I met a famous author. It was a completely chance encounter, but I got to meet her nonetheless. I had read her books when I was growing up, and continue reading them today as each story is released. The copies that I have are curious though, some pages are missing, others appear to have been ripped out, and across still others is stamped:

THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK

Even with the gaps — or perhaps especially with them — the stories’ frames and their format feel familiar, as though I could fill in those gaps in the manuscripts with my…


It’s hard not to reflect sometimes and realize that the topics that I write about are so often sad or serious or socratic in nature, and rarely dive into the realm of the happy or joyous. Some of this bleeds into my personal life too — many of my conversations with friends still resemble the kinds we’d have in college: up late drinking at the bar (or more likely sitting deep in a couch) and just dissecting what makes a life worth living.

It’s pretty easy to explain this though — the happy stuff just doesn’t nag me. It doesn’t…


Photo by Tara Evans on Unsplash

And someone else too if you can

A few months ago I was chatting with a friend about a curious phenomenon that we had both began to notice. She and I both grew up in immigrant households — the kind of immigrant household that placed enormous weight on education, elevating it to the level of status.

We were talking about books; we both read quite a bit and both of our mothers have taken to a habit of complaining about how much we read. Recently my mother lamented that I was spending my whole evenings reading, and that I should socialize or watch some TV instead. …


Math, Money, Medicine

Photo by Harmen Jelle van Mourik on Unsplash

In 2000 — when I was in the fourth grade — I read an article about how to land a dream job at Microsoft. The article followed a candidate through the travails of interviewing for Microsoft’s consulting team from the application to the phone screen to the multiple in-person interviews, and included tips from the former-candidate-turned-interviewer to prospective applicants. I didn’t even know what a dream job was but it sounded like a lot of work to get one.

That same year, my class’s fourth grade yearbook (it’s hard to believe that such a thing as a fourth grade yearbook…


An Ode to Anders Ericsson and Learning

In the Spring of 2016, Stephen Dubner released a series of podcasts in the Freakonomics Radio feed under the theme of self-improvement. He featured prominent personalities like Malcolm Gladwell and Tim Ferris during the series, but the series kicked off with an interview with Anders Ericsson, a Swedish research psychologist who got his start studying nuclear engineering. …


Photo by Lasse Møller on Unsplash

Inuit / n. / kartz-sih-loo-nih / ᖄ ᕐ ᑦ ᓯ ᓗ ᓂ

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of what’s felt like the longest year. From the initial onset of the pandemic, reckoning with racial injustice, the election, and more, it has felt like inching out to a ledge of snow, not knowing whether it is a cornice that could suddenly collapse under our weight.

There is an Inuit expression called qarrtsiluni, that roughly means “sitting together in darkness waiting for something to burst or break”. For the Inuit, this was meant literally, where men would go to a festival house without light or lamps, and sit in the darkness…


Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

aka Postcards to Strangers

The Postcard Game was thunk up in the common room of Len Hostel Kyoto Kawaramachi late in the evening of March 26th, 2019. Borne out of a conversation between fellow postcard writers Barry Leybovich and Terri-Louise Doyle over whiskey and matcha-flavored KitKats, it is exceedingly simple.

Exceedingly Simple Rules

  1. Each person buys a postcard, stamps it, and writes down the name and address of a recipient.
  2. Swap cards — this does not need to be limited to two people, this can just as easily be done in groups with everyone passing their cards one over.
  3. Write a letter to a perfect stranger, preferably…

Pandemic Love

Photo by Adrien Delforge on Unsplash

Jamie clicked her heels a few times absentmindedly, faintly wishing doing so would return her home. Whatever home would even be, having spent the past six years since graduating college jumping from apartment to apartment across cities and oceans. Now she stood at the front of the line outside of Trader Joe’s, smiling faintly at the Hawaiian-shirt-clad, bearded associate and waiting to be ushered in. He was handsome, Jamie thought to herself, flitting with the question of whether he’d be any useful in the apocalypse. He has a box cutter at least. She’d been waiting for fifty-seven minutes already in…


On Sam Harris, free speech, and the scientific method

Sometimes, Sam Harris’s Making Sense podcast really bugs me. Truly, I think Harris is a smart guy — I appreciate his podcast and in particular I applaud his focus on important but underrepresented content such as effective altruism, existential risk, privacy, child sexual abuse, and more. And because of those great things, it’s probably all the more disappointing when he flubs.

In no example is this more obvious than in Harris’s podcast with Charles Murray, who is known fairly widely as a racist, and also as a pseudoscientist. Murray is known for this so much so, that the top hit…


Frames of reference, and dating in America

Plotted using Desmos

Content warning: This piece briefly mentions death by suicide.

This should be fairly obvious. I can practically hear you thinking that only a nerd like me could ever think otherwise. We’ll ignore for now the behavioral psychologists whose lives’ work is literally to quantify relationships as math, but I agree with you, relationships are not math. Because, unlike relationships, math is easy.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear the son of a once-aspiring math teacher say that math is easy. My mom studied for years to become a math teacher in Soviet Ukraine only to be thwarted by…

Barry Leybovich

Product Manager, Technology Enthusiast, Human Being; Contributor to Towards Data Science, PS I Love You, The Startup, and more. Check out my pub Life with Barry

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