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Simon Porzak

tutor, pianist, crossword champion, expert laundry-folder, hot-air-balloon pilot

After obtaining his PhD in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley, Simon Porzak worked at Columbia University, teaching in the Core Curriculum and managing the Undergraduate Writing Program. His academic research, focusing on the history of science and literature, has been published in several top-ranked academic journals, and he has also written for video gaming magazines and spoken at TEDx. He recently obtained his MBA from Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where he currently works as an internal consultant in sustainability and strategy at a Fortune 500 firm. He continues to tutor as much as he can, since his first passion has always been working with students, fostering curiosity, and enabling success.

…a text I love to teach

Anything by Jorge Luis Borges (like “The Garden of Forking Paths”) or Henry James (like “The Figure in the Carpet”). They write stories that come off as stodgy and old-fashioned at first, until you look closer and realize that something very strange and eerie is going on in the margins. I love mystery novels–I’ve read every Agatha Christie book at least twice–and I love texts that turn you into a detective, making you pore over every line for hidden clues.

…a favorite place I’ve visited

Hiking the high mountain gorges of Corsica: you’re all alone on craggy cliffs with an empty blue sky, stopping by tiny farms to buy goat cheese, boar sausage, and red wine, feeling like you’re on some magical quest.

…eight people living or dead I’d invite to my ideal dinner party

Alan Turing (he won World War II and then pioneered artificial intelligence research, so he’d have a lot to talk about)

Queen Elizabeth I (with her skill in politics, she’d make sure no guest was left out of the conversation)

Edgar Allan Poe (because I want to find out how he died)

Catherine Deneuve (makes the party instantly glamorous)

Nicola Tesla (inventor of artificial current, arch-enemy of Thomas Edison, and one of the hottest celebrities of the 1880s)

Louise Bourgeois (Poe would be very interested in discussing her creepy sculptures and visual art)

Benjamin Franklin (famous for his off-color wit and excellent taste)

Zora Neale Hurston (to jazz things up a bit and argue with Ben Franklin)

…something I can’t stop thinking about

How did people ever figure out that you could make meringue from egg whites if you whipped them for long enough?