What I’m reading

Rigth now I’m reading Pratchett, Guards! Guards!. As promising as the best of the books I’ve read by him so far, this is wonderful stuff:

“‘That’s right,’ said Brother Plasterer. ‘My landlord oppresses me something wicked. Banging on the door and going on and on about all the rent I allegedly owe, which is a total lie. And the people next door oppress me all night long. I tell them, I work all day, a man’s got to have some time to learn to play the tuba. That’s oppression, that is. If I’m not under the heel of the oppressor, I don’t know who is.”

The book’s simply hilarious, I love this stuff.

Happy new year everyone!


December 31, 2010 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment


1. It is a sad thing when men have neither the wit to speak well, nor the judgment to hold their tongues. (Jean de La Bruyère. Me: One could easily exchange the word ‘when’ with the word ‘that’. But it’s still sad.)

2. Grief at the absence of a loved one is happiness compared to life with a person one hates. (Jean de La Bruyère)

3. As favor and riches forsake a man, we discover in him the foolishness they concealed, and which no one perceived before. (-ll-)

4. Most men make use of the first part of their life to render the last part miserable. (-ll-)

5. The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet. (Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield)

6. The young leading the young, is like the blind leading the blind; “they will both fall into the ditch.” (-ll-. This is part of what I love about getting feedback here on the blog; for some reason, people who’re somewhat older than me and have a lot more life experience (you know who you are) actually don’t mind reading along and they’re (you’re) nice enough to share their (your) experiences with me. I hate the idea of repeating other people’s mistakes, and even though there probably aren’t any easy ways to get years of experience without actually, you know, spending years getting it, the help that more mature individuals sometimes offer me is greatly appreciated, even though I always have had a hard time accepting help from others one way or the other. Did that sentence even make sense?)

7. Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it; merely to show that you have one. (-ll-)

8. It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in. One yawns, one procrastinates, one can do it when one will, and therfore one seldom does it at all. (-ll-)

9. If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties. (Francis Bacon)

10. The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds. (-ll-)

11. It is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it, that doth the hurt. (-ll-)

12. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. (-ll-)

13. One of the strongest human impulses, after survival and reproduction, is the need to communicate irrelevant information. (Scott Adams)

If the quotes section above contains quite a few aphorisms, it’s not a coincidence. One of my Christmas presents was ‘Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims’, by Rochefoucauld. I’ve read quite a bit of it already of course, but I’m not gonna stop there – he wasn’t the only smart guy in town.

December 28, 2010 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms | 3 Comments

Pride and Prejudice

I felt like I ought to write a post about the book, I’ve neglected book posts for a while, mostly because I haven’t read all that much but also because I just didn’t feel like it. I got Dilbert 2.0 for Christmas and I’ve read nothing else since December 24th. I completed it last night, but I probably won’t post anything related to that book here. It’s great, if you like Scott Adams’ cartoon it’s a book you ought to own.

Quotes from Austen below. Quote 5 and forward contain spoilers to some degree, if you feel like reading the book soon or you have an eidetic memory I’d advise you to not read past that point, even though none of the quotes answer the two questions you are most likely to be asking yourself while reading the last 50-100 pages:

1. ‘Pride,’ observed Mary, […] ‘is a very common failing I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.’ (p.14)

2. ‘I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him tomorrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness, as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.’ (p.16)

3.’Nothing is more deceitful’, said Darcy, ‘than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.’ (p.33)

4.’Oh! Mr. Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr Collins, for she vows she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will change his mind and not have her.’ (p.77. ‘If neither want to marry the other then what’s the problem?’ you might ask. This is England in the beginning of the 19th century. That’s the problem.)

5. ‘I tell you what, Miss Lizzy, if you take it into your head to go on refusing every offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband at all – and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your father is dead. – I shall not be able to keep you – and so I warn you. – I have done with you from this very day. – I told you in the library, you know, that I should never speak to you again, and you will find me as good as my word. I have no pleasure in talking to undutiful children.’ (p.79. Imagine a parent making the same speech today.)

6. [3 days after Mr Collins’ marriage proposal to Lizzy, he proposed to Charlotte Lucas:] ‘Sir William and Lady Lucas were speedily applied to for their consent; and it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity. Mr Collins’s present circumstances made it a most eligible match for their daughter, to whom they could give little fortune; and his prospects of future wealth were exceedingly fair. Lady Lucas began directly to calculate with more interest than the matter had ever excited before, how many years longer Mr Bennet was likely to live… The whole family in short were properly overjoyed on the occasion. The younger girls formed hopes of coming out [US: get married] a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the boys were relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid. Charlotte herself was tolerably composed. She had gained her point, and had time to consider of it. Her reflections were in general satisfactory. Mr Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. – Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven [judging from the book, at that point in time most women were married long before they reached that age – take this quote for instance: ‘Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare. She is almost three and twenty!’ Lydia, p.149], without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it.’ (p. 85. The woman who’s about to marry the guy think of him that way, the woman who rejected him is more blunt: ‘Mr Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man’ (p.93). I agree with the latter description of the guy, based on what’s in the book, though I’d add a few modern terms such as ‘dirtbag’ and ‘asshole’ after having read the guy’s letter to Mr Bennet regarding the Lydia affair, later in the book.)

7. ‘Had Elizabeth’s opinion been all drawn from her own family, she could not have formed a very pleasing picture of conjugal felicity or domestic confort. Her father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour, which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence, had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown.’ (p.159)

8. ‘But can you think that Lydia is so lost to everything but love of him, as to consent to live with him on any other terms than marriage?’
‘It does seem, and it is most shocking indeed,’ replied Elizabeth, with tears in her eyes, ‘that a sister’s sense of decency and virtue in such a point should admit of doubt. But really, I know not what to say.’ (p.189. Oh yes, living with a man without being married? The horror! But things were different back then. Very different…)

9. ‘The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. […] While in their cradles, we planned the union: and now, at the moment when the wishes of [the people planning the union] would be accomplished, in their marriage, to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement […]? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say, that from his earliest hours he was destined for [the other woman]?’ (p.238)

December 28, 2010 Posted by | Books | 1 Comment


All the quotes below are from the best quote collection in one link I’ve seen yet:

1. “It has always appalled me that really bright scientists almost all work in the most competitive fields, the ones in which they are making the least difference. In other words, if they were hit by a truck, the same discovery would be made by somebody else about 10 minutes later.” [Aubrey de Grey]

2. “I listen to all these complaints about rudeness and intemperateness, and the opinion that I come to is that there is no polite way of asking somebody: have you considered the possibility that your entire life has been devoted to a delusion? But that’s a good question to ask. Of course we should ask that question and of course it’s going to offend people. Tough.” [Daniel Dennett]

3. “The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at and repair.” [Douglas Adams]

4. “When will we realize that the fact that we can become accustomed to anything, however disgusting at first, makes it necessary to examine carefully everything we have become accustomed to?” [George Bernard Shaw, A Treatise on Parents and Children (1910)]

5. “You say that your opponent lacks humanity. It’s the oldest semantic weapon there is. Think of all the categories of people who’ve been classified as non-human, in various cultures, at various times. People from other tribes. People with other skin colors. Slaves. Women. The mentally ill. The deaf. Homosexuals. Jews. Bosnians, Croats, Serbs, Armenians, Kurds […]

But suppose you accuse me of ‘lacking humanity.’ What does that actually mean? What am I likely to have done? Murdered someone in cold blood? Drowned a puppy? Eaten meat? Failed to be moved by Beethoven’s Fifth? Or just failed to have—or to seek—an emotional life identical to your own in every respect? Failed to share all your values and aspirations?

The answers is: ‘any one of the above.’ Which is why it’s so fucking lazy. Questioning someone’s ‘humanity’ puts them in the company of serial killers—which saves you the trouble of having to claim anything intelligent about their views.” [Greg Egan (as James Rourke), Distress]

6. “Voting in a democracy makes you feel powerful, much as playing the lottery makes you feel rich.” [Mencius Moldbug]

7. “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” [Christopher Hitchens]

8. “There is no real me! Don’t try to find the real me! Don’t try to find someone inside of me who isn’t me!” [Princess Waltz] – Yudkowsky’s comment to the quote: “What’s odd is not how many people think they contain other people. What’s odd is how many of those people think the other person is the real one.”

9. “Upon his death man must leave everything behind … and depart forever from the world he has known. He must of necessity go to that foul land of death, a fact which makes death the most sorrowful of all events. … Some foreign doctrines, however, teach that death should not be regarded as profoundly sorrowful. … These are all gross deceptions contrary to human sentiment and fundamental truths. Not to be happy over happy events, not to be saddened by sorrowful events, not to show surprise at astonishing events, in a word, to consider it proper not to be moved by whatever happens, are all foreign types of deception and falsehood. They are contrary to human nature and extremely repugnant to me.” [Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801)]

I’m still at my parents, I’ll return to Aarhus tomorrow evening.

December 26, 2010 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

God jul / merry christmas

The rest of the family just left for church and everything is pretty much ready already, so I thought I might as well update now that I have the time to do it.

I started reading Austen Wednesday afternoon, finished last night. It’s a wonderful book [tak Ulla!].

December 24, 2010 Posted by | meta | 2 Comments

Costly, but probably worth it!

This had me laughing out loud:

December 22, 2010 Posted by | fun, Random stuff | Leave a comment

Wikipedia articles of interest

1. Early thermal weapons.

2. Vacuole.

3. Lamarckism.

“Lamarckism (or Lamarckian inheritance) is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring (also known as heritability of acquired characteristics or soft inheritance).”

4. Holy Roman Empire. Do take a closer look at the image of the flag of the HRE from 1200-1350 in the article (a little more here).

5. Pluto.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Astronomy, Biology, Botany, Evolutionary biology, Genetics, History, Wikipedia | Leave a comment

They are getting smarter

“We are conducting another system enhancement to improve Gmail security. Periodically we will need you to verify your identity. Please proceed right away by providing us with the information; user name password birth date country [all four concepts were put in brackets in the original mail, however when I try to post them like they are in the mail, the info inside the brackets disappear].
Refusal to verify your information will result to the account been permanently closed.
Gmail a bit easier

The Gmail Team”

Sent by “”, the title of the mail is ‘Verify your Gmail’. Most spam contains a narrative about a big potential upside that you will forego if you do not react, but few spammers have figured out how to exploit loss aversion as well as this mail. You can lose you email-account if you don’t give them the info they need right away. I think it’s the most convincing spam-mail I’ve gotten yet.

To anyone who’s in doubt if this is spam: If you’re even reasonably sure it’s not, you should be shorting Google’s stock bigtime.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Psychology, Random stuff | 5 Comments

What I’m working on (ctd.)

Or a sample that’s arguably closer than yesterday’s to the kind of stuff I’m actually working with. The pics are from my textbook. Click to view in higher res.

In a couple of months, I’ll probably say that (‘stuff like this’) looks worse than it is. Some of it is quite a bit simpler than it looks, but in general I don’t feel that way right now. Even though we made some progress today there’s still a long way to go.

Stopped working half an hour ago, basically because I couldn’t think straight anymore, not because I wouldn’t like to keep working. On my way to bed. We’re in time trouble and I probably won’t do anything but work and sleep until Friday (not that I’ve been doing all that much else so far); anyway, don’t expect any updates until Friday evening or some time Saturday.

December 7, 2010 Posted by | Econometrics, Personal, Random stuff, Statistics | Leave a comment

What I’m working on

I’ve kept the links somewhat general in order not to give any hints to fellow students finding this blogpost via google (none of them relates to the breakthroughs mentioned below), but these links is a good sample of the kind of stuff I’ve been working with today: 1, 2, 3 (notice how big that file is. We frequently look up stuff here), 4, 5. I’ve chosen links with some degree of formalization, though most of them of course don’t go into all that much detail. Our curriculum in this course consists of a few hundred pages like those.

I’ve just parted ways with my study group (until tomorrow morning) after appr. 12 hours of (almost) completely uninterrupted work. Hopefully we just made two major breakthroughs. We work with (think about, manipulate, program with..) equations such as those in the links (and the related concepts) all the time and we’ve done it for days on end already.

This exam is very hard and I’m very tired. The tired part is not because of lack of sleep, that’s not an issue (yet). It’s because thinking is hard. Also, it’s depressing working with this stuff because I’m pretty sure that for a guy with an IQ of 150-160, most of this stuff is simply just a walk in the park. Right now I kinda feel like the stupid kid in primary school.

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Econometrics, Personal, Random stuff, Statistics | Leave a comment

One million dollars! Hurrah!

An email I received from “Carol Karlson” earlier today:

“You have been choosen by the U.N Foundation to receive a Grant Donation of $1,000,000.00 USD.Your Qualification Numbers(G-999-747, UZ-900-77) and you are required to contact the Lottery Payment Officer Mr. Robin Steven with Name,address,country for claim: E-mail :”

I still don’t quite understand how my qualification numbers can possibly be expected to contact mr. Steven on their own, but I’ve been working for 12 hours straight today so I’m not all that sharp right now, and I’m sure it’ll be obvious after a good nights sleep. I won’t miss the chance and wait that long though, I’ll send all my personal informations, including bank account informations, pin-code, telephone number ect. to them right away, so that there can’t possibly be any doubt as to where to transfer the money and/or how to find me and congratulate me in person!

On another note, here’s another link/paper, this one on urbanization and food prices, I’d saved for a day like today. Two sentences that might spike your interest:

“…in 2008, the world’s urban population exceeded its rural population for the first time.” […] “Today, agriculture provides the livelihoods for around one-third of the world’s labour force and generates 2–3% of global value added – although this is misleading in that a significant proportion of industry and services are related to the production, processing, distribution and sale of food, and other agricultural products.”

December 5, 2010 Posted by | Random stuff, Studies | Leave a comment

Another pregnancy-related risky activity I didn’t know about

If a pregnant female wants to increase her likelihood of having grandchildren down the road, she might be well-advised to stay away from painkillers during her pregnancy. Link.

I’ll be very busy during the next week, so don’t expect many updates here and don’t get angry if I don’t respond to your comments. The above link was a link I’d saved for a day like today, where I don’t have the energy to blog but ought to do it anyway in order to keep the blog alive. I don’t have many more of those links lying around, maybe I should have saved it another day or two, but now I’ve already posted it, so.. In a week or so, I’ll try to get back on track.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | health, Random stuff | Leave a comment