It's always kind of cool to discover that your intellectual idols have intellectual idols. I should get up the courage to write letters to my intellectual idols. I did a few times, but back in high school my intellectual idols were two years ahead of me in school. I still hold them in great awe, but now I have idols like... professors, and really successful entrepreneurs, and big nonprofit founders, and famous hackers, which are much more intimidating to write to than a 17-year-old. (Although writing to a "cool" 17-year-old is really scary when you're 14.)
Perhaps "idols" isn't the right word - I don't want to connote blind worship here. "Greatly respect, admire, and aspire to emulate certain aspects of" doesn't quite roll off the tongue, though.
I started writing letters again last night. I need to find a way to hold pens so that my fingers don't cramp up when writing for extended periods of time.
It's odd to write to someone you don't know and tell them that they've shaped some aspect of your life. "Who are you, kid?" "Uh... you don't know me, but I read your book on the bus and..." Then again, it's probably sometimes nice to know - so often we throw the things we make, the things we do, and who we are out there. We often never know the difference that it makes to other people. Sometimes it's nice to get a glimpse of the changes you're making; it lets you go on doing more in the absence of continued feedback.
It would appear that another common theme of this blog is "I should say 'thank you' more." Huzzah for meta.