Jun 01, 2004
I have a lot of interests. Most people refer to their fringe interests as hobbies. For the moment, let's just keep calling them... "interests". I experiment with computers, networks, programming, and web technology. I enjoy wrenching on cars. My wife and I perform in a local rock band. I like to dabble with recording equipment. And, most recently, I've begun playing with Legos. Yes. The plastic, inter-locking bricks. More specifically, Lego Mindstorms... programmable, robotics based on the MIT-designed programmable brick. Geek. Say it loud, say it proud.
During the day, I develop web pages for a financial institution. For a long time, my primary hobby was an extension of my "day job" (including this website). I enjoy the challenge of a complicated application embedded in a stark online layout. Tons of functionality, light on the eye-candy, easy to use. However, I found that spending all of my time in front of a computer coding web pages resulted in a light burn out. Although I enjoy coding, too much of it and I became numb... even disconnected from the code. If you have a favorite meal, and it is all you eat for a month, it won't be your favorite for long. So, I expanded this to home networking, home automation, home theater control, blah... blah... blah... Still too much of the same. Time for something different.
Cars. I've always had a strong interest in cars. Yet, I never knew that much about the real inner workings of them. I had a project car with a few bolt-on extras. I didn't need it to get me to work every day. A perfect opportunity to try something new. I went in elbows-deep. I learned a lot. I got another car. I spent more time (and money) on that one too. Even my daily driver has had it's share of modifications. This was more like it. My mind was still stimulated, but without the procedural constraints of code. There's as much sweat as thought in the process. Oh, yes, of course there's one more benefit. You can go fast. Good times.
An extension of my car hobby snuck up on me rather unexpectedly. A friend invited me to the Waterford Hills Road Racing course. This twisty 1.6 mile track entertains hundreds of SCCA club competitors and spectators. I ended up lending a hand, and eventually started working on the crew of a Spec Racer team. I've learned far more than I ever planned about suspension setup, engine internals, and tire choice. The friendships formed at the track have become some of my best. I also, unexpectedly, met the wonderful woman who would later become my wife at the track! (Our driver's daughter... which means he has crew for life!)
In addition to working on the Spec Racer team, I've recently began competing in Detroit-area SCCA Solo 2 events. Although I'm not quite "competitive" yet, I'm having a lot of fun, and of course, learning a lot. When I have a chance, I try to take one of my cars to Milan Dragway. It's a good quick speed fix while providing a valuable set of metrics the evaluate the modifications I've made. The down side to automotive hobbies... er... interests? Cost. Cars and their parts are expensive. Each incremental improvement in performance proves to be more and more addictive. Not a good combination.
Another costly pursuit is music. Not only does performing require having the right equipment, but recording (whether it by in your home studio, or at a professional studio) can cost thousands. Although there is some potential to make a few dollars performing, it's usually only enough to pay for gas or drinks for the night.
It appeared as though I had a collection of interests that were fighting for funding as well as attention. I tried to solve this with yet another distraction: Lego Mindstorms. I could vent my creative build-up, contain my programming urges, and exercise my engineering interest with a collection of re-usable pieces combined with a flexible, yet relatively simple programming language. Perfect! A relatively small initial investment and I had all of the basic parts I needed to get started. Two more sets later and I have enough parts to keep me going for years without another significant expenditure. I've found Legos to be therapeutic... relaxing even. So far, it has proven to be a good compromise.
I still return to my other interests on a regular basis, although with less intensity than before. I have a collection of car parts to be installed, ideas for new music, and websites to maintain. I'm trying to focus on our music and recording until I have room (possibly at a new house) to work on my cars properly. Of course, if we do move, the new house will be our "hobby", at least momentarily...
I've made a hobby of my interests. Until I can focus on one, and only one, I doubt I'll excel at any one of them. I'm always hungry to learn. That's the common thread between these diversions. I'm enjoying learning. Although being competitive in Solo 2, mastering the guitar, and exploiting the latest web technology are great aspirations, I'm quite content learning about all of them, rather than limiting myself to only one.
Further information and related links:
Rogerbox. The band mentioned above.
Waterford Hills Race Track
My First Project Car
My Second Project Car
My Daily Driver
Our Seasonal Race Results
Photos From A Recent Solo 2 Event
Photos From A Recent Waterford Race
Ann Arbor Lego Robotics Group