The only slightly embellished tale of a man wanting to believe he's purposefully marching through life, the swaggering master of his own destiny, even as the impersonal world sweeps aside his intentions and does with him as it will. (Or maybe just a collection of rumors, fabrications, and self serving delusions...)
First the hard question - who am I... I think I might know the answer to this one...
Some might consider me an irascible and opinionated curmudgeon, and I hate to disappoint them. A few have expressed better opinions of me, and I would rather they didn't find out otherwise...
My operative philosophy seems to be "function before fashion". I aspire to be a 20th century Renaissance man - a broad based and well balanced individual with interests in both the arts and sciences. While I would like to think of myself as a modern day da Vinci, Gyro Gearloose is probably a more accurate comparison.
I've managed enough blunders and embarrassments over the years to more than justify a healthy sense of modesty and humility. I usually try all the wrong ways to do something before finally having the brilliant inspiration to try the last remaining right way. Some people have accused me of being a workaholic, and realizing the error of my ways, I'm working on the problem.
From the inside looking out, I think of myself as pretty easy going. I'm either satisfied with my particular assortment of strengths and weaknesses, or have just grown comfortable with them over the years. My brain tends to churn and gurgle along in operational mode most of the time - always on the look out for any stray brain food floating by in the ether (I enjoy thinking). I can usually (sometimes?) beat back the chaos and exercise a modicum of mental discipline.
The first half of my life was complicated by not yet realizing I was an involuntary participant in an "ongoing real-time experiment in applied neurochemistry". The second half of my life has provided incremental improvements in my understanding and ability to artificially adjust my "non-standard" brain chemistry into a functional range. (See "Observations on ADD" and "Medical Marijuana and ADD" for more information.)
As a child, being saddled with a unique name seemed less than desirable. Over the years I've come to appreciate that having a unique name has protected me from suffering the sort of identity crisis that has become so popular these days. If I'd been given a common name like Tom, I still wouldn't know which of the millions of Tom's I might be. Since I'm the only one I know tagged with my unique name, if I can just remember my name I know who I am! On the other hand, having an unconventional name could well be the reason that a conventional life has eluded me.
The blundering and bemused tale of mischances and unlikely events that comprise my life's history might indicate otherwise, but I've never intentionally "set out adventuring". Each incremental step seemed reasonable within the context of the moment, even if theircumulative effects took me in directions that might appear somewhat less than rational when considered from theinfinite perspective of hind-sight. In spite of best intentions to seek a quiet and orderly life, fate (and miscalculations) have already served up more unexpected twists and turns than I would care to admit. Perhaps the single mostconsistent aspect over the years has been that where I've ended up has almost never been where I thought I was headed.
I grew up in rural Illinois on a couple of acres of oak woods. The corn fields and dairy farms that surrounded the world of my youth have all given way to the concrete and asphalt of Chicago's urban sprawl. I now live in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, USA), in the still partially lush green Willamette Valley between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
A large part of my childhood was spent building boats and houseboating on the upper Mississippi River.
My late teen years were spent trying to make small English sports cars go faster – and spending a lot of time in the garage putting over-stressed engines back together. I also "messed around" with a variety of English and Japanese motorcycles, eventually building a bored out, raked, and extended Harley chopper. I supported my sports car and motorcycle habits working as a mechanic/millwright in a large factory.
Having explored "low altitude flying" in sports cars and motorcycles, it seemed like a good idea at the time to get a little further away from the hard ground.
I spent most of the 1970's engaged in the "up-close-and-personal" application of the laws of physics more commonly known as sport skydiving. I quickly became an obsessed "jump bum" and "loft rat", operating a parachute rigging and custom equipment business to pay for my lift tickets.
The parachute rigger's art is expressed in soft sculptures of ripstop nylon and webbing that take on a special, intensely personal, significance when you're suspended from one thousands of feet in the air. Some say that skydiving is the ultimate nylon fetish.
Stepping out into the void at 10,000 feet is probably one of the most effective ways to cut through the clutter in your mind, and focus your attention on the present moment. Plummetingthrough the air at terminal velocity can do wonders in helping you get your priorities in order, and recognize what is really important in life. Pulling your own ripcord provides one of the few remaining unambiguousopportunities to take personal responsibility for your own welfare in a society where the boundary between the citizen and the state has become so distorted.
My focus at the start of the 1980's was heavy metal - literally. I started a one-man custom machine shop and welding business using a collection of new and antique equipment. In addition to outside work, I built and repaired the various (often unique) pieces of equipment used in my one-man bulldozer and dumptruck business. I gave up tinkering with hot-rod sports cars and motorcycles, and learned more than I ever wanted to know about the internals ofCaterpillar tractors, Browne & Sharpe milling machines, and assorted other industrial and farming equipment. In my spare time I experimented with growing a variety of crops, and raising various furred and feathered livestock on a small organic farm.
At various times in my journey through life I've also gotten involved in scuba diving, breeding tropical fish, renovating old houses, nineteenth century muzzle-loading firearms, model railroading, and solar energy/power generation. I also hold a fair amount of affection for old machinery - especially ornate steam engines.
Partly in recognition of my increasing responsibilities to my customers and business associates, I have concluded my involvement in those activities, such as skydiving, that caused some concern among those depending on my continued availability. I've also gotten accustomed to the "clean" work of computers.
Lists of professional and/or academic credentials have become an expected part of a resume, but the areas of knowledge I've explored haven't lent themselves to traditional modes of study. I have, however, acquired an assortment of unconventional credentials while pursuing the life experiences that have proven so useful to me as an author. The first official credentials I accumulated in my adventures were probably licenses to drive commercial semi-tractor-trailers in Illinois and Oregon. In a different direction, I became a PADI certified scuba diver in 1972, and an FAA certified parachute rigger in 1974. I earned SCR No.2912 (Star Crest Recipient) and Freak Brother No.44 in 1974 as a freefall skydiver. I was issued a fuel alcohol distillery license by the BATF during the late 1970's.
The credentials that accompanied the most profound changes in my world-view would likely be qualifying for membership in Hi-IQ societies. I joined Mensa and Intertel in 1992, having surprised myself more than anyone by scoring in the top ninety-ninth percentile on a standard IQ test. In 1994 I volunteered to edit Port Of Call, thebimonthly newsletter of Intertel Region VII. I celebrated my ninth anniversary as editor with the April 2003 issue. I'm currently serving my second term as the Director of Intertel Region VII.
I started writing in the early 1980's. In addition to the intellectual and artistic satisfaction, writing gives me an excuse to dabble in things that would otherwise might appear to be politically incorrect or wasting my time. As a writer, I can always justify my digressions and diversions as doing research for an as yet undefined work in progress...
I bought my first computer in 1984 to use as a word processor. Unable to resist raising the hood, before long I taught myself computer programming using Pascal. As I became increasingly interested in artificial/machine intelligence, I taught myself to program in PDC Prolog, which has been my programming language of choice ever since. I eventually also had to teach myself the C/C++ programming language. Software development quickly became the primary source of funding for my various digital adventures.
For the last decade, my identity in the commercial world has been President of Overall Technology Inc. Overall's flagship product, The Inspection Network, has been in continuous use since it wenton-line in 1988. My primary commercial activities during this time have been developing and supporting The Inspection Network, an artificial intelligent report writer that uses a unique remote access distributed parallel processing expert system to generate inspection reports – in essence an automated expert analysis writing machine. However, the dry machine generated narratives of my computer software hardly qualify as literature. (See "The Creature Lives!" for more information.)
(Writers never admit it openly to readers, but half the point of writing is to safely vent off the excess "word pressure" accumulating in the neural-digital (mind-finger) system. Failure to find a safe way to vent the pressure can result in uncontrollable attacks of twiddling or doodling, or if left untreated, potentially lead to violent acts of graffiti. In the most tragic advanced cases, the syndrome can degenerate into advertising slogans or even (gasp) political banners and protest signs.)
The accumulated results of all of the above are offered for your entertainment and edification. I hope you enjoy reading my humble missives as much as I enjoyed writing them.