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Alisa Discussion

This is a discussion topic for Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (a pseudonym, Ayn Rand's birth name). Other people are welcome to make comments. Alisa has agreed not to post under other names in this topic.


Elliot Temple on June 20, 2019

Comments (55)

Post-mortems and overreaching

Proposal: If you post-mortem each of your mistakes, then you're not overreaching.

Reasoning: Overreaching involves being overwhelmed by your mistakes. If you are post-morteming each of your mistakes, then you're dealing with them appropriately. This is incompatible with being overwhelmed by them.


Alisa at 7:00 AM on July 1, 2019 | #12940 | reply | quote

#12940 Yes but many post-mortems will be very short.

E.g. you could say: I don't know enough about this problem. I need more data, more experience with it. *And* I think it's minor and rare (because [something]). So I won't worry about it for now. I'll reconsider next time it comes up, if it comes up again. My tentative plan is to pay more attention to it if it comes up 4 times in 12 months or 8 times lifetime. Similar to not worrying about refactoring code to be general purpose until you've done the same thing 3 times.

If you have literally no idea what went wrong with a mistake, that's bad. If you can organize it into some kinda category (that you have some general policy for dealing with), and get some kinda handle on it, that's much better. That can be very brief.


curi at 12:25 PM on July 1, 2019 | #12942 | reply | quote

Unit testing knowledge

I think one reason I make as many mistakes as I do is that I don't unit test my knowledge enough. I accept, as something that I know, knowledge that hasn't been sufficiently tested from different angles. I wouldn't have such low standards for software (that I care about). So why do I have such low standards in the realm of ideas?


Alisa at 8:16 PM on July 29, 2019 | #13171 | reply | quote

On lying and being inaccurate

Being inaccurate is a matter of morality. I once watched an episode of Hell's Kitchen in which chef Gordon Ramsey indicated that he needed to be able to trust that his chefs were reliable and that they were giving me him reliable info about the dishes that they were cooking. Once, someone feigned not knowing what was wrong with a dish (it was scallops, and they were raw). Gordon Ramsey noticed that the chef hadn't done sufficient error-checking, and said that he couldn't trust them any more.

When you make an assertion without doing adequate unit testing, error checking, or cross-checking, you are saying that you know something which you do not in fact know. Being in accurate in this way is a form of lying. It’s misrepresenting your state of knowledge, like a waiter who says that a dish doesn't contain some allergen when in fact he doesn't know or hasn't done adequate due diligence.

Big picture: people need to be able to trust what you say, and you can't be trusted if you don't adequately error check what you say.


Alisa at 9:15 PM on August 1, 2019 | #13198 | reply | quote

> that they were giving *me him* reliable info

> Being in accurate

Typos. Content makes sense.


Anonymous at 11:11 PM on August 1, 2019 | #13199 | reply | quote

Typos

#13199 Thanks for the typo reports (and for the content assessment), anon.

After figuring out what I wrote above, it's a given for me that I need to find a way to reliably say things without being inaccurate or otherwise lying. I think that typos matter too, but in a different way than factual inaccuracies. From the Hell's Kitchen perspective: every factual inaccuracy is like a major problem with a dish, but so long as the true meaning of the text can be easily understood, a typo is more like a tiny defect.

In different situations there will be different expectations for what counts as reasonable typo-prevention efforts. For example, in a book, there basically should never be a typo, but in IMs that are clearly being sent off-the-cuff, occasional typos are okay. At work, it would be helpful for me to be able to generate typo-free text, so I am interested to find a trustworthy process for that.

My current best process for generating typo-free text is to check for misspelled words highlighted in red, and use TTS to listen to what I wrote.

> that they were giving *me him* reliable info

TTS should have caught that mistake. The issue here was that I didn't listen to my message #13198 before sending it. At this point, for me, sending a message that I haven't listened to is dishonest, because I've previously stated my intention to use TTS as part of my error-checking process [https://bitbucket.org/petrogradphilosopher/fi/src/default/pf.md]. I need to either follow through with that or retract my claim.

> Being in accurate

That mistake would be hard to catch with my current process.


Alisa at 2:18 PM on August 2, 2019 | #13201 | reply | quote

Example of a lie: hand soap at the kitchen sink

Not too long ago, I had been away from home for about a week. I was staying at the house of someone I know. There was hand soap at the kitchen sink. That was convenient because I needed to wash my hands and the bathroom was on a different floor. I remarked on the convenience of this. I said that I didn't have hand soap in my kitchen sink at home. The person expressed surprise that I didn't have hand soap at my kitchen sink. I assured him that I didn't. But when I got home a day later, I saw that I *did* have hand soap at my kitchen sink.

I count as a lie the statement of mine in which I said that I didn't have hand soap at my kitchen sink. I confidently made a false statement about something which I can be reasonably expected to speak accurately about. Even if I was unsure (and it's not clear that I was), I mis-represented my state of knowledge by speaking confidently.

When I lied, did I have any sense that I was lying? Did I have any indication that what I was saying was false, or that what I was saying merited more error-checking -- even a slight gut feeling? I don't know, but if so, I should have paid more attention to that sense or indication. It would have been far better to say nothing than to confidently say something false.

I suppose my lie could have been due, in part, to bias. There were a lot of convenient things in the person's house. I had been praising some of them. Maybe I wanted to praise more things. Maybe I thought that lying about the hand soap would be a good way to make headway towards that goal. If so, then maybe I could have prevented the lie by *noticing* my desire to praise things, *recognizing* that as a bias, and then *watching for* for the potential effects of that bias. I could have been extra careful about saying things that I would be biased to say.


Alisa at 9:30 PM on August 3, 2019 | #13203 | reply | quote

#13203 You were visibly doing some social stuff (which is inherently not truth-oriented in some ways, which is similar to bias). Exaggerating some praise was one of the social things.


Anonymous at 9:40 PM on August 3, 2019 | #13204 | reply | quote

#13171 Unit tests for knowledge are basically the same concept as a library of criticism. That library of criticisms that you check new ideas against is your test suite. It needs to be built up gradually with *high quality* tests. People with a bunch of shitty tests, with a bunch of false positives (flags stuff as broken that is actually correct), start ignoring their tests and using metrics like "Did over 10% of my tests fail? Then maybe it's bad. But I'll ignore fewer fails than that."

Also note that many tests are subject-specific. They can apply to a field, like physics, or to a much more narrow area (like only applies to ideas about golden retrievers catching frisbees). So part of the process has to be evaluating *which* tests should be run for a particular idea (which are relevant).

When in doubt, run extra tests *if* they are designed to not fail when they can't deal with the input. But if your tests start flagging stuff as wrong that they don't understand, then you have to much more aggressively limit what tests get run, which is bad.


curi at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2019 | #13205 | reply | quote

#13204 Good point. Acting social is a major factor in lying. For one thing, acting social commonly involves telling *white lies*.

I could try to notice when I'm acting social (which is not THAT often, I think) and to be extra alert for lies during those times. I think that would be a do-able and potentially helpful next step.


Alisa at 6:54 PM on August 5, 2019 | #13232 | reply | quote

> I could try to notice when I'm acting social (which is not THAT often, I think)

I'd guess it's most of the time, or at least most of the time you're around anyone other than family.


Anonymous at 7:40 PM on August 5, 2019 | #13236 | reply | quote

#13236 I wrote:

>> I could try to notice when I'm acting social (which is not THAT often, I think)

Anon replied:

> I'd guess it's most of the time, or at least most of the time you're around anyone other than family.

Ok. I will modify my proposal from #13204 to take account of your point. My modification is to remove the text "(which is not THAT often, I think)". The result is:

>>> I could try to notice when I'm acting social and to be extra alert for lies during those times.

I don't currently notice myself acting social often enough for that to be a burden, but I do notice it enough for it to give me something to work on.

Suppose I eventually learn to notice myself acting social in more situations. Then maybe my capacity to watch out for my own lies will also have grown. If it hasn't, I'll have to think of something else.


Alisa at 11:25 PM on August 6, 2019 | #13244 | reply | quote

Unit tests for knowledge

#13205 That's an angle I wasn't thinking of it from. I was thinking of starting with an idea, and then figuring out what tests would be good for it, and then writing and running those tests. You're suggesting that I focus instead on the tests, and on making them good and generic, and then when ideas come along, I spend a bit of time figuring out which tests from my library apply. This seems different than writing new tests for each idea.

In programming, I write new tests for each function. I don't have a generic library of tests that I apply to new functions. I have generic test *helper* functions and test *libraries* that make testing in general easier, but still, each function requires its own new test, and I usually have to think about the inputs for each new function and about what the correct outputs should be.


Alisa at 8:46 PM on August 7, 2019 | #13247 | reply | quote

To avoid lying to others, you have to avoid lying to yourself

#13198 Some people (including me at some times) believe that it's morally worse to lie to someone else than it is to lie to yourself. But if you are effective at lying to yourself, then you will believe your own lies, and it's plausible that you would eventually tell those lies to others. So if you really care about not lying to others, you have to avoid lying to yourself.


Alisa at 8:46 PM on August 8, 2019 | #13252 | reply | quote

lying

This is an area where I don't know much. But my guess is that when we believe lies we tell ourselves, it is almost *inevitable* that we tell those lies to other people as well. The only situation where we wouldn't is where those lies aren't relevant to something we'd convey to other people in some way, and I can't think of a situation where that would be the case.


Anne B at 8:42 AM on August 9, 2019 | #13256 | reply | quote

Morality isn't primarily about others

My take on what you're saying: Some people think that the really bad thing is to lie to others. So, don't lie to yourself as you'll probably end up lying to others, too (i.e. you'll do the really bad thing).

I think this puts morality inside a social framework. It conveys that the reason to be moral is the effect on other people.

But the primary reason to be moral is for *you*. It's to help *you* successfully live. It's to help *you* not destroy yourself (by destroying your mind). Others come into the picture only secondary to that goal.

I think it's much worse to lie to yourself than to lie to others. When lying to others, it's possible that you retain a tie to reality (e.g. you lie only to them and not also to yourself). If you lie to yourself, then by definition you've lost that tie, which is a much worse position for you to be in.


Kate at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2019 | #13258 | reply | quote

My comment is a response to #13252.


Kate at 9:21 AM on August 9, 2019 | #13259 | reply | quote

#13258 If you can identify a single false statement in the post of mine to which you replied, I would appreciate hearing about it.


Alisa at 3:09 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13263 | reply | quote

Scenarios in which you could lie to yourself w/out lying to others?

#13256

> when we believe lies we tell ourselves, it is almost *inevitable* that we tell those lies to other people as well

Practically speaking, I agree. However, I think there are a few theoretical scenarios in which someone could lie to themselves without lying to others. Here are a few:

- Say someone follows a vow of silence. If they don't talk to others, they won't lie to others.

- Say someone never talks about a certain area of their life. If they lie to themselves only about that area, then they wouldn't inevitably tell those lies to others.


Alisa at 3:24 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13264 | reply | quote

> If you can identify a single false statement in the post of mine to which you replied, I would appreciate hearing about it.

I think believing the idea "that it's morally worse to lie to someone else than it is to lie to yourself" is a mistake.

Now, I guess you might be thinking "Well, I didn't say that it was *right* to believe that. I just said that I believed it some times. I was just honestly stating the facts regarding my beliefs. Therefore, I didn't actually make a false statement."

If that's the case, then I think you're missing the point. It's sort of like this:

Suppose someone says "I believe it's ok to steal from ppl some times."

Another person says "That's wrong and here's why -- blah, blah, blah."

The first person replies "If you can identify a single false statement in the post of mine to which you replied, I would appreciate hearing about it."


Kate at 4:11 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13265 | reply | quote

#13265 Saying "Some people [...] believe that [X]" is not stating X.

Saying something like "Sometimes I believe X" also is not stating X.

> then I think you're missing the point.

You seem to be missing the point that Alisa was speaking narrowly about limited issues, and then asked if you could point out a false statement. Alisa was trying to say things which were true rather than false, as written, exactly. You are talking about how, in some context, some of it could be bad or misleading which is a different issue. You are still pushing this after Alisa clearly and directly communicated what he cares about (false statements). You have not in fact pointed out a false statement from Alisa's comment, but you haven't clearly admitted you can't, and you have continued with other types of criticism that Alisa didn't express interest in and which you could probably guess that Alisa has heard before.

> Suppose someone says "I believe it's ok to steal from ppl some times."

That is not equivalent to what Alisa said. That strikes me as dishonest. That or it's a grammar error with an ambiguous modifier on the end. What Alisa said was about *believing sometimes*, but you've changed it, as I read it, to being about always believing that *stealing* is ok sometimes (in some situations).


Anonymous at 6:22 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13266 | reply | quote

#13247 Start with individual tests. It's important to find patterns in the testing and refactor to have more generic tests which can replace 3+ previous tests. Same as normal DRY coding.

If you have a bunch of one-line tests which just call a library function, then you're part of the way there. But it'd be superior to write some code which generates all those individual tests instead of writing them all by hand.

Also I talked about this in my stream https://youtu.be/EiPMrvQYx5w approximately 2 hours in. (I talked about some other comments from this page earlier in the stream, too.)


curi at 6:50 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13267 | reply | quote

>> then I think you're missing the point.

> You seem to be missing the point that Alisa was speaking narrowly about limited issues, and then asked if you could point out a false statement.

I wondered about that point, which is why I wrote this:

>Now, I guess you might be thinking "Well, I didn't say that it was *right* to believe that. I just said that I believed it some times. I was just honestly stating the facts regarding my beliefs. Therefore, I didn't actually make a false statement."

To clarify, I agree with this reasoning as stated. Alisa didn't actually make a false statement.

back to anon:

>Alisa was trying to say things which were true rather than false, as written, exactly. You are talking about how, in some context, some of it could be bad or misleading which is a different issue.

I don't understand why Alisa doesn't care that his belief is a mistake. But it's his call. I'll drop it.

> You are still pushing this after Alisa clearly and directly communicated what he cares about (false statements). You have not in fact pointed out a false statement from Alisa's comment, but you haven't clearly admitted you can't, and you have continued with other types of criticism that Alisa didn't express interest in and which you could probably guess that Alisa has heard before.

What other types of criticism? The idea that he should care when his beliefs are mistaken?

>> Suppose someone says "I believe it's ok to steal from ppl some times."

> That is not equivalent to what Alisa said. That strikes me as dishonest. That or it's a grammar error with an ambiguous modifier on the end. What Alisa said was about *believing sometimes*, but you've changed it, as I read it, to being about always believing that *stealing* is ok sometimes (in some situations).

I see what you mean. Sorry. The grammar is different between them. I don't know if it was dishonesty or carelessness (or both...they are related). Anyways, I just wrote the meaning that I had in mind. And looking at it now, even though the grammar is different, I'm having a hard time seeing the difference in meaning.

I sometimes believe it's ok to steal.

I believe it's ok to steal sometimes.

(BTW, I think "sometimes" is better.)

If you sometimes believe it's ok to steal, then there will be times when you believe it's ok to steal.

If you believe it's ok to steal sometimes, then aren't we left with the same conclusion? That there will be times when you believe it's ok to steal?

How are they different?


Kate at 8:11 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13269 | reply | quote

With one meaning, there can be times when you think all stealing is wrong. You have different ideas at different times.

With the other one, you have a single idea at all times which says some stealing is wrong and some is right.

In the one case, your ideas are what's changing around time. At different times you have different opinions of the same situation. In the other case, the situation is what changes.


Anonymous at 9:09 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13270 | reply | quote

A trick for solving problems that should be possible but seem impossible

This note explains a trick for making progress on a kind of problem where you have to figure out how to do something that seems like it should be possible but also seems to be impossible for some unknown reason. Examples of this kind of problem:

- Figuring out how to close the blinds to get some privacy in a street-level hotel room that seems like it doesn't have blinds

- Figuring out how to turn the cooling on in a hotel room that doesn't seem like it has air conditioning (AC)

The trick is: act as if things make sense even though it seems like they don't. It's a mental attitude to try adopting temporarily. Just assume that things must make sense somehow and keep looking for how that could be.

The example problems above actually happened to me. I was with someone who used the trick to figure out how to solve each problem. They shared the trick with me after I asked how they did it.

The solution to the missing AC control is that it was in a strange location. I forget exactly where. But it doesn't make sense that a hotel wouldn't have AC, so it was worth assuming that there was AC and trying to find the control for it.

The actual blinds were somehow covered behind semi-transparent curtains. They were attached to a high railing and kind of hidden. But they were there. And when you closed them, it gave the room privacy from the street.


Alisa at 6:04 PM on August 10, 2019 | #13274 | reply | quote

BoI on "[t]he quest for good explanations" and Deutsch's "criterion for reality"

A paragraph from BoI:

> The quest for good explanations is, I believe, the basic regulating principle not only of science, but of the Enlightenment generally. It is the feature that distinguishes those approaches to knowledge from all others, and it implies all those other conditions for scientific progress I have discussed: It trivially implies that prediction alone is insufficient.

Ok.

> Somewhat less trivially, it leads to the rejection of authority, because if we adopt a theory on authority, that means that we would also have accepted a range of different theories on authority.

Ok. "X is true because Y said so and Y has authority" is not much of an explanation, let alone a hard-to-vary explanation.

> And hence it also implies the need for a tradition of criticism.

Hmm. Is the issue that without ongoing criticism throughout time, the quest for good explanations will ultimately fail, and the only known way to provide ongoing criticism throughout time is to have a tradition of criticism?

> It also implies a methodological rule – a criterion for reality – namely that we should conclude that a particular thing is real if and only if it figures in our best explanation of something.

How does "[t]he quest for good explanations" "impl[y]" Deutsch's "criterion for reality"? (I think "It" at the beginning of the above sentence ultimately refers to the subject of the first sentence of the paragraph, namely, "[t]he quest for good explanations".)


Alisa at 8:16 PM on August 11, 2019 | #13283 | reply | quote

> How does "[t]he quest for good explanations" "impl[y]" Deutsch's "criterion for reality"?

It's not a logical implication, but it's a view which works well if you see explanations as primary.

re tradition of criticism, that's an alternative to authority.


Anonymous at 9:00 PM on August 11, 2019 | #13285 | reply | quote

#13285

> re tradition of criticism, that's an alternative to authority.

Is a tradition of criticism the only workable alternative to authority that is compatible with the quest for good explanations? Or is there some other reason that nothing other than a tradition of criticism would work? If not, then I don't see how the quest for good explanations implies the *need* for a tradition of criticism.


Alisa at 10:10 PM on August 12, 2019 | #13296 | reply | quote

#13296 Do you have any ideas for something else that would work?


Anonymous at 10:16 PM on August 12, 2019 | #13297 | reply | quote

#13297 No.


Alisa at 7:08 PM on August 13, 2019 | #13299 | reply | quote

Chilipad

The Chilipad is a device that helps control the temperature of the top of a mattress. The Chilipad's temperature can be set to any integer value between 55° and 110° F.

The Chilipad consists of two parts: (1) a small refrigerator/heater and (2) a thin pad filled with flexible water-carrying tubes that lies between the mattress and the bottom sheet. A pair of hoses connects the two parts. Whenever the Chilipad is on, water circulates through the pad and through the refrigerator/heater.


Alisa at 8:18 PM on August 14, 2019 | #13301 | reply | quote

Benedict Evans miscapitalizes "YouTube"

Benedict's Newsletter: No. 300 [1] miscapitalizes “YouTube” as “Youtube”:

> you *could* argue that changing the ownership of Youtube or Instagram would open up more competition

> but of course changing who owns Youtube or Instagram

YouTube writes “YouTube” with a capital “Y” and “T”. This can be seen, for example, on YouTube's support page.

[1] The number for Benedict's newsletter appears to be given only in the email subject line. The number isn't visible in the Mailchimp version linked at the bottom of the email. (This is the link I gave above.)


Alisa at 11:45 PM on August 18, 2019 | #13328 | reply | quote

Unit tests for knowledge

#13267 Your idea of starting out by writing individual tests for each function (or idea) and abstracting/generalizing when you encounter repetition makes sense.

In the stream, you brought up, as an example of a generic unit test, testing that a web page loaded without errors:

> You could have actual generic tests. You could have a test that works on any web page and tests whether it loads without erroring. And so you keep using that test on many different web pages. Now, in terms of the actual design, it might be you have a helper function called testWebPage, and then you write a testManyWebPages function, then you just call the helper function on a list of things. The point is, conceptually, you are re-using that testing function on many different cases instead of using separate stuff.

That was helpful. I can now think of some examples of generic unit tests for knowledge. For example, knowledge that involves statistics could be checked for generic statistical errors such as having a sample size that is too small. Knowledge that deals with epistemology could be checked for generic epistemological errors such as appealing to justificationism or otherwise contradicting YESNO.


Alisa at 6:40 PM on August 19, 2019 | #13330 | reply | quote

A forgotten item to revisit in my Paths Forward document

I am reviewing my Paths Forward document. There are a lot of problems in it that should be addressed. This comment addresses one of them. I will address the other issues that I find in follow-up notes.

The doc lists several items for me to revisit. Along with each item is a date by which I should have revisited it. This means that either the date passed without me revisiting that item or, if I did revisit it, I didn't update the document accordingly. Either is bad.

Here's one of my items to revisit:

> - 2018-06-24: Check for Critical Fallibilism website & post about it. I am reliably informed that this site will have ideas that are relevant to learning how to not want to be stuck forever. "it has some things to say about bounded and unbounded! (wanting to be stuck on some topics = bounded)." (Issue raised by Elliot Temple on 2018-04-19.)

That item should have been revisited on 2018-06-24. I revisited it today. I went to https://criticalfallibilism.com . The site seems unfinished. The header says "Yes or No Philosophy" and under that it says "hi. this is a test file." Other text on that page looks similar to the text at https://elliottemple.com/consulting . Since the site doesn't seem to be ready yet, I plan to change the date on the reminder from 2018-06-24 to 2020-06-24.


Alisa at 10:09 PM on August 22, 2019 | #13362 | reply | quote

My Paths Forward document rendering as raw text

My Paths Forward doc is now hosted on sourcehut (sr.ht). I used to host it on Bitbucket, but Bitbucket is removing support for Mercurial, the revision control system I use.

sourcehut currently doesn't render files as Markdown except for README files. My Paths Forward doc is currently named pf.md, so it currently doesn't render as Markdown on sourcehut. sourcehut renders it as raw text.


Alisa at 10:11 PM on August 22, 2019 | #13363 | reply | quote

Reviewing and updating my Paths Forward document often enough

My Paths Forward document says:

> ## Update this document often enough

>

> I plan to update this document at least once per month. The most recent update should never be more than a month ago.

According to the revision history, the document was last updated 3 months ago, and the previous update was almost a year before that. Fail.

> I have a repeating calendar event to remind me.

I have no such repeating event on my calendar. A search for "paths" or "forward" in my Apple calendar returns nothing, and I don't use any other calendar, such as a Google calendar or a physical calendar. Fail.

Rather than planning to *update* the document monthly, I think I should plan to *review* it monthly. By reviewing, I mean re-reading the whole thing. As I do that, I can make any updates that occur to me.

I don't like the idea of a calendar event for reviewing because I don't want to do the review on a particular day. However, I think I may have thought of a better way to remember.

Another thing that could help me remember to review the document every month is to post the results of each monthly review here under the title "Paths Forward review". One way this would help is by making it more clear to me and others if the monthly review isn't taking place.


Alisa at 10:29 PM on August 22, 2019 | #13364 | reply | quote

#13364 You can have a calendar reminder and then either do it that day *or* have it remind you tomorrow. And keep having it remind you tomorrow until you actually do it. This will help you remember compared to no reminder.


Anonymous at 10:44 PM on August 22, 2019 | #13365 | reply | quote

#13365 I wasn't able to figure out how to get Apple's calendar to remind me again the next day for an event. However, I was able to use the Reminders app to create a recurring monthly reminder. Once a reminder comes due, I think the Reminders app will keep reminding me about it until I mark it as done.


Alisa at 10:32 PM on August 23, 2019 | #13372 | reply | quote

1 billion seconds

Say you can count one number every second. Suppose you were to start counting 1, 2, 3, ..., and keep counting with no breaks, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How long would it take you to count to a billion?

Answer (ROT-13): Nobhg guvegl gjb lrnef. [1]

A modern CPU can count to 1 billion in less than a second. Comparing the two times gives one way of thinking about of how fast modern CPUs are.

[1] https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=1+billion+seconds+to+years


Alisa at 10:59 PM on August 24, 2019 | #13374 | reply | quote

Life BelowZero

Life Below Zero is an interesting TV documentary about people who live near the Arctic Circle.

One thing that stood out to me about S01E01 is the way the subjects seem to exude competence in survival skills. The people catching fish seem competent at it. Erik Salatan, the guy who harvests all his own meat, seems competent at shooting caribou. The guy who rides on a dog sled on the frozen river seems competent at guiding his dogs and at recognizing when the ice isn't safe.

Ayn Rand valued competence extremely highly. In Atlas Shrugged, Francisco says:

> "Dagny, there's nothing of any importance in life-except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It's the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they'll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that's on a gold standard. [...]"

What could explain this competence? Here are a few factors:

- North of the Arctic Circle, one mistake can kill you. People who overreach in survival-related matters won't last long there. Learning without overreaching is the quickest path to competence.

- Knowing the dangers of the arctic environment, the people who choose to live there are predisposed to value competence in survival skills.

- In order to make the show more interesting, the show's producers selected competent people to be on the show.


Alisa at 7:55 PM on August 26, 2019 | #13384 | reply | quote

"pit toilet" and "outhouse"

NOTE: This post explains my understanding of what Wikipedia says about the terms "pit toilet" and "outhouse". It may not be the best way to understand what they actually mean or how they are actually used.

A pit toilet is a toilet in which the waste falls or slides into a hole in the ground.

An outhouse is a building that provides shelter for a pit toilet.

A pit toilet and an outhouse usually go together, kind of like a toilet and a bathroom. I guess that "pit toilet" slightly focuses on the toilet part of the toilet/shelter pair, while "outhouse" slightly focuses on the shelter part of the pair.

Consider the pairs "pit toilet"/"outhouse" and "toilet"/"bathroom". I guess that, in many cases, either term in a pair can be used mostly interchangeably. For example, you can say either "I need to use the toilet" or "I need to use the bathroom" – they mostly mean the same thing.


Alisa at 9:41 PM on August 27, 2019 | #13396 | reply | quote

#13396 And plastic porta potties are different.


Anonymous at 9:43 PM on August 27, 2019 | #13397 | reply | quote

#13397 Yeah. For one thing, in plastic porta potties, the waste stays in the porta potty rather than going into a hole in the ground.


Alisa at 10:01 PM on August 27, 2019 | #13398 | reply | quote

Life below Zero

#13384 gp @ competence. I watched a few episodes of the show, but my thoughts were less precise than yours. Something along the lines of: I wouldn't want to live that way (meaning: in the Alaskan wilderness, with little technological infrastructure), but it's a lifestyle worthy of respect.


Andy at 7:59 AM on August 28, 2019 | #13399 | reply | quote

Spelling error

#13384

> Erik Salatan, the guy who harvests all his own meat, seems competent at shooting caribou.

Correction: Erik's last name is "Salitan", not "Salatan". I guess I tried to spell his name from memory without checking it, rather than copy/pasting or checking the spelling carefully.

To see the correct spelling, you can watch the show itself which has text on the screen that spells his name correctly. Also, his name is on his site, http://www.bushwhackalaska.com :

> Owner/Operator Erik Salitan


Alisa at 8:19 AM on August 28, 2019 | #13400 | reply | quote

Hotels/motels without air conditioning

Some American hotels/motels don't have air conditioning, but I didn't realize this. I thought having air conditioning was table stakes for a hotel/motel, like having a shower and a sink. So I didn't check for it when booking. I ended up booking a place that had no air conditioning.

As an example of a hotel without air conditioning, consider Marin Suites Hotel, which is rated 3.5 on tripadvisor with 657 reviews. (This is an example hotel I found by searching tripadvisor for "no air conditioning"). The hotel's own page describing their rooms doesn't mention air conditioning among the amenities, but it also doesn't mention it as something missing. In contrast, the hotel's tripadvisor page (linked above) says the rooms *do* have air conditioning.

Regarding the hotel, someone on tripadvisor asked:

> Is it true that there is no air conditioning in this hotel? I have a reservation in June, and I do not want to stay without air conditioning!

A hotel representative replied:

> Yes it is true that we do not have air conditioning in the hotel. We have a portable cooler that we have in the living room and provide one for each bedroom. Please let me know if I can help you with any other questions.

Judging by some other comments on that page, the "cooler" provided by the hotel is either a fan or a swamp cooler:

> They provide fans in each room including front room. We were there this past weekend for the fifth time in a row each time in July.

> No AC........The swamp coolers don't work when its hot. Stay there in June, 2017 and the rooms were 95 degrees.


Alisa at 11:28 PM on September 11, 2019 | #13488 | reply | quote

Proposal for a personal list of big problems & solutions

If I don't share a belief with others, there's no way for others to tell me I'm wrong about that belief. In other words, there's no paths forward for beliefs I don't share. I don't want to be making known mistakes about the big issues in my life. So I think I should publish a statement of what big problems I want to solve in my life and how I'm trying to solve them. Example big problems: How to not die early (both physically and mentally, which are two different issues) and how to have enough money to live on.

If applicable, for each problem, I could list some alternative solutions I considered and rejected, along with why I rejected them.


Alisa at 9:49 PM on September 12, 2019 | #13502 | reply | quote

Serious potential problems in my life that I'd like to prevent

Here's a list of serious potential problems in my life that I'd like to prevent:

- Having an unreasonably low expected value for my lifespan

- Disengaging from public criticism of my ideas

- Lacking sufficient money

- Lacking sufficient free time

This is just a high-level draft. Any big problem areas I'm missing?


Alisa at 9:57 PM on September 13, 2019 | #13508 | reply | quote

#13508 Maybe you could become hostile to Objectivism (for example) while still engaging with public criticism. Sounds kinda hard tho.

You don't talk about relationships. Friends, family, socializing, etc. Maybe you have goals for that?

Other big ones for many people are prestige, reputation and career.

Also maybe you'd want to have kids and treat them well, or treat your existing kids well.

Maybe you should also have a section for some major things you disagree with, some non-goals.


Dagny at 10:04 PM on September 13, 2019 | #13509 | reply | quote

#13509

> You don't talk about relationships. Friends, family, socializing, etc. Maybe you have goals for that?

> Other big ones for many people are prestige, reputation and career.

I guess I have some goals in those areas, but they aren't my most important goals. I would have to think hard before sacrificing one my most important goals for any of those things.

> Also maybe you'd want to have kids and treat them well, or treat your existing kids well.

Those aren't goals of mine.

> Maybe you should also have a section for some major things you disagree with, some non-goals.

Good suggestion. Some people have important goals relating to the following things, but I don't:

- God

- Having a good physique (for its own sake, beyond what's helpful for achieving a reasonably long expected life span)

- Not eating meat or animal products

- Eating a lot of delicious food (I expend energy on this, but I like to think I would give it up if it became necessary for my health)

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any important goals to disavow beyond those.


Alisa at 9:45 PM on September 14, 2019 | #13518 | reply | quote

#13509

> You don't talk about relationships.

Good point. One exception to my lifespan-related goal is that I might do something risky to save a loved one who is, say, trapped in a burning building or something. That should be a really unusual situation, though. I guess one way to mitigate the risk of something like that happening would be to try to arrange things such that my loved ones are rarely in dangerous circumstances.


Alisa at 6:04 AM on September 16, 2019 | #13523 | reply | quote

Pronouncing "Alisa"

On Sunday, September 15, 2019, AnneB wrote on the FI Discord:

> 2) I pronounce Alisa with a long 'i', like it does here: https://www.pronouncekiwi.com/Alisa%20Zinov%27yevna%20Rosenbaum

> I don't know how FI's Alisa pronounces it.

I have been pronouncing "Alisa" with a short "i" -- like "Alyssa" in Alyssa Milano's name. This pronunciation has contributed to me mis-spelling "Alisa" as "Alissa" on multiple occasions. Examples can be found on FI list and on curi.us.

From now on, I'll try to remember to pronounce "Alisa" with a long "i". The name "Lisa" is pronounced with a long "i", so I think that pronouncing "Alisa" with a long "i" will help me remember to spell "Alisa" correctly.


Alisa at 5:02 PM on September 17, 2019 | #13535 | reply | quote

Form of verb following "instead of"

https://curi.us/2218-social-rules :

> Social rules cause people to take offense instead of rationally analyze what was said.

To my ear, that use of "analyze" should be replaced by "analyzing". I don't know enough grammar to explain why that is.

In the sentence after the one above, a verb ending in "ing" ("evaluating") follows "instead of":

> Social rule following involves a way of evaluating statements as polite or rude, which people do before and often instead of evaluating whether the statement is true.

That sounds grammatically correct to me.

I thought the example below from https://www.englishgrammar.org/adverb-preposition/ was helpful:

> **Instead of** can be followed by an –ing form. Infinitives are not normally used.

>

> * I spent the whole day in bed **instead of going to work**. (NOT I spent the whole day in bed instead of to go to work.)


Alisa at 5:39 PM on September 17, 2019 | #13537 | reply | quote

#13537 My intuition disagrees with you. I think the infinitive "analyze" is used because the infinitive "to take" is used prior, as the point of comparison, so it should match that. It's better to have it more parallel.


curi at 7:14 PM on September 17, 2019 | #13539 | reply | quote

Alisa at 8:49 PM on September 17, 2019 | #13541 | reply | quote

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