So, what ARE your qualifications, anyway?

Basically none!

My official qualifications consist of a diploma proving I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from Northern Arizona University. It was the closest I could get to earning a degree in Everything with a emphasis in Stuff. My focus was in sociology and communication theory, and I earned a minor in Japanese more or less by accident. If you were to examine my transcripts, you would find that I took what appears to be a load of almost completely random classes, and got grades ranging from A+++ to D. The reason for this is not apparent until you also get a load of my semester schedules as an undergraduate, and realize that I got all my best grades in classes that didn't give a lot of take-home work and met between 11 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. I do quite brilliantly at school until I run into something that quite literally bores me stupid, and I'm not a functional human being before 10:30am at the earliest.

I also have an aborted attempt at getting a degree in Electronic Media Production from the same school. It was unfortunately interrupted by a number of tuition hikes and astonishingly bad reorganizations on the part of the university. I abandoned the attempt when I realized that, if I were going to do both my practical work and academic research in video games, there was literally no one at NAU who could usefully grade any of it -- I had a good rapport with the least Luddite guy in the EM department, whose claim to fame was that he had owned an Intellivision right around the time I was born, but that was the best I could do.

As for my work experience, aside from a summer waiting tables, and a couple years of a crappy retail shelf-stocking job, all of it has been in IT. My father is an engineer, and we've always had computers in the house. It was too hot to go outside most of the year in Phoenix, so I stayed inside, played video games, and learned how to field-strip an ATX case from Dad. These days I do less hardware and more Google-fu, but I spend just as much time translating Engineer into English.

Less obvious unless you have a decade of school transcripts sitting in front of you is the fact that I have a sideline in languages. I've studied a number of them, both in class and independently, and by "a number" I mean I've poked my nose into so many I can't remember them all off the top of my head. I can remember actually signing up for real high school or university classes in French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Arabic and Navajo; I've had some lessons in Italian from a friend of mine who is an actual Italian; I have a rudimentary grasp of Esperanto and can whack my way through it with a dictionary; and about a week ago, one of my students in Chinatown gave me the most adorable little book meant for teaching tiny Chinese children how to read via phonetic pinyin. I know the Cyrillic and Greek alphabets, although I don't know enough of the language to understand what I'm sounding out, and I occasionally menace my Jewish roommate with the notion that I'll learn some Hebrew and then use it on him. I also read a variety of other transcription systems that aren't technically languages, like the International Phonetic Alphabet that linguists use to take down exact pronunciations, mathematical notation, and standard Western music -- that last is very slow and almost useless to me, since I sing by ear.

People ask me how I do this a lot. I have absolutely no idea. I have a hard time understanding how other people don't, sometimes. My best guess is that I'm just wired for it. The first time anyone remembers me demonstrating the ability to read aloud in English was at about eighteen months, so I don't even have any memory of figuring it out the first time. The next time I sat down to formally learn  language I was 14, and while I'm sure I'll always have a funny accent, I didn't really think it was especially difficult to stuff the knowledge into my head. I started German at twenty-something and within a couple of weeks I had people asking me how long I lived in Germany. (I've never been. I don't even have a current passport.) I know little bits of so many things that I can almost always get something out of most of the languages of Western Europe, or Asian languages that have borrowed Chinese ideographs, if I see them written.

I have absolutely no formal qualifications of any sort in any of the other things I write about, including psychological profiling and forensic anything. I just read everything I can get my hands on. I have the feeling they all tie together somehow, but other people insist that I've got a load of completely unrelated textbooks all piled into my head -- I have no idea which view is right, if either. Unfortunately, in our society, a long track record of being right about various things is often trumped by a fancy piece of paper saying that someone else with an even fancier piece of paper asked a bunch of questions and is satisfied that you've learned something or another. Therefore, please take everything I write about with a grain of salt, and don't use me as a reference for anything legal or official. Think of me as sort of a spirit medium channeling some weird combination of Wikipedia, TV Tropes, and the message boards at Something Awful and the Straight Dope. I may be a good jumping-off point for your latest class paper, but there's a reason the APA doesn't have a good way to cite "the back left corner of the brain of some random chick on the internet".

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