Econstudentlog

Best practices for CI/CD using AWS Fargate and Amazon ECS

September 29, 2021 Posted by | AWS | Leave a comment

Imitation Games – Avi Wigderson

If you wish to skip the introduction the talk starts at 5.20. The talk itself lasts roughly an hour, with the last ca. 20 minutes devoted to Q&A – that part is worth watching as well.

Some links related to the talk below:

Theory of computation.
Turing test.
COMPUTING MACHINERY AND INTELLIGENCE.
Probabilistic encryption & how to play mental poker keeping secret all partial information Goldwasser-Micali82.
Probabilistic algorithm
How To Generate Cryptographically Strong Sequences Of Pseudo-Random Bits (Blum&Micali, 1984)
Randomness extractor
Dense graph
Periodic sequence
Extremal graph theory
Szemerédi’s theorem
Green–Tao theorem
Szemerédi regularity lemma
New Proofs of the Green-Tao-Ziegler Dense Model Theorem: An Exposition
Calibrating Noise to Sensitivity in Private Data Analysis
Generalization in Adaptive Data Analysis and Holdout Reuse
Book: Math and Computation | Avi Wigderson
One-way function
Lattice-based cryptography

August 23, 2021 Posted by | Computer science, Cryptography, Data, Lectures, Mathematics, Science, Statistics | Leave a comment

Books 2021

Last year I failed to track my reading throughout the year on goodreads, but this year I’m managing reasonably well. However it still takes time and work to track/log this stuff here on the blog, so I figured it’d make sense to create a standard book list now – I’ll try to keep this list updated throughout the year.

1. Thinking in Systems: A Primer (2, nf. Chelsea Green Publishing). Goodreads review here.

2. Open Access (3, nf. MIT Press)

3. The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense (nf., Regnery Publishing).

4. Algorithms To Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions (5, nf. William Collins). Blog coverage here. I added this book to my list of favorite books on goodreads.

5. How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide (nf., Da Capo Lifelong Books). Goodreads review here.

6. Spaceflight: A Concise History (3, nf. MIT Press)

7. Information and the Modern Corporation (2, nf. MIT Press)

8. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (5, nf. Penguin Books). I added this book to my list of favorite books on goodreads.

9. Understanding Beliefs (2, nf. MIT Press)

10. The Holy Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press)

11. The Habsburg Empire: A Very Short Introduction (2, nf. Oxford University Press)

12. Night Watch (5, f. Terry Pratchett). This book is on my list of favorite books on goodreads for a reason. A wonderful book, in my opinion perhaps the best book Terry Pratchett ever wrote.

13. Interesting Times (4, f. Terry Pratchett).

14. Moving Pictures (3, f. Terry Pratchett).

15. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (5, nf. Yale University Press). I added this book to my list of favorite books on goodreads.

16. Machine Translation (3, nf. MIT University Press).

17. Clinical Psychology: A Very Short Introduction (1, nf. Oxford University Press). Goodreads review here.

18. Handbook on the Neuropsychology of Aging and Dementia (5, nf. Springer). Short goodreads review here. I added this book to my list of favorite books on goodreads).

19. Human Anatomy: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press)

20. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (3, nf. Yale University Press). Quotes from the book are included in this blog-post.

21. Ancient Warfare (2, nf. Oxford University Press)

22. Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe (3, nf. Princeton University Press)

23. Exit, voice, and loyalty (4, nf.). Quotes from the book are included in this blog-post.

24. The Napoleonic Wars: A Very Short Introduction (2, nf. Oxford University Press).

25. Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty: From Theory to Practice (3, nf. Springer).

26. Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (5, nf. Harvard University Press). Goodreads review here. I added this book to my list of favorite books on goodreads. Some quotes from the book are included in this blog-post.

27. Data Pipelines Pocket Reference: Moving and Processing Data for Analytics (3, nf. O’Reilly Media).

28. The Adventures of Sally (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

29. The Inimitable Jeeves (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

30. Blandings Castle …and Elsewhere (5, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

31. Summer Lightning (5, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

32. Thank You, Jeeves (5, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

33. The Code of the Woosters (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

34. Right Ho, Jeeves (5, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

35. A Damsel in Distress (3, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

36. Carry On, Jeeves (5, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

37. Very Good, Jeeves! (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

38. Hot Water (5, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

39. Volcanoes: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

40. Jeeves in the Offing (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

41. Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

42. Leave It to Psmith (5, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

43. Psmith in the City (3, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

44. Psmith, Journalist (3, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

45. Data Science on AWS: Implementing End-to-End, Continuous AI and Machine Learning Pipelines (nf. O’Reilly Media). Long, code-heavy, not an easy read. Very short goodreads review here.

46. Plague: A Very Short Introduction (2, nf. Oxford University Press). Very short goodreads review here.

47. Lord Edgeware Dies (5, f). Agatha Christie.

48. Enzymes: A Very Short Introduction (5, nf. Oxford University Press). Short goodreads review here.

49. After the Funeral (4, f). Agatha Christie.

50. Soft Matter: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

51. Poirot Investigates (f). Agatha Christie. A mixed bag.

52. Systems Biology: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

53. Biogeography: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

54. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (2, f). Agatha Christie.

55. Forests: A Very Short Introduction (2, nf. Oxford University Press).

56. Cat Among the Pigeons (2, f). Agatha Christie. Old goodreads review here, written after I first read this book – after finishing the book this year I downgraded the goodreads rating from 3 stars to 2.

June 26, 2021 Posted by | Books, Personal | Leave a comment

Quotes

  1. “Originally, I set out to understand why the state has always seemed to be the enemy of “people who move around,” to put it crudely. […] Nomads and pastoralists (such as Berbers and Bedouins), hunter-gatherers, Gypsies, vagrants, homeless people, itinerants, runaway slaves, and serfs have always been a thorn in the side of states. Efforts to permanently settle these mobile peoples (sedentarization) seemed to be a perennial state project—perennial, in part, because it so seldom succeeded. The more I examined these efforts at sedentarization, the more I came to see them as a state’s attempt to make a society legible, to arrange the population in ways that simplified the classic state functions of taxation, conscription, and prevention of rebellion. Having begun to think in these terms, I began to see legibility as a central problem in statecraft. […] much of early modern European statecraft seemed […] devoted to rationalizing and standardizing what was a social hieroglyph into a legible and administratively more convenient format. The social simplifications thus introduced not only permitted a more finely tuned system of taxation and conscription but also greatly enhanced state capacity. […] These state simplifications, the basic givens of modern statecraft, were, I began to realize, rather like abridged maps. They did not successfully represent the actual activity of the society they depicted, nor were they intended to; they represented only that slice of it that interested the official observer. They were, moreover, not just maps. Rather, they were maps that, when allied with state power, would enable much of the reality they depicted to be remade. Thus a state cadastral map created to designate taxable property-holders does not merely describe a system of land tenure; it creates such a system through its ability to give its categories the force of law.” (James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State, pp.1-2)
  2. “No cynicism or mendacity need be involved. It is perfectly natural for leaders and generals to exaggerate their influence on events; that is the way the world looks from where they sit, and it is rarely in the interest of their subordinates to contradict their picture.” (-ll-, p.160)
  3. “Old-growth forests, polycropping, and agriculture with open-pollinated landraces may not be as productive, in the short run, as single-species forests and fields or identical hybrids. But they are demonstrably more stable, more self-sufficient, and less vulnerable to epidemics and environmental stress, needing far less in the way of external infusions to keep them on track. Every time we replace “natural capital” (such as wild fish stocks or old-growth forests) with what might be called “cultivated natural capital” (such as fish farms or tree plantations), we gain in ease of appropriation and in immediate productivity, but at the cost of more maintenance expenses and less “redundancy, resiliency, and stability.”[14] If the environmental challenges faced by such systems are both modest and predictable, then a certain simplification might also be relatively stable.[15] Other things being equal, however, the less diverse the cultivated natural capital, the more vulnerable and nonsustainable it becomes. The problem is that in most economic systems, the external costs (in water or air pollution, for example, or the exhaustion of nonrenewable resources, including a reduction in biodiversity) accumulate long before the activity becomes unprofitable in a narrow profit-and-loss sense.
    A roughly similar case can be made, I think, for human institutions — a case that contrasts the fragility of rigid, single-purpose, centralized institutions to the adaptability of more flexible, multipurpose, decentralized social forms. As long as the task environment of an institution remains repetitive, stable, and predictable, a set of fixed routines may prove exceptionally efficient. In most economies and in human affairs generally, this is seldom the case, and such routines are likely to be counterproductive once the environment changes appreciably.” (-ll-, pp. 353-354)
  4. “If the facts — that is, the behavior of living human beings — are recalcitrant to […] an experiment, the experimenter becomes annoyed and tries to alter the facts to fit the theory, which, in practice, means a kind of vivisection of societies until they become what the theory originally declared that the experiment should have caused them to be. (Isaiah Berlin, “On Political Judgment”)
  5. “Before a disaster strikes, all your preparation looks like waste. After a disaster strikes, it looks like you didn’t do enough. Every time.” (‘Coagulopath’, here)
  6. “The effort an interested party makes to put its case before the decisionmaker will be in proportion to the advantage to be gained from a favorable outcome multiplied by the probability of influencing the decision.” (Edward Banfeld, quote from Albert Otto Hirschman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty, Harvard University Press)
  7. The argument to be presented [in this book] starts with the firm producing saleable outputs for customers; but it will be found to be largely — and, at times, principally — applicable to organizations (such as voluntary associations, trade unions, or political parties) that provide services to their members without direct monetary counterpart. The performance of a firm or an organization is assumed to be subject to deterioration for unspecified, random causes which are neither so compelling nor so durable as to prevent a return to previous performance levels, provided managers direct their attention and energy to that task. The deterioration in performance is reflected most typically and generally, that is, for both firms and other organizations, in an absolute or comparative deterioration of the quality of the product or service provided.1 Management then finds out about its failings via two alternative routes: (1) Some customers stop buying the firm’s products or some members leave the organization: this is the exit option. As a result, revenues drop, membership declines, and management is impelled to search for ways and means to correct whatever faults have led to exit. (2) The firm’s customers or the organization’s members express their dissatisfaction directly to management or to some other authority to which management is subordinate or through general protest addressed to anyone who cares to listen: this is the voice option.” (ibid.)
  8. “Voice has the function of alerting a firm or organization to its failings, but it must then give management, old or new, some time to respond to the pressures that have been brought to bear on it. […] In the case of any one particular firm or organization and its deterioration, either exit or voice will ordinarily have the role of the dominant reaction mode. The subsidiary mode is then likely to show up in such limited volume that it will never become destructive for the simple reason that, if deterioration proceeds, the job of destruction is accomplished single-handedly by the dominant mode. In the case of normally competitive business firms, for example, exit is clearly the dominant reaction to deterioration and voice is a badly underdeveloped mechanism; it is difficult to conceive of a situation in which there would be too much of it.” (-ll-)
  9. “The reluctance to exit in spite of disagreement with the organization of which one is a member is the hallmark of loyalist behavior. When loyalty is present exit abruptly changes character: the applauded rational behavior of the alert consumer shifting to a better buy becomes disgraceful defection, desertion, and treason. Loyalist behavior […] can be understood in terms of a generalized concept of penalty for exit. The penalty may be directly imposed, but in most cases it is internalized. The individual feels that leaving a certain group carries a high price with it, even though no specific sanction is imposed by the group. In both cases, the decision to remain a member and not to exit in the face of a superior alternative would thus appear to follow from a perfectly rational balancing of prospective private benefits against private costs.” (-ll-)
  10. “The preference that [an] individual ends up conveying to others is what I will call his public preference. It is distinct from his private preference, which is what he would express in the absence of social pressures. By definition, preference falsification is the selection of a public preference that differs from one’s private preference. […] It is public opinion, rather than private opinion, that undergirds political power. Private opinion may be highly unfavorable to a regime, policy, or institution without generating a public outcry for change. The communist regimes of Eastern Europe survived for decades even though they were widely despised. They remained in power as long as public opinion remained overwhelmingly in their favor, collapsing instantly when street crowds mustered the courage to rise against them.” (Timur Kuran, Private Truths, Public Lies, Harvard University Press).
  11. “Even in democratic societies, where the right to think, speak, and act freely enjoys official protection, and where tolerance is a prized virtue, unorthodox views can evoke enormous hostility. In the United States, for instance, to defend the sterilization of poor women or the legalization of importing ivory would be to raise doubts about one’s civility and morality, if not one’s sanity. […] strictly enforced, freedom of speech does not insulate people’s reputations from their expressed opinions. Precisely because people who express different opinions do get treated differently, individuals normally tailor their expressions to the prevailing social pressures. Their adjustments vary greatly in social impact. At one extreme are harmless, and possibly beneficial, acts of politeness, as when one tells a friend wearing a garish shirt that he has good taste. At the other are acts of spinelessness on issues of general concern, as when a politician endorses a protectionist measure that he recognizes as harmful to most of his constituents. The pressures generating such acts of insincerity need not originate from the government. Preference falsification is compatible with all political systems, from the most unyielding dictatorship to the most libertarian democracy.” (-ll-)
  12. “How will the individual choose what preference to convey? Three distinct considerations may enter his calculations: the satisfaction he is likely to obtain from society’s decision, the rewards and punishments associated with his chosen preference, and finally, the benefits he derives from truthful self-expression. If large numbers of individuals are expressing preferences on the issue, the individual’s capacity to influence the collective decision is likely to be negligible. In this case he will consider society’s decision to be essentially fixed, basing his own preference declaration only on the second and third considerations. Ordinarily, these offer a tradeoff between the benefits of self-expression and those of being perceived as someone with the right preference. Where the latter benefits dominate, our individual will engage in preference falsification.” (-ll-)
  13. “Issues of political importance present individuals with tradeoffs between outer and inner peace. Frequently, therefore, these matters force people to choose between their reputations and their individualities. There are contexts, of course, in which such tradeoffs are dealt with by remaining silent […]. Silence has two possible advantages and two disadvantages. On the positive side, it spares one the penalty of taking a position offensive to others, and it may lessen the inner cost of preference falsification. On the negative side, one gives up available rewards, and one’s private preference remains hidden. On some controversial issues, the sum of these various payoffs may exceed the net payoff to expressing some preference. Certain contexts present yet another option: abandoning the decision-making group that is presenting one with difficult choices. This option, “exit,” is sometimes exercised by group members unhappy with the way things are going, yet powerless to effect change. […] For all practical purposes, exit is not always a viable option. Often our choices are limited to expressing some preference or remaining silent.” (-ll-)
  14. “In a polarized political environment, individuals may not be able to position themselves on neutral ground even if they try. Each side may perceive a declaration of neutrality or moderation as collaboration with the enemy, leaving moderates exposed to attacks from two directions at once.” (-ll-)
  15. “[C]ontinuities [in societal/organizational structures] arise from obstacles to implementing change. One impediment, explored in Albert Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, consists of individual decisions to “exit”: menacing elements of the status quo survive as people capable of making a difference opt to abandon the relevant decision-making group.2 Another such mechanism lies at the heart of Mancur Olson’s book on patterns of economic growth, The Rise and Decline of Nations: unpopular choices persist because the many who support change are less well organized than the few who are opposed.3 Here I argue that preference falsification is a complementary, yet more elementary, reason for the persistence of unwanted social choices. Hirschman’s exit is a form of public identification with change, as is his “voice,” which he defines as vocal protest. Preference falsification is often cheaper than escape, and it avoids the risks inherent in public protest. Frequently, therefore, it is the initial response of people who become disenchanted with the status quo.” (-ll-)
  16. “Public opinion can be divided yet heavily favor the status quo, with the few public dissenters being treated as deviants, opportunists, or villains. If millions have misgivings about a policy but only hundreds will speak up, one can sensibly infer that discussion on the policy is not free.” (-ll-)
  17. “…heuristics are most likely to be used under one or more of the following conditions: we do not have time to think carefully about an issue; we are too overloaded with information to process it fully; the issues at stake are unimportant; we have little other information on which to base a decision; and a given heuristic comes quickly to mind.” (-ll-)
  18. “What most people outside of analytics often fail to appreciate is that to generate what is seen, there’s a complex machinery that is unseen. For every dashboard and insight that a data analyst generates and for each predictive model developed by a data scientist, there are data pipelines working behind the scenes. It’s not uncommon for a single dashboard, or even a single metric, to be derived from data originating in multiple source systems. In addition, data pipelines do more than just extract data from sources and load them into simple database tables or flat files for analysts to use. Raw data is refined along the way to clean, structure, normalize, combine, aggregate, and at times anonymize or otherwise secure it. […] In addition, pipelines are not just built — they are monitored, maintained, and extended. Data engineers are tasked with not just delivering data once, but building pipelines and supporting infrastructure that deliver and process it reliably, securely, and on time.” (Data Pipelines Pocket Reference, James Densmore, O’Reilly Media)
  19. “The S in IoT stands for security.” (‘Windowsteak’, here)
  20. “Do not seek for information of which you cannot make use.” (Anna C. Brackett)

June 26, 2021 Posted by | Anthropology, Books, culture, Data, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Quotes

i. “‘Intuition’ comes first. Reasoning comes second.” (Llewelyn & Doorn, Clinical Psychology: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press)

ii. “We tend to cope with difficulties in ways that are familiar to us — acting in ways that were helpful to us in the past, even if these ways are now ineffective or destructive.” (-ll-)

iii. “We all thrive when given attention, and being encouraged and praised is more effective at changing our behaviour than being punished. The best way to increase the frequency of a behaviour is to reward it.” (-ll-)

iv. “You can’t make people change if they don’t want to, but you can support and encourage them to make changes.” (-ll-)

v. “You shall know a word by the company it keeps” (John Rupert Firth, as quoted in Thierry Poibeau’s Machine Translation, MIT Press).

vi. “The basic narrative of sedentism and agriculture has long survived the mythology that originally supplied its charter. From Thomas Hobbes to John Locke to Giambattista Vico to Lewis Henry Morgan to Friedrich Engels to Herbert Spencer to Oswald Spengler to social Darwinist accounts of social evolution in general, the sequence of progress from hunting and gathering to nomadism to agriculture (and from band to village to town to city) was settled doctrine. Such views nearly mimicked Julius Caesar’s evolutionary scheme from households to kindreds to tribes to peoples to the state (a people living under laws), wherein Rome was the apex […]. Though they vary in details, such accounts record the march of civilization conveyed by most pedagogical routines and imprinted on the brains of schoolgirls and schoolboys throughout the world. The move from one mode of subsistence to the next is seen as sharp and definitive. No one, once shown the techniques of agriculture, would dream of remaining a nomad or forager. Each step is presumed to represent an epoch-making leap in mankind’s well-being: more leisure, better nutrition, longer life expectancy, and, at long last, a settled life that promoted the household arts and the development of civilization. Dislodging this narrative from the world’s imagination is well nigh impossible; the twelve-step recovery program required to accomplish that beggars the imagination. I nevertheless make a small start here. It turns out that the greater part of what we might call the standard narrative has had to be abandoned once confronted with accumulating archaeological evidence.” (James C. Scott, Against the Grain, Yale University Press)

vii. “Thanks to hominids, much of the world’s flora and fauna consist of fire-adapted species (pyrophytes) that have been encouraged by burning. The effects of anthropogenic fire are so massive that they might be judged, in an evenhanded account of the human impact on the natural world, to overwhelm crop and livestock domestications.” (-ll-)

viii. “Most discussions of plant domestication and permanent settlement […] assume without further ado that early peoples could not wait to settle down in one spot. Such an assumption is an unwarranted reading back from the standard discourses of agrarian states stigmatizing mobile populations as primitive. […] Nor should the terms “pastoralist,” “agriculturalist,” “hunter,” or “forager,” at least in their essentialist meanings, be taken for granted. They are better understood as defining a spectrum of subsistence activities, not separate peoples […] A family or village whose crops had failed might turn wholly or in part to herding; pastoralists who had lost their flocks might turn to planting. Whole areas during a drought or wetter period might radically shift their subsistence strategy. To treat those engaged in these different activities as essentially different peoples inhabiting different life worlds is again to read back the much later stigmatization of pastoralists by agrarian states to an era where it makes no sense.” (-ll-)

ix. “Neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire” (Voltaire, on the Holy Roman Empire, as quoted in Joachim Whaley’s The Holy Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press)

x. “We don’t outgrow difficult conversations or get promoted past them. The best workplaces and most effective organizations have them. The family down the street that everyone thinks is perfect has them. Loving couples and lifelong friends have them. In fact, we can make a reasonable argument that engaging (well) in difficult conversations is a sign of health in a relationship. Relationships that deal productively with the inevitable stresses of life are more durable; people who are willing and able to “stick through the hard parts” emerge with a stronger sense of trust in each other and the relationship, because now they have a track record of having worked through something hard and seen that the relationship survived.” (Stone et al., Difficult Conversations, Penguin Publishing Group)

xi. “[D]ifficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values. […] They are not about what is true, they are about what is important. […] Interpretations and judgments are important to explore. In contrast, the quest to determine who is right and who is wrong is a dead end. […] When competent, sensible people do something stupid, the smartest move is to try to figure out, first, what kept them from seeing it coming and, second, how to prevent the problem from happening again. Talking about blame distracts us from exploring why things went wrong and how we might correct them going forward.” (-ll-)

xii. “[W]e each have different stories about what is going on in the world. […] In the normal course of things, we don’t notice the ways in which our story of the world is different from other people’s. But difficult conversations arise at precisely those points where important parts of our story collide with another person’s story. We assume the collision is because of how the other person is; they assume it’s because of how we are. But really the collision is a result of our stories simply being different, with neither of us realizing it. […] To get anywhere in a disagreement, we need to understand the other person’s story well enough to see how their conclusions make sense within it. And we need to help them understand the story in which our conclusions make sense. Understanding each other’s stories from the inside won’t necessarily “solve” the problem, but […] it’s an essential first step.” (-ll-)

xiii. “I am really nervous about the word “deserve”. In some cosmic sense nobody “deserves” anything – try to tell the universe you don’t deserve to grow old and die, then watch it laugh at [you] as you die anyway.” (Scott Alexander)

xiv. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard)

xv. “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” (Lao Tzu)

xvi. “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” (Chomsky)

xvii. “If we don’t believe in free expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” (-ll-)

xviii. “I weigh the man, not his title; ’tis not the king’s stamp can make the metal better.” (William Wycherley)

xix. “Money is the fruit of evil as often as the root of it.” (Henry Fielding)

xx. “To whom nothing is given, of him can nothing be required.” (-ll-)

March 26, 2021 Posted by | Archaeology, Books, History, Psychology, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Algorithms to live by…

“…algorithms are not confined to mathematics alone. When you cook bread from a recipe, you’re following an algorithm. When you knit a sweater from a pattern, you’re following an algorithm. When you put a sharp edge on a piece of flint by executing a precise sequence of strikes with the end of an antler—a key step in making fine stone tools—you’re following an algorithm. Algorithms have been a part of human technology ever since the Stone Age.

* * *

In this book, we explore the idea of human algorithm design—searching for better solutions to the challenges people encounter every day. Applying the lens of computer science to everyday life has consequences at many scales. Most immediately, it offers us practical, concrete suggestions for how to solve specific problems. Optimal stopping tells us when to look and when to leap. The explore/exploit tradeoff tells us how to find the balance between trying new things and enjoying our favorites. Sorting theory tells us how (and whether) to arrange our offices. Caching theory tells us how to fill our closets. Scheduling theory tells us how to fill our time. At the next level, computer science gives us a vocabulary for understanding the deeper principles at play in each of these domains. As Carl Sagan put it, “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” Even in cases where life is too messy for us to expect a strict numerical analysis or a ready answer, using intuitions and concepts honed on the simpler forms of these problems offers us a way to understand the key issues and make progress. […] tackling real-world tasks requires being comfortable with chance, trading off time with accuracy, and using approximations.”

I recall Zach Weinersmith recommending the book, and I seem to recall him mentioning when he did so that he’d put off reading it ‘because it sounded like a self-help book’ (paraphrasing). I’m not actually sure how to categorize it but I do know that I really enjoyed it; I gave it five stars on goodreads and added it to my list of favourite books.

The book covers a variety of decision problems and tradeoffs which people face in their every day lives, as well as strategies for how to approach such problems and identify good solutions (if they exist). The explore/exploit tradeoff so often implicitly present (e.g.: ‘when to look for a new restaurant, vs. picking one you are already familiar with’, or perhaps: ‘when to spend time with friends you already know, vs. spending time trying to find new (/better?) friends?’), optimal stopping rules (‘at which point do you stop looking for a romantic partner and decide that ‘this one is the one’?’ – this is perhaps a well-known problem with a well-known solution, but had you considered that you might use the same analytical framework for questions such as: ‘when to stop looking for a better parking spot and just accept that this one is probably the best one you’ll be able to find?’?), sorting problems (good and bad ways of sorting, why sort, when is sorting even necessary/required?, etc.), scheduling theory (how to handle task management in a good way, so that you optimize over a given constraint set – some examples from this part are included in the quotes below), satisficing vs optimizing (heuristics, ‘when less is more’, etc.), etc. The book is mainly a computer science book, but it is also to some extent an implicitly interdisciplinary work covering material from a variety of other areas such as statistics, game theory, behavioral economics and psychology. There is a major focus throughout on providing insights which are actionable and can actually be used by the reader, e.g. through the translation of identified solutions to heuristics which might be applied in every day life. The book is more pop-science-like than any book I’d have liked to read 10 years ago, and there are too many personal anecdotes for my taste included, but in some sense this never felt like a major issue while I was reading; a lot of interesting ideas and topics are covered, and the amount of fluff is within acceptable limits – a related point is also that the ‘fluff’ is also part of what makes the book relevant, because the authors really focus on tradeoffs and problems which really are highly relevant to some potentially key aspects of most people’s lives, including their own.

Below I have added some sample quotes from the book. If you like the quotes you’ll like the book, it’s full of this kind of stuff. I definitely recommend it to anyone remotely interested in decision theory and related topics.

“…one of the deepest truths of machine learning is that, in fact, it’s not always better to use a more complex model, one that takes a greater number of factors into account. And the issue is not just that the extra factors might offer diminishing returns—performing better than a simpler model, but not enough to justify the added complexity. Rather, they might make our predictions dramatically worse. […] overfitting poses a danger every time we’re dealing with noise or mismeasurement – and we almost always are. […] Many prediction algorithms […] start out by searching for the single most important factor rather than jumping to a multi-factor model. Only after finding that first factor do they look for the next most important factor to add to the model, then the next, and so on. Their models can therefore be kept from becoming overly complex simply by stopping the process short, before overfitting has had a chance to creep in. […] This kind of setup — where more time means more complexity — characterizes a lot of human endeavors. Giving yourself more time to decide about something does not necessarily mean that you’ll make a better decision. But it does guarantee that you’ll end up considering more factors, more hypotheticals, more pros and cons, and thus risk overfitting. […] The effectiveness of regularization in all kinds of machine-learning tasks suggests that we can make better decisions by deliberately thinking and doing less. If the factors we come up with first are likely to be the most important ones, then beyond a certain point thinking more about a problem is not only going to be a waste of time and effort — it will lead us to worse solutions. […] sometimes it’s not a matter of choosing between being rational and going with our first instinct. Going with our first instinct can be the rational solution. The more complex, unstable, and uncertain the decision, the more rational an approach that is.” (…for more on these topics I recommend Gigerenzer)

“If you’re concerned with minimizing maximum lateness, then the best strategy is to start with the task due soonest and work your way toward the task due last. This strategy, known as Earliest Due Date, is fairly intuitive. […] Sometimes due dates aren’t our primary concern and we just want to get stuff done: as much stuff, as quickly as possible. It turns out that translating this seemingly simple desire into an explicit scheduling metric is harder than it sounds. One approach is to take an outsider’s perspective. We’ve noted that in single-machine scheduling, nothing we do can change how long it will take us to finish all of our tasks — but if each task, for instance, represents a waiting client, then there is a way to take up as little of their collective time as possible. Imagine starting on Monday morning with a four-day project and a one-day project on your agenda. If you deliver the bigger project on Thursday afternoon (4 days elapsed) and then the small one on Friday afternoon (5 days elapsed), the clients will have waited a total of 4 + 5 = 9 days. If you reverse the order, however, you can finish the small project on Monday and the big one on Friday, with the clients waiting a total of only 1 + 5 = 6 days. It’s a full workweek for you either way, but now you’ve saved your clients three days of their combined time. Scheduling theorists call this metric the “sum of completion times.” Minimizing the sum of completion times leads to a very simple optimal algorithm called Shortest Processing Time: always do the quickest task you can. Even if you don’t have impatient clients hanging on every job, Shortest Processing Time gets things done.”

“Of course, not all unfinished business is created equal. […] In scheduling, this difference of importance is captured in a variable known as weight. […] The optimal strategy for [minimizing weighted completion time] is a simple modification of Shortest Processing Time: divide the weight of each task by how long it will take to finish, and then work in order from the highest resulting importance-per-unit-time [..] to the lowest. […] this strategy … offers a nice rule of thumb: only prioritize a task that takes twice as long if it’s twice as important.”

“So far we have considered only factors that make scheduling harder. But there is one twist that can make it easier: being able to stop one task partway through and switch to another. This property, “preemption,” turns out to change the game dramatically. Minimizing maximum lateness … or the sum of completion times … both cross the line into intractability if some tasks can’t be started until a particular time. But they return to having efficient solutions once preemption is allowed. In both cases, the classic strategies — Earliest Due Date and Shortest Processing Time, respectively — remain the best, with a fairly straightforward modification. When a task’s starting time comes, compare that task to the one currently under way. If you’re working by Earliest Due Date and the new task is due even sooner than the current one, switch gears; otherwise stay the course. Likewise, if you’re working by Shortest Processing Time, and the new task can be finished faster than the current one, pause to take care of it first; otherwise, continue with what you were doing.”

“…even if you don’t know when tasks will begin, Earliest Due Date and Shortest Processing Time are still optimal strategies, able to guarantee you (on average) the best possible performance in the face of uncertainty. If assignments get tossed on your desk at unpredictable moments, the optimal strategy for minimizing maximum lateness is still the preemptive version of Earliest Due Date—switching to the job that just came up if it’s due sooner than the one you’re currently doing, and otherwise ignoring it. Similarly, the preemptive version of Shortest Processing Time—compare the time left to finish the current task to the time it would take to complete the new one—is still optimal for minimizing the sum of completion times. In fact, the weighted version of Shortest Processing Time is a pretty good candidate for best general-purpose scheduling strategy in the face of uncertainty. It offers a simple prescription for time management: each time a new piece of work comes in, divide its importance by the amount of time it will take to complete. If that figure is higher than for the task you’re currently doing, switch to the new one; otherwise stick with the current task. This algorithm is the closest thing that scheduling theory has to a skeleton key or Swiss Army knife, the optimal strategy not just for one flavor of problem but for many. Under certain assumptions it minimizes not just the sum of weighted completion times, as we might expect, but also the sum of the weights of the late jobs and the sum of the weighted lateness of those jobs.”

“…preemption isn’t free. Every time you switch tasks, you pay a price, known in computer science as a context switch. When a computer processor shifts its attention away from a given program, there’s always a certain amount of necessary overhead. […] It’s metawork. Every context switch is wasted time. Humans clearly have context-switching costs too. […] Part of what makes real-time scheduling so complex and interesting is that it is fundamentally a negotiation between two principles that aren’t fully compatible. These two principles are called responsiveness and throughput: how quickly you can respond to things, and how much you can get done overall. […] Establishing a minimum amount of time to spend on any one task helps to prevent a commitment to responsiveness from obliterating throughput […] The moral is that you should try to stay on a single task as long as possible without decreasing your responsiveness below the minimum acceptable limit. Decide how responsive you need to be — and then, if you want to get things done, be no more responsive than that. If you find yourself doing a lot of context switching because you’re tackling a heterogeneous collection of short tasks, you can also employ another idea from computer science: “interrupt coalescing.” If you have five credit card bills, for instance, don’t pay them as they arrive; take care of them all in one go when the fifth bill comes.”

February 10, 2021 Posted by | Books, Computer science, Economics, Game theory, Psychology | Leave a comment

Shock waves and gamma-ray bursts from neutron star mergers – Andrei Beloborodov

Some links related to stuff discussed in the lecture/talk:
GW170817.
Superluminal motion of a relativistic jet in the neutron starmerger GW170817 (Mooley et al., 2018).
GRB 170817A Associated with GW170817: Multi-frequency Observations and Modeling of Prompt Gamma-ray Emission (Pozanenko et al., 2018).
Lorentz factor.
Gamma-ray burst progenitors.
Kilonova.
ResearchGate download link: A First-principle Simulation of Blast-wave Emergence at the Photosphere of a Neutron Star Merger (Lundman & Beloborodov, 2020).
Adiabatic index.
Shock waves in astrophysics.
Diffusive Shock Acceleration: the Fermi Mechanism.
Inverse Compton scattering.

February 3, 2021 Posted by | Astronomy, Lectures, Physics | Leave a comment

Words

Amaurosis. Metanoia. Adit. Scansion. Gavage. Psephology. Sphaleron. Axonotmesis. Galena. Pingo. Girdling. Snag (ecology). Apophenia. Cenote. Neurotmesis. Acerose. Perseverant. Elapid. Aorist. Kana.

Intaglio. Hiragana. Palinal. Cathemerality. Calque. Numinous. Geas. Afforestation. Crumhorn. Senicide. Catenane. Extispicy/haruspex. Cataplerosis. Ophiolite. Diglossia. Hagiographer. Stylometry. Ossifrage. Pleuston/Neuston. Praline.

Saponification. Culet. Myiasis. Epithalamium. Thigmonasty. Stultiloquy. Thigmotropism. Aerospike. Calabash. Pandanus. Dumbwaiter. Doula. Hypocaust. Cynophobia. Flashover. Backdraft. Pyrolysis. Slat. Phugoid. Toxophily.

Irredentism. Crutching. Threnody. Petroglyph. Protologism. Aileron. Bunding. Phylactery. Guyot. Coupure. Barbette. Apophasis. Fissiparous. Marl. Syrinx. Bocage. Camouflet. Mulesing. Trypophobia. Berm.

January 17, 2021 Posted by | Books, Language | Leave a comment

James Simons interview


James Simons. Differential geometry. Minimal varieties in riemannian manifolds. Shiing-Shen Chern. Characteristic Forms and Geometric Invariants. Renaissance Technologies.

“That’s really what’s great about basic science and in this case mathematics, I mean, I didn’t know any physics. It didn’t occur to me that this material, that Chern and I had developed would find use somewhere else altogether. This happens in basic science all the time that one guy’s discovery leads to someone else’s invention and leads to another guy’s machine or whatever it is. Basic science is the seed corn of our knowledge of the world. …I loved the subject, but I liked it for itself, I wasn’t thinking of applications. […] the government’s not doing such a good job at supporting basic science and so there’s a role for philanthropy, an increasingly important role for philanthropy.”

“My algorithm has always been: You put smart people together, you give them a lot of freedom, create an atmosphere where everyone talks to everyone else. They’re not hiding in the corner with their own little thing. They talk to everybody else. And you provide the best infrastructure. The best computers and so on that people can work with and make everyone partners.”

“We don’t have enough teachers of mathematics who know it, who know the subject … and that’s for a simple reason: 30-40 years ago, if you knew some mathematics, enough to teach in let’s say high school, there weren’t a million other things you could do with that knowledge. Oh yeah, maybe you could become a professor, but let’s suppose you’re not quite at that level but you’re good at math and so on.. Being a math teacher was a nice job. But today if you know that much mathematics, you can get a job at Google, you can get a job at IBM, you can get a job in Goldman Sachs, I mean there’s plenty of opportunities that are going to pay more than being a high school teacher. There weren’t so many when I was going to high school … so the quality of high school teachers in math has declined, simply because if you know enough to teach in high school you know enough to work for Google…”

January 12, 2021 Posted by | Mathematics, Papers, Science | Leave a comment

Quotes

  • “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” (Eugène Ionesco)
  • “Where would be the merit if heroes were never afraid?” (Alphonse Daudet)
  • “In wartime a man is called a hero. It doesn’t make him any braver, and he runs for his life. But at least it’s a hero who is running away.” (Jean Giraudoux)
  • “Love is worth whatever it costs.” (Françoise Sagan)
  • “It is healthier to see the good points of others than to analyze our own bad ones.” (-ll-)
  • “When a man has dreamed of winning something by a colossal stroke of luck, he is prone to neglect petty but more practical ways of attaining it.” (-ll-)
  • “I find war detestable but those who praise it without participating in it even more so.” (Romain Rolland)
  • “There is something sadder to lose than life – the reason for living; Sadder than to lose one’s possessions is to lose one’s hope.” (Paul Claudel)
  • “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.” (Douglas Adams)
  • “The Englishman of 1750 was closer in material things to Caesar’s legionnaires than to his own great-grandchildren.” (Walter Scheidel, Escape from Rome (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World, Princeton University Press))
  • “In the Western world, […] mature male stature rose by five inches between the late eighteenth and the late twentieth centuries.” (-ll-)
  • People exaggerate both happiness and unhappiness; we are never so fortunate nor so unfortunate as people say we are. (/On amplifie également le malheur et le bonheur, nous ne sommes jamais ni si malheureux, ni si heureux qu’on le dit.) (Honoré de Balzac)
  • “When women love, they forgive everything, even our crimes; when they do not love, they cannot forgive anything, not even our virtues.” (/Lorsque les femmes nous aiment, elles nous pardonnent tout, même nos crimes; lorsqu’elles ne nous aiment pas, elles ne nous pardonnent rien, pas même nos vertus!) (-ll-)
  • “Those who spend too fast never grow rich.” (/Qui dépense trop n’est jamais riche) (-ll-)
  • “Numerical results of mathematical problems can be tested by comparing them to observed numbers, or to a commonsense estimate of observable numbers. […] Yet every teacher knows that students achieve incredible things in this respect. Some students are not disturbed at all when they find 16,130 ft. for the length of the boat and 8 years, 2 months for the age of the captain who is, by the way, known to be a grandfather. Such neglect of the obvious does not show necessarily stupidity but rather indifference toward artificial problems. […] [A] teacher of mathematics has a great opportunity. If he fills his allotted time with drilling his students in routine operations he kills their interest, hampers their intellectual development, and misuses his opportunity. But if he challenges the curiosity of his students by setting them problems proportionate to their knowledge, and helps them to solve their problems with stimulating questions, he may give them a taste for, and some means of, independent thinking.” (George Pólya, How to Solve It. Princeton University Press)
  • “If you can’t solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you can’t solve. Find it.” (-ll-)
  • “No idea is really bad, unless we are uncritical. What is really bad is to have no idea at all. […] in theoretical matters, the best of ideas is hurt by uncritical acceptance and thrives on critical examination.” (-ll-)
  • “Let us sum up. Recollecting formerly solved problems with the same or a similar unknown (formerly proved theorems with the same or a similar conclusion) we have a good chance to start in the right direction and we may conceive a plan of the solution. In simple cases, which are the most frequent in less advanced classes, the most elementary problems with the same unknown (theorems with the same conclusion) are usually sufficient. Trying to recollect problems with the same unknown is an obvious and common-sense device […]. It is rather surprising that such a simple and useful device is not more widely known […] neither students nor teachers of mathematics can afford to ignore the proper use of the suggestion: Look at the unknown! And try to think of a familiar problem having the same or a similar unknown.” (-ll-)
  • “Speaking and thinking are closely connected, the use of words assists the mind. […] choosing a suitable notation may contribute essentially to understanding the problem. […] A good notation should be unambiguous, pregnant, easy to remember; it should avoid harmful second meanings, and take advantage of useful second meanings; the order and connection of signs should suggest the order and connection of things. […] we should choose our notation carefully, and have some good reason for our choice. […] Not only the most hopeless boys in the class but also quite intelligent students may have an aversion for algebra. There is always something arbitrary and artificial about notation; to learn a new notation is a burden for the memory. The intelligent student refuses to assume the burden if he does not see any compensation for it. The intelligent student is justified in his aversion for algebra if he is not given ample opportunity to convince himself by his own experience that the language of mathematical symbols assists the mind. To help him to such experience is an important task of the teacher, one of his most important tasks.” (-ll-)
  • Pedantry and mastery are opposite attitudes toward rules. […] To apply a rule to the letter, rigidly, unquestioningly, in cases where it fits and in cases where it does not fit, is pedantry. Some pedants are poor fools; they never did understand the rule which they apply so conscientiously and so indiscriminately. Some pedants are quite successful; they understood their rule, at least in the beginning (before they became pedants), and chose a good one that fits in many cases and fails only occasionally. To apply a rule with natural ease, with judgment, noticing the cases where it fits, and without ever letting the words of the rule obscure the purpose of the action or the opportunities of the situation, is mastery.” (-ll-)
  • “L’amour est un tyran qui n’épargne personne.” (/Love is a tyrant, sparing none.) (Pierre Corneille)
  • “To conquer without risk is to triumph without glory.” (-ll-)
  • “Il faut bonne mémoire après qu’on a menti.” (/It takes a good memory to keep up a lie.) (-ll-)
  • “The immune system functions so well that most of the time we do not notice it is actually working at all. However, it is continuously active, preventing severe infection from the micro-organisms which colonize our skin and our gut, and suppressing the chronic virus infections most of us picked up as infants. […] There are [even] data to suggest that mate choice (including in humans) can be driven by olfactory signals derived from […] MHC molecules — such that those with divergent MHC types are chosen, hence maximizing the number of different MHC molecules available to the offspring.” (Paul Klenerman – The Immune System: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press)
  • “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” (Victor Hugo)
  • “Being a husband is a whole-time job. That is why so many husbands fail. They can’t give their entire attention to it.” (Arnold Bennett)
  • “Journalists say a thing that they know isn’t true, in the hope that if they keep on saying it long enough it will be true.” (-ll-) (They are wrong, and people should really stop taking those people seriouslysee part ii. here)
  • “Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.” (W. Somerset Maugham)
  • “People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise.” (-ll-)
  • “Unfortunately, theories that explain everything often explain very little.” (William Bynum. The History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction (p. 76). Oxford University Press)
  • “Whatever the system of medical care, in Western societies, third-party arrangements are the norm in hospital payments, so large are the bills. The costs of building, heating, lighting, maintaining, equipping, and staffing these complex institutions have been an increasing concern for the past century. The guaranteeing body has been variously the state, the municipality, a religious organization, an insurance company, a charitable group, individual governors, a rich benefactor, or a combination of these. […] the drive for efficiency, and the adoption of business models, characterizes almost all modern hospitals. […] While developed nations can take the surveillance and regulations of public health for granted, or be incensed when they fail, […] the problems encountered in poorer parts of the world would not have surprised Edwin Chadwick or other advocates in 19th-century Europe. Issues of child and maternal mortality, epidemic diseases, poverty, and poor sanitation are still with us.” (Ibid., pp. 127-128, 136)
  • “I used to watch a lot of news and commentary until one day I tried to tally up what I had learned during a month of it and found the quantity of facts could fit on a postage stamp.” (Zach Weiner)
  • Eppur si muove…” (Galileo Galilei)
  • “Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.” (Alejandro Jodorowsky)

October 16, 2020 Posted by | Books, History, Immunology, Mathematics, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Promoting the unknown…

i.

ii.

iii.

iv.

v.

vi.

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

Periodic Videos

I watched quite a few of their videos a very long time ago, but since then I haven’t really been following along. I happened to stumble across the channel on Friday evening, and this meant there was a lot of catching up to do.

I’ve added some of the videos I really enjoyed, but I couldn’t include all of them – there is a lot of good chemistry-related stuff in that channel, and a lot of interesting details about ‘how stuff works’ and/or ‘how we know something’. Even videos about obscure elements you didn’t even know existed may contain fascinating details that turn out to be really quite relevant to your every-day life; did you for example know that due to the material properties of niobium, by adding perhaps 200 grams of this material to a car, a car manufacturer might save in the order of 100 kilograms of steel? Well, I didn’t.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Neutron radiation
Involute
Triuranium octoxide
Californium
(See also this one for more footage from ORNL)

John Newlands (chemist)
William Odling
History of the periodic table
Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois.

Does Mendeleev get too much credit? An interesting ‘walk through the archives’. I agree with the overall assessment; other people came close/had similar ideas, but it’s quite natural for Mendeleev to be associated strongly with the Table; he pushed the idea very hard, and he was not afraid to make detailed predictions which might turn out to be wrong. As noted in (one of) Scerri’s book(/s) on the topic, “it has been estimated that within one hundred years of the introduction of Mendeleev’s famous table of 1869, approximately 700 different versions of the periodic table had been published” – so although the video seems to cover a lot of different versions, it’s really only scratching the surface.

1858 Bradford sweets poisoning.
Death of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Realgar.
Scheele’s Green.

January 26, 2020 Posted by | Chemistry, Engineering, History, Physics | Leave a comment

Books 2019

Here’s a goodreads link.

I won’t spend a lot of effort on this list – the main point of these lists in earlier years was to keep track of blogposts I wrote about books I’d read because I tended to blog quite a bit, and I realized that it was useful to have lists like these to refer to when looking for stuff I knew I’d read about in the past (I mainly use goodreads, not this blog, to keep track of the books themselves); but these days I blog very little and so there’s not actually a lot to keep track of.

I read 106 books and 34,925 pages in 2019, according to the list goodreads auto-generates each year.

This is not really ‘correct’, but it’s close. One of the books included in goodreads’ list I did not finish, and such books I don’t like to include in this kind of count (…there were actually two other books I also did not finish and decided to shelve this year, but neither of these books were added to the auto-generated list on goodreads; I’m still unclear as to how these algorithms work..). On the other hand the page count provided by goodreads is almost certainly too low, rather than too high, for two reasons: The first is that the longest book I read, The Complete Saki, did not have a page count on either goodreads or Kindle, meaning that no pages were logged for that book; however a paperback version of the book also added to goodreads actually has 960 pages. Two full novels are included in that book and they take up less than a third of the space – this also means, of course, that the supposedly longest book I read on the goodreads list is not actually the longest book I read. A second reason is that I did read a few hundred pages of two of the books I did not finish (…and ‘too many‘ of the third one which was included on the list, even if the pages were not counted), and the page count of partially read books are not logged on goodreads, so these were not included in the count. In August or September I figured I might try for 100 pages per day on average for the year, and given these considerations I think I got quite close, if perhaps not quite there. The other (soft) goal I had was 100 books, which I certainly managed – the final count was very close to two books per week, which is apparently the level I’m at currently, given the sort of books I read. Although blogging is very low on my list of priorities these days this did not mean I stopped reading as well; work takes a lot of time – more time than it did in 2018 – and the cognitive demands of my job have been increasing steadily during the last year, and so the time and resources I have left when I have time off I’d rather spend on reading than on blogging, certainly in part because reading material X is much less demanding than is blogging material X. It should also be quite obvious from the list that I in some periods of the year really did not have the mental surplus to engage in cognitively demanding activities outside of work. I feel proud of the work I did during some of those weeks, but I certainly can’t feel proud about my leisure reading habits during those weeks.

I read 16 non-fiction books, 5 ‘miscellaneous’ books and 84 fiction books to completion last year. I don’t read as much non-fiction as I’d like (…almost nothing compared to what I was reading five years ago), and I think I’ll probably create targeted personal goals for myself in this area this year to improve on that one, at least a little. However most of the non-fiction books I read this year were actually books with a significant amount of content, and I don’t mind trading off books for pages if the books I actually do read are well worth reading. I also need to be realistic, I’m not going to read a technical book from cover to cover during a week where my brain keeps jumping back to e.g. a current database configuration issue – less will have to do. And reading more is not necessarily a desirable outcome, a factor I’m trying to take into account when deciding how to spend my time; I’ve made an effort this year – successfully I believe, at least to some degree – to deliberately prioritize non-book activities like social events where possible, and I had more opportunities for doing so this year than I did last year.

The book count for this year dropped a lot compared to previous years, but if you look at the page count instead the drop is nowhere near as significant – the books I read this year were significantly longer, on average, than those I’ve read in previous years; last year I read 150 books and ~115 pages per day.

I only irregularly added books to goodreads during the year, which means that the books on the list will often not have been added in exactly the right order. This might mean for example that book 3 in a series comes before book 1 on the list, even if I read book 1 first. Frankly I don’t care about this, certainly not enough to try to recreate the list as it would have looked like if books had been added in a more timely manner.

Quite a few of the books on the list are books which I’ve read before; I decided not to add any links to old goodreads reviews in such cases, even if in one or two cases I did update a review after having reread the book this year. I also only added the current ratings of the books, not the ratings I’d given the books in the past.

As usual ‘f’ = fiction, ‘m’ = miscellaneous, ‘nf’ = non-fiction; the numbers in parentheses indicate my goodreads ratings of the books (from 1-5).

1. Medicine in the English Middle Ages (3, nf. Princeton University Press).

2. Olympiad (3, f). Tom Holt. Very short goodreads review here.

3. The Walled Orchard (4, f). Tom Holt. Goodreads review here.

4. A song for Nero (4, f). Tom Holt.

5. Unkempt Thoughts (3, m). Stanisław Jerzy Lec.

6. Alexander at the World’s End (5, f). Tom Holt. Short goodreads review here.

7. Meadowland (3, f). Tom Holt.

8. Brief Cases (4, f). Jim Butcher. Goodreads review here.

9. The Princess Bride (4, f). William Goldman.

10. Practical Demonkeeping (2, f). Christopher Moore.

11. The Tartar Steppe (f). Dino Buzatti.

12. Cognitive Neuroscience: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

13. The Stupidest Angel (3, f). Christopher Moore.

14. The Complete Saki: 144 Collected Novels and Short Stories (4, f). Short goodreads review here.

15. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (2, f). Christopher Moore.

16. Wilt (5, f). Tom Sharpe.

17. Angels in the Moonlight (2, f). Caimh McDonnell.

18. Last Orders (2, f). Caimh McDonnell.

19. You suck (2, f). Christopher Moore.

20. The Wilt Alternative (4, f). Tom Sharpe.

21. Wilt On High (4, f). Tom Sharpe.

22. A Man With One of Those Faces (3, f). Caimh McDonnell.

23. Bite Me (1, f). Christopher Moore.

24. Coyote Blue (2, f). Christopher Moore.

25. The Day That Never Comes (2, f). Caimh McDonnell.

26. Bloodsucking Fiends (2, f). Christopher Moore.

27. How to Attract the Wombat (4, m). Will Cuppy.

28. Wilt in Nowhere (f). Tom Sharpe.

29. My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (2, f). Robert Benchley. Goodreads review here.

30. Genomics: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

31. How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes (4, m). Will Cuppy.

32. Jill the Reckless (2, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

33. The Complete McAuslan (4, f). George MacDonald Fraser.

34. The Hot Rock (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

35. Bank Shot (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

36. Nobody’s Perfect (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

37. Jimmy The Kid (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

38. Good Behavior (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

39. Why Me? (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

40. Drowned Hopes (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

41. Don’t Ask (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

42. What’s The Worst That Could Happen? (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

43. The Road To Ruin (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

44. The Fugitive Pigeon (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

45. Bad News (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

46. Viruses: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press). Blog coverage here.

47. Watch Your Back! (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

48. What’s So Funny? (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

49. Get Real (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

50. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (5, nf.). Goodreads review here. Blog coverage here and here.

51. Cops and Robbers (2, f). Donald E. Westlake.

52. God Save the Mark (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

53. The Spy in the Ointment (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

54. High Adventure (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

55. And Then There Were None (4, f). Agatha Christie.

56. The Eyre Affair (5, f). Jasper Fforde.

57. Galahad at Blandings (5, f). P.G. Wodehouse.

58. The Fourth Bear (5, f). Jasper Fforde.

59. Lost in a Good Book (5, f). Jasper Fforde.

60. In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (Evolution and Cognition) (4, nf. Oxford University Press). I really should have given this one 5 stars simply in order to motivate other people to read it, but I didn’t quite feel like it really deserved it; even so, this is the best book on the topic of religion I’ve read. If people in general understood religion and human belief systems as well as Scott Atran does, then the world would be a very different place indeed.

61. The Big Over Easy (5, f). Jasper Fforde.

62. The Well of Lost Plots (4, f). Jasper Fforde.

63. Intelligence: All That Matters (3, nf. Hodder & Stoughton).

64. First Among Sequels (3, f). Jasper Fforde.

65. Something Rotten (4, f). Jasper Fforde.

66. One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (4, f). Jasper Fforde.

67. The Woman Who Died a lot (4, f). Jasper Fforde.

68. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter (5, nf. Princeton University Press). Goodreads review here (…a quote: “This is without a doubt the best book I’ve read this year. Highly recommended.”). I added this book to my list of favourite books on goodreads.

69. Bowling Alone (3, nf. Simon & Schuster). Goodreads review here.

70. Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction (2, nf. Oxford University Press). Blog coverage here.

71. Thief of Time (f). Terry Pratchett.

72. Dead Cert (4, f). Dick Francis.

73. Rat Race (4, f). Dick Francis.

74. Smokescreen (3, f). Dick Francis.

75. Nerve (3, f). Dick Francis.

76. Odds Against (4, f). Dick Francis.

77. For Kicks (3, f). Dick Francis.

78. High Stakes (4, f). Dick Francis.

79. Forfeit (2, f). Dick Francis.

80. Whip Hand (2, f). Dick Francis.

81. Data Science for Business (2, nf. O’Reilly Media). Blog coverage here.

82. Break In (3, f). Dick Francis.

83. Bolt (4, f). Dick Francis.

84. The Edge (5, f). Dick Francis.

85. Straight (3, f). Dick Francis.

86. Driving Force (3, f). Dick Francis.

87. The Cloven Viscount (2, f). Italo Calvino.

88. Zuleika Dobson (2, f). Max Beerbohm. Short goodreads review here.

89. Dangling Man (2, f). Saul Bellow.

90. The Small Bachelor (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

91. The Nonexistent Knight (2, f). Italo Calvino.

92. A Pale View of Hills (5, f). Kazuo Ishiguro. Very short goodreads review here. This book was really powerful, I was very tempted to add it to my list of favourite books on goodreads.

93. An Artist of the Floating World (2, f). Kazuo Ishiguro. Goodreads review here.

94. Fire & Blood (5, f). George R. R. Martin.

95. I, Robot (3, f). Isaac Asimov.

96. Matter, A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

97. Alteryx Inspire: Tips and Tricks 2019, London (nf. Publisher unclear, pdf-book written by Alteryx developers).

98. Lords and Ladies (4, f). Terry Pratchett.

99. A Lot Like Christmas (2, f). Connie Willis.

100. The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall (2, nf. Basic Books)

101. Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold (4, m). Stephen Fry.

102. Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes (2, nf. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Goodreads review here.

103. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (2, nf. Oxford University Press).

104. Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures (5, m). Stephen Fry. Very short goodreads review here.

105. Nation (4, f). Terry Pratchett.

Books I did not finish and which I don’t think I’ll finish next year:

The Anatomy of Melancholy (1, m). Robert Burton. Goodreads review here.

The Major Works of Samuel Johnson (3, f). “A mixed bag, not really worth reading from cover to cover in my opinion.” (from my goodreads review)

The Life of Samuel Johnson (m). James Boswell.

 

 

January 4, 2020 Posted by | Books, Personal | Leave a comment

Quotes

In recent months I have been reading both The Major Works of Samuel Johnson and The Life of Samuel Johnson, but to some extent I have neglected to keep track of my quotes; the Samuel Johnson quotes below are almost certainly all of them from one of those books, but which one of them? I don’t know, and I frankly don’t see any plausible scenario in which I would be justified spending the time and effort figuring it out (…I do however feel confident stating that most of the quotes below are from The Major Works…).

i. “Many complain of neglect who never tried to attract regard.” (Samuel Johnson)

ii. “It ought to be the first endeavour of a writer to distinguish nature from custom, or that which is established because it is right from that which is right only because it is established” (-ll-)

iii. “To fix the thoughts by writing, and subject them to frequent examinations and reviews, is the best method of enabling the mind to detect its own sophisms, and keep it on guard against the fallacies which it practises on others: in conversation we naturally diffuse our thoughts, and in writing we contract them; method is the excellence of writing, and unconstraint the grace of conversation. To read, write, and converse in due proportions is, therefore, the business of a man of letters.” (-ll-)

iv. “It were to be wished that they who devote their lives to study would at once believe nothing too great for their attainment, and consider nothing as too little for their regard” (-ll-)

v. “Nothing has so much exposed men of learning to contempt and ridicule as their ignorance of things which are known to all but themselves.” (-ll-)

vi. “He that can only converse upon questions about which only a small part of mankind has knowledge sufficient to make them curious must lose his days in unsocial silence, and live in the crowd of life without a companion.” (-ll-)

vii.“No degree of knowledge attainable by man is able to set him above the want of hourly assistance, or to extinguish the desire of fond endearments, and tender officiousness; and therefore no one should think it unnecessary to learn those arts by which friendship may be gained. Kindness is preserved by a constant reciprocation of benefits or interchange of pleasures; but such benefits can only be bestowed as others are capable to receive, and such pleasures only imparted as others are qualified to enjoy.

By this descent from the pinnacles of art no honour will be lost; for the condescensions of learning are always overpaid by gratitude.” (-ll-)

viii. “…the world cannot reward those qualities which are concealed from it” (-ll-)

ix. “…if we make the praise or blame of others the rule of our conduct, we shall be distracted by a boundless variety of irreconcilable judgments, be held in perpetual suspense between contrary impulses, and consult forever without determination.” (-ll-)

x. “… marriage is the strictest tie of perpetual friendship” (-ll-)

xi. “There is no doubt that being human is incredibly difficult and cannot be mastered in one lifetime.” (Terry Pratchett)

xii. “It’s difficult to say just where a marriage goes wrong, because the accepted reason often isn’t the real one.” (Dick Francis, Odds Against)

xiii. “Success depends on three things: who says it, what he says, how he says it; and of these three things, what he says is the least important.” (John Morley)

xiv. “Windbags can be right. Aphorists can be wrong. It is a tough world.” (James Fenton)

xv. “Here we must begin with the most fundamental fact about the impact of television on Americans: Nothing else in the twentieth century so rapidly and profoundly affected our leisure. In 1950 barely 10 percent of American homes had television sets, but by 1959, 90 percent did, probably the fastest diffusion of a technological innovation ever recorded. […] Time diaries show that husbands and wives spend three or four times as much time watching television together as they spend talking to each other, and six to seven times as much as they spend in community activities outside the home.” (Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone)

xvi. “We have changed the environment more quickly than we know how to change ourselves.” (Walter Lippmann, ibid.)

xvii. “If a lover is wretched who invokes kisses of which he knows not the flavor, a thousand times more wretched is he who has had a taste of the flavor and then had it denied him.” (Italo Calvino, The Nonexistent Knight)

xviii. “Where there is no bread, there is no philosophy.” (Avram Davidson, The Phoenix and the Mirror)

xi. “No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide.” (Cesare Pavese)

xx. “For the two or three years before she finally left us, Keiko had retreated into that bedroom, shutting us out of her life. She rarely came out, although I would sometimes hear her moving around the house after we had all gone to bed. I surmised that she spent her time reading magazines and listening to her radio. She had no friends, and the rest of us were forbidden entry into her room. At mealtimes I would leave her plate in the kitchen and she would come down to get it, then shut herself in again. […] I had to coax her to put out her laundry, and in this at least we reached an understanding: every few weeks I would find a bag of washing outside her door, which I would wash and return. In the end, the rest of us grew used to her ways, and when by some impulse Keiko ventured down into our living room, we would all feel a great tension. Invariably, these excursions would end with her fighting, with Niki or with my husband, and then she would be back in her room. I never saw Keiko’s room in Manchester, the room in which she died. It may seem morbid of a mother to have such thoughts, but on hearing of her suicide, the first thought that ran through my mind — before I registered even the shock — was to wonder how long she had been there like that before they had found her. She had lived amidst her own family without being seen for days on end; little hope she would be discovered quickly in a strange city where no one knew her. Later, the coroner said she had been there “for several days”. It was the landlady who had opened the door, thinking Keiko had left without paying the rent. I have found myself continually bringing to mind that picture — of my daughter hanging in her room for days on end. The horror of that image has never diminished, but it has long ceased to be a morbid matter; as with a wound on one’s own body, it is possible to develop an intimacy with the most disturbing of things.” (Kazuo Ishiguro, A Pale View of Hills)

November 23, 2019 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Promoting the unknown…

i.

(I am grateful for you sharing this wonderful piece, SpewReeky!)

ii.

iii.

 

iv.

v.

November 1, 2019 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

Quotes

i. “Experience is a dim lamp, which only lights the one who bears it.” (Louis-Ferdinand Céline)

ii. “The house of delusions is cheap to build, but draughty to live in, and ready at any instant to fall.” (A. E. Housman)

iii. “Three minutes’ thought would suffice to find this out; but thought is irksome and three minutes is a long time.” (-ll-)

iv. “Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons!” (Thomas Hardy)

v. “The value of old age depends upon the person who reaches it. To some men of early performance it is useless. To others, who are late to develop, it just enables them to finish the job.” (-ll-)

vi. “Dying young is rarely worth it.” (James Thompson)

vii. “I have never thought there was much to be said in favor of dragging on long after all one’s friends were dead.” (Murasaki Shikibu)

viii. “A typical part of culture/social norms is the idea that it is very bad if people (have to) lie about X, should tell the truth about Y, should lie about Z and should not even believe A.

If you have internalized the surrounding (sub)culture and/or fit the (sub)culture so these restrictions don’t feel stifling, then you aren’t so much free, but rather: compatible. I think that most people have a hard time noticing restrictions that they are very comfortable with.

If you travel to a different (sub)culture that you are not compatible with and that feels oppressive to you, you will typically find people who don’t consider those restrictions to be stifling, but consider yours to be.” (Aapje, here)

ix. “I had a deprived childhood, you see. I had lots of other kids to play with and my parents bought me outdoor toys and refused to ill-treat me, so it never occurred to me to seek solitary consolation with a good book.” (Terry Pratchett)

x. “The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industrialisation, ‘Western civilisation’ or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. Throughout all of history and prehistory, human advance has coincided with ecological devastation.” (John Gray)

xi. “A lover who promises eternal fidelity is more likely to be believed if he believes his promise himself; he is no more likely to keep the promise.” (-ll-)

xii. “As commonly practised, philosophy is the attempt to find good reasons for conventional beliefs. In Kant’s time the creed of conventional people was Christian, now it is humanist. Nor are these two faiths so different from one another. Over the past 200 years, philosophy has shaken off Christian faith. It has not given up Christianity’s cardinal error — the belief that humans are radically different from all other animals.” (-ll-)

xiii. “There is no more consensus on what justice means than there is on the character of the good. If anything, there is less. Among the virtues, justice is one of the most shaped by convention. For that reason it is among the most changeable.” (-ll-)

xiv. “My friends are much more dangerous than my enemies. These latter – with infinite subtlety – spin webs to keep me out of places where I hate to go, – and tell stories of me to people whom it would be vanity and vexation to meet; – and they help me so much by their unconscious aid that I almost love them.” (Yakumo Koizumi)

xv. “He was too much concerned with his own perfection ever to think of admiring any one else.” (Max Beerbohm)

xvi. “The Socratic manner is not a game at which two can play.” (-ll-)

xvii. “Death cancels all engagements.” (-ll-)

xviii. “A crowd, proportionately to its size, magnifies all that in its units pertains to the emotions, and diminishes all that in them pertains to thought.” (-ll-)

xix. “Keeping up with the Joneses was a full-time job with my mother and father. It was not until many years later when I lived alone that I realized how much cheaper it was to drag the Joneses down to my level.” (Quentin Crisp)

xx. “Health consists of having the same diseases as one’s neighbours.” (-ll-)

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Designing Fast and Robust Learning Algorithms – Yu Cheng

Some links related to the lecture’s coverage:

Recommender system.
Collaborative filtering.
Matrix completion.
Non-Convex Matrix Completion Against a Semi-Random Adversary (Cheng & Ge, 2018).
Singular value decomposition.
Spectral graph theory.
Spectral Sparsification of Graphs (Spielman & Teng).
Cut (graph theory).
Split (graph theory).
Robust statistics.
Being Robust (in High Dimensions) Can Be Practical (Diakonikolas et al).
High-Dimensional Robust Mean Estimation in Nearly-Linear Time (Cheng, Diakonikolas and Ge).

October 13, 2019 Posted by | Computer science, Lectures, Mathematics, Statistics | Leave a comment

Data science (I?)

I’m not sure if I’ll actually blog this book in detail – I might, later on, but for now I’ll just cover it extremely lazily, by adding links to topics covered which I figured I wanted to include in this post.

The book is ‘okay’ – it’ll both allow (relatively) non-technical (management) people to at least begin to understand what sort of tasks the more technical guys are spending time on (and how to prioritize regarding critical resources, and engage with the nerds!), and it might also give the data guys a few more tools that they’ll be able to use when confronted with a specific issue. I really liked the book’s emphasis on conceptualizing data as a strategic asset. On the other hand I imagine some parts of the book will often be close to painful to read for people who have spent at least a few semesters dealing with stats-related topics in the past: This is the sort of book which is also at least in part written for people who might not be completely clear on what a statistical hypothesis test is, which discusses text mining without at any point in the coverage even mentioning the existence of regular expressions, and which discusses causal evaluation without mentioning topics like IV estimation.

Although there are some major gaps in the coverage the level of coverage is however not really all that bad; I hope to refer to at least some of the more technical material included in the book in my work in the future, but it’s not clear at this point how relevant this stuff’ll actually end up being long-term.

Links (…in random order, I did not have the book in front of me as I was writing this post so this is just a collection of links/topics I could recall being potentially worth including here):

Training, validation, and test sets
Cross-validation (statistics)
Statistical classification
Tree model
Decision tree pruning
Random forest
Naive Bayes classifier
Bigram
n-gram
Data mining
Zipf’s law (not covered, but relevant to some parts of the coverage)
Nearest neighbor search
K-nearest_neighbors_algorithm
Cluster analysis
Jaccard index
Bias–variance tradeoff
Hierarchical clustering
Dendrogram
Boosting (machine learning)
Ensemble learning
Feature (machine learning)
Feature selection
Curse of dimensionality
Regularization (mathematics)
Overfitting
Association rule learning
Labeled data
Dimensionality reduction
Supervised_learning/Unsupervised learning
Model selection
Rubin causal model (not covered, but relevant to some parts of the coverage)
Regression discontinuity design (-ll-)
Lift (data mining)
Receiver operating characteristic
Stepwise regression
Grid search (hyperparameter optimization).

October 4, 2019 Posted by | Books, Mathematics, Statistics | Leave a comment

A few diabetes papers of interest

i. Real-World Costs of Continuous Insulin Pump Therapy and Multiple Daily Injections for Type 1 Diabetes: A Population-Based and Propensity-Matched Cohort From the Swedish National Diabetes Register.

“Continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion, or insulin pump, therapy for individuals with type 1 diabetes has increased gradually since the 1980s. Yet, a Cochrane review concluded in 2010 that although some evidence indicates that insulin pumps improve glycemic control compared with standard multiple daily injection (MDI) therapy, insufficient evidence exists regarding mortality, morbidity, and costs (1). A systematic review of cost-effectiveness studies summarized comparisons of insulin pump and MDI therapy using model analyses to describe the expected impact on long-term costs, development of complications, and quality of life (2). Five of the studies reported long-term discounted incremental costs of insulin pumps of $20,000–$40,000, whereas two studies reported lower and one higher additional costs for insulin pump therapy. However, real-world data on health care and societal costs of insulin pump therapy compared with MDI therapy are scarce. […] Data from the Swedish National Diabetes Register (NDR) have shown a lower incidence of some cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality for individuals with type 1 diabetes on insulin pump therapy in 2005–2012 (5). Registration of insulin pump therapy started in 2002 in the NDR, and use of pump therapy among individuals with type 1 diabetes increased from 10% in 2002 to 22% in 2015 (6). A relevant research question from a health care planning perspective is whether real-world data match earlier model-based predictions for differences in resource use and costs. We investigated from a societal perspective costs of continuous insulin pump and MDI therapy in clinical practice for individuals with type 1 diabetes using the NDR and a 9-year observational panel from national health and socioeconomic data registers.”

“The final analysis set included data in 2005–2013 for 14,238 individuals with type 1 diabetes, of whom 4,991 had insulin pump therapy (598 individuals switched to pump therapy in 2005 or later after original inclusion as control subjects with MDI). We had 73,920 person-years of observation with a mean follow-up of 5 years per subject. […] The distribution of annual costs was left-skewed with a tail of observations with high costs, although the most person-years incurred costs corresponding to typical insulin therapy and up to two regular follow-up appointments […] The difference in the annual total cost between the therapy groups was $3,923 (95% CI $3,703–$4,143). […] The difference in annual medication costs, including disposables, was $3,600, indicating that they contributed significantly to overall annual cost differences. Pump users had more outpatient appointments (3.8 vs. 3.5 per year; P < 0.001) and were less likely to have person-years without use of outpatient or inpatient care (9% vs. 12% of person-years). Even with a median duration of diabetes of 21 years at baseline, the mean cost per patient-year of cardiovascular comorbidities and diabetic complications was low because of the overall low rates of events. […] Total annual costs increased with age for both insulin therapies, and pump therapy was associated with higher costs across age-groups. However, the cost increments for insulin pump therapy decreased with age (differences ranging from 56% for those 18–27 years of age to 44% for those ≥48 years [reference: MDI 18–27 years]). Total costs were higher for women but decreased with years of education and disposable income. […] The level of HbA1c at baseline affected the differences in average annual cost between study groups: the smallest difference ($2,300) was observed for individuals with HbA1c ≥8.6% (≥70 mmol/mol) and the greatest difference for individuals with HbA1c 6.5–8.5% (48–69 mmol/mol) at baseline [pump $12,824 vs. MDI $8,083; P < 0.001, US].”

“The study cohort was young (mean baseline age 34 years) with relatively few diabetic complications in both study groups. For instance, 1.5% of person-years had a cardiovascular event, and 5% had at least one health care contact with a cardiovascular diagnosis.

Observational studies provide a better indication of what is achieved in daily medical practice than randomized controlled studies (12). The strength of this observational study is the size and completeness of the study population, with virtually all adults with type 1 diabetes in Sweden included, longitudinal national register data, and a matching technique that accounts for time-variant variables, including diabetes duration, diabetes-related conditions and comorbidities, and demographic and socioeconomic factors. With the use of time-varying propensity scores, we allowed selected MDI control subjects to switch to pump therapy rather than to condition their eligibility or noneligibility on a future therapeutic change. The plentiful data allowed us to match two control subjects to each pump user to account for the variance in cost variables and enabled extensive subgroup and sensitivity analyses.”

“We observed only a few deaths (n = 353 [2.5% main analysis sample], no difference pump vs. MDI [OR 0.98 (95% CI 0.79–1.23)]) and similar rates of cardiovascular disease for pump and MDI in this study, except for borderline significantly fewer events with angina in the pump group. A heterogeneous distribution of events was found across nontreatment characteristics: ∼70% of all cardiovascular events occurred among individuals 48 years of age or older, and >90% of the events occurred among individuals with diabetes duration ≥20 years at baseline.

A lack of comparable calculations of total costs of diabetes treatment has been published to date, but cost-effectiveness studies of pump and MDI therapy have predicted long-term costs for the two treatment methods. Roze et al. (2) performed a meta-review of model-based studies that compared pump therapy and MDI, concluding that pump therapy can be cost effective. Published models have identified change in HbA1c and reduction in number of hypoglycemic events as important drivers of costs. A Swedish health technology assessment review in 2013 did not find evidence for differences in severe hypoglycemia between pump therapy and MDI but identified indications of lower HbA1c (13). […] Subgroup analyses by age indicated that the value of improved prevention may take time to manifest. Approximately one-quarter of additional annual costs for individuals with type 1 diabetes age ≥48 years (∼25% of the cohort) could be prevented with insulin pump therapy.

Whether insulin pump therapy is cost efficient ultimately depends on therapeutic effects beyond resource use and costs as well as on how much the payer is prepared to invest in additional quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). If the payer’s cost-effectiveness threshold is $50,000 per QALY gained, treatment needs to provide an average annual additional 0.1 QALY or, on the basis of the subgroup analyses, gains in the range of 0.06–0.12 QALY. Similarly, with a threshold of $100,000, the required gain in annual QALYs would have to be between 0.03 and 0.06. The average cost difference between insulin therapies in this study and a 20-year time horizon roughly correspond to a discounted (3%) lifetime cost difference of $62,000. The corresponding cost for a 40-year time horizon is $95,000. Previous model-based cost-effectiveness analyses have reported expected discounted QALY gains for a lifetime in the range of 0.46–1.06 QALYs, whereas the estimates of the increase in discounted lifetime costs varied (2).”

ii. Cumulative Risk of End-Stage Renal Disease Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Nationwide Inception Cohort Study.

“One of the most devastating complications of diabetes is chronic kidney disease. Relative to the general population, persons with diabetes have a 5- to 13-fold risk of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) (46). ESRD extensively increases risk of death among patients with diabetes (79), and diabetes is the most common cause of ESRD in most industrialized countries (10); a study of 18 European countries showed that type 2 diabetes was the most frequent renal disease leading to initiation of renal replacement therapy (11).

Most earlier studies of the incidence of ESRD in diabetes have used prevalence cohorts, which means that patients have not been followed since their diabetes diagnosis. Patients with all types of diabetes typically have been included, and the incidence rate of ESRD has been 1–9 per 1,000 patient-years (4,1214), with larger estimates among African Americans and those with a longer duration of diabetes. Notably, a prevalence cohort study from Italy including only patients with type 2 diabetes showed that only 10 of 1,408 patients developed ESRD over a 10-year follow-up (15). To our knowledge, only two inception cohort studies have addressed the incidence of ESRD. The UK Prospective Diabetes Study followed 5,097 patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, only 14 of whom required renal replacement therapy during the median follow-up of 10.4 years (16). However, the cumulative risk was not computed, and any subgroup analyses would not have been possible because of the small number of patients who developed ESRD. A population-based study from Saskatchewan, Canada, included 90,429 incident cases of diabetes among the adult study population, and the results showed an almost threefold risk of ESRD among indigenous patients (17). Among nonindigenous patients, the cumulative incidence of ESRD was ∼1–2% at 20 years since the diabetes diagnosis.

We and others have estimated the cumulative risk of ESRD in inception cohorts of patients with type 1 diabetes (1821). Although type 2 diabetes is a major cause of ESRD, cumulative risk of ESRD after type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed is not well known. Here, we present the cumulative risk of ESRD during a 24-year follow-up of a nationwide population-based cohort of 421,429 patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1990–2011.”

“Of 421,429 patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1990–2011, 1,516 developed ESRD and 150,524 died before the end of 2013. The total number of patient-years of type 2 diabetes was 3,458,797 […]. The median follow-up was 6.82 years. A sex difference was found for age distribution: 70% of women and 55% of men were 60 years or older when type 2 diabetes was diagnosed. […] The cumulative risk of ESRD was 0.29% at 10 years and 0.74% at 20 years since the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. […] Men had a 93% higher risk of ESRD than women. […] this male predominance is a common finding for all causes of ESRD (10). […] As an alternative analysis, the incidence rate of ESRD was calculated among all prevalent cases of type 2 diabetes in the time periods 1990–1999 and 2000–2011, thus including patients who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before 1990 but who contributed patient-years in 1990–2013 […]. During a total of 4,345,251 patient-years, 2,127 patients developed ESRD, resulting in an incidence rate of 0.49 per 1,000 patient-years (95% CI 0.47–0.51). The incidence rate was higher among men (0.66 [95% CI 0.63–0.70]) than among women (0.33 [95% CI 0.31–0.35]) and in 2000–2013 (0.53 [95% CI 0.51–0.56]) than in 1990–1999 (0.37 [95% CI 0.34–0.41]). The incidence rate of ESRD had increased most among men older than 70 years. For both men and women, the incidence rate of ESRD peaked among those aged 60–79 years.”

“Among patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 1990 and 2011, the cumulative risk of death was 34% at 10 years and 64% at 20 years since the diagnosis of diabetes. […] Patients aged 70–79 years when diabetes was diagnosed had an eightfold risk of death during the follow-up compared with those aged 40–49 years. When calculating HR for death, occurrence of ESRD was included in the multivariable model as a time-dependent variable […], and ESRD increased the risk of death 4.2-fold during follow-up. […] In the interaction analysis, sex modified the effects of age and ESRD on HR for death. Among men, ESRD increased risk of death 3.8-fold and among women, 5.6-fold. Age (70–79 vs. 40–49 years) showed an HR for death of 7.4 among men and 9.8 among women. Also, a statistically significant interaction occurred between age and ESRD during follow-up, showing a weaker association between ESRD and risk of death among those aged 70 years or older (HR 3) than among those younger than 60 years (HR 5).”

“Our study shows that risk of ESRD is small among people with type 2 diabetes. This may seem unexpected, because a substantial proportion of patients are entering early stages of chronic kidney disease, with 25% of patients having microalbuminuria and 5% having macroalbuminuria 10 years after their diabetes diagnosis (16). These early stages of kidney disease are associated with increased premature mortality; this contributes to the fact that relatively few patients develop ESRD, as death is a common competing risk event. However, diabetes is the most common cause of ESRD in most industrialized countries, and because of a high and increasing prevalence of diabetes among the general population, a considerable absolute number of patients with type 2 diabetes need dialysis therapy (10,11). Our findings are important for clinicians who inform patients with type 2 diabetes about the associated risks and complications. […] Notably, people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at an older age have a lower risk of ESRD and a higher risk of death than those diagnosed at a younger age. The cumulative risk of ESRD and death has decreased since the early 1990s among people with type 2 diabetes.”

iii. Impact of Age of Onset, Puberty, and Glycemic Control Followed From Diagnosis on Incidence of Retinopathy in Type 1 Diabetes: The VISS Study.

“In a population-based observational study, HbA1c for 451 patients diagnosed with diabetes before 35 years of age during 1983–1987 in southeast Sweden was followed for up to 18–24 years from diagnosis. Long-term mean weighted HbA1c (wHbA1c) was calculated. Retinopathy was evaluated by fundus photography and analyzed in relation to wHbA1c levels.”

RESULTS Lower wHbA1c, diabetes onset ≤5 years of age, and diabetes onset before puberty, but not sex, were associated with longer time to appearance of simplex retinopathy. Proliferative retinopathy was associated only with wHbA1c. The time to first appearance of any retinopathy decreased with increasing wHbA1c. Lower wHbA1c after ≤5 years’ diabetes duration was associated with later onset of simplex retinopathy but not proliferative retinopathy. With time, most patients developed simplex retinopathy, except for those of the category wHbA1c ≤50 mmol/mol (6.7%), for which 20 of 36 patients were without any retinopathy at the end of the follow-up in contrast to none of 49 with wHbA1c >80 mmol/mol (9.5%). […] At the end of the follow-up only 54 patients (12.5%) had no signs of retinopathy and 145 (33.6%) had slight simplex, 175 (40.5%) moderate simplex, and 57 (13.2%) proliferative retinopathy.”

CONCLUSIONS Onset at ≤5 years of age and lower wHbA1c the first 5 years after diagnosis are associated with longer duration before development of simplex retinopathy. There is a strong positive association between long-term mean HbA1c measured from diagnosis and up to 20 years and appearance of both simplex and proliferative retinopathy.”

“Complete avoidance of retinopathy in patients with type 1 diabetes evidently requires a very tight glycemic control, which is very difficult to achieve with the treatment tools available today and is also dangerous because of the risk of severe hypoglycemia (27). […] In clinical practice, it is of great importance to find the balance between the risk of potentially dangerous hypoglycemic events and quality of life and the risk of severe microvascular complications to be able to recommend an evidence-based optimal level of HbA1c both in the short-term and in the long-term. The observation that wHbA1c before and during puberty did not influence the prevalence of proliferative retinopathy at 20 years’ diabetes duration is of clinical importance in the setting of targets for glycemic control in young children for whom severe hypoglycemia might be especially dangerous.

Simplex retinopathy is not sight threatening, even if advanced simplex retinopathy is a risk factor for proliferative retinopathy (13). However, simplex retinopathy may regress, and in our study simplex retinopathy regressed in a group of patients with mean wHbA1c 7.0% (SD 0.7%) (53 [8] mmol/mol). Proliferative retinopathy is clinically more relevant and should be avoided. We previously showed that the threshold for proliferative retinopathy is higher than for simplex retinopathy (28). Proliferative retinopathy did not occur in this material in patients with wHbA1c <7.6% (60 mmol/mol), which indicates what should be an important goal for glycemic control. This is in close agreement with the position statement for type 1 diabetes in children and adolescents recently issued by the American Diabetes Association recommending an HbA1c target of <7.5% (58 mmol/mol) (31).

In summary, after 20 years of diabetes duration, there is a strong positive association between long-term mean wHbA1c followed from diagnosis and appearance of both simplex and proliferative retinopathy. Diabetes onset at <5 years of age and lower wHbA1c the first 5 years after diagnosis are associated with longer duration before development of simplex retinopathy but not proliferative retinopathy. Proliferative retinopathy does not appear in patients with wHbA1c <7.6% (60 mmol/mol).”

iv. Association of Diabetes and Glycated Hemoglobin With the Risk of Intracerebral Hemorrhage: A Population-Based Cohort Study.

“Spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is a devastating condition accounting for 10–15% of all stroke cases. It is associated with a dismal prognosis, as only 38% of affected patients survive the first year (1).

Type 2 diabetes affects more than 415 million adults worldwide and is a well-known contributor to cardiovascular morbidity, cognitive decline, and all-cause mortality (2). Although diabetes is an independent risk factor for ischemic stroke (3), as yet there is no conclusive evidence for the association between diabetes and ICH, as previous studies showed conflicting results (48). […] We sought to determine 1) the association of diabetes and ICH and 2) the relationship between HbA1c levels and ICH in a large nationwide population-based cohort. […] We sought to determine 1) the association of diabetes and ICH and 2) the relationship between HbA1c levels and ICH in a large nationwide population-based cohort.”

Do keep in mind in the following that although the link between hemorrhagic stroke and diabetes is somewhat unclear (…for example: “in the Copenhagen Stroke Registry, hemorrhagic stroke was even six times less frequent in diabetic patients than in non-diabetic subjects (102). […] However, in another prospective population-based study DM was associated with an increased risk of primary intracerebral hemorrhage (103).”), the link between ischemic stroke and diabetes is strong and well-established – see the link for more details.

“This study is based on data from the computerized database of Clalit Health Services (CHS), which provides inclusive health care for more than half of the Israeli population. […] 313,130 patients had a preexisting diagnosis of diabetes and 1,167,585 individuals were without diabetes. Patients with diabetes had to have at least one test result for HbA1c in the 2 years before cohort entry (n = 297,486). Cohort participants (n = 1,465,071) were followed-up until reaching the study outcome (ICH), death, loss to follow-up, or end of follow-up at 31 December 2017 — whichever came first. […] The outcome of interest was ICH, defined as primary discharge diagnosis with ICH (ICD-9 code 431). […] Overall 4,170 patients had incident ICH during a mean (SD) follow-up of 7.3 (1.8) years and 10,730,915 person-years, reflecting an ICH crude incidence rate of 38.8 per 100,000 person-years. […] The strongest risk factors for ICH were prior ICH, prior stroke/transient ischemic attack (TIA), use of anticoagulation, hypertension, alcohol abuse, male sex, Arab ethnicity, chronic liver disease, and older age.”

“Because of the large number of potential confounders, we performed adjustment for a disease risk score (DRS), a summary measure of disease probability. The DRS was estimated using a Cox proportional hazards regression model for ICH outcome that included most clinically relevant ICH risk factors and other clinical covariates likely to be correlated with ICH […]. In comparison with conventional multivariate analyses, adjustment for the single variable DRS increases the efficiency of the analyses (16,17). It has been shown than the DRS and propensity score methods had comparable performance and that DRS has an advantage when multiple comparison groups are studied (16,17). […] The crude incidence rate of ICH was 78.9 per 100,000 person-years among patients with diabetes and 29.4 per 100,000 person-years among patients without diabetes (crude HR 2.69 [95% CI 2.53–2.87]) (Table 2). Diabetes remained significantly associated with ICH after adjustment for DRS (1.36 [1.27–1.45]). […] The results were unchanged after exclusion of new cases of diabetes and after censoring at the time of new diabetes diagnosis occurring during follow-up: DRS-adjusted HR 1.37 (95% CI 1.28–1.46) and 1.38 (1.29–1.47), respectively. […] The risk of ICH was directly associated with diabetes duration. Compared with the group without diabetes, the DRS-adjusted HR was 1.23 (95% CI 1.12–1.35) and 1.44 (1.34–1.56) for diabetes duration ≤5 years and >5 years, respectively. The corresponding HRs with adjustment for propensity score were 1.27 (1.15–1.41) and 1.65 (1.50–1.80), respectively […] HbA1c was significantly associated with ICH among patients with diabetes: adjusted HR 1.14 (95% CI 1.10–1.17) for each 1% increase in HbA1c […] HbA1c appears to have a nonlinear J-shaped relationship with ICH (Pnonlinearity = 0.0186), with the lowest risk observed at HbA1c of 6.5% (48 mmol/mol). […] The risk of ICH among patients with HbA1c of 6.5–6.7% (48–50 mmol/mol) was comparable with the risk in patients without diabetes, suggesting that albeit having diabetes, patients with good, but not extreme, diabetes control do not appear to have excess risk of ICH compared with patients without diabetes.”

“To date, the exact mechanisms underlying the association between diabetes, HbA1c, and ICH remain unknown. […] In summary, our study suggests that diabetes is associated with increased risk of ICH that is directly associated with diabetes duration. ICH and HbA1c appear to have a J-shaped relationship, suggesting that both poor control as well as extreme intensive diabetes control might be associated with increased risk.”

v. Nonproteinuric Versus Proteinuric Phenotypes in Diabetic Kidney Disease: A Propensity Score–Matched Analysis of a Nationwide, Biopsy-Based Cohort Study.

“Mainly based on the analysis of the data from patients with type 1 diabetes, in the clinical course of diabetic kidney disease it has long been considered that an increase of albuminuria, from normoalbuminuria (urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio ratio [UACR] <30 mg/g) to microalbuminuria (UACR 30–299 mg/g) to macroalbuminuria (UACR ≥300 mg/g), precedes the progression of renal decline (defined as estimated glomerular filtration rate [eGFR] <60 mL/min/1.73 m2) (13). Morphological changes known as nodular glomerular sclerosis (Kimmelstiel-Wilson nodule) have also been observed in patients with diabetes and loss of renal function (4,5). Therefore, patients with diabetes and reduced renal function are deemed to have overt proteinuria with nodular glomerular sclerosis. Recently, however, cumulative evidence from several cross-sectional studies revealed that a proportion of patients with type 2 diabetes develop progression of renal decline without proteinuria (macroalbuminuria) or even without microalbuminuria, suggesting the existence of a nonproteinuric phenotype of diabetic kidney disease defined as eGFR <60 mL/min/1.73 m2 and UACR <300 mg/g (611). Despite increasing attention, few clinical trials and longitudinal studies in type 2 diabetes include individuals without proteinuria or individuals with biopsy-proven diabetic kidney disease, and therefore their clinicopathological characteristics, renal prognosis, and all-cause mortality are very limited.

Similar to the U.S. and most countries in Europe, Japan has been suffering from the expanding trend in the continued increase of the prevalence of diabetic kidney disease that leads to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and high mortality (1215). Commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development with a goal of better understanding and halting the pandemic of diabetic kidney disease, we established a nationwide biopsy-based cohort of diabetic kidney disease with followed-up data, including ESRD and death ascertainment. Using this nationwide cohort and propensity score–matching methods, we aimed to investigate clinicopathological characteristics, renal prognosis, and mortality in patients with the nonproteinuric phenotype of diabetic kidney disease compared with patients with the classical proteinuric phenotype of diabetic kidney disease.”

“This is a retrospective study of patients who underwent clinical renal biopsy performed from 1 January 1985 to 31 December 2016 and had a pathological diagnosis of diabetic kidney disease at [one of] 18 hospitals in Japan […] 895 patients underwent clinical renal biopsy and had a pathological diagnosis of diabetic kidney disease in our cohort […]. We identified 526 who had an eGFR <60 mL/min/1.73 m2 at the time of biopsy. Among them, 88 had nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease (UACR <300 mg/g), and 438 had proteinuric diabetic kidney disease (UACR ≥300 mg/g) at baseline. After propensity score matching, the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group comprised 82 patients and the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group comprised 164 patients […] In propensity score–matched cohorts, the blood pressure in patients with nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease was better controlled compared with patients with proteinuric diabetic kidney disease, although patients with nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease were less prescribed RAAS blockade. Patients with nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease had lower total cholesterol levels and higher hemoglobin levels. For pathological characteristics, there was a difference in classification assignment for diabetic kidney disease between the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group and proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group. […] Compared with the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group, the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group had less severe interstitial and vascular lesions. […] In a multivariable logistic regression model, older age, lower systolic blood pressure, higher hemoglobin level, and higher HbA1c were significantly associated with a higher odds of nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease.”

“After a median follow-up of 1.8 years (IQR 0.9–3.7) from the date of renal biopsy, 297 (56%) of the 526 patients had renal events. The 5-year CKD progression-free survival was 33.2% (95% CI 28.4–38.2%) for all patients, 86.9% (95% CI 73.1–93.9%) for the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group, and 24.5% (95% CI 19.8–29.5%) for the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group (log-rank test P < 0.001) […]. The same trend was seen in the propensity score–matched cohort: After a median follow-up of 1.9 years (IQR 0.9–5.0) from the date of renal biopsy, 124 (50%) of the 246 matched patients had renal events. The 5-year CKD progression-free survival was 46.4% (95% CI 38.7–53.6%) for all patients, 86.6% (95% CI 72.5–93.8%) for the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group, and 30.3% (95% CI 22.4–38.6%) for the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group (log-rank test P < 0.001) […]. Similarly, for the secondary outcome (all-cause mortality), after a median follow-up of 2.7 years (IQR 1.1–5.7) from the date of renal biopsy, 55 (10%) of the 526 patients had death events. The 5-year death-free survival was 89.7% (95% CI 85.6–92.7%) for all patients, 98.4% (95% CI 89.1–99.8%) for the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group, and 87.5% (95% CI 82.5–91.2%) for the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group (log-rank test P < 0.001) […]. The same trend was seen in the propensity matched cohort: After a median follow-up of 3.1 years (IQR 1.3–7.0) from the date of renal biopsy, 35 (14%) of the 246 matched patients had death events. The 5-year death-free survival was 88.2% (95% CI 82.0–92.3%) for all patients, 98.3% (95% CI 88.7–99.8%) for the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group, and 82.6% (95% CI 73.6–88.8%) for the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group (log-rank test P = 0.005) […] The overall CKD progression incidence was significantly lower in the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group (30 [95% CI 18–50] per 1,000 person-years) than in the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group (231 [95% CI 191–278] per 1,000 person-years; crude HR 0.15 [95% CI 0.08–0.26]). After adjustment for age, sex, known duration of diabetes, and baseline eGFR, the risk of CKD progression remained lower in the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease cohort than in the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease cohort (adjusted HR 0.13 [95% CI 0.08–0.24]). The risk of CKD progression was consistently lower in the nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease group than in the proteinuric diabetic kidney disease group when stratified by potential confounders such as age, sex, obesity, retinopathy, smoking status, use of RAAS blockade, hypertension, dyslipidemia, poor glycemic control, lower eGFR, and pathological findings.”

“In conclusion, in propensity score–matched cohorts of biopsy-proven nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease and proteinuric diabetic kidney disease, patients with nonproteinuric diabetic kidney disease had lower blood pressure with less frequent typical pathological lesions and were at lower risk of CKD progression and all-cause mortality. Further studies are warranted to confirm these findings in other cohorts.”

vi. Single herbal medicine for diabetic retinopathy (Cochrane).

“Diabetic retinopathy is one of the major causes of blindness and the number of cases has risen in recent years. Herbal medicine has been used to treat diabetes and its complications including diabetic retinopathy for thousands of years around the world. However, common practice is not always evidence‐based. Evidence is needed to help people with diabetic retinopathy or doctors to make judicious judgements about using herbal medicine as treatment.”

“We included 10 studies involving 754 participants, of which nine were conducted in China and one in Poland. In all studies, participants in both groups received conventional treatment for diabetic retinopathy which included maintaining blood glucose and lipids using medicines and keeping a stable diabetic diet. In three studies, the comparator group also received an additional potentially active comparator in the form of a vasoprotective drug. The single herbs or extracts included Ruscus extract tablet, Sanqi Tongshu capsule, tetramethylpyrazine injection, Xueshuantong injection, Puerarin injection and Xuesaitong injection. The Sanqi Tongshu capsule, Xueshuantong injection and Xuesaitong injection were all made from the extract of Radix Notoginseng (San qi) and the main ingredient was sanchinoside. The risk of bias was high in all included studies mainly due to lack of masking (blinding). None of the studies reported the primary outcome of this review, progression of retinopathy.

Combined analysis of herbal interventions suggested that people who took these herbs in combination with conventional treatment may have been more likely to gain 2 or more lines of visual acuity compared to people who did not take these herbs when compared to conventional intervention alone at the end of treatment (RR 1.26, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.48; 5 trials, 541 participants; low‐certainty evidence). Subgroup analyses based on the different single herbs found no evidence for different effects of different herbs, but the power of this analysis was low. […]

Authors’ conclusions

No conclusions could be drawn about the effect of any single herb or herbal extract on diabetic retinopathy from the current available evidence. It was difficult to exclude the placebo effect as a possible explanation for observed differences due to the lack of placebo control in the included studies. Further adequately designed trials are needed to establish the evidence.”

 

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Diabetes, Epidemiology, Health Economics, Medicine, Nephrology, Ophthalmology, Studies | Leave a comment

Links and random stuff

i. Pulmonary Aspects of Exercise and Sports.

“Although the lungs are a critical component of exercise performance, their response to exercise and other environmental stresses is often overlooked when evaluating pulmonary performance during high workloads. Exercise can produce capillary leakage, particularly when left atrial pressure increases related to left ventricular (LV) systolic or diastolic failure. Diastolic LV dysfunction that results in elevated left atrial pressure during exercise is particularly likely to result in pulmonary edema and capillary hemorrhage. Data from race horses, endurance athletes, and triathletes support the concept that the lungs can react to exercise and immersion stress with pulmonary edema and pulmonary hemorrhage. Immersion in water by swimmers and divers can also increase stress on pulmonary capillaries and result in pulmonary edema.”

“Zavorsksy et al. studied individuals under several different workloads and performed lung imaging to document the presence or absence of lung edema. Radiographic image readers were blinded to the exposures and reported visual evidence of lung fluid. In individuals undergoing a diagnostic graded exercise test, no evidence of lung edema was noted. However, 15% of individuals who ran on a treadmill at 70% of maximum capacity for 2 hours demonstrated evidence of pulmonary edema, as did 65% of those who ran at maximum capacity for 7 minutes. Similar findings were noted in female athletes. Pingitore et al. examined 48 athletes before and after completing an iron man triathlon. They used ultrasound to detect lung edema and reported the incidence of ultrasound lung comets. None of the athletes had evidence of lung edema before the event, while 75% showed evidence of pulmonary edema immediately post-race, and 42% had persistent findings of pulmonary edema 12 hours post-race. Their data and several case reports have demonstrated that extreme exercise can result in pulmonary edema”

Conclusions

Sports and recreational participation can result in lung injury caused by high pulmonary pressures and increased blood volume that raises intracapillary pressure and results in capillary rupture with subsequent pulmonary edema and hemorrhage. High-intensity exercise can result in accumulation of pulmonary fluid and evidence of pulmonary edema. Competitive swimming can result in both pulmonary edema related to fluid shifts into the thorax from immersion and elevated LV end diastolic pressure related to diastolic dysfunction, particularly in the presence of high-intensity exercise. […] The most important approach to many of these disorders is prevention. […] Prevention strategies include avoiding extreme exercise, avoiding over hydration, and assuring that inspiratory resistance is minimized.”

ii. Some interesting thoughts on journalism and journalists from a recent SSC Open Thread by user ‘Well’ (quotes from multiple comments). His/her thoughts seem to line up well with my own views on these topics, and one of the reasons why I don’t follow the news is that my own answer to the first question posed below is quite briefly that, ‘…well, I don’t’:

“I think a more fundamental problem is the irrational expectation that newsmedia are supposed to be a reliable source of information in the first place. Why do we grant them this make-believe power?

The English and Acting majors who got together to put on the shows in which they pose as disinterested arbiters of truth use lots of smoke and mirror techniques to appear authoritative: they open their programs with regal fanfare, they wear fancy suits, they make sure to talk or write in a way that mimics the disinterestedness of scholarly expertise, they appear with spinning globes or dozens of screens behind them as if they’re omniscient, they adorn their publications in fancy black-letter typefaces and give them names like “Sentinel” and “Observer” and “Inquirer” and “Plain Dealer”, they invented for themselves the title of “journalists” as if they take part in some kind of peer review process… But why do these silly tricks work? […] what makes the press “the press” is the little game of make-believe we play where an English or Acting major puts on a suit, talks with a funny cadence in his voice, sits in a movie set that looks like God’s Control Room, or writes in a certain format, using pseudo-academic language and symbols, and calls himself a “journalist” and we all pretend this person is somehow qualified to tell us what is going on in the world.

Even when the “journalist” is saying things we agree with, why do we participate in this ridiculous charade? […] I’m not against punditry or people putting together a platform to talk about things that happen. I’m against people with few skills other than “good storyteller” or “good writer” doing this while painting themselves as “can be trusted to tell you everything you need to know about anything”. […] Inasumuch as what I’m doing can be called “defending” them, I’d “defend” them not because they are providing us with valuable facts (ha!) but because they don’t owe us facts, or anything coherent, in the first place. It’s not like they’re some kind of official facts-providing service. They just put on clothes to look like one.”

iii. Chatham house rule.

iv. Sex Determination: Why So Many Ways of Doing It?

“Sexual reproduction is an ancient feature of life on earth, and the familiar X and Y chromosomes in humans and other model species have led to the impression that sex determination mechanisms are old and conserved. In fact, males and females are determined by diverse mechanisms that evolve rapidly in many taxa. Yet this diversity in primary sex-determining signals is coupled with conserved molecular pathways that trigger male or female development. Conflicting selection on different parts of the genome and on the two sexes may drive many of these transitions, but few systems with rapid turnover of sex determination mechanisms have been rigorously studied. Here we survey our current understanding of how and why sex determination evolves in animals and plants and identify important gaps in our knowledge that present exciting research opportunities to characterize the evolutionary forces and molecular pathways underlying the evolution of sex determination.”

v. So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

“Cal Newport’s 2012 book So Good They Can’t Ignore You is a career strategy book designed around four ideas.

The first idea is that ‘follow your passion’ is terrible career advice, and people who say this should be shot don’t know what they’re talking about. […] The second idea is that instead of believing in the passion hypothesis, you should adopt what Newport calls the ‘craftsman mindset’. The craftsman mindset is that you should focus on gaining rare and valuable skills, since this is what leads to good career outcomes.

The third idea is that autonomy is the most important component of a ‘dream’ job. Newport argues that when choosing between two jobs, there are compelling reasons to ‘always’ pick the one with higher autonomy over the one with lower autonomy.

The fourth idea is that having a ‘mission’ or a ‘higher purpose’ in your job is probably a good idea, and is really nice if you can find it. […] the book structure is basically: ‘following your passion is bad, instead go for Mastery[,] Autonomy and Purpose — the trio of things that have been proven to motivate knowledge workers’.” […]

“Newport argues that applying deliberate practice to your chosen skill market is your best shot at becoming ‘so good they can’t ignore you’. The key is to stretch — you want to practice skills that are just above your current skill level, so that you experience discomfort — but not too much discomfort that you’ll give up.” […]

“Newport thinks that if your job has one or more of the following qualities, you should leave your job in favour of another where you can build career capital:

  • Your job presents few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing relevant skills that are rare and valuable.
  • Your job focuses on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world.
  • Your job forces you to work with people you really dislike.

If you’re in a job with any of these traits, your ability to gain rare and valuable skills would be hampered. So it’s best to get out.”

vi. Structural brain imaging correlates of general intelligence in UK Biobank.

“The association between brain volume and intelligence has been one of the most regularly-studied—though still controversial—questions in cognitive neuroscience research. The conclusion of multiple previous meta-analyses is that the relation between these two quantities is positive and highly replicable, though modest (Gignac & Bates, 2017; McDaniel, 2005; Pietschnig, Penke, Wicherts, Zeiler, & Voracek, 2015), yet its magnitude remains the subject of debate. The most recent meta-analysis, which included a total sample size of 8036 participants with measures of both brain volume and intelligence, estimated the correlation at r = 0.24 (Pietschnig et al., 2015). A more recent re-analysis of the meta-analytic data, only including healthy adult samples (N = 1758), found a correlation of r = 0.31 (Gignac & Bates, 2017). Furthermore, the correlation increased as a function of intelligence measurement quality: studies with better-quality intelligence tests—for instance, those including multiple measures and a longer testing time—tended to produce even higher correlations with brain volume (up to 0.39). […] Here, we report an analysis of data from a large, single sample with high-quality MRI measurements and four diverse cognitive tests. […] We judge that the large N, study homogeneity, and diversity of cognitive tests relative to previous large scale analyses provides important new evidence on the size of the brain structure-intelligence correlation. By investigating the relations between general intelligence and characteristics of many specific regions and subregions of the brain in this large single sample, we substantially exceed the scope of previous meta-analytic work in this area. […]

“We used a large sample from UK Biobank (N = 29,004, age range = 44–81 years). […] This preregistered study provides a large single sample analysis of the global and regional brain correlates of a latent factor of general intelligence. Our study design avoids issues of publication bias and inconsistent cognitive measurement to which meta-analyses are susceptible, and also provides a latent measure of intelligence which compares favourably with previous single-indicator studies of this type. We estimate the correlation between total brain volume and intelligence to be r = 0.276, which applies to both males and females. Multiple global tissue measures account for around double the variance in g in older participants, relative to those in middle age. Finally, we find that associations with intelligence were strongest in frontal, insula, anterior and medial temporal, lateral occipital and paracingulate cortices, alongside subcortical volumes (especially the thalamus) and the microstructure of the thalamic radiations, association pathways and forceps minor.”

vii. Another IQ study: Low IQ as a predictor of unsuccessful educational and occupational achievement: A register-based study of 1,098,742 men in Denmark 1968–2016.

“Intelligence test score is a well-established predictor of educational and occupational achievement worldwide […]. Longitudinal studies typically report cor-relation coefficients of 0.5–0.6 between intelligence and educational achievement as assessed by educational level or school grades […], correlation coefficients of 0.4–0.5 between intelligence and occupational level […] and cor-relation coefficients of 0.2–0.4 between intelligence and income […]. Although the above-mentioned associations are well-established, low intelligence still seems to be an overlooked problem among young people struggling to complete an education or gain a foothold in the labour market […] Due to contextual differences with regard to educational system and flexibility and security on the labour market as well as educational and labour market policies, the role of intelligence in predicting unsuccessful educational and occupational courses may vary among countries. As Denmark has free admittance to education at all levels, state financed student grants for all students, and a relatively high support of students with special educational needs, intelligence might be expected to play a larger role – as socioeconomic factors might be of less importance – with regard to educational and occupational achievement compared with countries outside Scandinavia. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate the role of IQ in predicting a wide range of indicators of unsuccessful educational and occupational achievement among young people born across five decades in Denmark.”

“Individuals who differed in IQ score were found to differ with regard to all indicators of unsuccessful educational and occupational achievement such that low IQ was associated with a higher proportion of unsuccessful educational and occupational achievement. For example, among the 12.1% of our study population who left lower secondary school without receiving a certificate, 39.7% had an IQ < 80 and 23.1% had an IQ of 80–89, although these individuals only accounted for 7.8% and 13.1% of the total study population. The main analyses showed that IQ was inversely associated with all indicators of unsuccessful educational and occupational achievement in young adulthood after adjustment for covariates […] With regard to unsuccessful educational achievement, […] the probabilities of no school leaving certificate, no youth education at age 25, and no vocational qualification at age 30 decreased with increasing IQ in a cubic relation, suggesting essentially no or only weak associations at superior IQ levels. IQ had the strongest influence on the probability of no school leaving certificate. Although the probabilities of the three outcome indicators were almost the same among individuals with extremely low IQ, the probability of no school leaving certificate approached zero among individuals with an IQ of 100 or above whereas the probabilities of no youth education at age 25 and no vocational qualification at age 30 remained notably higher. […] individuals with an IQ of 70 had a median gross income of 301,347 DKK, individuals with an IQ of 100 had a median gross income of 331,854, and individuals with an IQ of 130 had a median gross income of 363,089 DKK – in the beginning of June 2018 corresponding to about 47,856 USD, 52,701 USD, and 57,662 USD, respectively. […] The results showed that among individuals undergoing education, low IQ was associated with a higher hazard rate of passing to employment, unemployment, sickness benefits receipt and welfare benefits receipt […]. This indicates that individuals with low IQ tend to leave the educational system to find employment at a younger age than individuals with high IQ, but that this early leave from the educational system often is associated with a transition into unemployment, sickness benefits receipt and welfare benefits receipt.”

Fig 1

Conclusions
This study of 1,098,742 Danish men followed in national registers from 1968 to 2016 found that low IQ was a strong and consistent predictor of 10 indicators of unsuccessful educational and occupational achievement in young adulthood. Overall, it seemed that IQ had the strongest influence on the risk of unsuccessful educational achievement and on the risk of disability pension, and that the influence of IQ on educational achievement was strongest in the early educational career and decreased over time. At the community level our findings suggest that intelligence should be considered when planning interventions to reduce the rates of early school leaving and the unemployment rates and at the individual level our findings suggest that assessment of intelligence may provide crucial information for the counselling of poor-functioning schoolchildren and adolescents with regard to both the immediate educational goals and the more distant work-related future.”

September 15, 2019 Posted by | Biology, IQ, Medicine, Psychology, Studies | Leave a comment