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Barack Like Me

by David Alan Grier Alan Eisenstock

FROM GROWING UP IN DETROIT, where he marched as a ten-year-old with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to attending the inauguration of President Barack Obama, where he narrowly avoided the Purple Tunnel of Doom but still saw nothing, David Alan Grier examines how he -- and America -- have changed for the better and the funnier. Within these pages, Grier imagines being called to serve in President Obama's cabinet as the "secretary of mirth"; takes you to a wild and emotional election night party he hosted that didn't go as planned; explains the true meaning of the "magical Negro"; recalls the formative episodes from his life -- including being rejected by the Black Panthers at their headquarters door and turning down the initial offer to work on In Living Color -- and for the first time ever sneaks you backstage at Dancing with the Stars, where he exposes the inner workings of the show -- the camaraderie between dancers and stars, the excruciatingly painful rehearsals, the outrageous preparations, and each hysterical moment of his four-episode appearance and subsequent public meltdown. Grier unabashedly muses on politics, culture, and race while recounting his own life story in this edgy, timeless, hilarious, and revelatory memoir and look at all things Barack. Barack Like Me is David Alan Grier at his best -- the man, comic, and twenty-first-century thinker -- funny, brilliant, and original.

When Computers Were Human

by David Alan Grier

Before Palm Pilots and iPods, PCs and laptops, the term "computer" referred to the people who did scientific calculations by hand. These workers were neither calculating geniuses nor idiot savants but knowledgeable people who, in other circumstances, might have become scientists in their own right. When Computers Were Human represents the first in-depth account of this little-known, 200-year epoch in the history of science and technology. Beginning with the story of his own grandmother, who was trained as a human computer, David Alan Grier provides a poignant introduction to the wider world of women and men who did the hard computational labor of science. His grandmother's casual remark, "I wish I'd used my calculus," hinted at a career deferred and an education forgotten, a secret life unappreciated; like many highly educated women of her generation, she studied to become a human computer because nothing else would offer her a place in the scientific world. The book begins with the return of Halley's comet in 1758 and the effort of three French astronomers to compute its orbit. It ends four cycles later, with a UNIVAC electronic computer projecting the 1986 orbit. In between, Grier tells us about the surveyors of the French Revolution, describes the calculating machines of Charles Babbage, and guides the reader through the Great Depression to marvel at the giant computing room of the Works Progress Administration. When Computers Were Human is the sad but lyrical story of workers who gladly did the hard labor of research calculation in the hope that they might be part of the scientific community. In the end, they were rewarded by a new electronic machine that took the place and the name of those who were, once, the computers.

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