Facts at a glance:
I spent my first seventeen years growing up in suburban Maryland (on the southeast side of D.C.); first in Oxon Hill, and later in Waldorf. The only really unusual part of my childhood was the German influence -- my mother's parents (and sometimes other relatives) visited about every other year for several months, and in the intervening years we would spend the summers in Germany.
Another strong influence was the presence of plenty of teachers in my family, who were an encouragement to a lifelong love of learning and knowledge. Just looking two generations back in my family tree, there are six teachers amongst my relatives. From my youngest days, I always wanted to learn as much as I could about as many different topics as possible.
The other strong factor in my early years was exposure to, and an affinity for, computers. My father worked on them for IBM before becoming a teacher, and my mother studied computer programming and still works in Information Systems for the US Navy. I started programming on the TRS-80 myself at age 12, moving up to the Apple II+ and eventually the IBM PC when I got to college. In college I began my exposure to [Unix] (primarily [AIX]), which has remained my OS of choice to this day.
At 17 I made the trip to Blacksburg, Virginia to attend Virginia Tech. This is where I would spend the next seven years, excepting a couple of summers, and one year of an internship with the US Navy. Some of my lasting friendships have come out of my time in Blacksburg, although by 1993 I was ready to leave, despite having not finished my degree. I headed back home to Maryland.
I began working at a small startup software company in suburban Maryland as a computer programmer, although much of my time was spent at one customer site in Richmond, Virginia. After two years, I was fed up with the way the company was being run, and was hired at a larger company in Virginia as a Unix System Administrator. When my contract with this company ran out in September of 1996, I didn't know just what major changes were coming up for me.
In October of 1996 I attended the LISA conference in Chicago. At the end of the week, instead of flying home, I flew on to San Francisco, intending to vacation in California for a week. I visited with friends in S.F., and saw the city; after a few days I took the rental car and started driving down the coast for Los Angeles. I had arranged to meet my college friend Ken in L.A. for the rest of the week, after which we both would fly back home to Virginia.
In Los Angeles I not only vacationed with Ken, but also met some great locals. In Virginia I had become a fan of the online "soap opera" web site called The Spot. In L.A. I had the chance to meet up with the creators and actors of the site, some of which I still stay in touch with. I also became very close friends with Ken's online friend Stephanie, which inspired my next big jump.
When I got back to Virginia I stayed in touch with Stephanie and with The Spot's creators. After three weeks I realised I had no job in Virginia, and no wife or girlfriend -- so I took the plunge. I packed a bunch of stuff into my car and drove cross-country, arriving back in L.A. on October 31, 1996. After a few days of just enjoying myself (and reconnecting in person with the people I'd been talking to online and by phone), I settled down in a hotel room to the serious task of hunting for a job.
I headed back home for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, but soon after my return on New Years' Eve I ended up with a contract to work on the web and mail services team for Toyota Motor Sales. I got a small apartment and started moving some of my important gear out to California, settling in and enjoying the beautiful weather and relaxing lifestyle near the beach. Stephanie and I stayed very close, and she was a great help in getting me acclimated.
After two and a half years, my time at Toyota came to an end. I started working for Sprint PCS, which was a longer commute, but allowed me to expand my skill set and meet new people in a different part of Southern California. Halfway through my time at Sprint, I moved to a small town about thirty miles north of San Diego. It was a further commute, but I could take the train most of the way. I also began biking from the train station to my office, totalling 20 miles a day. I lost weight and felt much better!
In January of 2003 Sprint finalised a merger of my office with a similar one in Kansas City. I was offered a position in KC, but decided to turn it down. I enjoy living in California too much to head someplace where there's ice and snow and rain.
Later in 2003 I started work at a major defense contractor, doing Unix System Administration for a Navy project. I'm also attending school at night, and do photography on weekends. I have now started visiting Brazil annually, and am studying Portuguese as well as still studying Spanish.