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Header: Jess Anderson in Madison Wisconsin
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Hobbies
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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.

Model airplanes
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.

Model trains
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 trains.

Bicycles
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.

Photography
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.

Computers
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.

Submarines
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.

Camping
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.

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