Links: Peter Norvig, Coders at Work, Tucson tedium, bookselling, teachers, Tolkien

* Peter Norvig in Coders at Work: “Certainly I would do things because they were fun. Especially when I was a grad student and I was less beholden to schedules. I’d say, ‘Oh, here’s an interesting problem. Let’s see if I can solve that.’ Not because it’s progress on my thesis, but just because it was fun.”

This is basically my problem, if that’s the correct term, in grad school: I find something interesting and want to write about that, instead of whatever’s immediately applicable in seminars or for my dissertation. In the short term it’s a problem, though in the long term I’d like to think of it as an asset.

* “The secret lives of feral dogs: A Pennsylvania city instructs police to shoot strays, opening a sad window on animal care in the age of austerity.”

* Now that I live in Tucson, AZ, I totally understand this comment; emphasis added:

In Zoellner’s riskiest chapter, he remembers Tucson as a rotten place to grow up. “My skateboard was no good on those new asphalt streets. … I would sometimes steal into an unfinished house in the late afternoons to smash out the windows with rocks.” He’s not excusing Loughner, just describing what an isolated lifestyle in Arizona can do to people. The state ranks 48th among places where “people trade favors with neighbors” and 45th among places where people eat dinner with their families.

In my case the university ameliorates some of the loneliness, but the “city” of Tucson is laid out so poorly and so widely that it promotes isolation.

* Good Writing Isn’t Enough: How to Sell a Book in the Digital Age.

* The value of teachers; see also “Should teachers be paid more or less? The answer is: both.”  Which comes to a very similar conclusion as my own post, “Are teachers underpaid? It depends.

* See too Jason Fisher’s reply to my last post.

* Yet another reason I don’t pay attention to literary prizes, this one regarding Tolkien.

* “The fragile teenage brain: An in-depth look at concussions in high school football.” After reading about the many football concussion studies, I’ve learned that a lot of the brain damage football causes isn’t from single big hits—it’s from many small hits that accrue in practice and elsewhere. There is no way I’d let my kid play football.

* A friend who read The Hunger Games didn’t especially like the novel and neither did I, despite three-quarters of America having read the novel and its sequels. I mostly thought the writing flat; my friend Heather simply said, “The metaphors are bad.” Perhaps I can get her to yield some examples soon.

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