Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fact and fiction

Excerpt from Master and Commander:
As it could not for the moment find any outward expression, his anger took on the form of melancholy: he thought of his shipless state, of half and whole promises made to him and broken, and of the many schemes he had built up on visionary foundations. He owed his prize-agent, his man of business, a hundred and twenty pounds; and its interest of fifteen per cent was about to fall due; and his pay was five pounds twelve shillings a month. He thought of men he knew, junior to him but with better luck or better interest, who were now lieutenants in command of brigs or cutters, or who had even been promoted master and commander: and all of them snapping up trabacaloes in the Adriatic, tartans in the Gulf of Lions, xebecs and settees along the whole of the Spanish coast. Glory, professional advancement, prize-money.
A wonderful tale, very well told (as you can see from the above). The first book in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series. Somewhat reminiscent of C. S. Forester's Hornblower books. The movie's not too shabby either.

Excerpt from The Black Swan:
This is a book about uncertainty; to this author, the rare event equals uncertainty. This may seem like a strong statement--that we need to principally study the rare and extreme events in order to figure out common ones--but I will make myself clear as follows. There are two possible ways to approach phenomena. The first is to rule out the extraordinary and focus on the "normal." The examiner leaves aside "outliers" and studies ordinary cases. The second approach is to consider that in order to understand a phenomenon, one needs first to consider the extremes--particularly if, like the Black Swan, they carry an extraordinary cumulative effect.
Not much to say except this is an unusual book by an unusual man.

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