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Peter McCluskey's Journal
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Peter McCluskey's LiveJournal:

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
8:12 pm
Caffeine, Meditation and mood
I've been feeling happier and more alert over the past two months. My life has been mostly stable this year, and I can be pretty sure that my improved feelings are due to one or both of these two changes:

I reduced my caffeine use from the equivalent of about 100 mg per day to one cup of weak green tea in the morning (10 to 20mg?) after reading that "deep sleep quality seems to stay effected for days after even single doses of caffeine.". I had previously assumed that most of the effects of caffeine wore of after about 8 hours with me, and that if it didn't affect how quickly I fell asleep, it probably wasn't affecting my sleep. I now suspect that it was causing me to wake up too early in the morning (although I think this started in the past few years, so something else combined with caffeine was probably responsible).

At roughly the same time as I reduced my caffeine use, I started trying meditation after reading good things about it at LessWrong. I'm disappointed at how hard it seems to be to learn (it seems to take increasing willpower to avoid having my mind cluttered with the usual mundane thoughts, much like after losing weight it takes a lot of willpower to avoid gaining it back), and I'm not noticing the benefits described on LessWrong (I've found that books on positive psychology have had more effect, although those effects developed slowly enough that I should be patient with meditation). But I suspect it's improving my mood in some subtle way. I need to experiment more.
Saturday, March 13th, 2010
6:45 am
Time-release Caffeine
I recommend GreenCoffex time-release caffeine capsules as a way of producing steady levels of caffeine on busy days when it's inconvenient to consume caffeine multiple times. It releases 200 mg over a period of 8 hours.
Thursday, February 18th, 2010
8:42 pm
Switching brands helps break endowment effect?
For a long time I watched CNBC intermittently while the stock market was open, while being mildly concerned that news selected to appeal to a large audience was causing me to pay too much attention to useless ideas. Those concerns were partly influenced by an experiment done by Andreassen where subjects trading stocks did worse if they saw a constant stream of news than if they saw no news once they started trading. These inconclusive thoughts left me continuing to follow my rather ingrained habits.

Last year my cable company added a Bloomberg channel. Bloomberg appears to be slightly better than CNBC, so I switched to watching Bloomberg.

Then I stopped watching them. I can't identify any new thoughts which caused me to stop watching, so it's hard to avoid the conclusion that I acted irrationally at some point. The best explanation I can come up with is that as long as I was following a fixed routine, the mental effort needed to abandon the routine prevented me from changing. Switching to Bloomberg was much easier because it didn't seem like much of a change, and didn't require admitting that I'd been making a mistake. But since I hadn't developed an attachment to Bloomberg, it was easier to stop watching it.

I've since given up cable/broadcast TV entirely, and use Netflix and Comedy Central's website as replacements. I'm quite satisfied with the change.
Monday, October 5th, 2009
4:45 pm
I had a fairly pleasant afternoon at Ephemerisle on Saturday. It bore some resemblance to a miniature Burning Man, but with more anarchy and less art.

The warm weather that was expected to be an advantage to holding it in the delta now was replaced just before the start of the event by an abnormally sudden transition to cool winds more characteristic of November. I gather the stronger than normal winds caused some problems with anchors holding. Anchoring is a complex function of wind, vessel size, bottom texture, how much anchor line you let out, and how patient you are at trial and error. I gather that anchoring problems prevented houseboats from tying up to the main platform as originally planned.

I had hesitated to go due to rumors of loud music, but it wasn't loud (possibly due to people being too occupied with more important infrastructure). Since vessels were more spread out than anticipated, there probably would have been a relatively quiet place if there had been loud music, but being spread out also meant that people were more isolated from each other than I expected.

It is likely that bigger and better festivals will happen in the next few years, but scaling up to thousands of people is likely to require starting over largely from scratch with a very different approach.

After reading that someone was bringing "Sea Boots" to walk on water, I put in my car some forms I made 7 years ago, which would enable me to crudely walk on water. I had designed them in hopes of being able to skate on water, but they failed miserably at generating enough speed for that. I didn't get them to the festival due to limited room in the boat that took me there, and I didn't see the person with the Sea Boots. Maybe next year.
4:27 pm
I've Moved
I recently moved from Mountain View to San Bruno. Partly because I've been socializing more with people in the San Francisco area and less in the south bay, and partly because my Mountain View apartment was too warm on summer evenings (I'm now just at the edge of the fog most summer days). The time I've spent moving and discarding stuff not worth moving has been one of the reasons I've been silent here recently.
Monday, July 27th, 2009
4:13 pm
I've given up on Tianeptine. I couldn't duplicate the benefits I felt in the first week. I haven't been sleeping very well over the past month, and I suspect that Tianeptine is contributing to that. It didn't seem to cause me to sleep unusually badly on any one day, but it seemed that I couldn't get more than about 7.5 hours of sleep even when I need more to make up for having slept poorly on previous nights. Going to bed earlier mainly causes me to wake up earlier (as in well before sunrise). It's hard to tell how much of a connection there is between Tianeptine and my sleep patterns, and it's time consuming to test it further since there's something like a 4 to 8 day delay between changing doses and observing results. I felt that it modestly increased my libido, but that doesn't seem important enough to justify further attempts to find a good dosage.
Friday, June 5th, 2009
8:45 am
I started using Tianeptine on Wednesday of last week, initially at a dose of 1/2 tablet 3 times a day, and increasing to 2.5 tablets a day on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. For most of that time it seemed to have mildly positive and fairly consistent effects on my mood. Late this Wednesday I started feeling a bit strange - mainly a mild headache that I think would have been unlikely without tianeptine, also a vague feeling that I was less aware of what was going on around me. So I've reduced my dose to a total of 2 tablets a day (spread over 3 doses), and feel more normal now (but am seeing fewer signs that I'm getting any benefits). I'm a little concerned that it may be causing my mind to wander in ways that will hinder my conversational abilities. I suspect I'll experiment a fair amount with altering doses between 1.5 and 2 tablets a day for a while before making any definite decision on whether it's worthwhile.

It's strange that types of drugs with opposite effects on serotonin can both be classified as antidepressants. But it's unlikely that changes to serotonin are the only way these drugs function.
Friday, May 29th, 2009
2:49 pm
Vibram Five Fingers
I got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes, and tried them out hiking about 6 miles last weekend near Sierra Hot Springs, mostly on dirt roads, with a bit of bushwhacking. They work pretty much as advertised - they feel closer to walking barefoot than to walking in traditional hiking boots, with occasional discomfort from stepping on small stones, but much less discomfort than I'd get barefooted.

One concern I have about using them for longer periods is that my right foot is noticeably longer than my left. My left foot matches on of the shoe sizes quite well, but my right foot is in between that size and the next larger size. It's unclear whether that will cause problems for my right foot. They have more size choices than most shoes, but size problems seem more conspicuous than with most shoes.

Note that they're not a close substitute for sandals or slippers because it takes some time to put them on (getting the toes in the right place).

I've spent too much time hiking and finding stock market opportunities over the past month and a half to write much here, but that should change next week.
Monday, April 20th, 2009
11:38 am
Netflix and Stumbling on Happiness
I was rethinking the advice in Stumbling on Happiness recently, and realized that most of my choices about what movies to watch were based on using descriptions of the movies' content to imagine how I would feel about them, with little effort to inform myself about how much others enjoyed them (i.e. I was doing the exact opposite of what Stumbling on Happiness advises).

I haven't noticed enough correlation between my friends tastes in movies and mine. I realized that Netflix has a recommendation system that makes a serious effort to personalize movie advice in a way that I would trust more than I trust the alternatives.

I had been avoiding Netflix because I had been watching movies infrequently enough that Netflix looked more expensive than buying movies, and the Netflix model reduces my flexibility to decide at the last minute what to watch. But the message from Stumbling on Happiness convinced me that those downsides were unimportant compared to sophisticated means of predicting whether I'd like a movie.

So far I've watched two entertaining movies that I would have otherwise overlooked (Hogfather, and You Can't Take It With You). For both movies I'm unimpressed by the occasional moralizing messages, but was able to mostly ignore the pretenses that the movies were anything more than entertainment. I seem to be watching movies more frequently as a result of using Netflix, so my cost per movie concerns now look mistaken.

Are there other areas where I ought to be making similar changes? For books, I already rely fairly heavily on feedback from people who have read the books. For hiking trails, I want more new trails than I can find advice about (few people know more about bay area trails than I), so I don't see an alternative to sometimes reading maps and trying new areas I see that way. I should rely a bit more on advice about restaurants, but the differences between restaurants aren't big enough for me to put much effort into finding new ones. For food I buy in stores, I don't use enough advice - does anyone know a good source that I should look at?
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
4:25 pm
Waterfalls web page
I've started a web page for little known bay area waterfalls that I intend to build up over the next few years into a list that will rival existing sources of information about bay area waterfalls (at least in quantity of waterfalls, if not in beauty). The current style of the web page isn't very easy to use, and I'll eventually turn it into something more organized and understandable.
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
4:20 pm
Alternate Day Calorie Restriction
I've been practicing alternate day calorie restriction for about 6 months now, and I've found it fairly easy to stay near or at my target weight of 140 pounds (as opposed to averaging about 145 pounds before). I haven't been following it very carefully - I probably eat between 1000 and 1400 calories on most down days, but I don't measure very carefully.
I've typically gained 3 to 5 pounds from October through January. This year I only gained 1 pound during that period. I gained weight in February due to some restrictions on my diet[*] which limited the variety of vegetables I ate, but returned to 140 pounds without much effort.

I haven't noticed the other benefits attributed to the diet, and I have some suspicions that it occasionally impairs my sleep (i.e. makes me wake up too early) if I go to bed with my stomach feeling empty after a down day (I think this only happens when I'm quite near my target weight). I'm trying to minimize this effect by having a larger fraction of my down day calories around dinner time.

* I had a problem with a jaw muscle which restricted me to soft food in small pieces. On January 31 while eating a thick sandwich, I did something strange to the muscle connecting my jaw to my skull on the left side, and for 2.5 days my jaw was displaced a few millimeters sideways. That displacement went away one night, and the muscle remained somewhat sensitive to stretching but seems to have gradually returned to what may be normal.
Monday, February 16th, 2009
11:28 am
Adverse Selection in BDSM Clubs
In case I've managed to attract any reader who thinks econ blogs deal only with dull financial topics, I recommend glancing at Adverse Selection in BDSM Clubs.

OTOH, if you avoid econ blogs because they rarely provide good solutions, you might want to skip this.
Thursday, February 12th, 2009
10:44 am
Miller Cave / Wildcat Beach Waterfall hike
I don't blog much about hikes that I do because the differences between hikes would rarely seem interesting except to people who want to plan hikes in little-known places in the bay area. But the hike I led last Saturday was memorable enough to warrant an exception, and pushed the limits of what I consider to be a safe enough hike to lead.
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Thursday, February 5th, 2009
1:24 pm
HAI Workshop
A very long and disorganized post, mostly about a weekend at HAI.
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Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
9:27 pm
Life Coaching, month 1
Except for the initial life coaching session, much of my attention has been focused on my weaknesses in ways that tend to make me discouraged because they highlight why it is harder for me to learn some things than it is for an average person. But at least choiceful seems to have some skill at helping me take an optimistic view.
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Saturday, December 27th, 2008
10:35 pm
The money managing profession
I spent much of the day with a group of Alcor members visiting the misleadingly named California Academy of Sciences (it's mostly aquaria and botanical gardens). It was full, and not at all worth the 1.5 hours it took to get in. The one interesting part was when a butterfly landed on my ear and stayed there for about 15 seconds. (Butterflies seem to like me - here's a a California Tortoiseshell on my chest).
But it was worth going because I got some important information from Mike Korns (who is about to retire as a hedge fund manager) about the effort required to make money managing investments for other people. I've talked with him before about whether I should try that and had been undecided (and in no hurry to decide until market conditions appeared more favorable).
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Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
6:40 pm
Reflections on Burning Man
I've been reading Brian Doherty's book This is Burning Man in an attempt to get insights on why people get so much more out of it than I have, and on how Ephemerisle might succeed or fail.
Much of what the book says is familiar enough to seem ordinary, but parts of it gave me a more detailed vision of how different I am.

"You're always working at an impaired level. Lack of sleep, terrible environment, dust, filth, a million things on your mind, never enough food, water ... Everyone crashes and burns"
This is about as different from my perspective as it could possibly be. I experienced it as a rather ordinary environment. The noise interfered with my sleep, but hardly enough to feel unusual. Bringing enough water in a car is trivial compared to carrying enough on my back for a 20+ mile hike. It would only take a few minutes to pack enough dried fruit and nuts to satisfy 95 percent of my need for food. The implication that the playa's physical environment has unusual effects on people's moods is mostly quite alien to me.

"I'm now selective about who I hang out with - only with people who are creative and fun. When I was in high school and college, I went to parties, and no one was doing anything. People were just all bored, drinking and looking for something to do. Burning Man is full of people who need to be doing something all the time, obsessive-compulsive creative people with this hyperactivity."
I feel some of this need to exercise my obsessive-compulsive tendencies (but not hyperactively). But it's hard for me to be inspired by the Burning Man culture. The art aspect of the creativity seems to consume a lot of resources for what looks like pure status seeking. Status seeking can be fine if it motivates people to improve something, but the projects I saw that fit that description were underwhelming.

There must be some way I could put my obsessive-compulsive tendencies to good use at Burning Man, but the kind of vision I'd need doesn't come easily.
Thursday, December 11th, 2008
5:25 pm
Speed Dating
I tried Speed Dating for the first time on Sunday. In some ways it was better than I expected, but the speed aspect of it bothered me even more than I had expected. I hadn't expected anything resembling love at first sight, but I had expected to be able to decide fairly quickly that many of the people were uninteresting and to narrow down my choices to at most two. Instead I ended up with vaguely favorable opinions of half the people I was paired up with, but mostly indecisive about them. I ended up checking yes to all of those, but none of them said yes to me.
I'm confused about how they handled nonstandard genders. Their form listed four categories including trans and genderqueer, and didn't say what rules they used to match people who identified as being in more than one category (of whom I think there were a few). But I didn't notice any problems resulting from that.
It was also a bit confusing to have people dating as couples, since it seemed a bit awkward to only want to date one member of a couple when they were together and both trying to date.
I went to a poly speed dating because I've noticed that a large fraction of the people I find interesting classify themselves as poly (I'm unsure why - being poly seems unimportant to me), and judging from the four people there who I'd met before it did attract interesting people, but not enough men who were looking for men.
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
4:37 pm
Hike the Geek
Two years ago I noticed a mention of Hike the Geek in a comment on patrissimo's lj, and registered on its website, since I'm usually interested in more variety in my hikes. For some strange reason, I didn't get the expected emails about SF area hikes (I recently tracked down and fixed the missing setting).
I occasionally glanced at the web site to check for upcoming hikes, but the few that I noticed were to less interesting locations than other hikes on the same day with groups I regularly hike with (mainly the SF Hiking Club).
A week ago I noticed a Hike the Geek hike coming up for Sunday, and was sufficiently apathetic about the alternatives that I decided I had been putting off trying Hike the Geek for too long, and started wondering if I would know anybody on the hike. Then on Saturday crasch posted an announcement of the hike, and I noticed that he was organizing it.
It turned out that of the 11 hikers, I'd seen 4 at one of the recent seasteading events (I've also seen Chris and Matt at other futurist groups). It was mostly a nice hike, but the parking difficulties reminded me of one reason I don't often do city hikes, and the restaurant was a bit more crowded and noisy that I like.
I definitely plan to attend more Hike the Geek events.

[Curiously, ispell suggests seasteading should be spelled "seceding".]
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008
9:40 am
This Blog
I do most of my blogging on my own web site (and occasionally at Overcoming Bias), and I have no plans to make Livejournal a major part of my online activity.
If don't know me well, my website is a better place than here to start if you want to understand me.
I've decided to use this blog for more personal posts than what I post elsewhere. These posts will probably be mostly visible only to those on my lj friends list. I don't expect there will be many people who will take an interest in reading these posts, but I'll probably be flattered if unexpected interest in them develops.
I don't intend for my lj friends list to bear any necessary relationship to who I consider a friend (or even whose posts I read). It will just be a group of people to whom I've granted access, and I don't plan on being very restrictive about granting strangers access. I'll probably accept anyone who asks, tells me how they found me here, and who has a profile (here or elsewhere) indicating they're not totally clueless.
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