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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest J. Gaines: I read Turgenev, Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, and that book had a tremendous impact on me. It was about a young man who came back to the old village to visit the old people after he had graduated from his university, and he used to be a doctor, and falls in love with a beautiful woman and all that sort of thing. They lived out in the country. When I was writing my first novel, Catherine Carmier -- I started writing it in '58, I think, '58, '59 -- I knew nothing about writing a novel, and I used that Fathers and Sons as sort of my Bible, my guide. My first novel was about a young man who had been away from the old place, and then returning, and falls in love with a beautiful girl, and he loses her. I was really very much impressed by -- influenced by -- Turgenev's Fathers and Sons at that time, but then I started reading other books, of course. I was reading other books at the same time, but that was the book that had the earliest influence on my structure -- structuring a novel. It was small, and it was tightly written. It was about the country and older people and a young educated man who was a nihilist. So I thought at that time I was a nihilist, too.
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

Then I retitled it A Short Biography of Miss Jane Pittman, when we were talking about it, and I worked on it about a year, and my editor -- who was Bill Decker, he was at the Dial Press at the time -- Bill called me one day and he says -- because I sent him drafts of it -- he called me one day and he said, "Listen, Ernie, I think this book has to be told from the first-person point of view. She has to tell the story. These people are not telling the story right." I told him, "Well, forget it. I'm going to go and continue to do what I'm doing," and I must have done that for another month or so. And then I realized he was right. So I started in chapter one. "It was a day something like right now," she says. "Hot, hot, and dusty, dusty" were my first lines in it, and then she talks about how the Secessionist army came in, and then the Northern army behind them, chasing them and so on, and it just started there, and things began to move to move to move. I continued to read and read and read about the Civil War, and then I read about the Reconstruction period, and then I kept reading. I would write in the morning from -- oh, I'd say from about 9:00 to about 2:00, and I had to go to work. I had part-time work, and then I'd work about four hours. Then I'd come back home, and I'd read. I was always a few years ahead of the time I was writing about. If I was writing about the Civil War, I was already reading about the Reconstruction period. If I was writing about that, I was reading about some other period in time. So I'd keep reading and reading and reading. So by the time my little character would get here, I have already gotten all the information or most of it.
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Bill Gates

Co-Founder and Chairman, Microsoft Corporation

Bill Gates: Math was the thing that came most natural to me. And you know you'd take these exams, some of which were sort of nationwide exams, and I did quite well on those. That gave me some confidence, and I had some teachers who were very encouraging. They let me read textbooks, they encouraged me to take a college course on symbolic math, which is actually called algebra. So I felt pretty confident in my math skills, which is a nice thing, because not only the sciences, but economics, a lot of things if you're comfortable with math and statistics and ways of looking at cause and effect, that's extremely helpful.
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Bill Gates

Co-Founder and Chairman, Microsoft Corporation

I went through several phases of doing more complex programs where people who were great programmers would look at my work, give me feedback on it, and you get so you can be quite a good programmer. It was kind such an intense activity, between the age of 13 and 17, that we learned a lot. Eventually one of the programs we took on was the idea of the scheduling of our school. When should the classes meet? Who should be in what section? You have all these requests for people who want different classes, and keeping them small, and not having the teachers teach too many classes in a row -- very complex kind of software problem. And actually, when the school first asked me to do it when I was 15, I said that I didn't know how and they asked some adults to do it, and that didn't work. Then, about a year later, I'd figured out how to do it, and so my friends and I actually did the software that did all this high school scheduling. It had some fantastic benefits to us, and we got paid for doing it. It was exactly the kind of complex problem that developed my skills very well. And we got some degree of control over who was in our classes, so it combined the best of everything!
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Bill Gates

Co-Founder and Chairman, Microsoft Corporation

We were lucky. There were always kinds of things that not only gave us an opportunity, but exposed us to that next level. After the payroll program, then there was a computer project to use computers to control all the electricity grid in the dams of the Pacific Northwest. A government agency called Bonneville Power had done a contract with a company called TRW to use computers to do all this control. And TRW had committed to do all this really high-reliability great software work. Well, they found it more difficult than they expected, so they were looking for people who understood these kinds of computers, which Paul Allen and I had done a lot of work on. These were the same computers that were at Computer Center Corporation and at this Portland company, Information Sciences. Anyway, we were kind of famous -- but nobody had met us -- because we had filed these problem reports. And by the end of these problem reports -- they were so sophisticated -- it was like, "Who are these guys out in Seattle telling us how to fix all this stuff?" So when TRW was saying, "Hey, we're desperate. Find us " they're telling Digital Equipment, who makes these things, "Find us the best programmers," and somebody says, "Well, there's Gates and Allen " and somebody says, "Nobody's really met them, but yeah, they're really good, we ought to be able to track them down." So they find us, this one guy, and we go for an interview. And these two kids show up and -- what was I when I was interviewed? I was 16 when they interviewed me. So they were like, "We can't hire you." But then they talked to us about software and we clearly know a lot. And when you're young and you know a lot, people don't have any kind of intermediate thing. You're either what you're supposed to be, which is a kid that doesn't know that much, or they think, "Whoa, this guy is the limit!" We were pretty good programmers. But anyway, so we got jobs at this TRW and that exposed me to some programmers, who were way better than I was, who critiqued my work. I could look at their work. And this one guy was really a phenomenal programmer.
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John Gearhart

Stem Cell Research

It was a regimented school kind of a thing and they had control of you for 24 hours a day. So you were up at study hall at 5:30 in the morning, then you would have breakfast, then you would go to school, and the academics were very rigorous and everyone did extremely well as you can imagine. I mean, in the evening you had another long study hall so you really learned some good kinds of habits which I would say I carry toady. I get up extremely early in the morning -- at 4:00 o'clock -- and I study and I read.
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