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See! I am overfull of my wisdom, like the bee that has gathered too much honey; I need outstretched hands; I would like to give away and share, until the wise among human beings have once again grown glad for their riches. -- Nietzsche, "The Gay Science"


ONCE UPON A TIME, my parents, Bastiaan and Priscilla Schouten met while attending the University of California, Santa Barbara. My mother, a second generation Mexican-American, was pursuing her bachelor’s, while my father, a Dutch-born immigrant who moved to the U.S. at the age of eight, went on to careers as specialists in economic development, working for the U.S. Peace Corps, The World Bank (just my father), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

While they were stationed in Washington D.C, I was born on March 24, 1975. Six months later, we moved to La Paz, Bolivia, for two years. Subsequent to that, we quickly made idyllic San Jose, Costa Rica our home for six years. Then we moved to San Salvador, El Salvador for another four. This was during the Civil War, and was in every other respect, wholly wonderful. I was deeply affected by the experience, gaining a longstanding antipathy for communism, and its subsidiary value-systems.

I did not return to the United States to live (2 or 6 weeks of R&R doesn’t count) until I was thirteen, were we settled in Falls Church, VA. Braving acute reverse culture shock, I attended George C. Marshall High School, “Home of the Statesmen”. In retrospect, beside the authoritarian administrators, I have great praise for the public school system of Northern Virginia – I graduated with a far greater of general knowledge, due to a curriculum stocked with many Gifted & Talented and Advanced Placement courses, than many of my peers receiving different public schooling.

Keeping up with America’s strategic interests, my parents were re-assigned to the Middle East (Mom in Egypt, Dad in Jordan), and I jumped at the chance to go with them. Living in Egypt was for me, my family, and my expatriate peers, a magical time. As for my Egyptian peers, they were thrilled to see that I was digging their country as much as they did, and did not complain about all things under the sun (as most other expatriates often do). While there, I attended the American University in Cairo, and as one year turned into three, I emerged after receiving a true liberal arts education.

That is not a typo, but a real-life irony. The school’s mission (and the reason why many of the Egyptian elite shelled out the extra cash) was to teach a liberal arts curriculum. And they did it with great aplomb.

During this time, I was fortunate to work as a summer intern at the U.S. Embassy. My internships at USAID, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service were all incredibly positive experiences, and I have yet to see any organization rival the professionalism and esprit de corps of Foreign Service officers and Foreign Service nationals to this day.

Returning to the U.S. and moving to California, I entered school at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and began studying philosophy in the most bucolic setting I could ever imagine. If there is one problem with this school, it is that it simply too beautiful and laid back, and when combined with a hedonistic streak, has a synergistic effect, negating any incentive for a student to graduate and leave.

During that stop, I began working at a PR firm, for a little under two years. Flacking is a hard job, people. It's a little like the CIA, I suppose, because if you do your job you're invisible and someone else gets the glory, and if you mess it up, you're the goat, period.

After those years of languid torpor in Santa Barbara, I had to leave that all that youth and beauty that put the zap on my brain, and I returned home to live with my folks. They had retired, and bought a beautiful ranch house near where my mom was born, in California’s Central Valley.

In this pastoral setting I found myself translating and designing ads for El Sol, the Spanish language sister publication of the Modesto Bee, and entering yet a third school, CSU Stanislaus. It is one the best-kept secrets in American higher education today: budget-friendly, low faculty-to-student ratio, and excellent professors. I cannot speak highly enough of this school.

After graduating in the Spring of 2004 with a B.A in philosophy, I've begun to apply to various law schools, for admission in Fall 2005. What kind of law, you ask? Don’t know. What I do know is that a J.D. is the most flexible degree out there and they’ll never find a way to outsource lawyers.

Meanwhile, I've found success selling advertising for a local, community newspaper, the Los Banos Enterprise, where I have learned a couple of things about advertising. First, it is not the devil's handiwork, creating imaginary needs for stupid people who do not know any better; rather, it is as Winston Chruchill once said,

Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. It sets up before a man the goal of a better home, better clothing, better food for himself and his family. It spurs individual exertion and greater production.

An indispensable part of our contemporary economy, advertising is also necessary ingredient to sustain our communities and the public dialogue. Commercial speech, you see, doesn't get much credit for the dual role that it plays in society -- due to the virulent prejudice against commercial activity that continues to exist in far too many worldviews. Commerce is a vital part of community, and the singular links between businesses to consumers and business to businesses form the infrastructures of those communities. Moreover, without advertisers and advertising revenues, it would be near impossible for media outlets to provide a forum for free speech and political intercourse. Put simply: commercial speech underwrites free speech.

So, you ask, why blog? Because I have free speech... and I have much to say.

If you like, you may review a copy of my Curriculum Vitae.