May 27, 2008

Tell me a Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 6:46 pm

I love stories. My favourite part of visiting old friends, my parents, or my family in Canada is not the free food, the hospitality, getting out of dish duty, or coming to a home with a made bed and the porch light on when I arrive bleary-eyed at 5:45 in the morning, it’s the stories. An afternoon working on the car, sitting on the porch with a beer, spending ‘quality time’ always results in me hearing a few stories about crazy antics I missed.

The only thing I like more than hearing about stories is making them, but in some ways that’s a lot more predictable. If I’m following the schedule of a normal weekday, it’s not likely that I’ll have anything great from that day to tell my kids about it in a decade or so, barring natural disaster or something crazy like that. It’s more likely that I’ll forget about the day completely. Let’s face it, if I go to work every day, I can’t have a great story from each and every one no matter how great my job is, and the rent won’t pay itself. On the other hand, when I go to a triathlon with my dad and our racing buddies, or to Canada to get in trouble with my relations, I always come back with a story. Since I can’t go out and make stories all the time, I’m addicted to reading them, maintaining a satiating flow.

The reason I like stories so much probably has its root in my interest in human development. All we are is the sum of our experiences, and stories represent the experiences that have had the most impact in shaping us, since we feel they’re important enough to re-tell. My parents and most of my family in Canada are people I’m very interested in. I would by lying if I called them stupid or dull, and the fact that they have qualities that I admire makes me very interested in finding out how they came to be that way.

Likewise, a few years ago I happened upon, which is a repository of old stories from Apple during the “wild west” days of computer science, when any team of crazies in a garage could make a big difference just by doing what they enjoyed (in fact, that’s exactly what most of them did). The stories told on are both brilliant and astonishing, and as a whole, the guys that worked on the Apple ][ series and the original Mac are really interesting to me. When I finally finished reading every single article, I still wanted more. I wanted to read about the Woz’ design decisions when he created the Apple I and ][, did Burrel keep his moustache, and what else happened at Apple during those years that wasn’t recorded?

Even more strongly, a year or two ago I read an article about Richard Feynman (which Daring Fireball reposted to my aggregator today, prompting this post). Reading it for the dozenth time didn’t take away any of its impact, and at the end I felt just a little bit hopeless, because Feynman is dead now, and while one of the last quotes by him in the article is, “when you get as old as I am, you start to realize that you’ve told most of the good stuff you know to other people anyway.” That’s really depressing to me, because I never got to hear all the “good stuff” he had to say, and I’m sure it was really interesting. This is living history, and we’re losing portions of it all the time.

I know I can’t do much about the loss of other people’s history, and I’m sure that my own stories and the stories I’ve heard will never measure up to the old stuff that I can’t get enough of, but I’ve decided to write an occasional storytime entry on my blog here to document my own history and interactions with people that interest me. Some will be (very) long, but all of them struck a chord with me, and I hope that they are also interesting to you.


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