My Biography

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised up and down the eastern seaboard, from Washington, DC to Boston, MA. In William Gibson’s cyberpunk future, this area (and an extension down to Atlanta, GA) is called “the Sprawl”. I’m still waiting for this usage to become common in real life, so I’ll be able to give an easy answer to the the question “Where are you from?” Living in San Francisco since the summer of 1995 has eased that problem considerably — now I can claim to be “from San Francisco” to anyone except another San Franciscan.

I was raised primarily in the suburbs, the first of four children. My mother, when she wasn’t being a homemaker and mother, was a photographer and painter. My father was an engineer and later a manager, primarily working for private firms that contracted with the Department of Defense. He also had a doctorate in physics, and I grew up looking at (and occasionally trying to read) some of his science books.

Despite early exposure to — and enjoyment of — science and computers, I went through a period I call “my artistic phase” during high school and college. During this time, I was resisting my natural talents in science and engineering, and concentrating instead on literary, musical and theatrical activities. That didn’t stop me from learning a fair bit of physics and at-least-a- few-smidgeons of trigonometry during high school, but it did keep me away from computers in any context besides word processing for about eight years.

Instead, I focused on trying to get the positive benefits of a liberal arts education. In this day and age, it’s become a synonym for “I spent four years getting this piece of paper, so I’m now qualified to ask people if they want fries with their order.” But the original intent was that it would give you a firm grounding in all the basics of knowledge itself: an understanding of most if not all major branches of knowledge, and the ability to think for yourself and to learn new things. In that part, at least, I succeeded: My combination of broad and deep understanding of many topics, combined with my ability to learn quickly, forms large chunks of my list of reasons why you should hire me.

Even during my “artistic phase,” though, I couldn’t stop being technically-minded. While I thought I was doing word processing, my programming talents came sneaking in through the back door labeled “macros” — once I discovered how macros could be used to automate repetitive and boring tasks, I started pushing them to the limit, a story told in greater detail elsewhere. That brought me back to programming, and taught me that I may as well use my talents. Besides, programming was fun. (And still is.)

Since arriving in San Francisco just in time for the start of the late-’90s dot-com boom, I’ve slowly moved from Windows desktop support through Linux system administration, HTML coding, and into freelance consulting — which became a catch-all term for “anything anyone needs done with a computer”. I’m now concentrating on Perl and PHP development, mostly for the web, but also for the Unix command line.