Sunday, December 11, 2016

Rain: More Rain (December 10-16, 2016)

More rain on December 10-11 added another 0.80 inches of precipitation to our total at my northeast Santa Rosa location. Our total for the 2016-2017 rain year now stands at 12.95 inches, which is well above normal for this time of year—and more rain is predicted in the coming days.

[Update: And indeed there was more rain. On December 14-15 we had a solid day of rain that added 3.25 inches to our total for the year, which now stands at 16.20 inches at my location—well ahead of normal, at least for the time being. Normal for this date is about 9.5 inches.]

[Update: More rain on the evening of December 22 and into December 23 added another 1.55 inches of precipitation. That brings our total for the year to 17.75 inches--still more than six inches above normal for this time of year.]

Books I'm Reading: The Black Swan

Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb frequently uses the publishing industry as an example of one prone to what he calls "blacks swans"—a black swan is a highly unpredictable event that has far-reaching consequences and one that we rationalize after the fact, making up explanations to reassure ourselves that what happened was not as random as it seemed. He mentions best-selling books that seem to come out of nowhere, like the Harry Potter series—books that become extraordinarily popular for reasons that are easy to come up with after they take off, but that few could have suggested beforehand. He mentions events such as the 9-11 attacks. Taleb's book, The Black Swan (Random House, 2007) is something of a black swan itself. It appears to have been a major bestseller when it was new, around 2007. I bought my copy at about that time on a business trip to Tokyo but have read it only now.

Detailed, far-ranging, and not a little bit arrogant, The Black Swan is entertaining, if hard to follow in places, and somewhat repetitive. It's the kind of book you immediately want to read again after you finish, wondering if you really absorbed all there was to be absorbed—although the repetition and the author's self-congratulatory asides can become a bit tedious. To be fair, though, Taleb considerately suggests that about half the book can be skipped by those already familiar with some of his ideas.

In a nutshell, Taleb argues that we are very bad at prediction but like to pretend that we are quite good at it—that we are far too often groping blindly in the dark, hoping to find our way safely through the minefield of life, victims of confirmation bias and narrative bias, in particular. He has especially pointed barbs to hurl at policy makers, economists, and investment advisors, marking their activities as those of people habitually making bad decisions because of these biases and because of a misguided belief that they are working on meaningful evidence from the past, which Taleb suggests is, in the vast majority of cases, useless information.

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 160 (Santa Rosa)

My latest collage, my first in several weeks. This one uses found Japanese paper and several subtly different shades of off-white monoprinted papers of my own creation. Together these were originally part of an abandoned monochrome experiment. I've coupled the pale overlapping lays with an abortive black and red juxtaposition from a few months back that I had abandoned as well. Paired, they finally began to make some kind of sense to me. The subtleties of the monochrome areas are lost in the photograph here, but it's a reasonable facsimile.

This is Untitled Collage No. 160 (Santa Rosa). December 11, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper, collage. Image size 19.9 x 27.2cm (7.8 x 10.7 inches). Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed on the mat, signed and dated on the reverse.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my collage work, visit my collage site at
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