Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music
I'd like to imagine that I have more interests than will fit on a single Web page. This ought to give you a sense of the kinds of things that interest me, but please don't go away thinking Well, clearly he cares nothing whatever about American canal development in the 1830's or How can he call himself well-read? He never mentioned Consolatio Philosophiae! just because I didn't mention them.
This is a difficult area to summarize; I've read widely, both geographically and temporally, since I was young, but my reading is eclectic and there are holes. I've read Thomas Paine's Age of Reason but not Salinger's Catcher in the Rye -- that sort of thing.
I'm most familiar with Western prose and poetry, from the Greeks through the 20th century. I'm especially interested in 9th-10th century Britain, Victorian England, 20th century America until about 1960, and fabulists or magic realists such as Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges.
The novel remains for me one of the few forms where we can record man's complexity and the strength and decency of his longings. Where we can describe, step by step, minute by minute, our not altogether unpleasant struggle to put ourselves into a viable and devout relationship to our beloved and mistaken world.
Many, if not most, of the volumes I have here in California are
actually poetry -- Shakespeare, Donne, Keats, Shelly, Byron,
Wordsworth, Coleridge, Frost, Robinson, Masters, William Carlos
Williams, and Conrad Aiken, to name some
There's a small but respectable shelf of prose, including Thornton Wilder, P. G. Wodehouse, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Henry James, George Eliot, Hardy, Dickens, Proust, Umberto Eco, and Annie Proulx. Most of my "great literature" is still back East in boxes; once I graduate and settle down I'll bring them out and then I can finally force my way through Ivanhoe and things like that. I highly recommend Thornton Wilder; if you ever read any of his books, it was probably the play Our Town. Go read Theophilus North.
When I'm not reading to improve myself, I enjoy fantasy and science fiction (of which I have many more examples here). Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, Raymond Feist, David Eddings, Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov, Terry Pratchett, Poul Anderson, Ursula LeGuin, and Jack Vance, among others. Of these, I like Jack Vance best. His Dying Earth and Lyonesse series are unique; nobody writes in the convoluted, arcane, witty way that Jack Vance does.
Of the hard sciences, I'm obviously interested in computer science. My research focuses on artificial intelligence, intelligent agents, believable agents, and human-computer interface issues. I'm also curious about evolutionary computing, the principles of software engineering, and the development of protocols used on the Web, such as HTTP and HTML. I design for and use the Web heavily, and I'm fascinated by where it's going, both in terms of interface and use.
I'm also keen on math, especially logic and number theory, though just because I like it doesn't mean I'm particularly good at it. Physics, especially particle physics and astrophysics, in the same way. Lighter reading on the science shelves includes Men of Mathematics, Gödel, Escher, Bach, The Mathematical Experience, and Time Travel and Papa Joe's Pipe (a collection of Alan Lightman's essays which I highly recommend).
Of the social sciences, I'm interested in history, psychology, and sociology. I've studied Greek, Roman, and medieval European history, and done a fair bit of reading on 19th century American history as well, especially the politics of the 1850's and the Civil War, and I've read rather a lot on the life and career of Abraham Lincoln.
A bizarre factoid about myself: if I could choose one day in the past to visit, I'd visit the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, on some quiet day in May of 1893.
I enjoy movies, plays, musicals, opera (serious or comedic; I love Gilbert and Sullivan), art galleries and museums of all sorts. I can talk reasonably intelligently about medieval armaments, Egyptian sarcophagi, French Impressionism, the excavations at Knossos, or the Bayeux tapestry.
[Art is...] A human activity having for its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen.
Some of my favorite artists are Vermeer, van Eyck, Nicholaes Maes, Monet, Gustave Dorè, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Maxfield Parrish, Magritte, and Escher. I generally enjoy art up through the 20th century, though I admit that most modern and contemporary art confuses me.
As for my own artistic skills, well...I play the piano (very badly), and I occasionally mess around with the concertina, the pennywhistle, and the banjo. Recently I've taken up drawing in the hopes of making the sticks in my stick figures more realistic.
I do watch some television; not a lot, but I enjoy Masterpiece Theater, Mystery!, The American Experience, Doctor Who, The X-Files, and The Simpsons. I'm even part of a Tuesday night group that gets together to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. De gustibus non est disputandum.
I grudgingly admit that there is life beyond academia. I enjoy walking, hiking, camping, canoeing...being in the outdoors in all of its slow-moving and not-potentially-lethal splendor. I enjoy games, both computer- and board-based, from RPGs to bridge and chess. I can't juggle but have wasted any number of hours trying.
I'm not much of a sportsman, but I can bowl (legacy of a Bay City childhood), golf, shoot pool, and play darts. The perceptive reader will notice that all these sports involve projectiles traveling away from me.
Some of My Favorite People
Finally, here are some of my Favorite People in the Whole World.