An update

Mostly to make clear that even though low posting frequency often means that I feel less well than I sometimes do, this is not the reason for this last week’s lpf. I’m simply too busy to blog much or do stuff that’s blog-worthy. Didn’t really have a weekend this week at all.

Some random stuff/links:

1. How best to learn econometrics.

2. How to mate with King vs King + 2 bishops:

3. Ever wondered what a Vickrey auction is and what the optimal bidding strategy in such an auction is? No? Now you know.

4. How long can people hold their breath under water? (and many other things. The answer of course is: ‘It depends…’)

February 21, 2011 - Posted by | Biology, Chess, Econometrics, Economics, Game theory, Random stuff


  1. 1) I found Tyler’s advice here very lacking. I took an undergrad econometrics class back in the day, and I did indeed learn a few things – about the same that I would have learned by spending a few hours with Wikipedia. No one in the comments suggested Wikipedia either; for me, it’s the best way these days to learn about (or how to do) most things. I taught myself the basics of machine-learning this way.

    2) I personally prefer to first corner the King with the Bishops, and only then bring in my King – reduces the chances for a stupid stalemate, but… to each his own.

    3) Now, if only there were anything that is sold/bought via Vickrey auctions [sigh].

    4) A great article – thanks. The info on the “sea gypsies” is fascinating.I must admit to reading the article from an odd personal perspective. I am not a good swimmer. I can do crawl and backstroke, but not for any extended distance/time – the water running down or splashing over my face seems to disrupt my breathing enough to make me tired after 3-4 laps. It seems I cannot relax while swimming this way. On the other hand, I can hold my breath for 3 minutes lying on the couch, and easily at least 1/2 of that while swimming underwater. Of course, the last 45 sec of those 3 min is suppressing the inhaling reflex, but the total counts for something. On a good day, I can swim a lap underwater without resurfacing; on a bad one, at least 2/3 of a lap. It seems for me, this is the easiest way to swim, especially if I can take 30 sec to rest after a lap. Not practical, to the extent that swimming is practical for land mammals at all, but interesting, I think. In that vein, let me share this: – pure joy. I have not looked into why the guy was denied the world record – I am sure it’s some idiotic rule on the books of the Int’l Swimming Federation, or whatever it is called. He did what they all do, only better, and for a longer time.

    Comment by Plamus | February 23, 2011 | Reply

  2. Plamus

    The links were mostly put there in order for it not to be a one-paragraph post saying basically nothing but ‘sorry I don’t update more often’. It was just some of the links I had in my bookmarks, usually it takes more than that for them to get posted here.

    As to 1) I found Tyler’s advice lacking as well, it was actually quite disappointing reading that post after I’d read the title, but when I started thinking I realized I didn’t really know how to answer the question he poses either. Probably because there’s isn’t an answer; people are different and have different ways to learn, which should be the starting point. Oh, and yes, a professor earning his living at least in part by teaching should probably be aware of that. But there was a lot of feedback in the comments from other people, some of which would likely be useful to an outsider.

    If the ‘about the same that I would have learned by spending a few hours with Wikipedia’-remark is true, you should have your tuition-money back. [Of course we’re all in on the fact that it’s not the material taught but the credentials obtained that matters in this area, but yeah, that’s just depressing..] I took an econometrics course last semester and one of the, if not the, thing I’ve had most problems with has been how to translate the formal stuff into corresponding actions/how to execute the stuff in a statistical program. I usually understand the math, but setting up that while loop with the proper feedback mechanisms still takes a lot of work. Wikipedia is wonderful and you know how I feel about it, but it can’t teach you how to do the 7-period forecast of an ARMA model in a statistical program in a very easy way that only takes a few clicks with the mouse. For theory it’s perfect though, or at least quite close to it.

    Our course, and the last stat course I had before that as well, had a high focus on application of the methods (though there was some theory as well) and that’s if anything wikipedia’s weak point in this area. However if I had to give only one advice, and it’s to people thinking about taking a course in the stuff, it’d be ‘do anything to find a good teacher and avoid a bad teacher’. I have had two professors in statistics which you’d have to almost break my arm for me to say anything bad about, and I’ve had one that made me want to kill myself…during the lecture…in front of him…seppuku-style…to make him understand how much I appreciated his work. A couple of other stats-professors I hardly remember, one wasn’t very good, the other was just, meh.

    Anyway, your remark: “it’s the best way these days to learn about (or how to do) most things” I really have no argument with. Maybe in a few areas Khan Academy is superior (for some), but wikipedia is for most stuff clearly the first/best place to go.

    4) Reading the comments to the video, one comment states:

    “in the 90’s people did do this. In finals you could watch all 8 swimmers do full 50’s and 100’s underwater. The rule is maximum 15m underwater so that backstroke is still backstroke”

    I can’t swim at all, so you might say my perspective is kind of odd too.

    Comment by US | February 23, 2011 | Reply

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