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I have been writing for the better part of 25 years. It started with political essays. It evolved then into observations of the world, then health and fitness, science, movies, music, sports, and then finance. My bio page will provide anything needed for bylines, and the about gives a quick summary. But this page is about my career background and all of the interests I write about.
With my career, I’ll post a link to my LinkedIn here which shows you a bit more than what I allude to here. I hesitate to explicitly talk about it in these pages due to rules around the workplace. Anything I write about regarding technology or IT security has to do with things you can find in textbooks and news articles. Big picture is the past 27 years or so I worked in IT, the last 9 or so as an IT manager running a contract of 70 people in the defense industry. I have worked at the world’s largest companies in positions of progressive responsibility and have demonstrated excellence in each stop I have been at. My current job is my dream job that I’ve had for six years but given my job losses in 2002 and 2008 with economic downturns, I’m always prepared for a career move in 30 seconds, if need be.
I remember in third grade one day my mom told me at breakfast that I was going to college, no matter what. This was big for me, and I went in and bragged to the kids that I was going to college! They all were like, “shut up, who cares”. I was born on the “wrong side” of the railroad tracks for my first school and always felt like a second-class citizen. The pretty girls didn’t give us plebes the time of day. It put a chip on my shoulder from the time I ever looked at a girl. I used to have competitions with myself to push myself harder – “Suzy (ex) will notice me if I score a perfect on the math test”. Or “Jessica (ex) will notice me if I hit a home run in baseball”. Early on, I was driven by levels of competition to prove my worth. I also was a heavier kid – and my brother was always called “cute” and then the people looked at me, and they were like, “he’s handsome too”. Meaning, no matter what corner I turned, I was always made to feel not good enough. As a kid, you view things through narrow-focused lenses, so looking back on it, all of this drove me to where I am today. To me, it was the competition that drove me. Showing everyone I could do whatever I put my mind to, better than everyone else. Along the way, I fell in love with doing a lot of different things – and the challenge for me was trying to figure out how it worked. Understanding the science or method behind it, and then mastering it. Maybe around the age of 33 or so I started to chill and didn’t need a 100mph serve in tennis with friends anymore.
All of what you read above is the kind of fuel I believe someone needs to be excellent. I tapped into more gears of dedication and hard work that most don’t even know exist. The fuel of never feeling good enough takes a toll on you though – you are always hungry, so to speak. There are always things out there to learn and get better at, and you go to sleep each day feeling like you could have done a lot more. It’s exhausting but rewarding at the same time.
I have to credit my dad for exposing me to a lot of different interests as a kid. I was his best friend, but overall, he was a shitty dad to my brother and a terrible husband to my mother, which led to their split when I was 16. But it was hours upon hours upon hours of all kinds of different things. He used to take me fishing all the time. Tying flies for fly fishing. Building model cars like this.
We used to cut them down the middle and/or width wise to make them smaller. Use part trees for frames. Use thread for spark plug wires. Even go to hobby shops to get custom tires for the models with axles so we could race them. My dad was an artist with this stuff.
At the same time though, he taught me chess, and this was a few years after Fischer/Spassky. Fun fact, in 1732 when my family came over from Germany, my family’s last name was Fischer. They came into Philly and my branch went out towards Reading, PA. Chances are, if your name is Fisher or Fischer in the northeast of USA, I’m related to you somehow.
This led me to many hours of study – sometimes 8 hours just sitting there with a chess book at perhaps the age of 9 going through games with my chess board. Eventually, you get the point you don’t need the board anymore and can go through the moves in your head. This led me to winning local elementary tournaments, which led me to joining the HS chess team in 7th grade and getting up to 2nd board at the time. In 8th grade, I went 8-0 and Josh and I led our HS team to the county championship and ultimately 3rd in the PA state tournament. Around this time at the state level tournament in Bloomsburg is when I first heard of chess ratings and the USCF. Over the next 1.5 years or so, I played in a lot of tournaments which led me to playing in the World Open in 1990 or so and going 5-2-1, just finishing out of $1,000. I’d have to say my favorite opening as white is E4 and my favorite 3 defenses as black are French, Dutch, and King’s Indian. IF you have narrow focuses on these, you only need to really learn a handful of openings. I used to try and master like 15 openings, and you don’t need to do that. As black – if someone plays d4, you are out with the Dutch at F5. If they do E4, you can do E6. This can help someone prepare a lot for tournaments with narrow focus on openings and learn many lines deep on these, and the themes needed. I think today many are playing traps and junk openings at tournaments to defeat this kind of thinking.
But my teens were interesting. Just before this, I used to also dabble with computer programming and won all kinds of math awards. So much so, that my first college class was a BASIC programming class at Reading Area Community College in 1987 at the age of 11. This was interspersed with winning spelling bees. I even got perfect attendance awards in school – as I was a die hard competitor.
I was also quite the baseball player, always making all-star teams. My main issue with baseball was that my height and weight did not ever get to where you want a college baseball player. My idol in high school was John Kruk – as I felt I could hit a fastball off of anyone, was a bigger guy, and could hit with power – but I was a gap doubles hitter, all the time. Some people I played with on my teams weren’t as good as me hitting – but would go on to play in the minors or D1. Quite a few from my time on my teams were quite good, a few got to Triple A. I had the brain, I had the hitting ability – but at 5’9″ and 230-250, there’s no way I would go further. But I had my moments in baseball!!
Let’s not forget Trumpet. I didn’t really take the next step until I went to Twin Valley High School when I transferred between 8th and 9th grades. There was no chess team, so I decided to dedicate time to the trumpet given the band was HUGE. 18 trumpets, and as a beginning freshman they placed me like 11th chair. I made rapid progress, and in a few months tried out for the stage band as 5th of 6 chairs. By mid-sophomore year, I was first chair and kept that through graduation. I made a bunch of honors bands, but I always had trouble with speed playing, double and tripping tonguing – my strength was my tone and emotion I played with. I am left handed, and you can see how much more quick my left fingers are than my right, and my speed playing was limited by this. Still, I got to play in college orchestras through grad school, and played semi-pro in paid gigs for churches and pit orchestras in shows. This led me to being voted “most musical” in high school. My favorite trumpet songs are vastly different – one for speed is Haydn’s concerto in E flat performed by Rolf Smedveg – and Winton Marsalis does an amazing version of it you can find on YouTube. My other one is Nature Boy performed by Jon Hassell. My favorite piano is Moonlight sonata from Beethoven.
In HS and college though, I also fell in love with a lot of academic interests. I loved Physics. It’s every day stuff that everyone should understand. Math was a strong suit for me, but when math started going from numbers to funny letters, it started to lose my interest. Politics and the structure of the law always interested me – so much I wanted to go to law school and be in the FBI. But – I hated contract law (boring) and my love for Constitutional Law was overwhelmed by the need to not be around bad people in society. I started as a criminal justice major and the nobility of helping people was swiftly met with the realism I’d have to be around the worst in society every day. As a freshman, they brought in CJ speakers to educate the incoming classes, and one of the cops I thought talked about finding a baby in a microwave or something, and that was the mental moment I pulled the rip cord. I realized I loved the law and what it stood for, but I did not have the mental composite to do work that could expose me to the evil in the world around me.
College was a blast for me, as I eventually switched to computers and used my CJ classes I took for a security minor. Everything to me was a competition, and so was binge drinking and partying. My parents split at 16 as I mentioned, and the last 2 years of HS I felt like “the man at the house” and this was the time I sort of lived out what most probably do in HS. I was the responsible guy, however, being the fraternity president at one point. It was an eye-opening experience. Imagine trying to get 35 drunks to a fund-raising orange sale at 7AM on a Sunday. And none show up, and you are yelled at. What you realize is that while leadership can be fun and rewarding, there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with it.
But the competition didn’t stop at the above. I played pool a ton with my dad. I played football in junior high rec leagues, but moved to a high school without a football team. I played rec basketball leagues. I won a state title in tennis in a rec league at 16, which then led me to eventually trying out and making 4th flight for my college team – of course, we had no HS tennis team. After baseball every night, I’d go serve 200 or so serves. To this day, I can still hit my 100 mph serve in, and even documented it on Twitter a few months back lol.
When you graduate college and baseball is not to be found, what do you do? In HS, I also played in a rec softball league that we won the state title in a few times, which led us to Indianapolis where we got 3rd in the nation. I played in some of these rec softball leagues in my 20s, and even some at work in my 30s. I played golf in my 20s at my work place and yeah – can still hit a 275 yd drive. But this then gave way to my passion for running, hiking, biking, and swimming – and led me to run a lot of 5ks, lose 175 pounds, and compete in triathlons.
Whew…just about done. My senior year of college, I shredded my ankle just before my first day of work at Harley as an intern and with this, I was couch bound. I found the AFI top 100 list, which eventually led me to seeing an estimated 3,000 movies. While I did read in my teens, I was a slow reader who had a hard time remembering details of characters. The visual medium for me was how I enjoyed storytelling – and with this, I’d consume 8-20 movies a weekend if not more.
The more recent years has led me a lot to financial writing, and my MBA had me loving management science and “decision sciences” as it was called at Villanova. I got very heavily involved in precious metals as a short on the dollar – but this also led me to more investment stories I’m currently looking at now in uranium, quantum computing, battery metals, and copper.
I grew up around the Philly area and am a die hard Eagles/Phillies fan, and with this, as you could imagine – spent years with fantasy football killing it in leagues. This past year, my friends invited me back to a FanDuel league which is a hell of a lot more challenging for me and I’m getting smoked. This means I have to tinker and figure out the winning formulas as I used to.
I also recently went to Vegas for my brother’s wedding. I’m not a travel guy, at all, but this was the best travel experience I ever had. I might be open to traveling more in the future, and might travel for my job for trainings or conferences if I’m allowed. At Vegas, I discovered a love for Black Jack and the Texas hold Em against the dealer. After 4 days of many hours of playing, I left down $200 or so – but I’d kill it in Black Jack, then use those profits to play the hold Em for hours on end. I can’t wait to get back out to Vegas. I stayed in my hotel the entire time, but that whole city has an energy about it.
I am 47 on Friday the 18th of November with a wife and 2 kids – one is 13, the other 2. I am constantly looking for ways to make our lives less harsh with some financial realities coming. I do a ton of prepping these days, and source locally from farmers on grass fed/finished, where possible. I am a solar/battery advocate for the home to harden people against potential grid issues. There is so much more I want to do!!!
With my education, I have a BS in an IT-related discipline and master’s degrees in both cybersecurity and business administration. With 6 years of graduate school, I have written hundreds of papers – I hate APA by now, by the way. What drove me was case studies. It was a problem to solve, and you got to apply the lessons of the week to them. Loved it! My MBA was focused on management sciences, and I ended up going to 3 separate MBA programs in my 4 years due to moving and my career. One was focused on finance, reading 10ks and financial statements, one was on widget production in factories, and the last was international finance and marketing. Across all 3 I had a tremendous amount of management theory classes, which has directly helped my success in managing IT.
If I had another 5 lifetimes, here’s what I’d like to do – probably do this through my late 40s until I die…
- Train for half ironmans – I like the idea of travel to these gorgeous locations and spending 5 hours crushing my soul with a 1 mile swim, 56 mile bike, followed by a half marathon. These locations look gorgeous. Coeur D’Alene looks breath taking to do.
- Read the classics. I was terrible with reading – maybe I read cliff’s notes 🙂
- Get back to competitive chess. I have a 2650 rating on chess.com puzzles over the last 2 months, so my brain hasn’t lost it. Puts me in the 99th percentile of everyone there.
- Write more – I love writing, but so far it is grad papers and really, really long blog posts. Someday I may pivot to book writer.
- Learn to play classical piano – perhaps I do this the last 20-25 years of my life as a passion project
- Learn more languages – I was ok at spanish and noob with French. Would love to be fluent in many languages. I figure I can get there first with Spanish, then French – which might lead me to Italian and Portuguese. No interest in German. Sounds like a brutal language to the ears 🙂
Lastly – I always prepare as if AI is going to take my entire industry down next week. While I have my dream job – I do have interest in working in Hedge fund last or financial analysis/advising – specifically commodities. I love the research and trying to find the needle in the haystack. Then, I love “solving the problem” that many don’t even know exist.