I have written below about some pursuits to which I might be willing to devote some future life. I think it's good to have so many interests, even if it's rather hard to keep up with them.

Rather than try to prioritize them, I'll list them in alphabetical order.

Artificial Intelligence
Classical languages and civilizations
Computers and programming
"Hofstadterese", metalogic and Gödel
Jazz improvization and history
Modern Languages

Back to interests page

Artificial Intelligence

An interest in chess playing computer programs sparked my enthusiasm for AI back in high school. This increased when Douglas Hofstadter spoke at the Hill, and later when I read his Gödel, Escher, Bach. I took CS 182, the AI class, at Harvard; I was especially interested in search problems, language processing, and the philosophy of AI. If I went back into computers as a profession, I think I would look here first.

Classical Languages, Cultures and Civilizations

Education in the Classics formed a large part of my Hill education. I also took a Greek reading class on Aristophanes at Harvard, as well as a core class entitled "The Rome of Augustus." I certainly enjoyed both of these and regret not having been able to do more of this at Harvard. Latin and Greek are always interesting in their relationship to the English language. However, since much of my Classical education was linguistically oriented, it could be interesting some day to do some more reading about the civilizations themselves, or to make a trip to Greece or Crete. (I encountered the Roman ruins briefly on a trip to Europe but it would be interesting to return.) It would also be a rewarding experience to teach basic Latin or Greek; perhaps I'll get to do this sometime.

Computers and Programming

I have been interested in computer programming for a long time; in fourth grade I began to learn Applesoft Basic; soon I took a course in Pascal, and I learned some assembly on my own. I wrote many programs in those days. As was natural for a kid of that age, I was fascinated by computer games, and I liked to design them, learning much about computers and the software engineering process along the way. I guess it's surprising I didn't consider CS as a concentration when I arrived at Harvard, but I never thought of myself as a "techie"; however, the courses suited me well. One 'cultural' goal of mine was to have a better understanding of how the computer worked on the hardware level, and I was able to take a hardware class, which satisfied this desire (it could hardly have been any particular wish to deal with tangled wires and circuits!). I would single out learning LISP as an especially interesting experience; I admire this language as a mathematical construction, although I admit it can be pretty cumbersome at times when it comes to getting things done. Regrettably, the only language in which I seem to have time to program these days is HTML, which is surely a big drop down from LISP! :(

"Hofstadterese" - Metalogic, Gödel etc.

Douglas Hofstadter lectured at the Hill School in my second form year; I met him, and at his suggestion we even played a game of chess. His thought has always inspired me. I've read Gödel, Escher, Bach twice now. His work inspired me to take classes at Harvard in AI as well as Philosophy 144, "Logic and Philosophy," a course devoted to the proof and the implications of Gödel's Theorem. It is fun to dabble in puns, self-referential constructions, the Epimenides paradox, figure and ground, Escher drawings, etc. When it comes to understanding these concepts in a profound way, however, one should bear in mind Hofstadter's Law: "It always takes longer than you think, even considering Hofstadter's Law."

Jazz Improvization and History

I've always liked listening to jazz, and at Peabody, I dabbled in jazz improvisation at least know what to do with a lead sheet. All that's left to do is practice it! I can play by ear to an extent, and I am able to do a transcription from a recording, because I always like to figure out the most colorful harmonic progressions. However, I still find it difficult to go back and forth between rehearsing polished performances of Classical literature, on the one hand, and spontaneous creation in the jazz idiom, on the other. For now, it is a pleasure to listen to recordings or to hear live combos.


I guess this is mainly a juvenile interest. As a kid I studied maps all the time; I knew most of the roads in and near the city of Reading, and liked to explore the ones I hadn't traveled before. Even today, if I'm out walking around, I like to scout the area and find places I've never been, to learn where I am in the context of my surroundings. I guess this is the "Romantic attraction" of being an explorer in olden times. Nowadays, maps serve a purely utilitarian function for me - it isn't good to get stuck in the wrong part of Baltimore (and I still do, from time to time) - but my sense of exploration has never died.


I took all the math I could in high school, and concentrated in it for three years at Harvard. Rigorous argument, when fully comprehended, is not only a powerful tool but also a source of aesthetic pleasure. It's a great shame that so few people seem to appreciate it in this way. Even solving a basic algebra problem has a certain delightful ritual quality about it which pleases me greatly, as long as the arithmetic isn't too demanding. I haven't looked at much math for a while, but my college texts are always there to be re-examined in more leisure, as sources of enlightenment and pleasure (real education) rather than as requirements. I'd probably go back first to group theory, topology or combinatorics. It would be a lot of fun to teach Algebra, Geometry, or Calculus to a good class.

Modern Languages and Etymology

A musician deals with foreign languages all the time, particularly Italian, German, and French. My Classical background has improved my "passive" comprehension by giving me a good understanding of grammar and the etymology of words. That isn't very helpful, though, in conversation, when my passive vocabulary isn't as easy to use, and my lack of active vocabulary hurts me. In order to develop conversational skills, I would have to live in the right country. When in a foreign country, what experience I had had in the language was always very useful; I wished for a lot more! I have the rudiments of French, German, Italian and Russian (in descending order). Should the opportunity arise, I would enjoy becoming fluent in one of these languages.

Philosophizing about Life

I suppose, philosophically speaking, this shouldn't really be categorized as a "hobby" but, rather, as an approach to living life. There are limits to how philosophical I am willing to get but I do have the basic instinct to generalize. A glance through my web pages (or even this paragraph) should suffice to illustrate.


This is my "second sport," just as bridge is my second game. I took tennis lessons as a kid and I have always loved to play. As exercise, tennis sure beats a stationary bicycle or treadmill for entertainment value, and it beats golf in the important category "calories burned per hours spent." For these reasons I took up tennis again seriously as a winter sport, though I haven't yet found a good place to do this in Philadelphia. Perhaps I will end up playing golf in the summer and tennis in the winter, so there's always a nice way to stay active.

Back to interests page