|Written by Francis Scudellari|
As my mother tells it, I was born in the midst of a blizzard on December 20, 1963 in the capital city of Washington DC. I like to point out to those who will listen that my birthplace is a metropolis without an owning state. This fact may explain my constant restlessness and a general sense of not-belonging.
My earliest memories were shaped in the thickly wooded environs of southern Maryland, which at the time was on the outer fringe of the DC metropolitan area and still harbored much mystery and adventure for a young man. I recall fondly the all-day hikes my brothers and I took through our backyard ravine, as we overturned logs and fished our hands through the muddy bottoms of streams in search of the snakes, frogs, turtles and crayfish that so enchanted us.
We weren't always the kindest keepers of the animals we found and sometimes captured, but with maturity has come a more solemn appreciation of Nature and her many wonders.
I received the benefit of 12 years of Catholic education, with its emphasis on discipline and its strange intermixing of ritual. My father was a devoutly religious man who honored the Church's dictate to attend mass each Sunday, bringing us along with him. Although I have since fallen away from Catholicism and am at odds with several of its teachings, those years of schooling had a lasting influence on my character. I believe in a strong commitment to community and family, and I continue to seek out the spiritual in my own unconventional ways.
College offered me an escape from the grip of institutional religion. After fumbling through a few different majors in the first three years at Northwestern University in Evanston, I settled on and hurried through the requirements for a Bachelor's degree in United States History.
After two years of an entry-level job in downtown Chicago, I began the first steps of my on-again, off-again journey toward the life of a writer. Feeling the need for more-focused education, I re-enrolled at Northwestern and received a Master's degree in English Literature with a thesis focused on three plays by William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure, Othello and The Tempest.
All of my "day" jobs have involved computers, and I've seen firsthand how technology has evolved over the past 25 years. I began with primitive graphics programs run on terminals and mainframes, progressed to high-end Computer Aided Drafting software run on a PC to render architectural and engineering blueprints, and ended up as a quality assurance engineer for a "software as a service" company that marketed a web-based application for non-profit fundraising. I now make my money (such as it is) as a free-lance consultant.
In my spare time over the past five years, I've maintained several blogs and have followed along as the phenomenon of Web 2.0 and then social media have taken off. I'm a strong proponent of Internet-based social networks, and believe avidly that within them lies the seed of a better world where we are less focused on what divides us and more passionate about making connections across previously forbidding boundaries.
Politics and Community Activism
I grew up in a politically divided house, and can still hear the echoes of parents and grandparents arguing over the virtues and vices of our two governing parties. A child of the Watergate era, I've also retained a deep skepticism of social solutions ever emanating from the power structure as presently constituted.
I've managed a friend's grass-roots campaign for Chicago City Council, and I've become peripherally involved in the strange-bedfellow-making world of local politics. I also worked closely with a group of local neighbors who recognized a critical need for more health services and partnered with a local nonprofit to open an affordable clinic. I believe that people can make a difference through direct action. I see a great desire to improve the conditions not just in my neighborhood, but across the globe. I hope to nurture the seeds of change, progress and hope wherever I can discover them.