What is your job title and what do you do?
I am a "Software Quality Assurance Engineer" in my full-time job, which means that I test software to make sure that it operates like it's supposed to and our clients get the proper use out of it. I'm also a part-time web site designer.
When did you first become interested in astronomy? Why did it interest you?
I remember becoming interested in astronomy as a young boy, maybe 8 years old. I was particularly excited about the first Space Shuttle launches. I even taped them on audiotape (8mm) but I don't know where they went. My parents bought me a small telescope and I would sit out at night hoping to catch a glimpse of the Shuttle flying overhead.
I think I got interested in it because it was just so vast and my imagination could roam in any direction. I still feel that way.
What is that big mirror in your interview picture?
That mirror is a 20" Galaxy Optics mirror, which is part of a large Dobsonian-style telescope that I had given to me by the family of a good friend of mine who passed away last summer. His name was Tom O'Hara and I've nicknamed that mirror "the Tominator" after him. He was a good friend. I hope to use his mirror to bring astronomy to even more people in the future.
Is backyard astronomy difficult in Southern California, seeing that there is so much light/atmospheric pollution?
Backyard astronomy in my area is particularly difficult, especially because of "light pollution". To get decent skies for observing I have to drive out about 2 hours east to the desert, but even then you can see the light from both Los Angeles and San Diego on the horizon. It is unfortunate. However, you can see a lot of exciting things from your backyard, even if it's bright with your neighbor's floodlight. You can see bright planets like Jupiter, Saturn and Venus, and the Earth's Moon always puts on a great show!
What subjects did you like best in school? Why?
It depends on which "school" we talk about. In high school (grade 10-12) my favorite classes were usually literature based, like English. Earlier, in elementary and middle school I enjoyed the general science courses. In college my favorite classes by far and away have been my math and science classes like oceanography, calculus and marine biology. I suppose I had a change of taste, as I've gotten older. I was definitely not into math when I was in high school, but I grew to appreciate its power as I studied it more.
Which subjects were the most helpful towards your career goals?
I would have to say that computer programming and calculus classes have been most helpful in my career since I need a fair amount of problem solving skills and computer knowledge.
Which subjects were the most difficult for you in school?
It is honest to say that I actually despised math in high school. I am sure that I got more than one failing grade in it. I ran from it because I didn't take the time to sit down and really appreciate it. In college my career goals forced me to take math again and I developed an appreciation for it.
What I've realized is that whatever you do in your career you need to enjoy it, but sometimes to get to that goal career some of the classes you have to take aren't "fun" or "exciting". It takes discipline to get you through those classes. Typically they don't last long and when they are finished you can move on to classes you are talented in and enjoy more.
What other hobbies do you have?
The Kempo martial art is a major factor in my life. I find that it's excellent exercise and it keeps my mind clear. I also design and manage a couple of astronomy websites, which takes a pretty good piece of my time as well. It's not a hobby per se, but I also have a family that keeps me very busy and kids that I love to play with.
How is Kempo similar/different from other martial arts?
Shaolin Kempo has a lot of elements found in other styles, such as Aikido, Judo and Karate. It comes from the Shaolin Temple in China, which is considered a home of the martial arts. It concentrates on balance, kicks, punches and blocking techniques like most martial arts, but it doesn't really emphasize one element over another. I consider it a very balanced art.
Why did you go into the Marines? What did you learn from that experience?
I went into the U.S. Marine Corps because my father was a Marine (although he recommended that I not go in at the time) and because I wanted to serve my country. My family and the area I grew up are intensely patriotic so it was a natural. Plus I had several friends that enlisted in the Marine Corps at the same time, although I never served with any of them because they all had different jobs than mine.
Do you have any special dream or goal you would someday like to accomplish? If so, what are you doing to reach that goal? Do you think you can accomplish your ultimate goal?
Truth be told, I have a dream of becoming an astronaut. For me, that would be the highest career available in the United States. However, I've made decisions in my life, such as family and school that will probably not allow me to achieve that dream. I realized that dream was possible a bit late in life and to make the change to accomplish it would mean more difficulties on my family than I am willing to give them. I will do what I can to popularize space and astronomy though, and that gets me a little closer to the heavens. It's funny how life works though, and I haven't ruled it out.
I once listened to testimony (24 MB MP3) from a man named Russell O'Quinn who is a highly successful test pilot. He is even working at the age of 70 for the government. He said that he had accomplished everything he had ever dreamed of, but knew that it would all be memories someday and he wanted more out of life, particularly focusing on his faith. I have taken that to heart.
Was there ever a special "defining moment" in your school career or childhood that you think shaped your dreams for the future? If so, what was it?
When I received an A grade in college Calculus 1 I realized that I could actually do math after several failed attempts. It was very inspirational because up to that point it had been a pretty major challenge.
There was also this really cool plaster volcano in the 7th grade that I made with other classmates in a science class. My dad helped me out by getting me some dry ice for the volcano smoke effect. It went over really well. I remember that to this day.
How old are your children? Does being a dad change the way you look at life and life goals? What is the best thing about having kids? What is the most difficult?
I have two children: A 4 year-old girl and a 2 year-old boy. They have drastically changed my life outlook, and I mentioned above they have altered my dreams, but in the best of ways. These two kids deserve to have me around as much as I can make time for them. Pursuing a difficult, nearly impossible dream like being an astronaut would take me away from them way too much.
The best part about being dad is getting my kids' love and affection. I'm particularly fond of butterfly kisses (brushing your eyelashes on someone else's face) from my daughter and big grunting hugs from my son.
I also very much enjoy looking at the world through my children's eyes and watching them learn new things. For example, my daughter picked up a computer mouse for the first time and used it well. I was very proud of her. My son has similar instances of investigation and it's fun to see what interests him, because they are usually things I have long taken for granted. It is almost like being a kid again.
The worst part is disciplining them for getting into trouble. Your parents were right when they said, "this hurts me more than it does you". I want to be the happy dad all of the time, but sometimes they don't allow me to be. Those moments aren't very frequent though.
Do you have any favorite quotes that you find inspirational?
I have taken to using the following quote frequently:
"Imagine if we
were all on the same sheet of music...
As far as I know that's a "Roger Herzler" original. Some years ago I read someone else's e-mail signature. She was into playing flute I think, and she had some witty phrase about music. It wasn't even about the same subject. It struck me, when I read her signature quote, that creating a work of music, particularly for a symphony, requires an amazing amount of coordination, leadership and teamwork.
When people read that quote it is often taken to mean that I would like everyone in the world to be homogenous, or the same. That's not the meaning at all. Picture a symphony: you have a whole bunch of different musical instruments, all playing different notes and melodies. You have some "blooping" tubas and some "tweeting" flutes, but they all combine together to produce a piece of music that can speak to your heart. The point behind it is not to create a boring world of identical instruments, but weaving the entire design together into one beautiful song.
Other websites I publish include:
My astronomy hobby website: The @stro Pages: http://theastropages.com/
My website design site: Diegotek Web Solutions: http://diegotek.com/
Astronomy websites I particularly like:
Sky and Telescope http://www.skypub.com/
And pretty much anything in my index site:
My most visited site:
If you can't find it on Google it may not be on the Internet.
- 28 June 2002
3 July 2002
© 2002 - www.imagiverse.org