Monday, March 12, 2012

Alan Turing's Library Books

Here's another reason to NOT become famous: eventually, someone will dig up a list of the books you took out of the library, and post the list online.

Here is a list of books taken out by English mathematician/cryptanalyst/computer pioneer Alan Turing (1912 - 1954). Turing was a key player in deciphering the codes of the German Enigma machine used in the Second World War. He was also a homosexual; after the war he was prosecuted for his sexuality by the British government. He had to endure chemical castration and apparently committed suicide. (The above photo is of the Alan Turing Memorial in Manchester, England.)

What's the point of publicizing someone's library list? Can you tell from the list that Turing was gay? That he might have had Asperger's syndrome? That he was a genius?

I can say this: the only thing my library list and Turing's have in common is that we both took out books by Lewis Carroll. Not Alice in Wonderland - I had a copy of that at home. I borrowed Carroll's books on symbolic logic. Unlike Turing, I had no aptitude for this area of study. I thought they were boring and returned them, having read only a few pages.

Since I'm not famous, I don't expect anyone will care what books I borrowed from the library. But if someone does, the books I barely cracked on mathematics and logic will make me look smarter than I was.

Now, the list of my video rentals - that might be interesting!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ben Franklin's Busybody

Every time I mention a low-tech security device called a busybody, I confuse people. We have them in Philadelphia, where they are alleged to have been invented by Benjamin Franklin.

A busybody is an arrangement of three mirrors held by a bracket. The bracket is attached to the wall near a window, usually on an upper floor. By adjusting the mirrors, you can see who is below without making yourself visible. Usually, you arrange the mirrors so that you can see who is at your front door, so you can decide if you want to go downstairs and answer the door.

Here's a link to a Philadelphia-area company that sells them. (No, I don't own a piece of this company. But it's annoying to search for them on the web: you keep coming up with the more popular meaning of the word.)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fun at the DMV!

I just renewed my driver's license. I was depressed because I was the only one in the waiting room who had brought something to read. Of course, the Department of Motor Vehicles doesn't supply magazines to read. A few people were playing with their smartphones, but most of them just stared off into space.

Are you still a writer if no one reads anymore?

Finally, I got to the head of the line. I'm at the age when I no longer care what my photo looks like. Just get me out of the damn DMV as quickly as possible!

(I expect to be identified from my dental records, anyway.)