When I started this blog, I had intended to write a lot about living a utilitarian lifestyle. I intended to write about effective altruism. I did a whole bunch of the seocond, but not very much of the first.

I figured that I was sort of leading by example – my best guess is that someone living an “everyday utilitarian” lifestyle probably wouldn’t spend too much time writing about it. But that made writing for this blog a little bit awkward.

Just one short month after I opened up Everyday Utilitarian, a community blog for EAs opened up, making my writings a little less relevant. Recently, that community blog turned into an entire forum. I’ve now decided that, for as long as that forum continues to be active, it would be better for me to post there instead.

The truth here is that I don’t write as much as I used to. And, as such, my readership has declined. In order to get the exposure and comments I need, it makes sense to group with likeminded people. Furthermore, it makes sense to not divert readership onto many different blogs. So moving there makes a lot of sense.

You can now find my effective altruism and utilitarian related writings on the Effective Altriusm Forum. For writing that isn’t fit to go there, I’ll put it on my Tumblr, because it’s so quick and easy to write to Tumblr, even though the site does look less nice.

To make the transition a little easier and because my content is now all over the internet, I’ll be maintaining a complete list of all my writings on a separate list you can reference. And you can always follow me on Twitter for the latest piece of anything I write.

Hope to see you around. This is not the end, just a start of a new beginning.

What follows is the transcript of a presentation by Norm Phelps, a founding member of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians, at a Compassionate Action for Animals conference. The transcript was originally hosted on Their Lives, Our Voices, but for some unknown reason was taken down. I liked the aritcle and wanted to reprint it here. Note that I do not necessarially agree with the entire article. Also note that I do not have formal permission to reprint this, and will comply with any takedown request.

Good afternoon. I want to start by thanking the folks at Compassionate Action for Animals for putting this conference together and for giving me the opportunity to participate. It’s a great conference, and I hope you’re all enjoying it as much as I am.

One struggle, one fight: human freedom, animal rights. That’s a chant you don’t hear as much as you used to, probably because our tactics have evolved away from the heavy reliance on demonstrations and marches that defined the early days of animal rights. But even so, I know very few animal rights advocates who don’t believe that human rights and animal rights are inextricably tied together.


Some people have committed a great deal of their lives to trying to best make the world a better place. I’m trying to sit down with some of these people and learn more about their thoughts and motivations.

Today, I sit down with Brian Tomasik. Brian worked at Microsoft as a computer programmer, earning a sizable salary that he then donated to important causes. Throughout this time, he also wrote on his blog, Utilitarian Essays, and he is noted for being one of the first people to consider earning to give and donating to vegan outreach, two concepts that are now commonly found in the “effective altruism” community.


Earlier, I just released a personal review. I try to do these every three months to give my life some direction and continue to strive for something. These reviews, and the broader effective altruism movement in which I operate, together give my life a lot of purpose.

Some people have asked me how I make these personal reviews. I’m here to tell you. I like my workflow a lot and it works well for me, but I’m not endorsing this as the “best way” to create a personal review, and other things might be better / more efficient, or work better / more efficiently for you in particular.

Really Quick Summary

  • I have goals.
  • I track time in Google Calendar.
  • I use GTimeReport to export my Google Calendar for the desired date horizon.
  • I go through my time report and combine things into categories.
  • I publish those categories and compare them against my goals.


Today I found an interesting mathematical relationship where if you define f(x) such that


and you define f(0) = c and f(1) = 2c, then f(x) = 3f(x-1) for all x = 2.

Why is that?


UPDATE: This was figured out in this Facebook thread. Also, it was found that the relationship is true for all x > 2 for f(0) and f(1) of any values.

Follow up to “Personal Review for March - May 2014”.

This review covers May 18 through June 29. The reason I’m doing this review for 1.5 months instead of the standard three is two-fold: (a) this time period is very neatly bounded by large shifts in my life – graduating college on the 17th of May and starting at my first job on the 30th of June and (b) I need to end this cycle early if I want to get on a standard Jul-Sep, Oct-Dec, Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun three month review cycle.

How Did I Spend My Time?

For these 1.5 months, I was focused primarially on pre-professional prep (learning a lot more statistics and programming) and secondarially on seeing friends and family. Here’s the breakdown:

Activity Total Time Hours Per Week[1] % Week
Sleep 351.5hrs 51.3hrs 30.5%
Social[2] 253.8 37 22%
Other[3] 167.3 24.4 14.5%
Programming 121.3 17.7 10.5%
Breaks 63.3 9.2 5.5%
.impact 25 3.6 2.1%
Move to Chicago 18.5 2.7 1.6%
Exercise 11.8 1.8 1%
Driving[4] 11.8 1.7 1%
Apartment Hunt 6.8 1 4.1%
Write 6.25 0.9 0.5%


Follow up to “So You Wanna Learn How to Code? Going from Zero to Programmer Hero in One Guide, for Great Justice”.

I’m currently working as a computer programmer at a start-up in Chicago. I’m getting paid to write code. It’s pretty neat. Most notably, I was not a Computer Science major in college, and I only took two CS classes. I got the job nearly entirely through about 700 hours of self study.

Best of all, you can do it too!

I wrote a guide on how to go from “zero to hero” in computer programming. I got a lot of people I know who program to contribute. I think it’s a pretty good guide, linking a few resources together into a coherent curriculum. In fact, I think it is the best guide you could find, short of working full-time to develop a complete online curriculum of their own.

Well, turns out someone did work full-time to develop a complete online curriculum of their own.

Enter The Odin Project.

Visit there, and find a complete curriculum, focused on Ruby on Rails, that takes you from zero to hero in a fulfulling way. Best of all, they focus on doing projects, so you actually learn by doing.

I went through it and now, after a few months, I’ve completed the curriculum in entirety. I must say, I’m forced to admit defeat. I find it much easier, more thorough, and more motivating than my own guide. I recommend people follow through it instead of follow my own guide.

…That being said, I do have some modifications I’d like to see to The Odin Project. So consider doing The Odin Project, except with the following modifications. I advise that you read these notifications in their entirety before starting The Odin Project, and then follow them as they come up.


Now that I’ve been doing some research blogging, it’s time to continue the trend with something big. Maybe you’ve seen ACE’s leafleting study analysis and was like “woah, that’s long, no way I’m going to read all that”. Instead, my reaction was “that’s long, but is there any way I can make it longer?” So I did. Sixteen hours later, I emerge with this:


Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is a non-profit with the goal of using research to find ways to help more save nonhuman animals with the same amount of resources. Given that the pro-nonhuman movement is quite small, any increase in our “bang for our buck” is quite important, and I welcome this research and aim to contribue to it myself.

Vegan Outreach and The Humane League are two pro-nonhuman non-profits that aim to do direct advocacy on behalf of non-human animals. One thing they do is deliver leaflets to people aiming to convince people about the horrors of factory farming and convince them to eat less meat. ACE claims that this is one of the most cost-effective ways to help non-human animals, but wants to put this to the test.

Throughout the latter half of 2013, Joey Savoie and Xio Kikauka, in cooperation with Animal Charity Evaluators, implemented a study of the impact of two Vegan Outreach leaflets on diet change. In March 2014, ACE released their analysis in cooperation with Statisticians Without Borders.

I was personally somewhat skeptical of the analysis and though there was a decent amount of information still being left on the table. I wanted to take advantage of the publicly provided dataset to do my own independent analysis to see what I could personally learn.

I did my best to check for errors, but it’s quite possible errors in my analysis may still remain.


We all know that “the standard American diet” is unhealthy, and bad for the environment, and all sorts of things. But, as we know, it also contains a lot of suffering due to the consumption of factory-farmed meat. I’m not going to argue for the ethics of a vegetarian diet here (I’ve done that elsewhere). Instead, I’m interested in some quantification – just how much suffering is in the standard American diet?

As a caveat, at the moment I’m not looking at environmental impact, though I might expand the analysis later. As another caveat, it’s worth pointing out that the standard American diet may not really exist in any particular person, but it’s a useful statistical generalization to talk about. As a third caveat, this analysis ignores the fact that there is an elasticity to supply and demand (e.g., by not eating one pound of cow, you do not cause precisely one pound of cow to not be produced, but rather just a large fraction of it, since a drop in demand leads to a corresponding drop in price, which leads to a corresponding yet smaller re-increase in demand.)

To begin, we need to know three things: (a) how many animal products are in the standard american diet, (b) how many animals does it take to produce that much meat, and (c) how much suffering is brought about by each kind of animal?

Let’s go!


Meta-note: I’ve now decided that I like shifting toward doing these less frequently, with less links each, but in much more depth, potentially spinning more lengthy discussion to my Tumblr. Going forward, I will now also tag each of these posts with “Sunday Links” in addition to tagging them with the categories of the contained links, when appropriate.


Longer musing redirected to my Tumblr: “Not All Arguments are Nuanced”:

Sometimes I hear my non-Greek female friends talk about men in fraternities being rapists, or even more likely to rape than the typical person. This has always made me uncomfortable, even if it is technically true. I always feel tempted to say “But not all Greek men are like that”, a variation on the clichéd Not All Men Are Like That you hear in feminist circles.

Of course, this type of derailment is appropriately rejected for reasons Vox explains well, which is why I say it in my head and not in real life.

But I’m still uncomfortable. I know it’s not all about me, but it’s how I feel as a participant in the discussion. I feel uncomfortable and now I understand why.</blockquote>