Currently Reading: Chapter II

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jon abbey
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by jon abbey »

Adrian, I'll of course send you replacements on the house, just remind me when you next place an order. also, you may know/may be interested if you don't know that Michael translated an earlier, much shorter book of Oswald's into English:

http://www.amazon.com/Room-Rumor-Tuning ... 1931243662

Lao Tsu Ben
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

Lao Tsu Ben wrote:Otherwise, I'm currently reading Nicholas Mosley's Hopeful Monsters. He's quite a lyrical writer who likes to extend his comparisons and metaphors over the course of a book, which is risky, but he pulls it off. "Hopeful monsters", "impossible objects", those are not expressions that he invented, but they are very appealing titles.
Didn't like it. Someone on amazon describes the style as "somewhat turgid"; it's true.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Lao Tsu Ben wrote:
Lao Tsu Ben wrote:Otherwise, I'm currently reading Nicholas Mosley's Hopeful Monsters. He's quite a lyrical writer who likes to extend his comparisons and metaphors over the course of a book, which is risky, but he pulls it off. "Hopeful monsters", "impossible objects", those are not expressions that he invented, but they are very appealing titles.
Didn't like it. Someone on amazon describes the style as "somewhat turgid"; it's true.
I recently bought Impossible Objects (on your rec I think?) and might read it soon. I mean, with a cover like this

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its "impossible" not to get excited about this "object" d'art.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

Yes, I was quite impressed by Impossible Objects and I hope you'll like it. It's a more modest book with a similarly ornate prose- which I admire (with a certain degree of caution- but I'm probably the one to blame- I must be too much of a curmudgeon) but in Hopeful Monsters it becomes a little tiresome. And there are other flaws. Oddly enough, it reminded me of Steve Erickson (Hopeful Monsters, not Impossible Objects), whose novels I find impossible to read, Zeroville being an exception as it is about movies.
A quotation by Joyce Carol Oates on the cover? Not too flattering perhaps. And the title is in the singular? That's weird.

Adrian
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Adrian »

@Jon: thanks! I'll keep that in mind.
And that does seem to be an easier, or at least quicker read... ;-)
This Friday I'll get round to listening to the three AEU discs - received them last Friday but haven't been home since...
plus sonat quam valet - seneca

Lao Tsu Ben
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

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Charles Willeford, Sideswipe

I am at page 125, and it's so great and interesting, packed with practical details and minute descriptions while the narrative is so tight. Damn, thanks Jonathan, but the search function tells me that there are a lot of Charles Willeford's fans here, anyway. And, of course, it would make such a great film; and I guess, if you wanted to make a film that would be palatable to the audience at large, you would just have to take the psychopaths in Willeford's novels and make normal, if a little off-balance, persons out of them, and that would work. Perhaps Tarantino did that, by making it all too unrealistic. And, to conclude, ebook readers are really a marvelous thing, especially, I'm told, the non-kindle sort.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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surfer wrote: Image
Inverting the Pyramid - Jonathan Wilson

Very good so far, recently published, so its not on Schaumann's list of essential titles, but it should be added. You dont need a deep knowledge of football to get a lot out of it. Well written.

First line, "In the beginning there was chaos, and football was without form."
Just finished this last week. I've changed my opinion, I think you do need at least a intermediate knowledge of football history and rules to get a lot out of this. But its excellent, especially the last two chapters which deal with Sacchi's AC Milan's 4-2-3-1, and the possible evolutionary deadend of 4-6-0 (eg Spain in 2012, which is not discussed). What's fascinating is the equal and oppositional trends in football: towards greater specialization (see "holding" or "defensive" midfielders vs "attacking" midfielders), and at the same time, towards dissolving the lines between forwards and midfielders completely. Good stuff.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't - Nate Silver

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dave quam
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Almost done with these two:

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Both enjoying these a great deal. The Painted Canoe isn't the best Anthony C Winkler book (one of my favorites, a Jamaican writer who wrote The Duppy, one of my desert island books) but still good. Really funny.

Might take a crack at 2666 next, never read it and found a nice copy for really cheap not long ago.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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surfer wrote:Image

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't - Nate Silver



whad'ya think?
“In a kind of middle-aged crisis, it dawned upon me that there was a possibility that music might not even be an art form.”

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Dohol wrote: The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't - Nate Silver

whad'ya think?[/quote]

I've read almost 4 chapters. My initial impression is that it is written for a layperson with no background or experience with statistics whatsoever. If the terms "confirmation bias", "regression to the mean" or "overfitting" mean anything to you, then (at least based on what I've read so far), you might be a little bored with this. The explanations have been VERY elementary so far. I'm starting to skim some of this, especially in the baseball chapter.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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The Vorrh - Brian Catling

Ten pages into Catlings debut novel and already our retinas are reflecting gore, fixed by the text into the sockets of our as-yet unnamed protagonist, himself wrist deep in the viscera of his recently departed partner. He's in an absorbed, melancholy mood - unformed fragments of their life together rise up from memory while he, with certainty of movement though no little rawness of nerve, arranges her dissected innards according to a plan of her own devising.

It's one of the most remarkable opening chapters of any book I've read and a rare novellistic evocation of bloody ritual that doesn't fall into cheap schlock. To say a scene like this "rings true" feels kind of ridiculous - but really there's a strong sense in which it does. Catling manages to meld spectacle with psychology, the extremity of the imagery completely integrating with emotional and sensory clarity to vividly establish both two central characters and the book's obscure narrative momentum.

And this is just the first chapter of a long book (itself the first part of a trilogy) that I'm keen not to spoil for you - populated by bakelite automatons, Victorian eminences, a sentient rainforest, living weapons, a cyclops, haunted slaves - etc. etc. and yes, several more etcs.
The quality of the observation is consistent throughout, always grounding the book's lurid absurdist creativity and its commitment to poetic description, though consistency and atmosphere are often sacrificed to the author's willingness to follow, however briefly, each new strand of inventive possibility that comes his way.

This is an odd book. Catling is a 65 year old debut novelist, and that odd combination is there in the text. The Vorrh combines the debut's faults of enthusiasm-over-control with both real writerly assurance and the steady, distanced judgement of detail and moral character that rarely comes without considerable experience. It's too whimsical for surrealism, too much anchored in history to be fantasy and - praise be to Anansi, the mountain sprites and all those english-speaking bengal-tiger-gurus of the 90's imagined indian subcontinent - too lacking in patronising limp-dicked pan-ethnic bourgeois sentiment to be called magical realism.

Whatever it is, and whatever its flaws what's fine here is really very fine indeed. I was glad to finish it, but now I'm glad there are another two to come.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by P. Wretch »

Hayao Yamaneko wrote:Catling is a 65 year old debut novelist, and that odd combination is there in the text.
This may be his first novel, but he's been writing strange borderline prose poetry things for years, such as 'The Stumbling Block Its Index', which I encountered in Iain Sinclair's late 90s anthology Conductors of Chaos (the opening can be read here).

I haven't got to The Vorrh yet, but you've piqued my curiosity. I imagine his baroque style might become a bit too much over a book of that length. Presumably the publishers are hoping to hook people with the Alan Moore blurb.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Hayao Yamaneko »

Good point, and yeah he's written a great deal of poetry and incorporated kind-of-storytelling structures into performances.
It feels like a gear shift to the novel though - handling things on that scale.
It's a great book but one of its flaws, I thought at least, was that it really felt like someone working up piecemeal from poetic prose rather than having the flow of a novel.

Yeah, that Alan Moore blurb is definitely helping. I picked it up in a gallery bookshop which is kind of the native home for a small press book by Brian Catling, but the other week I spotted they had a copy in our (fairly small) local Foyles. I don't think people will be disappointed on the whole though - It is dense, but not forbidding, the language is poetic but the syntax is prosey. I could see it becoming cultish.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

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Dawn Powell, The Golden Spur

As I said, I like Gore Vidal's essays, but you also have to thank him for drawing Dawn Powell out of obscurity. Very funny.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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surfer wrote:
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't - Nate Silver
Since there might be some interest, I'll give a bit of a detailed rundown on this, chapter by chapter:

Chapter 1: The Sub-prime housing bubble

Chapter 2: How bad are television political pundits at predicting the future? Really bad as you may have guessed. The essential info in this chapter is the difference between "hedgehogs" and "foxes", which is one of the underlying metaphors of the book. Briefly, Hedgehogs believe in Big Ideas, and how these governing principles undergird much of social/economic/political interaction. Foxes believe in lots of little ideas and take multiple approaches to a problem, are more tolerant of uncertainty and nuance. Foxes: multidisciplinary, adaptable, self-critical, tolerant of complexity, cautious, empirical. Hedgehogs: Specialized, stalwart, stubborn, order-seeking, confident, ideological. Silver's book is basically a ode to Bayesian "foxes".

Chapter 3: Baseball - as I said earlier, for those with a rudimentary understanding of sabermetrics, this is going to be very elementary. A good baseball projection system must accomplish three tasks: 1) Account for the context of a player's stats 2) Separate out skill from luck 3) Understand how a player's performance evolves as he ages aka the aging curve. Fair amount of stuff about Moneyball. Examines why scouts were wrong on Dustin Pedroia.

Chapter 4: Meteorology - this is where is begins to get more interesting. One of the success stories in predictive modeling. It shows that when you have a rich database, have a basic understanding of the dynamic processes at work, get feedback on how accurate your predictions are on a regular basis, and have powerful computers, you can overcome very large and complex systems and slowly and incrementally improve forecasts. Interestingly, most major weather forecasters including The Weather Channel have a "wet bias": when they forecast a 20% chance of rain, it actually only rains 5% of the time. 30% forecast = rain 25% of the time. At 40%, the forecast and actual start to line up. Btw, pay no attention to weather forecasts more than a week out, they are no better (actually worse) than straight climatology (long-term historical averages for that date) or persistence (the assumption that the weather will be the same as the day before).

Chapter 5: Earthquakes - One of the failures in predictive modelling. Ironically, given that I live in an active earthquake zone, I dont remember much about this chapter other than USGS says that earthquakes are essentially un"predictable" but not un"forecastable", meaning, we're never going to be able to say, like we can with a hurricane, that a catastrophic earthquake will hit here on this date. We can however say that San Francisco will have a major earthquake roughly every 35 years. However, that means there is approximately a 1 in 35 chance of an earthquake ever year, regardless of how long its been since the last one. The reason for this is that geology is a complex system, but unlike the atmosphere, we dont have a good idea of what happens two miles below the earth's surface. We cant directly measure stress on fault lines.

Chapter 6: The Economy - An even bigger failure of predictive modelling. For example, actual GDP growth/contraction fell outside of economists' prediction interval (ie GDP will grow between 1 and 4.5% - yes its that vague) six out of the last 18 years. The bar is THAT low, and they still miss it roughly 1/3 of the time. For instance, in 2008, economists predicted GDP to grow between 0-4%, and it shrunk by 3.5%. In the 90s, economists predicted only 2 out of 60 recessions around the world a year ahead of time. Interestingly, Silver talks a bit about Intrade, which is the type of system that could provide a demand and accountability for more accurate economic forecasts.

Chapter 7: Infectious diseases - All I remember about this chapter is Ford's mishandling of the H1N1 scare in '76-'77. And that some predictions are self-cancelling if a lot of people are getting their information from the same source (you see this in economics but also with traffic rerouters).

Chapter 8: Sports gambling and other stuff - Mostly about Bayesian Theory, but also talks about the problem of data outside of context, and the problem of false positives. The most interesting thing about this chapter was a clear explication of Bayes' Theorem which takes three pieces of information: 1) an initial estimate of your hypothesis being true (aka prior probability) 2) probability of hypothesis given X piece of information is TRUE 3) probability of hypothesis given X piece of information is NOT TRUE. For instance, 1.4% of women will develop breast cancer in their 40s. That is our prior probability. Then we get new information (ie "x piece of information") that 41 yr old Jane had a positive mammogram. Studies show that if she does have cancer, a mammogram will detect it 75% of the time. If she doesnt have cancer, a mammogram will STILL give you (in this case false) positive 10% of the time. With these three pieces of information, and Bayes' equation, you can come to the realization that a woman in her 40s who has a positive mammogram only has cancer 10% of the time.

Chapter 9: Chess - Lot of Deep Blue and heuristics stuff but also contains one of the core ideas of the book: that computer models for predictions do relatively well in fields like weather and chess and elections where the system abides by relatively simple and well understood laws, the data is rich, but where the equations that govern the system must be run many many times to achieve a good forecast. Computers do much worse in macro economics and earthquakes where the root causes are less well understood, and the data is sparser and/or noisier.

Chapter 10: Poker - Much of this boils down to the Pareto Principle: 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers. That is to say, in a competitive environment like poker, with a medium amount of effort (folding the right hands, betting the right ones, and making some effort to think about what your opponent holds) you can make the same decisions as "experts" 80% of the time. Getting a few basic forecasting/probability things right goes a long way. The last 20% takes a lot more time to master and may not be worth the effort. Law of diminishing returns. Billy Beane got a lot of mileage out of some very basic facts about baseball that were unrecognized 10 years ago. Now that the rest of baseball has, by and large, caught up, the competitive margins are much much thinner. ie find a competitive field that has poor incentives, bad habits, blind adherence to tradition, and get a few things right with better data / technology. You'll make a killing.

Chapter 11: The Stock Market - A lot of this went over my head, but basically few investors can beat the stock market over the long run relative to their level of risk and accounting for their transaction costs, unless they have inside information. He says some other stuff about bubbles and herding, but I dont remember it that well.

Chapter 12: Climate Change - I think this was probably the most interesting chapter for me, and definitely challenged some ( but not all) of my assumptions about global warming. First interesting point, the three main uncertainties surrounding global warming and how they intersect: Initial Condition Uncertainty, the short-term factors that compete with the greenhouse effect and impact the way we experience the environment, such as sun spots, volcanoes and such. Scenario Uncertainty, which increases with time, concerns levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and the difficulty in predicting how much will be in the atmosphere in 30, 40, 50, 100 years from now. Then, there is Structural Uncertainty, which concerns how well we understand the mechanics and dynamics of climate change, and how well mathematics and our computer models can represent them. Second interesting point, in 1990, the IPCC issued a climate forecast which predicted between a 2 degree C and 5 degree C rise in global temps over the next hundred years, with 3 degrees being the "most likely". Between 1990 and 2011, global temps have actually risen .015 degree C, which is at a rate of 1.5 degree C per century, below even the bottom end estimate of the IPCC. Global temps have been pretty steady over the last decade. Nevertheless, there is little debate that global warming exists, and humans are contributing to it, its just a matter of what the effects of of these gases in the atmosphere will be. Interesting chapter.

Chapter 13: Terrorism - also very interesting. Compares terrorism "prediction" to earthquake prediction, in that both, when plotted on a "double-logarithmic scale" (whatever that means), show a classic "power-law relationship" (whatever that means). What that actually means, is that there is a VERY linear relationship between frequency, and severity (of attack / of earthquake). This may seem obvious (more severe attacks occur less frequently) but it has important implications. Here is a power-law graph a bit like the one in the book:

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For example, it implies that earthquakes and terror attacks worse than what we have experienced in the recent past are clear possibilities (eg that authorities should have recognized that something like Japanese earthquake, 9/11 was a potential reality). He also makes some interesting points about Israel ability to "bend the line" on the right side of the power-law graph, that is, reduce the frequency of higher casualty terror attacks than what would be normally expected.

I hope some people find this summary interesting. Overall, an interesting book that serves as a good introduction to Bayesian thinking, even though some of the chapters (housing bubble, baseball, poker) I found somewhat elementary. It gets better as it goes on. Definitely recommended.

"All models are wrong, but some models are useful."

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by mudd »

nice, thanks for that. i recently convinced my boss that i should read this for work, so i'm glad to have extra motivation.

m

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Hayao Yamaneko
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Hayao Yamaneko »

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I wanted to be impressed by this, but I really wasn't. I'm not someone who thinks conceptualism/ the expanded field has no place in music and sound art. I don't want to hold the line against the "non-musical". Unfortunately I think this is just quite a poor, one dimensional defence of that idea. Incredibly ungenerous in its criticisms, over generous (in one case bafflingly so) in its praise.


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What a fantastic, fantastically bleak novel. In a way preempting the themes of Camus' The Stranger this is also far stronger stuff - far less interested in just demonstratingan idea, Simenon brings it all home as precisely and brutally as a back-alley thrust of the protagonist's fine Swedish knife. Impressive task to take a protagonist quite this unlikeable, make no effort to give him any distorting patina of charm, and yet still have him carry a complete page turner of a book.
Given the brutality and lack of solidarity it depicts in an occupied country, I can't imagine this sold many copies in 1948.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

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Blue Bamboo, Tales of Fantasy and Romance, Osamu Dazai

There are many sides to Osamu Dazai, sadly not all of his books have been translated in English or in French yet. I used to think of him as the author of No Longer Human and Villon's Wife, his most famous novels, which I liked, but I'm delighted to discover that he could write other things than those seemingly autobiographical novels (I'm also a big fan of the book which was translated in French as "Pays Natal", and which tells the story of a last journey in his native country), such as his tales translated by Ralph F. McCarty. This is clever and often funny stuff.

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