Personal information for Michael Ernst

I am married to the incomparable Catherine Howell. Cat is an adult ESOL teacher and administrator, with particular interest in working with immigrant communities in the U.S. but a broader interest in community services and nonprofit administration generally. Her PhD dissertation was on how beginners learn vocabulary in a classroom setting, and she has spoken on this topic at a number of linguistics conferences.

Cat and I have two wonderful children, Maeve Howell and Silas Ernst. Cat, Maeve, and Silas are the light of my life.

Needless to say, my family is my priority. But there is also time for other sorts of fun. Seattle is a great place for family, but also for many other pursuits.

Cat and I met while dancing the Lindy Hop. Lindy is the original swing dance, out of Harlem in the 1920s. We love the big band sound, the rhythmic athleticism, and the improvisation within the strictures of the 8-count bar. Once upon a time, I performed Lindy Hop.

I ride my bicycle every day. As my grad school compatriots can tell you, I always wear a helmet — safety first! I can ride fast, and I can take it easy: I've ridden Seattle to Portland in one day, and I've spent a month circumnavigating Ireland. I'm occasionally known to put on running shoes as well.

I enjoy exploring the mountains of the Cascades, Olympics, and beyond, on boots, skis, or snowshoes. The North Cascades are my personal favorite for alpine climbing. I have also climbed glacial peaks like Mt. Rainier, and I have done some tricky spots in climbing slippers. Cat and I spent the first week of our honeymoon climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. (It's not a technical climb, but it's rather high.)

Our family is bilingual in English and Spanish. Cat is fluent in German as well. We love to travel, and Cat has posted some pictures and tales at her blog.

I juggle all these interests, and also literally. I can juggle 5 balls. However, I find it much more compelling to pass clubs with a partner, improvisationally choosing tricks and playing off one another's style. Some people compare it to jazz jamming. Or dancing.

When I am sitting to be entertained, live theater has the best chance of keeping my attention. I am not a particularly good sports fan: I need to participate in a sport an order of magnitude more than I watch it in order to retain my interest in the stands or on my sofa. (So, there was a time when I enjoyed watching hockey.)

I am mostly vegetarian. I don't eat land animals, mammals, farmed animals, or bottom-feeders. I do eat dairy, and I eat some fish: Pacific Northwest wild salmon is too good to give up! There is no one single reason for my choice; rather, it stems from my concern for the environment, animal welfare, and my health. No, it doesn't bother me if you eat meat: you can put whatever you want in your own body.

I have done volunteer work for many nonprofit organizations, and I've served on the boards of directors of several. One particular interest is the effect of technology on society. I can sometimes be found submitting patches to open source software when I should be doing real work. (Writing software is fun! Writing correct and reliable software is even more fun! That is what motivates my research.) When there is time, though there is never enough, I am an avid reader and correspondent. As an MIT undergraduate, I lived at TEP, which is not your average fraternity.


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