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Paul Andrew Estin: history (a short bio)

(last updated September 2007)

Name: Paul Andrew Estin
Nickname: "Snark" (after the Lewis Carroll creature), used almost exclusively in Internet settings.
Previous nicknames: "Captain Oblivious," "Falloverman" (both dubbed by my ex-gf Tracy), "Scooter" (after the Muppets character, used mostly in high school and only a little bit in college and on the net, plus also when I was "Tuckerized" into Peter David's ST:TNG novel Rock and a Hard Place, p. 44).

Born: Thursday, July 4th, 1968, at about 10 PM in Chicago, with fireworks going off over Lake Michigan. After such a spectacular start, it's been downhill ever since. :-)
Height: 5'5" on a good day.
Eyes: Two. Blue. Usually behind glasses.
Hair: Brown, straight, fine, kept rather short on the theory that, if it can't look good, it might as well be entertaining in a tactile way.
Smile: Used sparingly and discriminatingly.

Ethnic ancestry: My Dad was the son of Russian Jews who emigrated, my Mom was Polish and came to the United States in the early 1950s. Thus, I'm convinced I have a genetic predisposition to being killed by Russians.

Religion: Since 2004 I have been attending services at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford. My Dad was a non-practicing Jew, my mom left the Catholic church a year or so before I was born. So I was raised on non-denominational guilt. I have an eclectic philosophy, drawn from a variety of sources including both religious and nonreligious ones, so the UUs are about the only ones who'll put up with me. :-)

Philosophy: Not easy to summarize; a mix of principles, with an openness to learn more. Getting more cynical and less tolerant of stupidity as I become more experienced about what *doesn't* work. I was raised on the concept, "Don't behave in ways that raise the likelihood of hurting others or self," which is mostly a good idea except that it tends to make me overly risk-averse.

I don't think I have one single core belief I can state easily; I work along a series of principles, guidelines, and heuristics balanced by experience, empathy, and common sense. I do have the basic belief that "direct feedback is usually good", such that I have an appreciation for open and honest personal communication, for experimental science (one can actually find out that an idea is wrong... sort of... well, more so than in any other mode of belief), and for individual rights (large bureaucracies are not very good at making better choices for people than they can themselves, especially if people have information, freedom, and a fair playing field). "Moderation in all things, including moderation itself." More or less. For details, see my writings.

Family: One older sister (a pediatrician) in Alabama, my mother and grandmother in Massachusetts, a small and fairly close extended family scattered around the country, and lots of second cousins I've never met (some of whom live in far-off places like Germany and Lithuania).

Education (informal): Too lengthy to relate. My father was my key early influence; he taught me to have a scientist's sort of skepticism and distrust of that which is not prone to disproof or inquiry. I read a lot of books on pretty much every subject I could. I still like to consider myself a sort of Renaissance type, following up lines of curiosity wherever they may lead. I dislike ignorance in myself or others, especially when people are seemingly proud of it. ("I never watch TV" or "I never bother with sports" are not virtues in and of themselves.)

Education (formal): Primary and secondary education in the public school system of Belmont, Massachusetts, just west of a certain overrated university in Cambridge. I got my High School diploma in 1986. Went to the University of Chicago and (after trying physics and math as possible majors) in 1990 received both a B.A. and an M.A. in psychology, specializing in "cognition and communication." In 1998 I finished my Ph.D. in Cognition and Perception Psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

I also received a Certificate in the Culture and Cognition Program (an interdisciplinary anthropology/psychology program). I worked on projects (including my dissertation) in judgment and decision making, and also cross-cultural reasoning and categorization, and object recognition. I enjoyed that, and also teaching, but I decided to leave academia. Partly, I felt ill-matched to the specialization and self-organization (think "entrepeneur without the money") that an academic job requires. Also, I crave variety in my activities, such that I assumed there's no job I could like so much as to make it my "identity," and I think to be successful in academia you have to do that. More recently, however, I've decided I really enjoy teaching.

Occupation: I teach World History and Psychology classes at Newton South High School.

Main hobbies: See my entertainment page and my music page.

Paul A. Estin
estin AT intranet DOT org