I was born at a relatively young age in the first year of "Camelot" -- no, not King Arthur's reign in the 6th Century, but President Kennedy's in 1961. You could say I was literally a child of the 60s, but love, peace and understanding had no chance to pervert my young mind, since my family was strictly Christian conservative.

I left religion at age 12, and conservatism at age 26, to become the godless pinko commie lying socialist weasel that conservatives find at right. I'm sure that liberals will recognize something of the kindly, gentle, good-humored progressive student I actually am in this photo, which makes this a political Rorschach ink-blot test (and probably about as attractive).

I've led an interesting life, even if it hasn't always taken me where I want to go. Upon graduating from high school in 1979, filled with high hopes and dreams of wealth and fame, I promptly ran into the back-to-back recessions of 1980-82, the worst since the Great Depression. So I did the politically correct thing to do -- for a conservative -- and joined the Army. I must have scored really low on their qualifications tests, because they relegated me to military intelligence. This included a year of learning a foreign language (Russian) while basking in the sun at the Presidio of Monterey, California.

I had just begun wondering why everyone complained about Army life when they shipped me off to Fort Bragg, to play G.I. Joe in the dirt. While my paperwork was still being processed, President Reagan decided to invade Grenada. I waved my comrades goodbye at neighboring Pope Air Force Base, unable to join them without my paperwork. (Damn bureaucracy!) No matter -- I got to see a war anyway, in Central America, doing things I am not at liberty to discuss (but which you can read about in any newspaper).

In 1984 they shipped me off to Berlin, to do more of the things I can't discuss. Basically this involved electronic eavesdropping on Soviet military units in Eastern Europe, analyzing the transcripts and reporting back to NATO. It was here that I learned that a Soviet invasion of Western Europe was impossible, because their soldiers lacked certain sophisticated training -- like, oh, say, driving skills. But I must not have been in the entire intelligence loop, for our leaders could often be seen on television solemnly warning us of the grave Soviet threat that hung over Europe like a pall.

And then there were the wake-up calls -- the terrorist bombing of a Berlin discotheque only a few blocks away from my living quarters. In response, Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya, even though it later turned out that we had no proof they did it. (The subsequent terrorist alert, however, forced me to cancel my vacation to Spain.) And then there was the Soviet's assassination of Major Arthur Nicholson, one of my intelligence compratiots, whose funeral I attended. The image of his 4-year old daughter clutching a Cabbage Patch doll throughout the entire service is one that is forever burned into my memory. This was a pivotal moment in my life, causing me to question my conservative beliefs and take a more serious look at the costs and benefits of the arms race. And I was also there when Chernobyl experienced the worst nuclear disaster in history, giving Berlin a nice radioactive bath in my last month of service. But other than this, I loved Europe.

With an honorable discharge in one hand, and the GI Bill in the other, I flew back to California in 1986 to recreate the college lizard lifestyle. Port of entry into said lifestyle was the University of California - Santa Cruz. This campus is one of the most beautiful in the world, sitting atop a small mountain of redwood forests, overlooking all 50 miles of Monterey Bay. It is also one of the most liberal places in America, only one of two U.S. cities to have ever elected a socialist mayor. Needless to say, Santa Cruz is often the target of Rush Limbaugh's wrath. UCSC is also famous for its appearance in the movie Pulp Fiction, albeit as an emblem on John Travolta's "dorky" T-shirt. (The yellow creature you saw was a banana slug, the school mascot.)

Going from the Army to USCS was like going from conservative heaven to liberal heaven at warp speed. There, kindly professors pointed out to me the illogic of defending life by taking it, destroying the planet for a buck and shutting down schools to build more prisons. I am now thoroughly brainwashed to believe that kindness and human decency are positive traits to be emulated and encouraged. I know this is a radical thought for a straight white male, but I suppose it proves that European traits are not really, reeeeeaallly genetic.

Today I have a major in Russian studies, with an emphasis on political science and economics. However, I am applying to grad school in U.S. political science, which has interested me much more since communism fell. I visited Russia in 1989, and the trip was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The Russians are the warmest, friendliest people I've met anywhere. But their country was in the final stages of collapse, with devastating environmental problems and economic stagnation. Yet more proof, if more be needed, that dictatorships are disastrous. Long live democracy...

I have many interests in life, among them traveling, writing, movies and socializing in Santa Cruz's deservedly famous coffee shops. But one of the biggest is chess. From 1992 to 1995, I served as the Santa Cruz Chess Club President, where I am both a tournament director and a strong A-player. Teaching chess to school children is one of my life's greatest joys.

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