25 Random Things About Me
I never got around to doing this when the concept was somewhat cool and not completely over-exposed. But as a card-carrying member of the traditional media, I'm allowed to latch onto trends months after the rest of the universe. Herewith:
1. I have no academic credentials for my job. My degree is not in journalism, computer science, electrical engineering or anything else relevant to my work; it's in international relations.
2. Not only did I not get a journalism degree from Georgetown, I didn't take any journalism classes, because the School of Foreign Service had none to offer at the time. Which means my first and last journalism class happened in... yup, high school.
3. But I did spend 20 to 30 hours a week at one of the campus papers, the Georgetown Voice. If you put in that kind of work without any compensation, it probably means that you've found that your ideal career. Or that you're easily exploited.
4. I've always liked newspapers--I grew up in a household that had the New York Times delivered every day. (My favorite Times section was and remains Tuesday's Science Times, in which the NYT ran the computer columns when I was a kid.)
5. The first computer I sat in front of was a Radio Shack TRS-80 (I had to force myself not to spell that "Trash-80"); a few years later, Dad bought an IBM PCjr for use at home.
6. The first computer I had for my own use was a Mac SE. I was jealous of people with SE/30s, let alone the guy down the hall with a Mac II and a color monitor.
7. I have a rejection letter from the Post, framed on a wall in my home office, that I received after applying in early 1993 for a part-time job as a copy aide ("copy aide" being a gender- and age-inclusive term for "copy boy"). Amazingly enough, the author of this letter did keep my resume on file and called me back when a similar spot opened up at the end of the year, just in time for a cushy, paid internship to expire.
8. My work as a copy aide involved sorting mail, delivering faxes, replacing toner cartridges and, on good days, answering the phone on various desks. As this was not exactly the sort of work for which Mom and Dad had written all those checks to Georgetown, I was a little down about my career prospects. By which I mean "miserable in a rather stereotypical Generation-X way."
9. I've been at the Post ever since.
10. I wrote a few pieces on a freelance basis for the Post's Business section, but my efforts to burrow into a job involving actual reporting didn't get anywhere until the Style section launched a weekly things-seen-online piece (anybody remember "CyberSurfing") and Weekend inaugurated a monthly tech-centric magazine called Fast Forward. I'd spent enough time online by then to qualify as an expert... the $300 I spent that spring to add a modem to my laptop turned out to be one of the best investments I've ever made.
11. I started writing my column in 1999 and have yet to skip a week. The quality of my work, however, might have been better if I'd taken the occasional week off.
12. I have never won any sort of journalistic award.
13. The picture here is a bit of a lie, as I wear a tie maybe once or twice a month. I wear a suit to work once or twice a year.
14. When computers don't function properly, I swear at them. A lot. This has probably made some co-workers nervous.
15. Most frustrating part of my job? Getting something wrong. I hate, hate, HATE having to run corrections. (This means the most anxious part of my job is that interval between a story going to print/pixels and the first readers' responses--will they spot some dumb mistake that escaped everybody's attention in the newsroom?)
16. One reader who e-mailed after reading my work is now my wife.
17. I've met Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. But it was much cooler to meet Tim Berners-Lee, which I had to regard as the equivalent of an energy reporter getting introduced to Thomas Edison.
18. Other things I've done for the Post: reviewed concerts, read books, taken photographs, written up a recipe, and interviewed a witness to an attempted suicide-by-Metro. Not all stories are fun to write.
19. On that note, I've been held up at gunpoint once, for all of $25 or so in my wallet--after which I wrote an essay on the experience for the Style section, which paid $300 or so. (There are better ways to pad out your income.)
20. Other one-time experiences: bungee jumping, firing an M-16, eating tripe.
21. Farthest west I've traveled from the East Coast: Lhasa, Tibet. Farthest east I've traveled from here: Sochi, Russia.
22. I have run two marathons and biked 11 centuries... but please don't ask me about my mileage over the last couple of years.
23. As the fourth thing in item 18 might suggest, when I'm home I love to cook. I haven't bought pasta sauce, cookies or sandwich bread in years; if this tech-journalism thing doesn't work out, I'll be sending my resume to the Food section.
24. Despite all the new gadgets my job allows me to try out, a lot of my technology is on the older side. I'm typing this on a three-year-old computer in an 89-year-old house.
25. Despite all the nonsense I may have to put up with on the job, I feel lucky to work as a journalist. Somebody pays me to learn things, then I get to write about them. What's not to like?