All About Me...
The Useless Information website was created by me, Steve Silverman, in the very early days of the World Wide Web. I never recorded the exact date that I started the website (most likely in July/August 1994), but I still have e-mail messages dating back to 1995. At the time, there were only an estimated 25,000 websites worldwide.
For thirty years, I was a science teacher at Chatham High School, which is located near Albany, New York. I taught both Physics and Earth Science. I originally started collecting these stories as a way to make my classes more interesting, although little of what I researched outside of school ever made it into the classroom.
I was born in Brooklyn, NY. That’s a picture of me at birth on the left.
When I turned eight years old, my parents picked up and moved to the boonies – the tiny town of Thompsonville in the Catskill mountains of New York. (Not too far from the site of the 1969 Woodstock concert.) Don’t drive through Thompsonville quickly – if you blink you may miss it.
From third grade through graduation, I attended the Monticello Central School district. My solid B average and typical teenage lack of motivation assured me that I would win no awards at the graduation ceremony. (Unless you include perfect attendance in my senior year.) Check out my yearbook picture on the right. (You have to laugh at that one.)
After my high school graduation, I was off to college. I chose an incredibly warm place – the University at Buffalo (in Buffalo, NY – where else?) Cold, windy, and snowy. Just like the weather in the tropics…
It was here that I finally buckled down and became a serious student. I spent four years at the university studying the exciting field of Geology (better known as ROCKS! to the rest of the world). Personally, I have little interest in the actual rocks themselves. I am a big fan of glacial geology, which is the study of the remnants of the past ice ages. If I had stayed at SUNY Buffalo, I would have studied existing glaciers in very warm places such as Alaska and Antarctica.
In what probably was an effort to avoid working in the real world, I headed off to grad school. My choice was close by – The University of Rochester. The picture to the right is of me in 1986 in one of the science labs. I was probably around 21 years old at the time.
I spent two years there studying – you guessed it – geology! I was studying the rocks of the mantle of this great home planet that we call Earth. It was boooring. (I don’t think that I put enough O’s in…) I originally planned on getting a Ph.D. but decided to cut back to the Master’s level. It was a good choice, as I ended up serving as Chief Student Marshal (similar to valedictorian) representing all of the Arts and Sciences Masters candidates at the graduation ceremony.
After graduation, I quickly found out that there were no jobs available in the field of geology. As a result, I worked for two years as a combination sales engineer/marketing manager for a company near my parents’ home. The company sold industrial controls that would require pages to describe. It had all of the hints of a dead-end job, so I knew that it was time to move on.
I decided to go back to school to become a science teacher. I had saved enough money up to cover all my bills for a year of schooling. I attended SUNY New Paltz and received my New York State teaching certificates in earth science, chemistry, and general science. I completed the requirements for my physics certification one year later. After having studied for years in the “hard” sciences, I found the preparation for becoming a teacher incredibly easy.
Somehow, I only went on one interview and ended up as an Earth Science teacher at Chatham High School, located in the wonderful small-town of Chatham in upstate New York. Three years later I switched to teaching Physics. I retired in June 2020. Since this was during the pandemic and the school was closed, I filmed the video on the left as a goodbye to my students. It includes some of my favorite science demonstrations of all time.
My favorite television show of all time is The Twilight Zone. I can’t say that I have seen all of the episodes, but I have seen quite a few. (I stayed up way too late in high school.) There were many excellent episodes, but I love Time Enough at Last. That is the episode where the late Burgess Meredith loves to read and read and read, but his wife constantly taunts him about it. While on his lunch break at the bank that he works for, he goes into the bank vault for a quiet reading space. When he comes back out, he finds that the whole world has been blown to smithereens and that he is the last man alive. He now has all the time in the world to read, but in the typical Twilight Zone twist, his glasses shatter and he can no longer see the printed word.
I love to go to the movies. Among my favorites are The Shawshank Redemption, Rear Window, Psycho (I’m a big Hitchcock fan), and The Wizard of Oz. I can’t think of the worst. I guess I just put the bad ones out of my mind and forget about them.
So what do I do in my spare time? I spend a lot of my time reading. In particular, I love to read old newspapers. Years ago, the only way to do this was to go to the library and load up reels of microfilm, but now all it takes is a few clicks of a mouse button to pull up some old articles.
Of course, I don’t limit myself to just reading.
In the summertime, I love to ride my bike and go on hikes with my wife Mary Jane. For a good hike, we have been known to go up into the Adirondack mountains or head down to Lake Minnewaska near New Paltz.
I am also an avid inventor. I’m sure that I have over one hundred inventions in various stages of development. Some are worth nothing and others are worth a fortune. My first invention, the Expandable Universe, is still in the prototype stage. It is the first truly expandable enclosure for small birds, reptiles, small pets, plants, and small children (just kidding on that children part!). You can see it at ExpandableUniverse.com.
As for the books Einstein’s Refrigerator, Lindbergh’s Artificial Heart, and The Flip Side of History, that was just a fluke. You read all the time about authors who spend years trying to sell their manuscripts. I took the complete opposite approach. I never even tried. Writing a book was the farthest thing from my mind. Then, a literary agent in New York City stumbled across my website and thought that it would make a great book. He contacted me, but I really wasn’t interested. My friend Barb, however, got on my case and had me call him. The rest just fell into place. Hey, I even got a full page in the National Enquirer from writing my first book. You know that you’re something when you make the Enquirer…
Lastly, here’s a picture of my wife Mary Jane and me outside of our garage standing over one of her mutant flowers: