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A condensed version of the post that really started the whole dialogue on emotional labor:
The post that helped crystallize it properly for me:

The idea of emotional labor has gotten a lot of traction lately online, but the main problem I keep seeing is that people have a hard time pinning down exactly what it is, as opposed to being able to point to various anecdotes that they think exemplifies the concept. This in turn leads to confusion, and often a significant subset of people (usually men) who find the anecdotes and the conversation around it to sound too much like "haha men, they suck so much, amirite?" So this is going to be an attempt to lay down a clear definition of emotional labor without the baggage.

Emotional labor is essentially a name for a managerial role in a relationship. This takes on a few different concrete forms.

The first is management of the household, appointments, shopping, and other assorted tasks that are generally shared across couples and/or housemates. Sweeping a floor or cooking dinner is not emotional labor, but being the person who makes sure that those things are accomplished is. It doesn't matter whether you get the floor swept by doing it yourself, asking your partner to do it, firing up a Roomba, or hiring a cleaning service; what matters is that you are taking on responsibility for making sure the task is done. This is why people who say that they would be happy to help with the housework if you would just tell them what needs doing are being a lot less helpful than they think. They're taking the physical labor component of the task but explicitly sticking the other person with the emotional labor component.

The second is taking responsibility for the likes, dislikes, feelings, wants and needs of other people who you are in a relationship with (and to be clear, it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship). Stereotypical scenarios that are covered by this kind of emotional labor include: the hysterical girlfriend who demands that her boyfriend drop everything he's doing to comfort her, the husband who comes home tense and moody after a long day at the office and wants to be asked how his day went and listened to and have validating noises made at him, noticing that the other person in a conversation is uncomfortable and steering the conversation to a more pleasant topic without having to be asked, helping a confused friend talk through their feelings about a potential or former partner, reminding your spouse that it's so-and-so's birthday and that so-and-so would appreciate being contacted, remembering birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and contacting people and saying or doing the right things on each of those dates,

Notice that that last emotional one crosses over into material relationship management again. I'm pretty sure that this is why the confusion is so rampant over what exactly emotional labor is, because other people see the cards and the cooking and whatnot and assume that those things are the emotional labor. They're really not. The emotional labor is the responsibility/management aspect. They're also the part that's invisible and easy to take for granted, particularly since management of other people's feelings is usually assumed to include not letting the other person feel bad about their lack of emotional labor skills.
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So apparently this is a thing I'm doing now?

Actually the main reason I wanted to post Siderea's Patreon page here is because reading her descriptions of what each pledge will get you fills me with amusement and joy. Also, I've missed her posts too - she writes group dynamics and psychology and various other things that are harder to pigeonhole, but it's all deeply insightful and I've learnt a lot from contemplation of the thoughts her writing stirs up in me. I intend to fund her as soon as I have a few spare minutes today that I'm not procrastinating from studying for a midterm.

The second signal boost that I promised a friend is for her friend's RPG maker game on Kickstarter, over here. I'm told it has a female protagonist and a canon genderqueer character and is lots of fun even though at the moment it's still in alpha. I probably won't be funding it personally because I already have a stack of games that I'll never play as long as my arm, but if I was in the unusual position of having both spare time and money, a game like this would be right up my alley.

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I'm experimenting with making my DW account my mostly-anonymous place to post things that I may want to link to but don't want prospective employers etc to be able to find easily.

My reasoning goes as follows: I'm far too busy at the moment to justify the creation of a whole new blog, since at my current rate of posting I would be lucky to hit more than 1 post a month. And I already have this other blog which I'm not using for much other than mirroring my main blog, and which is less visible on Google than LJ.

Is this a terrible idea for reasons I haven't properly thought out?
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One of the more perplexing/annoying things about moving to the US is that nothing actually costs its stated price. You go to a restaurant and you're obligated to add 10-25% extra as a tip. You go to the supermarket or one of the big chain stores and it's all about specials and coupons and joining their stupid club or getting their special credit card or whatever. And then there's the joke that's medical insurance, where procedures are billed at something like a 10x markup, if your insurance company covers it then you pay some kind of flat rate, and then the insurance company and the hospital have an agreement where they only pay the original price rather than the ridiculous marked-up price. Anyway, it recently occurred to me that all these different pricing schemes make for excellent case studies in incentives and anchoring.


At restaurants the price of the food is considerably less than the price you actually pay, thanks to tax and tipping. This makes sense because by the time you're paying you've already consumed the product and are committed to forking over money for it. You get lured in by artificially low prices, and then when it's too late to leave you get hit with extra charges. For bonus points, tipping isn't thought of as being part of the cost and so people still think of restaurants as being cheaper than they are.

Supermarkets/chain stores

At these places the situation is the opposite of restaurants - you get no use from the product until after you've left the store and you can put the product down and leave without paying anything at any time before you actually hand over the money, so there's no incentive to add extra costs in. Instead, they start with a high stated price and then add discounts through various means so that you get to feel clever and/or lucky for paying less.

Medical costs

I'm less sure about what's going on here, but I'm tentatively going to say that the high stated costs of medical procedures are intended as a disincentive to stop you from getting anything done that you don't need desperately enough. Or alternatively, they're intended as an incentive to get insurance since the average person doesn't even come close to being able to afford them, and I've heard rumours of hospitals and insurers colluding on this sort of thing. And then if your insurance covers the procedure then you get the same feeling as from the previous case, where you're lucky/clever for having gotten the insurance instead of having to pay those ridiculous bills yourself. Hospitals can also afford to have higher costs in general because unlike restaurants and fancy chain stores, when you need medical care you usually need it RIGHT NOW and don't have time or energy to quibble or shop around. Basically, you precommit to paying them before you have any idea what the price is, and so they're free to hike the price up as high as they want.

Relatedly, I'm now thinking that hospitals and big chain stores might contain the formalised vestiges of haggling culture, in the sense that in shops and countries where haggling is how commerce generally works, only foreigners and idiots pay the full price. Similarly, there's a sense that if you get hit with the full cost of a medical bill or you overpaid for a piece of clothing, it's because you didn't work the system properly, not because the price shouldn't have been that high in the first place.
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Here's my conundrum:

I really want somewhere to air some of my opinions. But they're not opinions that I want future employers to be able to find, which rules out FB and Twitter (and to some extent LJ, because I'm told my account is findable relatively easily). But I also want more than a handful of people to be able to read it, which rules out LJ (I love the handful of you who comment, but the chance of getting more commenting readers here is kind of nil. When I went to the asexuality conference all the people I met had tumblrs and hadn't even heard of LJ and I felt old). I also really don't want to join Tumblr because, really guys? another social network that's going to be dead in 5-10 years? with a confusing interface and weird conversation system and virtually no permanence to speak of? , but I also really really do want to join because there are interesting people there who say interesting things and I don't have an appropriate means of following them, which means I waste inordinate amounts of time during the day checking each one manually.

At the moment I'm leaning towards either a new Twitter account, or swallowing my distaste and learning how to use Tumblr. With potential crossposting to here under a friendslock. Is there an obvious thing that I'm missing which would solve all my social network woes?

The opinions are things like "I sympathise with this highly stigmatised group (but I can't talk about my sympathy without potentially attracting extremely extreme reactions)", "here are the circumstances under which I support certain extremely unpopular actions", or "let me discuss specific details about my mental illness and therapy experiences in public". Basically, I want somewhere I can talk about the kinds of things where stating an opinion would potentially attract real world hate mail* or make employers kind of hesitant about me.

* since I'm female, this seems like a doubly-important thing to worry about
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Leah (who is an excellent blogger who came up with the Ideological Turing Test), has a whole mini-sequence of posts about the nature and importance of friendships. As someone whose fantasy future involves living in the same house or just next door to my best friend(s), I am highly in favor of encouraging good strong friendships.

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After talking to a few people, it seems like there's a missing layer to the terms offered by sites like AVEN. So here are the three layers and their (paraphrased) definitions:

Asexual - someone who does not feel sexual attraction
Aromantic - someone who does not feel romantic attraction
Asocial - someone who doesn't feel platonic attraction

So, an asexual/romantic/social person wants to have friends and partner(s) but not sex. A sexual/aromantic/social person wants friends and friends with benefits (or casual sex) but no romantic partners. A sexual/romantic/asocial person isn't really into friends but very into having romantic partners who they have sex with. And then there are combinations like asexual/aromantic/social who don't want anything beyond friendship, asexual/romantic/asocial who have romantic relationships but very few friends, and sexual/aromantic/asocial who isn't really into people in general unless there's genitalia involved.

The reason I think there's a whole missing layer to the typology is that I've now encountered two different people who strike me as asocial. The first is definitely sexual and romantic but seems to have no need to go find friends to share feelings or knowledge or experiences with, and the other who is definitely sexual but not only seems to not understand the difference between romance and friendship (and of course, I was very little use explaining since I don't entirely get the difference either), but also seems to only value friends as activity partners with specific activities/interests in common. And it seems to fit in rather nicely in terms of scales of intimacy, both physical and non.

I'm pretty clearly asexual/aromantic/social. I'm not interested in sex or romance but I have a strong need to connect with people on a platonic level. I hope to someday find my very own queerplatonic partner who I can live with without all that messy relationship stuff.


Also: bonus comic about what being aromantic is like for at least some people

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aka, a distinction that people don't make nearly often enough or in the right ways

A couple of relevant excerpts:

"an awful lot of people get themselves hung up on the idea that the party who is at fault Should be the party to be responsible. "I'm not the one who broke it, I shouldn't have to clean it up!"

It's a nice prescriptive principle for organizing morality, ethics, and law: where it can be implemented it makes the world more fair."

"But we don't live in a world like that. One of the fundamental facts of human existence is that you're going to take responsibility for a lot of things that aren't your fault. In fact, the vast majority of things you are responsible for in your life are not going to be your fault, but, nevertheless, you will be responsible for them."

"Taking responsibility feels good because it's empowering. Because it makes you feel less impotent against the vagaries of life. In fact, it feels so good, some people wind up taking too much responsibility, such as codependents on a loved one's addiction, taking responsibility for preserving the addict's lifestyle, or over-protective parents trying to sheild their kids from every averse experience in life, or the battery victim who takes on responsibility for molifying their abuser. It's important not to take too much -- or the wrong -- responsibility, either.

It can be hard to figure out how much responsibility to take, and which responsibility to take, especially if one grew up with people who were bad at it, or deliberately obfuscated issues of fault and responsibility to get away with things (and there is a whole post worth on the topic of what we in the pshrink biz call "parentification" of children and its relationship to assuming inappropriate responsibility.)"

Anyway, go forth and read the whole thing. It's very well-written and lays it all out in a way that an over-responsible person like me can't easily ignore.

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So I've recently fallen into the timesink that is Effulgence. The premise more-or-less being: take ultra-rational Bella from Alicorn's Luminosity/Radiance universe, and put versions of her in various fanfiction universes. Oh and it's a co-writing thing between two authors. It's well-written (otherwise I wouldn't be reading it, obviously), but after reading too much of it at a time some of Bella's personality quirks start to bother me.* . But worse than those are the parts where it just gets *boring* for me, which are the chapters that I like to refer to as "world domination porn", which are just page after page of the protagonists designing and implementing their utopian visions using whatever tools are available in that particular universe, and their utopias actually are utopian or at least are clearly presented as such by the author - none of that Brave New World business where the characters are happy but the reader is supposed to be horrified**. And around the part where I was wading through the 5th world domination chapter it occurred to me that this seems to be a thing in the core LessWrong crowd: Alicorn writes world-domination fiction Eliezer Yudkowsky recently wrote what amounts to utopian fiction in a society called dath ilan, and Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex has been working on his fantasy utopia Raikoth for years now. In each case, their fiction seems to spring from a deep sense of 'the world is seriously messed up, I could do so much better if I had the means to make drastic changes and/or build my own society from scratch". It's a combination of escapism and power fantasies. Whereas while many of the rest of us have no trouble seeing that the world is messed up in many ways, but our response seems to be more about pure escapism and/or making a deliberate choice to stop caring about the big problems in order to maintain our sanity.

If someone handed me ultimate power, I wouldn't use it to become Ruler of the Universe. It sounds stressful and tedious and liable to crush me under the weight of feeling responsible for everything and become burnt out in short order. I would probably try to find someone else to be Ruler of the Universe though. I know some people who I consider to be smart and insightful and compassionate and so forth who would probably be better at it than me and also much less prone to burnout. But my own power fantasies mostly center around being able to help on a more local scale and having various cool superpowers. 

* Like: Bella's obsession with privacy, her my-way-or-the-highway approach to everything, or the way so many of the interpersonal relationships end up all cuddly and snuggly, like there isn't any way to be friendly that doesn't translate into hugs.

** Although I wasn't at all horrified by Brave New World, for much the same reason that I don't particularly care what happens to my body after I die - the point being that I take into account the fact that after I'm dead I won't be around to have opinions. Similarly in BNW I don't find it horrific because I'm taking into account that if I lived there I would have been conditioned to be happy with it. Apparently this puts me in the minority.
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(emotional congruency being the thing I talked about in my last substantive post, for anyone reading this in the future who didn't also see the previous one)

In one of those strange 'the universe is paying attention to me' moments, two of the people I read recently posted on topics that touch on the need for emotional congruency. One about how when someone close to them died unexpectedly, they think it might have been a comfort to them if there had been the kind of mass grief and hysteria involved as there was for people like Princess Diana. The other about how a lot of fans have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that the thing they love may not be loved by others and may in fact have problematic aspects and that this doesn't in any way diminish their capacity to love it anyway, rather than feeling the need to start a flamewar every time someone implies that they don't like the thing enough.

A third related phenomenon is outrage-blogging, where the point (besides generating traffic) is to get validation by writing inflammatory posts about things that bother you. Once you get sufficiently good at this, your audience will consist of 90% people who violently agree with you and enjoy the shared outrage, and 10% people who violently disagree with you, who get their own outrage-fix by fighting against the 90% in the comments section. And yet another related phenomenon is the 'release the winged monkeys' effect, where bloggers who have enough popularity have to be careful about how they share outrage, because if they're not careful a certain portion of their audience will swoop over to the source of the outrage and attempt to bury them in hate/counterarguments/etc. And if the source of the outrage has their own sufficiently large audience... well. But the relevant point here is that even if the blogger is not habitually an outrage-blogger and their audience is fairly reasonable, there's something about someone you respect expressing outrage that seems to incite other people to start feeling the same way and to jump to their defense.

I'm still mulling this over way too much to have a coherent mini-essay here about the common points and what it all means and all that, so instead here are some disjointed thoughts on the topic:
  1. There seem to be a couple of magic ingredients here: strength of emotion, and level of status/respect
  2. The stronger the emotion, the more unacceptable it feels for other people not to share that emotion
  3. And when witnessing strong emotion in someone else, the higher their perceived status (to you, the witness) the more likely you'll hop on their emotional bandwagon
  4. It follows from points 2 and 3 that if you feel a strong emotion and other people don't validate it, you must have low status. Now you have two problems: you're upset *and* you're not important enough to have your emotions respected, which is going to feed into your upsetness
  5. I'm tempted to draw some kind of line from low self-esteem or relatively weak personal identity to the desire for emotional congruency, because feeling temporarily disrespected is only a major problem if you feel it implies certain things about you in the grand scheme of things
  6. I'm also tempted to draw a line from extroversion to the desire for emotional congruency, because my experience suggests that the more extroverted you are the more passionate you tend to get about things in general, which would correlate to the 'strength of emotion' part (NB: my subject pool has a major confound in that almost all the introverts I know are NT types on the MBTI)
  7. There's a psych concept called 'locus of control', where if you perceive it as being outside yourself then you're going to feel helpless and like you have no control over your life and if you perceive it as being internal then you feel like you have agency and so forth. I'm going to guess that there's a similar sort of 'locus of identity' concept, where if your sense of self is anchored on a small number of external things like 'is a good parent' or 'Star Trek fan' then you're going to feel massively threatened if one of those things is challenged in some way, such as getting into a fight with your adult child or hearing someone talk about why Star Trek kind of sucks in some ways. Whereas if your identity is more diffuse (parent + fan + athlete + writer +...) or you happen to be one of those lucky people who don't need any kind of external validation at all, then a threat to one of the things you like isn't going to faze you so much.
  8. And obviously the more threatened you feel the stronger your emotional reaction to the threat and the more important it becomes to you that other people at the very least acknowledge your emotions
  9. But none of this fully explains to me why there's the split between belief-congruency and emotional-congruency verbal fight styles. I'm fairly neurotic so it's not like I haven't had my share of strong negative emotions. So why haven't I ever had the urge to start saying hurtful things to get a rise out of the other person?
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Kind of terrifying

Choice excerpts:

"Inside the uterus we have a thick layer of endometrial tissue, which contains only tiny blood vessels. The endometrium seals off our main blood supply from the newly implanted embryo. The growing placenta literally burrows through this layer, rips into arterial walls and re-wires them to channel blood straight to the hungry embryo. It delves deep into the surrounding tissues, razes them and pumps the arteries full of hormones so they expand into the space created. It paralyzes these arteries so the mother cannot even constrict them"

"This might seem rather disrespectful. In fact, it's sibling rivalry at its evolutionary best. You see, mother and fetus have quite distinct evolutionary interests. The mother 'wants' to dedicate approximately equal resources to all her surviving children, including possible future children, and none to those who will die. The fetus 'wants' to survive, and take as much as it can get. (The quotes are to indicate that this isn't about what they consciously want, but about what evolution tends to optimize.)

There's also a third player here – the father, whose interests align still less with the mother's because her other offspring may not be his. Through a process called genomic imprinting, certain fetal genes inherited from the father can activate in the placenta. These genes ruthlessly promote the welfare of the offspring at the mother's expense."

"Far from offering a nurturing embrace, the endometrium is a lethal testing-ground which only the toughest embryos survive. The longer the female can delay that placenta reaching her bloodstream, the longer she has to decide if she wants to dispose of this embryo without significant cost. The embryo, in contrast, wants to implant its placenta as quickly as possible, both to obtain access to its mother's rich blood, and to increase her stake in its survival. For this reason, the endometrium got thicker and tougher – and the fetal placenta got correspondingly more aggressive.

But this development posed a further problem: what to do when the embryo died or was stuck half-alive in the uterus? The blood supply to the endometrial surface must be restricted, or the embryo would simply attach the placenta there. But restricting the blood supply makes the tissue weakly responsive to hormonal signals from the mother – and potentially more responsive to signals from nearby embryos, who naturally would like to persuade the endometrium to be more friendly. In addition, this makes it vulnerable to infection, especially when it already contains dead and dying tissues.

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A while back I read this post. Short version: When people get into verbal fights, their styles can be roughly split into truth-shouters, who say the truths that they would normally hold back or find themselves unable to express, versus cutlery-loaders, who say all kinds of things that may or may not be true in order to blow off steam and get a reaction out of the other person* - in effect they just load whatever's handy into their cannons and then fire that off, hence the term. I think there might be a more useful way to reframe the concepts: Truth-shouters are aiming to make people know/believe the same things as them. Which is why when things get stressful, the uncomfortable facts start coming out. Cutlery-loaders on the other hand are aiming to make people feel the same things as them. Which is why when they're angry/upset, they'll say whatever they think will cause the other person to feel a similar emotion and often get even more upset if the other person doesn't take the bait, because it makes them feel like their emotions are being treated as invalid or overreaction.**

I can't help wondering whether these are more general interaction styles and are just a lot more obvious during arguments because those tendencies get blown up to several times their usual size.

* Obviously this is a bit of a simplification. Lots of people are not purely one or the other, there are probably styles that don't allow neat categorisations, etc. But I think it's still a useful abstraction

** It's probably obvious from my explanations that I'm a truth-shouter, hence my less-than-charitable description of cutlery-loaders.

The insight for this post came from a Facebook argument where I ended up being accused of acting as if the other person wasn't entitled to their emotions (which was my own fault really - I didn't share their outrage and instead jumped to objecting to part of the factual content of their post). During the ensuing exchange they then expressed a view that can be summarised as '[bad thing] happened to me, and I hope it starts happening to others so that the situation will be addressed before [worse thing] happens to me". After applying the principle of charity, this reads to me as "[bad thing] has caused me to worry about [worse thing], and I wish other people felt the same way as me because then they would take action to help avert the chances of [worse thing] happening". But on first reading, boy did that sentiment get my hackles up.

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So on Tuesday we had a guest talk by one Karen Emmory, described by one of our faculty as "the foremost researcher on Sign neurolinguistics". And it was a great talk. I will now do her talk approximately zero justice by attempting to summarise the coolest parts several days after the fact.
  •  If you're bilingual (or n-lingual for any n>1) both languages are 'always on'. The main way this has been shown has been through various kinds of Stroop tasks and eye gaze tasks, where the word you're interested in (let's say 'marker') is similar in some way to a word in your other language ('marka' which means 'stamp' in Russian I think), and your eye gaze or response time reflects the fact that you've been distracted by the word in your other language
  • The other way we know that both languages are always on is from people who are bilingual in a sign language and a spoken language, because when they talk (in either modality) bits of the other language leak through simultaneously. So if you give bimodal bilinguals a task where they watch a cartoon and then narrate it to someone else, regardless of whether they choose sign or spoken language as the narrative language, they'll spontaneously provide translations for some individual words in the other modality, completely unconsciously.
  • In addition, in ASL certain grammatical structures like questions are marked on the face, via things like raised or furrowed eyebrows. When speaking in English, English-ASL bilinguals will often do those facial markings unconsciously, which leads to a phenomenon where people who aren't fluent in sign often think that the ASL speaker is expressing various emotions when in fact they're just marking grammatical structures. So even when there's incentive for them to suppress the other language, they're not always entirely successful
  • However! Clearly there is some suppression going on. The bimodal bilinguals don't sign every word they verbalise (or vice versa), verbal bilinguals aren't constantly coming out with weird gibberish from trying to speak both languages simultaneously
  • This leads us to the hypothesis that bilinguals have better cognitive control than monolinguals, because even just speaking is this exercise in choosing one language and suppressing the input from the other. Turns out this hypothesis is correct  - when you give bilinguals various tasks that involve ignoring extraneous information, they tend to be both faster and more accurate than monolinguals
  • But it's not entirely clear from the literature whether the advantage comes from the perception side (needing to be able to categorise and comprehend multiple different kinds of input) or the production side (since you only have a single tongue you can't speak multiple languages simultaneously)
  • Bimodal bilinguals give us a way to separate out which bits of bilingualism are responsible for which aspects of increased cognitive control. For verbal bilinguals, they can only speak one language at a time, which requires suppressing the other language. For bimodal bilinguals, you can speak both languages simultaneously (up to a point - the syntax is different but we'll ignore that for now) so while they may have some cognitive advantages from bilingualism, they don't need to put as much effort into suppressing their other language
  • This hypothesis is borne out! There are some tasks for which bimodal bilinguals pattern with monolinguals instead of unimodal bilinguals, and other tasks where any kind of bilinguality is an advantage over monollingualism. Unfortunately my memory fails me here as to which tasks were which.
  • Sidenote: You may be curious about what would happen if you tested people who are bilingual in two different signed languages. Unfortunately this isn't really a testable hypothesis, because all signers are bilingual in their native sign language and their area of birth's spoken language. So someone who knows two signed languages would actually be trilingual and therefore not a fair comparison to the bilinguals.
  • Sidenote the second: there are intriguing results with Italian signers simultaneously producing syntactically correct sentences in both Italian Sign Language and Italian even though they have very different syntax. There is a theory that they could do this because the participants weren't choosing a dominant syntactic structure, but a dominant morphological structure, and the morphological marking is similar enough in both languages to support simultaneous production. But that's mostly speculative at the moment.
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Hey, people! My friend and former roommate makes super awesome 3D-printed things* and has decided to start selling some of those things in an online store. His first effort at mass-production: companion cube dice. But I am assured that at some point in the future there will be other things, plus if you want stuff custom made he's probably open to the idea if you offer him sufficient money.

His store is here:

* Seriously. His Christmas present to his partner were teeny tiny (the photo I saw used a penny for scale) 3D printed versions of them, which were completely recognisable as being of those two people. He's also made skulls, a model of a sphinx that's currently on display at the local museum as part of an exhibition about Egypt (the model is the one on display), and a new fender for his bike after the last one got stolen. Did I also mention that for my birthday he gave me a set of 3D printed roleplaying dice in a large 3D printed container shaped like a D20 (which I could totally roll if I didn't mind knocking over everything else on the table)? Basically, he has mad skillz, and as soon as I start having disposable income again I intend to buy a few sets of the companion cube dice to distribute to friends back at home.

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 I don't really have any of my own though, having never been a resolution-y sort of person. Still, 2013 has been such an utter shitstorm of a year* for me that I feel like I ought to outline some of the ways in which I intend to make 2014 better:
  • Most important, I'm going to go back to grad school, even if I end up having to stay out for another semester and go back to Australia and jump through stupid timeconsuming expensive bureaucratic hoops sfdgkljdfglksdjfsldkfj oh please let that not happen
  • Grad work will be a 9-7 job**. After that I am not allowed to work, and must do other things like watch tv, play games, and generally enjoy myself and/or catch up on housekeeping
  • I'm going to aim to cook for myself more often than not. Which basically means that 4 out of 7 of both lunches and dinners will not be 'super delicious but expensive food from one of the food carts', 'taking out a piece of bread, spreading nutella on it and calling it dinner', or 'frozen/canned meal I bought from the supermarket'
  • Also on the subject of cooking, I'm going to aim for at least one new (to my cooking skills) dish a week
  • I'm going to stick with HabitRPG (I'd go on, but I already wrote a whole post singing its praises. Suffice to say it works for me)
  • I'll keep up the exercise regimen I started this year and hopefully improve on it
* There's been some good from all the bad, like getting on antidepressants and as a result discovering that my life doesn't have to suck, but that doesn't mean I have to pretend to enjoy the path I took to get there

** Not actually intending to work for 10 hours each day. More that all my work has to be done within work hours, and too bad for me if I have a deadline tomorrow but spent all day looking at pictures of cats. This is my attempt to implement this 'work-like balance' thing I keep hearing about
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 So, it turns out that someone I know is anorexic. The reason none of us noticed any sooner is that they are now thin but not actually underweight, since they were relatively overweight before their obsessive weight loss. That allowed everyone involved to overlook the physical symptoms or assume that they were caused by some other problem. 

Anyway, I'm not here to talk about anorexia. That was just the context for the conversation I had later the same day with a friend where I mentioned the anorexia and that led to us disagreeing about weight follows a set-point model or a strict calories in-calories out model, or something else.

And then the insight hit me: the reason I believe in a set point model is that that's how my own body operates, and how this person's weight operates. My weight has been stable for years, only going up in response to extreme stress/depression (and then only slightly - we're talking a difference of maybe 4kg at its most extreme), and then coming back down to its original point as soon as I'm feeling better. I've tried eating less occasionally but doing so makes me hungry enough to be irritable and unable to focus. (Edit: I've also engaged in varying amounts and types of exercise, with no visible effects on my weight or fat distribution). My friend, on the other hand, has been cutting calories for the past year or so and has made steady progress. Either she has a much higher tolerance for hunger than me, or else her body acts less like a whiny 2 year old when it hasn't gotten as many calories as it would prefer.

So that's the obvious insight - the whole argument boiled down to a textbook case of generalizing from yourself. I guess my next mission, if I feel like I have the energy to bring it up again, is to convince my friend that that's what she's doing, not that I hold much hope of that.
erratio: (Default)
Humans have a set weight point, right? Which varies from person to person. And different caloric and nutritional needs, and different metabolisms. All of which is basically a long way to say that if you see someone who looks over- or underweight, you can't necessarily assume anything about their diet or overall health.

But somehow, when it comes to pets, there's a weight range that they're 'supposed' to be, and if they're above or below those numbers you are perfectly justified, nay urged, to put them on a special diet to get their weight within that range.

What's the difference? If I'm healthier weighing differently than my BMI says I'm supposed to, might that not also be the case for a pet? Or if we take the corollary of 'it's okay to put your pet on a special diet', would that imply that it's our duty to put people, especially children, on diets too?

I'm currently catsitting for my housemates, which is almost identical to what I usually do except that now I'm also taking care of his food and water and litter for a week. He's currently on a diet because last time he went to the vet he was about a pound and a half over the maximum healthy weight for his breed. And one of the things that stood out while Male Housemate was explaining to me how much food and water to give to the cat was his mentioning that the cat is drinking more water than he used to. And the thought that passed through my mind was 'isn't that what people on diets do to make themselves less hungry?'. I dunno. Maybe the extra pound and a half is associated with drastically higher rates of Bad Things, but if it causes him to be hungry all the time there's a quality of life argument there.
erratio: (Default)
gifs of various chemical reactions. I wish a lot of them were animated with more frames to go slower, but that's really a minor quibble
erratio: (Default)
 One of the big changes I've made in the last year has been implementing a productivity system that at least partly works. Prior to this, I would change to a new productivity system, get some benefit from it for maybe 2-3 weeks, then stop using it effectively and give up a week or two later. Then, some time after that, I would start getting stressed at all the work I had to do and start using a new productivity system. 

My new system is to use HabitRPG and supplement it occasionally with Evernote. I've been using it since late February, so it's far outlasted all my previous attempts at productivity, and my self-assessment of its use is that it's been effective for me.

The main hook of HabitRPG is that it uses RPG mechanics to make you want to get stuff done. Doing tasks or dailies or habits nets you xp and gold, which causes your cute little avatar to level up and lets you buy gear for them (or custom rewards for yourself). Failing to work on your daily tasks causes you to lose HP, and if you lose too many you lose a level and a random piece of gear. That's the whole basic premise, although there are also new features continually being implemented like streaks and pets and mounts and challenges  and (soon) classes and quests. 

The second major component that works for me is the social aspect: there are Guilds, based around a theme or common interest, of which you can join an infinite number, and Parties, which require approval from the leader to join and are usually formed of people who either know each other in real life or who have similar approaches to productivity and/or levels of activity. There's also a Tavern, which everyone can view and post in, which is a good place to ask random questions, socialise, and so forth. There's a lot of community, and everyone is on the site because they want to be productive. That's one hell of a peer group to influence yourself with.

And that's pretty much it. It's a simple formula that works really well for me. I'm currently tied for the lowest level in my Party because the paper I was writing sucked up all my free time and stopped me from working on a lot of my other tasks for a while, and I feel highly motivated to add more dailies or to-dos so that I can catch up. I want to complete my daily tasks so that I can finish my collection of pet and get food so I can turn one of them into a mount. A few times in the past, I've almost skipped my daily Anki or Duolingo but ended up doing it anyway just before bed because I didn't want to lose my streak bonus on them. And I've gotten a lot of good ideas about the best way to structure my dailies/habits/tasks, new dailies that I should be doing, and also learnt a lot about other things (recipes, careers, floor-building, other grads' students research projects) from participating in Guilds and my Party. 

Of course, the system is an honour system. If all you cared about was having a cool-looking high level avatar riding a dragon, then you could just make up a bunch of tasks or reward yourself gratuitously for doing tasks that you personally find trivial and then boasting about it in the Tavern

But where does Evernote come in?, I hear you asking. It comes in for a couple of reasons. The first is that Habit loads really slowly on mobile devices and I've been too lazy to download the app and copy my ridiculously long identification string into it, so when I'm travelling I don't have access to it on my phone and instead I make notes about what I need to do on Evernote. The second reason is more idiosyncratic, and is that the more stressed I am the more I feel the need to babble away in a random text file that's separate from whatever I'm working on. This applies to Habit sometimes - if I have a lot of things that I need to get done, I'm more likely to remember what they all are and not feel overwhelmed if I spend some time brainstorming in Evernote first and transferring them into Habit later. But it also applies to research analyses and therapy and so forth - Evernote provides a good location for me to engage in free writing exercises about whatever I'm currently working on. 
erratio: (Default)
So, a funny thing happened: I've been relying more and more heavily on HabitRPG, my calendar, and other external aids to tell me what to do and when to do it. As part of that, I've ended up joining a bunch of guilds on HabitRPG and been posting most of my NVC notes to the 'chronic illness guild' there. But, I still want to post them here too, since I think it's really useful stuff that should be shared with as many people as possible.

Communication stuff )

Reminding yourself that you choose all your tasks )


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