A game

This was just insane stuff. I don’t usually play like this.

…Though perhaps I should (play like this). Piece sack. Pawn sack. Rook sack. Mate. Nice! Yes, I know, 20…Qa3+, 21.Qa2 Nc2# was even faster but it was a 10 min game and you can’t get everything right.

After 19.Na4 the mate cannot be stopped but white is in deep trouble long before that point is reached. True, he isn’t completely dead after 19.Qc2, a difficult move to play, but after …Nxc2 20.Kxc2 Qb6! he’s still losing another piece. The fact that a move like that is necessary illustrates just how strong the black attack is, even though only relatively few pieces are involved. White can’t protect both the knight on c3 – which will be lost after 21…Qxb3+ and 22…Qxc3 – and the bishop – which is hanging if 21…Qxf2+ can’t be followed by 22.Rd2. It’s not completely lost as black gave a lot of material for the attack, but black should be winning after i.e. 19.Qc2 …Nxc2, 20.Kxc2 Qb6, 21.Rhf1…Qxb3+, 22.Kd2 Qxb2+, 23.Ke3 Qxc3 or 21.Rb1…Qxf2+, 22.Kc1 Qxg2, 23.Rd1 Qxh3.

So when did it go wrong for white? I think 14.Nxe6 was definitely a very risky move to play. But then again so was 0-0-0 after he’d played Bxc5 – he hadn’t even started his attack on the king side yet and I already have a rook in the half open b-file. When a player decides to go ‘all in’ for the attack on the enemy king even small inaccuracies grow large very fast; one move wasted can lose you the game.

Part of why I played like this is that I’m currently reading Jacob Aagaard’s Attacking Manual 1. It has made me a little less scared of rushing into quite complicated positions – I’ve even started playing the King’s Gambit on a semi-regular basis online (even though I haven’t given up the Petroff..).


April 28, 2011 Posted by | Chess | 5 Comments


1. “I do not live for what the world thinks of me, but for what I think of myself.” (Jack London)

2. “You got three choices in life: be good, get good or give up. You’ve gone for column D; why? The simple answer is: if you don’t try, you can’t fail. Are you really that simple?” (House)

3. “There are many things that are worse than war. They all begin with defeat.” (Chris Durnell)

4. “In elementary school I found out that doing well just landed you harder work. I have found the same thing in grad school.” (Andrew’)

5. “No one may have the guts to say this, but if we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn’t we?” (James D. Watson)

6. “Varicose veins are the result of an improper selection of grandparents.” (William Osler)

7. “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” (Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

8. “It is better to be envied than pitied.” (Herodotus)

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | 3 Comments

What you do -/ what other people notice

A lot of what we do in our lives is little else but posing for the camera – and all too often, people like Calvin’s dad are the guys watching the pictures. Or, perhaps even more often, they’re the guys not watching the pictures (as David Foster Wallace put it, you’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do).

A belated thank you to Plamus for his kind words in this comment. I left two responses after that, but in neither of them did it even cross my mind that I ought to thank him for his kind words, insted focusing on the ‘correctness’ of the statements.

I’m a very self-centered individual and it’s an aspect I should be working far more with than I am. Even if the guy with the camera probably doesn’t notice one way or the other.

April 22, 2011 Posted by | comics, Personal | 3 Comments

(More) random stuff

Can’t let the blog die so I sort of have to at least post something from time to time. So here goes…

1. Global sex ratios:

At birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
Total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Link. Here’s an image of child sex ratios in India (via brownpundits:

Here’s one for the whole population, image credit: Wikipedia (much larger version at the link):

I’ve from time to time read about the Chinese gender ratio problem, I didn’t know there were much going on on that score in India. The clustering of gender ratio frequencies seems in my opinion sufficiently non-random to merit some explanation or other, especially when it comes to the northern provinces (Punjab, Haryana & Kashmir). Here’s a pic dealing with more countries:


2. Gambler’s ruin. I remember having read about this before, but you forget that kind of stuff over time so worth rehashing. I think the version of the idea I’ve seen before is the first of the four in the article; ‘a gambler who raises his bet to a fixed fraction of bankroll when he wins, but does not reduce it when he loses, will eventually go broke, even if he has a positive expected value on each bet.’ I assume all readers of this blog already know about the Gambler’s fallacy but in case one or two of you don’t already do click the link (and go here afterwards, lots of good stuff at that link and I shall quote from it below as well) – that one is likely far more important in terms of ‘useful stuff to know’ because we’re so prone to committing this error; basically the important thing to note there is that random and independent events are actually random and independent.

A couple of statistics quotes from the tvtropes link:

“The Science Of Discworld books have an arguably accurate but somewhat twisted take on statistics: the chances of anything at all happening are so remote that it doesn’t make sense to be surprised at specific unlikely things.”

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” (Mark Twain. Maybe it’s more of a science quote really – or perhaps a ‘science’ quote?)

“People (especially TV or movie characters who are against the idea of marriage) often like to cite the “50 percent of marriages end in divorce” statistic as the reason they won’t risk getting hitched. That is actually a misleading statistic as it seems to imply that half of all people who get married will wind up divorced. What it doesn’t take into account is the fact that a single person could be married and divorced more than once in a single lifetime. Thus the number of marriages will exceed the number of people and skew the statistics. The likelihood that any one person chosen at random will be divorced during their lifetime is closer to 35 percent (the rate fluctuates wildly for males, females, educated and uneducated populations). It’s still a huge chunk of people, but not as high a failure rate for marriage for an individual as the oft-cited “50 percent of all marriages” statistic would leave you to believe.” (comment after this: “How can you give that setup and not deliver the punchline. “But the other half end in death!””)

A mathematics quote:

“Black Mage: 2 + 2 = 4
Fighter: You can’t transform numbers into other numbers like that. It’d just go on forever. That’s like Witchcraft! ”

3. Messier 87. Interesting stuff, ‘good article’, lots of links.

4. Substitution cipher. I’d guess most people think of codes and codebreaking within this context:

“In cryptography, a substitution cipher is a method of encryption by which units of plaintext are replaced with ciphertext according to a regular system; the “units” may be single letters (the most common), pairs of letters, triplets of letters, mixtures of the above, and so forth. The receiver deciphers the text by performing an inverse substitution.

Substitution ciphers can be compared with transposition ciphers. In a transposition cipher, the units of the plaintext are rearranged in a different and usually quite complex order, but the units themselves are left unchanged. By contrast, in a substitution cipher, the units of the plaintext are retained in the same sequence in the ciphertext, but the units themselves are altered.

There are a number of different types of substitution cipher. If the cipher operates on single letters, it is termed a simple substitution cipher; a cipher that operates on larger groups of letters is termed polygraphic. A monoalphabetic cipher uses fixed substitution over the entire message, whereas a polyalphabetic cipher uses a number of substitutions at different times in the message, where a unit from the plaintext is mapped to one of several possibilities in the ciphertext and vice-versa.”

The one-time-pad stuff related is quite fascinating; that encryption mechanism is literally proven unbreakable if applied correctly (it has other shortcomings though..).

5. Evolution may explain why baby comes early.

“there’s only so much a human female pelvis can increase in terms of width before serious functional problems in locomotion make change in that direction unfeasible. […] If the pelvis was prevented from getting any wider due to biomechanics, and a large adult brain was a necessary condition of high fitness value for humans, then one had to accelerate the timing of childbirth so that the neonate exited while the cranium was manageable in circumference.”

Interesting stuff.

6. Random walk. The article actually has some stuff related to the previous remarks on gambler’s ruin.

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Astronomy, Cryptography, Data, Demographics, Evolutionary biology, marriage, Mathematics, Random stuff, Statistics, Wikipedia | 2 Comments

Some random musings

So, the other day I had this idea while going home from the grocery store; I considered it quite profound at the time. Now I don’t really know anymore, well, it probably isn’t but maybe I ought to post some stuff about it anyway (I’ve not posted much reasonably good stuff in a long while, as the declining(?) number of readers have surely had no problem noticing).

Anyway, first an observation: People invest a huge amount of effort, time and sometimes money in ideas about the world which have few if any outside consequences whatsoever. I’m talking about religion. I’m talking about politics. Some people spend hours, days, even years or decades trying to refine their theories, their thoughts about how everything ‘ought to be’ in the ideal world that is never to be. They do this even though their opinions really don’t matter much in the big picture and even though what they think ‘ought to be’ is completely irrelevant to what is; as no single person ever decided a big election and everybody know that (or do they? – see below). In national elections the mere vote-counting process matters far more as to the outcome of the election than the opinions of individual X. Yet people keep voting and political scientists and public choice people have set up some smart models to try to explain what’s going on (Downs, Tullock, Riker & Ordeshook, Ledyard, Palfrey, Ferejohn & Fiorina, Buchanan, ect., ect.,…). I haven’t read the literature, but I know it exists. Now, when I was walking home this thought hit me: Well, the outcome that people vote can actually make some sort of sense if you combine two main ideas: The sunk cost fallacy and political views as a tribal affiliation signaling method. It’s actually kind of simple, and therefore likely wrong.

So, the first part is loss aversion/sunk cost fallacy-effects. This is basically saying that people vote because they’ve invested a lot in their opinions, in their world-views. They’ve had a lot of arguments along the way, they’ve perhaps even changed their minds about some things along the way – but no matter what, most of them have spent a lot of time with this stuff. One might argue this is a chicken and egg problem, because if simple loss aversion (‘I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with political ideas and much of that might just turn out to have been a complete waste of time if I were to discontinue participating in political debates/discussions; so even though I might be better off not thinking about that stuff anymore, there’s no way I can give up on that subject now, especially considering all the time and effort I’ve put into it already‘) is to blame, that doesn’t get us any closer to why people start arguing about petrol taxes. Now do remember that even though there’s a lot at stake for the individual when politicians make decisions on a national level, that doesn’t make it rational to the individual to worry much about it because his opinion is irrelevant to the outcome anyway. Part of why people vote is probably that they haven’t realized this, maybe you have to let go of that ‘people know their opinion don’t matter at elections’-assumption, I don’t know.

But the second part is linked to this and even if it doesn’t solve the problem, it does help a bit. Now people like to put people in boxes, ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’. We’ve done it for millions of years, we’ll keep doing it. You need to know whom to trust and cooperate with, and whom to attack/evade. Religion works quite well on that score, most religions know who’re the good guys (people who believe in your god) and who’re the bad guys (people who believe in other gods) and they make these nice systems that enforce cooperation within the tribe in a lot of ways. The thing about religion is that you need to believe in the right god to be accepted in the tribe – but usually it’s not quite that simple. That’s because it’s easy to claim that you believe in X. So along the way methods were developed to control the tribe members, to deal with free riders; behavioral constraints (no pork!, no marrying that God-Y fan when you’re a fan of God-X!) for instance. These methods had to be implemented, if not the signaling value of religion would be very low and it wouldn’t be very efficient in separating the ‘true’ tribe members/loyals from the non-tribe members/disloyals.

Along the way a lot of religious power got to be transferred to the state (state aid to poor people instead of religious donations). So the role of religion went down somewhat. Also, some people figured that that religious stuff was quite stupid. So they found new ways to split the world into ‘my type’ and ‘the other type’. In a way politics always had this role too of course, because politics and religion didn’t really separate until quite late in history (needless to say, a lot of places it hasn’t – and no, I will not add a ‘yet’ to that sentence, as I see no good reason why the long term outcome should turn out to be a godless society). Anyway, democracy made it possible to have status games where people didn’t argue about religion and politics started to matter a lot when it came to tribal affiliation. As the power of the state grew, handling more and more stuff, dealing with all kinds of related – and unrelated – stuff, it became a lot easier to use political cues as tribal markers. Political discussions got both complex enough for people to use discussion performance as an ability and loyalty signal, and the matters the politicians dealt with became important enough to merit people’s attention, at least in theory.

So people started telling their children both which god to believe in and which politician to vote for. They told their children. And they spent a lot of time arguing with other people, the other people who’d found out that ‘politics is the new religion’.

Some people enjoy political debates. Perhaps they like the mental gymnastics that some other people might get by dealing with mathematics or playing chess. Perhaps they think their opinion is important, that other people care about it. Maybe they think that they can change other people’s minds and thereby support the group by converting others to group X, just as they’re told to do by their politicians (and priests).

A lot of political views have an important value as a signal about which kind of person you are you’d like to be. Part of why you dislike the ‘opponent’ is that you disagree with him, but that’s not really all there’s to it. It’s also that you don’t trust him. He didn’t bow to Huitzilopochtli. His political views might have no influence on anything relevant to your relationship; you might be perfectly able to meet with him, have a long talk with him about his life, his family, his work, his hobbies – and you might end up being his best friend. Only that’s usually not how it goes, because when you hear about that ‘troublesome’ view on ‘the environment’/’god’/’fiscal sustainability’ you tend to make the ‘troublesome’ views relevant, because – he didn’t bow to Huitzilopochtli. Some people overcome politics by finding another individual with the same views or views which are dissimilar but unimportant, because their parents taught them the magic of ‘you should be able to be friends with everybody’ – which works for both until they meet a guy who bows to Huitzilopochtli. He will not be friends with them until they bow to Huitzilopochtli, and just a bow usually isn’t enough. So they have a tribe too which they’re forced into, even if they’d like not to be tribes members at all.

It’s not that political views matter in the big picture. Your political views that is. They don’t, they really don’t. But they matter in the small picture. Once a societal norm is firmly established it tends to get a life of its own. So people talk about windmills and fat taxes and public pension schemes instead of whether they should pray to Ares or Dionysus. If you talk about it many hours each year, you watch news and so on much of which is also just political posturing and games, then to actually go to the election booth on election day and cast your vote isn’t really a big deal. Also, politicians like voters more than supporters who don’t vote, just like priests like believers who give money to the church more than believers who don’t, so there’s consensus in the tribe that voting is the correct behavior, and if you don’t vote, you don’t bow to Huitzilopochtli and then you’d better have a good explanation. A few other things. First, remember that the more costly the signal, the higher signaling value is associated with the action. Second, decreasing returns do not kick in at the same level for all individuals; stratification and sorting within-group is a natural part of the signaling game. That’s another reason why it’s hard to give up political debates: If you cut off the source of status you derive from participating in the political game (political discussions), you might be unable to recoup the lost status elsewhere.

A funny thing is that I still don’t quite know why I wrote this piece. Intellectual posturing probably – though I could hypothetically have done a lot better in that regard as the Flesch Reading Ease score of the piece is ~60. Pieces like this probably make it easier for me to delude myself into thinking that part of why a few people still read me is that they delude themselves into thinking that I’m an original thinker (even if it’s quite likely that there’s nothing original in the piece above). Do I really think anybody will change their behavior one inch because of this piece? No. I would have said ‘of course not’, but then the question arose: Did I think that before I started writing? Had I even considered the question why I should write something like this? Maybe a little – it was mostly that I was lonely and bored.

April 16, 2011 Posted by | politics, rambling nonsense | Leave a comment

Promoting the unknown, a continuing series



3. This is so (cute? Is that the right word to use? I guess..):

…based of course on La Campanella (which I’ve posted before here on this blog. If the above piece doesn’t sound familiar, you should really follow that link, that’s one of the pieces you ‘need to know’.).


5. Here’s a bit from Czerny’s second symphony:

If you look up Czerny on youtube, there’s only a handful of videos with more than 10.000 views. I just don’t get that.

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment


1. “Civilizations can only be understood by those who are civilized.” (Alfred North Whitehead)

2. “science is real. religion is made up. yes, i know religious people think they’re studying something real, so theologians are doing real work. i don’t think they are, they’re doing fake work with all the intellectual heft of a witch-doctor reading goat entrails.” (Razib Khan. To be fair to the witch-doctors, some ‘science’ is made up too. And some of the stuff people like to call science isn’t science at all. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’ll do it anyway; no, this does not improve upon the position/credibility of the witch-doctors – they’re still reading goat entrails.)

3. “statistical and probabilistic thinking is a real damper on “intellectual” conversation.” […] “introduction of questions about the moments about the distribution, or skepticism as to the representativeness of their sample, and so on, tends to have a chilling affect on the regular flow of discussion. While the average human being engages mostly in gossip and interpersonal conversation of some sort, the self-consciously intellectual interject a bit of data and abstraction (usually in the form of jargon or pithy quotations) into the mix. But the raison d’etre of the intellectual discussion is basically signaling and cuing; in other words, social display. No one really cares about the details and attempting to generate a rigorous model is really beside the point.” (Razib again, an old quote from a post called Why people don’t care about statistics)

4. “Douleur toujours nouvelle pour celui qui souffre et qui se banalise pour l’entourage.” – ‘Pain is always new to the sufferer, but loses its originality for those around him.’ (Alphonse Daudet)

5. “The concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.” (Edmund Burke)

6. “It seems like the best time to start something is 5 years ago.” (Kelly Oxford)

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms, Religion, Science, Statistics | Leave a comment

Wikipedia articles of interest

1. Estuary.

“An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea.” […]

‘Why would I care about those things?’ you might ask. Well, here’s part of the reason: “Estuaries are amongst the most heavily populated areas throughout the world, with about 60% of the world’s population living along estuaries and the coast.” […] “Of the 32 largest cities in the world, 22 are located on estuaries.”

2. Fortress (chess). I liked this article a lot.

3. Holm–Bonferroni method. It’s related to the xkcd-cartoon I posted here not long ago, the method is a way to deal with the problems related to testing multiple hypotheses at the same time.

4. Reactance. I knew about the effect, not that it had a name:

“Reactance is an emotional reaction in direct contradiction to rules or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioral freedoms.

Reactance can occur when someone is heavily pressured to accept a certain view or attitude. Reactance can cause the person to adopt or strengthen a view or attitude that is contrary to what was intended, and also increases resistance to persuasion”

5. Battle of Long Island. To all you Americans out there, my estimate would be that 99+ % of all Europeans have never heard of this. Yes, I know, it was the “first major battle in the American Revolutionary War following the United States Declaration of Independence, the largest battle of the entire conflict, and the first battle in which an army of the United States engaged, having declared it self a nation only the month before.” Still doesn’t change the fact that most people don’t know anything about it.

April 10, 2011 Posted by | Chess, Geology, History, Psychology, Statistics, Wikipedia | Leave a comment

A matching game

Players: i,j (think: male, female)

Preferences: U(IO, II),

IO: Interest overlap.
II: Interest Intensity.

(i,j) have (n,m) interests (they don’t necessarily have equally many), (ni,mj). Let (ki) be the subset of individual i’s interests from the total interest set (ni) which is non-overlapping with the interests set (mj) (non-shared interests), and let (li) be the subset of interests from (ni) which do overlap with (mj) (shared interests). Assume that individual i’s total (negative) utility contribution from the interest set (ki) is equal to [-ki*(aiNO*qiNO)] – where II here enters the model as a scaling vector aiNO with 0 < aiNO < 1, where 0 denotes no interest and 1 denotes high interest, where the NO-part denotes ‘Non-Overlapping’ interests and where q is a relevance factor – some interests are intense but we don’t care if the partner shares them. To get a model one can always solve you probably need to assume q is bounded, but in the real world it often isn’t (‘dealbreakers’). Similarly, the interest set (li) which enter both utility functions Ui and Uj contributes individual i with a utility of [li*(aiO*qiO)] to total utility from entering the relationship, where Oi denotes the interests of individual i which ‘Overlaps’ with interests from the interest set (mj). Let the reservation utility be zero and total utility from entering the relationsship for individual i be li*(aiO*qiO) – ki*(aiNO*qiNO). Do note that the problem is not perfectly symmetric as the scaling parameter qi is in general not equal to qj, even if (li) = (lj). There’s also the problem that the common interest factor might enter (at least in part) the utility function as a share of total interest space – 2 common interests out of 4 might be better than 2 common interests out of 30. Though you might in some cases be able to let this effect enter the model via q.

Utility matters but we need a matching likelihood (ML) as well. Let the likelihood that (i,j) meet be a function of l*(aC), where dML/dl and dML/daC are both positive – so people are more likely to meet if they have many common interests and they are more likely to meet the more intense the interests are (the latter is more dubious than the former, ie. compare internet chess with ballet). Arguably one might include qC in the ML, because some people’s interests choices are ‘potential partner-relevant’, but it’s easier if we leave that out for now. Assume further that…

The model I was beginning to outline above had zero dynamics, no risk, no ‘family preferences’, ‘income/status’-variables, ‘age/looks’ -ll-, geography, beliefs… You might want to remember this model outline next time you hear a social scientist talk about this or that. A very simple model like the one above with few variables and simple relations between the variables can still be quite difficult to solve because you have to think very hard about what’s going on, what you’re assuming along the way and how to implement decision rules in the model that make the resulting equilibrium(/a) appear plausible (and how to get rid of implausible equilibria). Social behaviour is difficult to model and it’s hard to get good results in micro setups like these because there are too many variables at play and way too much interaction going on.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | dating, Economics, Game theory, rambling nonsense, Random stuff | Leave a comment

I’ve been looking for that one!

Link. I was considering writing a blog post about why I disliked the Scientifica book I’ve been reading, but I pretty much thought the book wasn’t worth the effort. Anyway, now I don’t need to, the comic above illustrates the problem perfectly. The alt text is: ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m being mocked.’ And that’s exactly the feeling I’ve been having when reading that book. If I’d actually been careful enough to take serious notice that it did in fact say “Chief Consultant: Associate Professor Allan R. Glanville” on the cover, not a chance in hell I’d have bought it. If people need to tell me on the front cover of the book that a professor or a PhD has contributed/written the stuff, well that’s a good signal I don’t need to read it. Though I missed it this time. In my defence, I was in time trouble, there were only a few copies left and it was quite cheap. The only upside is that a curious child would probably find the book quite interesting, so if I ever have children… The book isn’t too complicated, it just doesn’t contain a shred of material worth buying a book for and you feel like you’re being mocked while you’re reading it. It’s like most of the stuff in the specific topic pages (it deals with specific topics and devotes a couple of ‘pages’ – most of which is just eye candy – to each topic) is either in the first three lines of the relevant wikipedia articles or more or less irrelevant to ‘what you want to know about this subject given that you’ve just bought a book which also deals with this subject’. It has very few math formulas, despite spending, what, 100+? (120? 150? don’t remember, don’t want to open the book and look it up. I think there are 80 pages or so on the subject of physics. Maybe there are 10 formulas in that section of the book altogether, despite ‘dealing with’ subjects such as general relativity, quantum physics and string theory, among other things) pages on physics and maths and I frequently felt more stupid after reading about the specific topic than I had before I started reading it, especially regarding areas where I knew some stuff already. Maybe a good book for a smart curious black 12 year old ghetto-child unfamiliar with the world of science. Emphatically not a good book for adults who’ve read a couple of scientific studies before opening that thing. It’s a bad place to obtain knowledge about the areas treated and it’s dangerous because it gives the reader the illusion of knowledge, because some of the stuff isn’t actually all that bad (though still bad).

Thanks again to Plamus for introducing me to the Abstruse Goose comic. The funny thing is that I can use and laugh at comics such as this one even though I’m far from the primary target group (I don’t watch tv – besides a bit from online sources & the very occasional DVD. But then again, perhaps I am part of the primary target group; it’s likely the guy in the comic doesn’t either … ‘any more’ at least..).

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Books, comics | 6 Comments

…and don’t even get me started on effect sizes…

xkcd. Here’s a bit more.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | comics, Science, Statistics, xkcd | 4 Comments


1. “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there is no such thing as infinite recursion, and those who say “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there is no such thing as infinite recursion, and those who say “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there is no such thing as infinite recursion, and those who say “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there is no such thing as infinite recursion, and those who say “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there is no such thing as infinite recursion, and those who say “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there is no such thing as infinite recursion, and those who say…” (tvtropes. Here’s a couple of related links.)

2. “Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinion at all.” (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)

3. “The more you speak of yourself, the more you are likely to lie.” (attributed Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann)

4. “Contrary to popular opinion, mathematics is about simplifying life, not complicating it.” (Benoît Mandelbrot)

5. “The passive idler of all men in the world is the most difficult to please. Those who do the least themselves are always the severest critics upon the noble achievements of others.” (Elias Lyman Magoon)

6. “Vanity plays lurid tricks with our memory.” (Joseph Conrad)

7. “I remember an artistic and eager lady asking me in her grand green drawing-room whether I believed in comradeship between the sexes, and why not. I was driven back on offering the obvious and sincere answer ‘Because if I were to treat you for two minutes like a comrade you would turn me out of the house.'” (G.K. Chesterton)

8. “You see, you’ve got an aura around you. We all, we all of us… We all have auras round us. Now, I can tell from your aura that you’re wearing shoes. Am I right?” (Hugh Laurie, one of the random street interviews from A Bit of Fry and Laurie.)

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Health, Retirement and Mortality (1?)

Some bits from the first chapter of the Phd Thesis by Malene Lamb.

“75% of the males in the sample work full-time, whereas only 54% of the women are employed full-time.”

“Finally, we have information about contributions to both labor market pension schemes and private pension schemes. […] The variables show how much the individual has contributed to the different schemes each year making it a good indicator for how much the individual has put aside to supplement the public retirement schemes. […] Around 95% of the individuals in our sample have made no contributions within a given year to a labor market pension schemes independently of which of the two types we consider. […] For private schemes the picture looks slightly better since ‘only’ 70% have no private capital pension and 75% have no private annuity pension.”

“If the spouse is working full-time it lowers the probability for the individual to enter early retirement. However, this effect only holds for women indicating that women actively participating in the labor market have a lower retirement hazard if their husband works full time. […] A longer spell of illness of the spouse significantly increases the retirement hazard indicating that people may leave the labor market earlier in order to take care of their spouse. Looking at the two sub-samples this effect is only significant for the men. […] In this context it is important to note that free medical care is available to everyone thus not forcing one member of the household to continue working in order to maintain a health insurance.”

“We have […] shown that the husbands’ characteristics do affect the retirement behaviour of their wives differently than the wives’ characteristics affect their husbands. Within all the variable groups (labor market, education, age, occupation, sector, financial indicator, and pension) included in the model we find that spousal differences exists. However we never find opposite significant spousal effects, it is always the case that it is only significant for one of them.

Women’s retirement hazard is affected positively by the husband’s experience, if the husband has a short education compared to basic education, the husband’s high contributions to a labor market capital pension scheme and finally medium or high contributions to a private annuity pension scheme. On the other hand women’s retirement hazard is affected negatively (thus retire later) if the husband works full time, is self-employed or works in construction compared to the public sector. Men’s retirement hazard is affected positively by the wife’s age, labor market pension payments or if she receives sickness benefits. Men retire later if the wife has been unemployed, is high educated, not working as a high-salaried worker, is working in the construction, trade or transport sector compared to the public sector. Overall, we find more significant effects for men indicating that they are more influenced by their spouse in the early retirement decision compared to women. This corresponds to the results found in Gustman and Steinmeier (2000) and Coile (2004).”

Most of this I didn’t know. The sample is based on all Danish workers who were active in the labor market at the age of 50 in 1985 (99.498 individuals) – so many of the results probably don’t hold for the whole population (/entire workforce, all Danes/…). For instance private savings and the level of education are both variables likely to be somewhat higher in the younger cohorts. It seems that a majority in the cohort they looked at didn’t consider it to be necessary to save any money for retirement at all – I was simply flabbergasted when I read those numbers. Though it is worth remembering the role real estate plays in the savings equation (/and of course also the impact of the public pension scheme); in a way it makes more sense for a Dane to implicitly put the savings into the house than it does for an American, as the median Dane will never get into a situation where he or she suddenly needs to raise a lot of money fast to pay for a medical procedure – the liquidity part is much less important.

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Data, Economics, Health Economics, marriage, Studies | Leave a comment

Drug resistance, ctd.

You can watch Megan McArdle’s brief presentation on the subject at the Economic Bloggers Forum 2011 here. If I could embed it, I would. Here’s a slightly related article on carbapenem resistance.

On a somewhat different if still related note, Stakbogladen (a university bookstore in Aarhus) had some sort of ‘spring sale’ last week. I’m currently reading Scientifica, one of the books I bought there (a somewhat disappointing read so far and I should have been smart enough not to buy that book, anyway…) but I also bought a book called Disease Prevention (Sygdomsforebyggelse) which I’ve yet to start reading. I’ll probably blog a bit about that book once I get to it – it looks quite interesting. It was very cheap compared to the pre-sale price. Incidentally, I’ve been browsing Marlene Lamb’s Phd-thesis – ‘Health, Retirement and Mortality’ – which is currently standing on my bookshelf, and I’ll probably give it a blog post or two as well at some point unless I’m told not to.

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Books, Medicine, Pharmacology | Leave a comment