John Leo's Myriad of Interests

Click here to listen to the background sound.

Background sound: The Yamanote-sen platform at Shinjuku station, January 1998. Recorded by Kyoko Leo. Shinjuku-eki is the busiest train station in the world and also my personal favorite. Due to WAV files being so large, only the jingle (my favorite of all of JR's great jingles) that plays when the train doors are about to shut is included here.

Note: In almost every place on my web pages, Japanese names are listed in Japanese order, family name first.


I must like making lists, because there are several of them here. Here's the list of lists:

Main Interests

I always love learning things, but what I'm interested in learning changes constantly, so I never manage to learn anything very well. But I've learned it's best to just do what I'm most interested in at the time. Here's what I can remember of how my main interests have changed.

(Summer 1987) Math
(Fall 1987 to around Fall 1992) Japanese language and culture
This is the longest I've ever stayed interested in anything. What was important is that Japanese culture (I'm mostly interested in modern, popular culture) is so rich that I was able to find new things just when I started to lose interest in something else. One of the biggest subinterests, incidentally, was video games, particularly those made by Nintendo, and particular those by Miyamoto Shigeru (the Zelda series, the Super Mario series, etc). Staying interested in the culture for a long time plus living in Japan twice meant my language ability got reasonably good. Now I've stopped formally studying the language, and Japanese culture may never be a primary interest again, but it's constantly a background interest. Primarily I'm still very interested in TV dramas.
(around Fall 1992 to December 1993) Math
(December 1993 to July 1994) Computers
I got my Macintosh in December 1993 and this led to being interested again in all aspects of computers--programming, hardware, and so forth. I also discovered the Web in this period.
(July 1994 to December 1994) French and literature
For some reason these seem to go together. I also got interested in writing again.
(December 1994 to March 1995) Music
I got very interested in all aspects of music--sound, listening, synthesis, composing, and so forth. I bought my Roland JV-90 keyboard/synthesizer in this period, as well as a receiver and speakers.
(March 1995 to mid-April 1995) French and literature
I would have liked music to last longer but I'd be quite happy to just bounce back and forth between these two from now on. Just as long as I don't get interested in math again....
(mid-April 1995 to June 1995) Music and Bridge
Yeah! Back to music. And also bridge (as in the card game), which I haven't played in many years due to a lack of friends who knew how to play, but now I've found a group at work. I've always loved card games.
(July 1995 to late October 1995) Literature and French
Things are working out pretty well...back here again, thanks to finally getting around to reading Salman Rushdie and Kathy Acker, both around the same time. Both are excellent! Jules Verne was enough to get me to start studying French again too.
(late October 1995 to December 1995) Japanese
The New York Robbe-Grillet trip prolonged French for a while, but it finally faded away, to be replaced by of all things Japanese, the first time in about 3 years! This was stimulated partly by the upcoming annual trip to Tokyo, and partly by finally getting back some boxes that had been stored in Indianapolis when I moved to Japan. They contained Mezon Ikkoku among other manga series, which I just happened to be in the mood to read. This interest extended to the other usual Japanese things I enjoy: doramas, video games (DragonQuest II), music, etc.
(January 1996 to May 1996) Golf
I played golf quite a bit when I was young, but stopped when I went to college. Finally I played again, for the first time in over 12 years, when visiting my parents over Christmas at their new home in Hilton Head, SC. Even though it was extremely cold golf was great fun and I got re-addicted. Now that I have a car I should be able to play a lot!
This has sort of expanded to sports in general: I'm also playing badminton, billiards, bowling, and bicycling as well. The current plan goes something like this: badminton Monday and Friday at work, bicycle to work Tuesday and Thursday (if it doesn't rain), go to driving range Wednesday (Monday and Friday sometimes as well), with golf and bowling on the weekend, and billiards whenever there's free time since there's a table in our apartment building.
My reading has continued to be Japanese.
(May 1996) Math and Golf
Oh no! Who would have guessed it. Visiting Daniel Sternbergh at his new job at a startup company, which I was hoping would get me interested in French again, ended up instead getting me more interested in science and technology, which of all things led back to math! Math has never given me anything but unhappiness, but I never have control over these things. I'm starting to look back at classifying problems according to the kinds of algorithms that solve them, and I predict that as usual I will make no progress.
At least I'm still interested in golf, although due to injuring my right shoulder I've hardly been able to play, and have also had to curtail badminton, cycling, bowling--just about everything except walking!
My reading has continued to be Japanese.
Math turned out to be suprisingly short-lived. (6/3/96)
(June 1996 to July 1996) Golf
I'm not particularly interested in anything right now, sad to say. Japanese dramas (in particular Long Vacation) would perhaps be the main interest. Other than that I'm very slightly interested in golf, music, French, video games, and so forth, but nothing especially strong. (6/3/96)
I've gotten very interested in golf again now that I've mostly recovered from injuring my shoulder and can play again. (6/17/96)
(July 1996 to August 1996) Golf and Video Games
I got very interested in video games thanks to Super Mario 64 (not just a video game, but truly a work of art), and also got interested in 3D computer graphics thanks to this game showing they actually had an interesting application. (8/12/96)
(August 1996 to mid-October, 1996) Golf and Literature/French
I finally got interested in literature and French again from a few weeks ago, although it's not as strong as it was before. Golf continues as strong as ever; I broke 100 for the first time yesterday! (8/12/96)
(mid-October 1996 to November 1996) Japanese
Fall weather seems to inevitably bring the return of interest in Japanese culture: Yuming, dorama, video games, manga, etc. Just in time for the annual trip at the end of November. Golf has more or less faded, but French is in a strange state: I still have several works to read by Marie Redonnet, who has become one of my favorite authors. Probably I will save them for later. (10/15/96)
(December 1996) Redonnet, Music, Computers
I'm interested in several things at once now. One is Marie Redonnet, probably mainly since I have several of her works yet unread. Another is music, primarily making it on my synthesizer. A third is computers, primarily programming in Java.
(January to late March, 1997) Music
Redonnet (once I finished her works) and computers gradually faded away, leaving music. In addition to learning to play piano again and using my synthesizer, I got interested in Bach for the first time in about 15 years when a friend played me "Invention #8". This led to getting interested in Glenn Gould, who plays Bach superbly, and the way he is meant to be played. (1/22/97)
(late March, 1997 to April, 1997) Java and Card Games
I've combined these two interests by writing a distributed version of Pounce in Java; the first verion was completed April 4. It is currently available only inside Oracle. I'm also interested in bridge and mah jong, which is sort of a card game. (4/6/97)
(May, 1997 to June, 1997) Music and Golf
Golf was especially strong in May, when I played over a dozen times, including 9 times on full-length courses. Music includes several things, including synthesizers, playing piano, and some science and theory. (6/19/97)
(July, 1997) Music and Bicycling
Golf faded away as I started playing badly, and I got interested in bicyling again, perhaps partly due to the weather finally becomming real summer weather. (7/21/97)
(August, 1997 to September, 1997) Bicycling and French
I got interested in French again thanks to R-G's videos becomming available in the US. French and bicycling go well together--I have fond memories of going over memorized verses of Racine's Andromache while biking to and from work in Fall 1995. (8/4/97)
French actually died out earlier, around early to mid-September. (10/4/97)
(October, 1997) Computers
Bicycling has started to fade away although I'm still interested in it. Usually around this time I get interested in Japanese stuff in anticipation of the upcoming trip, but before that I've gotten interested in computer related things such as Java and so forth. I'm working again on improving my Pounce game. My reading is mostly computer books now, which I don't include on the reading list. (10/4/97)
(November, 1997 to February, 1998) Japanese Music, etc.; Computers
As usual right before the annual trip to Japan I get interested in Japanese culture again. Music seems to have been the main interest, and just in time since I was then able to buy a lot of CDs. What got me interested in Japanese music again, after a fair break, was hearing a great dance song when I went in Tokyo Video in San Francisco. I stupidly didn't ask what it was but am almost certain it was "Steady" by Speed. However finally discovering how great Okamoto Mayo is was the biggest find.
I also got interested in dorama again (watching the excellent "Narita Rikon" and the pretty good "Ii hito"), video games (Miyamoto's latest "Yoshi Story", as well as being able to play the N64 Zelda at Makuhari Messe), and so forth.
Computers continues as well as I bought a new Dell Dimension XPS (Pentium II 300Mhz) with which I'm currently composing this, and I also changed jobs, starting December 18 at Siebel Systems. So I've changed completely from Unix (work) and the Mac (home) to Microsoft NT (work) and Windows 95 (home), and have a lot to learn.
(March 1998) Bicyling; Computers; Music
Spring began (weather-wise) on the last day of February, which means it's time for cycling!
I'm also still interested in music, but not strictly Japanese. Lately it's been salsa, and I've started learning how to play it as well.
(April 1998 to June 1998) Bicyling; Japanese literature
Cycling has gotten stronger than ever, helped by buying a new road bicyle and taking trips over 100 miles for the first time. I've also been reading Japanese literature in English. Music continues to be salsa.
(June 1998 to September 1998) Music
The key event in the change was Kyoko and I cycling to David Watson's house; David tends to be the one to get me enthusiastic about music. Cycling still continues on the side, but music takes over everything else including reading. I'm back to learning piano (this time with Hanon and a score of Speed's "My Graduation", among other materials), working with Cakewalk (and resurrecting some old short songs from a few years ago), and so forth.
As for listening, I discovered Kawamoto Makoto, and that Ijichi Hiromasa, who happened to have written several songs I loved over the past few years, writes all of Speed's music. So I could finally buy their two albums and enjoy them without feeling guilty. No wonder they're so good....
The big find at the end of this period, and carrying over into the Japanese period below, was Tanimura Yumi. I quickly collected all of her albums and should have all of her videos by the end of the year.
(October 1998) Math
Just to show I have no control over myself, I really wanted to get interested in French so I could get ready for the Robbe-Grillet symposium in New York, but that was not to be and completely against my will I got interested in math again. At least it gave me something to read about on the plane. Just like last time it lasted three weeks.
(late October 1998) Japanese
Well, perhaps I have a little control after all, or at least the weather does. Despite the disruptions of the New York trip and having to move the annual Japan trip to December, I managed to get interested in Japanese things and start relearning the language just in time for the upcoming trip. Music, dorama and books seem to be the focus.
(November 1998 to January 1999) Japanese and Chinese
For a little variety from studying Japanese, I thought of studying some Korean as well, which I'd started and aborted a few times before. Walking to Stanford to look at Korean and Japanese books, I thought of looking into a little Chinese as well, since I knew nothing about the language. I found it quite interesting, and thought it more worthwhile to learn Chinese instead. This was October 31. The next day, November 1, I went back to buy the Practical Chinese Reader that Stanford uses, and also bought Modern Chinese: A Basic Course at Borders since it came with tapes. I also soon found a decent Taiwanese drama whose title would literally translate as "Four Thousand Gold" (it soon ended, but there was a sequel of sorts as well). I continued studying Japanese as well, and wished I knew it better as it would make Chinese easier.
(January 1999 to March 1999) Chinese, Piano, and Walking
My goals for 1999 are to practice piano more seriously and learn some Chinese. I started taking piano lessons once a week, and started learning Chinese on my own primarily using Practical Chinese Reader, but with many supplementary books, TV shows, and help from friends. I found a Taiwanese entertainment show on channel 32 called "Feichang yule" that I liked mainly due to the host, Zhou Yingqi ("Angela"), but unfortunately it stopped airing (apparently the show ran out of money) around the end of March.
Since college walking has been my favorite physical activity, and I walk several miles every day as part of my commute or just for fun. I used to walk to work back when I worked summers at HP and was 2-3 miles away, and really missed that. However not until recently did I think about walking to work even though the distance is much farther--12.3 miles if I walk up El Camino Real. Once I tried it though I found it great fun and quite addictive, and it's saved my sanity while waiting for the weather to get good enough to bicycle to work again. I only walk to work, and then take the train home. My original time (2/2/99) was 3:10, and most of my times were a couple minutes plus or minus that until 4/9/99, when I surprised myself by making it in 2:51, or an average speed of over 4.3mph.
(April 1999 to Fall 2000?) Bicycling, Java, Walking, Piano and Chinese
Talking with Mike Vermeulen and working out the plan to cycle together to the Sierras got me excited about cycling again, and just in time as the weather may finally be returning to normal (written 4/11/99).
I've been working on Java as well on my own, rewriting the UI of my distributed Pounce card game, and thinking about writing a sort of Zelda clone of my own after seeing a few on the web.
The other three interests have continued, although I have less time for them than before. (written June or so?)
Cycling is still the main interest, followed by Chinese, piano, and walking. Java has fallen by the wayside a bit. (8/1/99)
(Fall 2000 to present) Math, Music, Languages, Walking, Cycling, Rock Climbing
One of my interests until April 1999 or so was keeping track of my interests, but that faded away and I stopped updating this page for a long time.  So I'm not really sure how things went.  But certainly around the Fall of 2000 I got seriously interested in math again, with the idea that I would return to grad school to study it seriously and eventually teach.  From Fall 2000 to Fall 2002 I spent all my free time on math, then, and then from Fall 2002 (when I started grad school) to Summer 2004 I spent just about all my time on math!  However I got rather burned out and in Summer 2004 spent a lot of time cycling and hiking.  Around the end of 2004 I got very interested in music again, and in Fall 2005 I started learning Chinese at UCLA.  Also I've stayed interested in rock climbing (which I must have started after writing the previous entry) for this time.  I've decided to try to keep my interests down to these six, as huge as they all are, but experience has shown that something new will always come up.... (12/29/05)





My favorite sport since moving back to Palo Alto has been bicycling.

My other favorite activity is walking.

I also enjoy raquet sports (especially badminton, but also raquetball and tennis), curling (well, when I was in Boston), golf, frisbee, bowling, and rollerskating, but don't get a chance to do much of any of them these days.

I'm finally playing golf again after a break of over 12 years, and also started playing badminton again recently. (1/22/96)


Japanese Culture

More here later. Pointer to the dorama list.


To be completed later.


To be completed later. Kataomoi.


To be completed later.

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