ box fan for a cheap air filter – Kat
fans for air movement+cooling, and/or white noise 0-2 white noise improves noisy environment, but silence is better
eye mask for light 0-2 benefits depends on environment, will help (2) in high light environment
Sleep in the dark – at night if you have a choice; use heavy curtains if streetlights or sunlight present 2
Sleeping positions – get comfortable!
try a leg pillow (pillow between the knees) or holding a pillow 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
make sure you are sleeping in a neutral neck position 0 mostly supported by alternative chiropractic studies, which is poor form of evidence
try other positions if that one is uncomfortable 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
try each side, back, front. -1 I’d say sleeping on back is not good for sleep parameters, higher risk of sleep disorders developing and worse sleep quality
Staying asleep
Body temperature, Room temperature 1 only if you need to lower your core body temperature (see temperature advice above)
noises 0-2 see white noise vs silence, see ear plugs Ask housemates to avoid low-frequency sounds, like slamming doors, music, etc as these cannot be masked by white noise or earplugs – Kat
smells (i.e. smoke, food) ?? ?? Ask housemates to avoid cooking aromatic foods while you are asleep (ex, frying sausage, onions, canned tuna, etc) – Kat
If your sleep is interrupted
small bathroom nightlight (not blue and not bright like normal bathroom lights) 2 try to go to the loo without any lights being turned on, otherwise use red lightbulb
avoid cold floors (rugs/socks) 1 subjective, but warm feed important for getting back to sleep and decreasing sleep latency
get back to sleep: stay in bed 0 subjective
get back to sleep: just try to relax, don’t try for sleep 0 subjective Drowsing in bed is still more restful than being awake and doing something – Kat
get back to sleep: avoid electronics with blue light 2 avoid blue, green, white light
dont use portable electronics in bed 2 avoid blue, green, white light
If wide awake, go do low-key activity for 15m, then back to bed again 1 can stay up for up to an hour and a half
When you wake up
wake up at the same time every day 0 light exposure at same time every day more important, sun lamp or lamp timer
keep a sleep diary of all these possible related factors 0 highly subjective, but may be valuable despite no ‘evidence’
increase light levels (just after waking up) 2 lamp and timer or lifx
get up when the alarm goes off – don’t snooze button 2 snooze bad, either sleep in or don’t, having a string of alarms just compromizes sleep quality even if you think it makes you feel its easier to get up
One option: nap every single day (siesta style) 2 naps = lots of health benefits
The other: Don’t nap 0 no benefits to no naps No naps was recommended to me by neurologist; helpful if sleep schedule is completely messed up. Otherwise, I would say, don’t nap if you’re not tired. If you are tired, then nap, and look to how you can add sleep time at night in the future, rather than relying on naps – Kat
If you do; nap for less than 30 minutes either nap <25 or nap for 70-90min
You can use naps to make up for lost sleep 2 yes, to a degree
avoid naps in the evening 2 leave at least 8h before your bed time else you risk compromising night sleep quality or sleep latency
Medical solutions
see a doctor after symptoms (depression, acid reflux, asthma, medications, headaches) 2
sleeping pills have side effects 2 yes, many are actually bad for sleep quality, and just make you forget you didn’t get any sleep (rather than put you to sleep), also dependency and addiction
sleep medications exist 2 yes; more useful for really messed up sleep patterns; see above Addiction can be avoided by tapering the dose off over the course of several days or weeks when you no longer need it – Kat
check your existing medications for insomnia side effects 2
antihistamine with drowsiness side effects 1 reduces sleep latency but compromizes sleep quality
melatonin but see a doctor before doing anything high dose 2 melatonin + whitenoise/earplugs + sleep mask good combo for bad environments Melatonin has a fairly short half-life. Best effectiveness may be in taking it right before lights out. Start with small dose (300 micrograms) and slowly increase until most effective dose is found. – Kat
melatonin also good for everything else, lots of health benefits
Science! melatonin is a chronobiotic and not a sleeping pill, gotta take it regularly at same time every night even if you don’t plan on staying up (if you want to keep your schedule, that is)
test by spending 2 weeks in a row; going to bed at the same time and recording when you wake up without an alarm feeling rested. ?? less valuable than just fixing lighting and taking melatonin for 2 weeks useful for therapists trying to track someone with a shifting circadian rhythm
consider allowing less sleep time (by trial) (don’t expect to sleep for 9 hours or be frustrated if you don’t sleep exactly that long) 1 can cut down 1 sleep cycle, and after 2 weeks body adapts (BUT THIS IS FROM HEALTHY 8.5h BASELINE and NOT from “already sleep deprived”) By ‘sleep cycle’ do you mean REM cycle? – Kat
tracking QS devices that measure eeg and eye movement most accurate
polyphasic sleep cycles ? I have never known anyone to be able to keep those up for very long without exhibiting signs of sleep deprivation. I consider it a ‘do it if you have to, but avoid if possible’.
make sleep a priority on weekends (to recover from sleep debt)
check up on your sleep quality over time and re-evaluate these details
waking up groggy? Coffee, look at what point in your sleep cycle you are waking up, try the science suggestion, get more light to your eyes when you wake up. 1 sleep cycle calculations may help, but bright lighting more helpful If alarm going off during REM, try going to bed 45 minutes earlier. REM cycles every 1.5 hours – Kat
Sleep-walking, sleep-talking? 0 no evidence of treatments for sleep walking 🙁 See a doctor? – Kat
daytime tiredness? (get more sleep) 2 obviously 🙂 either night sleep or naps Or lay off the sugar and simple carbs – consuming these and nothing else can cause a blood sugar crash – Kat
afternoon sleepiness? (normal, take a break; get fresh air, eat something, get more light) 1 best to keep moving and on your feet if you want to ‘walk off’ the midday sleepiness period, keep core body temperature high (cold exposure, body movement)
waking in the night? (can be normal, can be something wrong with your environment, try sleep tracking apps, there is one that records ambient sounds in the room while you are sleeping. Something might be making noise that you were unaware of, rats, possums, cars, devices) How do you feel during the day? If you feel fine then its normal wakeful cycles and don’t worry about it 1 evidence says waking in middle of night is, like taking a siesta, just part of natural sleeping pattern for some people, probably depends on genetics, but also depends on circadian rhythmicity, age and environment (like night length, melatonin dose). Obviously could also just be drinking too much water.
grinding teeth or clenching jaw? (reasonably common, reduce stress, use a mouthguard) 1 mouthguard is the main one, also reduce stress, be less hungry (improve diet)
nightmares, strange dreams? (common, reduce stress, check for a dislocated rib or major sleep disturbance, become more busy or occupied during the day – having too much free time can leave your mind to not know what to churn about) 1 usually comes down to brain chemistry (can be related to diet, or medications/drugs, or genetics, or strange lifestyle)
sleeping too much? (normal, reduce exercise if over exerting yourself, improve other health areas, check for depression, check medication, consult medical professionals) 2 more than 10h sleep regularly is either unhealthy in it’s own right, or is a sign that you have or are developing a disease that causes sleep abnormality
can’t get to sleep? (normal, Check intake of stimulants, alcohol, disagreeable foods etc. check environment, check total sleep time, check if it actually matters, try visualisation or relaxation exercises) I guess see all of the above yes, one night of insomnia is not clinical insomnia and nothing to worry about
can’t get up at the right time? (get more sleep, get more light at that time, get out of bed really quick, then figure the rest out)
most important question: is this strange seeming sleeping habit actually a problem? Does it bother you or anyone (who matters)? If no; don’t change it. agreed
Changing sleep by changing sleep hygiene takes time – allow ~2 weeks for any change to have an effect Trying something for one night and then declaring, “this doesn’t work!” is counterproductive. Stick with it. Change one thing at a time if an entire list of things seems overwhelming – Kat
If you try most things on this list for >2 weeks and still have daytime tiredness / poor sleep, see primary care doctor or neurologist Doc will refer you to neurologist for simple testing to determine primary or secondary insomnia. Or you can just say, “I think it’s stress (primary insomnia), can I try ambien / lunesta / whatever?” In the US, most docs start PTs on generic ambien – Kat
Get f.lux or redshift for all electronics that emit white light, also “night mode” and “twilight” for android 2 reduces blue and green light emissions
Anyone does nightshift? different rules can apply 2 Reducing light in home before bed, and blocking as much light as possible in bedroom is absolutely necessary – Kat
Sleep posture, babies are different to adults 2 babies sleep on their backs to avoid SIDS, adults sleep on side or front to avoid sleep disorders and get best quality
no midnight snacks 2 metabolizes food differently about 2 hours after dark or after melatonin administration
jetlag 2 fast, and eat a big carb meal first thing in the ‘morning’ of your destination, can do this several days in preparation
take large dose of melatonin at the ‘night’ time of your destination, can do this several days in preparation
slow release caffeine on the morning of arrival, can prepare the day beforehand
light therapy on morning of arrival, can prepare days beforehand
best thing is to do pre-flight adaptation, but this takes planning and commitment
marijuana ?
other drugs ?
Modaffonil ?
Cool sleeping cap (one study recently) ?

Meta: the original collection of this list took at least 10 hours; plus several other people’s time to point out the quality of the suggestions.  From deciding to post this to post-ready took 2 hours.

This post was finalised with the assistance of participants on the Slack chat.

Thanks to Kat and AdamK for their help with this post.

As per usual; any suggestions are welcome, and improvements would be appreciated, and I hope this helps you.

This post was originally published here: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mvf/

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List of techniques to help you remember names

Name are very important. Everyone has one; everyone likes to know when you know their name. Everyone knows them to be a part of social interaction. You can’t avoid names (well you can, but it gets tricky). In becoming more awesome at names, here is a bunch of suggestions that can help you.

The following is an incomplete list of some reasonably good techniques to help you remember names.  Good luck and put them to good use.

0. Everyone can learn to remember names

in a growth mindset sense, stop thinking you can’t.  Stop saying that, everyone is bad at it.  Your 0’th task is to actually try harder than that, if you can’t do that – stop reading.  Face blindness does exist, you can be diagnosed, and you wouldn’t be the first person I have had that conversation with.  Most of these will help with that.

1. Decide that names are important. 

If you don’t think they are important then change your mind. They are. Everyone says they are, everyone responds to their name. It’s a fact of life that being able to be communicated with directly by name will be useful.

2. Make sure you hear the name clearly the first time, and repeat it till you have it. 

I tend to shake people’s hands, then not let go until they tell me their name, and share them mine clearly (sometimes twice).  That half-second when you hear a name and zone out.  Is the very half-second NOT TO DO THAT.  The following half second when the small talk starts is when you can choose to zone out.  But not during the half second that people tell you their name.

3. Repeat their name*

Part of 2, but also – if you repeat it (at least once) you have a higher chance of remembering it. Look them in the eye and say their name. “Nice to meet you Bob”. Suddenly your brain got a good picture of their face as well as a good cue as to their name.  If you want to supercharge this particular part; “Nice to meet you bob with the hat”, “susan with the glasses”, “john in the dress” works great!

*Repeating a name also has the effect of someone correcting you if you have it wrong.  And if you are in a group – allowing other people to learn or remember a name more easily.

Note: if you are seeing a first-meeting happen between two strangers, repeat the name that you hear in your head too.

4. Associating that name.

Does that name have a meaning as another thing? Mark, Ivy, Jack.

Does that name rhyme with something? Or sound like something? Victoria, IsaBelle, Dusty, Bill, Norris, Jarrod (Jar + Rod), Leopold.

Does someone you already know have that name? Can you make a mental link between this person and the person who’s name you already remember. Worst case about being able to remember their name, “oh I have a cousin also called Alexa”-type statements are harmless.

Is the name famous? Luke, Albert, Jesus, Bill, Simba, Bruce, Clark, Edward, Victoria. Any thing that you can connect to this person to hold their name.

5. Write it down

Do you have a spare piece of paper? Can you write it down?  I literally carry a notebook and write names down as I hear them.  People tend to compliment me on it if they ever find out.

6. Running a script about it

There are naturally lulls in your conversation.  You don’t speak like a wall of text, or if you do you could probably learn to do this over the top. If you take a moment during one of those lulls, while someone else is talking – to look around and take note of if you have forgotten someone’s name, do so at 1minute, 5minutes, 10minutes (or where necessary).  Just recite each person’s name in your head.

7. The first letter.

There are 26 English letters. If you can’t remember – try to remember the first letter. If you get it and it doesn’t jog your memory, try use the statement, “your name started with J right?”

8. Facebook, LinkedIn, Anki

Use the resources available to you. Check Facebook if you forget! Similarly if people are wearing nametags; test yourself (think – her name is Mary – then check) if you don’t remember at all then certainly check. Build an anki deck – I am yet to see a script to make an anki deck from a Facebook friends list but this would be an excellent feature.

For testing-learning behaviour to be effective you need to guess first, then check.  It’s no use constantly checking name tags because tomorrow when they are not wearing the name tags you won’t be able to rely on that crutch.

9. put that name somewhere.

It seems to help some people to give the name a box to go in.  “This name goes with the rest of the names of people I am related to”, “this name goes with the box of the rest of my tennis club”, By allocating boxes you can bring back names via the box of names.  (works for some people)

Depending on how your memory works, if you have a strong situational memory – you can encode a name as, “Jason that I met at the dog park”.  Then when you see his face again and all you can remember is the dog park, you only need to think is “ah yes, one of the dog-park-names”.

10. Mnemonics

I don’t use mnemonics because with the above list I don’t need this yet.  Apparently they work excellently.  It’s about creating a sensory object in your head that reminds you of the thing you are after, i.e. a person named Rose – imagine a rose on top of her head, that was bright red, and smelt like a rose.  Use all senses and make something vivid.  You want to remember?  Make it vivid and ridiculous.  Yes this works; And yes it’s more effort.  Names are really valuable and worth remembering.

11. Reciprocal 

My favourite story that demonstrates this idea is by a guy who met Christian.  Christian used to introduce himself as, “Hi my name is Christian, I’m not christian but now you will never forget my name”.  It was two years later, at a Dojo I was giving, and my friend could still remember Christian’s name to share in the workshop.  If we think like Christian – If your name has a convenient memory trick, you should give it away to people as often as possible.

Disclaimer: All of these things work for some of the people some of the time.  You should try the ones you think will work; if they do – excellent, if they don’t – oh well.  keep trying.

Also see: http://lesswrong.com/lw/gx5/boring_advice_repository/8ywe

and this video on name skill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1_o4oZCEmM

Note: This is also recommended from the book “how to win friends and influence people”

Meta: I wrote this post for a dojo in the Sydney Lesswrong group on the name remembering skills following a lightning talk that I gave in the Melbourne Lesswrong group on the same ideas.

Time: 3hrs to write.

Any suggestions, recommendations or updates please advise below.

Original post here: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/n2f/

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List of common human goals

What is this list?

One day I was lost.  Looking for goals.  I read the guides that suggested making lists of your goals.  I genuinely sat down with a piece of paper with a timer and went, “um”.  I tried it again and eventually I sat down enough times that I decided I needed a better strategy.  I thought, “What do other people commonly do?” and I stumbled around with that idea for weeks.  I searched for the list and couldn’t find it anywhere.  Then I realised “AHA!” What if I wrote out a list of common human goals!  The ones that other people commonly try to approach.  Then I could get an idea of the general gist of what sorts of things to do for myself might be.  So I wrote the list.

This list is meant to be in the area of goal-space.  It is non-exhaustive and the descriptions are including but not limited to – some hints to help you understand where in the idea-space these goals land.

When constructing this list I try to imagine a large venn diagram where sometimes they overlap.  The areas mentioned are areas that have an exclusive part to them; i.e. where sometimes knowledge overlaps with self-awareness but there are parts of each that do not overlap; so both are mentioned.

If you wanted a bit of both Spirituality and Fame, you might want to do things that landed in the in-between region.  However if you were keen on the leadership side of spirituality, it won’t always be fulfilling your desire for fame.  And there are certainly parts of spirituality that won’t fulfil a Fame desire.

If you prefer a more “focusing” or feeling base description; Imagine each of these goals is a mallet, designed with a specific weight and properties to hit a certain note on a xylophone.  Often one mallet can produce the note that is meant for that key and several other keys as well.  But sometimes they can’t quite make them sound perfect.  What is needed is the right mallet for that block to hit the right note and make the right sound.  Each of these “mallets” has some note that cannot be produced through the use of other mallets.  This is what I mean by having overlapping goals.

This list has several purposes:

  1. If you have some completed goals and you are looking to move forward to new horizons; to help you consider which common goal-pursuits you have not explored and if you want to try to strive for something in one of these directions.
  2. If you are without clear goals and looking to create them and don’t know where to start.
  3. If you have too many specific goals and are looking to consider the essences of those goals and what they are really striving for.
  4. If you don’t really understand goals or why we go after them to get a better feel for “what” potential goals could be.

What to do with this list?

0. Agree to invest 30 minutes of effort into a goal confirmation exercise as follows.  If you don’t think this 30 minutes will be well spent now, plan to do it later today.  Copy the link into your diary and set aside time for this task.

  1. Go through this list (copy paste to your own document) and cross out the things you probably don’t care about.  (5mins)
  2. For the remaining goals; rank them either “1 to n”, in “tiers” of high to low priority or generally order them in some way that is coherent to you.  (For serious quantification; consider giving them points – i.e. 100 points for achieving a self-awareness and understanding goal but a pleasure/creativity goal might be only worth 20 points in comparison) (10mins)
  3. Make a list of your ongoing projects (5-10mins), and check if they actually match up to your most preferable goals. (or your number ranking) (5-10mins)  If not; make sure you have a really really good excuse for yourself.
  4. Consider how you might like to do things differently that prioritise your current plans to fit more inline with your goals. (10-20mins)
  5. Repeat this task at an appropriate interval (6monthly, monthly, when your goals significantly change, when your life significantly changes, when major projects end) (Put it in your diary 6 months from now)

Why have goals?

Your goals could change in life; you could explore one area and realise you actually love another area more.  It’s important to explore and keep confirming that you are still winning your own personal race to where you want to be going.

It’s easy to insist that goals serve to only disappoint or burden a person.  These are entirely valid fears for someone who does not yet have goals.  Goals are not set in stone; however they don’t like to be modified either.  I like to think of goals as doing this:

(source: internet viral images) Pictures from the Internet aside; The best reason I have ever reasoned for picking goals is to do exactly this.  Make choices that a reasonable you in the future will be motivated to stick to Outsource that planning and thinking of goal/purpose/direction to your past self.  Naturally you could feel like making goals is piling on the bricks (but there is a way to make goals that do not leave them piling on like bricks); you should think of it as rescuing future you from a day spent completely lost and wondering what you were doing.  Or a day spent questioning if “this” is something that is getting you closer to what you want to be doing in life.

Below here is the list.  Good luck.


Spirituality – religion, connection to a god, meditation, the practice of gratitude or appreciation of the universe, buddhism, feeling of  a greater purpose in life.

Knowledge/skill + Ability – learning for fun – just to know, advanced education, becoming an expert in a field, being able to think clearly, being able to perform a certain skill (physical skill), ability to do anything from run very far and fast to hold your breath for a minute, Finding ways to get into flow or the zone, be more rational.

Self-awareness/understanding – to be at a place of understanding one’s place in the world, or have an understanding of who you are; Practising thinking in eclectic perspectives for various other people and how it effects your understanding of the world.

Health + mental – happiness (mindset) – Do you even lift? http://thefutureprimaeval.net/why-we-even-lift/, are you fit, healthy, eating right, are you in pain, is your mind in a good place, do you have a positive internal voice, do you have bad dreams, do you feel confident, do you feel like you get enough time to yourself?

Live forever – do you want to live forever – do you want to work towards ensuring that this happens?

Art/creativity – generating creative works, in any field – writing, painting, sculpting, music, performance.

Pleasure/recreation – are you enjoying yourself, are you relaxing, are you doing things for you.

Experience/diversity – Have you seen the world?  Have you explored your own city?  Have you met new people, are you getting out of your normal environment?

Freedom – are you tied down?  Are you trapped in your situation?  Are your burdens stacked up?

Romance – are you engaged in romance?  could you be?

Being first – You did something before anyone; you broke a record, It’s not because you want your name on the plaque – just the chance to do it first.  You got that.

Create something new – invent something; be on the cutting edge of your field; just see a discovery for the first time.  Where the new-ness makes creating something new not quite the same as being first or being creative.

Improve the tools available – sharpen the axe, write a new app that can do the thing you want, invent systems that work for you.  prepare for when the rest of the work comes along


Legacy – are you leaving something behind?  Do you have a name? Will people look back and say; I wish I was that guy!

Fame/renoundness – Are you “the guy”?  Do you want people to know your name when you walk down the street?  Are there gossip magazines talking about you; do people want to know what you are working on in the hope of stealing some of your fame?  Is that what you want?

Leadership, and military/conquer – are you climbing to the top?  Do you need to be in control?  Is that going to make the best outcomes for you?  Do you wish to destroy your enemies?  As a leader do you want people following you?  Do as you do? People should revere you. And power – in the complex; “in control” and “flick the switch” ways that overlap with other goal-space areas.  Of course there are many forms of power; but if its something that you want; you can find fulfilment through obtaining it.

Being part of something greater – The opportunity to be a piece of a bigger puzzle, are you bringing about change; do we have you to thank for being part of bringing the future closer; are you making a difference.

Social – are you spending time socially? No man is an island, do you have regular social opportunities, do you have exploratory social opportunities to meet new people.  Do you have an established social network?  Do you have intimacy?  Do you have seek opportunities to have soul to soul experiences with other people?  Authentic connection?

Family – do you have a family of your own?  Do you want one?  Are there steps that you can take to put yourself closer to there?  Do you have a pet? Having your own offspring? Do you have intimacy?

Money/wealth – Do you have money; possessions and wealth?  Does your money earn you more money without any further effort (i.e. owning a business, earning interest on your $$, investing)

Performance – Do you want to be a public performer, get on stage and entertain people?  Is that something you want to be able to do?  Or do on a regular basis?

Responsibility – Do you want responsibility?  Do you want to be the one who can make the big decisions?

Achieve, Awards – Do you like gold medallions?  Do you like to strive towards an award?

Influence – Do you want to be able to influence people, change hearts and minds.

Conformity – The desire to blend in; or be normal.  Just to live life as is; without being uncomfortable.

Be treated fairly – are you getting the raw end of the stick?  Are there ways that you don’t have to keep being the bad guy around here?

Keep up with the Joneses – you have money/wealth already, but there is also the goal of appearing like you have money/wealth.  Being the guy that other people keep up with.

Validation/acknowledgement – Positive Feedback on emotions/feeling understood/feeling that one is good and one matters


Improve the lives of others (helping people) – in the charity sense of raising the lowest common denominator directly.

Charity + improve the world –  indirectly.  putting money towards a cause; lobby the government to change the systems to improve people’s lives.

Winning for your team/tribe/value set – doing actions but on behalf of your team, not yourself. (where they can be one and the same)

Desired world-states – make the world into a desired alternative state.  Don’t like how it is; are you driven to make it into something better?

Other (and negative stimuli):

Addiction (fulfil addiction) – addiction feels good from the inside and can be a motivating factor for doing something.

Virtual reality success – own all the currency/coin and all the cookie clickers, grow all the levels and get all the experience points!

Revenge – Get retribution; take back what you should have rightfully had, show the world who’s boss.

Negative – avoid (i.e. pain, loneliness, debt, failure, embarrassment, jail) – where you can be motivated to avoid pain – to keep safe, or avoid something, or “get your act together”.

Negative – stagnation (avoid stagnation) – Stop standing still.  Stop sitting on your ass and DO something.


This list being written in words; Will not mean the same thing to every reader.  Which is why I tried to include several categories that almost overlap with each other.  Some notable overlaps are: Legacy/Fame.  Being first/Achievement. Being first/skill and ability.  But of course there are several more.  I really did try to keep the categories open and several; not simplified.  My analogy to hammers and notes should be kept in mind when trying to improve this list.

I welcome all suggestions and improvements to this list.

I welcome all feedback to improve the do-at-home task.

I welcome all life-changing realisations as feedback from examining this list.

I welcome the opportunity to be told how wrong I am 😀


This document in total has been 7-10 hours of writing over about two weeks.  And has gone though 4 revisions.

I have had it reviewed by a handful of people and lesswrongers before posting.  (I kept realising that someone I was talking to might get value out of it)

I wrote this because I felt like it was the least-bad way that I could think of going about finding these ideas in the one place, sharing these ideas and this way of thinking about them with you.

Please fill out the survey of if this was helpful.

Edit: also included; (not in the comments) desired world states; and live forever.

A late addition to the list is Improve the tools available, As a suggestion about 6 months after I posted the original list.

This post was originally published on Lesswrong.com

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Hello world!

Let’s begin.

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