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Should I run for office?

On yesterday's post, one of the suggestions was running for office. I initially thought this wasn't a good fit, but now I'm less sure. Somerville local elections are coming up this fall [1] and I could potentially run for Alderman-at-Large. This would be a two-year term, and there are currently eight candidates running for four seats. In 2015 it looks like you needed 3670 votes to make it, though there were only five candidates that year.

The main thing I would be interested in is zoning: people are getting forced out by rising housing costs, and this is bad for our city. Compare rents in 2017 to 2011! We need to get the new zoning finished, and generally help increase housing supply to keep up with demand.

What do you think? Would you vote for me?


[1] Filing deadlines are in the next couple days, actually: calendar.

full post...

What's Next?

I was laid off from Wave yesterday: they've decided that having engineers build a mobile money system in East Africa while living in the US has a lot of drawbacks, and I (and my family) aren't up for moving to Africa. So now I need to figure out what I should do next.

I'm looking at this from primarily an EA perspective: for each of my options, how much better will the world be than if I didn't do it?

First, some constraints:

  • I probably need to earn some money: Julia works at a non-profit and doesn't earn enough for us to live on alone. We could maybe reduce our expenses to where we could live on her salary, but that would be challenging with housing and childcare.

  • I want to stay in Boston: I really like it here. My relatives live here, my friends are here, I have roots in several different communities here. And the same with Julia.

  • I don't want to work all the time. I want to spend time with my kids, and have time for music other things that matter to me. Something like 45hr/week would be good.

  • I want to work in the same place as coworkers. I don't enjoy remote work very much: I get lonely and feel disconnected. I waited to join Wave until there were three other engineers working from Boston (who were interested in coworking).

I could potentially relax these some if something were compelling enough along other axes, but they feel relatively firm to me.

My default here would be going back to earning to give as a programmer. I liked Google a lot and would be happy to go back there, though I if I'm considering going that direction I should also interview at some competitors to see if someone would pay me more or have work that was better in some respect. It looks like there are openings at Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft here; are there others I should be thinking about?

On the other hand, earning to give may not be my best option. The EA movement as a whole has been moving away from seeing the main bottleneck being funding to seeing it as being talent, as more money has become available (summary). What else might make sense?

  • Starting some sort of organization: people who can organize and run things independently are in relatively short supply, and this is something I'm pretty good at. The main downside of this is that running things involves a lot the aspects of jobs that I like less: more exposure to uncertainty, more hassle, hard to limit hours.

  • Working in AI: over the past couple years many people I respect have moved to thinking of AI risk as the most valuable place to focus EA efforts. I'm less convinced, but I should put more time into learning about it. If I did think this was the direction to go, options include trying to get a machine-learning related software engineering role (ex: this Amazon role, for a combination of earning to give and working in ML), or working on a PhD (MIT and Harvard are options here).

  • Working in Biotech: biotech is a strong industry here (Boston), and there might be something there that's a good fit? Maybe some sort of safety-related influencing? On the other hand my expectation is that as a software engineer I'd primarily be there to support bio PhDs, and any views I had on safety etc wouldn't get much consideration.

  • Working for an EA organization: CEA is looking for a full-stack developer, though working at the same organization as my spouse is probably not a good idea. Pretty much any EA organization role is likely to be remote work if I'm living in Boston, which I'm not keen on.

  • Something else: there are an enormous number of things I could be doing, and I'm probably not thinking of all of them. What else should I look into?

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Three String Guitar Chords

The high three strings of a guitar are G-B-E, which is an interval of a third and then a fourth. The other strings of my guitar are broken right now, so I've been playing around with what chords work on these three strings.

There are three different major chords, each corresponding to a different permutation of 1-3-5: more...

Text-to-Speech Speed

Interacting with phones by talking to them has gotten enormously better over the past few years, to where for many tasks it's now the most efficient way to interact with them. For example, saying "set a reminder for 10:15pm: laundry" is really fast and switching to it has led me to set more reminders for myself.

One thing that makes this mode of interaction even better is having the speech go quickly. Not only can you talk to your phone quicker than you would talk to a person (try it!) you can set your phone to talk to you very quickly. (On Android, at least.)

On my phone this is Settings > Accessibility > Text-to-speech output > speech rate:

more...

haMephorash

The last installment of Unsong comes out today. I transcribed the words of the main song from the chapter headings: more...

Pound Confusion

The Pound Sterling (GBP) is a peculiar currency union. There are English, Scottish, Northern Irish, Manx, Jersey, and Guernsey Pounds. And not only that, but the Scottish and Northern Irish pounds are issued by a total of seven commercial banks. So there are eleven different entities issuing GBP notes!

UK law requires that Scottish and Northern Irish banks keep a Bank of England note in their vaults for every one they print. On the other hand, the Manx, Jersey, and Guernsey Pounds are just issued by their respective governments. They hold their pounds pegged 1:1 by promising to exchange their notes for Bank of England notes.

Which leaves me with a bunch of questions: more...

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