“I don’t remember being anything but classy and sophisticated…”

This is an email Amir sent me soon after I moved back to Israel. I read it now and could feel Amir from it.

-Shelly (a former colleague)

October 19, 2001 12:27 PM

Hi shelly,
I hope things are good with you back in Israel. I miss you a lot here becuase there is nobody for me to talk with when I get bored. Also if I cannot work because my mind is off then there is nobody to tell about it becuase if I say it in english everyone will know I am not working, which sucks… Also I have done a lot of stupid embarassing things recently that you would have found funny but other people just think are stupid. Sorry if I acted like an idiot at your go-away party. I don’t remember being anything but classy and sophisticated but other people remember differently…

Amir’s first stab at a personal college essay

The following is a portion of an essay Amir wrote in his junior year at Ramaz as a sample personal college essay. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost one of the pages.

Well this is my personal college essay, and it kind of pisses me off. Whenever people bring up all this college crap, it tends to piss me off. College shmawledge, it’s always future this and future that. I’m a friggin junior, and I’m seventeen, and I just heard Don Henley sing something about being sixteen forever and it really didn’t mean a thing to me to tell the truth. I’m a friggin junior and not unlike my good forefather Abraham, some god has been testing me and luckily I got a 1450 which means I passed. Not so fast, they tell me, a 1450 is not a success complete. Many more high numbers must be collected before the golden gates of Heaven (or is that Harvard) will open up.
But all that is along way off, at least a year, and right now I’m stuck in pre-final hell land and just about the worst thing I can do is think ahead to that judgment day early in May when my entire high school worth is assessed. That is a sick, scary thought. Either I’m missing something or somewhere along the line we lost something and now everything has gone crazy and corrupt. Is this the plan: Study in high school, so you can go to a good college, so you can go to a good university, so you can get some dumb job, so you can earn money, so you can support a wife, so you can have kids so that they can go to school . . . .
Am I missing something there? Is that what my dad is talking about when he says to me, Amir, you gotta have a plan? Well, I don’t have a plan, and though that scares me sometimes, mostly it just makes me feel superior . . . unencumbered . . . more fee than the rest of the bastards running as fast as they can down the dark misty road of success and responsibility and consistency. It is one hell of a marathon, and I am far too lazy to compete.
The irony is that so few know what they are running for. So few can even see this road beneath their legs. I know it is there because someone told me. She said, Nature and life seem to be very familiar. Just stay on the road and everything will be fine. (I read that in my camp brochure). I say, Stay on the road, and you won’t see a damn thing. There are a lot of nifty trees that smell like root beer, pretty vistas, and cool looking animals that all lie just off the path. Hell, you may get a few scratches but that is the risk. I mean, why else did we get on this road in the first place for? You see, that is what bothers me the most, most destinations are not destinations at all, rather, just the lack of destinations. It is going on so you can go on. Stop before you reach the end, because once you get there, they will all be dead, or you will be dead. I do not know, because I have not been there yet.
I did see the end once, though. You see, this path of mine has all twists and turns of various dimensions and sometimes . . . the end comes very close to where you are standing, and if you look hard enough, you will be able to see it. Rather, you won’t see it. You won’t see it because it is not there. Let me explain how I saw the end that is not there:
Last year before the Passover holiday, I went to visit the Jewish homeland with the Dorot project in Manhattan. I brought

[missing page]

immensely, for I do not really know what society is. I think, though, that it has something to do with man’s futile search for purpose. Something to keep us running around this narrow, circular track so quickly and so frantically that we are blind to the nothing that we are falling into.

Email Correspondence with Rebecca Deutsch

While at Brown (1995-99), Amir corresponded via email with his close friend Rebecca Deutsch. The following is a sampling of that correspondence…

Wednesday, October 18, 1995

I am the only person in my nine o’clock class who is awake. I think I participate in class more than anybody else in Brown. I bet other people think I am very annoying.


Do you think it is good to be anti-social when the only reason you being unsocial is so people say wow, he’s so Holden Caulfieldish and aloof and cool and then you become very popular.


Quote of the week:
“These paradigms of vanilla normality make me puke.” –Jon Wolfson


Saturday, October 14, 1995

College is pretty cool. Academically it’s great. They really keep one busy here and I am learning a lot. I had figured it would be anti-intellectual compared to yeshiva, what with only four classes and all, but I think I am even working harder here than I did there.

I am taking:

-2nd semester calc
-political philosophy
-intro to object orientd programming (my favorite)
-twentieth century jewish fiction

Also, extra-curricularly there are always a lot of things to do that I am interested in. I am a member of the film society and the fantasy gaming society…


The whole concept of friendship has got me very confused. Do you think a friend should be a person who has certain personality traits that you find appealing (i.e. s/he is into books you like, or movies you like, or plays the same sports as you), or do you just like anybody who is willing to reciprocate that affection? Most people seem to the latter. I am not sure if it is respectable or pathetic. Friendship is no more than a vestige of a pack instinct. That is my opinion on it.


Monday, July 15, 1996


I don’t think I ever told you what I am doing this summer. I have two-and-a-half jobs, all involving computers. My main job is programming for the psychology department here. I am programming experiments in human timing. In my current project a subject is presented with 100 boxes and is allowed to click on any which one. If the box is primed, the subject is rewarded by a sound clip from a movie or TV show. If it is not primed, then the subject is subjected to a very loud, harsh sound. The boxes are primed randomly. The idea is to check for patterns in ways in which the subjects search. My other job is researching how to program Windows sockets. Windows sockets (i.e. winsock) is a programming interface by way of which programmers can write bits and bytes on the internet. My half job, which I just started today and which I am not getting paid for, is that I am programming an interface for a project a post-doc is working on in the Brown CS department. I am doing this because I get a very special account and it is a good learning environment.

Tomorrow, I am going for an interview for a job teaching Hebrew school. I am a little nervous because I shaved my head into a crew cut and I think I might make a bad impression.


Tuesday, July 16, 1996


Why didn’t you go away for the summer? You can support yourself on summer job money…. It really feels good to be self-sufficient. It is pretty easy, too. Life really doesn’t take that much, (so you shouldn’t feel sorry for bums, you should just dismiss them as lazy (just kidding (I like nesting parentheses (it is a very computerish thing to do)))). Also, when you are away from your parents for a long time they are much nicer to you.

I just spoke to Mikey on the phone…Really, he is a tremendously decent man.


Wednesday, August 07, 1996


It kills me that girls are judged so much more leniently on personality matters. In order for a girl’s personality to be liked all she has to do is smile a lot and sit around and listen. With guys, if you are not saying something witty every ten seconds people dismiss you right out as a boring schleb. I want to be a woman.


Friday, September 06, 1996

Hello Becks,

How’s your junior year going? You know, being a junior in college is pretty damn near adult, isn’t it?

Anyway, sorry I haven’t written, I have been very preoccupied with a lot of stuff. I have over-committed myself to too many things: I am working on the Virtual Reality project with the CS department, programming experiments for the psychology department, teaching Hebrew school, librarian for Hillel, pledging a fraternity and 3 work-intensive classes….

Last week, I went camping in the White Mountains and really fell in love with nature. The whole experience made me feel really very primal. It was very invigorating. I climbed a 4,000 ft mountain and now I really feel there is nothing I can’t do. There was a personality conflict with the rest of my group, though, and none of them liked me because they are all a bunch of wusses who don’t like to challenge themselves. What kind of classes are you taking? Are you taking CS?


Did you know that in Hebrew, which is god’s language, there is no word for love? Ahava, which we use interchangeably for love and like, really doesn’t mean either of those, it means loyalty.


Wednesday, September 18, 1996

It is great that you are reading Heart Of Darkness, but it is kind of sad that you are taking that kind of class when you can be really applying your mind to some greater discipline like math, physics, or C.S.

Lately, things are going very well for me. My fraternity is taking very good care of me and making sure that I am not getting bored socially. I am really pretty much enjoying it so far. It is very engrossing. I don’t know any better word for that. As pledges they keep us busy constantly and it is just a lot of fun. What they are tying to do mostly is indoctrinate us in the tradition. I kind of dig all the tradition… I have been getting about five hours of sleep a night and I feel great. The fraternity keeps me up late every night and then I get up at 7:30 for minyan, which we have just started here this year.


Thursday, September 19, 1996

It is weird. I have a dual social life here in Brown. Half of it is Hillel, which I love, hanging out and meeting pleasant people… Then there is my fraternity life, which truthfully lives up to all stereotypes… It is actually truly pathetic. But in some ways it provides a strange counterbalance that I think I need. Hell, I don’t need it, who am I kidding. I am stuck in Gehenna, and that is the truth. I could pick up and leave but that is not as simple as it seems. I would be alienating a lot of people, and truthfully there are a lot of people that I do like. Nobody I couldn’t live without, though. But then on top of that there is the huge hassle of moving and finding a place to live…


Friday, October 25, 1996

I really like having a roommate. I would be very lonely without a roommate. I think I am going to get married this summer so I don’t have to be without a roommate. I need that type of spiritual crutch so I don’t get lonely.


In computer science class I am building a simulated computer. It is really cool. I am also designing this graphical robot that can shoot missiles out of his mouth and lasers from his eyes… I am feeling unimaginative. So next semester I signed up for creative writing. I was inspired because there were two girls from Ramaz here last weekend and they were only freshmen when we were seniors, but they knew who I was because they remembered my poems. That made me feel really great…


Monday, November 11, 1996

…Anyway, I got to go home this weekend to Englewood and that seems to have done me a turn for the better. I got to see my grandma before she left to Israel and, although we can hardly speak a word to each other, it seemed to make her very happy just to sit next to me. It was nice to make her happy like that and it made me feel groovy inside. Also, I got to speak to my sister, who I recognize as the complete angel that she is, and she had a lot of good advice for me. Maybe you should speak to her, too. She is great at giving advice…


Tuesday, January 21, 1997

Dear Becks,

I just got back to school yesterday and I moved into the Hebrew house here at Brown. So far it seems like a vast improvement over the frat. The house is much nicer. It is actually like a real house. We have a living room and kitchen and everything laid out for Mr. and Mrs. Joe family. My room even has its own bathroom and carpet. My new roommate is a computer science god who took three years off brown to work for apogee and write Duke Nukem. If you don’t know what that is, let me tell you that is something to be proud about…

I went on a breaks trip last week and that was great. What we did was go out into New York City for a week and volunteer in soup kitchens for lunch and at night we usually spoke to people who were professionally involved with hunger and homelessness in NYC…


Monday, March 17, 1997

Hi Becks,

Anyway, what I was saying in my last letter was that I am going camping for a while next week in Virginia. I am really excited. I have only been camping once before and I have never been to the South at all. I have been to Florida once but that doesn’t really count. I like long car rides with friends. That is the best. I like to make everybody play these games that me and Jon used to play. One game is called memory game and it just goes that one person says a memory and the other person says one that it reminds them of. And so on. The other game is called trivial pursuit and it is just Trivial Pursuit without the cards, dice and board. The only part that is left is the questions and since you don’t have cards you have to think them up yourself. That is the fun part. I just hope it is not too cold when we go camping.


Tuesday, April 15, 1997

How are you doing? As for me, everything is going very well. I had a great spring break camping and when spring comes and Ben and Jerry’s gives away free cones of ice cream, it is hard not to be chipper.


Thursday, October 09, 1997

Hi Rebecca?

How’s life? I haven’t heard from you in a little while and I was wondering. I actually called you a couple of times this summer when I was in NJ but I was never able to get through. As for me, life is fine. I walk a tortuous path within the twilight of some large and looming madness that howls continuously from along the perimeter of my mind. Of the few people I have gotten to know in the slow and sordid course of my social history, I believe that only you could ever really understand the context of my self-loathing and the hubris it engenders. That is why I write you this letter. I think me and you, we share the same insanity. I still think of you every now and then and miss you. I miss certain aspects of myself as they pertained to you. It is funny, people leave your life and new people come in, but there are no substitutes.


Amir Recaps the 2002 NYCPUL Season

August 20, 2002

And The NYCPUL summer 2002 champions are The Nomads! They decisively defeated the Drewids 17-5 by utilizing a devestating short pass strategy and excellent team work. It was a tough game for the Drewids and passions ran as hot as the weather but afterwards everybody cooled off with a great party organized by Deborah Blake, Steve Mcbride and Jason Pain.

A real special thanks to goes out to Deborah who took care of purchasing almost all of the food and has been helpful from the very beggining in organizing this league. She was instrumental in recruiting more women in the first weeks when it turned out that not enough had signed up to make it real Co-ed and has been vigilant ever since in ensuring that the league maintain the proper tone: one in which “spirit of the game” is prized above winning and teamwork over competitiveness. In my opinion, she, more than anyone else, represents the spirit of the game for the selfless, thankless work she has put in behind the scenes. It is only fitting therefore, that Deborah Blake be named the recipient of the first annual NYCPUL spirit award [applause and hurrahs].

I would also like to especially thank Rich Ting for designing the great t-shirts and the trophies. Not only is he is a great graphic artist, he is also one of the best players in the league. Luckily, he is so good that he helped lead the Nomads to Ultimate victory and won one of his own trophies.

Special thanks also goes to the seven NYCPUL captains for running their teams as well as they did. There was not a single cancelled game this season and hardly any player complaints thanks to their good work.

Even though all of our captains are great, special recognition goes to Spaz Grangaard, the recipient of this summers Best Captain award. Testimony to his great leadership is the fact that, despite a last place start, Spastic Plastic improved to the point where they won three of their last six games. Spastic Plastic demostrated great spirit both on the field with their play and off the field with their great cheers. Also, they had one of the best male & female attendance rates in the league. In this category, Rocky also deserves an honorable mention for leading the very spirited Nomads to victory with the almost perfect atttendance of his players. Unfortunately though, Rocky lost points for being absolutely one of the most vociferously opinionated persons I have ever had the pleasure to know.

Another key factor in the Nomad’s dominance was Doug “Air” Propp, this summer’s Male MVP. Probably, the most experienced player in the league, Doug played and led with a competence that raised the level of everyone else on his team.

The Female MVP, and undoubtably a huge factor in the Drewids strong showing, was Carrie Prophet. The Drewids were a hard to please team but in their All-Star balloting they almost unanimously selected her as their top-choice making her the leading vote getter in the whole league. Congratulations Carrie.

Thank you all for a great season!

Amir Recaps NYCPUL’s 2003 Championship Game

July 21, 2003

Congratulations to Team black, the new NYCPUL 2003 champs! Led by captain, Brant stevens, and male MVP, hunt clark, team black defeated the more youthful Yellow Fever led by captain Andrew Park and female MVP, june bae. It was a fierce contest under harsh conditions. It was hot and sunny and windy and very, very dusty. These conditions led to some long points(one as long as twenty minutes), an even longer game, and many irritated mexican soccer players encroaching on all sides. Nevertheless, fun was had by all and the season ended successfully. Thank you all for playing!

As many of you know, this was probably my last game of NY ultimate for a while as I am moving to california in the fall to pursue a doctoral degree in education. This means that if NYCPUL is to continue in the future somebody else will have to pick up the reins. Let me know if you are interested and I will send you some important info. Thanks agian and it was great getting to know so many of you.


Amir’s comments to Yoni Malina about a couple on the street after Sept 11th

“Sometimes the worst thing in the world is lonliness..we should fight it at all costs. Schleps move about and who can say what passion is? there’s that bald fat guy with his yucky wife and he thinks that she’s dreamy..his passion partner for life…they are sticking together even when they bicker..anyway bickering isn’t so bad..it’s lonliness that’s the worst and friends that save you.”

–Amir Lopatin

Amir Lopatin: Learning Sciences and Technology Design

This is a draft of Amir’s Stanford webpage. Please send me the final if you find it.

About Me:
I am currently a first-year PhD student studying under Roy Pea in the “Learning Sciences and Technology Design ” program of the Stanford University School of Education. Prior to Stanford, I studied at Brown University from where I graduated in May 1999 with an ScB in computer science. My goal here at Stanford is to apply my passion for technology within the field I think poses the most interesting and meaningful challenges: education. It is my animating faith that technology holds the key to making education accessible and effective for everyone and that education, in turn, holds the key to just about everything else that is worthwhile. My specific research interests are still inchoate but here is a short list of topics I would like to investigate before my time here is up.
Before coming to Stanford, I worked as a software engineer at a start-up company called Visible World . There, I specialized in user interface and data-visualization work. My biggest project was a full-featured MPEG2 Transport Stream Analyzer . I also wrote a nifty app we called the Command GUI which was used to monitor the media preparation process for Visible World’s patented intellispot technology. In NYC, my main avocation outside of work was Ultimate Frisbee . I even started NYC’s first public ultimate league, NYCPUL. I am not sure if the league will continue now that I am gone because, in truth, I did almost all of the work and the league was very hard to run within the space constraints of Manhattan.
Before NYC, I lived in SLC Utah for one year. There, I worked for a company called Evans and Sutherland . Evans and Sutherland is the oldest company working in the field of high-end graphics and simulation systems. I did some work there on head-tracking in tank simulators so that the field of view would change in the windows of the tanks as people moved their heads around inside the simulator. The job was pretty cool but Utah was not a good match for me (although I did love the skiing and the mountain biking).
A lot happened to me before that, but I don’t want to waste your bandwidth with the prehistoric details.

Research interests:

• Programming to learn: How can programming literacy most effectively be leveraged to facilitate instruction in fields outside of computer-science. People that can program have a language for describing processes that other people lack. This is similar to the way that people who understand calculus have a language for describing change and therefore have an easier time describing and comprehending concepts in physics and math. If curricula designers could take this literacy for granted could they design course materials that are more effective than conventional ones?
o Mindstorms.
o Allan Kay
o Andy Disessa

• Gaming to learn: Are video games an under-exploited educational resource or just a distraction?
o Prensky :

• Issues in educational motivation: What are the motivational qualities of competition? Can computers be used to isolate the beneficial qualities of competition while muting the pernicious ones? In my experience, competition has always been highly motivating. The downside of competition is that if you are on the losing side well Holden Caufield said too well: “Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right; I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.” The thing about computers is that they can adjust their difficulty levels so that nobody feels like they are losing allowing instructors to reintroduce competition without anyone feeling bad.
• Issues in assessment: Can real-time monitoring of student learning activities obviate the need for post-facto assessment?

Amir’s Friendster Testimonial to Eli

Amir, 07/21/2003:
What kind of guy is Eli? Eli is the type of guy that makes me wish I were gay. Anyways he is out fo my league and he knows it too. Eli’s vanity in unparalleled in the annals of man. When he is not obsessively grooming his raven-black locks, he can be found in the gym chiseling his alreay flawless physique. Dont even be asked to set up with him becuase to see him is to love him and all too often this love goes unrequited leaving the happlessly enamoured nothing but a quivering, orgasmic mess.

Amir’s Friendster Testimonial to Jon Wolfson

Amir, 07/21/2003:
Jon’s eccentricity often approaches dizzying heights. In between his daily, unsuccesful attempts to come up with the proper tune for his “digits of pi” song, you might catch him obsseively indexing his classic rock tape collection or calculating the real estate value of the average-sized gum- blotch on fifth avenue . His appetite for obscure and esoteric music is voracious. He is probably the only person extant to remember the lyrics and chords to the mid-nineties forgotten classic “rape-man”. The philosophical one of my friends, jon can often be heard saying such theories as: “If the holocaust existed, why are we taught about it?” and “I wonder if the bums on Park Avenue feel richer than the ones on Broadway”

Amir’s Email to Friends Upon Arriving at Stanford

So far this school has surpassed all my expectations: The professors and classes are fascinating, the campus is an architectural masterpiece, the weather is clement, the people are nice, the streets are bike friendly, everybody plays frisbee, the campus network is 100 mb/s and they have cool priceless scultures and fountains everywhere. Also, I have a fresh lemon tree 5 feet from my front door. Still I miss all my friends back east and if any of you are ever in the neighborhood or just wants to come visit you have got a place to stay by me.