Generic Smith

A canned blog-based bio from some years back, updated to 2014 data . . .

Real Name: John Eric Smith, which sounds like “Generic Smith” when you say it quickly, as if “John E. Smith” wasn’t generic enough. I use my middle name to avoid Pocahontas jokes and rolling eyes when I check into hotels.

Age: Old enough that it’s rude to ask

Personal Web site: http://www.jericsmith.com

Where do you work? I am the Executive Director of Salisbury House Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa.

What do you do when you’re not working? I work out at the gym, play golf with my wife, read books (mostly non-fiction, music-related biographies, natural history, and tales of human suffering), and occasionally indulge in weird spurts of coin collecting or fossil hunting or model rocket building or other equally geeky pursuits.

Where did you attend high school and college? I was a Marine Corps brat and attended four high schools in four years: two on Long Island, one in Rhode Island, and one in North Carolina. I graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, then attended the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens, Georgia, and (much later) received a Masters in Public Administration and Policy from Albany’s Rockefeller College.

Why do you blog? Because I love to write and tell stories, probably to the point of obsession, and if blogs didn’t exist, then I’d likely be filling up little notebooks that no one else would ever read. So why not share those musings publicly, since it’s so easy to do? Also, at this point, I blog from force of habit: 2014 marks my fourteenth year as a regular blogger (with a couple of break periods), and I still feel like I have something to share.

What’s the best / worst thing about blogging? The best thing is occasionally hearing from people who felt moved or inspired by words or ideas they found on my blog. The worst thing is occasionally hearing from people who felt hurt or insulted by words they found on my blog. Words have power, and it’s nice to be reminded of that fact every now and again. And at this stage in my life, I’d rather inspire than provoke. I did more than enough of the latter when I was young.

What’s surprised you the most about blogging? The fact that I’ve been able to do it for as long as I have, and that my audience, such as it is, appears to be sticking around. When I set up my first blog in September 2000, I figured it would be but a passing fancy, read only by a couple of loyal friends and family members for a month or two.

What advice would you give to other bloggers? I have been dismayed at how mean and competitive much of the blogosphere has become, and how much of it is made up of regurgitated content or Twitter-length bits of fluff and nothingness. I would encourage other bloggers to create original, personal, thoughtful material, rather than just pilfering and reposting the meme du jour, and to focus on the quality of your narrative, instead of doing whatever it takes to drive up your hit rates and comment counts. Such a lowest common denominator, bottom-line driven approach makes sense for those who get paid to blog by advertisers, but the vast majority of people blog only as a labor of love, and I think it’s important to hone and sharpen your own voices, rather than letting them be drowned out by the soul-sapping action in the comments section. You’ll be more successful (and happy) in the long-run if you worry more about your words than you worry about your stats.

What’s the last book you read? The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, an extraordinary story of a woman whose cancer cells thrived and survived, long after she died, and without her family’s consent or knowledge. Stranger than fiction.

What’s most played on your iPod? In the past month, the most played bands on my iPod have been The Bats, Melt Banana, PAS/CAL, Frightened Rabbit, The National, Napalm Death and So Cow.

Favorite movie? I can’t pick just one, but favorites include Aguirre: The Wrath of God, A Zed & Two Noughts, Network, Cool Hand Luke and A Clockwork Orange.

Favorite place to get away from it all? The hot tub in my backyard. Nothing better than watching birds by day or stars by night while stewing in 103 degree water.

Coffee or tea? One 12 ounce cup of black coffee in the morning, then weird, decaf herbal teas throughout the rest of the day.

Your hero? I consider anyone who serves honorably and faithfully for the public good to be heroic. I also count Muhammad Ali, Robert Fripp, Abraham Lincoln, my late father and my wife as life-long inspirations and role-models, each in their own individual ways.

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