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Posted August 21, 2016
My Personal History
Many of my friends ask what makes me who I am today—and I realize that in many respects I had more diverse life experiences than most Americans, although I consider my upbringing to be a classic American story. So, I have written this brief autobiographical account describing my environmental and business experiences that distinguish me.
I grew up in a Minneapolis loft apartment and lower level shop, near downtown (29th Ave. S. and E. 26th St.). Our home had been a IGA corner grocery, still then owned by my great-grandfather. The house has 15 rooms with patinaed cream brick exterior walls, high ceilings, ornate trim, and hardwood maple floors. My parents hung out in coffee houses, health food co-ops, indie guitar stores, political rallies, events in the park, and hip midtown churches with their four children stair-stepped in descending height behind them. They married when my mother was an 18-year-old partying Catholic girl, and my father was at that time a 21-year-old partying agnostic and physics student at the University of Minnesota (from which he graduated with high distinction). They remained married. They had four of us siblings in less than four years, when my mother was 19 to 23 and my father was by then a PhD student in theoretical physics at the university and about to become a Christian. Minneapolis is a place of intense culture, trendy arts, and elm parks; and of course it is the City of Lakes where we were within biking distance of swimming and less than a mile from the Mississippi River and the Great River Road. We had a peace sign professionally painted black and white over the 8' x 8' raised-relief Pepsi steel sign on the side of our house, until my father repented and it was repainted as a cross. We also had a 4' x 8' sign for circus bills on the brick wall, a Wonder Bread welcome sign stamped in tin on our front door, and an antique lighted Grain Belt Beer sign with cascading flashing pilsners in the sheet-glass window.
My father (who died in 2007) was a brilliant engineer and we were one of the first families in America to have a computer, a mainframe which he built with his own components: a hundred circuit boards made by hand-wiring transistors and resistors using a soldering iron. He was a Minnesota state chess champion, national convention delegate, political activist, pacifist, vegetarian, religious seeker, and naturalist with more hiking gear than everyone needed. He reloaded his own bullets, hand-casting them with molten lead-alloy and meticulously refilling the brass cases with black gunpowder charges and shiny new primers. He just liked the details. My dad taught me to do things like build computer games, use hand tools and woodworking machinery, pitch a tent in the snow in the North Woods of Minnesota, forage for wild foods in the woods, target practice, play chess in tournaments, draw schematic diagrams, proofread books, reprint historic documents, visit churches, research and think freely, and picket peacefully on the steps of the state capitol or hand out Christian leaflets at city park events. My mother was a mom who took her children out of school lunch for a picnic by the river, had a daily afternoon tea with her children, took us horseback riding on the weekends, took us to infinite cultural activities, and taught us to garden and to cook and to store food, and taught us how to knit, and play the guitar. Both of them taught us to be artistic and musical. My grandfather was an entrepreneur, and I learned much listening to my grandfather debate with my father and my uncles about business theory. My other grandparents had horse farms and a lake house, so with the camping, the farm, and the lake I was out of the city plenty. Thus, I grew up with a broad spectrum of environments that gave me character, and family activities were a cherished gift to me.
Even as a child, I was an entrepreneur with an endless work ethic. I carried a briefcase in junior high school; really, I did. In grade school I was earning as much as $30 in an afternoon shoveling deep Minnesota snow for the elderly, and up to $80 on a weekend morning selling scrap sandpaper at flea markets. Double that in today’s dollars. Minnesota is cold, and when I shoveled snow I was always invited in to warm up even if I was more anxious to move on to the next sidewalk. Not only did I learn how to be a young entrepreneur, I learned a genuine appreciation for the wisdom of the elderly during those long talks, and that has profoundly blessed my life. When I was an 18-year-old, my top friends were Mormons over the age of 65. I also worked 12-hour-days through personal selling of wooden puzzles and wooden board games manufactured by a small business started by my father. My grandfathers auto part manufacturing company was still small enough that he was moulding rubber parts in his garage in the evenings after he left his larger factory, and my father was moulding rubber parts on a hot press in the room attached to my bedroom, and my mother was working at the rubber factory during the day. So, I was briefly hired to trim flash from the the new rubber gas pedals and brake pedals, and thus participated in the family rubber business for a fourth generation. The aroma of freshly cured natural black rubber in the house is as homey to me as the smell of baking apple pie.
There are many milestones that I passed to become the person that I am today. I developed great faith in God when I was eight years old. I built my first computer game when I was about nine years old. I was interviewed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about Economics when I was only ten years old. I read the King James Bible from start to finish when I was eleven years old. I was using email in 1978, and playing the early teletype versions of Oregon Trail on the Minneapolis Public Schools network, where it was invented as the first popular computer game. I became competitive playing against my father in the Japanese board game, Go. During the last quarter of my junior year in high school, my father had another spiritual awakening and our family moved to the rural country between Burlington and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, near a historic Mormon ghost town called Voree, barely an hour north of Chicago. So, I had to make all new geographical friends for the first of several times. I am thankful for that varied background that gave me tools to overcome challenges.
In high school, I was a member of the National Honor Society; I took advanced placement English and physics; and I took chemistry, advanced biology, and an accelerated math program. I also earned regional awards in fine woodworking, and I drew pencil sketches that were put on public exhibition. In the Minneapolis Public Schools, an inner-city school system where I could have stumbled, my potential was recognized and mentored by a succession of men whose individualized efforts made it possible for me to succeed: My 6th-grade teacher, my junior high school English teacher and my woodworking instructor, several social studies teachers in junior high and high school, and my American history teacher and track coach at South High School. I was in college when I was 17, but dropped out twice and still made it into graduate school to get perfect grades. My Education page has the details.
In a three-year high school I earned eight varsity athletic letters, won six conference championships, received three all-conference awards by the vote of other coaches, competed in the Wisconsin state championship, and was voted Most Valuable Player by my teammates on three teams; which were important accomplishments for an uncoordinated guy who never watched sports or anything else on television. I had the same coaches as Dallas Cowboys player Tony Romo at Burlington High School. I ran a mile in about 4:45 as a 16-year-old, two miles in about 9:45, and 3 miles in about 15:15, five miles in about 27:30, and ten miles in about 60:00. I apparently had little natural talent but was so motivated that I succeeded in our modest conference. In 2007, I ran a full marathon (26.2 miles) with no training whatsoever this winter. I am training for a marathon in early 2011, after limping through two in 2009 and 2010. I have been lifting weights, lightly, since I was 15 and could run to the University of Minnesota and use their weight room at the UM Fieldhouse, and now workout at 24-Hour Fitness where I have a lifetime membership with my children.
I have managed a sushi restaurant, have taught wine classes, and have managed Tampa Bay’s most popular dance club while abstaining from rum, cocaine, and sex. While taking 10 years to finish my 4-year-degree, I also worked more than full-time and gained managerial skill (and learned the art of fine food preparation, formal etiquette, and human relations) running food and beverage operations for what was then the Playboy Resort and Country Club at Lake Geneva but what is now the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa (Marcus Hotels and Resorts), the Hilton Milwaukee City Center (Marcus Hotels and Resorts), the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, the Hyatt Regency Tampa, the The Tobacco Company Restaurant and Club (a Richmond, Virginia, fine dining restaurant and high-energy dance club in the tobacco warehouse district that opened a sister restaurant in the historic Cuban cigar district in Tampa, Florida), The Westin Tampa Harbour Island Hotel (Tampa), and the Hyatt Regency Crown Center (Kansas City). One of my first managers said that I was too quiet, and would never get promoted from my first job as brass polisher in the hotel lobby. However, I was a department head when I was twenty-one years old, and a division head by age twenty-four. As a graduate student, I successfully founded and succeeded in a publishing venture that reprinted facsimiles of rare books and marketed them to college and research libraries. I am thankful for these managerial responsibilities put on me so young, that I rely on for decision-making and planning now.
Besides selling my publishing company, I made some providential and fortuitous investments during the economic boom of the 1990s that now allow me to stay at home with my children. In the family tradition of entrepreneurialism, I spend my time on other speculative investments (including developing a blue jeans dot com, land development, restaurant concepts, and stock trading); writing and consulting as a historian and preservationist; and collecting rare books, art, and documents. I volunteer one-fourth of my time to church-related responsibilities in Wisconsin.
I have two beautiful daughters, Jessica Danielle (born July 22, 1991) and Samantha Renee (born September 1, 1993); and a handsome son, Jacob John (born February 25, 1997). My activities with all of them are my most enjoyable, and I discuss them on My Family Values page.
My active interests include running and racing, downhill skiing at Park City, swimming laps, snorkeling in the Caribbean, bicycling at the Little Blue, weightlifting at 24-Hour Fitness, and hiking in nature parks. I grew up in Minnesota and have done every winter sport: I have been ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, tobogganing, maple-sugaring, snow-sculpting, ice-carving, figure skating, and played hockey. I know how to backpack, rough camp, canoe, and fish with my own fishing pole, and shoot targets with my own guns. I know how to survive, eat wild edibles, and make my own bullets.
My artistic interests include woodturning, furniture making, ancient and modern architecture, interior design, restoration of American frontier houses, drawing, graphic design, printing, photography.
My technical interests include power tools (like drill presses and table saws), handguns (like .38 and .45 caliber guns), my cars (currently an SUV with a modest 3.5L engine and a VW convertible with an unbelievable 3.2L engine), and my network of ten computers in our home office. I independently create all of my own Internet work on a dozen or so separate sites with more than 125 redirected domain names.
My academic interests include politics, economics, history, b&w photos, rare books, autograph documents, antiques, artworks especially paintings, writing, researching, and learning.
My cultural interests include traveling, fine dining, grilling organic and whole foods, sushi for 25 years, my new 80GB iPod, and children. I like most top and pop music, unless it contains twangs or thangs. I like music to which my spirit relates, which means music that has singing instead of screaming or whining. I like classical concertos. I like hymns from the mid-1800s, and contemporary worship music with unilateral praise and Alleluias. I like café music without the coffee. I was raised without television, so I typically only watch the food, home, history, nature, news, financial market, and political channels. I like movies about priceless sacred artifacts, like the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, because I am always on a quest for another lost treasure of history-changing religious consequence. My age is not on this site; however, if you want to do some research I am the same age as Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. But my testimony is that Jesus Christ is the only celebrity, and that he, our all-powerful creator in whose image we are created, is infinitely more important than electronic images on television. I have fairly recently traveled to virtually every significant American city, in 45 states. In the past year or two I have also visited twenty-one countries, all of them with my family. See My Travels for a partial list. I am thankful for my health, and opportunities to enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities, and share them with others.
As a middle child with preoccupied parents, one can never get enough approval or affection, and I consequently still need affection and approval as an adult. That is, I suppose, what makes middle children create Internet sites like this one. But I am actually humbled by whatever successes that I have been given, and I am certain that without the intervention of a superior creator that I could not have come so far. I grew up poor in Minneapolis, the son of an engineer who applied his resources to starting repeated new businesses, from which I learned. Chance is necessary but insufficient for most business success, and I attribute my own achievements also to endless hours of hard work, education, health, ingenuity, risk-taking, and foregoing profit-taking. Even all that would have been insufficient for me, and I believe that I was blessed for enduring constant adversity, sacrifice for church-related undertakings, standing for what I believe, the integrity in loving my neighbor as myself, generosity to others including being uplifting to the poor, and the basic goodness of my heart that nobody else can know. Without God, I feel that my potential impact anywhere would be meaningless and inconsequential.
Overall, I am striving for a simpler life. I have not wasted resources on extravagant or pretentious pastimes or possessions, except which are good investments and represent good stewardship. I drive practical cars, not fast cars (I have driven SUVs since 1993, buy new cars but typically keep them for five years, and currently have a 2005 Acura MDX , 2008 VW EOS convertible, and a 2010 VW Tiguan, but there are three drivers in my family with my 21-and 19-year-daughters). I do not own any boats, swimming pools, golf clubs, live plants, pets, or birdfeeders; no luxuries and no work. I have a home suitably large to having children and space for libraries and offices, but without excessiveness. A sitting President of the United States put my business card in his shirt pocket; really, he did. But my best friend, and my spiritual role-model, was a 95-year-old former Hungarian bicyclist, watchmaker, preacher, and scripture translator, who had the ideal plain life, until he died in 2010 still exercising and living in the house he built in 1949. My perfect vacation was a week in his hand-built home staring at the plain-white hand-plastered walls, listening to the chimes of his numerous clocks, and eating his peasant soup and homemade bread. I think that people should live conservatively, but give liberally, and be socially responsible. I am conservative minded but liberal hearted.
I have been an independent Bible researcher since I was in grade school. I have never regularly attended church, and probably never will, but I try to live those values. They are most outwardly noticeable in the way that I eat, treat others, and how I value things like honesty. But inwardly, I also have a very certain calling, mission, and sense of place that drives me in the pursuit of historical truth and consistency in religious history. I recognize that the Bible is a historical chronicle of God and his church: an incomplete and miscellaneous selection of 66 histories that record the experiences of those who literally heard him, witnessed him, served him, and acted for him. I am a seeker of similar Christian documents, manuscripts, transcripts, records, chronicles, acts, epistles, laws, and prophecies; whether on a table of stone, a silver scroll, a brass plate, a gold engraving, a papyrus, a parchment, or a vellum book; regardless of whether canonized by the Romans.
My heroes are my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the creator of heaven and earth; his martyred prophets and 12 apostles; my parents; my 95-year-old mentor, and his father and grandfather, and their friends; my grandparents who taught me business; the businessmen who put me into business; and my children, yes, my blessed and dear little ones, for whom my heart yearns. May God help me see these all in the celestial kingdom.
I hope that this window into my life has given you appreciation for the backgrounds of others, and tolerance for those with views that are different from your own. I want to be seen as complex and special, and at the same time typical and mainstream. I do not want any extra consideration, I just want to be at least accepted as an ordinary person.
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