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Well. I was thinking of waiting 2 whole years before I'd update this… - Variations on a Theme
People watching, writ singular
Well. I was thinking of waiting 2 whole years before I'd update this again. But I really felt like writing a rant. So, I did. But then I realized that, not having posted anything in such a long time, I really should put up a general post, and attach the rant to that. So, I did. Here!

So, my last entry was promising 11 more on the attempt to read 100 books in a year. A recap: it was doing spectacularly well until I got promoted to full time at the bookstore halfway through the year, at which point my free time went down, my disposable money went up and my free time started to get used up elsewhere now that I could pay for things. So I wound up only reading 96 books last year. Alas! And my project for this year has similarly failed. It went in completely the opposite direction: 12 huge books that I've been meaning to read for a while now. I did do In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 1, Grapes of Wrath, Great Expectations, and Moby Dick. I would have finished Don Quixote, but it just felt like I was reading the same story every 20 pages for a 900 page book. I've halted Ulysses with the intent of picking it up again soon. I'm working my way through Crime and Punishment now. But I've also read a few new shorter and just as amazing authors. Italo Calvino and Milan Kundera are probably both in my top five favorite authors, now.

Alas, the bookstore took a turn for the sour, and just about a month ago they decided they were going to close and I was in the first round to go. I'm not sure where to go from here, but the panic of it all has been considerably eased by havva.

This may or may not lead to a general resumption of blogging. We'll see. With that said, on with the show:

I've been reading a fair amount of chaos theory and probability mathematics lately (popular stuff, I wouldn't come close to being an expert on them). I've also been really heavily into political news this year (well, so has almost everybody, but I was on the high end of that spectrum) and before that, I was about as much of a sports junkie the couple years before. (I'm actually curious to know which will win out when there's no significant election soon and the Tigers are looking like they'll suck again. Maybe something new will come along.) But the point of all of this is to say: Fuck predictions.

I don't care how much of an expert you are in your field, I don't think you can tell me what's going to happen in it next week, much less in 5-10 years, much less stuff like this. In Spring of 2006, only a few people would dare to predict that the Tigers would finish about .500 for the year. They choked in the World Series, so the next spring, more than half the experts predicted that they'd make it to the World Series again and win this time. They had a fair amount of bad luck, but finished a little over .500. This year, there were still a large number of people predicting the Tigers to win it all, and they finished with the worst record in their division. And I doubt any major "expert" had either side of this years World Series, much less both. And the predictions about this last election have been coming for 2 years now, and almost all of them have been terrible. So you'd think I'd laugh it up at this Foreign Policy article on The 10 worst predictions of 2008, right? Alas, predictions are one thing, they're only right when they're lucky. Analysis is another. And this is terrible analysis.

2- Jim Cramer advising someone to keep their stocks in Bear Stearns a week before it went under. It would be a terrible prediction if it were true. Unfortunately, that's not actually what happened. He advised someone not to take their money out of Bear Stearns, not to not sell the stock. Bear Stearns was a bank, and Cramer was right, there was no reason to be worried about the money in the bank. (Lehman Bros. might be another matter, but Cramer didn't get that question.) Now, don't get me wrong, Cramer's an idiot, and if you'd followed his advice every time, you'd be doing worse than the market average, but on this one he was right.

3- Oil shipments at risk. 50 ships have been hijacked this year, not all of them oil tankers. Maybe these guys just don't have a sense of proportion, but that's not a serious disruption of oil shipments. The world uses nearly 80 Million barrels of oil a day. While this is a bad situation for the tankers and anyone unfortunate enough to be on them, (and no, they're not invulnerable) that has nothing to do with the original statement, which has proven correct. A few Somalis on rafts have not done much more than make a bunch of news (and feed their people and provide the only areas of non-anarchy in the entire country.

7- LHC causing the destruction of the Earth. They are correct to point out that, contra the prediction, the Earth is still here. What they don't point out is that the LHC was only operational for a matter of days before it broke. While I have heard enough evidence to believe that the LHC won't create a black hole and destroy us all, that's hardly been proven yet. Let it operate for a while before we really debunk this prediction.

8- Oil hitting $150-200 a barrel. This is the one that really pissed me off enough to write this screed. In May, this person predicted much, much higher oil prices. At the time, oil had just passed $120 a barrel. Three months later, it hit $147 a barrel. True, that was the peak, but that still seems like a pretty good prediction to me, doesn't it? What, are they blaming this person for not seeing the recession coming? Show me someone who did! (Nouriel Roubini aside.)

There were a lot of stupid predictions about this last year. Why pick on these?
22 comments or Leave a comment
someoneingrey From: someoneingrey Date: December 15th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC) (Link)
wow. hi. welcome back. this is liz, aka runningdark. happy christmas retail nightmares.
somebodyelse From: somebodyelse Date: December 15th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah! My goodness, how're you doing?
someoneingrey From: someoneingrey Date: December 15th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
i'm doing well, i'm a year from my masters... and trying to finish the semester... one more paper for the semester... which i'm slacking on right now... (oops)

how're you?
somebodyelse From: somebodyelse Date: December 15th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
More well than not. :)

So, I'm sorry, you'll have to remind me what you were getting your masters in.
someoneingrey From: someoneingrey Date: December 15th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
religion. historical and systematic.... and then probably a phd in history. because i never want to grow up ;-)
From: nayrb5 Date: December 15th, 2008 03:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Sorry to hear about the bookstore job...anything else on the horizon?

And sorry for being so bad about e-mailing...I just realized that I never replied to your message on Facebook. Anyway, post-New Years, we should do something.
somebodyelse From: somebodyelse Date: December 15th, 2008 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thankfully there are yet further connections across the interwebs, so that when one network fails, a second picks it up. :)

Yes, let's get ideas for what going now, and we can figure out the when later. So... Lunch? Dinner? Museum? Else?
From: nayrb5 Date: December 16th, 2008 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm...lunch or a museum sounds pretty good. Perhaps both!
rightwinger From: rightwinger Date: December 15th, 2008 05:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Problem with oil speculation is that they were (to a certain degree) self-fulfilling prophecies. A high price estimate for oil causes a rush in buying, thereby pushing the price up to or near the estimate.
One prediction that I was happy to hear about: RBS's credit / stock crash alert in June/July.
somebodyelse From: somebodyelse Date: December 15th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. I also heard conspiracy theories over the summer that the stock market was planned to crash specifically in September and voila!

But yes, you are probably correct about it being self-fulfilling, but they were bashing it for being wrong when it really wasn't.
rightwinger From: rightwinger Date: December 15th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you're right about it not really being wrong, given that some of the early events which helped to turn the price tide (especially on the part of China) were completely unforeseen and were necessary to turn the price back.
rightwinger From: rightwinger Date: December 15th, 2008 05:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and, I'm sorry to hear about your job.
thisgirliknow From: thisgirliknow Date: December 15th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
whoa. hi.
somebodyelse From: somebodyelse Date: December 15th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yo. So, did we ever get that annulment?
thisgirliknow From: thisgirliknow Date: December 15th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Something like that. I hope.
azazelea From: azazelea Date: December 15th, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey! Funny to see you writing again (says the girl who hasn't posted since June). I'm sorry to hear about your job.

I attempted to read Don Quixote while in hospital last year, which was the perfect environment. I got almost through the first book, but when I wasn't a captive anymore, I found it really difficult to get into again. There were certainly funny bits, though! Have you read Calvino's Invisible Cities? I haven't read very much by him, but that's one of my favorite books.

In other commentary, I'm living up in your neck of the woods now, until I run away to China, and am mostly unemployed, having quit my sketchy barista job. Would you like to get lunch one of these days?
somebodyelse From: somebodyelse Date: December 15th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah that sounds good. Whereabouts in my neck of the woods? I'm actually down by Belmont at the moment.

I have read Invisible Cities. That was the first one I read, because it was such a similar idea to another really great book, Einstein's Dreams, which is the same idea, but with different ideas of time instead of space. If you like the one, I think you really should read the other. Also If on a winter's night a traveler was spectacular. One of the most self-referentially awesome books ever. It starts out "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel If on a winter's night a traveler. Sit back, relax. Tell the people in the next room to turn the TV down."

So, what's this about China?

(Also, I just noticed, this is the first time I've posted since we met, isn't it? So having friended each other is no longer entirely futile. :) )
azazelea From: azazelea Date: December 16th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm up in Ravenswood, actually--20 minutes walk from where you used to be, then. Thanks for the recommendations; I have lots of time on my hands now.

Wow, it has been a while... I'm going to China to teach English! It seemed like a reasonable thing to do before grad school, since I'm still uncertain what I'd like to do in grad school, exactly, other than run away from "real" work...
sailor_moonbeam From: sailor_moonbeam Date: December 17th, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
long time no hear! welcome back to the wired! ~_^
From: tiyicull Date: April 10th, 2011 08:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I’ve been into blogging for quite some time and this is definitely a great post.Cheers!

From: tiyicull Date: April 12th, 2011 08:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case.

From: pohucoat Date: April 15th, 2011 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)
hello, I sent an email to you about this post, its not coming thru for me. Can you connect with me when you get a chance.

22 comments or Leave a comment