Autobiography

I’m generally known as Joshua. My main alias on the internet is “apollotiger”. As a note of some pride, it seems that searching “apollotiger” on Google returns roughly 1.6 thousand results, almost all of which concern me.

My website is named Fearchar for the Scottish clan that I came from, Farquharson. For those of you wondering on the pronunciation, it isn’t “fear-char”, but rather “fair-a-car” or “fair-a-khar” (IPA [ˈfɛɹǝxɑɹ]).

I do my best to keep this page updated, but it does occasionally fall behind. Each time I update it, though, I make a note of when the last update was so that someone perusing it can either be quite certain that it’s up-to-date or else poke me with sharp sticks until I update it again. This revision was written on the nineteenth of June, 2009, at about eleven o’clock in the evening in local (Pacific) time.

For easier reading, I’ve divided the rest of this into sections with helpful headings.

Schooling & Unschooling

I was homeschooled from the tender age of seven until the not-quite-as-tender age of 18. I graduated from high school at the end of June 2007 and enrolled in UC Berkeley starting in August ’07 with a tentative concentration in earth and planetary sciences, geophysics specifically. My very, very specific field of interest at the moment is seismology, though that is, of course, liable to change. So far, my studies have been challenging but good – as of early 2009, I’ve finally started on the physics courses for my major, which have been difficult but a lot of fun.

I’m a strong proponent of alternative education methods—my first year of schooling (i.e., kindergarten) was spent at a Montessori school, and my years of homeschooling before entering an independent study program for high school were spent largely unstructured. Further, my four years of high school education were spent in an independent study program that was really wonderful for me: I needed structure, and I needed freedom, and it provided both. In the summers of 2004 and 2005, I had an experience I’d recommend for almost anyone else: I attended Not Back to School Camp and had some amazing experiences, met some amazing people. As great as Camp was, most of that occurred after the camp with its online community.

Work & Play

I’ve held a few different jobs, varying in duration from a three-year job as a library page to a three- or four-month job at a baking company driving to farmers’ markets and selling bread and other baked goods. I also occasionally design or program websites (lately, Buy Local Berkeley, EmmaCoats.com). My most recent “regular” job was working with the Berkeley student newspaper, The Daily Californian, but I’ve since moved on to web design/programming work.

A lot of my time is spent on the things I study (fancy that: the things I study are things I love!): I really enjoy geology, computer science, and languages.

Convict Lake

Geology started as a course I had to take because of new rules at my high school’s independent study program, and blossomed into a love of rocks that (I am told) has probably been brewing since a very young age. My mom says that I always liked dirt, so I guess I was an earth scientist in the making. I’ve been on a few interesting fieldtrips with my classes; most recently, a trip to the Mono Lake area (documented here) to look at some of the interesting geology of the area – ash flows, and tufa towers, among other interesting things.

In my first semester at Berkeley, I took a trip to Pt. Reyes and the Marin Headlands (Ring Mountain, specifically), where I saw blueschist, serpentinite, and an igneous intrusion, among other things. As all geological field trips, this one was complete with terrible jokes told in the back of a van (geologists can be very sedimental!).

In my spare time, which has reduced vastly in quantity recently, I procrastinate about updating various areas of this website and work on small programming projects that sometimes flop and sometimes fly (see gadgets and tan-sec for examples of the latter). I program in PHP, Python, and have worked before with Postgre- and MySQL, (X)HTML, and CSS. I once knew C, but I’m not sure I can claim to program in that anymore. Lately, Javascript’s been catching my fancy, especially with the release of jQuery.

I’m also interested in natural languages: I’ve studied Latin for five years, German for a year and a half, and a few more (Russian, Greek, Spanish) for various lengths of time. I plan to pick up the basics of a few more.

I also practice photography, most of which is catalogued at tan-sec, my photoblog, which is also available in German, Russian, and unfiltered varieties. My current photography is done on my Canon Rebel XS (named “Deku Kid” after the character in Majora’s Mask); prior to that, I used a Canon Powershot A520.

I also write from time to time—usually prose (most of which is linked from the index page of Fearchar.net), but occasionally poetry (sometimes even music). When I’m feeling particularly bold, I write poetry in other languages; usually Latin or German.

Buddha’s hand

Politics & Religion

Politics and religion are something that I’ve long tried to avoid discussing. Recently, I decided that this might just be because of a weak backing for various political opinions. With the questioning of my own political stances, I gained confidence in discussing them.

I believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of politics. I also believe that science is a valuable method for finding truth, and that those of us who are religious should embrace it, rather than see it as something strange and to be feared. The prospect of a president who values science and science education is something exciting to me, and as such I’m glad of President Obama’s thoughts on the matter.

I support alternatives to coal plants and fossil fuels, but I’d like to see more development in the fields of sources of (or ways of storing) energy. Geothermal in particular seems neat in this respect, and I could easily see myself going into geothermal research if that option’s open. I also support switching over a great deal of our consumption to something that isn’t fossil fuels really soon now, since global warming should be a top concern for all of us, and reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases is a good way to keep the earth a little cooler.

I find myself having some amount of respect for anyone with integrity, be they conservative, liberal, or moderate. I’m naturally not thrilled about people who have integrity pushing their religion on me or telling me that I’m a sinner because their holy book says so, but I have more respect for them if they’ll talk with me about their religion and how they came to it. As a side note on this topic, I’m not sure which I find scarier: the religious zealots who try to convert me, or the ones who firmly believe that I’m going to Hell for eternity and don’t make an effort.

Speaking of religion, I was raised a Quaker with a great deal of Buddhist literature, such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi around the house to read. Two of the titles I remember best are Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by the latter, and Being Peace by the former. Both of the books influenced my beliefs and spirituality, and I consider myself a Zen Buddhist, although I don’t practice meditation as often as I’d like. Aside from that, my beliefs are mostly atheistic, and tend away from what most people would consider “the supernatural”.