Bayesian Probability and A Very Short Novel


Waiting for the late bus home, I was totally confused. Graham and Caleb were talking about Bayesian probability and that was well beyond my ability to understand. Even as a high school senior, I didn’t have a fifth of the mathematical ability that Graham did. But that was probably true for most Harriton seniors.

When we were hanging out, Caleb would sometimes talk about how impressive Graham was. It wasn’t the annoying, droning bragging that a difficult aunt might force you to listen to, but a really enthusiastic little story. For example, about Graham’s achievements in the TSA’s game design competition Caleb told me, “He’s one of the best in the country.” He said it without irony or any sort of condescension. He was just excited to talk about how smart his little brother was.

After planning out what classes Graham would take, Caleb said, “He has a good chance of getting into MIT.” He was excited about that, too.

Graham was even ahead of me in the one thing I get competitive about — writing. His novel The Squeezy Pinchy Girl was a pithy tour de force that Jonathan Franzen is still struggling to out do. When Caleb first showed me the framed and illustrated copy of The Squeezy Pinchy Girl, he said, “It has every part a story requires. It has a beginning, middle, and end. It has an antagonist. It has a protagonist.” Caleb told me this with a level of glee usually reserved for a particularly excellent play in Magic: the Gathering. Again, he was incredibly proud of his little brother and excited to show it.

But I didn’t just hear about Graham’s brilliance. I was often on the receiving end of this brilliance when he beat me at everything from Magic: the Gathering to Ricochet Robots.

I remember being jealous of Graham. He had math and science skills, climbing expertise, and was clearly a literary genius. But Graham wouldn’t have liked to hear that I was jealous of him. No. He knew that the correct word would be “envious.”