Econstudentlog

A game

I just played a 5 minute game against a Turkish player named Abdul Suleiman. I made one bad move, 21…Qa4?, because I at that time was pouring myself a cup of coffee while playing – and I am terrible at multitasking – but aside from that this was a good game against a reasonably strong player. A poor player would not have resigned quite so fast, even if the end position is completely lost for white and fritz gives it a -4.5 to -5 evalution. Watch it here.

36…Rd8 was incidentally not a good move either, but at that point the game was basically already over, so it didn’t matter all that much; however much stronger was 36…Ra4. If 37.Qd2 then …Rxa3 and white has nothing. If ie. 37.h4 then …Rd8, 38.Qd2 Qc5 and no matter what white does the knight is toast and the game is over.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Chess | 4 Comments

Going Postal

…by Terry Pratchett is one of the books I’m currently reading.

You might not know this, but before J.K. Rowling entered the scene, Pratchett was for a long time one of the British authors of the day – he was the UK’s best selling author of the 90’es. More than 50 million books sold worldwide: There was – and is – a reason. Today he has Alzheimer’s, and he is unlikely to publish much more than he already has. If you don’t know Pratchett’s Discworld series, follow this link, then, if you think you might be the least bit interested, hurry on to amazon or some other online book store and place your order. It doesn’t much matter where you start; some characters are present in more books than one, but each book can easily be read individually without knowing much about the Discworld Universe in general and anyway wikipedia and/or other websites devoted to this purpose can help you out with the context.

In my previous post, I stated that Pratchett’s books were light reading. They are, and they are also very, very funny. If you don’t have to stop at least a dozen times during this book, because you are laughing out loud, then there’s something wrong with you. It’s a book about an immensely likeable fraud, thief, liar and con artist, who goes by the name of Moist von Lipwig (at least now he does) and who is in the beginning of the book presented with the simple choice: Certain death by execution or the job as head of the local Post Office. The local town, Ankh-Morpork, has a Assassins’ Guild, and in the book you encounter the word Vonallesvolkommenunverstandlichdasdaskeit, among others. It’s a crazy book, but and it’s great.

I am loath to pick out excerpts from this book, because no excerpt would do it justice, but I guess a few samples are in order. Here’s some of the stuff you’ll encounter:

Moist sighed. ‘Do you really think all this deters crime, Mr Trooper?’ he said.
‘Well, in the generality of things I’d say it’s hard to tell, given that it’s hard to find evidence of crimes not committed,’ said the hangman, giving the trapdoor a final rattle. ‘But in the specificality, sir, I’d say it’s very efficacious.
‘Meaning what?’ said Moist.
‘Meaning I’ve never seen someone up here more’n once, sir. Shall we go?’
There was a stir when they climbed up into the chilly morning air, followed by a few boos and even some applause. People were strange like that. Steal five dollars and you were a petty thief. Steal thousands of dollars and you were either a government or a hero.

That’s why it [magic] was left to wizards, who knew how to handle it safely. Not doing any magic at all was the chief task of wizards – not ‘not doing magic’ because they couldn’t do magic, but not doing magic when they could do and did not. Any ignorant fool can fail to turn someone else into a frog. You have to be clever to refrain from doing it when you know how easy it is.

He [Moist] liked Teemer and Spools. He liked the kind of business where you could actually speak to the man whose name was over the door; it meant it probably wasn’t run by crooks. And he liked the big, solid, unflappable workmen, recognizing in them all the things he knew he lacked, like steadfastness, solidarity and honesty. You couldn’t lie to a lathe or fool a hammer. They were good people, and quite unlike him …
One way in which they were quite unlike him was that none of them, right now, probably had wads of stolen paper stuffed into their jacket.
He really shouldn’t have done it, he really shouldn’t. It was just that Mr Spools was a kind and enthusiastic man and the desk had been covered with examples of his wonderful work, and when the perforation press was being made people had been bustling around and not really paying Moist much attention and he’d … tidied up. He couldn’t help himself. He was a crook. What did Vetinari expect?

She froze, staring over his shoulder. He saw her right hand scrabble frantically among the cutlery and grab a knife.
‘That bastard has just walked into the place!’, she hissed. ‘Reacher Gilt! I’ll just kill him and join you for the pudding…’
‘You can’t do that!’ hissed Moist.
‘Oh, why not?’
‘You’re using the wrong knife! That’s for the fish! You’ll get into trouble!’

No, it’s not Shakespeare. But it is highly recommended if you like some really funny and fast-paced fantasy.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Federal regulation of the American health care system

This paper, from the mercatus center at GMU by Don King, gives you the highlights. I haven’t read it yet, but if you want to know more about this subject, I doubt this is a bad place to start.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | economics, studies | Leave a comment

A few numbers

Some numbers from realclearpolitics:

“Congressional job approval”:
26.8 percent approve.
64.0 percent disapprove.

Let me just spell that one out for those of you with poor math skills: Almost 2 out of 3 Americans disapprove of the work their own elected representatives do.

“Direction of country”:
38.6 percent “right direction”.
53.8 percent: “wrong track”.

The president’s approval rating is still above 50 percent (52.5 vs 40.7). Within the last 9 months, the amount of people who disapprove of Obama has more than doubled – see the previous link.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | Obama, politics, USA | 1 Comment

Mental health break…

Some beautiful pictures.

I usually employ auditory stimuli when I want to relax, but sometimes visual stimuli work just as well. Click the pictures to watch them in a higher resolution. Here’s the link:

nature-6-Beautiful-Free-Pictures

nature-51-Beautiful-Free-Pictures

nature-113-Beautiful-Free-Pictures

nature-114-Beautiful-Free-Pictures

tree-62-Beautiful-Free-Pictures

wild-animal-26-beautifulfreepictures

wild-animals-58-Beautiful-Free-Pictures

flowers-59-BeautifulFreePictures

flower-105-BeautifulFreePictures

September 27, 2009 Posted by | biology, Nature, pictures, random stuff | Leave a comment

Paleoanthropology to the People!

That is what Razib Khan and professor John Hawks have called their discussion about paleoanthropology which is available here.

As I read Grahame Clark not long ago, I could follow most of the discussion relatively easily. I found it very interesting; Razib asked – and Hawks answered – quite a few of the questions I have been asking myself when reading about this subject previously.

In order for you to understand all of it, the diavlog requires that you know a bit about this subject already, but even if you don’t, this is an interesting short treatment of (some aspects of) the evolutionary history of the hominids.

September 26, 2009 Posted by | anthropology | 2 Comments

What I’m reading…

Not a lot at the moment, that I must admit, but I have begun:

1) The Classical World, by Robin Lane Fox. Ancient Greece and ancient Rome, 900 years, ~ 700 pages. My little brother bought it some time ago. After he’d bought it, he soon realised that he would fall asleep every time he’d open the book within just a few minutes. When we last met, he thus of course did what any considerate brother would do: He asked his older brother if he’d like to give the book a go! No, he wasn’t being sarcastic, he just knows me reasonably well. Of course I said yes right away… Some 60 pages later, I haven’t regretted this decision, it’s very interesting.

2) Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett. It’s from 2004, so it’s very new by my standards. It is however also a) part of the Discworld Series (which I’ve read a couple of books from before a long time ago) and b) it also comes highly recommended by my little brother – who more often than not get’s it just right when he recommends books to me (he was ie. the one who originally coaxed me into reading Heller); so of course I had to give it a go! The P=0 was an important argument in favor of the book too. The same goes for Making Money, which I intend to read after having completed GP. They are light reading, 100 percent entertainment, for the times where I can’t be bothered to do something a little bit more serious. I intend to start reading my first bit of Shakespeare before the end of the year so no, I don’t necessarily think I’m going soft on my old days.

3) Stalinismen’s fascination, by Bent Jensen. I’ve been meaning to write something about this book for a while now, but somehow I never got around to actually do it. I’ll see if I can’t put together at least one post by the end of the weekend.

September 19, 2009 Posted by | books | Leave a comment

Et par studier eller fem (eller elleve)

Herunder følger en række studier jeg enten har kigget nærmere på inden for de sidste par måneder, eller der som minimum har fanget min interesse i en sådan grad, at jeg har gemt et link til dem, med henblik på at læse dem på et senere tidspunkt. Jeg vil formodentligt indkorporere dem og resultaterne i mine to store posts om diabetes (som du kan læse her og her), men har ikke rigtigt fundet tid til det endnu:

1) Mortality from heart disease in a cohort of 23,000 patients with insulin-treated diabetes. Undersøgelsen er fra England, og er baseret på et meget omfattende kohort-studie af britiske type 1 diabetikere, der desværre ikke synes at være frit tilgængeligt online.

2) Mortality Trends in Type 1 Diabetes – The Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Registry 1965–1999

Jeg har ledt noget efter sådanne studier, og har kunnet konstatere – som det også fremgår af de studier, der rent faktisk er foretaget – at der er lavet meget få undersøgelser specifikt af unge type 1 diabetikeres mortalitet i et fremadrettet perspektiv, som undersøger patienterne i udgangspunktet og så i øvrigt også følger dem over tidsintervaller lange nok til at få nogle resultater, der faktisk kan bruges til noget. Dette studie er et af dem, og det følger amerikanske diabetikere fra Pennsylvania over 3 årtier.

2a) Long-Term Mortality and Incidence of Renal Dialysis and Transplantation in Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. Dette er et andet af de få studier, der har kigget nærmere på type 1 diabetikeres mortalitet på langt sigt – dette studie følger østrigske patienter fra Lainz Hospital, Wien, over to årtier, med særlig fokus på udviklingen af nyrekomplikationer blandt patienterne.

2b) Long-term mortality in a nationwide cohort of childhood-onset type 1 diabetic patients in Norway. Studiet er det nyeste af sin art, jeg har kunnet finde (fra 2006), og det inkluderer alle norske type 1 diabetikere diagnosticeret inden deres 15. leveår i perioden fra 1973-82 (n=1906). Norsk og dansk diabetesbehandling er, i hvert fald i et internationalt perspektiv, relativt ens, så det er formodentligt, i kraft af kombinationen af dette forhold og undersøgelsens alder, det nærmeste man som dansk diabetiker kommer en samlet opgørelse over disse variable, der med nogen varsomhed kan overføres til danske forhold i et relativt nutidigt perspektiv.

2c) Mortality of patients with childhood onset (0-17 years) Type 1 diabetes in Israel: a population-based study*. Dette er, som du nok kan gætte, et fjerde af den slags mortalitetsstudier, der her omfatter israelske diabetikere. Samtlige israelske diabetikere diagnosticeret inden 18. leveår i perioden fra 1965 og frem til 1993 er inddraget i studiet, og dødsårsagerne søgt klarlagt.

2d) Long-Term Mortality in Nationwide Cohorts of Childhood-Onset Type 1 Diabetes in Japan and Finland. Dette er et sammenligneligt studie, der sammenligner dødeligheden for type 1 diabetikere diagnosticeret i barndommen i Finland og Japan over en årrække. Det er et omfattende studie med n ~ 7000. Finland er det land i verden med den højeste incidens af type 1 diabetes, og Japans incidens er til gengæld meget lav i en international sammenhæng, så på den måde er det bestemt ikke kun de forskellige sundhedssystemer, der har medvirket til at forårsage den markante forskel i prognosen for patienterne i de to lande, som dette studie finder (hvis en læge kun sjældent ser en bestemt sygdom blandt patienterne, er han eller hun alt andet lige mindre tilbøjelig til at mistænke den pågældende sygdom for at ligge bag symptomerne, og det tager længere tid at stille diagnose. For en diabetiker der indlægges med ketoacidose kan denne forlængede diagnoseperiode koste patienten livet. Der er også learning curve effekter. Og så videre…). Hvor stor forskellen var mellem to industrialiserede og moderne samfunds patienters prognose, var for mig meget overraskende.

3) HDL Composition Predicts New-Onset Cardiovascular Disease in Patients With Type 1 Diabetes. For så vidt er det bare en kort rapport på et par sider, men den er alligevel interessant, for selvom jeg godt kendte lidt til dyslipidæmis betydning for risikoen for kardiovaskulære events, har jeg på ingen måde sat mig nærmere ind i detaljerne.

4) Weight Loss in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. For at gøre en lang historie kort: Diabetikere har vanskeligere ved at tabe sig end ikke-diabetikere. Det er ikke noget nyt resultat, men det er et væsentligt forhold, jeg ikke har været inde på i min oprindelige artikel om type 1 og type 2 diabetes. Hvis du venter med at tabe dig, til du har fået dit første hjerteanfald som følge af type 2 diabetes, så får du pokkers svært ved at tabe dig efterfølgende – det er faktisk meget lettere at opnå et varigt vægttab, hvis du starter ud før du mere eller mindre har ødelagt din krop med fed mad og fysisk inaktivitet gennem mange år. Ja, jeg lyder frelst, men læs min artikel om de diabetiske senkomplikationer i sin helhed, før du dømmer mig. Og husk så på, at artiklen ikke er færdig endnu, og derfor stadig mangler at dække flere yderst væsentlige komplikationer i detaljer.

5) Reliability of causes of death in persons with Type I diabetes. Løst relateret til studierne 2-2d er dette et tysk studie fra 2002, der har kigget nærmere på dødsfald blandt type 1 diabetikere, og sammenlignet resultaterne af et undersøgelsespanels konklusioner med de udstedte dødsattester. Grundlæggende finder studiet, at diabetes som primær- og sekundær dødsårsag er underrapporteret i dødsattesterne blandt type 1 diabetikere, eller sagt på en anden måde; at type 1 diabetes koster flere leveår/liv end vi vil kunne læse ud af statistikkerne, hvis disse er baseret på de officielle dødsattester, hvad langt de fleste af den slags opgørelser er.

6) Mid- and Late-Life Diabetes in Relation to the Risk of Dementia – A Population-Based Twin Study. Studiet finder at diabetikere har forhøjet risiko for alle former for demens:

In GEE models [Generalized Estimating Equations], diabetes was associated with adjusted odds ratios (ORs) (95% CI) of 1.89 (1.51–2.38) for dementia, 1.69 (1.16–2.36) for Alzheimer’s disease, and 2.17 (1.36–3.47) for vascular dementia.

Jeg ville i øvrigt gerne i forlængelse af ovenstående læse nedenstående studie i sin helhed, men har været ude af stand til at finde en frit tilgængeligt udgave online, og jeg nægter at betale for det. Det kunne sandsynligvis uddybe:

7) Ageing and diabetes: implications for brain function

Fra abstractet:

Diabetes mellitus is associated with moderate cognitive deficits and neurophysiological and structural changes in the brain, a condition that may be referred to as diabetic encephalopathy. Diabetes increases the risk of dementia, particularly in the elderly. The emerging view is that the diabetic brain features many symptoms that are best described as “accelerated brain ageing.”

Når diabetikeres blodkar generelt bliver gamle før tid, giver det god mening at hjernen også gør det. Det er dog, så vidt jeg har kunnet forstå, uklart hvilken rolle den tilførte insulins interaktion med hjernecellerne spiller her.

September 17, 2009 Posted by | diabetes | Leave a comment

Arnold’s paper…

Arnold Kling has published a new paper titled: Not What They Had in Mind: A History of Policies that Produced the Financial Crisis of 2008.

He talks a little about it here. I’ve only skimmed the paper so far, but it looks good. Quite a few people who talk about this subject today seem to know very little about the history of financial regulation, which is a subject Arnold covers in some detail in this paper.

September 15, 2009 Posted by | economics | Leave a comment

Rygning, druk, selvmord, helbredsomkostninger: Et tilbageblik

Alle data er fra OECD, som har meget mere (følg linket øverst med nøgleindikatorer, det er der tallene stammer fra).

tobaksforbrug

Alkoholforbrug

Selvmord

Sundhedsudgifter, pct. af BNP

Sundhedsudgifter, offentlig andel

levetid

Nogle observationer:

1) Faldet i tobaksforbruget overvurderes sandsynligvis i disse data. Min hypotese er, at hvor andelen af rygere, som ryger dagligt, unægteligt er faldet voldsomt i perioden, har andelen af rygere, som ryger ofte men ikke hver dag (“festrygere” mv.), været stigende i perioden. Men det er nu engang umuligt at komme udenom, at der er tale om et ganske markant fald i perioden, især blandt mændene. I 1967 røg mere end 2 ud af 3 af de mænd som indgik i opgørelsen (70%), mens der i 2006 var tale om blot hver fjerde (26%). For kvinderne har faldet ikke været helt så markant; de er gået fra 47 til 23 % – bemærk i øvrigt at de to køns andel af rygere, hvis vi kan stole på disse data, er konvergeret næsten fuldstændigt i perioden: Og grunden til at kvinder og mænd ryger næsten lige meget i dag, er ikke at kvinderne ryger mere end før, men derimod at flere mænd har kvittet tobakken eller aldrig er begyndt at ryge. Et supplerende mål for rygningens omfang, der ville være rart at have, var cigaretter røget/dag/ryger – hvis alle rygere ryger i snit dobbelt så mange cigaretter i dag som rygerne gjorde i 60erne, så er der mange ting, der er lidt vanskelige at konkludere nærmere på i sundhedssammenhæng, og selvom forskellen nu nok ikke er så stor endda, føjer det forhold at vi ikke ved noget om forbruget opgjort i forbrugsenheder (antal cigaretter, gram nikotin eller noget helt tredje) et ekstra lag af usikkerhed til, når vi skal tolke data. Dette mål er især en relevant parameter, fordi helbredseffekten af rygning ikke alle steder i det relevante interval er lineær i antallet af cigaretter; således forværrer springet fra nul til eksempelvis to cigaretter om dagen helbreddet betydeligt mere end hoppet fra 2 til 4.

Andelen af danskere, der ryger dagligt, korrelerer på øjemålet i øvrigt ret godt med den forventede levealder. Husk i den forbindelse, at selvom de fleste primært forbinder rygning med luftvejssygdomme (KOL, kronisk bronkitis mv.) og cancer (primært lunge- og strubekræft), koster rygning også adskillige tusinde menneskeliv som følge af hjerte-kar sygdom, en risikofaktor som mange desværre ofte har det med at glemme eller undervurdere, når de evaluerer risikoen forbundet med rygning. Rygning i sig selv mere end fordobler risikoen for at dø af en blodprop.

2) Alkoholforbruget vokser eksplosivt frem til den første oliekrise, og fordobles i starten af perioden i løbet af bare 15 år. Efter den eksplosive udvikling i 60erne og til dels 70erne har forbruget stabiliseret sig betydeligt, og hvis man bruger 1976 som basisår har forbruget ikke på noget tidspunkt siden afveget med mere end 10 procent. Så hvad skete der i 60’erne? Befolkningen blev rigere og havde nu endelig råd til alkohol? Alkoholkulturen ændredes? Det blev lovligt at reklamere for alkoholiske produkter? Der var store ungdomsårgange født i efterkrigstiden, og de blev i løbet af 60erne gamle nok til at drikke og opføre sig åndssvagt? Andre forklaringer? Ungdomsoprøret er ikke nogen god forklaringsmodel, det kommer mindst et årti for sent til at forklare denne udvikling.

3) Det opgivne mål for selvmord er faldet meget set over perioden som en helhed; fra et udgangspunkt i 1960 på 427 tabte leveår pr. 100.000 indbyggere var tallet i 2006, 201, under det halve. Tallet har generelt været faldende siden 1980, hvor det toppede med 643. Tallet tog et ordentligt hop fra 1978 til 1980, hvor det steg med hele 40 procent (!) – 2. oliekrise kostede helt bogstavelig talt flere hundrede menneskeliv herhjemme, det er svært at finde andre forklaringer.
Man skal huske på, at dette tal ikke tæller mange pensionisters selvmord med, da folk over 69 år ikke er med i opgørelsen. Det er lidt uheldigt, fordi netop dette tal har været stigende i perioden; i 2005 blev næsten hver tredje selvmord herhjemme foretaget af folk over 65 år, og den højeste selvmordsrate blandt nogen aldersgruppe herhjemme er -raten for mænd over 80 år. Selvom der ikke går så mange leveår tabt, når individer i denne aldersgruppe begår selvmord, kan man let komme til at undervurdere selvmordsomfanget, hvis man smider de gamle ud af samplen og i øvrigt heller ikke opgør et tal for antallet af selvmord, men kun antallet af tabte leveår.

4) Sundhedsudgifternes udvikling var anderledes end jeg havde forestillet mig. Reelt har det i hele perioden ligget inden for et ret snævert bånd på 8-10 procent af BNP, og det er svært at få øje på nogen stærkt stigende trend i perioden. Man kan dog godt – i forhold til udviklingen fremover – diskutere, om der har været tale om et strukturelt skifte sidst i perioden: I perioden 2000 til 2007 var der ingen år, hvor -udgifterne faldt, og det er den eneste periode i samplen med så lang tids uafbrudt ikke-negativ vækst.

5) Når det kommer til det offentliges andel af sundhedsudgifterne, var den da Nyrup kom til magten 82.7 procent, og det var den også da han forlod Statsministeriet i 2001. Tallet er siden, bl.a. under Lars løkke’s ledelse (2001-2005) vokset til 84.5 procent. Det er værd at bemærke, at private ydelser som finansieres af det offentlige også tæller med i denne statistik, og det er derfor ikke korrekt på sektorniveau at sætte lighedstegn mellem finansieringsandelen og arbejdsbyrdeandelen – der er næppe tvivl om, at en større del af sundhedsydelserne end under Nyrup i dag produceres af det private erhvervsliv. Om dette, altså øget privat produktion af sundhedsydelser på det offentliges regning, så for øvrigt har været en væsentlig driver for de voksende sundhedsomkostninger siden årtusindskiftet, er et godt spørgsmål; jeg ville ikke i udgangspunktet være afvisende over for en sådan hypotese.

6) Den forventede levealder er vokset i perioden. Børn født i dag kan i snit forvente at dø ca. 6 år senere end de kunne, hvis de var født i 1960. Det er lidt over et år pr. årti, eller måske 3 leveår mere pr. generation. Det er, synes jeg, sådan set ikke så meget, hvis man tænker lidt over det.

Var det en god post? Lærte du noget, du ikke vidste allerede, eller var alt det her “old news”? Har du noget at tilføje? Bør jeg holde igen med den slags data-pakkede posts fremover? Fortæl, fortæl…

September 15, 2009 Posted by | data, demografi, Sundhed | 2 Comments

Interesting fact of the day

The government is financing 9 out of 10 new mortgages in the United States.

Link, via Razib Khan.

And yes, of course by “interesting” I mean interesting as in “may you live in interesting times” -interesting.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | economics, USA | Leave a comment

Quote of the day

“The demand for alternatives to GDP resides predominantly in certain quarters of the environmental movement. It’s easy to see why. Many environmentalists demand policies that, if implemented, would show up as unmitigated damage in economic measures like GDP per capita. I think it’s difficult to overstate how huge an impediment this is to much of the environmental movement — especially since these measures do track the elements of well-being pretty well.

Some enviromentalists, like Thomas L. Friedman and Van Jones, go the congruence route and jump into the business of retailing fantasies about pro-growth green central planning. But this kind of “and a pony!” no tradeoffs stuff is a pretty hard sell. Anybody really serious about saving the world from the peril of a more livable Canada is going to have to argue for policies that will indeed gut-punch world income growth. That argument is a lot easier to make if you can first persuade governments and journalists to shelve standard economic measures and replace them with new figures that make a virtue of green-tinted impoverishment. It’s hard to fail when you’ve redefined success.”

Will Wilkinson.

(Because of Ulla’s previous request, I have decided for the time being to not italize long quotes – the above method, with citationmarks and a “…” in the end, will be applied instead. To avoid unnecessary confusion however, my decision rule for now is that I will only use the method applied above in posts where I use the word quote in the title of the blog post, and only in posts with only one long quote. In posts containing multiple quotes of varying length, I’ll consistently italize all the quotes in the post in question)

September 10, 2009 Posted by | economics, tradeoffs | Leave a comment

A few games

I’ve finally figured out how to use a java template to display my chess games, so from now on I’ll just leave a link and people can watch the games without having to deal with necessarily thinking many moves ahead. I’ve uploaded a few of them from my archives, links below. Most of them are 10-minute games, so they have reasonably few obvious oversights (even if I admittedly play a little better when I have 20 or 30 minutes).

Game # 1

Game # 2

Game # 3

September 8, 2009 Posted by | Chess | Leave a comment