Additional Personal Description
One way to get an idea of who I am is to look at me; another is to see who I love. For a (rather large, slow-loading) picture of me in my mid-30s, with my father (who died December 23, 2001)go to A Happy Picture. Then hit your BACK button to return.
Getting back to word pictures, some would characterize me with labels that differ from "humanist,"
"libertarian," and so forth. For instance, some more-isolationist libertarians
would say I'm a "left-liberal," rather than a libertarian.
Noticing some unconventionality, folks who never have known one would dismiss me as a hippie or bohemian. Nonetheless, despite having spent 30-odd years motorcycling on sometime-funky bikes, no one who knows me in the least would mistake me for a menacing tough.
Some would insist that I'm an atheist rather than agnostic, because despite having religious friends and beloved family, I'm personally somewhat anti-religious--part of my distrust of righteousness and authoritarianism. Another reason is that not only don't I have a valid basis to answer such questions, the experience that convinced you would not satisfy me as proof." Others, hard-line atheists, insist that I'm an atheist because they deny the validity of agnosticism. Their problem. To confuse matters further, my sweetheart (now wife) eventually convinced me that however secular I am, my Jewish roots are a big part of me.
My playfulness causes some to see me as flip. On the other hand, as we sat down to dinner with another couple in March 2008, the evening before my colleague was to address the Consumer Product Safety Commission, his wife reminded us not to spend the evening talking shop. I work hard at respecting the contexts of my interactions. This means that I try not to be overly heavy in light contexts nor to seem dismissive of others' earnestness. Hurting people with humor is never my intent.
Some, seeing my intellectual interests, would call me an egghead. Some who are uncomfortable with attempts at logical rigor would call me a legalist, and some who are a bit inflexible might call me wishy-washy. That observation is not unfounded. I can be slow to come to a decision, and can often see multiple sides to an issue, or recognize people's differing approaches. Seeing my idealism, some characterize me as impractical; perhaps so, but what's practical depends on the goals. I'm comfortable with who I am, at least to the extent that I don't mind hearing honest, well-meant criticism--or moderate ribbing. And I'm grateful that I am able to surround myself with others who pretty largely accept me. And I mean that in the twenty-first century sense of enjoying connections around the world.
Another way to know me is by what I enjoy. I take pleasure in learning and teaching, in exercising various physical and mental competencies, in public and personal service, in humor, and in listening to and making music, as well as various sensual modalities. Contrariwise, I am very uncomfortable with arbitrariness, narrow-mindedness, malice, and indifference to others' feelings. I hate to feel helpless in the face of pain, or to see myself as unreliable.
One way to know people is by their affiliations and activities; another, for literate folks, is by what they read. For fun, I
read (mostly re-read -- I don't keep up, not really being a fan of any current genre) a fair amount of science fiction and
fantasy, with a long-time favorite being the late Terry Pratchett. My tastes change; some time back, I decided to get rid of most of my Piers
Anthony as too juvenile. Old standbys include Neville Shute, O. Henry, humor and cartoons. I subscribed to The New Yorker strictly
for the cartoons, and only gradually began reading the articles and stories.
Bertrand Russell and G.B. Shaw I reread relatively infrequently, because there's so much to them. To stay abreast of
current events, until it folded I subscribed to World Press Review (very solid information), and my local paper, the Greenbelt News-Review.
I also read the weekly or monthly newsletters put out by the Authors Guild and the DC Science Writers Association.
I read Mensa Bulletin (the odd interesting bit), Electrical Contractor,
, IAEI News (solid, and I occasionally contribute a feature), EC&M frmo the days when it was Electrical Construction and Maintenance,
NFPA Journal, and a few other periodicals.
D.C. Science Writers' Association
Association for Preservation Technology, DC Chapter
International Association of Electrical Inspectors (local Secretary-Treasurer and Eastern U.S. Bylaws Chair) IAEI
Folklore Society of Greater Washington
Washington Area Secular Humanists
National Fire Proteciton Association
Their First Mistake (a dormant tent of Sons of the Desert, the society of Laurel & Hardy fans)
I was brought up an Orthodox Jew, and most of my childhood schooling took place in yeshivot, Hebrew schools. Besides a decent secular education, I gained some knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic, and an intensive grounding in religious law and thinking, including sources in the Old Testament and commentaries. I suspect that the model of disputation and exegesis I learned there underpins the skills in research and even teaching that I developed in graduate school.
Thinking out my beliefs, I put the religion away in my first year of college. Subsequently, I gradually lost much of my Hebrew, modern and biblical, and of course my Aramaic. While I had some understanding of those two languages from early years, and had studied some French, in college I did not pursue any language study. Later as an adult, I have a great interest in English, and a secondary interest in other languages, especially but not exclusively insofar as they have words cognate to English ones. (After college, I studied enough Spanish to gain rudimentary use, because my neighbors in New York were Hispanic.)
When I was an undergraduate, an alternative way to fulfill the language requirement was to study computer science. I
learned to operate and even program keypunches and program mainframes in BMD, FORTRAN, and COMPASS, using both
batch and interactive programming. That is long behind me. I studied Industrial Engineering for three years, and then
graduated in psychology. Over one summer I worked for the Army Engineers, reviewing survey reports; over another I
worked as a safety and health compliance officer for OSHA.
Starting in college with encounter groups and continuing ever since, I have been interested in humanistic psychology and
somatotherapies. I have been trained in and worked at many bodywork modalities, including massage (both as a
practitioner and as a teacher) and structural integration.
I can't determine which is cause and which effect, but my attitude towards all my enterprises relates to humanistic psychology. Whatever my work, I try to invest it with passion. I want to feel as though I am accomplishing something worthwhile, forwarding my personal goals while benefitting others. I want my work to be, speaking metaphorically, lovemaking rather than mechanical behavior.
In graduate school, which followed completion of part of an electrical apprenticeship, I benefitted from coursework in statistics, the analysis and design of experiments, science writing, teaching, and the development of instructional materials, including programmed and computer-aided instruction. I have taught in many arenas, before and since; but I do a much better job thanks to the formal training and the teaching assistantship I enjoyed at Lehigh University.
After graduate school, I worked briefly as a counselor, and then moved to the Washington, D.C. area when offered a job as a
statistician performing safety research. If the position I'd been offered had not been defunded, I might have a very different history from my thirties forward.
Fortunately, I was able to change direction. During the period
from graduate school on, I worked off and on as an electrician's helper and, eventually, journeyman, without the benefit of
further formal instruction. As a master electrician, of course, I studied and still study furiously, both by myself (aided by
various printed materials and web resources) and by attending continuing education activities. Most have been through the International Assocation of Electrical Inspectors.
Over the years, I have enjoyed the love of quite a few fine women, and have not ceased to love any of them. I have been in a monogamous relationship for over a quarter-century with Mary Jo (Hlavaty) Shapiro. At the beginning of 2005 we turned the commitment into marriage.
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