Open Thread

i. Here are my thoughts on the upcoming Danish election:

(And here are my thoughts on voting in general.)

ii. Excerpt from Samuel Pepys’ diary (Friday the 19th of October, 1660):

Office in the morning. This morning my dining-room was finished with green serge hanging and gilt leather, which is very handsome.

This morning Hacker and Axtell were hanged and quartered, as the rest are.

This night I sat up late to make up my accounts ready against to-morrow for my Lord. I found him to be above 80l. in my debt, which is a good sight, and I bless God for it.”

Here’s a background article. I learned about the existence of this diary through Bryson. I should point out that navigation is easier at the site where the diary is located; you can get brief explanations of key terms simply by hovering over the linked words, and so you often don’t really need to click any links.


I don’t actually think the lecture is all that great, but I watched it anyway and I figured I might as well blog it.

iv. I got a draw against a ~2050 Elo opponent last Monday – you can watch the game here, I was white. This was actually I game I was reasonably satisfied with – my opponent was the one who offered the draw, which was in itself a small victory (I graciously accepted). The draw was not a result of a blunder in a time scramble or something like that; I played semi-accurate moves and so did my opponent, and so we ended up in a dead drawn position. I didn’t exactly play ambitiously in this game but with opponents like this most people will probably consider a draw a satisfactory outcome (my opponent was in the top 25 in the last Danish Championship), and keeping it simple seemed the best strategy, especially as I got completely crushed in the first game I played against him. Today I won a bullet game against a much stronger opponent, but I often do that and those games don’t really count nearly as much as these; games like this one are serious games, and in these kinds of time controls it seems I can still play along with some of the best players in the club. This is nice. After 8 games of the tournament my performance rating is now slightly above 1950.

Okay – on to you guys: What have you been up to? Have you read anything during the last couple of weeks that I ought to read as well? Have you seen an amazing TV series I’ve never heard about? A good online lecture? Found an amazing website?

This is probably also a good place for a new reader to step forward and tell me a little about yourself. I like to know at least a little bit about who’s reading along here.

October 28, 2013 - Posted by | Chess, Economics, Health Economics, History, Lectures, Medicine, Open Thread


    • I have not. It looks interesting, thanks for the links.

      “Today’s excerpt features infanticide, child abuse, and the promised drunken dying babies” – yep, this definitely looks like a book I should at least have a closer look at… 🙂

      Comment by US | October 29, 2013 | Reply

  1. I watched Europa Report last night. There is a good degree of scientific accuracy, and the portrayals of space exploration are actually quite realistic. The drama is gripping from start to finish. Highly recommended.

    Comment by Miao | October 29, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks, it’s now on my list of ‘movies I may decide to see at some point’.

      (Incidentally I enjoyed the third episode of Sherlock.)

      Comment by US | October 29, 2013 | Reply

      • The only glaring mistake I spotted was the use of ‘apogee’ when the word ‘aphelion’ should have been used. But you could argue that in moments of stress, even professional scientists might slip up on that one. It is pretty hard science fiction.

        Comment by Miao | October 30, 2013

  2. This is awesome:

    Comment by Miao | October 30, 2013 | Reply

    • Agreed, awesome indeed. Thanks for the link.

      Comment by US | October 30, 2013 | Reply

  3. I’ve just started watching Battlestar Galactica (two 1.5 hour long episodes and several seasons of a miniseries). It’s surprisingly good. If you haven’t watched it, Mad Men is pretty brilliant too.

    Comment by Nia Nymue | October 30, 2013 | Reply

    • I watched a few episodes of BG a few years ago (I think?). I didn’t think much of it back then and so I decided not to watch any more of that show.

      I haven’t heard about Mad Men before. From the wiki description I don’t think I’d like it very much:

      “Mad Men depicts parts of American society and culture of the 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, feminism, adultery, homophobia, antisemitism, and racism.[13][50] Themes of alienation, social mobility and ruthlessness also underpin the tone of the show.”

      I don’t really care about such things.

      But thanks for the suggestions! Keep them coming…

      I should perhaps note on a related matter, on account of the suggestions in this thread, that I watch very little TV and that my requirements are actually quite strict. It’s quite likely that I’ll never watch the movie Miao recommended to me either; I haven’t watched a movie in at least a couple of months, I believe – I can’t really remember when I last watched a movie.. I mentioned the third episode of Sherlock in a comment above, which might indicate that I often watch TV – this would be a mistaken assumption. That series was first recommended to me at the beginning of August, I think; at least I know from Skype comments that I started watching it in August; but I only finished the third episode a few days ago. In my defence, each episode is about as long as a movie. But unless I think something is likely to be really, really good I’m not going to bother watching it, and I’ll stop watching very fast if I don’t consider it to be high-quality entertainment. And it may take me quite a while to ‘get around to actually watching it’. When it comes to entertainment I also in general prefer books to movies. Incidentally I watch stuff like this (and stuff like what’s in the youtube video in the post above..) more often than I watch the kind of TV most people like to watch.

      Comment by US | October 30, 2013 | Reply

      • Re. TV-shows:
        Most shows contain only one or two really exciting story-lines. By watching them in a media player with a pitch-correcting fast-forward function (ie. VLC player) you can skim through the boring parts 1.5 to 16 times faster (speech only intelligible up to 3 times normal speed).

        Recommendation: You probably won’t like it, but try an episode of Breaking Bad.

        Re. books:
        Which one book out of the books you’ve read this year would you recommend?

        Comment by Stefan | October 30, 2013

      • i. Interesting suggestion, watching shows like that. I do similar stuff occasionally when I’m watching stuff I’ve seen before (I’ll often watch stuff from shows I like more than once); I’ll simply skip scenes I don’t feel any great desire to rewatch and watch the rest. But I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable doing something similar in the case of a situation where I don’t actually know what will happen. I’ll think about it.

        ii. Regarding Breaking Bad.

        Most people’s lives are very boring, which is part of why people like to be entertained by shows which display the lives of people who don’t live regular lives. I must admit that I tend to find the fictional lives of criminals boring as well. There are exceptions – I liked the first couple of Godfather movies. But in general the things criminals do do not interest me enough to watch a show about them. I often find it hard to empathise with characters in TV shows, and if a writer picks a setting like that it certainly doesn’t make it any easier for me. So I probably won’t check out Breaking Bad.

        iii. As for book recommendations… This is hard!

        Okay, when it comes to fiction the first two titles that spring to mind are The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and A Game of Thrones. The first because it’s awesome (avoid spoilers if you want to read it), the latter (also) because I like the series and you need to start with the first book. (Incidentally if you think I’m contradicting myself by stating above that I find ‘the fictional lives of criminals boring’ yet here recommend a book about a murder mystery, the important word here is ‘mystery’. It’s all about the puzzle, and how to solve it.)

        When it comes to non-fiction what you’re asking me to do is almost impossible. In short, I need more information to give any sort of reasonable answer. It’d depend a great deal upon which type of book you’d prefer to read (textbook or popular science?) and what you’d like to read about. Many of these books are simply not comparable; how do you compare a textbook on cancer with a book about the prehistory of South America? Spelling? The authors of a few of the books I might feel tempted to mention in this context have taken it for granted that the people reading along have a background in health care, and so if you don’t and you’re not a weird person like me who knows a lot of stuff he’s not supposed to know, you may end up getting very little out of a potentially very good book. Could you be a bit more specific about your own reading preferences (and perhaps also your background knowledge/starting point)? Are there any specific books I’ve talked about on the blog which you’ve thought about giving a try?

        It’s not that I don’t want to answer – it’s a good question, certainly in the sense that it made me think quite a bit before I realized what you were asking me to do. But I think the question is too broad.

        Now that I come to think about it, whereas I find it hard to pick out any single non-fiction book I’ve read this year I actually think that if I had to pick a book from last year I’d at least have been tempted to mention The Human Past. Not all chapters are equally great, but if you don’t know much about archaeology, prehistory etc. already, that book has the potential to really change how you think about the world. It probably needn’t actually be that specific book, but I’d consider ‘a book like that’ to be the kind of book one ought to read at some point (and this is the ‘book like that’ I’ve read, so I don’t feel comfortable recommending other books on the topic even though better books may well be out there); there’s a lot of stuff about the past that people don’t know that they don’t know, and stuff people think that they know even though they actually don’t. One can probably learn a lot simply from reading posts like this, but reading a textbook like this one may make it a lot easier to connect the dots. I should point out that that book is a lot of work though – it’s hard to estimate, but I think I spent something like 80 hours (~800 pages and 10 pages per hour – this sounds reasonable). It’s probably fair to say that I was studying the book rather than reading it and I’m not a particularly fast reader so you can probably do it faster; but either way there’s a quite significant time investment required.

        Comment by US | October 30, 2013

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