I've had a lot of hobbies, because I'm interested in just about
everything. One of my early mantras was "I want to know it
all," but I especially like things one can do,
things with tangible, visible results. I'm very adept
mechanically and can fix just about any mechanical thing that's
broken. But not cars: getting really greasy-black dirty never
appealed to me.
As a kid, I made model airplanes, absolutely loved doing it,
and spent endless hours, painstakingly cutting out things from
balsa-wood sheets and strips. Plastic models were then unknown.
Small gasoline and diesel engines for models existed but were
expensive. Besides, a purist element in me disdained anything
other than rubber bands for powered flight. Finding the very
best rubber bands was a great challenge, I remember. Another
challenge was making the plane strong enough not to implode
when tightly wound up but not so heavy it wouldn't fly well.
Later I took up HO-gauge model railroading, which was quite a
lot more work and operationally much less sophisticated than it
is today. There were no finished kits, no microprocessors, and
not many small electric motors. I had a small layout, but
always coveted the huge O-gauge one at the Museum of Science
and Industry in Chicago. (Grandness of scale appealed to me
more then than now, I guess.)
I loved real trains too, which were mostly steam back
then. On Saturday mornings, I would sometimes go on my bike way
to the south side of Peoria (then something of a rail hub)
where the railroad yards were. There I would hang around the
roundhouse, wandering through the sheds, watching these guys do
maintenance and repair work on enormous locomotives. Needless
to say, I knew all the details of the different kinds, when and
where they were made, how they worked, and all that.
It may seem odd -- I doubt such a thing would be allowed today
because of insurance requirements, but I very quickly
discovered that the railroad guys did not mind having a
12-year-old kid hanging around, as long as he stayed out the
way and knew what he was talking about. This led to such fun
things as being allowed to actually operate the train in
the yard, taking the engine out of the shed onto the turntable,
getting it pointed down the right track, getting water and coal
added to the engine tender car, firing up the stoker, blowing
off the extra steam pressure (a wonderful racket, I thought),
and so forth. Then I would go home and add detail to my model
Then came bicycles. There was this guy, Dick, who lived in my
apartment building when I was 13 or so. He was about 16. I
adored Dick, but Dick loved bikes, not boys, and was the
neighborhood's bike fix-it guy. He taught me everything he knew
about it, I think. And of course I was quite handy. But in the
end, the grease got the better of me, at least until I bought a
good racing bicycle many years later.
I had two periods of intense interest in photography. In high
school, a friend and I learned to develop film and make contact
prints. Then in 1966 I bought my first really good 35 mm camera
and for the next six or seven years I shot roll after roll of
film and spent almost every night printing in a large and (for
the time) well-equipped darkroom in my basement.
I traveled around to art fairs, where fine photography was just
then making an inroad with serious art collectors. I was
flabbergasted, at the second such outing I exhibited in, when
the curator of the art museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin came to my
stand and bought six photos for the museum's collection. I also
won a ribbon for "best of show" at the whole event, which gave
me quite a swelled head for a time.
Since 1986, my profession seems to have become my main hobby.
At any rate I spend a large fraction of my spare time doing
things related to computers and computing. Probably the bulk of
this effort is connected in one way or another with writing.
The rest is tool-making, things for accomplishing particular
tasks. The programmer in me has never quite been laid to rest.
As other links on my site reveal, I'm tremendously interested
in submarines. One of the emerging interests is
radio-controlled model submarines, working models that run,
submerge, even launch torpedos and missiles. As this is a very
expensive hobby -- several thousand dollars a pop for a fairly
sophisticated model -- I have to think carefully what I really
want to accomplish before plunging into it more fully.
As for less sedentary pastimes, I love being outdoors. I could
probably live half my life outside, traveling around the
country or the world, living in a tent, eating simple grub,
bathing only once a week (or less!), wandering around and
simply taking it in. I think one thing I especially like about
camping is that I can be perfectly happy doing it alone. In
fact, unless the person with me is expert and very independent,
I prefer to be alone. I don't really do much on a camping trip,
just go for small hikes and sit around thinking about things,
looking at birds or other small animals, or even doing nothing
at all other than being in the place where I am.
This is enormously restorative, for some reason, especially if
I can spend time in a large forest. There is something about
trees. I tell people I have to go talk to the trees -- and of
course they think I'm nuts -- but I really do talk to trees,
and -- nuttier yet -- they talk back. Not being able to move
around more or less forces you to devote your attention to the
place where you are. Trees have this down, and people would be
well advised to work on it, I think. It can definitely lower
the level of tension in your life.