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Personal Notes

People are more than their careers, even workaholics such as myself. Thus, to give you a more rounded if brief portrait of myself, I offer the following hopefully interesting personal notes and trivia:


I was one of the first persons conceived by artificial insemination, so all I know about my biological father is that he was a University of Oregon medical student. Thanks for the good genes, Dad, whoever and where ever you are.


My mother was one of over 15 children of a family of “poor white” share croppers in Oklahoma. As a small child, she picking cotton and lived in a house with neither electricity nor running water. Growing up during the 1920s, she once took a 600 mile cross-country covered wagon trip after the family lost the farm. Living through the Great Depression and World War II had a big influence on her, and although she only had a third grade education, she made sure that I was the first in the family to ever attend college. Thank goodness for her drive and the upward mobility that is possible in the United States.


After two failed marriages, it has been my great fortune to have met and married Rebecca Firesmith, my constant and true wife, love, and friend for these last 23 years. We have 6 children (1 girl and 5 boys ranging in age from 35 to 17) and 5 grandchildren, so I guess I will be working until if drop.

The Firesmith Name

For those of you wondering about the genealogy of my name, you won’t find it on the Internet (except for here on this webpage). When preparing for my second marriage, my now ex-wife and I discussed the popular ways of dealing with last names. Should she take my last name, should we hyphenate our last names, should we each keep our own last names, or should we do something more interesting? As neither of us were overly happy with our last names, we decided to create a new name. We took my last name (Smith) and added the word fire to make Firesmith. The choice of fire was based on the fact that we liked the resulting sound, which also seemed appropriate as we both have some Native American ancestry mixed in amongst the Irish, English, and who knows what of the typical American mix. (Let’s hear it for hybrid vigor!) We are thus the only Firesmith family in the United States.


I enjoy traveling, especially when I was yourger, which is good considering that I have lived in 3 countries (and 9 states), have visited over 15 countries, and have spent many years as a road warrior consultant. It was quite an education touring the Soviet Union back in 1974 before it fell, especially when I gave the Intourist guide the slip and spent the day avoiding the KGB and getting to know an engineering student from the University of Moscow. Among other places, I have lived:

  • On the slopes of Mount St. Helens before it exploded in a tiny logging town too small to have its own tavern.
  • On the Pacific coast beach of the Quinault Indian reservation.
  • In Munich, Germany and Bern, Switzerland, two of my favorite cities in the whole world.


I’ve had many hobbies over the years including:
  • Reading technical books, science fiction, fantasy (my wife and I read the Harry Potter books before we give them to the kids who are still at home), and science journals, popular science books, and science textbooks (especially those concerning physics, biology, genetics, evolution, neurology, epidemiology, cosmology, archeology, and paleontology).
  • Writing technical books and articles, childrens books, as well as the occasional science fiction short story and filk song (i.e., a song with science-fiction or humorous lyrics using a well-known melody).
  • Bicycling across Europe (I put 5,000km on a touring bike in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France during the summer of 1973).
  • Hiking in the mountains of Oregon and Colorado.
  • Spelunking (primarily lava tubes in the Pacific Northwest).
  • Medieval Recreation (performing period dances in period costume and fighting many times in armor of my own design and construction, especially sword or mace and shield).
  • Woodcarving (mostly reliefs with fantasy animal themes).
  • Knapping flint arrowheads and tools.
  • Juggling (mostly balls and scarfs).
  • Archery (At Arizona State University, I had the good fortune to study under the then US Woman’s Olympic Coach).