“Who am I?” Ah, yes – it’s a question that’s vexed the greatest minds of every age, from Aristotle to Erasmus to Jackie Chan.
At its most basic, my answer would be “an earth-bound, carbon-based life form, 41 years in age, male, and of mostly English descent”. But that’s hardly a fun answer, is it? You want to know all about me and my little quirks, like “do you squeeze your toothpaste tube in the middle?” or “what’s your position on the serial comma?” or “do you dip your fries in your Frosty at Wendy’s?” Patience, grasshopper: the answers to these and many, many questions follow.
Please enjoy the ever-pretentious page on my website where I tell you all about me:
As mentioned, I am 41 years old and live in the United States: North Carolina to be particular and just outside Charlotte to be (somewhat) exact. I am originally from the South, as you might have guessed by my capitalization of the “S” in “South”, which is something only Southerners tend to do.
Being reared in the South, I was brought up as a Methodist and thought that you had to bring a covered dish to get into heaven. Also, note that only livestock are “raised”; children are “reared”. Look it up. Anyway, at around the age of 24, I figured out that God really doesn’t want my tuna casserole, so I became an Episcopalian… just in time for that church to begin self-destructing in spectacular fashion. So now I just call myself an “Anglican”, and occasionally attend St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church here in Charlotte.
The whole “Episcopal vs. Anglican” thing results in many puzzled looks from people and long explanations about how the Church of England became the Church of America, why they call it “The Episcopal Church” instead of the “Church of America”, what the difference between an Anglo-Catholic and a Roman Catholic is, why female priests are a problem, and why the Anglican Communion just doesn’t have a pope to straighten all this mess out. In the end, it seems that Grandma was right all along – now I just keep my mouth shut any time religion gets brought up.
Of course, any time you mention the South in mixed company, people tend to think that you either drive the General Lee or that you have an outhouse out back (or both!). Well, believe it or not, people from the South have running water, electricity, indoor toilets and everything! And most of us are even educated! I juuuusssttt barely graduated from Duluth High School in Duluth, Georgia. As a student, I was known for being brilliant in classes I enjoyed, like history and English. In fact, I might have been the only Duluth High student to ever utter the words “Ezra Pound? Hell yeah!” I was, however, asleep in classes I didn’t like, such as math and Spanish. This might explain why I received a 120 in World History and a 16 in Spanish on the same report card – at the time, a record spread of 104 grade points.
Because of my wildly unbalanced performance in high school, I began my collegiate life at DeKalb College, which is now known as Georgia Perimeter College. From there I transferred to, and received a bachelor’s degree from, Georgia State University. My degree is in political science, which is why I now fix computers for a living. As I understand it, the only degrees more useless in the “real world” than political science are art history and anthropology, so if you’re still pondering which major is for you, please take that into consideration.
I didn’t like college much, mostly because many liberal arts classes are based on parroting back what the professor tells you, instead of making decisions based on your own opinions or experiences. For example, if your professor is vehemently against the death penalty, the surest way to fail his or her class is to argue with them in class or present any sort of contrarian opinion in your papers. Only by agreeing with them can you make a decent grade, which I find funny. They think that conservatives are a bunch of mindless jackboots getting their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh… yet they require the exact same mindless allegiance to their own beliefs. Go figure.
Speaking of politics, I went from hardcore Reagan Republican in high school to a hellfire and brimstone Libertarian in college. But, being a political junkie at the time, I got lonely on election nights. So I went back to being what I called a “Reluctant Republican”, on the theory that it would be easier to turn fiscally conservative Republicans into Libertarians than turning left-wing Democrats. However, I became so fed up with the Republican party during the George W. Bush years that I’ve changed my voter registration back to Libertarian. I figure my new party won’t win any elections, but my party affiliation might get me out of jury duty at least.
I also love history… it’s the greatest soap opera ever conceived, and if you young punks think a TV show like Gossip Girl is “daring” or “out there”, you obviously haven’t read up on Elizabethan England. And while I loved history since I was a wee child, it wasn’t until I first saw the BBC show Connections that it all came together. The show was hosted by James Burke, a man who had one revolutionary thing to say about history: that events don’t unfold on a single timeline… they occur on thousands of timelines, each of which is connected to other timelines in some shape or form. Thus, history isn’t like one of those single timelines you often saw in history textbooks, but rather it’s like a web where one can take a specific event – like a Louisiana doctor’s primitive attempts to cure malaria – and connect it to year-round beer production in Bavaria and to the development of the rocket engine.
Of course, one of the reasons that kids and adults don’t care for history much is that history requires a good storyteller. If you’re that type of person, I suggest checking out books by Giles Milton. That guy could write a 20,000 page, 15 volume history of the paper clip and make it the most exciting thing you’ve ever read… seriously.
One thing I loved about college was that I took classes in both “film appreciation” and “music appreciation”. If you ever have the chance to take classes like these, please do.
Having said that, I actually don’t watch near as many films as I used to. A small part of it is because my missus doesn’t care for movies, so it’s not something we ever do as a “couple’s activity”. However, the main reason I don’t watch a lot of movies is because I find 95% of them to be completely predictable, and the other 5% try so hard to not be predictable that they’re too off the wall or artsy. Sure, there are still good movies out there, but most of the time I’m just not interested.
What I am interested in is TV, and that’s mainly because of the Internet. You can download most any English language TV show only hours (sometimes minutes) after it airs in its home country. So, thanks to the Internet, my television watching is no longer restricted by international borders. I can watch British shows like Ashes to Ashes or The IT Crowd, or Australian shows like Underbelly or Rush or Canadian shows like The Border or Being Erica or whatever else strikes my fancy just as easily as I can watch something on NBC or ABC. And it still amazes me that I can do this, even after five years. Back in the late 1990s, I envisioned a world where every TV show ever made in every country would one day be available on demand. Although we’re not quite there (officially), it really is becoming true personally.
As far as the music thing goes, I grew up on British New Wave bands like Duran Duran, The Jam, The Police, Madness, The Cure, New Order, and Depeche Mode. Then I morphed into an angry teenager in to the punk scene with the bands like Sex Pistols, The Clash, Dead Kennedys and The Meatmen. But then I mellowed out a little and started listening to local bands like R.E.M., Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Guadalcanal Diary, Dreams So Real, and Pylon. At around age 18 I started going to clubs and got into the whole dance music thing, which I listened to for years and years.
As you can see, I’ve been through several musical “phases” in my life. From 2000 to 2007 I was a bit rudderless, but now I am in the depths of what I call my “NY-LON” phase. I have fallen in love with tons of dream pop and electropop bands, mostly from New York City or London (hence “NY-LON”). I still listen to old faves like Cocteau Twins, Emiliana Torrini and Saint Etienne, but these days I’m thriving under an avalanche of great music from bands like Asobi Seksu, Marsheaux, Ladyhawke, Beach House, Washed Out, Best Coast, Ambra Red, Au Revoir Simone, The Raveonettes, La Roux, Stars, Metric, Sleigh Bells, The Apples in Stereo, Wild Nothing, Blonde Redhead, The Golden Filter, Cassette Kids, The Ting Tings, and dozens of others.
There several other things I like:
American football is one. And by “American football” I specifically mean the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ve been bleeding black and gold since I was around 4 years old, which makes me a 37-year fan of “Blitzburgh”. You might wonder how a kid from Atlanta became a Steelers fan. Well, as a child I loved the Atlanta Falcons and the Steelers about equally. But then, in 1982, the Falcons fired Leeman Bennett, their winningest coach to that time. This was the last straw for my dad, who had a long string of grievances with the Smith family. He swore off the Falcons forever, and I, being an 11 year-old kid who thought his dad knew everything about sports, went along with him, leaving only the Steelers. And I’m still here all those years later.
After professional football, my next favorite sport(s) are college sports, specifically the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. In fact, not more than five feet away from me right now is a plush toy football with an embedded music box that plays “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech”. My dad put it in my crib when I was a baby. It was the first song I learned, and my childhood memories are filled with Saturday afternoons at Tech games. I’m also still debating whether my last words will be “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” or “To Hell with [the University of] Georgia”. So yeah, the love runs deep.
Growing up, my Dad thought hockey was a “weird Yankee sport”, so I didn’t get to go to any Atlanta Flames games. However, my best friend from high school was from DC and was a huge Washington Capitals fan. We used to watch NHL games on cable, and were overjoyed when the minor league Atlanta Knights came to town. We easily went to a hundred Knights games, but then the Atlanta Thrashers ran the Knights out of town and brought NHL prices with them. Parking, $5 under the Knights, rose to $15 under the Thrashers. A Knights ticket cost $6, a comparable Trashers ticket $35. And a 16 ounce beer, $3 under the Knights, was jacked to $8. I was so pissed about the whole thing that I vowed to never pull for the Trashers ever. So now I pull for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL and the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL. And the Trashers are now the Winnipeg Jets… so there!
Something else I like is cheese. I consider myself a “cheese enthusiast”, and am especially keen on British cheeses like Stilton, Wensleydale, Red Leicester, Caerphilly, Cheshire, Derby, Double Gloucester, Windsor, and, of course, real Cheddar. I’m not opposed to French or Italian cheeses, mind you. It’s just that those two cultures have a bazillion cheeses between them, while Britain only has a few. So I figured that I’d try as much of the British stuff as I could before taking on the “big boys” of cheese.
I also think it’s important to make a distinction between “food snobs” and “food enthusiasts”. “Food snobs” make a cheesesteak sandwich with imported Wagyu beef, cheese handmade by virgins in the Italian Alps, and have their own plot of wheat in the backyard that they grind themselves to bake into rolls. “Food enthusiasts” just go to Pat’s Steaks like normal people. While I enjoy all sorts of food, especially ethnic restaurants, I don’t get uppity about it. Hell, get a couple of beers in me and I’ll shoot Easy Cheese straight into my mouth. And the missus will be proud, lemme tell you.
Speaking of “the missus”, ten years ago I fell head over heels in love with a girl from North Carolina. I think it’s because – in addition to being amazingly pretty – she says sweet things like “HAY-air” (“hair”), “come owwwwnn!” (“come on!”) and “hosepipe” (“garden hose”). She also doesn’t seem to mind that I snore like a tiger with sinusitis and am as graceful as a drunken elephant in Tiffany’s. She laughs at my stupid jokes, thinks I’m smart and doesn’t grumble too much when football comes on. She loves the Trainspotting soundtrack as much as I do, orders veggie burgers with bacon, only eats soy sauce from those little take-out packets, eats ice cream with a fork, listens to ABBA without guilt, needs the sound of a box fan to fall asleep and sometimes uses a hair dryer on her feet when she gets cold. She even likes grits and country ham too! You’ll find no arguments in our house over tax cuts, increased military spending or school vouchers. In fact, aside from some drunken “FedEx vs. UPS” and “Coke vs. Pepsi” arguments, we’ve been together for years without any arguments. Heh – top that!
I also like to travel. I’ve been all over the place. The places in red below are places I’ve been:
As you can see from the map, I’ve been to a fairly large swath of the United States as well as Australia and Europe. I really enjoyed Australia and have a burning desire to go to New Zealand (and no, I’m not a Lord of the Rings fan). I have been to London thrice thus far in my life and if I had to pick one city to live in outside the United States, it would absolutely be London… until I lived there for six months and got sick of it, as that seems to happen to most people who move there. But I’ll keep hope alive, for as Samuel Johnson said “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”.
One of my all-time favorite vacation moments – aside from walking into Three Rivers Stadium with my Dad for the 1980 AFC Championship game, or seeing the Great Barrier Reef in a glass-bottom boat with my Mom – was driving on the Autobahn in Germany. Sure, it was only in an Opel Kadett… but it was a rented Opel Kadett. And, as P.J. O’Rourke once said, “nothing handles better than a rented car. You can go faster, turn corners sharper, and put the transmission into reverse while going forward at a higher rate of speed in a rented car than in any other kind”. So even though the Kadett – Germany’s answer to the Ford Escort – wouldn’t go much faster than 130mph, it was still awesomely cool to just cruise down the highway at that speed with no fear of the cops… and get passed by cars going much faster than that!
Let’s see… what else? Well, I’ve been monkeying around with computers since I was around nine years old, which makes me fairly ancient in this line of work. My main problem is that I never specialized in anything. Once I graduated with that “mostly useless” poli sci degree, I needed to find a career path quick. Computers provided the fastest way to do this, so I got a job working the phones at Digital Equipment. Great job! Too bad they sold out to Compaq.
Lacking a CS degree or any specialized experience (like, say, Java programming), I’ve had some interesting jobs: the train wreck that was working for IBM, desktop support for a company that was bought out so often that employees had coffee mugs that said “I love working for…” with the company’s eight previous owners crossed out, a great job involving television networks and satellite dishes where I was often asked to buy $40,000 worth of hardware to play with, and one company where I was sent all over hell and back to fix things that I usually didn’t understand. Ah, and you wonder why us IT people tend to have short fuses and act like Nick Burns, “Your Company’s Computer Guy”!
Oh, and speaking of computers, I spend a lot of online time at the Ars Technica forums. I am known there as Rex Fenestrarum. If you ever need solid advice about Windows, Linux, Mac, PC hardware, digital audio or video or software applications, Ars is definitely the place go.
Lastly, in real life you can usually find me at such Charlotte hangouts as Sir Ed’s, Loco Lime or Pinky’s. If you ever go to any of those places, maybe you’ll see me there! And thanks for reading this far!
Oh, and to answer the questions from the beginning of this article:
“Do you squeeze your toothpaste tube in the middle?” – I did when I was younger, yes. But now that I’m older and wiser, I squeeze from the end.
“What’s your position on the serial comma?” – Even though I was taught that correct usage included serial commas, I rarely use them today… unless the things I’m listing are long and confusing, in which case I’ll use it for clarity.
“Do you dip your fries in your Frosty at Wendy’s?” – I used to, but the Wendy’s in Belmont is kind of crummy, so I don’t go there very often.