Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon is over a thousand pages long. Here’s one of the best passages in a very good book, in my opinion. Randy, a computer savant and one of the main characters, is recalling when he had to have his wisdom teeth out (as a bonus, this entire passage, which actually runs a good bit longer than this excerpt, is all to set up a comparison to a situation that Randy is now in, years later). He’s had a hard time finding a doctor because his wisdom teeth are large and in a precarious spot, but he finally learns about this doctor, and has come to his office for a consultation.
When he finally turned to face Randy, he had this priest-like aura about him, a kind of holy ecstasy, a feeling of cosmic symmetry revealed, as if Randy’s jaw, and his brilliant oral-surgery brain, had been carved out by the architect of the Universe fifteen billion years ago specifically so that they could run into each other, here and now, in front of this light box. He did not say anything like, “Randy let me just show you how close the roots of this one tooth are to the bundle of nerves that distinguishes you from a marmoset,” or “My schedule is incredibly full and I was thinking of going into the real estate business anyway,” or “Just a second while I call my lawyer ” He didn’t even say anything like, “Wow, those suckers are really in deep.” The young brilliant oral surgeon just said, “Okay,” stood there awkwardly for a few moments, and then walked out of the room in a display of social ineptness that totally cemented Randy’s faith in him.
What I love about this is that this is part of my assessment of computer types. I don’t entirely trust the ones with good social skills.
I’m reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s about Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. Those he reached out to in hopes of saving the country, some of whom also happened to be his opponents in the 1860 presidential campaign.
Abraham Lincoln was an astute politician, but he probably wouldn’t get elected today. He dealt with the complex and real, as opposed to the simple and facile. He also demonstrated a lot of selflessness – a rare commodity in people, much less politicians.
It’s one of the longer, heavier books I’ve read lately, and it’s not over yet.