Author’s Note Ch. 98

Fiction recommendations:

Saga of Soul by Ouri Maler.  About the sort of magical girl who realizes that her energy attacks aren’t anywhere near as powerful as the implied mass-energy of the objects she can apparently create, and so conjures some unbihexium (element-126, the hypothesized ‘island of stability’) in order to verify that she’s not summoning matter from elsewhere… and then gives it to some physicists to study, because Science.  As of the latest chapter, it turns out that I spotted the obvious plot but missed the less obvious plot, even though, in retrospect, there were hints.  (Original fiction.)

Murasakiiro no Qualia:  Qualia of Purple, a manga about a young girl who sees everyone else in the world as robots, and can apparently predict and act thereby.  Then things start to get odd, though still with a rationale behind it.  If 60% of Greg Egan wrote a manga, it would be like this.

+1 to the humor fics Nobody Dies: The Trials of Kirima Harasami (I think this should make sense even if you haven’t read Nobody Dies or Evangelion) and Love Lockdown (should be moderately humorous if you don’t know the Naruto!Akatsuki, and hysterically funny if you do).

I will be giving a talk at MIT in October, probably at CSAIL on October 17th.  Details are still tentative; I’ll post details in the Oct 1 Author’s Note, but wanted to give you all a heads-up now.  There will presumably be some sort of LW / HPMOR meetup around that time.

I am finally getting around to selling T-Shirts.  Thanks to Katie Hartman and Michael Keenan for setting up Rational Attire.  Shipping is $3.99 flat, and shirts are printed on American Apparel (which apparently has the best reputation as a T-Shirt substrate).

Due to batch orders being much cheaper for us to process, prices may increase after the first week or first batch of orders, and these shirts might not be available indefinitely, etc.  To clarify, this is my personal store and not MIRI’s (though I intend to use any proceeds in ways which will increase my productivity, as opposed to, say, setting it on fire).

Please note that nothing from Rowling can appear on a T-Shirt – we cannot offer anything which says “Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres” or “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” on it.

I am auctioning off A Day Of My Time, to do with as the buyer pleases – this could include delivering a talk at your company, advising on your fiction novel in progress, applying advanced rationality skillz to a problem which is tying your brain in knots, or confiding the secret answer to the hard problem of conscious experience (it’s not as exciting as it sounds).  I retain the right to refuse bids which would violate my ethics or aesthetics.  Disposition of funds as above.

I now have a Tumblr.  I intend to use to post essays, short fiction, and relatively more substantive thoughts.  All Tumblr posts will be mirrored to my existing Facebook account, which also includes random small thoughts and musings.  You can thus choose your level of ongoing insanity to taste.  (Note: please subscribe to my Facebook account rather than trying to friend it.)

Progress Reports will be posted on the first day of each month, starting on October 1st, 2013, to update you on progress toward the next story update.  According to my current plan for HPMOR, next up are two one-shot episodes (one or two chapters apiece), followed by the final arc of HPMOR.  Please don’t expect the final arc to arrive too soon!

Last but not least:

You know Harry’s non-24 sleep disorder?  I have that.  Normally my days are around 24 hours and 30 minutes long.

Around a year ago, some friends of mine cofounded MetaMed, intended to provide high-grade analysis of the medical literature for people with solution-resistant medical problems.  (I.e. their people know Bayesian statistics and don’t automatically believe every paper that claims to be ‘statistically significant’ – in a world where only 20-30% of studies replicate, they not only search the literature, but try to figure out what’s actually true.)  MetaMed offered to demonstrate by tackling the problem of my ever-advancing sleep cycle.

Here’s some of the things I’ve previously tried:

  • Taking low-dose melatonin 1-2 hours before bedtime
  • Using timed-release melatonin
  • Installing red lights (blue light tells your brain not to start making melatonin)
  • Using blue-blocking sunglasses after sunset
  • Wearing earplugs
  • Using a sleep mask
  • Watching the sunrise
  • Watching the sunset
  • Blocking out all light from the windows in my bedroom using aluminum foil, then lining the door-edges with foam to prevent light from slipping in the cracks, so I wouldn’t have to use a sleep mask
  • Spending a total of ~$2200 on three different mattresses (I cannot afford the high-end stuff, so I tried several mid-end ones)
  • Trying 4 different pillows, including memory foam, and finally settling on a folded picnic blanket stuffed into a pillowcase (everything else was too thick)
  • Putting 2 humidifiers in my room, a warm humidifier and a cold humidifier, in case dryness was causing my nose to stuff up and thereby diminish sleep quality
  • Buying an auto-adjusting CPAP machine for $650 off Craigslist in case I had sleep apnea.  ($650 is half the price of the sleep study required to determine if you need a CPAP machine.)
  • Taking modafinil and R-modafinil.
  • Buying a gradual-light-intensity-increasing, sun alarm clock for ~$150

Not all of this was futile – I kept the darkened room, the humidifiers, the red lights, the earplugs, and one of the mattresses; and continued taking the low-dose  and time-release melatonin.  But that didn’t prevent my sleep cycle from advancing 3 hours per week (until my bedtime was after sunrise, whereupon I would lose several days to staying awake until sunset, after which my sleep cycle began slowly advancing again).

MetaMed produced a long summary of extant research on non-24 sleep disorder, which I skimmed, and concluded by saying that – based on how the nadir of body temperature varies for people with non-24 sleep disorder and what this implied about my circadian rhythm – their best suggestion, although it had little or no clinical backing, was that I should take my low-dose melatonin 5-7 hours before bedtime, instead of 1-2 hours, a recommendation which I’d never heard anywhere before.

And it worked.

I can’t *#&$ing believe that #*$%ing worked.

(EDIT in response to reader questions:  “Low-dose” melatonin is 200microgram (mcg) = 0.2 mg.  Currently I’m taking 0.2mg 5.5hr in advance, and taking 1mg timed-release just before closing my eyes to sleep.  However, I worked up to that over time – I started out just taking 0.3mg total, and I would recommend to anyone else that they start at 0.2mg.)

Sticker shock warning:  MetaMed’s charge for an analysis starts at $5K, or around double the cost of everything else I tried put together – it’s either for people who have money, or people who have resistant serious problems.  (Of course MetaMed dreams of eventually converting all of medicine to a saner footing, but right now they have to charge significant amounts to initial customers.)  And by the nature of MetaMed’s task, results are definitely not guaranteed – but it worked for me.

That’s all for now. See you again for a Progress Report (not a story update) on Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 at 5PM Pacific Time.

Author’s Note Ch. 97

Surprisingly massive fan art update, holy smokes!
Note that all art may spoil up to Ch. 96, and that titles may spoil up to Ch. 89.

I have no realistic hope of providing cameos for all these artists with only one major arc left to go – but thank you very much to everyone for this gigantic outpouring of artistic inspiration!

Advertising by request:  Ergo is a science, rationality and philosophy meetup group in New York City.  Ergo is organized by Spencer, who runs a small hedge fund, and we owe him a favor because CFAR keeps hiring his friends and making them move to the West Coast.  Ergo’s membership application is here.

My host organization, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, which occasionally kindly gives me several weeks of paid leave to write HPMOR, is almost at the end of its summer fundraising drive, a $200,000 matching grant currently with $150,063 achieved, with only 1 day left on the clock.  All donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the challengers up to and through August 15th, tomorrow.

In 2012 MIRI received donations from a total of 280 people, and 20 people gave over $5,000.  Over MIRI’s lifetime from its inception in 2000 to the start of 2013, MIRI has had only ~3,000 donors ever.  If you want the #8 spot on the all-time top lifetime donor list, it costs $70,000.  Robin Lee Powell is our #18 lifetime contributor just by virtue of steadily donating $200/month.  Please do not assume that other people are taking care of this – act heroically!

I am currently targeting Tuesday, August 27th for posting Ch. 98, or the rest of the arc if there’s more than 1 final chapter.  I will post an Author’s Note on Saturday, August 24th at 5pm Pacific to let everyone know whether I am on schedule to do so.  See you then, I hope!

75% credible target date: Wed 14 @7PM Pacific

I assign 75% confidence that I will be able to update with Ch. 97 on Wednesday Aug 14th, at 7PM Pacific Time.  I probably won’t be able to hit Ch. 98, or otherwise post the end of the arc, for another 2 weeks after that, unfortunately.  I will be targeting Tuesday Aug. 27th at 7PM for that one, but no guarantees.