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Monday, January 27, 2014

The Tower of Dreams

Lately I hardly have the conventional recurrent dreams any more --- those of missing a train or plane. Another element has been recurring a number of times, which evokes no anxiety or fear but rather a kind of happy anticipation. A grand castle with ancient but beautiful interior, and stairs upward into a high tower that overlooks the world all around it. I know it is the same place in each of these dreams, because it is always close to home, just out of sight but so easy to reach. Sometimes it is across a field of high golden grass, sometimes a few miles of historical blocks, and, sometimes, hidden away in the suburb --- a secret treasure known to and belong to few visitors. A European castle hidden quietly in an American prairie.

In all of these dreams, I skipped and ran, eager to take my friends to the castle and climb to the top of the tower. It was so near, only ten minutes away, across the field of gold, and so beautiful and impressive, that I could barely contain my excitement.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Black Swan

Taleb is praised by a lot of people in the business community as the new prophet of our age. I think it's a bit of an exaggeration. The basis of this best-selling book is, to put simply, "shit happens." I agree. It is true. Shit happens all the time and no one seems it coming.

What interests me is the anger and frustration that comes through in the very casual style of his writing. It can be viewed as an attack on the pervasive and very American attitude of being in control of events (perhaps more pervasive in the stock-trading and economic circles). Of course shit happens, people with some humility and history of suffering already know that. The invisible target of his rage, who go around pretending to be able to predict the course of history, are theorists and the privileged who have been sheltered from "the real world." For me, a Chinese person who barely missed the Cultural Revolution, his exclamations about random disasters provides no revelation but rather a resonance.

On the other hand I am skeptical about his claim that one can hedge the unknown and the random and the unpredictable to make more money. He says the unpredictability of reality is the inefficiency in the market that can be exploited. I have my doubts about that.

Petyr Baelish of Sichuan: Echoes of the 3 Kingdoms

Sometimes my mind makes unexpected associations. A few days ago I was talking to a couple of friends, who are of Sichuan (or Szechuan) ances...

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