Sunday, December 31, 2006

Five things

Dan tagged me with this game (it's not a "meme," people-- it's just a blogospheric parlor game). Five things most people don't know about me:

1) I type using two index fingers and my right thumb for the spacebar. People call this "hunt and peck" but I don't look at the keyboard, and I move along at 60-65 words per minute. I started typing very early, both because of my terrible handwriting, and because my grandfather was determined to introduce me to computers early on (so I spent a summer when I was six or so pointlessly writing programs in BASIC on his Commodore PET-- I had fun and learned a lot of math while learning what BASIC's math functions did, and it's only in retrospect that the pointlessness is apparent). So I was typing long before anyone was going to teach me to touch-type, and the habits were way too ingrained to unlearn later.

Unfortunately, other than the PET my typing was done on a manual typewriter-- and one of the habits I've been unable to unlearn is pounding on the keys much too hard. It's not only noisy; in the long run it's bad for the keyboards.

2) Career paths not taken, part 1: from the ages of 9 through 17 or so, I was almost constantly involved in theater, stage, performances, etc. I took a couple of years of kids' acting lessons from this guy (and he was in most of my earliest plays-- local Equity stock theaters that cast area kids in choruses and extra parts). When I was 10 I appeared in a TV ad for my uncle's race for a Florida judgeship [judicial elections-- shudder]; indeed I gave a 29.5 second testimonial to him, and he appeared only to speak the final two words ["Thanks, Jacob!"] I was never what you would call a good actor; and I didn't have my first dance lessons until I was 16, which was way too late for getting very far in musicals. The crowning moment was my honest-to-god Broadway tryout, for Oliver!-- which happened to come during the ten-day period when I dropped from soprano to bass. (Think Peter Brady singing "Who Will Buy?")

For a couple of years I was in one of those kids' song-and-dance troupes that goes around singing at malls, outside the entrance to Fanieul Hall, and so on. For several months we were the opening act for a solo tour by "Maria of Sesame Street," as she was billed. One of the other kiddie performers in the troupe (and someone I also went to high school with) was future CBS News correspondent (and an operatic singer to boot) Trish Regan.

3. Career paths not taken, part 2: politics. Let's see: I was, at 18, an elected delegate to the New Hampshire Democratic Convention. (My birthday was after the filing deadline but before the election; no one filed; I ran a write-in campaign.) At 21 I ran for the NH House of Representatives as a Libertarian, winning 12% of the vote. At 16, when my hometown had a Charter Commission (the local equivalent of a Constitutional Convention), I wrote, circulated petitions for, and spoke at Commission meetings on behalf of the creation of a nonvoting seat for a student from the local high school (which I didn't attend) on the school board-- as far as I know the provision's still in place. The first holder of that seat was Chip Griffin, now a blogger and political consultant. I was a tireless teenaged letter-to-the-editor writer, was heavily involved in one city council race and one gubernatorial race, and interned for a term in the Washington office of then-Congressman (now-Senator) Byron Dorgan. My own State House race was my test to see whether I really liked electoral politics and wanted to carve out a place for it in my life. The answers were no and no.

4. Career paths not taken 3: journalism, radio, and business administration. After three years as a reporter for my college radio station, I became its CEO for a year-- during the 91-92 recession, with bankruptcy looming. (The station is an independent corporation and depends on commercial ad revenue.) I've fired two people (non-student full-time staffers); one filed suit purporting discrimination on the grounds of anti-Semitism (yes, I'm Jewish, and so was her immediate supervisor); and I still authorized paying her a settlement because it was much, much cheaper than paying our lawyers for a suit would have been. Glad I've had to make payroll in my life, and glad I don't have to do it on a regular basis.

5. I was pretty isolated and out of the loop as a kid-- and, in pre-internet days, geeky kids didn't always have a way of finding out what other geeky kids did. When I went to math geek camp [a.k.a. Johns Hopkins' CTY program] at age 13, that was my first exposure to Dungeons & Dragons. 1984 is shockingly late for a kid as geeky as I was to have first played D&D...

Tag: (Ah, fun with exponents! You tag five people, then they tag five people, and so on, and so on until you're in a Clairol commercial that has used up all the atoms in the universe.) Belle Waring, laloca, Aeon Skoble, Andrew Norton, and Fabio Rojas.

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