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?