Saturday, August 25, 2012

HCII week one: manic.

Man! I've been zipping this whole week! A few reasons:
- our intro project in the HCII has been an interactive projector to display a department directory. This is the kind of quick-results programming that gets me zipping.
- meeting a lot of new friends and professors. The atmosphere is great. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed. (I've never visited a department where people wanted each other to fail, but I've seen places where people just kind of do their own thing and don't support each other so much.)
- hearing a lot of interesting research, and getting the chance to talk with lots of professors and decide what we want to work on.
- lots of stuff going on all the time!
I like this. It's exciting.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Inbox zero, enjoy it while it lasts...

Tomorrow I start grad school. Well.

I'm excited to meet my new classmates and professors, moderately worried that I don't have The Right Stuff, proud to be officially in the club of researchers, afraid that I won't sleep enough, psyched to have careerish purpose, refreshed by a couple weeks with good friends and family, and itching to start building something again. Here goes!

Regularly scheduled cool-or-humorous-research blast

Interesting: Open plan offices are bad. I thought this debate was still open. Maybe the issue is that totally-open (as in the picture here) offices are bad, but the Microsoft room-with-door and the Google half-walled desks are both reasonable choices.

Lol: Fast cars actually do turn women on. I mean, seriously? It can't be the "successful guy who brings home the bacon" circuit firing, because they were just playing clips of engine roar, not mentioning anything about the price.

Interesting: Oxytocin makes you better able to detect emotional states. I'd love to have a before-and-after test with some labeled faces to try it out. Also, could that lead to improved empathy- the ability to feel other people's emotional states? And wouldn't that be incredibly revolutionary?

Lol: wearing blurry glasses just in case you might accidentally catch a glimpse of an attractive woman. But why stop there? Why not just blind yourself? You'd have to deafen yourself too, and cut off your nose, because you wouldn't want to catch a whiff of perfume. Technology tie-in: in the future, no doubt there'll be a Google Glass app that will use computer vision to find the women and just blur them. (of course, you'd have to switch back to all-blurred non-electronic glasses on the Sabbath.) WEIRD.

Interesting: Working out a lot doesn't make you sleep better. Thinking you worked out a lot makes you sleep better. That's... um, surprising. Counter-arguments: one two three.

Cool: Runner's high is real. Opioids!

Lol: I want to try a few days in a world where punishments are doled out in physical pain on the spot. You say something dumb at work, your boss punches you in the arm. You learn your lesson and it doesn't embarrass you forever or haunt you. Interesting: I guess that's Singapore?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

No refined sugar

I don't* knowingly** eat refined or added sugar*** except on Saturdays.****

* I say "don't" instead of "can't" because it provides a different outlook. This is a lifestyle choice, not a restriction or ascetic self-denial. It's more effective that way.

** it's mostly easy to avoid sugars, but not entirely. After eating Chinese food, I realized that the sauce was probably half sugar. Same with baked beans. Luckily I can just laugh them off; it's not an allergy or anything.

*** basically I just want to quit refined sugar. But I don't mean I'm switching to honey or agave or something. Given a choice, I'd go with one of these over white sugar or HFCS, but generally, added sugars in all forms are out.

**** cheat days. Tim Ferriss's book is big on them, and I've talked to a couple people who have followed his diet who say that they really help. In my case, I didn't want to lose stuff like ice cream or biscotti for the rest of my life; this provides an easy outlet, while still cutting my sugar way down.

Why quit sugar? Because it's a clear win. I want a lot of years in my life, and I want a lot of health in those years. And sugar is (maybe after tobacco) probably the worst thing that modern Americans routinely put in our bodies.

Will it work? I think so. I've been doing this for a week and a half now. It's not really that hard. I've had to refuse a cookie once and ice cream twice.

Why now? Because I'm finally in a pretty stable form of life where I can relatively reliably control what food I eat. Because I'll be this way for 5-6 years, so any changes I make now will work over a pretty long timespan.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Whining is unattractive.

I went to an ATM. They wanted a $4 fee. I felt outraged! Four dollars just to get MY money?! But (and this is so simple but we forget it) it's a free market. PNC Bank is allowed to charge whatever they want for me to use the service that they provide (keeping my dollars safe and giving them to me anywhere I want). If I don't like it, I can go somewhere else.

I drove to Philadelphia on highway 76, paying about $35 in tolls on the way. Yow! Now, I can complain about the terribly unjust highway system, but they're the ones building the roads, and if our tax dollars aren't enough to cover the cost, well hey, it's an extra tax for the people who use the road. In a way, it's more fair than paying for roads with taxes.

At least under our current mostly-free market. You can argue that that should be changed; maybe you can argue that all banks should be forced to let any customer from any bank use their ATMs for free. Then you'd have to figure out how it's fair for us to force them to absorb this cost. You can argue that there are some fat cats in the system getting rich off the usurious tolls, but that requires more assumptions than "roads cost a lot to build" and so the burden of proof is on you.

If you're claiming moral indignation about something that's within the bounds of our market, and you don't have a better solution or a valid reason that it shouldn't be this way, you might just be whining.

(and if you go "what about media piracy?" I say read this; in short, downloading is the better solution.)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Habits, in one blog post

There is a lot of information out there about habits. You can read it for days instead of starting a new habit. Your time is probably better spent actually working on your habits. So here's a guy who's been working with habits for a while, distilling all he's learned into one list. Seems at least largely in the right direction, and relatively concise and easy to read.

Making friends as an adult

This article talks about how people make fewer friends as they get older. It mostly sounds depressing: parents who make friends only when their kids do, busy people who deduct points from friends if they're late, retirees who find themselves totally friendless.

More interestingly, though:
"...the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other..."

Seems simple enough. Why not create that environment after college too?