September 2013 Media Thread

by ArisKatsaris1 min read1st Sep 201372 comments


Personal Blog

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.


  • Please avoid downvoting recommendations just because you don't personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific flaw in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please use the comment trees for genres. There is a meta thread for comments about future threads.
  • If you think there should be a thread for a particular genre of media, please post it to the Other Media thread for now, and add a poll to the Meta thread asking if it should be a thread every month.
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Online Videos Thread

2Zian7yI recently finished an excellent online course from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Cochrane Collaboration titled Understanding Evidence-based Healthcare: A Foundation for Action [] . It talks about how to find a well-grounded answer to medicine-related questions and walks through using PubMed, reading, and understanding journal articles. It also talks about study design, biases, difference between specificity and sensitivity, and more. Even if you've already gone through the Sequences, it's really helpful to see how the ideas can be applied. I recommend tackling 1 module per session rather than doing 1 video per session to save time.
0DataPacRat7yFor the immortalists amongst us: Dumb Ways to Die []

A few subtleties i think was missed in tech founders' accents post by Paul Graham and antirez. . I am rather emotionally close/involved to the subject, so would be happy to know the gaps and biases in my reasoning any of you point out.

Regards, Anand

I can't even get past the introduction:

  1. your header should not take up an entire screen
  2. "its", not "it's"
  3. you capitalize 'i' when it's a pronoun
  4. you punctuate the end of sentences, even in parenthetical comments
  5. spaces are a Good Thing

You are the reason Paul Graham made that comment.

2quanticle8y6. Line breaks should go in between paragraphs, not in between sentences in a paragraph. This is prose, not free verse. EDIT: Markdown's auto-numbering of lists is infuriating.
6anandjeyahar8yThanks gwern. I was looking for criticism in the reasoning, but you have a point. I'll clean it up at the earliest opportunity.

Nonfiction Books Thread

6MayDaniel8yI second Ben's [] recommendation for How to Think Straight about Psychology [] from last month.

Delusions of Gender -- I watched a video of the author speaking about her book, and it was interesting, but the same information could be told much quicker than in one hour. So here are some points I remembered:

Selection bias: if you make a study and you don't find a difference between male and female brain, you don't write a bestseller. Also, comparing the male and female results is the first obvious idea of any researcher, so given p = 0.05, one research in twenty would publish something about the differences between men and women, even if there was none. So if you want some meaningful results, you need to do the meta-analysis of the published studies -- and they often look just like they would if the difference wouldn't really exist: larger samples have smaller differences, and almost half of them shows the difference in the opposite direction.

Some differences are exaggerated and misinterpreted. For example, there is a picture of a brain showing that in these little areas women had more signal than men (or vice versa) when solving a maze. First, many popular authors will interpret it as "women only used these parts, and men only used those parts", while in reality it m... (read more)

0[anonymous]8y...will ya look at that. Some jerk silently downvoted a book recommendation without comment, just because the book being praised seems vaguely feminist and/or anti-pop-evopsych. Typical LessWrong.
2David_Gerard8yShadowplayers: The Rise And Fall of Factory Records [] by James Nice (who is also military history writer James Hayward []). A history of the Factory Records [] label, by the man who's reissued [] large chunks [] of its catalogue over the past twenty years. A marvellous story if Manchester post-punk sounds like the sort of thing you'd be interested in. I have to go through it and redigest large chunks of it into Wikipedia. This is unduly difficult as for once in my life I've bought the physical paper item and it's a five hundred page brick, but at least I can use page numbers in the references.
2satt8yI suspect this is an esoteric enough bit of good scholarly practice that no one's ever thanked you for this, so I'd better do it: thank you for not being one of those people who thinks their citations of 500-page bricks don't need page numbers.
0gwern7yI've put up a mirror of my book reviews [] if anyone is interested in seeing them all in one place.
0djcb7yBruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith: The Dictator's Handbook [] Much liked this book, which is a sort-of modern version of Machiavelli's The Prince. Don't get fooled by its silly title, this book is the general-audience version of Bueno De Mesquita et al's selectorate theory [], which describes any kind of power structure in terms of which groups leaders need to please (or can ignore!) in order to stay in power. It's a rather cynical theory, with leaders having staying-in-power as more or less their only goal, and they give a great many example; leaders in democracies and authocracies are more-or-less equivalent, it's only that the former needed to please many more people and thus are induced to play a bit nicer. Of course, political science is a bit shaky, but the writers do have statistics and analysis (but one needs the more scholarly version of the theory for that) to back it up. Also, esp. Bueno De Mesquita is known for making quite accurate predictions of future events, more so than others. This gives some confidence, esp. against the common theme of theories that can predict anything. With selectorate theory in hand, the book explains how we could look at e.g. foreign aid, international politics, to make it beneficial to leaders (democratic or not) to be better to their subjects, improve governance, freedoms etc. So, in the end, the cold, hard-nosed cynicism does point to some ways to make the world a better place... Recommended. I'll be going to watch world events through these lenses, and see how wel it works.

Television and Movies Thread

3Viliam_Bur7yI would have never guessed I will recommend a romantic movie, but here it is: Before Sunrise [] and the sequels Before Sunset [] and Before Midnight []. (I haven't seen the third one yet, so the recommendation is for the first two.) I greatly enjoyed the movies, although I hate romantic movies in general. What was the difference? These movies are completely dialog-based. There is no long silence or dancing or such stuff; the protagonists are talking all the time, and they are irradiating high intelligence. Your frontal lobes will not starve while watching.
0drethelin8yseason one of Orphan Black: A very well-done right around the corner scifi setting, focusing on cutting edge biomodification and human cloning. The main character/s are all clones who were put up for adoption 20something years ago for unspecified purposes around the world who begin to find and interact with each other. The actress does an amazing job of playing similar but different versions of herself with different upbringings and capabilities. So far characters don't hold the idiot ball but are either legitimately fooled by conspiracies or make understandable mistakes.

Podcasts Thread

Fanfiction Thread

5Risto_Saarelma8yCulture Shock [], entertaining, though unfinished crossover between Harry Potter and Iain M. Banks' Culture, via r/hpmor.
5MugaSofer8yFor some reason, this appears to be among the only - two? three? - pieces of Culture fanfiction ever written. I have no idea why.
4David_Gerard7yIain M Banks' Culture fanfic I could find This is, literally, the lot. Additions welcomed. * It's My First Day [] * Effecting the Culture [] * The Speaker of Silence [] (unfinished) * Mutually Assured Destruction [] (unfinished) * A Day in the Life (Culture/Battlestar Galactica) 1 [] 2 [] 3 [] 4 [] 5 [] (unfinished) * Culture Shock [] (Culture/Harry Potter) (unfinished) * unnamed [] (Culture/Lensman) (unfinished) * unnamed [] (Culture/Star Trek ... sort of) * Outside Context Problem [] (Culture/MLP ... yes, really) (unfinished) * Star Fox: Use Of Weapons [] (Culture/Star Fox) (unfinished) * A huge collaborative Culture/WarHammer 40,000 crossover [
3MugaSofer7yWhy on earth did I think making a sweeping statement like that in the middle of LessWrong was a good idea? I am dumb, that's why. Thanks for all the counterexamples, folks! I only knew that in the first place because I wanted to read some a while back. I still think the Culture fandom is unusually bereft of fanfic? Maybe I'm just spoiled by mega-popular stuff, though.
3Nornagest7yThere doesn't seem to be much of a fanfic tradition for literary SF. I'm not sure why; there's plenty of shared universe action going on, but it seems to be more a professional than an amateur phenomenon. The obvious answer would probably be that literary SF doesn't have enough long-term focus on characters to be appealing to fanfic writers, but there's enough setting- or conceit-based fic in other genres that I'm not sure how seriously to take that. People usually don't write Lovecraft fic because they want to read more about Randolph Carter, for example.
3David_Gerard8yOne of the Doctor Who novelisations, The Also People [], features the seventh Doctor visiting a civilisation, The People, that's pretty much the Culture with the serial numbers filed off. The People are so technologically advanced that they have a non-aggression treaty with the Time Lords (which the Doctor helped negotiate).
2gwern7yHow would you know, given that you are not on Usenet or plugged into the SF fanzines of the '80s or '90s when Banks was huge?
0David_Gerard7ySo are there in fact lots?
0gwern7yMy point here is more that you aren't looking under the proverbial lamppost, so the absence of evidence is not very strong evidence of absence.
0David_Gerard7yMm, I was mostly just hopeful. I've just been actually looking online and accumulating a list, fwiw. I'll post it here later.
2Risto_Saarelma8yI'd expect writing the Culture is tricky to pull off. Banks has a pretty distinctive voice and reasonably solid worldbuilding that's is a lot less likely to make people go "ehh, I could write better" than JK Rowling's stuff for example. Also the part where it subverts most of the whole drama from conflict thing by being people with their shit together wielding superior technology makes finding a plot that works a bit harder.
3MugaSofer7yYou may be right, at that. Banks is an intimidatingly skilled writer. Although surely you would expect less-impressive "me too"s? Fanfic writers are usually fans of some stripe ... um, aren't they? I guess I don't really know much about fanfiction author demographics, at that. Well, the novels mostly focus on "outsiders" looking inward at the Culture, such as those from other civs and Special Circumstances, right? They have plenty of conflict.
1ZankerH7yJust a reminder that he no longer exists.
3MugaSofer7yYeah, I guess I meant his skill is still intimidating, rather than he is still skilled. Or something. You got me.
0Moss_Piglet7yThere's a fairly obnoxious Culture / WH40K fanfic going on right now in the GiantITP Media sub-forum, and it seems that the Banks fans there are eating it up so there's a decent chance it emulates his style well. Supposedly the author is going to collect and repost it to some Fan-Fic site in the next 20,000 years but don't count on it. I never had the stomach to read much of it; the tone is pretty jarring for a 40K fan, the ideology of the Culture has always struck me as heinous and it led out of a flame-war which almost got me banned, so there were some emotions there. You might be interested though. Link to page-o-links for story: []
3MugaSofer7yAh, it's been a while since I did that "find some damn Culture fanfiction, it has to exist" project. Thanks for the link Yeah, me too. Still, the sheer number of the books I've read attests to the fact that they were astoundingly well-written, even so. Of course, "we're evil but also kinda the good guys" seems like it would fit right into the 40k universe, eh? People always claim that's the theme of the Imperium, after all... Yes, even taking into account that "enemies of the Culture always resemble modern Earth conservatives" seems to be a law of physics in the Culture universe. Must be the same parallel evolution that produces all those humanoid species.
2David_Gerard8yThat's really very good. Harry is ridiculously overpowered, but the clever bit is the Culture as a character orvat qvfpbapregrq ng abg npghnyyl orvat evqvphybhfyl birecbjrerq va rirel erfcrpg sbe bapr. Pity it cut off so early.
1[anonymous]8yI was really excited when you linked to this, as the Culture is one of my favorite sci-fi universes. Unfortunately, I forgot- I've already read all the fanfiction.
4OtherPeoplesShoes8yI have a lot of great stories to recommend, and I tried to get a wide sampling of genres and authors. In no particular order: Inviolate [] - A fiction of the DC Universe. Novel length. Complete. The base conceit is basically, "what would happen if Lex Luthor went sane?" It's a little bit like watching MoR Quirrell fight the entire DCU... with SCIENCE. The same author also writes Variant Strain [], which is a Spiderman/Prototype story, novel length, ongoing. It's a very clever mix of the two source materials, and has a great deal of inside references to the Marvel universe while being mainly a retelling of a game with clever concepts and a pretty lousy plotline. Fair Vote [] - A fiction of the Dresden Files, novel length. It's very interesting in that it's almost completely unrelated to any of the main characters in any of Jim Butcher's novels; everything in the book is almost entirely Original Content - which means that it's a great read both for fans of the series and for people who have never read a bit of it. The lack of connection to existing characters means that most people don't happen to stumble across this one - I think it has sixteen reviews in total, last time I checked. Definitely a fic which could use more recognition. In Flight [] - A fiction of Fate Stay Night and Sekirei, novel length. Ongoing. I saw that Fate/Stay Night was mentioned in last month's thread; this is probably one of the best known fics including elements from it. Because it's a crossover fic, it does a lot of explaining setting elements, which makes it a pretty okay entry point into the series if you don't mind a few spoilers. It's action packed, and very, very funny. If you prefer a story without all the crossover and with a little less humor, you might want to try From Fake Dreams [http://w
3Risto_Saarelma8yShouldn't fics with 200 000 words count as novels, not novellas []? Inviolate was great and Variant Strain looks also very good, but both are probably going to take most of a day if you start binging through them compulsively.
2OtherPeoplesShoes7yThanks! My mental concept of them did not match their actual length. I updated the post.
0Dorikka7yHow much do I need to know about the DC universe to appreciate Inviolate?
0OtherPeoplesShoes7yYou should probably be at least a little bit familiar with it? There are many minor plot elements that derive from some of the more obscure comics or from recent events in the comics. I think the story was fun even not having seen all of the particular things that are being referenced, but there's certainly a great deal of DC-specific characters, and you'll probably enjoy it more being familiar with them.

Fiction Books Thread

5iDante8yRead the City Watch [] series and I highly recommend.
3bogdanb7yI’ve seen people here repeatedly mention the city watch books, but I’m surprised the witches books are almost never mentioned. Seriously, am I the only one who thought Granny Weatherwax and her team are basically the most useful people on the disc?
4drethelin7yAlso Vetinari is basically the best thing ever.
3bogdanb7yYeah, but I think he was mentioned before (and he shows up in most of the guards books). Vetinari is awesome in kind of an obvious way, but he’s not very relevant outside the city. (Well, except for a few treaties with dwarves and the like.) In contrast, Granny (and sometimes the other witches) arguably saved the entire world several times. There are other characters who do that, but it’s more... luck I guess. The witches actually know what they’re doing, and work hard to achieve their goals. (For example, though it’s never explicitly said, I got a very strong suspicion that Granny remained a life-long virgin specifically because she expected that it might be useful against unicorns.)
2palladias7yI love love love the Granny books. And if you only read one of them, I'd make it Witches Abroad. When I started my blog and wasn't sure what to write about, I did a sequence of posts on Granny [] .
1drethelin7yEqual Rites is pretty bad and I like to get people to start from the starts of sequences. So Guards Guards
2palladias8yI love these, but only up through Thud! After that V gubhtug Ivzrf jnf birecbjrerq sbe gur ceboyrzf ur snprq
2iDante8yAgreed. Uvf fhcrecbjref tebj nybat jvgu uvf gvgyrf.
0David_Gerard8yGung'f jul uvf wbo yngryl unf cerggl zhpu orra uvtu-cbjrerq qvcybzng. Gubhtu vg jnf whfg fvyyl va "Fahss".
3Viliam_Bur7yIf you liked George Orwell's 1984, I strongly recommend reading Yevgeny Zamyatin's We [], which inspired it. According to Wikipedia, it was the first book banned in Soviet Union. Unlike 1984 it is less directly political; it describes a dystopian society based on "straw-Vulcan" rationality. (Also, Pet Shop Boys made a song [] about it.)
2David_Gerard8yCharlie Stross' Laundry series [], all of it. It's great. Rollicking spy novels about the world where Lovecraft is true. Very readable and enjoyable.
4Risto_Saarelma8yI really liked The Atrocity Archives, but the problem is that a lot of the punch probably came from introducing the setting that's unique but also bit of an one-off joke. The rest of the series seems to increasingly be Another Book with the Characters from That One Book You Liked Doing Stuff. Stross did say in his blog ur'f tbaan znxr vg cbfg-ncbpnylcgvp, so I'll probably keep reading because I want to see fbzrbar znxr heona snagnfl cbfg-ncbpnylcgvp.
2David_Gerard8yI see what you mean, though I think he develops the scenario a bit. The problem is that the characters aren't well-developed IMO (though my favourite is Angleton).
2beoShaffer8yI just read Saturn's Children by Stross. Its set in a future where humanity proper has gone extinct and been replaced by robots that have fundamentally neuromorphic brains with approximations of Asimov's laws and some other safeguards hacked in. The main character and several aspects of the plot are heavily inspired by Heinlein's Friday. I strongly recommend it if and only if you like Heinlein and/or Stross'es other books.
0[anonymous]8yDarconville's Cat [] is a linguistic masterpiece, very highly recommended. Garden, Ashes [] is another buried gem.

Short Online Texts Thread

0Risto_Saarelma8yPierre Cartier, A country of which nothing is known but the name [], discusses the life and work of Alexander Grothendieck, who pioneered a massive research project into category theoretical mathematics, via John D. Cook [].

Other Media Thread

8Kaj_Sotala8yFlash game: Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher [] . The gameplay is similar to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, but you instead debate famous philosophers in an attempt to understand morality. It's pretty short and suffers from the "I know the correct answer here, but how did the author of the game intend me to indicate that" problem, but I found it fun and interesting nonetheless. It helps to keep the walkthrough [] at hand, so you can resort to it if you start getting frustrated. Even though the arguments were only addressed relatively briefly, I actually felt like I'd learned something. Liked the music, too.
4pragmatist7yThanks. It's an amusing game, although I agree with you about the frustrating guess-what-the-author-is-thinking aspect. I'd add, however, that you don't want to take this game as an accurate guide to the arguments of the thinkers involved. In a number of cases so far, I've noticed that the philosophers' arguments have been somewhat straw-manned in order to make them easier to refute. Pretty understandable, in a game of this nature, but I wanted to add that caution because you said you learned something. While the broad sense of the arguments are conveyed with reasonable accuracy, the objections that Socrates comes up with are rarely as devastating as they're represented, and are often answered in the philosoper's own work. An example: Va gur tnzr, Uboorf pynvzf gung gur fbirervta fvtaf n pbagenpg jvgu uvf fhowrpgf, pbzzvggvat gb cebgrpgvat gurz sebz bar nabgure va rkpunatr sbe cbjre. Fbpengrf Wbarf hfrf guvf pynvz gb ershgr Uboorf'f nethzrag (jul jbhyq gur fbirervta or boyvtngrq gb znvagnva gur pbagenpg jvgubhg rasbeprzrag)? Ohg gur npghny Uboorf qbrf abg fnl gung gurer vf n pbagenpg orgjrra gur fhowrpgf naq gur fbirervta. Ba uvf ivrj, gur fhowrpgf fvta n (ulcbgurgvpny) pbagenpg orgjrra gurzfryirf gb envfr fbzrbar gb gur enax bs fbirervta, ohg gurve eryngvbafuvc jvgu gur fbirervta vf abg pbagenpghny. Gur fbirervta'f cbjre vf tvira gb uvz nf n tvsg. Ur rffragvnyyl unf ab boyvtngvba ng nyy ertneqvat uvf gerngzrag bs uvf fhowrpgf -- ur'f na nofbyhgr zbanepu. Gur bayl zbgvingvbaf ur unf ner crefbany vagrerfg va znvagnvavat cbjre (juvpu zvtug rafher, sbe vafgnapr, gung ur qbrfa'g whfg xvyy nyy uvf fhowrpgf). Guvf vf jul Uboorf fgerffrf ubj ubeevoyr gur angheny fgngr vf -- vg'f onq rabhtu gung crbcyr jbhyq engure or ehyrq ol na nofbyhgr qvpgngbe jub vf gur fbhepr bs nyy boyvtngvba ohg vf abg tbirearq ol nal boyvtngvba uvzfrys. Na hanggenpgvir ivrj, ab qbhog, ohg abg fhowrpg gb gur erterff bowrpgvba gung gur tnzr yriryf.
0Kaj_Sotala7yThanks! I did notice some other strawmen, but wasn't familiar enough with Hobbes to catch that one.
2Risto_Saarelma7yI noticed the Hobbes thing too. I think the Hobbes character actually said something in the lines of gur fbirervta orvat pbzcryyrq gb znvagnva fbzr irarre bs qrprapl fvapr bgurejvfr gur fhowrpgf jbhyq evfr hc va eribyg, but by the time we get to Jones' refutation, this seems to be forgotten.
2Zian7ySo far, having played the prologue with the salesman, I really like the game. Thanks for sharing it with me.
6beoShaffer8yFamily Man [] is a thoroughly researched historical fiction/magical realism webcomic. Its about family (duh), 18th century academia, and a creepy town in Uberwald^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H the hinterlands of Germany. The main character a man struggling with beliefs that are, in his view, logically justified but emotionally unsettling, not to mention politically verboten. Also, it has someone literally flipping a table at their dissertation defense. The author has a more in depth intro here [].
2DataPacRat7yIndividual webcomic strip: Someone Dies []