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25 things about me

Two great memes are going around among my online friends. The first one, started by Jeri, simply asks a willing participant to post childhood/youth pictures of oneself. Several people already happily obliged. I would love to take part in it as well, but my pre-digital photo archives are all stored with my parents in America, so I guess I’ll have to put this idea off until some time in the future.

The second meme, as I understand, is something making rounds on Facebook, which I visit only when someone pings me with a message. So, I learned about it via this post by Kim, who has since been followed by Jeri.

The idea is to post 25 random facts and things about myself. There is also a suggestion of tagging 25 people to do likewise, but I long ago decided that tagging is one meme rule that is meant to be ignored. Nonetheless, anyone who wants to consider him/herself tagged, you are welcome.

It should be noted that it was rather challenging for me to come up with the list below. First of all, I’ve already provided tons of nuggets about myself in the confines of this journal (for instance, here), so I needed to think of tidbits not yet explicitly stated or only hinted at. Secondly, writing about myself un-prompted brings up all sorts of doubts about how worthy such tidbits might be to my audience.

Anyhow, here are 25 more or less random facts about your truly.

  • I am a card-carrying pessimist: Being prepared for a bad outcome makes any positive result all the more sweet.
  • I was a star student in high school, but my diploma had three B’s in subjects that did not require any examination, so that the only Jew in the graduating class would not claim the top honors.
  • I more identify with being a Russian than with being a Jew, even though politically I’m staunchly pro-Israel and anti-Russia (in its current state).
  • Despite openly despising Soviet Union’s past and Putin’s Russia’s present, I have always found a measure of pride in the fact that I was born in “the other world’s superpower”.
  • I almost made a Lieutenant of Reserves in the Soviet Army. The law that excused asthma-sufferers (which I was in my childhood and youth) from military service came out just months prior to the completion of the course of training we underwent in college.
  • I always thought it would be neat if I could speak 13 languages fluently: Russian, English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Hebrew, Yiddish, Japanese, Mandarin, Arabic and Hindi. The list is the result of lengthy deliberations at the age of about 10. Alas, I only managed to attain fluency in two, while having different levels of basic understanding to proficiency in four others.
  • I learned to read when I was about 3 years old and was a voracious reader for the first two decades of my life. Demands of growing family and career, as well as the ascent of the internet, have greatly diminished over the years the amount of fiction that I read.
  • I have horrible memory for jokes. Not in the way where you can tell me the same joke twice. But in the way where I can never remember the funny joke that I heard the other day.
  • I am painfully inept at small-talk. Makes it infuriatingly hard to mingle.
  • I wrote poetry when I was young. All of my “serious” stuff was utter crap and remains so until this day. But I’m not half-bad at humorous thematic rhymed narrative, which I draw upon on those occasions when a friendly costumed party requires a “presentation”.
  • I love the name my parents gave me, but it makes for the singularly worst female patronymic in Russian language: Ильинишна. My daughters were lucky in more than one respect in having been born in America.
  • I cannot think of anything that I’m afraid of.
  • I am far from being an obsessive-compulsive neat freak, but I know perfectly well where every single item on my desk is, and I am bothered when I cannot find it where it is supposed to be.
  • I tend to feel unhappy when I do not have a creative personal project going on.
  • My musical education consisted of a single year of piano lessons at the age of 7. Sometime during that year, I vowed to chop the piano to firewood, and my parents took the threat seriously. I’ve made numerous attempts to learn to play the guitar in the decades since, but only succeeded in sticking to it well into my 30’s. I am, nonetheless, a woefully unskilled player.
  • During the first couple of years of my life, my family occupied an apartment of roughly 400 sq. ft. in size. There were seven of us living there, if I am not mistaken. I find it a bit embarrassing that I nowadays consider a 2,000 sq. ft. house hopelessly small for just the four of us.
  • I am entirely indifferent to computer games.
  • Gorgeous travel or nature photography never fails to mesmerise me.
  • I drank a lot of vodka during my college years, but stopped that altogether almost exactly 13 years ago. I do enjoy an occasional screwdriver, though. Some of my non-Russian friends insist on mock-ordering vodka for me when we go out for meals together. I let them have their fun.
  • I don’t suffer idiots, fanatics and poseurs, in no particular order.
  • I have absolutely no interest in gambling or playing anything for money. The only card game that I truly enjoy is preferans, which puts premium on chess-like ability to examine moves ahead. We place nominal monetary value on whists when we play amongst friends these days, largely because it is a tradition, rather than to truly reward the winner. Nonetheless, in my college days, I used to have a reasonable supplementary income from my winnings.
  • I smoked for a few months during my freshman year in college. I’ve become rather militantly anti-smoking since about the time my eldest was born.
  • For a relative omnivore, I have serious hang-ups about a broad range of cooked vegetables.
  • I am not an animal person.
  • I fall asleep only on my right side, breathing “away” from the bed. That means that I always have to claim the right half of a double bed.


  1. Jim Wright

    Preferans? Hmmmmm. Sounds interesting. I’ve never heard of it. I’m not much of a card player myself, just never had any interest in it.

    And I didn’t forget about Michelle’s boots…and am unlikely to for some time 😉

  2. John the Scientist

    Preferas!!! I played a hell of a lot of that and drank a hell of a lot of vodka when I was in the USSR. I drank no alcohol for the year after I came back from the USSR, just to prove to myself I had not turned into a lush. Your people drink, man. So do the Liets.

  3. Ilya

    Michelle, I did not miss the boots picture. I thought it was lovely!

    Sharon, you only need to start a blog, and the number of people who will find all things about you novel will increase by thousands. Erm… ok… in my dreams, thousands.

    Jim, I guess if we ever get to do a UCF meat-up, John and I are teaching you how to play preferans.

    John, my oldest friends still drink – my drinking habits are an oddity in our circles.

  4. Ilya

    I’m not much for cognac, but I suppose a good one is actually quite nice. You must have been offered distilled sewage for cognac.

    Have you ever tried samogon or chacha?

  5. John the Scientist

    Yes, Samogon of various colors and viscosities, and probably various levels of impurities. o.O

    At MPEI they had something that went by several slang names, but the name I remember is khvorsh – based on that nasty, nasty unfiltered pivo the Soviets made with crap floating in it. Khvorsh was simply a combination of that beer and samogon. Black bread, kasha, stew, and compot for dinner in the canteen, and Kvorsh for dessert. Good times.

    Oh yeah, and the “dormitory” we slept in for the Stroika was a public sports hall. It had a big sign on it “zakrit na remont”. We men slept in cots on the indoor basketball court, the ladies slept upstairs. We were woken every morning at 5:30 AM by a mix tape of English and American songs someone had made that always started with that badly-made late 80s cover of “Locomotion”. I still hate that song.

    Byely Aist was a Moldovan cognac that was very popular in the USSR. The factory has since quit producing the brand, becuase there was some scandal about poisoning people in the early 2000s. Had you heard that Russian joke about cognac and bedbugs before?

    The cognac was nasty, but I would put Russian (or actually Georgian, right?) Champagne up against the best French or Spanish stuff. Actually, I think Moet and Chandon is way, way over-rated, and I prefer the Spanish stuff without even considering value for money.

  6. Ilya

    I know the joke about Chapaev, caviar and cognac that includes bedbugs – but the cognac in question was french. 🙂

    Armenian cognac was the good one – I personally draw a blank on Belyj Aist, but my Dad, who hails from Moldova, may know it.

    Champagne, I think, was primarily Russian – I’ve been to a factory on the Black Sea that produced some of the best stuff a couple of times.

    I have a feeling that by “khvorsh”, you actually mean ёрш. That, I drank many times in dormitories.

  7. mama

    So many comments, and I would like to comment on many of the points – but not today or now, I don’t have enough time. Some items make me laugh like the history with piano lessons; some make me sad remembering our life in another world, like you not having your gold medal for school and our life in the famous 3-room apartment including 4 generations of our family.

    But I fully disagree with your opinion of your poetry. I was a fan; it was sometimes very good, and sometimes I think about you as very talented boy, and never felt that it was a crap. But who can judge a mother as a biased person?

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