Read something every day with Delancyplace

For several years, I was also curating a Tools site for students. I decided to stop updating that and to gradually move the more useful tools from that site to this Topics site, adding new tools as I come across them. Here’s a new one.

Delancyplace is

“a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.” (from their About page)

You can sign up for a daily email, or you can browse the archives, which go back to January 2006.

Here is a recent excerpt I enjoyed, from January 4th. It’s about how dangerous the drinking water used to be, and so instead of drinking water, people drank beer.

It’s from a 2016 book titled Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History, by Steven Grasse.

“It was not for religious freedom nor by divine providence that our ancestors [the Pilgrims] so fatefully settled at Plymouth Rock. It was because we were running out of beer. … (read the rest of the excerpt)

It reminds me of a scene from “Back the the Future” (part 3) when Marty goes back to the Old West and asks for water at a saloon.


Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence (沈黙), published 50 years ago and winner of the Tanizaki Prize in 1966, is being made into a movie, directed by Martin Scorcese. I read the novel in English when I was studying Japanese literature in college, but seeing this trailer made me want to go back and read it again. The movie is opening in the US in January, and IMDb says it will open in Japan on January 21. That gives us time to read it over the winter break.


The unlikely connection between music and computers

Sure, people invent things because we need them, but just as often, says Steven Johnson in this short TED Talk,

“New ideas come into the world simply because they’re fun.”

What do flutes and computers have in common? Watch and find out:

He ends with this:

“You’ll find the future wherever people are having the most fun.”

So, where does the future lie?