Sunday, 3 August 2008

Sunday snippets

Just got back from a really nice long weekend up on the Norfolk Broads. I managed to forget the right lead for my iPod speakers so I was without music for most of it, but actually I didn't really miss it. We went down to Beccles, which is a really nice little market town, and then on to Geldeston Locks, which is as far as you can take a boat down the River Waveney. Geldeston village itself is pretty small, but the Locks pub is nice. I also managed to get a fix of geeky disused railways thrills, as we managed to find the old village station.

Even though it was very relaxing, I couldn't quite leave it all behind and read most of The Black Swan. As I've said before, I really enjoyed Fooled By Randomness, so I was quite looking forward to it. And, about three quarters of the way through, I'm enjoying this one too, though for slightly different reasons. His attacks on fitting narratives to explain events is obviously going to be right up my street. He also makes a lot of references to Daniel (or 'Danny' as he calls him) Kahneman, and confirmation bias is dealt with in quite a bit of detail. Plus a lot of the book is really about epistemology. And when he starts talking about how many forecasters are really in the entertainment business I think most of my boxes have been ticked.

To be honest, a lot of this stuff is not new to me really - but I still enjoyed the book. That made me realise that I what I really like is the thing that most people seem to most dislike about the book - Taleb himself. I agree that he's got a big ego, I agree that he's making a lot out of some fairly well-known ideas and I find some of his stylist quirks (like primo, secondo etc and calling himself NNT) irritating. Yet overall I really like his style, and he does come across as the sort of bloke you'd want to have a conversation with over a few beers. There's a bit somewhere in the book where he says something along the lines that if you accept that some of the biases that affect us (like our desire for narrative) are very powerful, then you might as well use them. And I think that basically he pulls this off. As such I think it's a good book even if I'm not really learning that much from it.

Anyway, back on planet blogging, I've had a quick scan around and noticed a) Labour Outlook has had a rather nice makeover and b) there's quite an interesting Trot scrap going on over on Socialist Unity in a discussion about anti-fascism. The interesting stuff is in the comments where the rather good Socialist Party blogger AVPS has been slogging it out with Swuppies.

Someone has kindly posted a link to Socialist Worker's front page response to 9/11 which is worth a read just to remind yourself what a font of knowledge and wisdom the vanguard party of the working class is. I particularly like the way they state in the second para that no-one knew who was responsible, but by the end of the sixth para are able to state that the attacks were born out of desperation (whose we don't know) and by the final para we are being given guidance on how to make the most of our revulsion.... towards the US. Bleurgh!


John Miles said...

Speaking of the Labour Outlook redesign. If you've got a feed for the site in a blogreader, you'll need to update it - it's changed with the move/redesign.

You'll need to point at

Tom P said...

I've not set up a blog reader yet, I keep meaning to do that. does it take long to sort out?