A few words with The Man With All The Answers…
Who are you?
I’m Chris Lemon. Who the hell are you?
Hey, you put this page up, what do you expect?
Fair enough. I’m an IT-type residing in Redmond (just outside of Seattle), Washington. I moved up here in 1998, and I’ve found it quite to my liking. The previous twenty-some-odd years of my life were spent in Monterey, California.
Monterey! Why, that’s a beautiful place! Why would you ever leave?
No question, it’s a beautiful chunk of earth. But once I grew up and was able to do my own thing, I quickly determined it wasn’t my cup of tea. I like being close to cities, and all they offer. I love pro sports, I enjoy big name entertainment, and having access to major stores, and I like it all being in my backyard. To accomplish any of that in Monterey required at least an hour-plus drive to San Jose. Seattle is worth living in for the skyline alone. I love seeing the skyline of downtown across Lake Union as I cross the Ship Canal Bridge. One of these days I’ll figure out how to take a picture of it, seeing as you can’t just pull over in the middle of the Ship Canal Bridge unless you’re the president or Mancow Muller.
Plus my job there sucked and I was able to start a new career up here actually making a livable wage.
What did you do there?
Well, in high school I wanted to go to college, learn to program, and design video games for Atari. Then I ran into the Calculus Wall, and decided a college degree in the computer sciences wasn’t in my future. About that same time I accompanied a friend out to the high-school radio station he was working at (91.9, KSPB, in Pebble Beach), and found The Thing I Am Good At: talking on the radio. So I changed majors and finished my degree at San Jose State University (check my resume for that whole sordid story), spent a little time when I finished school working at a little AM station on Cannery Row, and then got the job at KCBA-TV (and, later, KION-TV) that I would keep for the next four years.
There, I did pretty much everything, short of being on the air, which is where I really wanted to be. (On radio, anyhow. I freely admit I don’t have the look for TV. But I’m also not camera-shy; I’d do it if I was offered.) The combination of that and the station’s ability to not pay the crewmembers a livable wage (this happens when you are in the one-hundred-teens of the top 121 television markets) convinced me to seek a different career, which brought me to Seattle in 1998.
Okay, so what do you do here?
It’s on the resume. Worked at Microsoft for a while getting my chops in tech support, spent some time finishing my MCSE certification after that, and then got hired on at then-Infogrames (now Atari, though not the one you probably remember, as the brand name has changed hands about a billion times since the days of the 2600) as a phone support tech, and quickly got myself OFF of the phones (you can only do that so long, and between six months there and MS, I had reached my mental limit), and into a technical writing position. It was a lot of fun…I was being paid to play video games, figure out what kinds of problems people might have with them, and write about it.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and after almost four and a half years of faithful service, I got laid off in March of 2005.
After bouncing around a little, it seems that life has come full-circle; I’m back at Microsoft again; before I was working on the MSN Games website, but right now I am writing for Xbox Online Support.
What do you do with your free time?
Well, lessee. I’ve been a video game nut ever since I was teeny, and I still love playing the classics. (MAME rules.) I have, over the course of my life, owned an Odyssey 2, Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, and a Sony PlayStation 2. (The obvious holes in that history: the Super Nintendo and the original PlayStation; they were owned by my brother.) Currently attached to the ol’ plasma TV are an Xbox 360 (my Gamertag on Xbox Live, unsurprisingly, is Fred Smythe), and a Nintendo Wii. Oh, and originally I forgot to mention the handhelds: I’ve had four Nintendo GameBoys (original, Color, Advance, and Advance SP), two Atari Lynx’s, and my current travelling companion is a Nintendo DS Lite.
Really, I’ve always loved games of all sorts…I had my first Monopoly set when I was 8 or so, and the collection has only grown since then. A few years ago I discovered European-style board games, like Settlers of Catan and Puerto Rico and the like, and found out that there are groups of people around here who gather to play them, and it’s been great. It’s ALMOST like I have a social life! :) Current favorites among those include Notre Dame, Race For The Galaxy, and Tichu, the greatest card game in the known universe. :)
Obviously, I’m a proud geek, or I wouldn’t have this site. My first computer was an Apple IIc that I was given as a Christmas gift in 1984. In 1991 I bought my first Intel-based PC, a 386/25 with 4 MB of RAM, a Sound Blaster, 87 MB hard drive, a color monitor (quite a step up from the 9″ green screen that came with the IIc), and a 9-pin dot-matrix printer…as I recall, the total bill came to a hair under three grand. (Oy.) Other areas of technological geekdom involve audio/visual stuff; connecting it all together so a system works as well as it can fascinates me, and it lets me use at least a little bit of what I learned in college.
I also like sports, especially hockey. Started in high school with a friend of mine who was a die-hard Islanders fan…I hopped on the Edmonton Oilers / Wayne Gretzky bandwagon (well, they were winning), and followed Wayne when he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. Then, about the same time I went away to San Jose to finish college, the NHL expanded and awarded a team to San Jose. I still stuck with the Kings (can you blame me? The Sharks blew chunks their first two years), and attended my first San Jose Sharks game in November of 1993, a 1-0 victory over the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. (Bob Errey had the game winner, Arturs Irbe pitched the shutout.) I was hooked. I’ve been a diehard Sharks fan ever since. (And “diehard” is about as appropriate a term as it gets when it comes to the Sharks.) I’ll watch damn near anything, though; baseball, basketball, Arena Football, Australian Rules, soccer (go Sounders!), you name it.
I still have an interest in broadcasting, and would love to get back into it sometime. (For the last several years I’ve been the announcer for the Seattle Women’s Hockey Club’s annual benefit.) If you’re reading this in the Seattle area and you know of a team that needs a public address announcer, or you need a co-host for your radio show, hit the mail link on your left or click here and let me know! I have an FCC license and everything! I do weddings and bar mitzvahs! (Well, I’ve never actually done a wedding or a bar mitzvah, but if anyone knows of a radio broadcast emanating from either, and they’re giving out those little hot dogs, I’m there.)
Cooking has been a recent fascination for me. Actually, I’ve always loved to cook, but living on my own has brought me to realize that my mom is an INCREDIBLE cook, and taught me well. I’ve been dabbling in Oriental cuisine of late, and would like to learn some Mexican dishes other than browning up ground beef for tacos. Food Network came to Seattle in 2001, and I have some 120 episodes of Iron Chef on videotape. Good Eats is the best show on TV today, and I’ve had the honor of meeting the master, Alton Brown, in person on two occasions now.
Do you watch a lot of television?
Even before video games, I’ve had what could generously be called an obsession with the television game show. (One of these days it might merit it’s own page on this site, but right now I’m of the opinion that there are plenty of sites out there that do it far better than I can.) If I could have any job in the world, it would be that of a television game show host. If I could have any job but THAT, it would be as a game show announcer. My favorite era would be the flashing lights, bright sets, and bells of the 1970’s and 1980’s (this Millionaire stuff doesn’t do a damned thing for me), but I make an effort to educate myself across the entire genre. Favorite shows include the Dick Clark versions of the $10,000 / $20,000 / $25,000 / $100,000 Pyramid (I have problems with the recent Donny Osmond incarnation), Concentration, Sale Of The Century, Card Sharks, and the short-lived Whew! and Go.
I’m a sucker for reality TV, especially Survivor and Big Brother. House is a must-TiVo for me. Lost started to get good again towards the end of the fifth season, and I’m hoping that means these last couple of years are actually going to start wrapping things up.
How about music? What do you listen to?
I grew up in the 80’s. I apparently never grew OUT of the 80’s. Def Leppard, Duran Duran, The Cars, Huey Lewis and the News, Thompson Twins, Culture Club, Billy Idol, all of it. You get the idea. I could go on, but I’d be trying your patience. I listen to a lot of other stuff too, but far and away I listen to 80’s stuff more than anything else.
Okay. So who’s this Fred guy?
Well, I’m him. Or he’s me. Or something. Way back in fifth grade I was goofing around with a friend of mine and a tape recorder, and we were taping a comedy bit of some kind (well, I’m sure we thought it was funny, anyhow), and we need a name for a character. And we came up with Fred Smythe. And it stuck. I ended up using it as a general pseudonym, then, when I got interested in computers, it became my “hacker name”, for lack of a better term (nom de hack?), and I’ve been known to use it as a radio airname, as well. I don’t hide behind it, it’s not a secret identity, and I’ve been known to answer to either Fred or Chris on the street, depending what street I’m on and the likelihood of someone else on that street actually knowing me as Fred.
So now you know the whole Fred Smythe story. Aren’t you sorry you asked? :)
A little. Anything else to add?
Not really. Obviously, if I do, I’ll do it here. If you think I should add something, let me know! If it’s a genuinely good question, I may just answer it here!