If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
I would probably pick Houdini. Harry Houdini was a masterful magician and escape artist who delighted fans around the world. I love the art of stage magic since I was a little kid. A really good magic trick can fill your mind with wonder just as easily as actual magic would do if it were real. Houdini’s main trick was escaping from dire situations. He escaped from barrels filled with beer, straight jackets and even from burial. That is a fun trick to have up my sleeve. While I have stage fright, I do like entertaining people and perhaps being Houdini would spark a new side of me. He was also the president of the Society of American Magicians and that would have made good company. Houdini named himself after his idol Robert Houdin. Later, Houdini found out that his hero was a fraud and was able to survive and thrive. It inspired in him the desire to debunk and expose frauds who preyed on the weak and vulnerable. He exposed spiritualists who claimed they could communicate with dead loved ones. Exposing these horrible charlatans would have given me great pleasure and a feeling of accomplishment. Of course, if I was Houdini I would have died at age 52 but it would be on Halloween with a life well-lived.
Besides your family, who has influenced your thinking most? Why, and in what way(s)?
I would actually have to go with Mr. Pappas, my high school physics teacher. He was one of the first people to present me with options. My parents were Democrats and I went to a pretty liberal Quaker private school from first to twelfth grade. I met a lot of interesting kids in school who all came from different cultures and different walks of life. Even though there were a handful of Republican kids at school, I never thought I could be anything besides a Democrat. Mr. Pappas did two things to shake that firm belief. As a teacher at my school, he had a discount on tuition for his son. He decided to send his kid to the best public school in town instead. This was a clear message that maybe my private school was not the perfect golden palace of knowledge that I thought it was. He also handed me a copy of the Communist Manifesto and discussed it with me. Communist is a dirty word but we discussed it openly and honestly and I took a lot of the good elements to heart. I learned that being rich is not a virtue, it is a privilege. Using the power you have unselfishly is not only respectable but can also help everyone around you. Both of these actions made me think more critically about the world and convinced me that the status quo will not always be the status quo.
If you were at a business lunch and you ordered a rare steak and they brought it to you well done, what would you do?
I have learned over time that I prefer my steak rare or close to it. I especially like rare steak when it is prepared by a restaurant. Of course, this does not apply to dives but they do not usually prepare steak below medium anyway. Good restaurants prepare rare steak in a safe and flavorful way that is usually very tender. For the longest time, I was a no fuss diner and still prefer to act that way. If I ask for no tomatoes and there are tomatoes on my burger, I just take them off. I am not allergic to any food items and I do not mind managing my own food. Still, getting my steak overcooked is something that I would consider mentioning to the server. However, I would only mention it during a casual meal with friends or family. A business lunch is meant to be brief and the concentration should be put on business. Business lunches are also often supposed to be brief and professional. I would not interrupt a business lunch to complain to the server or the cooking staff about edible food. I know many people who mention these things in order to help the kitchen staff improve but I do not feel that is my place or my duty. I would focus on the task at hand and eat my well-done steak. I might ask for some sauce, though.
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