My Background Through Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What is your educational background?

I hold a degree in English Writing from Northern Michigan University, as well as a minor in Art & Design and Film Studies (Cinematography). I've taken over eight writing workshop courses, one at the graduate level, and accumulated twice as many credits in writing for my major than necessary. I chose to major in Film Studies over Art & Design's Digital Cinema because it paralleled my major. Half the classes were sponsored by the English Department and focused on the historical, metaphorical, and social theories of film, which required authoring several academic papers, while the Art Department focused on the visual techniques of film making, resulting in produced short films.

Q: Did you ever take classes outside of your major? Why?

I tried to take classes that would compliment a broad knowledge of the world. Sociology, Cultural Anthropology, Philosophy, Adventure Based Learning (outdoor activities involving teamwork), and Native American and African American Literature ensured a well-rounded education. Due to my passion for technically oriented projects, classes ranging from Digital Cinema: Animation to Web Design to 3D Modeling resulted in acquiring my Art & Design minor almost by accident. I wasn't trying to earn one at the time, but my creative passion naturally led to the minor.

Q: Which do you do more of: writing or visual arts?

In college, I wrote more often. This past year, however, I've worked more with the visual arts. My original intention was to get a double major in English Writing and 3D Animation, but I got tired of the take classes, get grades cycle and wanted real world experience. I have been using my work in Second Life as a replacement for a degree in computer graphics, having learned Maya and earned my reputation as a graphic artist through hard work.

Q: How can Second Life be said to provide real world experience?

Many people don't understand how Second Life works. It's not a game because there is no goal, no prizes, no winning or losing. SL is a user-created virtual reality, with special programs and geographical spaces within it. It is up to the user to find something to do.

I've utilized Photoshop to create photoreal textures from images that were sometimes too grainy to use directly. These textures are then used to create replicas of buildings or objects that, through clever texturing, appear to receive and generate their own shadows and other effects. Every game utilizes similar techniques. There is also a necessity to use geometry and Gestalt Psychology to turn simple blocks or cylinders into complex architecture. I've been able to learn Maya, a robust 3D program with an intimidating learning curve. Whereas Cinema 4D was used in the past for some of my projects, Maya is more mainstream. With Maya, I have created complex organic builds with physically accurate renders texture baked onto the surfaces. All of this can be tedious and time consuming, and not many projects require this level of sophistication, but I can reach that level when required.

Q: How has your writing major helped you within Second Life?

I've worked with a team to create volunteer handbooks for both Ishpeming's Main Street Program and Downtown Development Authority. This project required researching existing policy and procedures and amending them as necessary. I also worked with volunteer professionals of differing backgrounds to coordinate competing goals with limited resources. Second Life is no different. For a rich 3D environment, SL relies heavily on text communication. The challenge is to utilize 2D formatting methods for posters, billboards, notecards, and even complex design specifications for computer programming scripts, in a way that can be hybridized with 3D navigation. Just as manuals need to be clear and concise, so must a virtual reality. The virtual environment allows literal places to embodying all aspects of a metaphor that they represent. Accomplishing this requires extensive written plans that the general public will never be aware of due to the visual nature of their experience, versus the comprehensive, interdisciplinary efforts required on my part that take place behind the scenes.

Q: What do you do for hobbies/recreation?

I enjoy being outdoors, particularly to enjoy rock climbing (nothing too dangerous) and cross country mountain biking. I try to take an extended bike trip at least once a year that involves several hundred miles, although my longest trip to date totaled fourteen hundred miles over fourteen days.

Writing and multimedia are also two of my biggest hobbies in that when I'm not doing multimedia, I like to write, and when I'm not writing, I like to experiment with multimedia. I also enjoy experimenting with electronic music via software synthesizers and an Axiom 61 MIDI keyboard controller, although I'm still at the stage where I spend hours tweaking buttons and knobs to explore a sound's infinite, distortive capability.

I love to discuss politics, philosophy, history, and religion; a good citizen is one who is informed of the opinions of others. It is only through such questioning that we can understand and appreciate our own views, while approaching differing views with respect and understanding. Many people are uncomfortable with these topics and that's unfortunate. After all, if the Founding Fathers had shared in that timidity, there would be no United States of America.