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Adding Up Small Benefits

If you could give everyone in the world one extra second, would that be more or less helpful than dividing those seconds among fewer people? For example, with the same number of seconds you could give 81k people each an extra day. My initial impression is that a second is nearly useless while a day lets you do all sorts of things, but is 81k people so much less than 7b that it makes up for this?

One contributing factor here is scope insensitivity. People are good about thinking about things at human scale, but as the numbers get bigger our capacity to visualize and make intuitive comparisions stops working well. If we hear that one person was injured in a flood vs four people we can imagine clearly the difference between one person and four, but if we hear that it was 100k vs 10k people we think in both cases "that's horrible!" and "huge numbers of people!". We can resort to simple math and see that 10x people being injured is probably something like 10x worse, but emotionally 100k and 10k just feel enormous. more...

Reference Contra Dance Sound System

Several contra dance organizers have recently asked me for sound system recommendations. Instead of responding off-the-cuff to people individually I thought I'd put together something in one place. First, a few caveats: more...

Whoops

The worst moment of our tour so far:

switching into Beaumont Rag

Amy, Dave, and I are playing kazoo and being silly at the Toronto Island Dance, and we're ready to come out of that into Beaumont Rag. Audrey breaks her string on the first note of the new tune, and then I drop my kazoo on the crash cymbol. This was very painful to listen back to the first time, but now each time through cracks us up. more...

Footboard: How To

I've been continuing to play my footboard at dances, and people really like it. Percussion gives us more flexibility in a few ways, and the kick drum on its own adds a lot. It's now enough of my sound that I really should have a backup, and I'm also interested in having a few more that I can make trigger effects, so I made three small ones. Here's how you can make your own. more...

How Much Cheaper is Group Housing?

One of the standard pieces of advice for how to live more cheaply is to live with other people. This tends to save money in many ways, from more communal food to making socializing at home more fun so you're less likely to go somewhere you have to pay, but the biggest savings are from the more efficient use of space. A one bedroom apartment probably has a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and one bedroom. A four bedroom apartment has a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and four bedrooms. Being able to avoid those three extra copies of each non-bedroom means the four bedroom apartment can be smaller without feeling much smaller.

How much does this save? I took the 2014-06-18 data that backs my apartment price map and computed the average cost per bedroom for each number of bedrooms:

studio:$1,426(n=1531)
1br:$2,058(n=2441)
2br:$1,272(n=2560)
3br:$977(n=1546)
4br:$866(n=685)
5br:$806(n=200)

Perhaps apartments with more bedrooms tend to be in cheaper areas, though? I made six maps, with markers for all the apartments of that size:


studio


1br


2br


3br


4br


5br

It does look like living in a one bedroom is about twice as expensive than sharing a larger apartment, at least in Boston.

(These numbers all assume one person per bedroom. If you share a room with someone else then they're cut in half. Though a 4br or 5br is probably not going to work if filled with couples unless it has more than one bathroom.)

full post...

Giving Half

Starting with 2014, I'm going to try and donate half of what I earn to the most effective organizations I can find. This isn't entirely new, but it's an increase and a simplification from past years. Julia and I had built a bit of a complex system, with different rules [1] and percentages, and it just made incentives too weird. We wanted something simple, so now we're both giving 50%.

It's funny: when I originally decided to start donating, back in 2009 I wanted to go for half, but at the time that turned out to be pushing myself too hard. Five years of optimizing later it's much more doable.

I think 2014 will look something like this:

50%donations
23%taxes
21%saving
6%spending
more...

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