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What Really Happened in Peru: Review
The Bane Chronicles: What Really Happened in Peru by Sarah Rees Brennan and Cassandra Clare. Published 16/04/2013 by Walker Books.
Magnus Bane has always been one of my favourite characters and when the news broke about this project I was more than excited. What Really Happened in Peru while being a slight tease was a great start to this series, blending humour and heartbreak in a way that we have come to expect from Cassandra Clare. We see Magnus’ many adventures in Peru including a run in with Pirates, a monkey, and a mysterious con woman, as well as being joined by two other Warlocks the adorably grumpy Ragnor Fell, and fabulous Catrina Loss who keeps them both in check. For any Cassandra Clare fan I would recommend checking this series out (whether on your kindle, or if you wait for the paperback release next year).
Spoilery discussion under the cut.
The Great Gatsby Book Report
The great Gatsby is a good book but in my opinion it could be inproved in a lot of ways. For one, it could be set in the modern day. it hink this would be a great addition to the storyline. Instead of daisy and carringway, i think daisy should have been with Gatsby at the begginning! Carringway is a boring character. I think he should have not been with Daisy. I am team Gatsby and I was really sad when he die at the end. EWhen you put that much effort into thinking about someone the least that person can do is give you a chance. I think daisy should have given gatsby a chance. I think daisy lead gatsby on. Carringway is old money i think and old money must be running out soon so i think gatsby is a better pick for daisy.
Book Review: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2005
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction
Miles Halter is sick of his boring life in Orlando and decides to enrol at his dad’s former boarding school in Alabama. Miles is looking for the great perhaps, and he’s never going to find it if he stays at home. Miles is a collector of the last words of famous people and is the type of guy whose going away party would only be attended by two people he doesn’t even like. At his new school, Miles finds friends that are exciting and intelligent. His new roommate the Colonel skipped a grade and is the king of pranks, while Alaska Young, the girl down the hall, is unlike anyone Miles has met before. She’s smart, unpredictable and everything is brighter and more exciting when she’s around. As Miles enjoys his new independence, he falls in love, almost dies in a pond, carries out the greatest prank ever and learns that one night can change everything.
I should start off this review by saying I was wrong the first time I read Looking for Alaska. I first read this book in December of 2010 and thought it was pretty good. However, I also thought that it didn’t quite live up to all the hype. At the time, I felt like all the great quotes didn’t quite make it a great book. However, I read John Green’s other novels and loved them. Eventually, all the love for this book made me doubt my judgement, and I decided to re-read it. Now, Looking for Alaska is one of my favourite books. It’s a heart wrenching and thought provoking coming of age story. It also happens to be John Green’s first novel, and it was his most popular until the release of The Fault in Our Stars. While not everyone is going to enjoy this book, I think of it as a must read for teens and would recommend it to anyone who thinks that YA books are lacking in quality. The characters are intelligent and realistic, the pacing is well done and the story pulls you in quickly. A quick read, Looking for Alaska can go from being deeply funny to heartfelt in a couple of pages. There is also a lot of depth and symbolism that has earned it a place in many classrooms. While some first novels are lacking, John Green did it perfectly on his first try. Looking for Alaska is a one of a kind novel that is unique and beautifully written.
“I found myself thinking about William McKinley, the third American president to be assassinated. He lived for several days after he was shot, and toward the end, his wife started crying and screaming, “I want to go, too! I want to go, too!” And with his last measure of strength, McKinley turned to her and spoke his last words: “We are all going.”
Antifragile by Nassim Taleb (Book Review)
1. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction books, not because I don’t start them but because I don’t finish them. Most aren’t good or important enough and you are often better off reading the blog post or HBR article on which they are based. So you may want to take my claim of “one of the best” with a grain of salt but I don’t say it lightly either.
2. Taleb’s writing can be annoying as it is sometimes comes off as arrogant or grandiose. Don’t let that stop you from reading Antifragile. He has something extremely important to say and it is well worth getting past style and ego. My advice: simply treat occurrences of “I am smarter, better read, more buff (just short of and have better sex) than you the reader” as entertaining. I should add: all of the aforementioned are potentially even true which might make them more rather than less annoying.
3. At varying points, Taleb overstates the strength of certain claims. Again, I suggest you don’t let that stop you. I can’t quite tell whether he does it because he genuinely believes it or because his interpretations are so counter to the received notions on these points that he feels he has to take an absolute position to make it stick (see footnote ). It doesn’t matter because throughly exposing yourself to his views will give you a much better understanding of the world.
4. Most importantly, please ignore anyone who claims that Antifragile is based on faulty math. The heart of the book is not based on complicated math but instead on a powerful logical argument. Formulas would be a distraction from the power of this argument instead of strengthening it. For those who really care about math there is a separate mathematical document freely accessible on the web (I am still working through it and don’t expect to finish that until the summer). Rest assured though you can safely ignore it and should be very skeptical of anyone claiming to use math to counter Antifragile.
So with that out of the way let me try to summarize the essential line of argument from Antifragile.
1. Some things are fragile, which means they break under stress. If you pick a glass vase off the floor and drop it, it will break, i.e. be worse off. Other things are robust. If you pick up a rubber ball off the floor and drop it, it will bounce instead of break and so will be unchanged. But there is yet another category and it is things or systems that are anti fragile. If you yourself jump off the floor and land again your legs are becoming stronger. Stress (within certain limits) is in fact good for the body. The body is thus more than robust, it is antifragile.
2. The world is full of non-linearity. There is a height from which you can drop the glass vase and it won’t break. But just above that it will break and the two outcomes are entirely different. The damage to the vase is not proportional to the height of the drop. The same can be true for upside. One example are successful investments in network effects businesses such as Tumblr. The value of the network rises far faster than its size. When things are non-linear relatively small changes can have a large impact on the outcome. Importantly what matters to you is the outcome, not the variable.
3. The past is a fundamentally flawed predictor of the future. I really mean fundamental here. There is no amount of mathematical sophistication that will fix this problem. Why? Extreme events are underrepresented in the past. They have to be. Axiomatically so. To see this consider the real extremes. Events in which the earth is destroyed are underrepresented because otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. Similarly, events in which we have figured out how to feed information directly into the brain of every human haven’t occurred yet because again you wouldn’t be staring at a screen or printout right now. I made this argument at the level of the whole planet / all of humanity where it is easiest to see but it applies equally at smaller scales such as the economy or even a single company or individual human being (or specific glass vase). It also applies to less extreme outcomes than the ones I chose. For instance, the largest previously recorded flood is an upper bound on the floods for which we have past data (by definition) and even larger floods are completely absent from the data (but that does not make them impossible) 
Now all you have to do is put these three arguments together and you get to the heart of Antifragile, which is as follows:
A. Because of #2 and #3 proper predictions about the future are hard (thanks Yogi Berra) and therefore you are better off working on #1, i.e. being antifragile than investing in complicated mathematical models (that don’t work)
B. There is a specific way to be antifragile: avoid situations with limited upside and very large non-linear downside which are “sucker’s bets” and instead seek situations which have limited downside and very large non-linear (ideally uncapped) upside. 
This applies to how we live our lives as individuals, it applies to companies, it applies to governments and even the human species at large. Much of Antifragile examines different areas of life such as education, medicine and government and analyzes them in this framework. This turns out to be powerful as it shows that much of what ails us can be comprehended and potentially fixed by moving from fragility to antifragility (and by detecting where someone has made themselves antifragile at the cost of others). I won’t attempt to summarize or review those applications. Each one of them is well worth the time reading.
Bottomline: finish whatever book you are currently reading (assuming you like it) and then read Antifragile next.
 It is in some of the applications where Taleb overstates his case. For instance he takes an extreme position on the relation of theory and practice arguing that practice informs theory and not the other way round. While I agree entirely that the theory to practice direction is vastly overstated, “in practice” the two inform each other and trying to pin down causality strictly in one direction seems futile. Looking at computer science, a domain that I know something about, he is entirely right that many and possibly most important contributions have come from practitioners. But there have also been huge theoretical breakthroughs in information theory and cryptography that have provided the basis for practical work at a completely new level. Write theory and practice on two sides of a strip of paper and then fold and glue into a Mobius strip and you have a better model of the interaction of theory and practice. Addendum based on a tweet by Taleb: here is a piece in which he states the argument less strongly as “Theory is born from (convex) practice more often than the reverse (the nonteleological property)” (emphasis mine). That I agree with and I will reread the chapter in the book and potentially replace with a different example.
 So you might ask: I buy the argument for the really extreme outcomes but can’t we make use of the data on the somewhat less extreme outcomes? The first answer is: it’s the really extreme outcomes that matter the most, so this question is less important than you think. The second answer is: this is where you should consult the mathematical part if you really care as it shows how for combinations of non linear effects with naturally occurring fat tail distributions you can get (arbitrarily) large prediction errors (on the outcome, which — keeping #2 above in mind is the thing that matters)
 The non-linearity of the payoff function for the “sucker’s bet” is concave whereas the one with the dramatic upside is convex. So you can restate the rule as: avoid concave non-linearity (which is fragile) and seek convex non-linearity (which is antifragile). Footnote added per Taleb’s tweet.
Book Review: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publication Date: 1925
Genre: Literary Fiction
When Nick Carraway moves from the Midwest to Long Island, he finds himself living next door to the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, who is famous for his lavish parties. It’s the summer of 1922, and everyone wants to live a carefree life of fulfilled dreams. While Nick lives in West Egg, his second cousin Daisy Buchannan and her rich and racist husband live in the more fashionable East Egg. Gatsby comes to Nick looking for someone to help in his attempt to recreate his past with Daisy, who he had loved during the war. Gatsby’s whole life has been built around his aim of winning back Daisy, with her voice sounding of money. This classic novel is a portrait of the jazz age and a story about the American dream, and the price we pay for the pursuit of it.
With the release of the film adaptation today, I thought it was as good a time as ever to reread and review The Great Gatsby. More interesting reviews will say that this book is overrated and come up with witty ways of saying so, but I love it. Gatsby definitely stands up well to a reread. Because it’s such a complex and layered novel, you can always notice new things the second time you read it. Since everything I can say about how good this book has been said before (and more eloquently than I could ever say it) I’m going to focus less on that in this review and more on whether this book will be enjoyable for you. That being said, this book is worthy of not only being considered a classic, but also the great American novel. It’s beautifully written and full of symbols and metaphors that have earned it a place in most American high school classrooms. While the characters might not be likeable, I don’t think they have to be. Characters in books are supposed to imitate real people and real people aren’t always likable. The themes in this book are still relevant today, and will be for as long as people are status obsessed and dishonest. While rereading, I was most interested in the aspects of the story that were about letting the idea of a person get in the way of truly loving them, as it does with Gatsby.
Despite what the movie trailers for the film might lead you to believe, this isn’t really a great romance. I think if you start The Great Gatsby expecting to find a book about a legendary love, or the glamorous lives of flappers or to find characters that you’ll connect with, you’ll be disappointed. Even though it’s seen as the great American novel, you do not have to be American to enjoy it, speaking as a non-American. The American dream is relevant to everyone in Western culture, not just Americans. If you read Gatsby in high school and hated it, it’s worth giving it a second chance. Novels are always more enjoyable when you don’t have to write a term paper on them. If the movie turns out to be a flop, read the book anyways. While it’s a fairly accessible classic and I’m tempted to recommend it as someone’s first because of its length, The Great Gatsby is brilliant and thought provoking. While the Jazz Age is over and the Lost Generation are gone, in a way we’re still, like Gatsby, yearning for the green light in the distance.
“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”