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This should explain everything.

At least, in theory.
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2011-04-22 17:02 | Some validation for all the grumbling I do on here

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2010/december/sharing-misery-research-122210.html

Stanford research shows sharing in sorrow might make us a bit happier

Stanford researchers have found that people think their peers are happier than they really are, and this distortion of reality makes people lonely and dissatisfied with life.

The researchers found that negative emotions were nearly twice as likely to occur in private compared to positive emotions and were three times more likely to be intentionally hidden from others.

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Based on their conclusions from the study, Jordan and Monin have some suggestions for increasing happiness.

"It may be useful to remember that you aren't as alone as you think," Jordan said. "You're probably not aware of the many challenges your peers are facing."

"Paradoxically," Monin said, "if we told others how unhappy we are, we would probably all be happier in the long run."

So cry on your friends' shoulders and let them return the favor – chances are they've got some bad news to share, too. And it might do you good to hear about it.

 
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2011-04-04 13:39 | 3 reasons not to give advice.

When someone tells me about a problem of theirs, my instinct is to give them some advice. Seems like the only reasonable way I could help; why else would they be talking to me? But, when I tell someone about a problem I'm having and they respond with advice, it usually makes me feel worse, sometimes annoyed. I've limped along with this contradiction as a vague mystery for some time, but a book[1] I've been reading recently shed some light on it. The following is a mishmash of ideas of my own and from the book, so don't blame the authors.

Giving advice is:

1. ...condescending. The subtext is, "I have moved beyond the problems you're having. Let me explain what to do to get to my level of functional excellence."

2. ...a hint that you don't want to hear about your friend's problems; that you either don't want to be bothered, or else that the existence of the problems makes you so uncomfortable that you want them to be solved and go away so you don't have to be confronted with them. In other words, it's a veiled rebuke to the sharer for an unwelcome act of sharing.

3. ...presumptuous, because it implies you think you understand the problem well enough to go about solving it. For example, if someone isn't getting along with their boss, suggesting that the person and their boss stay in more regular contact may misunderstand the degree of their animosity, or may ignore the fact that the person has already tried this, or may be contrary to the person's already preferred approach of finding a new job.

Sometimes, a person may really want your advice. In that case, one would suppose they would specifically ask for it. But if someone vents to you and they don't ask for your advice, then what do they want you to say? Why are they telling you? I see two related possibilities:

1. The person is confused about their experience and needs some grounding. Perhaps one contribution you could make in this case is to help articulate and identify feelings. If they tell you about failing a test, you can say "That must have been frustrating for you." You could also do some reflecting, such as "It sounds like you are disappointed because you want to be productive but you're not getting the tools you need." It is okay to make a guess because the person will probably correct you if you didn't get it right, and appreciate the attempt. The important thing to remember if you try this and they correct you is that they don't necessarily mean to contradict or discourage you. They are responding to your feedback in order to refine the picture of their internal state into one that feels right.

2. The person is feeling beat down by their experiences and needs a boost. In this case, the person wants an interaction that makes them feel loved and respected, since the problem they're dealing with is sapping self-confidence. It may seem pretty natural to them initiate an interaction out of which they want these things by bringing up what is on their minds and causing them to need this kind of interaction in the first place. It may be especially tempting in order to have the chance at an outcome where you, as their friend, have learned about the problem and yet still don't think the less of them for having it (or for having it and not having solved it yet). In this case, I would suggest caution around an attempt to make affirmative statements to boost self-esteem ("You can do it, you are the smartest person I know") because it risks sounding artificial. Just the act of listening and responding thoughtfully conveys respect and care.

In either of these cases, along with avoiding advice, also be careful with "why" questions about any feeling statement. For example, if someone says, "I hate so-and-so" and you ask, "Why?" then you are essentially questioning their choice to have that emotion, because you create the possibility that they could answer you and you might find the answer inadequate ("You're crying for THAT?") or maybe segue into advice ("Oh, you couldn't concentrate because you were up too late last night? Well, maybe you should go to bed earlier.") And anyway, most people don't immediately know why they feel a certain way. Perhaps exploring this is the reason they brought it up with you in the first place. So, your job is to give the support necessary so they can sort it out, not to be a detective or a professor.

I really think there should be some formal teaching on subjects like this.

[1] How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

 
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2011-03-29 01:23 | Seasteading in practice

I was reading a sci-fi novel recently, and started thinking about what it would take to write a novel. I further pondered that an interesting setting would be a world with seasteads. So what would this world be like? Before it occurred to me to read the official book, I brainstormed the following:

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2011-03-11 17:58 | Cambridge Face Memory Test

http://www.faceblind.org/facetests/fgcfmt/fgcfmt_intro.php

Results

Out of 72 faces, you correctly identified 70.
In other words, you got 97% correct.

On our previous version of this test, the average person with normal face recognition was able to recognize about 80% of the faces. If you correctly identified less than 65% of the faces, this may indicate face recognition difficulties.

For more information about face blindness and other face recognition difficulties, please go to www.faceblind.org.

 
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2011-02-24 11:33 | Made me think

"The love of power is the root of all fear."

 
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2011-02-16 00:13 | (no subject)

Why Google doesn't get social and Apple doesn't get the Internet - sort of plausible.

Apparently a computer is playing on Jeopardy, and winning.

60 minutes interviews Lady Gaga. Fascinating both because of how canny she is and because of what the interviewer finds surprising.

 
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2011-01-27 22:45 | Toastmasters Speech for CC #3: "Free Will"

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

- Invictus by William Ernest Henley

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2011-01-06 16:09 | Couple of articles on improving Android battery life

http://www.phonedog.com/2010/04/28/nate-s-straight-talk-express-android-battery-life-tips/
http://androidforums.com/droid-pro-support-troubleshooting/248789-few-question-battery-problem-solution.html

from the second:

"When I first got the phone a few days ago, my battery was only lasting about 8 hours just on standby. I called Motorola, and asked them for a solution. Two different Techs told me that when you get the phone, the first time you charge the battery it should be for about 12-15 hours while the phone is off. I didn't think that you had to do this with a smart phone. They told me that since I have had the phone for a few days, and charged it to 100% about 4 times, to wait until it gets down to 15% or below, and turn it off and charge it for about 4 hours.

I did this, and now it lasts for almost 2 days! Maybe some of you already know this, however, I thought I would post it."

Will update when I have tried this

 
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2010-12-22 12:31 | Demonizing of all carbs

Recently saw this on Tim Ferriss's twitter: "A Reversal on Carbs." I thought the "reversal" would be an admission that carbs aren't bad for you after all. I was wrong: it was about how maybe carbs may actually be bad for you (!). That is not news - people have been claiming that for years.

But at this point it is remarkable to me that news sources are still not acknowledging a difference between fructose and glucose. According to these sources, a donut and a bagel are equivalent (modulo fat content) because the carbs of both will break down into "sugar" in the blood.

It has long been obvious to me that an orange and a bagel have very different effects on satiety. Eating sugar makes me HUNGRY, fast. Eating an equivalent amount of calories in the form of a bagel tides me over for a while. Could these both be just "sugar"? Is it just about "glycemic index," i.e. how fast they break down into "sugar"?

A friend showed me this video at Thanksgiving: "Sugar: The Bitter Truth." (It has apparently gone viral.) Here, an M.D. explains that fructose must be converted into glucose by the liver before it can be used, and that conversion process is sloppy and generates toxic by-products. What I had previously read was that this liver bottleneck was good because it slowed down the absorption of fructose and thus lowered its glycemic index. It turns out that this is naive: fructose actually causes metabolic damage, which is similar to the damage from chronic alcohol use.

So the assumption that the evils of fructose implicate all carbs is unfortunate, because it leads people to try to follow low-carb and high-meat diets, which I personally find unpleasant, which are likely to be as high or higher in calories, and which may even be risky due to some research showing that animal-based proteins (particularly milk protein) may catalyze cancer and foster autoimmune problems.

The crowning touch to me is when articles like these justify the demonizing of all carbs by citing the fact that agriculture is a recent human invention, so humans must not have had access to significant amounts of carbohydrate before very recently, in evolutionary terms. This is an odd fantasy. What about indigenous cultures that forage for starchy tubers and wild legumes? But in fairness, it took me years to figure this out. When I was around 20 I tried a raw vegan diet, and I realized that after I'd eliminated fruit (the sugar made me too hungry, and the acid made my teeth hurt) and after I'd eliminated nuts (large quantities led to indigestion, and it would have been too hard to find enough to live on in the wild) I eventually realized that all I had left to eat were tubers. And those were good raw but I couldn't get enough calories without cooking them to release the starch. Yet the light bulb *still* didn't go in until about a month ago, when I wrote a Toastmasters speech about my dietary adventures. You know how they say that humans needed a boost of calories to evolve a larger brain, and that boost of calories probably came in the form of becoming a hunter and starting to eat meat? Well here's an alternate theory. Maybe those proto-humans discovered fire and learned to cook their tubers. Presto, lots more calories! It has been established already that fire was discovered before agriculture. That makes agriculture a natural progression in looking for more things to cook.

But people like meat - all primates like meat - and so we enjoy having a plausible justification for eating more of it. And so when it becomes obvious that drinking lots of soda causes health problems, it is easy to wield a broad brush and blame all carbohydrates. And so people following a "paleo" diet and trying to stick to their evolutionary blueprint decide it's better to eat a piece of fruit than a potato. Boy, do they wind up having it backwards.

 
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2010-11-21 22:12 | 10,000 hours

I was recently reminded of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule (that to be an expert in your field requires a devotion to one's craft for at least 10,000 hours). How many hours is that? Let's say I get 3 hours of undivided software development practice on a typical day at work. Multiply that times 5 days times 50 weeks: 750 hours per year. How many years like that to get to 10,000 hours? 13.

I started programming as a freshman in college (1993), and didn't start doing it for work until 1998. And there were a couple of years (grad student, PM) when I wasn't programming. So let's say my career "started" in 1999. Then quite possibly I will get to 10,000 hours next year. Yow, am I an expert yet?

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