(I’m the hairy one)
Well, let’s see, I’m a fourty-something year old guy living in middle Tennessee along with my wife and two children. I’m a just some geek living in Tennessee. I can’t say for certain what my interests are at any given point in time though it’s safe to say since I’m writing this for my web site that web design is among them at the moment. I have a tendency to latch on to a random hobby for some period of time with obsessive tenacity and then just as quickly drop it. It’s a good bet I have this or something like it. *Shrug* oh well. It’s never a dull moment anyway.
By trade (and occasionally as a hobby), I’m a software developer. I work for a company called Mercury Intermedia and also do some indie work from time to time. I was never formally educated in computer science, rather I taught myself BASIC and then 6502 assembly on an Atari 400 that we had back in 1983 or so. I didn’t seriously consider trying to make a living as a developer when I was younger. I sort of stumbled into it as a 21 year old working in the production department of what was then Harrison Systems. After having already written some trinkets in AutoLISP, C, and some crazy language for our component locator machines, I was given a shot at writing some code in 8051 assembly for the engineering department… to be used in actual products! I guess they liked my work since they gave me a full time position in engineering. Since then I’ve written in software in more languages than I care to try and list at the moment, but these days it’s mostly Objective-C.
About the Site
Not much to say really. It’s got a blog thingy so I can ramble on about whatever it is I feel like talking to no one in particular about. There’s a whole bunch of genealogical information here too. I can’t take much credit for the research, but wow did I do a lot of typing. If it’s something you find useful, please let me know! I also have (or will have) a gallery. In theory I take family type pictures and my scattered relations can marvel at how big the kids are getting and such just by logging on and looking at the latest snapshots. This worked much better in the past when I was actually taking pictures. The site also gives me an outlet for graphic design, web design and so forth. So it’s basically one of my little playgrounds. And if people find something here that’s useful/interesting, that’s just a bonus.
As mentioned above, I have a tendency to run through “hobbies”. I thought it might be fun (for me anyway) to provide a little summary of some of the things that I’ve become absorbed in over the years. Perhaps it will be therapeutic for me in some way.
- Agronomy (specifically my lawn) – When we moved into our house in 1997 I really really really wanted to have a nice lawn. I worked hard on it, I read books, rented an aerator, I bought a thatch rake for God’s sake. My lawn not only was having none of it, it actually would taunt me by looking nice for a few weeks and then spontaneously die just to spite me. My lawn doesn’t like me and I don’t like it. Something like this is beginning to hold more and more appeal to me.
- Airplane Pilot – I began taking lessons in earnest in July of 1999 and received my private pilot certificate in November of 1999. Flying really is a lot of fun. It’s also time consuming to fly enough to be safe and fantastically expensive. After flying myself and my family to Detroit for a visit in November of 2003 I gave up flying a few months later with around 120 hours of flight logged. I still have a notion to get my instrument rating some day.
- Artificial Life – Something I’ve messed with on and off through the years. Beginning with Conway’s Game of Life and progressing through Tierra and the like. I read bits on Organic Chemistry in hopes of trying to write some sort of simulation. I never really get very far with this one though. ALife done right is really freaking hard. I’ve also poked around with AI, mostly natural language processing starting with Eliza back when I was a teenager and more recently ALICE.
- Astronomy – By the time I got around to Astronomy I began to realize how to deal with the more expensive compulsions I have. Instead of running out and buying the $900 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope I had decided I needed, I settle for a nice pair of binoculars, a book or two and some software. I wanted to make real sure that I was going to stick with this hobby before making any big purchases. It didn’t stick.
- Blackjack – This could fall under the heading of applied mathematics, i.e. trying to figure a way to beat the system. My first trip to Vegas was as a 21 year old and I had practiced the basic strategy and also a betting system that seemed unlikely to lose. Sadly I neglected to work the actual math. I lost. Not badly, but enough to give up my dream of making a living as a professional blackjack player. Years later I decided counting cards might work and a bought a book on the subject and practiced before heading out to Vegas again. I even wrote a simulator to study various betting styles and gather information. Counting cards is difficult… not Rainman difficult, but difficult enough to make playing no fun even though you can eek a tiny little profit with favorable conditions
- Blogging (web design) – I’ve had a little home on the internet in one form or another since 1998. Mostly because I like to dabble in technology, especially if it’s so accessible. Also, with my family spread out all over the country it’s a handy place to let my family know what’s going on (I know, normal people use telephones), post pictures of the kids and so forth. It’s also been a handy place to share my genealogy and software. My interest has waxed and waned through the years, but because it’s marginally related to programming it always comes back.
- Boating – This should really say personal water craft because that’s what I owned for a period of time. Turns out that owning a Sea-Doo did not lead to a particularly healthy lifestyle for me as it was mainly used as transportation to and from an area on Percy Priest Lake known as Party Cove. I’m pretty sure every lake has a Party Cove, and if you’ve been you know what I’m talking about. Since I’m a… ahem… responsible adult now, I avoid Party Cove. That doesn’t mean that I’ve given up completely on boating though. Lately I’ve been trying to talk my ever so patient wife into the idea of a Pontoon Boat. It’s not going over so well.
- Chess – I’ve been playing chess off an on since about the 3rd grade or so. Chess is quite simply the closest thing to a perfect game as there is. Played well it’s as much art as game. And if that’s true then you can liken my chess playing to the crayon scribblings created by my 5 year old. I’d really like to play chess well, I’ve read books, bought the various Chessmaster games and thought about trying to get a rating. But my attention span won’t allow me to progress very far in my understanding of the game. If I were to guess I’d say my rating would be around 1200. Right now chess isn’t on my radar. But I have no doubt I’ll come back to it again. It’s one of the very few things that has stuck with me (more or less) for most of my life.
- Coin collecting – Dad got me started on this as a kid and I’ve actually come back to it from time to time. Though not with any real enthusiasm. They’re nice to take down and look at from time to time. But collecting these days isn’t like when I was a kid. I don’t want coins hermetically sealed in bullet proof plastic with an official grade from NGC. I like holding an object created 150 or more years ago and considering the history it passed through. Coin collecting feels sterile and more about the investment opportunities and less about the history these days.
- Drawing – I used to love drawing and I probably still would, but whatever creative outlet I used to get from it has probably been replaced with web design and Photoshop. This hobby peaked a long long time ago. Though recently my wife and I were at a Michael’s store where I lingered in the drawing section looking at pencils and mulling over a return to drawing. My wife encouraged me to go for it, but I was a little leery. “You know how I am”, I mentioned. I left Michael’s with a set of pencils, paper, and erasers. I think I may have gotten as far as sharpening the pencils and that was about a year ago.
- Fitness – For the longest time the idea of a regimented fitness program of any sort held no appeal whatsoever for me. While I may have taken up a few minor related hobbies that I’m not listing here such as cycling, and rollerblading, I did so because for reasons other than fitness. Though exercise was a happy side effect. This all changed when I hit my mid-30s and began to feel the effects of time and a disdain for a regimented fitness program. I went though a period of regular morning walks, exercise, even yoga. But it was boring. Then my wife and I signed up with Gold’s Gym last year and we did really well, and it was actually pretty enjoyable. I felt great too. It all started to fall apart though in November of 2004 with the release of the most diabolically addictive video game ever devised (see the Video Games section). My membership is still active though and I plan to get back into it any day now… honest!
- Hiking / Backpacking – I’m not quite sure what first got me started with hiking. It may have been my desire to visit the “Bullet Hole”, which is an area in the Savage Gulf where my maternal grandparents lived in the 1930s. I know I also wanted to explore the Old Stagecoach Road that ran from McMinnville to Chattanooga and it is also in this area. Whatever the case I bought lots of hiking and backpacking gear and did quite a bit of hiking in 2002 and 2003. And though I did explore plenty of Savage Gulf, including a stay in Hobbs Cabin, I never did get around to hiking the Stagecoach Road. One of these days I’m going to get to that and the Appalachian Trail too. I’ve already done about a mile of the AT so I might as well do the other 2173 while I’m at it.
- Investing – Since I like playing with numbers and I especially like the appeal of making money with little perceived effort, this was bound to come up. And though I bought had mutual funds for a while and even bought some stock in the early 90s, the real fun didn’t start until the dot-com craze. Remember when we were all going to quit our jobs and become day traders? That was a lot of fun for awhile, and to be honest I think I came out ahead. Playing around in the options market was especially fun. But while it may seem like it’s an easy way to make money, it is not. It’s a lot of work and to be honest I’d rather let a bunch of finance geeks at a mutual fund firm take care of my investing.
- Keyboard Playing – Every now and again it occurs to me that it would be really cool if I knew how to play keyboard. The last time this notion hit me was a few years ago and I began researching synthesizers and going to music stores pressing combinations of keys that may or may not have been standard chords. I was looking at spending something on the order of $1000 but fortunately my mother came to the rescue and offered up her cheap but decent Casio that gave me the opportunity to determine that this was something that I wasn’t going to figure out in a few nights. This would take determination and patience. Not exactly my strong suit. One day maybe I’ll look at synths again, but if I do, I will be for use with MIDI and/or Garage Band.
- Geocaching – Just the excuse I needed to finally go out and buy a GPS receiver! This was a few years back and I found a few caches solo and took the kids to find some of the others and then for whatever reason, I just seemed to stop going after a couple months. Well lately I’ve rediscovered geocaching. It is a great way for me to get outside, see different places, and spend some time with me kids. We’ll see how long it can hold my attention this time around.
- Genealogy – A few years back there was a post on Slashdot about the Mormons making some huge genealogical database public on their FamilySearch site. So I figured I’d pop over and see what I could turn up. That little notion turned into a database containing over 5000 entries in my family tree and a whole lotta typing. And while I having been doing very much research lately, it’s still something that I try and update when other researchers send me corrections and additions. The plan is to start digging back into some research once things get a little more situated on the new site.
- Golf – Ah Golf! Such a deceptively simple little game. Hit the little while ball in the hole. Easy right? Go to a bookstore and take a peek at the section of books and magazines devoted to helping people get the little white ball in the hole in less strokes. Or try this: Google “golf tips”: 1,500,000 results. Compare this with “basketball tips”: 112,000 results, “bowling tips”: 101,000 results. Last year I went golf cuckoo and though this year an addiction of a different kind kept me off the links, don’t think I’ve played my last round of golf. I will figure this game out yet!
- Handguns – About 2 years ago I thought it would be fun to shoot things. I mean come on I’m American, I need to exercise my second amendment rights, right? I read magazines, surfed the net, and even went to a gun show and had all but settled on a Beretta 9000S but knowing my personality decided I’d wait and buy a BB Gun just to play with while I waited to see if the obsession would last. After putting a BB through my dining room window I thought better of it.
- Magic: The Gathering – In 1993 a little company named Wizards of the Coast came out with an odd little game based on collectible trading cards that went quietly unnoticed by me for about 1 year. And then I saw a news story about this craze sweeping the nation. Well I’m all about crazes so I had to try it out. This was roughly August of 1994 as The Dark had just been released. For about a year I was a rabid Magic fan and had a collection of roughly 3600 cards and even went so far as to join the Duelist Convocation in hopes of entering a few tournaments. But WotC was cranking out expansion after expansion to the game and it killed my enthusiasm when it was all I could do to just keep up. I stopped playing around the time Homelands was released in October of 1995 and finally sold my collection on ebay in 2001.
- Poker – I’ve always loved poker since I was a little kid and watched my Dad play with buddies from time to time. But I never had a regular game or anything like that. And then online poker happened. In late 2003 I decided to give it a try as I so happened to have a small account with an online sportsbook (a minor hobby in itself). I read, I made spreadsheets, I watched the World Series of Poker on TV and I actually didn’t do too bad online. I think I came out ahead or even after several months of playing. And then the next shiny think distracted me.
- Politics – Don’t even get me started.
- Pool – For a time I wanted to be Fast Eddie Felson. Me and my buddies in Michigan used to play all the time when we where kids since my best friend, Doug, had a table in his basement. After I left Michigan I stopped playing for awhile and then came back to it seriously. I had my own cue and everything and thought maybe I try and get good enough for tournament play. This was during a period of my life that, well let’s just say I wsan’t thinking clearly. I still play on occasion if I happen to be out with friends and there is a table nearby. But I have no desire to play like Fast Eddie any longer.
- Programming – The one constant. Mostly because it’s what I do for a living, but even outside of work I still enjoy writing code from time to time. My interest bounces between personal projects, shareware (most notably ClipFiler in 1996), and open source (BeMAME in 1997). Mostly what I write in my spare time is for my own personal consumption because writing something that is good enough for me is vastly different than producing something fit for human consumption. Anyway, if there is anything I’m meant to be doing, bit wrangling is it.
- Scooters – Remember the Helix that Honda introduced back in the 80s? Well I do. I remember seeing that and thinking to myself what a cool little machine. And since then on and off I would peruse the latest scooter offerings. But they were little more than a curiosity. I wanted something that I could commute to work with and travel (relatively) securely at interstate speeds. Many years later Honda came out with the Silverwing. Now we were getting somewhere, but there was the hassle of getting a motorcycle license and eventually I gave up on the idea again. In 2003 Suzuki introduced the Burgman 650 but I didn’t happen to look into scooters again until early 2005. This was perfect. I got my motorcycle license and bought a used 2003 Suzuki Burgman 650 in May of 2005 and have been wondering why it took me so long ever since. I love my “scooter”.
- Videography – I had for some time been waiting for the stars to align in the form of a firewire quipped Macintosh and a MiniDV based camcorder to replace my old VHS-C camcorder. When this happened I promised myself I would digitize all the old recordings and turn them into magnificent DVDs with the help of iMovie and iDVD. When I joined Griffin in February of 2003, the first part of the equation fell into place and so I felt I had to make the rest of it happen. I bought a new camcorder and began transferring all of our old movies to my hard drive… then I realized movies take up an insane amount of storage so I bought an external firewire hard drive, finished digitizing, and began work on my masterpiece. After weeks of work I had about 15 minutes beautifully edited video complete with a soundtrack. And that’s about where that ended. As I write this I can see the hard drive lying there with 12 hours of video left to edit… mocking me.
- Video Games – And now we come to this entry. If not for video games who knows where I would’ve ended up today. Perhaps in an episode of Bum Fights. Though it was Star Raiders that made me want a computer, it was Zork that inspired me and I began learning all I could about programming and computers in general. Through the years I’ve there have been a bunch of great games I’ve played on the computer, on a console, and in the arcade. Among the computer games Sim City, Populous, Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, Warcraft, Myst, Unreal Tournament, Battlefield 1942, were some great games that I would play late into the night. But nothing could have prepared me the game I bought in November of 2004. The idea was that I’d play the crap out of it for a few weeks and move on just like I did with all the other games I’d played. It really deserved it’s own bullet…
- World of Warcraft – Some of my friends and family could be forgiven for thinking that maybe I was dead or possibly abducted by space aliens from Nov 2004 until September 2005 (or later?). You see from the moment I first entered the world of Azeroth I was hooked. Having missed the whole Everquest craze (who would be so stupid as to pay a monthly fee for a game I thought back in simpler times) I was not prepared for the sheer scope of the game. There were times early on that I just wandered aimlessly marveling at the amount of work that was evident the designers had put into this monster. Having played most of the classes, explored most of the content (yeah even the instances) and leveled 2 characters to level 60, my interest is finally, mercifully, beginning to wane. I won’t say for certain that I’m done. But I feel it’s run it’s course for the time being… then again some guys at work want to start from scratch on the Gilneas server…
- Woodworking – Oh man I was going to build shelves and chests and cabinets and Faberge Eggs and God knows what all. I promised my wife I would do all these things, I just needed a mitre saw, table saw and some other miscellaneous tools. I did manage to make some very nice shelves for the garage that I’ve actually received several complements on. As a bonus they haven’t fallen down. Any day now I’ll be starting on the cabinets. And, technically I haven’t broken any promise since my wife never asked for a timeframe.
There are lots of other minor hobbies such as bowling, football, hockey, movies, music, reading, and so forth that I could have added but those are/were either casual or standard interests. It would be like saying I like food, or breathing. So there you have it. Who knows what will grab me next. I understand that sky-diving is supposed to be a lot of fun.