Born in Southern California in 1975 and raised in Southern Indiana, I have been writing and editing for newspapers in the United States and abroad since 1998. Currently I am the director of local content at "The Monitor," a daily newspaper in deep South Texas. The Hoosier State Press Association twice recognized my reporting as the best in its class.
I received a B.A. in psychology and Spanish in 1995 from Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind. After a 16-year hiatus from higher education, I enrolled part-time in 2011 at South Texas College, where I am taking courses required to apply to a master's program in physician assistant studies.
I have lived in New York City, where I worked at a social services agency called the Puerto Rican Family Institute. I roamed four of the five boroughs as a case manager for nearly two dozen chronic mentally ill adults, most of whom were homeless and had substance abuse issues.
I also have lived in Turkey, where I landed my first full-time journalism job as a copy editor at what was then the country's only English-language daily newspaper. More importantly, I met my wonderful wife of almost 12 years while living and working in Ankara.
My grandfather was a longtime geography professor at Indiana University, and I caught the travel bug early in life. In addition to Turkey, I've been to Spain, France, Iran, Aruba, Mexico, Canada and -- thanks to parents who had a keen appreciation of our national parks system -- most of the lower 48 states.
I'm not particularly athletic these days, but at one time or another over the years I've enjoyed a variety of organized sports, including swimming, soccer, tennis, wrestling, ice hockey, track-and-field, sailing, basketball, and softball. On a more informal basis, I've enjoyed waterskiing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, racquetball, billiards, table tennis, bocce ball, croquet and snorkeling. One of my goals for the next couple of years is to get certified as a PADI Open Water Diver. I enjoy hiking, camping and fishing but have no interest in hunting.
I'm an avid reader and longtime word geek. I like a good game of "Scrabble" or "Words With Friends," occasionally work on my backgammon game and used to be a fiend for "Pente," though I haven't played that one in years.
"Star Wars" vs. "Star Trek"? Well, they're both absolutely awesome, though I really wish George Lucas would learn to leave well enough alone. The dismemberment and eventual reassembly of C-3PO informed my earliest notions of human reproduction. And some of my fondest childhood memories were of watching reruns of the original "Star Trek" with my Uncle Chad. Both universes made me fall in love with science fiction, while the J.R.R. Tolkien books that my uncles were so fond of got me hooked on fantasy (yeah, I was one of those kids who played "Dungeons & Dragons" and checked out every "Choose Your Own Adventure" book he could find at the local library).
Speaking of kids, I don't have any. My "children" are a pair of young, energetic Australian shepherd dogs who treat me like a rock star every time I walk through the front door and keep my wife and I endlessly entertained.
I play a bit of guitar but not nearly as well as my two brothers, with whom I enjoy striking up some three-part harmonies on the too infrequent occasions when we're all together. My musical tastes are fairly eclectic but tend mostly toward folk and Americana. My favorite "new" band of the last few years is Old Crow Medicine Show. The last show I saw was a performance March 17, 2012, in Austin, Texas, by Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Gil Landry of Old Crow Medicine Show. The first big rock concert I ever saw was a Poison show, circa 1989.
My greatest heroes are my late Gramma and Grampa Bennett, from whom much of my affinity for secular humanism comes. Harry Belafonte also comes to mind (check out his video memoir "Sing My Song" if you get a chance). Joan Baez is also up there. I once got to interview Nobel Peace Prize winner and global famine fighter Norman Borlaug, who also made a tremendous impression on me. There's also Woody Guthrie and Andy Kaufman (check out The Asch Recordings, a four-disc Guthrie set on the Smithsonian Folkways label, as well as journalist Bill Zehme's excellent biography "Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman").
I generally believe that if people would A) do no harm, B) live and let live, and C) treat others as they themselves wish to be treated, the world be a much better place.