july, 7, 2003 archives

waiting for the bus.

ben hyde made some interesting observations about nassim nicholas taleb's fooled by randomness: the hidden role of chance in the markets and life, which prompted me to put it in my library queue.

it's a great book. in some ways, some of the ideas follow from innumeracy—people just don't understand probability. the author is a trader (in the financial markets) who largely deals with options and derivatives, making money on the idea that the downside of many investments occurs with greater force than the upside, or something that is stable may destabilize rapidly and violently when it does destabilize (the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back).

one of the interesting recurring ideas in the book is that of the black swan problem: if you observe a thousand swans, note that none of them are black, and then make the statement “there are no black swans,” it only takes one black swan to unravel your whole hypothesis. past performance is no guarantee of future performance, as they say.

another reason to have a library card

with a los angeles public library card, you can access the oxford english dictionary online for free. you can also access the archives of the los angeles times. (and a whole bunch of other databases.)

the library website could really use a rethink, though. it is weighted down with jargon ("borrower services"?) and the online catalog is clunky with a capital clunk. (why does all software targeted at a vertical market suck?)

one of the few jobs i applied at before falling backwards into my current job was at the ucsd library.

and don't get me started on librarians.

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