Seven Things About Al

This is a bit of a meme going around the Mozilla Community right now. People are sharing seven things about themselves that people may not know. Now, given that my blog readership includes a few people who have known me for 20 years, some things may not be a surprise to everyone but I’ll see what I can do.

Clint Talbert, who works in QA with me at Mozilla, tagged me for this in his post of seven things.

For the haters out there, you can feel free to scroll to another blog post. The Rules

  1. Link back to your original tagger and list the rules in your post.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself.
  3. Tag some (none? :) ) people by leaving names and links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

The Seven Things

  1. I'm not really an engineer - While I work in software engineering (and have in more than a couple of roles), I'm not actually an engineer. The only engineer in my family is my grandfather, who was an electrical engineer at Boeing for over 30 years. He helped raise me and supported my computer interests but it isn't genetic. My grandfather did give me my first computer, a Timex-Sinclair, and helped advise me when I build my first PC clone (a 10mhz XT box) around 1988. My actual degrees are a general two-year Associate of Arts, a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and an Master of Arts in Humanities (Philosophy). Originally, I was going to be an Anthropologist but that didn't work out for graduate school and I wound up getting married and working instead. I worked my way up into the industry because I'd been a computer hobbyist running a UUCP node and a Fidonet BBS in the late 80's and early 90's. During the first Internet boom, I had already been on the Internet since 1989 so I managed to work my way up in the industry based on my hobbyist skills until I reached my current lofty position.
  2. I enjoy fraternal orders - I'm not currently active in a fraternal order, hitting a wall with time and some motivation during this last year, but I've been a member of a number of them since I finished college for the first time. I went was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows right after college, joining with a bunch of other younger men who were seeking to revitalize what seemed to be a dying organization in Seattle. I went through all of the degree work within the order and only dropped out when my daughter was born and I was feeling burned out. Later on, I also was a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, attending one of the national conventions when it was in Portland, Oregon. It is in the OTO that I met my wife, as she was an active member as well. A few years ago, I joined the Freemasons, progressing through the standard degrees of the order's blue lodge and being confirmed as a Master Mason. This was in Seattle and my move to California resulted in my going inactive, never having joined a lodge in California. A year after moving to California, I joined the Co-Masons, who were in the process of forming a lodge in San Francisco. The primary, obvious, difference between the Co-Masons and mainstream Freemasons is that the former has both men and women as members. I felt that this really changed the dymanic and that the Co-Masons were and are a forward thinking organization that is growing and expanding (whereas mainstream Freemasonry really is in decline and shrinking). I took leave of the San Francisco lodge this last Summer because I wasn't really engaging with what we wanted to do and I was focusing more on my academic work. I've also been a member of a couple of small, single lodge, fraternal bodies that no longer exist. Another way of looking at all of this is to say that I've quit a number of fraternal orders but I tend to look at it as time well spent and that I definitely received something of value from my involvement. For the most part, if I paid my dues, I could return to any of them and all are active in California but I don't know how likely that is to occur.
  3. I've never been in the SCA but I know how they feel - I have a lot of friends who have done various things in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). I've never gotten into that, somehow, but I spent almost every Summer of my teenage years (and a couple before that) doing Black-powder recreation with my family. It is kind of like the SCA for people who like guns. The gist of it is that there was the fur trapper era in American history when individual "mountain men" used to trap beaver and other animals for their hides. These trappers would get together in "rendevous" during Summer months to trade, sell their furs, etc. The recreation movement emulates these summer gatherings by dressing in period clothing (pre-1830), learning period skills, living in period tents or tipis, and having a good old time away from people. This includes black-powder firearms (even cannons) for contests and crosses over into the black-powder hunting movement. I have no idea how pervasive any of this is anymore as this was 20 years and more ago. I wound up spending part of my summer dressed in a breechcloth, leggings, and a calico shirt learning to shoot black-powder, throw knives, and getting into mischief with other teenagers. Needless to say, our drinking of alcohol was tolerated and, in retrospect, it was quite the experience. There is even an amusing story involving a seven foot tall (literally) deputy Montana sheriff and me that I can tell if properly motivated. I quit doing this at all by the time I was 18 and quit returning in the Summer to visit my mother in Utah. If you replace the guns with swords and then add large-scale warfare, I think that the experience for teens in the SCA is probably similar.
  4. I dropped out of high school - When I was 16, I was sick of my public high school (Roosevelt High in Seattle). I was bored out of my mind and had spent my Freshman year in a complete different school after moving in from another state so I didn't even have much in the way of friends to distract me. I did have one friend who had been thrown out of his prep school, attended my school for a year, and then just quit and went to community college. I thought to myself, "If he can do that, so can I!" and somehow managed to convince my grandparents (with whom I lived) to support this idea. This was years before high school completion at community colleges became a common thing so there was no program for this at all. We officially told the counselors at my high school that I was leaving for the community college and somehow they bought off on it. So, instead of a senior year of high school spent staring at the ceiling in a doze, I started my freshman year at community college. After the two year degree and my application of transfer to the four year state university, it turned out that I needed to be a high school graduate for my application to be processed even though I was already guaranteed acceptance into the four year school. To fix that, I spent three or so hours at a testing center when I was 19 and passed a GED test. I'm probably numbered in some "high school dropouts" statistics for Seattle in the 1980s but I think it worked out well in the end.
  5. Education is important to me - While I mention dropping out of high school above and attending college, I was a pretty crappy student for a long time. It took three years of goofing around to get my two year, Associate of Arts, degree. I made up for this by doing my last two years for my Bachelor of Arts in 18 months but I basically never learned to study well, getting by on some talent and intelligence. I finally hit my stride as a student when I decided in 2004 to get a Master's degree. I received that through a California State University school by doing it part-time while working full-time through 2005 and 2006, doing my thesis during the first part of 2007, when I was finally awarded my degree. At that point, I took a break but during 2008, I took a graduate class at the Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS) in Berkeley. Right now, I have an application into the Graduate Theological Union for their PhD program. If accepted, I will hopefully work on a PhD under the mentorship of one of the key scholars at IBS, focusing on aspects of Japanese Buddhism. Before my MA, I spent a year studying Ancient Greek and Latin at a private language school in Seattle. I've felt for quite a while now that if I did not continue to educate and improve myself, that I am wasting the opportunities of this life. It isn't enough to simply work a job, even building a career, without continuing to expand my horizons.
  6. I am a devout Buddhist - This feeds into my educational goals above as well. I was raised Roman Catholic by my mother, who converted to it. When I was a teenager (and I no longer was living with her), I went through confirmation but had no real belief, doing it to keep my family happy with me. My mother, with whom I wasn't living, became a Witch around the same time (which she is to this day), after some involvement in lay Catholic orders. This was pretty influential on me, along with various late teen circumstances, and I wound up wandering over the spiritual landscape even though I'm not much of a "believer" in any classic sense. Early in this millennium, I took refuge vows at the Sakya Monastery in Seattle and began to practice as a Buddhist. I've been on several retreats around North America and currently practice largely in a Zen/Chan manner with a lot of influence, personally, from Tibetan Buddhism and the esoteric Buddhism of Japan. I'm currently studying for ordination in a Zen lineage from Korea and attending a seminary program in support of this. People who have known me for years can see the influence of Buddhism on me much more clearly but it has been a long road from my outlook and behavior in earlier years to where I am today.
  7. My politics are largely Socialist by American standards - My politics have wandered a bit over my life. I've always been socially liberal but I've gone from lefty non-coercive Anarchist to middle of the road Democrat (of sorts) to Democratic Socialist. My sympathies are generally with the Anarchists and against the coercive and violent forces in society, especially those of the State. That being said, I've come to believe that (1) the state is probably necessary at some level and (2) that we have a responsibility as good citizens to support our fellow members of our community and the infrastructure (physical, legal, and otherwise) that supports them. I'll happily pay more taxes if it means our infrastructure is maintained, there is universal healthcare and education, and that the playing field in society is leveled. I've never seen something quite as selfish as the self-declared "self-made man" who wants to pay no taxes because he earned his money and his career all by himself (but ignoring the fact that he went to a public high school, had order maintained by a legal system supported by taxes, maybe even had some food stamps as a kid). We have a debt to our society, which has created the place in which we function, for helping and supporting us where we are if we are successful. We also have a debt to the other members of our society to help them have the same chances that we might have had and to promote their welfare. The fact that this is seen as some kind of weird propaganda by huge swathes of America depresses me to no end.
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