I intend to list here some of the musical compositions, in some cases even artists, that have had a significant impact on me. Because of my father's love of jazz and soul and classical music, I have since birth been exposed to the greats in those areas, so as a result I find jazz, Motown, funk, soul, R&B, and modern classical music very close to my heart (I'm especially obsessed with Rachmaninov & Rimsky-Korsakov). Other people in my life have introduced me to other genres that I enjoy listening to, such as epic metal (I'm especially fond of Nightwish and Kamelot) and bachata (I love all of Prince Royce's works). In times of hardship, especially depression, I have come to appreciate and fall in love with hip-hop, especially old or underground stuff (I'm very much obsessed with Nas and Tech N9ne).
Below is a list of some of the things I listen to often these days.
Too many people have had an impact on me and my view of the world to be contained in a short list such as the one I intend to produce. Here is an incomplete list of the ones that currently come to mind. I apologize in advance for the incompleteness. It's not because I don't care about the ones that I've forgotten to mention.
The most important person in my life is my mother, Anush, whose unconditional love and unfailing faith in me has made everything possible for me. When I was around 12 I was separated from her for 6 years. Those were the most difficult times of my life. She now lives with my seven-year-old brother Alex and my grandmother, who has been just as caring and wonderful to me since birth. I love my grandmother Svetlana immensely. She's a simple, uneducated, but clever lady who interacts with me primarily to tell me (1) that she loves me; (2) that I should wear tick clothes so as not to get sick; and (3) that I should eat, again so as not to get weak and ill.
I also have an intelligent and beautiful (and a little) younger sister, Satenik, who's currently a senior at UCLA, studying to become a psychologist. She's leaning toward social psychology, but we'll see what she gets excited about next. I'm not at all qualified to speak about her quality as a psychologist, but as someone who listens to and understands psychological problems she's incredible. My mother is quite brilliant at helping with psychological issues, but she's at least twice as effective. She has gotten me out of depressions too many times for me to count. For some reason, she always knows how to say the most perfect thing to help me out. Even when she's overwhelmed with exams, papers, work, and internships, the moment I call her to tell her about my worries, she puts all aside and listens and advises selflessly. She has never asked for anything in return. She inspires me with her perceptiveness, intelligence, generosity, and courage.
My relationship with my father Gevorg has always been complicated. He's an instructor of swimming by profession, but has spent more than 45 years, playing various percussion instruments. He's the most ethical atheist I know. He's quite pedantic about social norms and 'proper behavior'. I have learned a lot of things from him. Among the most important lessons has been not to drink. His father essentially died because of alcoholism. My father too used to consume a lot of alcohol and as a result my childhood memories of him, in the context of our family, are not pleasant. His drinking had made all our lives miserable. The reason I don't drink is that I fear that I'll become what he's like when he's drunk. The negatives to the side, my father inspires me because he's very honest and hardworking and kind.
Outside my immediate family there is my maternal uncle Vardan, who has been an invaluable mentor and 'father' to me, especially during those 6 years apart from my parents. He's until recently been 'a man of the streets', teaching me lessons of survivial and behavior in tough environments. Among the more memorable lessons that I still apply to social situations has been his observation: if you don't take action, if you don't decide for yourself, there will surely be people who will take action, who will decide on your behalf and probably not in your best interest. I understand that to be a call to take control of my life by making decisions for myself.
Then, there are people outside my family that have contributed a lot to my life and my worldview. Some of them I've only interacted with through their works, such as Nietzsche, Emerson, Carnap, and Bruce Lee. Others I have had the fortune of interacting with in real life. In no particular order, among the most important people in my life have been Mr. Stell, Dr. Pressman, and Dr. Ramsey (my high school teachers), my girlfriends Lucero and Megan, my dearest friends Tigran, Eduard (childhood friends), Gor, Taron, Sargis Karavardanian (high school friends), Professors Brian Harvey, Sherry Roush, Wes Holiday, John MacFarlane, Seth Yalcin, Paolo Mancosu, and Paul Hilfinger (Berkeley).
Especially great friends to me have been, and remain, Carlos and Nihil. Carlos has been an invaluable mentor and an inspiration to me. A brilliant scholar with a great sense of style, Carlos is ma main man. These days he's a Philosophy PhD student at UCR, studying moral philosophy and programming, among other things. Nihil is undoubtedly the most genius of my friends. He's overeducated, underconfident, infinitely gentle and kind, super attuned to his times and issues that overwhelm the less privileged. He does worry about the future a bit too much. When he manages to relax, he's full of brilliant insights into philosophical issues, contemporary relevant political stuff, mathematical logic, category theory, programming, and mathematics in general (especially algebras, groups, and categories). Nihil, like Carlos, is among the main reasons my time at Berkeley was so enjoyable. Another special friend of mine from Berkeley was David. Unfortunately we had lost contact until he found me recently on linkedIn. David inspires me with his kindness, understanding and courage.
There are a number of extremely special individuals that I'd like to conclude this section with. First, there is my friend Matthew, who saw something special in me and invited me to become a part of his daring project to transform the edu-tech industry. He has changed my life in too many ways to list. I'm roommates with him. A morning that begins with Matthew is bound to start with maximum of energy and excitement and hope. He's among the most alive people I know. The only other person of similar energy I can think of was Bruce Lee. I feel triply privileged to be able to call him a friend, a roommate, and a boss. Second, there is my Russian friend Dmitriy, with whom I've been engaged in programming projects and learning over the last ten years or so. Always authentic, always truthful, always tough, Dmitriy has consistently been pushing me to be more real, more daring, and more intelligent. He's among the most intelligent, kind, and confident people I've had the fortune of knowing. He has been a consistent source of inspiration to me because of his cool, relaxed attitude, his intellectual vigor, and his wisdom. Dmitriy hasn't had the easiest of lives, but today he's a very cheerful young programmer living in the Bay Area. Third, there is my Armenian friend Grigor, who has always been there for me with invaluable advice, programming wisdom, and the ever-present willingness to play a good game of chess. Our Starbucks discussions have a rejuvenating effect on me. Last time he got me a mint tea with steamed lemonade there. It was the bomb!
Last, but not least, there are people who have recently entered my life and are making it very exciting. These are the people I work with. First, there is Don, who is a great teacher of writing and life. He's caring, wise, animated, hard-working, and super eloquent. I've learned many things from him. He's a prolific scholar, but is also very down to earth. He's a mentor and a friend. The only other person of similar force in my life has been (and is) my family friend and mentor, mathematician Pertsh. Pertsh has been guiding me with his wisdom since my first days in US. A pure mathematician by training, he has spent most of his time engaged in applied mathematical projects: programming projects of various kind. Among the most notable of his projects was the institution of the first computer networking system in Armenia. He has always inspired me with his insightfulness and his remarkable ability to solve problems, of any kind and complexity. Second, there is my super erudite friend William, who knows more about the history and the geography of Armenia than I do (and I have been fascinated with those since childhood). A generalist at heart, he's got a great sense of humor and untiring intellectual curiosity. What makes him special is his remarkeable ability to embrace any situation and problem and be able to understand, appreciate, and offer strategies for making sense of them. A dear friend, tolerable roomate, and an understanding manager, William inspires me with his awake-ness, patience, intelligence, and generosity.
I work with many other awesome individuals whom I appreciate and love. I'd like to at least talk about two of them, leaving only mentioned, for the time being, my friends Dan, Ela, Erskine, Araceli, Goni, and Richard. The first is Eric H, who is one of the kindest, least pompous individuals I know. His goal is to teach writing and related areas in a higher-educational setting. He's currently awaiting the results of grad admissions, so I hope he gets in and becomes the great teacher that I know he is. The second is Eric W. Always honest, real, pragmatic, and right, he leads by being great. Eric inspires me to be a better, more careful programmer because that's how he is. We jointly take care of the web development at our company. I feel very fortunate to have him as a partner in the exciting endeavor. A hacker at heart, he has a wonderful sense of elegance and programming style.
I love poetry. I was a pretty reserved, melancholic child, so I've always been attracted to romantic, lyrical poetry. Especially inspiring to me have been the Armenian poet Vahan Teryan, who composes primarily lyrical, romantic, and often sad stuff; and the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, who is pretty similar to Teryan in spirit. In the works of both poets I find voiced my innermost thoughts, feelings, and fears.