I am a theorist by vocation, meaning I am paid to think abstractly about problems. My principal areas of research are game theory and the theory of voting. My work is very formal, meaning I use logic and mathematics to construct and analyze models of social interaction. But I think it’s important that every once in a while, we relax and think deep thoughts about totally mundane stuff.
My personal life is at once a source of major satisfaction and minor disappointment. I’ve been married and divorced twice, with two daughters from my second marriage; I’m completely enamored of my girls, and they are the source of 99% of my happiness. Unlike a lot of single guys my age (born in 1965), I take care of myself physically and mentally, and I’m committed to defying the aging process indefinitely. Like a lot of single guys my age, I realize that it is utterly impossible to evade mortality, and that there’s really not much point to anything… In my rare moments of clarity, I know that my ultimate goal in life must be to provide for my kids, to stay healthy as long as possible and avoid burdening my family as my body inevitably decays, and to jump out of an airplane with no parachute just minutes before my brain succumbs to Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m analytical and try to understand the world (including myself) objectively, but I also see the humor in things. Most of the time, I’m an optimistic cynic; the rest of the time, I’m a cynical optimist. Is the glass half full or half empty? Probably not. I have a preference for consistency, but not always. I care about grammar, but I long ago decided I don’t mind ending sentences in prepositions; it’s a subtle form of rebellion I like to indulge in. I enjoy: spending time with my two girls, watching movies or select tv shows, various creative projects, running, yoga, mathematical modeling, espresso, high-tech gadgets and gizmos (when they’re not malfunctioning), and (under the right conditions) generally getting out and taking in the world. My main form of exercise is running, and I’ve done reasonably well in a few local races. I’ve also started to become competitive at table tennis (which it turns out is a real sport). Also, I apparently like to spend too much time writing about myself.
The subtitle of this blog, “Clever, Classless, and Free,” is taken from a John Lennon song called Working Class Hero. It’s about the systematic exploitation of the working class, and I think by “working class hero,” Lennon refers to members of the lower class who accept and honor the rules that society imposes on them. The full line is that they “keep you doped with religion and sex and tv, and you think you’re so clever and classless and free, but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.” I like this because I do think I’m clever, classless, and free, but for all I really know, I’ve just been programmed by society to think so…
I’ve thought of writing a screenplay that incorporates some aspects of my life and some lessons I’ve learned. I’d call it “The Breakthrough.” It’s about a divorced professor (roughly based on me) with kids who works for years on a deep theoretical problem, doesn’t pay enough attention to his kids, and sacrifices relationships and happiness in pursuit of a solution to the problem. As he hits one more obstacle, his chief rivals publish a solution, beating him to the breakthrough. It hits him hard, as his career was focussed on that one consuming goal, and he temporarily spirals into the depths of helplessness, but he ends up spending more time with his kids and discovering life beyond work, and he ends up happier than ever. In a sadistic twist of fate, a colleague finds a flaw in the purported solution published by his rival, and the professor is drawn back into his research like the relapse of an addict. I’d have Woody Allen direct and John Cusack play the professor, with Brad Pitt as body double and Joan Cusack handling the transvestite scenes.