How I Started the New Year

After I returned back from Helsinki, I felt that my life started to get back to normal. I know that I will be busy with new things, and I even know what those things are going to be, but still.

I went to the forest preserve workday; I went to the movies. I started to blog more. And also, on the first day of the year, I went to political fundraising – I didn’t do any political activities for several months.

I was thinking with anticipation – how many people will come? Who will come? Do people remember me? The fundraising took place in the house of our old friend, who at some point engaged all of us starting from Anna, into political activism.

There were a lot of people who I knew! And they remembered me! And we had conversations, which I didn’t have for months! Suddenly I remembered why I like to participate in this kind of event so much, even when there is no political urgency.

At gatherings like this, you talk to your kind of people, you get feeling that you are not the lonely warrior, and you are not insane to think what you think and to feel what you feel. Lots of meaningful discussions, new ideas, new opinions – that was such a great way to start the New Year!

"The Guarded Gate" by Daniel Okrent

That’s one more book which I want to rate “six” instead of five, from one of my favorite authors, Daniel Okrent. It describes the darkest pages of American history, I could not imagine, such views were common, acceptable, and even praised. 

We all know quite a bit about slavery; we know something about the prosecution of Americans of Japanese descent. Perhaps, we heard about antisemitism at some stages of American history. 

As for the rest, I do not know about you, but I was clueless about the triumph of eugenics in the US in the good first half of the 20th century. I did not realize that there was an official policy to grade immigrants based on which European country they were coming from. That not only Jews and Eastern Europeans were undesirable, but also Greeks, Italians, and other Southern Europeans. That officials were trying to prove that these people are more inclined to be involved in crimes and other unlawful activities. That’s all is pretty horrible. 

I liked this book review from NY Times, and I hope it will persuade you to read this book if you didn’t do it yet. It starts with the numbers:

Immigrants arriving between 2000 and 2010 constituted approximately 3 percent of the United States population, while those arriving between 1900 and 1910 constituted 8.9 percent of the population

As usual, we should know our history to avoid repeating it. Especially in times like this. 

Attending the University: Math-Mech Days

What else were we doing as students except for the studies? There were not many sports. Actually, among nerds it was not cool to do any sports, it was a strong presumption, that only people who can’t use their brain for anything productive, do sports. And the only sport I remember somebody was doing was our gymnastics team. If there were any other, they wouldn’t have any visibility.

There were obligatory political activities. There ere mathematical clubs in schools, which were called YMSCH – Youth Mathematical Schools. They were clubs, after-school activities, but we called them “schools.” And I will write about them at some point.

One of the highlights of student’s life was the Math-Mech Day. I can’t recall now, what was the way of choosing a date for it, but it was some time in spring, far enough from the finals. Later, it was transformed into the Math-Mech Week with different activities every day. But back then, it was not even a day, but just a performance – a student play, written, staged and performed by students, undergrads, grads and postgrads. That was probably the only one informal gathering I can recall from the Soviet era, definitely the only one in the University.

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Politics – in Anna’s Words

Last week, there was a 23rd anniversary of my coming to the US. Since I already told the story of my coming here, I am not going to repeat it. However, it reminded me that I almost stopped writing my historical posts, which I consider the most important part of this blog. So I promised myself to post three of them in the next couple of days, all related to three different periods of my life.
Meanwhile, I was going over my youtube videos in search of one very old interview of my kids were talking about their Mother:). I didn’t find it, but I found three recordings of Anna talking about politics. That was the time when she was working in the GQR consulting during the second Obama campaign. Most of my friends didn’t have any idea what her work entailed but was ready to stamp all politics as ‘a dirty business.” In this interview, Anna talks about what political consultants do, and I think it is very relevant nowadays!

BTW – I think that the bast thing I did for this country is that I brought Anna here 🙂