Being majorly introverted, I've become quite attuned to my own reactions to things, and pretty good at figuring out what I like, and I use this knowledge to try to gradually shape a lifestyle that is in accord with my preferences. This can make me seem very unconventional, but actually I'm extremely conventional. It's just that the conventions I follow are peculiar ones that I've devised myself, and I've grown quite attached to them.
This also means I'm sort of picky. I'm quite open-minded when it comes to other people, but when it comes to what I do in my own life, I filter everything through the lens of my own judgement. I frequently find myself totally indifferent to things many people care a lot about (two examples: pets and spectator sports), as well as paying significant attention to things that they don't much care about (like being able to walk to places, or writing down my dreams). Robert Louis Stevenson wrote: "To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive." And I agree with that.
Happiness is, for me, very much a matter of contentment and very little a matter of novelty. A little novelty goes a long way with me. My rule of thumb for evaluating how much I like something is to ask myself how much I'd like to experience it again. I definitely make a point to try new things from time to time, because otherwise I might miss out on some great stuff; but for me an important reason to have new experiences is to build a repertoire of experiences I like enough to want to have them again.
By paying attention to my own happiness, I've reached a point where I'm pretty happy with my life. Of course, my natural optimizing tendencies make me continue to try to increase my happiness (hence my membership on this site). But that preference for contentment over novelty makes me skeptical of paths that purport to offer great costs but greater rewards, because often the costs must be paid up front, while the rewards may or may not materialize, and it can be difficult to return to a previous state of happiness once you've left it in the hopes of finding a different one. This is a roundabout way of saying that I am not much of a risk-taker, and that I like to find what I like and then stick with it. Or, more pithily --- to adopt a motto that I read in a newspaper article about a dairy farmer and instantly embraced as "so me" --- I heed the gentle warning of these words: "More flour more water. More water more flour."
I'm a very curious person. I've always had an analytical bent, and years of grad school intermixed with statistics and programming only strengthened it. Like my conventions, though, my curiosity is my curiosity, and so is often directed at quirky or esoteric things. The verve with which I investigate my interests me bears no relation to the value that others might attach to them; I'm as interested in my little side projects on population distribution, document markup, and dream journals as I was in the topic of my dissertation. Don't imagine I'm the sort of person who makes spreadsheets to analyze random stuff just for fun. Pshaw! I write programs to analyze random stuff just for fun.
Having now convinced you that I am a number-crunching robot from the future come to gather your precious data for GloboCorp, let me turn the tables by revealing that my other big thing is aesthetic and sensual experiences. I like watching sunsets. I like going for hikes and looking at nice views. I play the piano and write my own music. I'm a big fan of French novels. I look forward to my milk and cookies every night. These are as important to who I am as the analytical stuff, but in some ways more personal and difficult to convey in words (at least words directed to an unseen audience like this). But being able to share the appreciation of some such experience with someone is, for lack of a better word, awesome.
Yes, there are rumors that I even engage in social activity now and again! Strange but true. Although I'm introverted and for the most part like to work on my own stuff on my own, I do like hanging out with friends, going for walks, playing board games, shooting the breeze, and all that sort of stuff.
At this point it shouldn't surprise you to learn that my social preferences are idiosyncratic as well. Most people fall into the category of those with who, I get along with fine but wouldn't want to have to spend more than a few hours at a stretch. Then there is a small group of people with whom I feel "on the same wavelength" (to some degree) and who I actually enjoy socializing with on a regular basis. (It turns out these people are called "friends".) I'm open to meeting people who'd fall into this category.
Then there's the category of people who I feel like I like enough to want to actually integrate them into my life, to the point where being with them is no longer "socialization" but just the comfort of home. This category is large enough to hold one person but is currently unoccupied. It is held in reserve for someone who feels some kinship with the philosophy I described above, and who likes to think about stuff, and discuss it, and who is sweet, and easy on the eyes, and who'd like to be able to share the sorts of experiences that are enhanced by sharing them with the right person although they can be deflated by sharing them with the wrong person. There's a good deal of space in my life for the right someone, but the space is, you might say, oddly shaped, so that most people wouldn't fit into it, and would find it rather uncomfortable. (And frankly, I would probably find it quite uncomfortable to fit into most people's lives too.) But I suspect that for the right person my particular brand of romance will fit like the proverbial glass slipper.
So you could say I'm picky about romance too. I'm in no particular rush, and I'd rather not get involved in something that I don't think is going to last for the long haul. I'm looking for a relationship that will make me happier than I am right now, which is no simple quest. On the other hand, I don't hold it against anyone else if they're picky too. In fact, it seems like just about the only way this can work eventually is if I meet someone who is so doggone picky that, until she met me, no one else quite fit the bill.
Last but not least, I'm good at living frugally without scrimping or denying myself much. I just have limited --- and cheap --- needs. (It's amazing how much money you don't spend when you don't like coffee or alcohol.)
As for nonfiction, mostly psychology (e.g., Stumbling on Happiness, Gut Feelings, stuff by William James) and philosophy (e.g., Plato, some Daniel Dennett, and more stuff by William James).
I recently finished Superforecasting. Right now I'm reading a book called The $100 Startup and rereading Proust in a mini-book-club with fellow Proustophiles and OKCupid denizens zin_0 and cuttlefishdrag.
I also read the Los Angeles Times every day.
Movies: The Princess Bride, the Bill & Ted movies, Rushmore, 12 Monkeys, Star Wars, State and Main, Sweet and Lowdown, and perhaps most of all Lone Star.
TV: I don't have a TV, don't watch TV, and don't have much interest in watching TV.
Music: Despite being musically inclined, I rarely listen to music. I have fairly eclectic musical tastes, but when I do listen to music, these days it's mostly either classical (predominantly Beethoven) or recordings from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization project. (Check out the cymbalom ones.) I usually go to a few classical music concerts in a year. I play the piano frequently.
Food: I tend to care more about what's in the food than what "kind" of food it is, but I'm especially partial to Indian food and Mexican food. I'm fundamentally a meat and dough kind of guy. (That doesn't mean I don't eat vegetables, though.) I like baked goods, especially donuts and things made with oats. I drink a large amount of whole milk.
I like using my Axxess card to try out different restaurants in town, although I'm a bit bummed to see the offerings dwindle from one year to the next.
There are some pretty common foods that I don't like, including cheese, eggs, coffee, wine, and beer; this astonishes many people.
I feel in this section I should include a disclaimer about my near-total disconnection from "pop culture". I don't have a TV, I don't have Netflix, I don't have an iPod. I don't have iTunes, I don't even watch a lot of YouTube or anything like that. This doesn't mean I'm a luddite, because I spend tons of time on the computer. I do occasionally listen to music or go to a movie, and when I do I enjoy it, but I'm just not the kind of person who likes to have a constant stream of audiovisual entertainment feeds, and I don't have any desire to "keep up" with newly released stuff in the entertainment world. I do keep up with the news, but most of what passes for entertainment in my life comes from reading or from physically seeing and doing things.
What I have recently read.
Whatever sort of data I've recently been fiddling with (the census, tweets, the stock market, you name it).
Music. (This is not so much "thinking" as just constantly making up tunes in my head.)
Why people (including me) do the things they do.
What it is about things that seem the same that makes them seem the same, and what it is about things that seem different that makes them seem different.
Also any one of my peculiar fascinations, like miracle fruit or Tristan da Cunha or tardigrades.