Age 9:
Developed a fascination with TV Guide, specifically the listings. Spent hours copying them onto loose-leaf notebook paper—just the titles of shows, not descriptions, and with the times bumped up several hours to make it more interesting.

Age 11:
Co-invented, with a friend, a new board game based on The Empire Strikes Back, which had just come out. The game was played on a traditional checkerboard, but with chess pieces. It was adapted from The Empire Strikes Back solely in that the pieces were referred to as various types of spaceships and droids. The actual rules were quite simple, and some games lasted hours. Eventually, we taught several other friends how to play, and held an informal tournament. I came in second place.

Age 7:
Was an avid dictionary and encyclopedia fan. In particular, my obsession was the 1957 set of World Book Encyclopedias that belonged to my grandparents. I lingered primarily over anachronistic detail, such as the territorial status of Alaska and Hawaii. The article on space travel was my favorite single article. Its artistic depictions seemed to indicate that mankind would fly around outer space in one-man capsules with glass cockpits, which warped my impressions of space travel for years to come. My favorite volume was the “F” volume—for the article on “flags,” which showed a picture of every flag in the world. I was totally bewildered by a photo in the article on “candy.” It was a black-and-white photo of a candy factory, and suffered from an optical effect that made it appear as if a human being were actually part of the machinery.

Age 9:
Learned how to play the Japanese game “shogi,” which is chess-like but more complicated. I never played a single game, but once used my arcane knowledge of it to show off to a classmate, an incident of which I remain deeply ashamed to this very day.

Age 10:
Made up my own superheroes and comic books, as many young comic book fans do. I didn’t stop there, however, and went on to create my own imaginary comic book company, complete with a unifying corporate design and advertising campaigns, mimicking the business models of Marvel and DC Comics.

Age 8:
Learned how the Roman numeral system worked. Subsequently filled a notebook by writing every Roman numeral, in order, from I (one) to MMM (three thousand).

Age 4:
Owned a magnetic board with a matching set of multi-colored letters of the alphabet. Storage conditions for the letters, dictated by me, required that they be arranged—yes—in alphabetical order, in a perfect 5-by-5 grid, with Z being remaindered to the side compartment. I would only retire to bed once these storage conditions were met, for a period of some months. During active play, I would make abstract patterns on the board with the letters; never actual words.