21 February 2010


A quick sketch of the person you're dealing with:

1960: Born, Long Island, NY (parents: immigrants from Britain)

1963: Family moved to California

1960s-1970s: Visited Britain several times

1979: Visited Syria, Jordan, and Egypt

1980-1984: BA & MA, Islamic studies, UC Berkeley

1984: Visited Germany

1987: Left academia

1995: Visited Japan

1996: Moved to Portland, Oregon

2002: Visited Texas

2006: Started this blog

2007: Visited Kiev, Ukraine (observations here, here, and here)

Religion: None, ever

Criminal record: Four parking tickets, one speeding ticket

Times married: Zero

Serious relationships: Five so far

Things I've quit: TV, meat, alcohol


Blogger tnlib said...

Hm, I thought you told me you were a CPA - or was it CIA? I wish I'd had the chance to travel to all those fascinating spots. An interesting profile.

21 February, 2010 08:48  
Blogger Holte Ender said...

Interesting bio, when you update it, fill in the gaps about what you did after leaving academia, perhaps with degrees in Islamic Studies you could be working for the CIA? Do you speak Arabic? Quitting TV, meat and alcohol would leave you pretty much vice free, with TV being the big evil.

21 February, 2010 09:15  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, I don't work in the Islamic-studies field -- I eventually couldn't stomach academia any more and left, which in my estimation was one of the best decisions I ever made. I did interview with an intelligence agency (not the CIA), but I didn't get the job, thank goodness. The person I am now would never in a million years have fitted in in that kind of environment.

Travel is great. Next time maybe Moscow, or Warsaw, or Prague, or Bucharest.....

21 February, 2010 09:19  
Blogger Pamela D. Hart said...

Infidel: Wow, you've done quite a lot. Good for you!

I want to go to Egypt, it's in my top 10.

No TV, huh? How do you do it? No Dancing with the Stars, Bachlor in the air [or whatever the name is], Surviror, Lost...my goodness! You must be so bored with no reality TV! **sarcasm**

21 February, 2010 09:30  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

HE: My spoken Arabic is very limited; I focused mostly on reading knowledge, which was more relevant to what I was studying. It's quite a difficult language for Westerners. Persian was much easier -- the easiest of the languages I've studied, in fact. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn another language but not just one of the more commonly-studied ones.

I actually sort of lost interest in TV about fifteen years ago. Alcohol was a lot harder, but it's also a lot deadlier. I'm just glad I never smoked -- that's probably the worst.

21 February, 2010 09:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Hi Pamela! I do try to keep busy.

Egypt is fascinating. It's saturated with history -- everywhere you look there are things hundreds or even thousands of years old. But my strongest impression of it was the incredible poverty. Mexico doesn't even come close. The crowding must be even worse now than when I was there, with 70-million-plus people in a habitable area (the valley and delta) smaller than West Virginia.

I overhear enough about reality shows and whatnot to know I'm not missing anything. How can I get bored when there are so many good blogs out there?

21 February, 2010 09:38  
Anonymous Hugo Grinebiter said...

You read my mind, I was picking up on how much you know about various parts of the world and wondering whether to ask you for a resumé.

If I were younger and braver, Iran would be my number one country to explore, I'd love to see Isfahan and pay my respects at the grave of the great Omar at Nishapur.

In academia there are and perhaps always were two species, Gnomes and Operators. Operators press the flesh and conferences, know everyone, fix everything but never write anything worth reading. Gnomes disappear into the library, and emerge decades after everyone thinks they're dead with a definitive work on something. The modern career structure, however, has rendered Gnomes extinct, nor would they have adapted to corporate-sponsored research. So which were you?

I have a TV, purchased in order to give me something to do underneath my cats, now deceased (and incidentally called after two famous Persians). Cats and computers don't mix as admirably. Prior to that I had none for many years. Now I watch BBC World while making paper models of cathedrals and suchlike, and watch the occasional film on a channel or DVD rental. If it exploded tonight I would almost certainly not replace it.

Sorry to hear about the hand. High on my list of Things I Do Not Want Broken.

21 February, 2010 10:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Iran is a place I'd like to visit as well. Hopefully in a year or two it will be be safer to go there, under a new government (even now I've heard that most Iranians are pretty friendly to visiting Americans, but that sort of regime would make me nervous).

I did write one academic book which was the first one ever on its particular, very-obscure subject (I'm not going to identify it since that would identify me). So I might have been a gnome. I know I'd never have made it as an operator.

The hand is healed now. It could have been worse. It was a bike accident and I hit my head as well. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet I'd probably be dead.

21 February, 2010 11:21  
Blogger godlizard (aka dotlizard) said...

1960 was a vintage year for people :P

21 February, 2010 18:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GL: I seem to recall seeing something on your blog indicating that we share a birth year, yes? Evidently you are right.:-)

21 February, 2010 18:48  
Blogger magpie said...

If I may ask: Why did you visit Japan and what did you do there?

22 February, 2010 05:40  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Magpie: I simply happened to be interested in it at the time. I knew it would be very different from a Western country, but also safe. I'd spent some time studying the language. Also, there was a guy in the Osaka area I'd been corresponding with who offered to take me around while I was there, and there was an American in Tokyo I knew indirectly who let me stay at her place. Basically I just traveled around -- north as far as Sapporo, west as far as Osaka/Kyoto. I wasn't able to get to Hiroshima because this was just two months after the great Kansai earthquate and the rail service from Osaka to Hiroshima was still cut.

22 February, 2010 05:56  
Anonymous Hugo Grinebiter said...

I knew it would be very different from a Western country, but also safe

I'm planning my first extra-European trip to Japan for the same reason. Always been too cowardly to visit the tropics. Their aesthetics of nature resonate with me, so the gardens are top priority. I reckon I'll stay on Honshu, but I want to get as far west as Hagi. I'm learning the kanji for place-names now, but learning the actual language solo is much too daunting. You must be the new Steven Runciman!

22 February, 2010 06:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Kanji for place names would be useful; at least wheh I was there, signs often did not include Roman script, especially away from Tokyo.

It might be worth trying to pick up at least a little spoken Japanese. It's conceptually very alien, but without some of the pointless difficulties of Indo-European languages (no grammatical gender, for example). And the Japanese seem to have an idea that their language is impossible for anyone else to learn. The looks on people's faces when I would approach them and talk to them in Japanese (even at my very limited level) made the effort worthwhile:-)

22 February, 2010 07:33  
Anonymous Hugo Grinebiter said...

Since there's no point going all that way for less than a month (planning this has made me understand the way Americans think of trips to Europe, I have to do everything because I'm probably not coming again) I fully intend to try to pick up some spoken Japanese in the field during that month. I would enjoy surprising them too.

Yes, grammatical gender is a pointless nuisance. Hebrew genders not only all pronouns other than 1st singular, but also the verbs! So if you say "I love you" to a woman and she says "I love you" back, two of the words are different.

22 February, 2010 12:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Yes, Arabic does the same. A few Yemeni dialects even have different masculine and feminine forms of the first person singular pronoun. Semitic languages are much more genderized.

The biggest oddities about Japanese are (1) word order, (2) general lack of pronouns even though verbs do not conjugate to agree with the subject (much more information has to be deduced from context than in English), and (3) the adjectives have present and past tenses, like verbs. There's also the issue of different levels of politeness which require different verb endings, but as a foreigner you'd almost always use politness level 3, so you don't need to worry much about the others.

22 February, 2010 13:08  
Anonymous Hugo Grinebiter said...

Interesting, thanks.

Going back to Persian a moment, I don't read or speak it and have never been, but I do have my points of affiliation. One of the items I'm currently working with for a private project is Ata-Malik Juvaini's Tarikh-e Jahan-Gusha.

23 February, 2010 12:13  

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