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Tech Q&A

Joseph T. Hallinan

Describe your latest project.
As the title suggests, this is a book about why we make mistakes. I've come to think of it as a field guide to human error — a book that explains, in everyday language, why we make some of the mistakes we do, and also offers some helpful hints about making fewer of them.

  1. Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average
    $10.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "A vastly informative, and for some readers vastly reassuring, exploration of the way our minds work." Booklist (starred review)

    "Entertains while it informs. Hallinan brings the science of human behavior to life, showing how it applies to us every day." Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things

What inspires you to sit down and write?
Probably the same things that inspire most writers: A mortgage. Tuition. Fear.

But these aside, writing is what I've wanted to do, in one way or another, since I was 18 or so. And writing books offers something few jobs do: a sense of permanence. Long after the author is dead and gone, the book survives; and that knowledge affords a sense of purposefulness to a life.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
One of my high school English teachers, Mrs. Bokor, first introduced me to literature that meant something to me. I tried to look her up years ago to thank her, but was told that she had died.

What do you do for relaxation?
Mostly, I hunt and fish. Doing these things usually gets me to the parts of the world that I love, and when I'm there, I don't think about the outside world or writing or anything else but the task at hand. It's marvelously rejuvenating.

What was your favorite book as a kid?
I don't know that I had one. I didn't start reading, in any serious way, until I was a teenager. Most of my time as a kid was spent outdoors.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
The PedEgg?

If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
Many writers seem to have led pretty miserable lives, so I suppose it depends on the day of reincarnation. But if I had to pick one writer, I'd say Dickens, with Mark Twain a close second. And if a scientist, it'd probably be Richard Feynman, who seemed like a pretty fun guy.

What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
I'd say English — but my grades certainly didn't reflect that.

What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
Run properly.

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Joseph T. Hallinan, a former writer for the Wall Street Journal, is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He lives with his wife and children in Chicago.

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