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David B Solnit grew up in North Haven, Connecticut. He uses his middle initial to differentiate himself from his second cousin David P Solnit, a noted Bay Area activist.

He has a Ph.D. in linguistics from U.C. Berkeley, specializing in historical and descriptive linguistics of China and mainland Southeast Asia. He has done field work in Thailand and China on minority languages of those countries and published one book and various articles resulting from that research. Currently he works writing documentation for Five9, a contact center software company. He is also a musician, concentrating on traditional music of the British Isles (on fiddle) and the Balkans (on clarinet, in the band Ensemble Meraklii–Google it!).

David has studied Lanshou and Shaolin kungfu with Sifu Jensen since 2003 and has just started to learn Taijiquan. He finds the physical conditioning, body mechanics, and presence of mind cultivated by kungfu to be of the utmost value and credits it with his condition being as good as it is at age 68. He hates it when he has to miss a class.