I was born on June 1st, 1979. Four months later, Douglas Adams would publish his brilliant book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, and Carl Sagan had produced “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”, a documentary television series that would deliver the universe into the living rooms of people across the globe for over thirty years. Indeed, I was born into an age of wonder. It was also the golden age of science fiction. I grew up with the humanism of Star Trek, and the mystery of Star Wars. I was enthralled by such shows as Newton’s Apple, and Bill Nye: The Science Guy. At a young age, I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to build lasers!
Life, however, intervened and I never achieved that dream, but the desire for truth never left me. My personality has always tended towards that of an engineer, and the computer quickly caught my fascination. I first tinkered with a hand-me-down 286 machine operating at a breathtaking 12.5Mhz and a 4-color monitor running DOS 2.12. I wrote batch files, dialed into BBS portals, and even drafted my first science fiction novel. At thirteen I was gifted a 486 machine that came with a novel new operating system called Windows of which I severely disliked and ignored. And then, through a bit of experimenting with Doublespace, I crashed the machine in two days. From there I was hooked.
My dream was to work with computers professionally, and after four years of working at and managing sandwich and pretzel shops I got my opportunity. In 1998 I was hired as a basic computer technician for Computers, Networks and Services in Mesa, Az. CNS was an attempt at a retail computer store and repair business that operated as a dba of GSM Software, Inc. owned by G.L. Scott Murray. GSM Software was developing a predictive dialer to go along with its basic auto-dial application written in FoxPro 2.6 and which ran on Novell dumb terminals. When it became clear that retail was a lousy business model and that the real money was in the dialer business, Scott decided to shift the focus of the company towards selling his dialer. I was one of the main techs, and became the first installer. It was a small operation in the beginning and we all wore many hats and had to adapt to new problems and situations that we didn’t even know existed. Because of this, I began that journey with a basic knowledge of PC repair, and ended it as a VoIP/Network engineer with a belt full of experience with a wide-range of technologies. There were many stops along the way, of course. I did some software developments, web design, marketing design and advertising, customer support and training. I was the face of the company for many years, and learned much from the experience.
In the background, my interest in science and truth never waned. I may have been sidelined by some youthful obsessions with muscle cars, my particular white-whale being a 1967 Ford Mustang, but during it all I have always been an avid reader. The last decade of my life, however, has been dedicated to family. My oldest son, Micah, was born on November 2nd, 2004, the day George Bush Jr. was re-elected for a second term, on which I will refrain from comment. Life became chaos, and my reading subsided. And now, four children later, I have re-kindled my love of science, and of truth, and have discovered it to be a source of immense wonder. Physics has become my new drug of choice, and I have ghost hunting to thank for it.
With the advent of the SyFy channel’s “reality” series, “Ghost Hunters”, I became immensely interested in investigating the unknown. I spent several years online learning what I could. I joined a group of great people on a paranormal social networking site called MyPara.Net and learned a bit about what was real, and what wasn’t. I developed this skepticism, calling out fraud in the paranormal industry, and developed a strong ethic on the value of truth, and the selling of lies to the unaware and bereaved. I do still have friends in that world, but have, myself, become disillusioned with the paranormal. This experience did, however, leave me with a question: what is light? I thought I knew for the longest time, photons they were called. Little balls bouncing around being reflected and absoved, but that was merely a conceit. I really didn’t know anything. I didn’t even realize that radio waves and visible light were the same thing, just at different wavelengths. Ghost hunters would use full spectrum photography to try and capture “spirits”, or use electromagnetic frequency detectors to “detect” ghosts. In studying these, I was introduced to a diagram on electromagnetic radiation and something in my brain clicked. I became profoundly aware of my ignorance and tried to read as much as I could on the subject. This led me to quantum mechanics, the nature of electrons, the association between photons and electrons, subatomic particles, the very makeup of the universe. The further I dug the less I knew, but new pathways of understanding erupted in my brain like firecrackers. The emotional energy of coming to understand something new, to have a tiny piece of an idea about how the universe works, and how matter comes together to form elements and molecules and life. Cosmology blended with biology, physics, and chemistry. I realized that each separate subject, before only understood as the title to a kind of science class in school that would be boring to take, were not actually separate at all. I even discovered what I want to be when I grow up, a teacher of science. I want to share this wonder with the next generation. We need physicists, chemists, engineers. Our modern world, the world I was born into, lives on technology. And as Carl Sagan once noted: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”
Along with this newfound interest in science and understanding has been in the study of human behavior, why we do the things we do, why we believe what we believe, and why we make the cognitive errors that we make. This has led to a fascination with neuroscience, and ultimately, ethics, and various ethical systems. Ways in which to evaluate situations and determine the correct course of action at times when the gut doesn’t have much to say. I have come across surprising things about our brains, and what brings contentment to our lives: Creating value, loving and being loved, being fair, and forgiveness. We are creatures that need to do things. We are builders. We make and find fulfillment in our creations. We are makers.
The Do-It-Yourself movement, the “Makers” have intrigued me over the last few years. From basic electronic engineering, to garage-floor innovations that are driving the new economy. This captivates me because it lies at the core of who I am. I’m an idea man. I get ideas and I have to explore them, it hurts me not to! On more than one occasion I have worked for forty hours straight on a problem or project, often without the slightest idea of what I was doing. I teach myself everything. I taught myself ASP.NET on a Memorial Day weekend for a custom client application, with no previous web application experience. I created an entire custom CRM interface from scratch that integrated into my company’s dialer platform in 36 hours and installed it in Houston the following week. There were bugs. There were many bugs, but I solved them. Years later, I was given the task of installing an Asterisk based PBX system with a MySQL database on CentOS 4.6 with very little working knowledge of Linux, and absolutely no idea what Asterisk was. I completed the task in two days, and was asked to join the PBX support team the following week. That is my modus-operandi: Veni, vidi, vici. I am often called upon in my line of work to become the expert that I’m not, so, if I am an expert in anything, it’s the art of expertise. Indeed, my best achievements have come from a level of complete ignorance, what I don’t know has never been an obstacle to what I can do.
I solve problems. I poke, I prod, I study. I am an aficionado of all things google. I can do research with the best of them and if I can’t find it, then it doesn’t exist. The search is strong with me. I am a self-described scientist, my mantra is the truth. In my worldview the greatest sin is dishonesty. I am tenacious. I often can’t let a problem go unsolved, and will work on it until it is. I am also a builder, and a designer. I have designed networks for hundreds of users with solutions that include voice and data. I am not restricted to a particular brand or technology, but with what works best. If there is a piece of equipment that I’ve never worked with, I will figure it out. Technology doesn’t stand still for experts. Experts must adapt along with the technology.