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Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

Link to the first part.

No need to waste words one another introduction, let’s dig right into it.

Sometimes the best books are those from which you expect it least. And while I like to think of myself as someone who appreciates how seemingly mundane topics can hold deep insights, if studied with passion, I did not expect to be awed by honeybees and how they go about finding a new home. Well, guess what! Maybe I’m easy too impress, but what an intellectual pleasure to try understanding the workings of a hive.

Two things I want to note: Honeybee Democracy makes for a catchy title, but I don’t think it accurately describes the swarm’s decision-making system, which is neither a direct nor an indirect democracy, but maybe a kind of noocracy, “the aristocracy of the wise”. And it isn’t even much of a “rule”, in fact, for while the information-gathering and dancing for promising nesting sides is done only by specialized forager bees (rather than the entire swarm), the decision-making tends to be unanimous. You’ll notice how little resemblance with modern parliamentary democracy such a procedure bears. …


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Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

When I originally started blogging on Medium back in 2018, I had hoped to offer content more regularly, but it has proven tough to generate a steady outflow of articles between all other commitments. Therefore I’m quite happy to at least be able to share with you a the review of my 2020 books, already kind of a tradition. A grand total auf 35 books were read cover to cover this year, which is significantly more than last year (20), but one book short of 2018. Whether this is because the books were longer on average (intuitively yes) or for other reasons I don’t know. You’ll also notice that this year’s review is quite a bit longer — long enough to convince me to split it up in two parts. …


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Photo by Tim Graf on Unsplash

In the last article on this topic, we tried to visualize the global overview of activities provided by sports tracking apps such as Strava. That’s a good place to get started, but to be perfectly honest, it isn’t all that interesting on the programming side. In a sense, all we did was to manipulate a given data frame in a clever way and plot the relationship between the different quantities to understand our performance better. Nothing wrong with that, of course: It’s just that there are so much more we can do that it’d be a shame to stop there.

Because in the end, all the statistics that Strava (and its numerous extension) show you is based on reading the GPS data of the activities you upload. And while I certainly don’t intend to reverse engineer any of that, we’re missing out on a lot of information if we don’t look into this data. …


How to use Python & Strava to visualize almost anything for your activities

If you’ve come across any of my articles before, you will have noticed that I’m very much into long-distance running (see “The What, How And Why of Ultrarunning”). I’m also a data scientist by trade, and I’ve been consistently logging my activities with Strava ever since I got serious about running in 2016. So what would be more natural than to try and analyze the data thus generated myself? And after playing around with it for a while, I realized that this might be interesting for other people as well. …


Trump supporters have presented numerous pieces of evidence that allegedly show how the Democrats rigged the elections. Debunking them isn’t always straightforward.

The sorry state that the GOP has fallen into is nowhere more evident than in their current attempt to prove that the recent election, which the incumbent president Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden, has been manipulated by sinister forces to secure the desired outcome. Many of the claims they have made along the way are mutually exclusive and/or easily refuted (see here, here, here, here and here, for but a small sample of such refutations). A large share of them feeds on the narrative of a ‘deep state’ conspiracy theory, according to which a hybrid association of top public officials and industry players have colluded to suppress the voice and the will of the people. Against this backdrop, it is even harder to take serious the already extraordinary claim that the main election in one of the world’s most stable (and arguably most important) democracies, under heavy surveillance from all kinds of stakeholders, has been decisively manipulated. …


Almost everyone underestimated the havoc that COVID-19 would wreak on public health. Will the same be true for the wider effects on society that have just begun to unfold?

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Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

The Kübler-Ross model (better known as the five stages of grief) tells us that, when hit by a tragedy, people move through a predictable sequence of stages as they try to adapt to the new circumstances — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These days, a similar dynamic seems to be at play for the novel Coronavirus. At first, hardly anyone acknowledged that we were headed for a full-blown pandemic. Anger came next: The concert that was cancelled, the trip that would have to be postponed. As more and more events were affected by this, there was still hope that things would go back to normal soon— a few halfhearted measures here and there would be enough to return to business as usual by spring. …


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Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Last year at around this time, I published a review of 2018 as told by the books I’ve read throughout the year. Since then, I’ve changed my mind about some things, but I still believe that this is a much more fruitful type of review than the typical condensed news and celebrity obituaries way of looking back, no less because it’s unique to everyone.

All in all, 2019 saw a lot fewer books being finished (20 vs. 36), which I mostly blame on two tomes — Infinite Jest and Gödel, Escher, Bach — that both took me a long time to digest. That’s not necessarily bad (both were extremely rewarding books), but since me book wish list tends to grow much faster than I can read, this poses a serious problem for mortal beings. …


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Quilotoa Lagoon in the early morning hours.

I just returned from a three-week trip to a country that takes so much pride in being spread over both hemispheres that it decided to name itself after the famous divide. It’s been a most interesting, if often exhausting journey that I could retell in some detail here; but since there are already tons of articles about what you should see in Ecuador (and when and how and…), I decided to resist the temptation and opted instead for some quick throwaway comments about local mores, politics and decision-making processes that struck me as interesting, in no particular order. Some of them are particular to the country, others seem to apply to all of Latin America. …


It’s not exactly rocket science, but that doesn’t mean any approach will do.

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[This article is part of a series: The What, How and Why of Ultra Running. Click here for part 1 and part 2.]

Three weeks ago, it finally happened. It had to, I guess. After more than a decade of competing in races of all sizes and shapes — (half) marathons, triathlons, snow trails and high alpine ultra distances — I failed to make it to the finish line. It wasn’t even my own fault, although that was certainly what I would have expected: I had decided to take on the 170 km beast that is the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, more than 50 km longer than the longest race I’ve done so far. But instead, at about the time when the sun finally agreed to shyly emerge from behind the clouds, and everything felt like smooth sailing, we were informed that the race had been stopped in anticipation of the drastic weather changes that the night was about to bring. …


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Photo by Daniel H. Tong on Unsplash

It doesn’t happen very often that books on economics become international bestsellers. Those that do often border on psychology (think Nudge and Thinking, Fast and Slow) or are bought mainly for signalling purposes (think Piketty — but check your premises!). Although exact figures are hard to come by, Ha-Joon Chang, a Cambridge development economist, can credibly claim to have joined this elusive club with his provocatively titled “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism”. In what at first sounds like a bizarre conspiracy theory woven together by an all-too-imaginative mind, the author takes a stab at unraveling the ideology that fuels our economic system, or more precisely the assumption behind it, carefully concealed from the public eye. As Chang has it, many a disaster (such as the 2008 financial crisis) could have been averted had it not been for the prevailing neoliberal orthodoxy. …

About

Daniel Issing

Le bonheur et l'absurde sont deux fils de la même terre.

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