Category Archives: Uncategorized

PSA on outing

If your friend is out about something to one group (say, their friends) and closeted to another group (e.g. their family or workplace) it's generally wrong to out them without their consent. If you want to avoid doing this, you should not tag or full-name them in public posts that refer to the thing they're closeted about, even on social media with privacy settings such as Facebook. If you do this, anyone who searches for them will be able to find your post. There is no privacy setting that can prevent this from being searchable, at least on Facebook. Nor does blocking such posts from their wall prevent them from being searchable on yours.

Examples of things people may be closeted about in some contexts include but are not limited to sexual orientation (e.g. homosexuality or bisexuality), gender identity (e.g. being transgender), atheism, polyamory, mental illness or disability (e.g. having bipolar or depression), or physical illness or disability.

They can't say this in public posts, because the fact that there is a secret is already more info than they want to disclose. But I don't have that kind of problem - so it falls on me to post this sort of PSA.

On the display of negative emotions

Seems like some people are getting the impression that I'm especially unhappy right now, from reading my blog.

I've been thinking that maybe I should write some happier posts, but problems are where the best insights are at. Also my posting tends to be at least a couple of months behind current my state, since things take a while to crystallize, and sometimes are about lifelong stuff I've only just figured out rather than new problems.

I seem to systematically underestimate the extent to which, when I examine tacit assumptions by making them explicit, people will assume that I endorse them. I'm often consciously trying to make a wrong narrative explicit as a way of "naming the demon" in order to acquire power over it. I try and write about my problems in hopes that other people with the same thing will recognize themselves and feel less alone, and may be more empowered once they have language to describe it.

I also seem to underweight the extent to which, if I note an emotion, people will assume that it's a good summary of how I feel about things in my life. I'm a Skroderider. I've worked hard lately to have subtler and swifter awareness of my emotions, but the emotions of the moment still don’t feel like the real me.

My recent post on community might have read as sadder than I was, because I felt like sad was a more polite emotion to express than annoyed. It never occurred to me that this would cause people to reach out, out of concern. I'm grateful for their care and attentiveness. Also I'm fine.

My life so far: motives and morals

This is the story of my life, through the lens of motivations, of actions I took to steer myself towards long-term outcome, of the way the self that stretches out in causal links over long periods of time produced the self I have at this moment. This is only one of the many ways to tell the story of my life. Continue reading

Idolatry taboo as integrity constraint

I have a lot of reasons for doing things, but the iron law that governs all the others is integrity. Things that help my friends are good, things that promote human flourishing and alleviate suffering are good, but when there’s even a whiff of embracing falsehood or ignoring the facts in an action, the gates slam shut against it.

But that just describes - it doesn’t explain. Why am I this way. Was I born with a commitment to the truth above all else? Is it in my genes? Or was I taught it? My parents seem hold other values like tradition or caring about equally, not assigning such an unique place of honor to epistemic integrity, which is evidence against both heredity and direct acculturation as explanations.

My hypothesis is that I have a basic impulse to systematize my understanding of things, and that when I learned about Jewish idolatry taboos, I generalized this into an abhorrence of falsehood. Continue reading

Three puzzles

What is the next item in the sequence?

My partner's name is Kitty. Our children's names are Bishop and Cantor. What is my name?

Eight American tourists were vacationing in the Lesser Antilles. They were staying on a large island, but decided to take an overnight trip to a smaller island that was supposed to have spectacular beaches, and was less crowded because it was harder to get to. The day before they were supposed to take a boat over to the smaller island, one couple fell ill, but the others continued on. When they arrived, they found there was only one bed-and-breakfast inn on the island, which already had many guests - seven Germans, four Italians, and five Swedes. Fortunately, there was room at the inn to accommodate the Americans, so after enjoying sunset on the beach, they stayed overnight at the inn. To their surprise, when they came into the common area for breakfast, the Swedes and Italians were not present. The Germans were there, but were not eating - they looked full. One of the Americans asked one of the Germans whether their number had already eaten the breakfast served by their hosts, and the German indicated in her native tongue that they had not. Why were the Americans terrified?

Two free verse poems in the bitter aesthetic

I’m in Portland, OR right now. I came here to try to absorb by some osmotic process the local culture of self-cultivation, people engaging in projects not because the projects are useful or justified, but because they want to. People living out their aesthetic vision for their lives. But when I got here, I found that it is not Rivendell, where lonely Elf-friends can heal their wounds, but the Shire. You can visit and be welcome, but you won’t really be a part of it. It’s not Elfsongs and stories and public feasts, but people living out their private lives in communities. You can visit a person in Portland, but you can’t really visit Portland.

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The cost of cryopreservation

I put together a spreadsheet for a couple of friends calculating how much cryonics costs, and I figured I'd publish it here in case it's useful for anyone else. I can't promise that these numbers are perfect, but this should help you get at least a rough handle on how much cryonics really costs.

Cryonics costs present value worksheet

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They’re not unfriendly - they’re afraid: People

I mentioned to a friend that I didn’t see myself as someone people particularly wanted to hang out with, and she was surprised. She’d thought of me as a cool high-status person, and therefore felt like she should wait for me to reach out to her instead of the other way around.

If enough other people feel this way towards someone who presents as high-status but doesn’t feel that confident on the inside, what they end up seeing is a bunch of people who accept their invitations, but never reciprocate. So they feel low-status, since it looks like no one affirmatively wants to hang out. Continue reading

Vision, Hearing, and Autism-Like Symptoms

Lots of people have suggested to me that I'm on the Autism spectrum. I have a hypothesis that the true cause of my vaguely Asperger's-like symptoms isn't neurological in my case, but comes from other contingent circumstances

My poor eyesight caused me to have glasses, which cause me to get visual data and feedback only from places near the center of my vision. This made me better at narrow-focus activities like reading, computer use, one on one social interaction, and strength training (because peripheral visual info wasn't good enough to be distracting) and worse at awareness-based activities like navigating larger social groups, or sports. A friend recently noted that when he switched from glasses to contacts, widening his effective field of vision, all of a sudden the outdoors became appealing. This seems like it's probably generalizable.

A narrow field of vision made direct eye contact more overwhelming than usual because a larger percentage of my effective visual field was dominated by someone's face than usual, so subjectively for me it was as if we were staring at each other from much closer.

This also meant I was basically never getting incidental social feedback through face or body language when my gaze was elsewhere.

Asymmetric hearing loss (almost no hearing in one ear, diminished hearing in the other) also contributed. It meant I would miss softer audial cues, again penalizing awareness-based activities more than narrow-focus ones. It also meant that I'd often want to turn my good ear towards people when conversing with them instead of looking at them, which meant I got even less feedback from their face, and accustomed me to paying attention to the words and not the expressions.

This may also be why I, like my mother, have persistent shoulder and lower neck tension more than anywhere else in the body: because we're always straining our necks, turning to hear and see things or lean in to listen.

I doubt that the whole story is true, but it's an interesting hypothesis to play with. It's certainly caused me to prioritize improving my vision and hearing correction equipment.

Iterated self-improvement - a worked example

The motivational use of causal narratives

One of my core skill gaps is that I don't have a system 1 level understanding of how I cause good outcomes in my life. I tend to forget my successes and remember my failures. I have often said, “nothing bad ever happens to me,” and this is a true account of the world I experience - but not because I have such incredibly good luck (which, to be clear, I do - but other people with good luck still know that they're responsible for some things that happen!). It’s because when I work towards a goal, I think of this as normal and forget about it. Then it seems like every so often the universe randomly gives me some reward, and occasionally people attribute the causality to me - but I wasn’t doing anything extra, I just kept doing normal things and got lucky! This isn’t just true of longer-term stuff my relationships - that the friendships and career I’m building feel like inexplicable repeated bouts of good luck even though I can point to the deliberate work and planning I did over an extended period of time to make them happen - but of things like ordering something i need online. It still feels like I have no control over what stuff I have. I do normal sensible things, and every once in a while a box randomly arrives from Amazon.

But when I fail - well, then I can remember. I can remember the wrong assumptions I made, the times I was too greedy for short term gains, the things I should have been able to do better. I can remember seeing that the house was nowhere near painted a few days before we moved in, and then deciding that the painters knew their business better than I did and besides my personal assistant was responsible for managing them. I remember agonizing over time management and choosing, repeatedly, not to talk as openly as I could with my partner, with my friends, with my manager about it, not to accept myself where I was and build on that.

This is especially bad when a plan has uncertain benefits and some intermediate step breaks. It's hard for me to see when I've failed because the plan wasn't sensible, and when got most of the way through a reasonable plan and then something unexpected happened. It's hard to reward myself for partial success, for getting most of the way to the goal, when it's invisible to me.

One thing I'm doing about this is narrating to myself, when I see a good thing happen in my life as a result in part of things I've done, exactly how I did it, with as much detail as I can stand, all the steps filled in, no "and here a miracle happened" - if it was just chance, but I did a thing to make the miracle more probable, then I give myself credit for that.

(I'm also doing the mirror image of this - if I take an action for future benefits, narrate to myself all the things that are going to happen, in as much detail as I can stand, to get it from here to done, so that I'll notice when intermediate progress points are reached. A simple example is to literally, every day, check the status of the Amazon packages I’ve ordered so I can remember that I caused a thing to arrive when it does.)

In that spirit, I recently made a few life system improvements, and decided to narrate to myself how they happened. It turned out that they were the result of a very long series of life improvements and investments in myself and my life, most of which were pretty abstract, generalized, or otherwise high-level, and I'd on some level thought were mostly pretty futile projects that I'd given up on. It turns out I was wrong - I stopped working on them because I was done!

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