Mary Madigan was born near Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where her father was in the Army Corps of Engineers. When her father's tour of duty was up a year later, her parents took a three-month-long road trip around America. She doesn't remember much about the trip, but she retains a fondness for camping and long road trips. Mary grew up in Martha Stewart and Tony Blake's home town, Nutley, New Jersey, and has lived in Germany, Pennsylvania, Oxfordshire, Northern California, Cape May and (currently) Hoboken, NJ. She is married to Bruce Parker, a software consultant. They have two children: a son of 21, currently studying aerospace engineering at Boston University, and a daughter of 15 who plans to study marine biology. Mary blogs at Exit Zero, she's also part of the crew at Dean's World, and she guest blogs at Michael J. Totten.
Why do you blog? > It's a way of making your voice heard - a more powerful version of letters to the editor.
What has been your best blogging experience? > I love when people say 'I didn't know that before - thanks for telling me about it.'
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Spammers.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Say whatever you want. It's your blog.
What are you reading at the moment? > Confessions of a Yakuza by Junichi Saga, Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic, and Dead I May Well Be by Adrian McKinty.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Mark Twain, Chuck Yeager, Irshad Manji, Philip Johnson, Walker Evans.
What is your favourite song? > 'King of the Road' (the original by Roger Miller).
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I've changed my mind about almost everything.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Enlightenment values and Stephen Jay Gould's idea of the Great Asymmetry - that every act of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the 'ordinary' efforts of a vast majority.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Pacifism.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. There is more to life than we perceive. Hawking explains the world beyond perception in terms simple enough to understand.
Who are your political heroes? > Rudy Giuliani, Winston Churchill.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.' - Edmund Burke.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > To establish a zero tolerance policy towards terrorism and the people who support it. That means zero tolerance of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Sinn Fein, Saudi Royalty, etc.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Totalitarian, supremacist ideologies. Right now, the Islamist version of those ideologies.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > The best is yet to come.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > No risk, no reward.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Keeping an open mind, empathy.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Deliberate cruelty.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > I try not to lie, but I will expand or delete part of the truth to avoid hurting someone's feelings.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > If I've changed my mind about something based on good, solid evidence, and if others don't change their minds based on the same evidence, I get impatient with them.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'You can't have everything. Where would you put it.' - Stephen Wright.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > My family's health.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > No, my kids are healthy, and we've got enough money to send them to college. No reason to change.
What would you call your autobiography? > Fools Rush In.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > On a sailboat on whatever coast happens to be warm at the time.
What would your ideal holiday be? > I'd love to tour space on Space Ship One. Or, in the other direction, a tour in one of those into-the-abyss submarines.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Visiting new places, taking pictures.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Doing tours and aerobatic flying in an antique biplane.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I did have a large sum of money, during the dot-com boom. A little extra money is nice, but enormously large sums mean brokers, lawyers, inheritance and estate issues. Maintaining the money becomes a full-time job. The dot-com bust solved the too-much-money problem. Still, compared to important experiences like meeting my husband and having my kids, having lots of money doesn't seem to be an experience worth knocking yourself out for.