My parents met when my father was in the Navy. Two years later, I came along, two weeks late.
I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, spending my summers in Gaeta, Italy.
My parents believed in the importance of a well-rounded individual, so I learned to play music, including the trumpet and the piano. I never quite learned the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata back then, but I remedied that recently.
I was one of the last paperboys, and at one point was running 3 different morning routes simultaneously.
That was not a great week, but as for most of the rest, the world has a lovely stillness at 4am that I can't put into words.
Some people fall in easily with others; I fall out easily.
When personal computers came onto the scene, they fascinated me immediately, and frustrated me shortly thereafter.
It took me a long time to take to programming.
Though it gave me trouble growing up, I was lucky to learn different languages in childhood.
Languages fascinate me, and the early start helped me when it was time to acquire others.
I reckon my abilities as follows:
Russian (basic conversation)
Latin (reading, with a dictionary handy)
Spanish (slowly and unreliably)
French (can translate)
Esperanto (used to read, now forgotten)
I've also surprised myself by deciphering the occasional Portuguese.
One day I'd like to learn Greek, German, Arabic, and Hebrew,
but the older I get, the less likely it seems.
Hilton Elementary School, a traditional alternative school.
We were to sit quietly and not speak unless spoken to;
we were to raise our hands before we asked or answered questions.
We were taught to respect rules and elders,
and our rules and elders were, with few exceptions, respectable.
It was probably the best place I could have started my education.
The structure was almost certainly beneficial to me.
Booker T. Washington Middle School, a traditional alternative school.
See above. I had both my first pen pal, and my first disappointment when it ended.
Warwick High School, my “neighborhood” public high school,
a “majority minority” high school.
I had had several black classmates in elementary and middle school,
but here the ratio was reversed in the general population.
The ratio reversed yet again in the advanced classes,
though our valedictorian was a very smart black girl.
I played in the marching band for three years,
and played soccer for a couple of years,
but that “fitting in” issue arose with a vengeance by my junior year.
Virginia Governor's School for Math and Science, in Blacksburg, Virginia.
I may have belonged to the pond, but remained a fish out of water.
Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.
Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Math Education.
By the end of my fourth year I dined alone in the cafeteria,
with my back to my classmates — not from disdain, but from anxiety.
It was easier to comprehend the construction going on on the other side of the glass.
Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Away from the allergen-rich climate of Virginia, it worked wonders for my lungs.
I fell in love with northern Arizona, and grew mathematically in their program,
though not as much as I should have; I grew discouraged too quickly.
I graduated with a Master's degree in mathematics, thinking a doctorate was not for me.
University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois.
This is a major Catholic seminary, and at the time I was convinced that this was my path.
It was one of the happiest periods of my life,
but I ended it when I realized that “real-life” diocesan priesthood would be very different.
I may well have done better as a conventual friar or monk,
but somehow I never managed to make the final step back into a program.
North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Increasingly intrigued by the notion of doing symbolic mathematics on computers,
I wanted to study symbolic computation, also called “computer algebra”.
It took me a good while to warp my mind around how one does research;
I had no trouble with the book work, but couldn't seem to make progress on my research problem.
I remained here for about six years.
I finally graduated with a PhD, and thought with relief that I was finally done with research.