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The story so far...

[Portrait of a geek]

In the mundane world, I'm Mike Schwitzgebel (repeat after me: "SWITS-gable"). Medium height, medium frame, dark hair, darkish eyes. Someone once suggested that I resemble Bono (of the rock band U2, in case you've spent the past twenty or so years under a rock), but he didn't elaborate. I dropped some loose change in his cup, accepted a pencil, and continued on my way.

One of the constants in my life has been my love of music. And acne. Okay, two of the constants in my life have been my love of music, and acne. From the time I first figured out how to switch on Mom and Dad's portable AM radio, I was be-bopping around to the top 40 hits and laying waste to "D" cells. I used to sneak the radio into bed with me at night so I could listen to WLS in Chicago (which has, sadly, changed to talk format since those days). I'd fall asleep without turning the radio off, and then be in trouble for running the batteries down. Eventually, I was given my own AM "transistor radio", which came with a simulated leather carrying case and the responsibility for buying my own 9-volt batteries out of my $1/month allowance.

In fourth grade, I (sort of) learned to play the flutophone*; in fifth, I fell in love with Chicago Transit Authority's "Low Down" and took up the trumpet. I got my exposure to pop music from the airwaves and learned to appreciate classical music by playing it. I'm not sure what impact marching band had, what with all that tromping about in a kilt during half time at high school football games, but we went on some fun road trips and I learned that a trumpet mouthpiece makes a good substitute for a roll of nickels, in a fistfight.

Wanna-beI always wanted to be a rock star. Specifically, I wanted to play bass guitar. For a couple semesters at college, I tinkered with a borrowed bass and learned enough to plunk along during dorm room jam sessions with a couple guys down the hall. I also experimented with a little Korg Poly-800 synth for a while, but as with the bass, I played entirely by ear. I never had any formal education with either instrument and was more or less equally non-proficient with both.

These days, the only thing I can play without my audience desperately gouging out their eardrums is a CD player.

In 1990, I moved to Dallas, at the urging of friends, and took a job developing document processing software for centralized laser printers. I'm just your garden variety programmer geek, earning my mortgage payments developing and maintaining IBM mainframe stuff in 370 assembler language, PL/I, and C/C++. If I had my way, I'd be helping with the development of the company web site, but I've come to accept that the chances of my direct involvement are slimmer than Kate Moss's thighs.

My first couple years in Texas were pretty miserable. Dallas is woefully lacking in hills or proper trees, it's like living inside a kiln during the summer, and the people are generally unfriendly to those of us who don't dress in the corporate uniform of suit and tie. Then again, perhaps it's not the clothes that make the man rude, or even the cellular telephone. Perhaps it's a natural reaction to the ever-increasing odds of being shot to death while waiting at the Whataburger drive-through.

In the plus column, the Tex-Mex food is great, there's no state income tax (yet), and the people here have a sort of rambunctious pride about their state that's kind of cool. I also consider armadillos a plus, despite the disturbing enthusiasm with which they fulfill their apparent ecological niche as roadkill.

One adapts, and I eventually resigned myself to all the concrete, glass, and yuppie attitude. I found some people to hang out with and worked my way into the local sand volleyball scene, which made the place seem a bit more like home.

After a few years of life in Big D, I became aware that I no longer found the entertainment value in being awakened at 3:30 in the morning and discovering that some disoriented crack addict had mistaken my apartment for his girlfriend's and was banging on my door, screaming "Let me in, you bitch!" It was about this same time that I realised the caliber of the gunshots in and around the apartment complex had begun to sound larger than I estimated could be effectively stopped by the walls.

My inner child was a wreck and so were my shoulder joints, so I "retired" from volleyball, bought a house, and moved out to the 'burbs. My biggest headaches now involve the daily commute, fire ants, crabgrass, and keeping the neighbor kids from stealing the pickets from my privacy fence. Life is good. Life would be perfect if I could figure out a way to convince the cat that he wouldn't have to go very far out of his way to throw up on the bathroom or kitchen floor instead of the living room sofa. The roaches with whom I shared my old apartment would never have stood for such untidy behavior.

Shiner BockIn 2002, Cheryl Endicott took me off the market for good and made an honest man of me. We now share our home with two young'uns, Bek and Bitsy, and I couldn't be happier—though if I get that call from Meg Ryan that I've been waiting for... well, we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. (Okay, Dear, you can stop laughing now.)

I tend to keep my own counsel about politics and religion. I have no tattoos and only one pierced ear. My recreational beverages of choice are Shiner Bock beer and Jack Daniel's Old No. 7, but as I get older I indulge less because (to quote The Pursuit of Happiness) "I'd sure look like a fool, dead in a ditch somewhere with a mind full of chemicals, like some cheese-eating high school boy..."

My hobbies and interests are subject to change without notice but currently include biking, my family's genealogy research, antique clocks, and the never-ending quest for web design enlightenment. Even my musical tastes shift periodically, although never so alarmingly as to embrace hip hop or Latvian show tunes.


* A flutophone is essentially a cheap recorder molded in red and white styrene plastic. Those fortunate among you who have never heard a room full of fourth graders shrilly tooting out "French Song" and "Mary Had A Little Lamb" on their flutophones should count themselves lucky.