Econstudentlog

Open Thread

Share whatever you like – links, books, christmas present ideas (I’m planning on giving that whole thing a miss, but I’m not the only one reading the comments), …

My contributions to the discussion below:

i. Alcohol may not just be bad for the fetuses that make it out of the birth canal:

“Of the 186 pregnancies, 131 resulted in delivery of a child, and 55 (30 percent) were spontaneously aborted. Of the abortions, 34 were detected only by urinary hCG before or at 6 completed gestational weeks. The 21 clinically recognized abortions occurred in the interval after 6 and by 15 completed gestational weeks.

A high intake of alcohol by women or their partners was associated with a higher frequency of spontaneous abortions than was a low intake (table 1). Women who experienced a spontaneous abortion were older and had, on average, longer menstrual cycles, a higher caffeine intake, and partners with a higher caffeine intake than did women who gave birth (table 1). No association was found between spontaneous abortion and the partner’s smoking habits, partner’s age, body mass index, and partner’s reproductive illnesses; contraception last used; education for both man and woman; or hours at work for both partners.

The crude associations between female and male alcohol intakes and spontaneous abortion shown in figures 1 and 2 changed only slightly by adjustment for the confounders listed in table 2. Female alcohol intake was associated with a 2–3 times higher adjusted risk of spontaneous abortion compared with no intake, and male intake was associated with a 2–5 times increase in the adjusted risk. However, only the relative risks for male and female intakes of 10 or more drinks/week compared with no intake were statistically significant. We found a high correlation between male and female alcohol intakes. Additional adjustment for male intake revealed a lower risk of spontaneous abortion associated with female alcohol intake, whereas the higher risk associated with a high male alcohol intake changed only slightly following adjustment for female intake [...] women in this study with a moderate or high alcohol intake [also] have an increased waiting time to pregnancy”

The quotes above are from Alcohol Consumption at the Time of Conception and Spontaneous Abortion, by Henriksen, Hjollund et al.

ii. Half of US clinical trials go unpublished.

I should note that I don’t know enough about this stuff to comment intelligently on the findings. I’m planning to read Principles and Practice of Clinical Trial Medicine at some point in the not-too-distant future, and so I figured I ought to wait until I have had a go at that book to comment on this stuff. I wanted to add the link anyway though, in part so that I’d remember it in case it’ll be a while until I read Chin & Lee’s book.

iii. On a more personal note, Monday evening I beat an International Master for the first time in my life. It was in a one-minute bullet game (each player gets one minute to play the entire game) so it was not a particularly well played game, but I consider this to be a somewhat significant milestone still – IMs are really good chess players (‘An International Master is usually in the top 0.25% of all tournament players at the time he or she receives the title’ – from the wiki-link above). My opponent was Migchiel De Jong – here’s his Fide profile, here’s the game. There’s incidentally no doubt this was the guy I played – his full name is on his profile and his blitz rating was above 2600 when I played him (which is high – higher than some GMs on the site). It wasn’t a case of me getting outplayed but winning on time anyway – rather I had a mate in one in the game which he spotted after he’d made his move, and he resigned as a consequence of spotting the mate even though I missed it. When he resigned he had only 0.3 seconds left on his clock, so this may have been a contributing factor; if he’d not resigned he’d have lost on time. I had 3.6 seconds left which was of course the main reason why I didn’t spot the mate – I was too busy making moves in the time scramble in order not to lose on time to look for mates.. The time-trouble was incidentally also of course the reason why I was only up a piece when he resigned and why I did not take his queen when he blundered it a few moves earlier (bullet-chess can get pretty wild…).

(Your turn…)

December 4, 2013 - Posted by | Chess, medicine, Open Thread, personal, studies

12 Comments »

  1. Here is an antidote to generic gift ideas: Buy something that you know the other person really wants/needs and hasn’t bought for himself. Or something that you are fairly sure the other person would enjoy if he had known about it. I.e., buy something to reflect a non-superficial understanding of the recipient’s interests and personality.

    I generally dislike giving gift ideas unless I already have a detailed description of the intended recipient’s interests/profession/etc.

    Comment by Miao | December 5, 2013 | Reply

    • “Buy something that you know the other person really wants/needs and hasn’t bought for himself. Or something that you are fairly sure the other person would enjoy if he had known about it. I.e., buy something to reflect a non-superficial understanding of the recipient’s interests and personality.”

      Most people don’t know enough about the people to whom they buy gifts to do things that way. A funny thing is that the gift norm stays in place despite this fact; you can’t say to someone that you don’t know them well enough to give them a ‘proper’ gift, and so you’d really prefer not to engage in gift-exchange at all. Well, you can do that, but it’s far from likely to work and may well make you look bad.

      Gift giving norms are weird and I don’t think I understand them very well. A well-thought-out present matching the preferences of the receiver is the ideal (or at least one ideal; some people also give people gifts in order to change the minds of the recipients (‘a book arguing the other side’), or, say, to signal high status (/gain status) by buying expensive gifts which the other party may not be able to reciprocate), but it seems like in cases where a gift of that kind is not really an option people still maintain that a gift exchange should take place, and that you’re supposed to pretend that you know enough about the other person to give a good present even if you don’t.

      Comment by US | December 5, 2013 | Reply

      • Why not ask for wishlists if you don’t know the other person’s preferences very well…?

        Comment by Miao | December 5, 2013

      • It’s a common strategy, naturally.

        The general problems with the strategy are: A) “Buy something that you know the other person really wants/needs and hasn’t bought for himself.” – If he or she really wanted/needed X, why haven’t they bought X already? If the gift exchange is reciprocal there are no savings involved for either party – I give you something you need, you give me something I need. But we could just have bought that stuff for ourselves on our own.

        …and B) “Or something that you are fairly sure the other person would enjoy if he had known about it.” – If it’s ‘something the other party doesn’t know he’d enjoy’, it’s not going to be on a wish list.

        A gift-exchange involving wish lists will in cases where the parties involved don’t know the preferences of the people to whom they’re giving their presents (i.e., ‘most cases’) be an improvement. But it’s an improvement over a really bad outcome, and engaging in this entire scheme just seeems, odd, to me. ‘The ideal gift’ is arguably one that would not feature on a gift list in the first place, so if you need a list to come up with a good present why not just give it a miss altogether? Also, the fact that people have not yet bought the stuff they put on their wishlists sort of indicates that those gift ideas are probably not in as high demand as the givers may make themselves think.

        Comment by US | December 5, 2013

      • “If he or she really wanted/needed X, why haven’t they bought X already?”

        Lack of time? You’d probably reply with something about revealed preferences (“If he hasn’t made time to buy it, it probably isn’t very important”, etc.), but in everyday life, it is not uncommon that there are too many things you want to do and that there is too little time for you to do them all.

        “If the gift exchange is reciprocal there are no savings involved for either party – I give you something you need, you give me something I need. But we could just have bought that stuff for ourselves on our own.”

        That is why I don’t see the point of gift exchanges.

        ““Or something that you are fairly sure the other person would enjoy if he had known about it.” – If it’s ‘something the other party doesn’t know he’d enjoy’, it’s not going to be on a wish list.”

        If you already know the other person well enough to know that he might enjoy something he has never heard of, you probably won’t need a wishlist in the first place.

        Comment by Miao | December 5, 2013

      • You were correct to assume that I’d have brought up ‘revealed preferences’ if you hadn’t.. The time constraint counterargument you propose:

        “(“If he hasn’t made time to buy it, it probably isn’t very important”, etc.), but in everyday life, it is not uncommon that there are too many things you want to do and that there is too little time for you to do them all.”

        …doesn’t really solve anything in my opinion; if you don’t have time to go out and buy X for yourself, you also don’t have time to go out and buy Y for someone else so that he has time to go out and buy X for you. It seems to me that there’s only an efficiency argument to be made if the parties have different opportunity costs of time and both parties are okay with trading off monetary costs with the costs of time expenditure. In that case you could argue that if the party with the highest opportunity costs of time gets a gift that takes a lot of time to buy, whereas the other party gets a more expensive gift (which takes a shorter amount of time to procure) from the other guy both may be made better off by this exchange. That model may work, but both parties need to agree on how to trade off time and money for the arrangement to work without one party feeling cheated, and the uncertainty regarding the preferences of the other party is still a major hurdle. Of course a major problem with assuming that large efficiency gains are available in such a setup is that there’s not actually anything stopping people from coming to similar arrangements without gifts; ‘A pays B to go buy X for him’ would be more efficient than purely in-kind transfers, and such arrangements are quite rare in the formal economy (though it may be less rare in the ‘family economy’ setting – the husband works late, whereas the wife buys the groceries..). So even if efficiency gains from gift trading exist they are likely to be small. As for the remainder of your comment (‘That is why I don’t see the point of gift exchanges’ + ‘you probably won’t need a wishlist’), we are in agreement.

        Comment by US | December 5, 2013

      • “if you don’t have time to go out and buy X for yourself, you also don’t have time to go out and buy Y for someone else so that he has time to go out and buy X for you.”

        This is also not a problem if you are not exchanging gifts. Perhaps the recipient is not giving any gifts himself.

        Comment by Miao | December 5, 2013

      • “Perhaps the recipient is not giving any gifts himself.”

        Strictly speaking this could be considered just a special case of the general gift exchange setup in which the value of/cost of procuring one of the gifts given is zero (this is equivalent to ‘no gift’).

        Either way if you get rid of the reciprocity requirement in general that would make it harder to justify gift (…exchange? …giving?), not the opposite – certainly for the person giving stuff away without getting anything in return. I know that giving stuff away without getting anything in return but the pleasure you derive from having given the stuff away is behaviour that people (including you) may occasionally justify engaging in, and I’ve touched upon some motivations for doing so as well. But this sort of behaviour is relatively rare, and I feel reasonably certain that without an implicit reciprocity ideal in place in the general setting among people engaging in gift exchanges, there’d be a lot less of that stuff taking place.

        Comment by US | December 5, 2013

  2. I generally don’t like the part about Christmas which includes giving gifts and I have specifically askes for double shifts at work on the 24th and 25th to avoid social obligations, so I am not in any way arguing against your specific points.

    Yet the gift giving has become easier for me in recent years. I discovered in my own life that there were things that would improve my life, but that I seldom needed, so there were never an urgent need so I forgot all about them most of the time, and therefore never got to buying it. Most of it are tools or such. I started a google sic which i can edit any time for instance from my phone and so my family always has a list of things that I likely would enjoy having but would have forgotten to buy.

    Discovering this in my own life has improved me as a gift giver as well, as I now try to remember any clues people intentionally or unintenrionally have given me about stuff they would have a similar relation to.

    Still, I find reciprocal gift giving stupid, but it seems hard to avoid without being a social isolate. It makes more sense at a house warming or such where it can be a smart way of everybody chipping in so that someone can get a good start at something new.

    Oh – and congratulations on that chess achievement. It sure is a milestone!

    Comment by info2 | December 8, 2013 | Reply

    • *google doc

      Comment by info2 | December 8, 2013 | Reply

    • “I have specifically aske[d] for double shifts at work on the 24th and 25th to avoid social obligations” – this is taking it a bit further than I’ve ever done.. :)

      “things that would improve my life, but that I seldom needed” – these are the kinds of things I’m categorizing as ‘things I don’t need’.

      “clues people intentionally or uninten[t]ionally have given me” – this one is sometimes quite hard for me to gauge (I don’t score particularly well on tests like this one), and you don’t always get direct honest feedback. You may be better at that stuff, but I think people in general are quite often wrong about their impressions of other people’s mind states. I’ve certainly learned that I hide my misery quite well in real life.

      Thanks for the kind words at the end. The win doesn’t really mean anything (I won over an IM who’s relatively bad at bullet – I’ve beaten significantly higher rated bullet opponents in the past), but I guess on the other hand it’s yet another thing I can potentially add to my list of mental crutches, so perhaps that’s something.

      Comment by US | December 9, 2013 | Reply

      • Well, I need a eg. drill – once or twice a year, so I only think about, when it could have been nice to have, but never get around to buying it. So I’m pretty sure my father will give me one (again, the previous got stolen).

        Comment by info2 | December 9, 2013


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