Thursday, June 18, 2009

Don't give away Tina! Black Swans.

A neighbor in the building wanted an English name for her young daughter.  My wife suggested the name "Tina".  "Tina" is a great name, but the problem is that that is the name that I have reserved for our potential daughter. 
When my wife was pregnant all those years ago and we discussed names for the children, we instantly decided on "Tina" as a name for a girl.  "Tina" was perfect.  We agreed it was easy to say in both Chinese and English.  It took longer for us to come with "Tony" as a name for a boy.  But of course, "Tony" was perfect as well.
Now we have been talking of having a second child.  We have always known ex ante, post hoc, a priori, that the second child will be a girl**.  Whenever Tony kicks me in the nuts, we like to joke that Tony doesn't want a sister or Tony doesn't want Tina.  Tina has been the name of our daughter for as long as we have thought of her so I was not at all keen on the joining in the exercise of thinking of possible names for a girl.  It is sort of like giving away your mantra or personal slogan.
In a recent column, David Warren says the following:  I am convinced that the very act of gathering, assembling, checking, publishing and analysing statistics is dehumanizing; it is a perversion of the arithmetical impulse.  This column came to mind as I was listening, last night, to a interview with the author of a book about Black Swans on a Econtalk podcast on my mobile phone.  The author did an attack on statistics using statistics saying we don't take full account of random factors in our lives.  This tendency is exemplified by the fact that someone did a study that showed that 80 percent of the results of many epidemiological studies cannot be replicated.  That is, we like to use statistics to confirm our theories that we already have.  We can't and shouldn't use our studies to make predictions.  This is a mistake that many Economic Forecasters make.
You have to like a book that calls financial analysts shamans.
** I have thought of a name for a second boy, "Phil".  Way the hay, I say!  Name my boys after the famous hockey-playing Esposito brothers - Tony and Phil.

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