July 05, 2019 12:40 PM

A Very Good Reason to Leave Your Home and Move to a New Country

He applied to switch his major from mathematics to computer science, but the authorities forbade it. "That is what tipped me to accept the idea that perhaps Russia is not the best place for me," he says. "When they wouldn't allow me to study computer science."

-- Sergey Aleynikov, as told to Michael Lewis and reported in Chapter 5 of Flash Boys.


Posted by Eugene Wallingford | Permalink | Categories: Computing, General

July 01, 2019 11:59 AM

Wandering the Stacks

In You Are Here, Ben Hunt writes:

You know what I miss most about the world before Amazon? I miss going to the library and looking up a book in the card catalog, searching the stacks for the book in question, and then losing myself in the experience of discovery AROUND the book I was originally searching for. It's one of the best feelings in the world, and I'm not sure that my children have ever felt it. I haven't felt it in at least 20 years.

My daughters, now in their mid-20s, have felt it. We were a library family, not a bookstore family or an Amazon family. Beginning as soon as they could follow picture books, we spent countless hours at the public library in our town and the one in the neighboring city. We took the girls to Story Time and to other activities, but mostly we went to read and wander and select a big stack of books to take home. The books we took home never lasted as long as we thought they would, so back we'd go.

I still wander the stacks myself, both at the university library and, less often these days, the local public libraries. I always start with a few books in mind, recommendations gathered from friends and articles I've read, but I usually bring home an unexpected bounty. Every year I find a real surprise or two, books I love but would never have known about if I hadn't let myself browse. Even when I don't find anything surprising to take home, it's worth the time I spend just wandering.

Writing a little code often makes my day better. So does going to the library. Walking among books, starting with a goal and then aimlessly browsing, calms me on days I need calming and invigorates me on days when my energy is down. Some days, it does both at the same time. Hunt is right: It's one of the best feelings in the world. I hope that whatever else modern technology does for our children, it gives them something to rival this feeling.


Posted by Eugene Wallingford | Permalink | Categories: General, Personal