Software

The Black Swan – first impressions

I’m still in the prologue, and already I deeply dislike this book. I’m hoping that the prologue is ironic, because if not, then it appears both arrogant and unaware of much of the work on risk management and risk perception that started out in artificial intelligence with the frame problem, nonmonotonic logics and some very long (as in decades-long) arguments about value and uncertainty. I’ll probably persist, because I was given the book to read by someone whose judgement I rate, but I suspect I’m going to find it difficult not to shout at the pages sometimes. Maybe it would have been easier if I hadn’t started this book right after the academic joy that was reading Stumbling on Happiness.

Software

Learning Japanese, I think I’m…

Well, not really: I learnt Japanese at uni 20 years ago, and since then several other languages have caught my eye. But sometimes it’s useful to remember enough to ask the right question. Which is how I ended up on the grammar and translation sites this morning, and why I’m now amazed at how much Japanese language teaching has changed since the *cough* 1980s. Thanks to the Internet, we now have more access to native language sites and university notes than was ever possible back then, and like French-English teaching (more of which perhaps later *), the emphasis is very different now.  Most significant is the much greater emphasis on learning charactersets. When I first learnt Japanese, I learnt the hiragana characters and some useful bits of kanji (in case some joker decided to encrypt the labels on the toilets again – if you never learn anything else in a language,…