I was born in Reading, Pennsylvania for which one of the board-game Monopoly Railroads is named. It's pronounced like the color red, with an ing, not like "reading a book." Great Monopoly Trivia.
When I was growing up, my initial interest was in law enforcement, but then I realized that was a massive amount of paperwork. So I started using computers. Of course, the first computer game I played was Police Quest, but I believe the most paperwork in the game was "type report."
My next dream job was background artist for computer games. (I'm still leaning that way, someday.) In 1996, as the Web was getting a commercial start, I made a plan to turn Internet advertising into paying for my gas and insurance for my soon-to-be-owned used car. I wrote a few guides in my spare time before I started the 9th grade, which ended up turning into HTML: An Interactive Tutorial, a plain-English web coding tutorial that was read by a few million people before I finished college.
Like most geeky teenagers in the mid-1990s, I was hoping to go down the millionaire Internet genius path. Unfortunately, it was revealed in early 1997 that I had a huge tumor in my chest and would have to undergo treatment for cancer, which wiped out most of my energy for the next 18 months.
All was not lost: I survived the cancer and ended up writing a book about my experiences called "The Crumpled Note: A Teenager's Battle with Cancer." (You can order your copy from the Amazon Kindle Store here.) I still kept my passion for making games, and while in college a few years later I co-wrote a visualization computer game for cancer patients called "The Cancer Game" (which can be played online for free).
After I finished college in 2004, I went into nearly seven years of personal research. Looking back, enrolling in a Ph.D. program might have been a more structured use of time, but I have a nice assortment of random knowledge that will help me with true doctoral research.