Brookline Library gala

Monday 10 February 2003

Last night I had a grand old time at the Brookline Library Winter Gala. Brookline has a high author-to-citizen ratio, and a number of them were on hand for casual conversation: I spoke to Marvin Minsky, David Weinberger, Evan Schwartz, Lawrence Cohen, Steven Shore, Abelardo Morell, and Sandra Stotsky.

Topics included:

  • Stephen Wolfram (whose book was present, though he was not, and there was some doubt as to his Brookline residency)
  • Science’s role in the world
  • The history of cellular automata
  • The requirements in general for a theory to be interesting (Minsky claimed it has to be able produce five kinds of things, not just three)
  • The prudence of having rope about you at all times (Minsky was wearing a tie made of mountain-climbing rope, explaining that he had once saved his daughter from quicksand with rope he had on hand)
  • The social skills of geeks (you can tell you’re talking to the geek with social skills because he’s looking at your shoes)
  • Harvard admissions
  • Autism
  • Russian history
  • Humans are the only animals that crawl before they walk (horses, for example, are running within minutes of birth)
  • Color perception (is it a coincidence that the human eye can register three independent variables — light/dark, red/green, and blue/yellow — and TVs use three colors to produce their images)
  • Blue’s Clues (how Nick Jr managed the transition between hosts so as not to upset their young viewers)
  • Brookline politics (we’re electing town officials in May)
  • Sonny and Cher
  • How our fifth-graders are doing in school
  • Underwear (don’t ask)

Other literary luminaries present included Linda Barnes, Gary Wolf, Eli Newberger, Arthur Golden, Jayne-Anne Phillips, and many more.

If you are in the Brookline area, I highly recommend joining the party next year.


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