To do this properly, we should really start at the beginning: I was born in the Midwest. This means that I'm probably going to err on the side of being too polite when we first meet. But it also means that I’m going to tell you the truth when you ask me a question, and I will likely talk too much once we get to know each other.
With that out of the way, I should mention that, after leaving Chicago in 1998, I spent the next ten years living in the Southwest. Which, as it turns out, isn’t much different from the Midwest because New Mexico and Arizona (especially) are full of Chicagoans trying to escape Illinois’s extreme seasons. But living in the Southwest also gave me a new perspective. It taught me to appreciate the West’s expansive vistas, the diversity of life that exists in a dead-at-first-glance desert, and the nuances between fall and winter in southern Arizona. (I'll give you a hint: you turn your air conditioner off in the winter.)
These days, I live and work in Santa Monica on the west side of Los Angeles. What I've learned about LA is that it stands for the opposite of what Midwesterners believe in: Instant gratification, self indulgence, and individualism over collectivism. As a result, I’m not sure that I will ever be able to buy into what this city is about because we’re just too different.
Professionally speaking, I started out as an engineer who designed lightweight mirrors for space telescopes. I later moved on to doing optical designs of the entire telescope, and there's a few things that I've worked on that are currently operating on space satellites. After four years of that, it was clear that I wanted to expand my range way beyond engineering, and over the past 8 years I've evolved into something of a professional problem solver in my role as a researcher at the RAND Corporation. I've worked on projects ranging from developing a theory of modular design to analyzing how the Army deployed its soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan. Along the way, I've also written two books, one about how space debris relates to the Deepwater Horizon and another about how professionals prepare for and respond to surprise.
In my personal life, I look after my wife and daughters. I spend a lot of time walking (roughly 150 miles/month—friend me if you have a FitBit), so I get most of my news and inspiration from podcasts. Some of my favorites are the Gabfest, Trumpcast, Revisionist History, Freakonomics, Control-Walt-Delete, Ask Roulette, Planet Money, 538 Politics, The Axe Files, Ask Me Another, StartUp, Reply All, 99% Invisible and Radio Lab. I also spend an alarming amount of time taking & editing photos, which you can find here, on my Flickr page, and my Twitter feed.
If we know each other and haven't spoken in a while, please send me an email so we can reconnect. You are also welcome to find me on LinkedIn. If we don't know each other (or you don't remember my address), send me a note.