And so I'm on winter break. I've got my gradschool applications in (for the next degree) and finished the quarter with some measure of success (I dearly hope). So what to do now that I'm free from the bonds of academic duty? What I should be doing is working on my thesis project, and I'm sure I'll get to it before the break is out. What I have been doing is reading. I finished Asimov's The Naked Sun and an anthology of science fiction, read a hundred pages of A New Kind of Science, studied a section of Linear Algebra (some habits become hard to break, evidently), and I've read about a third of Oliver Twist.
Dickens is unexpectedly awesome, by the way. I had been skeptical of assigning him merit as a result of the unpleasant memory of reading an abridgment of Great Expectations in ninth grade, but Oliver Twist is proving delightful. I find it witty and incisive without seeming cynical (like Wilde), its language ornate but purposeful, and its construction of tragedy and suffering is matched in my experience only by Hugo, while lacking the monstrous historical digressions of the latter. Thanks, Erica, for turning me on to it and lending me the book.
In cleaning out my photo library, I came across my pictures of Svetlana Tolonen, my Russian acquaintance from Tampere, Finland. (circa 2004)
She and I look like shiny happy people, no? Its a shame I only spoke with her for a few hours.
I sent her an email, on the off chance that it would go through, and lo! She responded. I smile.
Its interesting to note how strong the influence of Russian culture has been on my life, while Russia itself seems very distant and foreign. Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev are two of my very favorite composers, and Dostoevsky was a favorite author of mine. Ayn Rand, a Russian emigrant, played a huge role in my younger intellectual development, and the effects of her thinking continue to have an impact on me. Pushkin had a big influence on Hofstadter, who's had a big influence on me. I wonder what other significant connections there are?
Added: I suppose this is an example of seletion bias. The influence of Germans, French, English, and Japanese have also been very strong, but it doesn't seem strange in my mind that those countries should have a strong influence. Why does Russia seem more foreign, even more so than Japan? Perhaps 'cause I remember an announcement in elementary school declaring the end of the cold war?