Metahobbyism

I’ve been on a bit of an organizing kick lately, the source of which is a mystery, but the net effect of which I’m very happy with. As I sort things into labeled bins and ask myself if I will ever use something again or how much it costs to replace it, the number of hobbies I’ve found evidence of keeps adding up. I am starting to think that my main hobby is trying new hobbies!

Here are all of the activities I have come across, in no particular order.  Some of these I’ve spent mere hours on, others have entailed thousands of hours:

  • Collectible card gaming
  • Furniture making
  • Paper making
  • Cooking
  • Board gaming
  • Miniatures gaming
  • Computer building
  • Barbeque/Smoking
  • Novel writing
  • Blacksmithing
  • General photography
  • Macro photography
  • Portrait photography
  • Camping
  • Wood carving
  • Wood turning
  • Home theater
  • Programming
  • DIY/House Renovation
  • Pen making
  • Miniatures painting
  • Model scenery construction
  • Paper crafts
  • Electronics/Soldering
  • Chemistry
  • Piano
  • Harmonica
  • Saxophone
  • Beer brewing
  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Fantasy sports
  • Reading
  • Gardening
  • Exercise
  • Home automation
  • Wood burning
  • Golf
  • Poker
  • UX Design
  • Freshwater aquariums
  • Game design

21st Century Game Changers

A post on the Freakonomics blog got me thinking. What inventions have genuinely improved, or even affected, my life. I drew up a list, and decided to constrain it to the 21st century, so things like the cellphone, the VCR, the CD, the ATM, instant messaging, and online banking aren’t on the list. Here they are, and where possible I put the approximate year I adopted them.

Major Improvement to Daily Life

  • Tivo (2000) – Definitely #1 on the list. I don’t consider myself a couch potato, but this completely unshackled me from the network’s arbitrary scheduling. It also make more shows enjoyable, or even watchable, by cutting out commercials.
  • RSS/Google Reader (2002, 2005) – RSS enabled me to keep track of a much broader set of sources, and Google Reader took RSS to the next level by making my subscriptions and unread articles available anywhere (including my phone).
  • Smartphone (2006) – I’m far more organized now that I have my full contact list and calendar on me at all times, as well as being backed up, plus last-resort internet access is a nice bonus.
  • TV shows on DVD (2003) – There’s now a new category of TV show, the ones I don’t even bother to Tivo and just wait for the DVD.

Minor Quality-of-Life Improvement

  • Netflix (2002) – Like they say, no more late fees.
  • Wifi (2004) – Adopted later than most geeks, has proven useful in many ways.
  • Wikipedia (2003?) – Coming from someone who used to read the encyclopedia for fun, Wikipedia is like crack.
  • Text Messaging (2006) – Late to the game here. Enables a new layer of communcation and makes me both more responsive and more proactive.
  • GPS (2007) – I waited a while for the price dip, and now consider GPS a mandatory item for my car.
  • mp3 player/iPod (2002/2004) – No more discman and CD cases is a good thing.
  • Digital Camera/DSLR (2001, 2004, 2007) – I’m too lazy to deal with film. I got my first digital in 2001, my first nice one in 2004, and my first digital SLR in 2007, each a vast improvement over the previous.
  • Firefox (2004) – Firefox has gone from lightweight security-minded browser to bloated, customizable security-minded browser, both of which I’ve found value in.
  • Eclipse (2002) – Java wins in my book because of Eclipse. Having a program that thinks for you enables you to think about the real problems.
  • Launchcast (now Yahoo! Music) (2002) – One of the earliest and still one of the best customized music services. If you’re not sold on Pandora and Last.fm it might be because they are are inferior versions of Launch.

(supposedly) Major Advances, Adopted by Me, Negligible Impact

  • Social Networks (2004) – I use LinkedIn as a sort of resume-light, and myspace to keep up with my sisters, and facebook as the site du jour, but they are all just curious diversions.
  • OS X (2005) – Scores high on sexiness. Scores low on stability & usability
  • XP/Vista (2003) – Windows 2000 made computers better and more useful. XP and Vista seem to just make them slower.

Major Advances, Unadopted by Me

  • VoIP/Skype – I don’t use landlines.
  • Fastlane/Speedpass – I still find the ease with which someone can track me disturbing, plus the lines these days are usually shorter at the cash lines.

There’s probably some that I missed, or just weren’t important enough to remember. My main question is, what’s next to get on the list, and where on the list will it end up?

Roundup: January 2007

I don’t have the time or inclination to do a standard commentary-style blog, linking to the latest news item or wacky video, but on the other hand, there’s things worth sharing. I’m going to try wrapping these up in a monthly digest.

If you haven’t checked out The Chloe Chronicles, you should. Nicole has been writing a very personal, detailed, no-holds-barred account of the experience of having a daughter a bit on the early side. I can’t imagine how cool it will be for Chloe to read this when she’s older. I don’t think anyone in my family ever kept a diary, but it would be amazing to read something like this from them.

More important than the iPhone or the 108-inch HDTV, but lacking in fanfare, solid state disks (SSDs) are coming to the consumer market. These should be standard equipment in laptops in a few years, and will offer hardware designers a whole new set of opportunities.

My favorite fantasy series since Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, is on its way to being an HBO show. It’s a complex, serial storyline with a ton of characters and no shortage of sex and violence, so it should fit in perfectly with HBO’s other great shows.

Went to see Children of Men. The first half was slow but seemed to be building up to something good. The second half looked like this:

Boston Fire Department at Loews Boston Common 19

I got a membership at BSC. The one in Wellesley is really nice, they even have individual TVs on each cardio machine. My current plan is to go in the mornings. Those who know me will probably affirm that the previous statement is probably one of the funniest I’ve ever made.

Introduction

This is my blog. There are many like it but this one is mine.

Journal.My name’s Eric Savage, and I’ve debated whether or not to have a blog for a while, and decided to give it a shot. The decision wasn’t a matter of risking a blow to my ego if I didn’t get enough readers. It also was not a matter of someday becoming a self-sustaining “pajama blogger”, as I can think of few things less rewarding to me than offering nothing but commentary. There were three main questions involved:

1. Can I do it?

Can I really build the discipline to write something on a regular basis? My money is on “not likely”, but I’m an optimist, and I think it’s worth a shot.

2. What to write about?

“Write what you know” is probably some famous quote I’m failing to attribute. What I know is software development. Not all of it of course, it’s a pretty variegated profession, like law or medicine or engineering. I’ve staked my claim in the unsafe fringe territory of user-facing business software. This is a place where purists are disappointed, progress is slow and messy, and unsavory characters lurk in every corner. On the other hand, it’s the nexus of the industry. The brilliant minds at work tuning database indexing algorithms and packing and finding a way to pack an extra thousand transistors onto a chip ultimately get their paychecks from people that just want to check their email or put a picture of their dog on myspace. Blogging about software is inevitably going to be dry, but I’ll see what I can do.

I also know bits and pieces about other things, so I’m sure those will make their way in here, and of course there’s probably going to be some uninformed opinions and maybe even videos of bears bouncing of trampolines, if you’re lucky.

3. What not to write about?

Politics and religion, because even though I try to keep up on both, I really don’t have the willpower to discuss it with people I don’t know.

However, the real impetus for deciding to start a blog was that I noticed I was finding more and more answers to my technical questions on blogs. The old model was to post your problem to a forum and hope for an answer. A search for most tricky problems would return such an exchange between others. But lately I’ve been getting many more results for people that solved the problem themselves and figured that others might find it useful. I’ve always enjoyed helping people solve problems and mentoring, and this is a pretty good way to do both.