Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Winter's Tale by Shakespeare

I wasn't sure whether this was a tragedy or a comedy all the way to the 5th act. Great play. As I was reading this, I told Holly "Shakespeare is a really good writer." Duh. :)

King Leontes (wrongfully) suspects his wife Hermione of committing adultery with his best friend Polixenes. I love the last line about the tenth of mankind.
There have been,
Or I am much deceiv'd, cuckolds ere now;
And many a man there is, even at this present,
Now, while I speak this, holds his wife by th'arm,
That little thinks she has been sluic'd in's absence,
And his pond fish'd by his next neighbour, by
Sir Smile, his neighbour. Nay, there's comfort in't
Whiles other men have gates, and those gates open'd,
As mine, against their will. Should all despair
That have revolted wives, the tenth of mankind
Would hang themselves.

King Leontes accuses Antigonus of not being able to restrain his outspoken wife Paulina.
Leontes: A gross hag!
And, losel, thou art worthy to be hang'd,
That wilt not stay her tongue.

Antigonus: Hang all the husbands
That cannot do that feat, you'll leave yourself
Hardly one subject.

Imprisoned, falsely accused, and denied her children, Hermione isn't afraid of Leontes' death sentence.
Sir, spare your threats!
The bug which you would fright me with I seek.
To me can life be no commodity:
The crown and comfort of my life, your favour,
I do give lost, for I do feel it gone,
But know not how it went. My second joy,
And first-fruites of my body, from his presence
I am barr'd, like one infectious. My third comfort,
Starr'd most unluckily, is from my breast --
The innocent milk in its most innocent mouth --
Hal'd out to murder. Myself on every post
Proclaim'd a strumpet; with immodest hatred
The childbed privilege denied, which'longs
To women of all fashion; lastly, hurried
Here to this place, i'th'open air, before
I have got strength of limit. Now, my liege,
Tell me what blessings I have here alive
That I should fear to die. Therefore proceed.

Paulina accuses King Leontes after Hermione's death.
But, O thou tyrant,
Do not repent these things, for they are heavier
Than all thy woes can stir. Therefore betake thee
To nothing but despair. A thousand knees,
Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting,
Upon a barren moutain, and still winter
In storm perpetual, could not move the gods
To look that way thou wert.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Events both good and bad are becoming more extreme. No one really expects society to be much like today in 50 years, and yet we still predict the future based on theories about how things should work. The truth is that what will really shape the future is inherently unknowable - things like wars, disease, natural disasters, and new inventions.

I find this strangely hopeful compared to reading all the gloomy news. The real world is much more interesting and exciting than our theories and models. We need to pay more attention to reality.

I like how he twitted intellectuals, bankers, and Nobel prize winners. He's a very opinionated writer.

He referenced an ancient writer named Sextus Empiricus that I want to check out. He wrote a book called Against the Professors.

The author's day job is in trading and money management. His financial strategy is to keep almost all of his money in extremely safe investments like Treasuries or CDs. The remaining amount he risks in extremely risky ventures like venture capital. He avoids conventional blue chip stocks and so on because he feels like the risks are hidden there and almost all surprises will be negative.

Simon Foucher's Dissertation on the Search for Truth:

One needs to exit doubt in order to produce science -- but few people heed the importance of not exiting from it prematurely.... It is a fact that one usually exits doubt without realizing it.

The difference between an empirical outlook and a Platonic theoretical outlook:
I care about the premises more than the theories, and I want to minimize reliance on theories, stay light on my feet, and reduce my surprises. I want to be broadly right rather than precisely wrong. Elegance in the theories is often indicative of Platonicity and weakness -- it invites you to seek elegance for elegance's sake. A theory is like medicine (or government): often useless, sometimes necessary, always self-serving, and on occasion lethal. So it needs to be used with care, moderation, and close adult supervision.

Don't run after trains.
Snub you destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behavior, a sense of being in control of my time, my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it!

And finally...
Very few are intelligent enough to change the opinions effortlessly.