#31 – Guest Posting: My Earliest Book-perience(TM)

A guest posting from my Official Statisitian and Tattoo Consultant

Holy crapshite!

I almost forgot to write my blog entry! I’m horrible. But then again, I remembered so maybe I’m not so horrible after all. I blame my PhD, and my Post Doc, and a slew of other academic pursuits for my memory lapse. I also blame the universe for failing to remind me in a timely manner that I need to write a blog entry. Furthermore, I blame pants, spiders and any sort of pant wearing spider. The reasons for this should be obvious. Granted, I probably should really blame the beers that I drank last night, in place of working on said academic pursuits and blogging. But who can really blame beer for anything? It’s all tasty and wonderful and full of wholesome goodness.

So this is my first official blog entry for Not To Be Trusted With Knives. In fact, it’s my first blog entry ever. I’m a blog virgin if you will. So please, dear reader be gentle; it’s my first time. Truth be told, I’m stoked and nervous. Stoked because it is a huge honour to be writing for NTBTWK. Nervous, because I don’t really know what to write about, and I have a lot to live up to, especially given the awesomeness of the posts that one regularly reads here.

So, what to write about? As I sit here contemplating the theme (“Stuff books taught me”), I find myself at a bit of an impasse. Why? Well, despite my love for all things statistical and mathematical, I’m guessing that most readers likely don’t want to read about Bayesian priors, Multivariate Conditionally Autoregressive Random effects, or Poisson Mixture Models, really, ever [1]. In fact, based on my experience, most people tend to find a reason to leave the conversation if ever I go on a statistically laced rampage. I find this especially true when I make the effort to strike up a conversation with family and friends, or that random person on the bus that has that look about them. You know the look I’m referring to. It’s the I-want-to-know-everything-you-know-about-stats look. I’m sure you’ve all experienced that before. Hence, I need to figure out other “stuff books taught me” in order to satisfy the theme of this particular blog-tastic blogathon. But what makes up the “stuff books taught me”?

If I think back to my earliest book-perience [2], I find myself a child of the tender age of [insert whatever age one would be in grades 1 and 2] [3]. So there I was, an innocent [insert whatever age one would be in grades 1 and 2] year old going to the school library. The uniqueness of this particular visit is what makes it stand out in my memory. Specifically, this visit was to extend beyond the typical sit-down-and-listen-to-a-story as read to us by the librarian. In this case, we were tasked with the additional responsibility of choosing a book to check out and read at home. Being the nerdly fellow that I was, I was beside myself with excitement. Which book would I choose? How would I know that it was the book for me? Would people think me weird if I were to choose say, book A: Happy Days for Mr. Mugs, or book B: Where the Sidewalk Ends [4]. I frantically searched through the shelves, looking for that one book that spoke to me. The book that would be My Book. The book that would forever be my first.

This book was too ugly, that one too thin. A book about dinosaurs, that might work. A book about rainbows – no. A book about knights – maybe, but not quite. Fire breathing dragons? Monsters under the bed? Jelly-Belly? Little Ms. [anything]? No. No. No. No. I was losing patience and running out of time. The clock was ticking and I was the only one without a book. My teacher, Mrs. Hannigan, had already informed us that our time was running out. But where was my book? I was lost, heartbroken, confused and frustrated. So many emotions for such a young boy. And then, when I thought all was lost, a glimmer of something. To my left, shoved between two larger, uglier books which surely read of stupid cowboy adventures or saving the damsel in distress, there it was. A thin, simple book. But oh this book! The title spoke to me: “Where the Wild Things Are”. I knew it was love the minute I touched it. The minute I cracked it open and saw the pictures, touched the pages, smelled the ink. They weren’t just pictures, they were more than art, they were images of a place that I knew intimately from my moments of make believe. It was as if someone had reached into my head and made real the world that I believed in, but up until that point thought was only in my mind. This world existed and I had documented proof. While the thoughts that ran through my brain were a blur, I distinctly remember thinking, “I must find this island”. It became my mission whenever and wherever I could, to seek out the “Wild Things”. I carried that book with me all the time. I often hid it in the library behind other books that no one would read so that I would know exactly where it was to check it out and keep it just for me. I had my book and I wasn’t about to share it with anyone. “Where the Wild Things Are” taught me about adventure, about exploration. It made me realize that monsters aren’t scary. It made me love books. It was my first book, and I love it to this day.

So, what makes up the “stuff books taught me”? I think, above all other lessons books have provided, beyond all the questions they have posed, assumptions they have prodded and poked, past the heartbreaks and adventures; above all of this, books have taught me how to stay forever young. For any time I’m feeling too caught up with the world, events of my life, the stresses of jobs, the stresses of relationships, family, etc., I know that I can always, always pick up “Where the Wild Things Are” and instantly be transported to that day in the library when I first discovered my love for books, and the feeling that someone could write not just for me, but to me, about me. That I could always revive the kid in me, and fully believe that there is an island out there just for me and my adventures with the “Wild Things”.

I only hope that the movie adaptation (which is hitting theatres October 16, 2009) lives up to the beauty that is “Where the Wild Things Are” [5] I know that I will be one of the first in line to see the movie and will, without a doubt, be instantly 7 years old again when I watch it. I can’t wait!

Official Statisitian and Tattoo Consultant of NTBTWK

[1] Although, for the life of me I don’t understand who wouldn’t want to read about that! Go Stats!
[2] Copyright!
[3] I’d do the math, because I’m all I-love-Math-all-the-time, except I’m a little rough due to the beer consumption from the previous eve. Hence, you’ll have to forgive my laziness for not calculating the appropriate age.
[4] Both fantastic reads. Of course, I think the latter holds more value to me than the former.
[5] Check out the trailer here: http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/wherethewildthingsare/

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Comments |6|

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  • Aww, Dan! That's wicked. I can totally see a young you tucking away this book for you and you alone. I remember loving books that much, too. I had one – less iconic, it was called “The Christmas Cat” about a stray cat in the woods in Xmas eve. Lovely illustrations and story. My Mom had to special order it through her school library so I could have my own copy after years of bringing it home. I can't wait to share it with Teddy.

    Also – I wanted to go on record saying thanks for your enthusiasm about the HP books. Reading Azkaban (my favourite) while in Chicago with you was such a highlight. It's nice that you haven't lost the love of reading, either!


  • HP rocks. I honestly wish that I had more time to spend reading for fun. Most of what I read now is academic. Not that I have a problem with that, as I do loves me some stats. But it would be nice to sink my teeth into something a little less cerebral every now and then. Or cerebral in a different (read, less numbery) way. Te he, numbery. That's so bad it's wicked awesome.

    In the grand scheme of things, I guess cerebral isn't all that bad in my books. I mean, I can't really knock it given that I carried 'Bayesian Data Analysis' with me to Cuba in May so that I could reread it on the beach. Yes, I said reread it; it's that freaking sweet ass awesome.

    So not to read as some sort of uber-geek, I should probably add that I reread only some of the chapters. I also read it while tanning and enjoying several pina coladas. Bayesian analysis really is better with a pina colada.


  • Dan! I thought you weren't going to do any work on your holiday?? But really, how could you resist Bayesian Data Analysis? I mean, chapter 17 “Bayesian Data Analysis Does Dallas” is *riveting*

    Also, after I finished my Ph.D., I went hog wild with reading non-sciencey books for fun. But, of course, I wasn't a pre-doc post-doc, so there may be no hope for you!


  • Well, I only read it after I had finished a couple of fun books. Sadly, I don't remember what they were or anything about them. So, in terms of brain candy, I was highly successful with the selection of my first read-in-Cuba books. I remember they were enjoyable at the time, but they left no lasting impression.

    Also, chapter 17 is one of my favourite. But mine is entitled 'Models for missing data'. I think I might have an older version perhaps. I must MUST get an updated copy, post haste.


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