Book Review: Antifragile–Things That Gain from Disorder

AntifragileI Just completed reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book Antifragile–Things That Gain from Disorder. Mr. Taleb is definitely a brilliant man. By profession he has been a quantitative analyst in the securities market, working with highly advanced statistical modeling. He has also been a professor in a number of notable universities. He has seen problems that traditional theories of all kinds fail to account for, which lead to major problems that though are hard to predict when they happen they are catastrophic, what he calls the Black Swan event or big tail event. People either love or hate him, there are many in the securities world that hate him, others who appreciate his thinking, his fans. He is one who does not suffer fools gladly, strives to be extremely honest and does not tolerate what he considers to be dishonest and evil. He uses material from roman and greek classical periods, history, philosophy to illustrate the points he makes, and characters like Fat Tony and Nero to help us understand his ideas. The book is a hard read, it is very demanding but enjoyable. For those who are more skilled in advanced math such as calculus and statistics, some of his ideas will be clearer. He is however rather arrogant around some areas that he discusses, while his critical thinking is appreciated and we need to be looking at the world we deal with, with a critical eye and not accepting at face value what the experts or talking heads tell us to think or believe, but discussing public health, medicine and psychiatry with no training is a real problem.

Review in the New York Times.

Video

Arguably: Essays

 Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens, is a book of Hitchen’s essays, that was published near the end of his life. It includes all the articles that he wrote for various publications such as Vanity Fair, Slate and The Atlantic, in addition to writing several books. The essays are well thought out and written. Hitchens was very sharp, thoughtful and a real intelligent critical thinker who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Although he is a self-avowed atheist to his death, the first article “The God of Our Fathers: The United States of Enlightenment” discusses very eloquently about how religious beliefs played out with the Founders of the United States. The subject is one that addressing in a more thoughtful, nuanced way benefits.

 

Film: Private Romeo

In looking for a film to watch on Netflix.com, I came across this film Private Romeo, a film that was described as a take on Romeo and Juliet at a military academy. I was expecting a film similar to how She’s the Man was written based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, where the characters and places have the character names and place names from the original and the story of the prior, but there is none of Shakespeare’s wonderful dialog. Private Romeo is different, it uses Shakespeare’s original language and dialog and it’s an all male cast that can really act. The acting is wonderful, the cast speaks the language intelligently with real emotion, along with some dialog that fits the scene to tie it to the setting and place. Yes, it’s a gay movie dealing with problems of homophobia and violence, but also love. I think even if you’re not gay, if you love the language of shakespeare, it’s worth seeing. Rex Reed of the New York Observer was impressed with the film. One of the actors Seth Numrich was onstage in War Horse at lincoln center. The film’s director Alan Brown was interviewed by the blog Film International which is interesting to read.

Trailer on Youtube.com.

If you don’t have Netflix and want to watch or buy the film you can go here.

 

 

 

Additional Showings of CodeBreaker

For those in the San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale or St. Louis areas, there will be a presentation of the film Codebreaker about the genius
Alan Turing who was part of breaking the Enigma code in World War II. There will be a panel including the film’s executive producer.

San Francisco

Event

DATE: Thursday, November 1, 2012
SHOWTIME: 7:30 PM
THEATER: Metreon 16
135 Fourth St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Purchase Tickets

Fort Lauderdale Florida

Event

DATE: Thursday, November 8, 2012
SHOWTIME: 7:30 PM
THEATER: AMC Coral Ridge 10
3401 N.E. 26th Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33306

Purchase Tickets

St. Louis, Missouri

Event

DATE: Thursday, November 8, 2012
SHOWTIME: 7:30 PM
THEATER: AMC Esquire 7
6706 Clayton Road
St. Louis, MO 63117

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Movie Review: CodeBreaker

We discussed previously the upcoming premiere of the new film CodeBreaker about the life career and death of the genius intellect Alan Turing whose work led to breaking the Nazi Enigma code used during world war II, laying out the basis of modern computing and an original paper on morphogenesis. Turing was what we would call now a gay man, but one who could not lie or deceive but wound up being caught because he reported the break-in of his apartment by a working class prostitute that he had an encounter with. This led him to a painful choice, jail or chemical castration. Eventually he committed suicide.  The film was well received and quite wonderful. The film discusses Turing from a biographical perspective including people who remembered him, discussing his accomplishments, which were many. In addition part of the film included dramatizations of sessions with a psychiatrist Turing had turned to toward the end of his life who he established a strong relationship with him and his family, who had been recommended to Turing after the trial. The sessions are quite beautiful with the dialog gave his personality light and helped the audience realize what an intellect Turing was, and the tragedy and mistreatment and outrage his life was. The soundtrack was also haunting drew the viewer in. Although Turing had a speech impediment, the actor didn’t speak with one, after the film in a Q&A, it was said that not having the speech impediment helped make the character more accessible. Members of the audience in the autism spectrum picked up on some of the peculiarities of his personality which might suggest he might be on the autism spectrum, though the producers felt diagnosing him of a disorder which was not known at the time would not be correct, the viewers in the audience felt that the film would be appreciated by that community. Further viewings are planned in San Francisco, St Louis and Fort Lauderdale. Portions of the ticket price are donated to the LGBT community centers where the events are.

Morrissey Live

The artist Morrissey, who is no doubt highly gifted has been doing a nationwide tour. He was recently interviewed in the Village Voice as well as Colbert Report.  He was in New York Wednesday which my partner and I saw. It was at Radio city, and sold out. the performance was ok, he seemed to be a bit off, sounded like he might have had a cold. The band was fabulous as usual. He did some material, I was not familiar with, it is apparently new material. He is currently without a recording contract, and holding out till he has the label, to record the new material. For those against animal cruelty, vegans and vegetarians, he performed Meat is Murder, with a video presentation which apparently came from Peta.

Upcoming Film: Codebreaker

For those in the New York City or Washington DC areas, there will be a presentation of the film Codebreaker about the genius
Alan Turing who was part of breaking the Enigma code in World War II. There will be a panel including the film’s executive producer. This will be the film’s premiere

Washington DC

Event Date

Wednesday, October 17, 2012. 7:30 pm

Purchase Tickets

New York

Event Date

Thursday, October 25 2012 : 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Location

AMC Empire 25
234 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

Purchase Tickets

 

In Memoriam: Sally Ride, Astronaut, Scientist

We mourn in passing Astronaut, scientist and educator Sally K. Ride who was the first woman U.S. astronaut in space .

Beyond this, she held a Ph.D. in Physics and was a professor in physics, sat on the commissions investigating the Space Shuttles Columbia and Challenge disasters. She wrote five books on space geared to educating students. She was the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company that focused on books and educational materials for science and space education. She was especially focused on education and development of girls and young women.

She will be missed.

Personal project to benefit animals

Over the last months I have been working on a personal project of a cause that I care about. Helping more dogs and cats and other pets to get adopted and not fall through the cracks and be destroyed due to overcrowding in local shelters. Petfinder is an organization that a lot of smaller shelters work with and provides an xml api to their data that other developers can use. I have three sites which are based on the same source code and same data, one nyc-adopt-a-pet.com which has all the information, nyc-adopt-a-cat.com which has a filtered data set which is for shelters that have cats or specialize in cats and nyc-adopt-a-dog.com which has the same for dogs.

This project has been important way for me to help others, sometimes helping humans has been frustrating in many ways, for instance in many ways volunteers are not allowed to do very much, and can only help in very limited was, where there may a great need, and then also dealing with people who frustrate. It is easier to love animals and feel less frutrated. I would love to be involved with some of the shelters, but my time is limited and I already have two adopted animals I care for and can’t really take in more, in some ways working on this allows me to keep my distance but help.

I have hoped that I would be able to find volunteers to help work on this project, for instance with outreach and promotion, which I don’t do well, being a bit of an introvert doing promotion and outreach is hard. I have also wanted to have others involved with generating content and raising money to help with advertising. This has been frustrating, I think people are more interested in working down in the trenches.

For those interested in more technical information on the project…

Graduation!

Congratulations to All Graduates!!

A gifted young lawyer friend of ours just graduated from Law school. Now working on passing the bar. She reminded me about how boring and pointless it can feel studying when you already know the material and it’s all repetition. We wish her well with her work in the future, and think she will do great.

My partner’s god son and gifted grand nephew just graduated from high school in California. It was wonderful to see him at his graduation, Cum Laude. It’s actually really important in that many members of his family didn’t graduate high school and few went to college. He will be off to college. He wants to go to medical school, we wish him well.