One of the great things about working as a consultant, is that I've had blocks of time to devote to things other than work. It's given me the chance to indulge in lots of hobbies. Since I'm talking about myself (I still find the idea of a personal web page a bit strange), let me try listing some of them in alphabetical order:
Years ago, a friend and I got summer jobs at the same company, and were both offered jobs there when we graduated from university. A year later, he quit to study architecture. Ever since, I'd wanted to try my hand at architecture. So, a few years ago, I designed and built the house I now live in.
Bragg Creek is one of the great places to live if you happen to enjoy mountain biking. After years of being an avid street and highway rider, a couple of acquaintances were killed in separate incidents by careless drivers. Right around then, I got tired of always wondering if someone was going to run me down. Mountain biking seemed like a safe alternative. Wrong! That was before I knew there was such a thing as body armour for mountain biking. The accidents are maybe not as severe, but I've lost count of the number of times I've gone over the bars. There's even a special word for it in mountain biking lingo - an endo.
I remember doing track racing one summer. There was a program at the velodrome where you could race there on your road bike. Well, did we ever have crashes! I think that must have been the first and only time they ever allowed that (there's a really good reason why you usually have to use track bikes).
A view from the "Telephone Loop" trail in Bragg Creek, October 2008
I think it was in about 1972 that my then-girlfriend and I rented cross-country skis. We practiced in a snowy back lane, and then went out to the mountains to actually try it out in earnest. A friend said that there were supposed to be different waxes, and that you used different colours, depending on what the temperature was. He only had red, which was for warm weather, but we tried it anyway. It was a brisk -30 degrees out when we started, We didn't know how much of this red wax stuff to use, so we used the tube up on our two pairs of skis.
It was a lot of fun, and getting up hills was absolutely no problem. Going down though, was a bit more of a challenge. I'd heard something about gliding, and that just wasn't happening! When we got back to the car, there was a good foot of snow firmly glued to the bottom of each ski. Anyway, it was a great day, even with the car getting hopelessly stuck later that night, in a blizzard...
A few years later, the Hostel asked me to teach lessons for them. My partner was a guy who had been a top junior racer, back in Ontario. Before our first lesson, we skied together - and then he proceeded to teach me how you really ski.
I eventually became certified as a CANSI instructor, and went through the instructor levels (I'm a level III track instructor, and a level I telemark instructor). Every year, the required technique seemed to change! The interesting thing, is that the techniques that my racer friend taught me were always the techniques that CANSI eventually adopted - so I feel most fortunate in getting that head start.
Mike Reece shows us how it's done, at the 2008 CANSI Telemark instructor refresher
I've always been a bit queasy about heights. Say, a second floor balcony. So, naturally I had to take up rock climbing. I did enough rock climbing to be able to say that I'd overcome that fear of heights, but I never really came to love looking down between my feet and seeing a thousand feet of air...
Mountaineering, on the other hand, is beautiful vistas, energy in getting to the top, and being willing to take the easy route if there is one. Back in the 1980's, some University folks were part of the Canadian Everest expedition. They wanted some high altitude experience, and came up with the clever idea of offering a continuing education course, which had the sole goal of climbing Cero Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere. Although most of the team wasn't able to make it past our last camp in the "nest of the condors", I was fortunate to be part of the little summit team (we got to about 300 feet from the top). Participating in the climb gave me the confidence to try another high climb with a very small team.
Denali, or Mount McKinley, is North America's highest peak. We climbed it in "only" about three weeks. Next peak: maybe Mount Logan, which is Canada's highest. On the other hand, I gave up expedition climbing when I had kids, and perhaps I should leave it that way...
Sunrise from 22,500' on Mt. Aconcagua: the highest peak in the Western hemisphere
Music has always been important to me. I'm better at selecting and listening to music than I am at playing, but I have played a little.
Like most kids, I learned to play the piano when I was in elementary school. I got to piano grade VI, and then took violin lessons for three years in Junior High school. High school saw me start classical guitar, and dabble with tympani, vibes, and oboe. It also saw me starting to sing choral music, but I never really had the voice to go far in that area.
When I was in University, a friend of mine (now my grad school supervisor) was the manager of the campus radio station. So, I became a radio announcer. This was a great thing for me. My musical tastes, already eclectic, really started to expand into new directions. I typically played late night shows (this gave me a chance to make out with my girlfriend in the control room), and spent a fair bit of time researching new and exciting music.
It's fitting that my PhD thesis involves music.
When I was in grade four, my Dad went back to university, to study physics. During the summers, he worked for a sailboat manufacturing company started up by his former aircraft-mechanic buddies. I hung out with him from time to time, and hopefully learned a bit. When I got a bit older, I went to sailing school every summer, eventually earning my Canadian Yachting Association "skipper" ticket.
I think that I was in grade seven when we built a sailboat for ourselves: an Enterprise, which was a "one-design racing dingy". When it came to be my turn to go to university, I supported myself by building sailboats, and lifeguarding, during the summers. My specialty was desiging and building the rigging: the wires that hold the mast up, hoist the sails, and control the sails.
My Dad, and my late brother David, sailing in the Okanogan, sometime in the 70's.
Here's another area in which I owe a real debt of gratitude to my Dad! Somehow, I grew up knowing how to use tools (even though my junior high school 'shop' teacher called me a wood-butcher - he called everyone that).
When I spent a year in seminary, I saw a harpsichord. I was studying classical guitar at the time, and asked my teacher about this new instrument, which I'd heard of, but never seen or played. He told me that it was possible to buy a kit, and put one together myself.
Well, I couldn't afford the kit, but I could afford the instructions for putting the kit together, along with some specialized parts, like materials to make the keyboard, jacks, stings, and hitchpin rail. My Dad and I spent many hours figuring how to build the case, and building it out of walnut. Then, with help from the girl I was courting, we built the musical parts (eventually that harpsichord was played at our wedding).
Over the years, I also learned a lot about woodworking from my good friend who had a garage full of woodworking tools. Thanks Billy!
A few years ago, I was interested in learning to dance. I was going to enroll in a continuing ed course, when a guy I was working with said "Why don't you take lessons from Richard? He teaches Tango.".
Well, Richard Stout was part of my project, and I did take lessons from him — and after that, with Leo Sato. I've even taken a few Tango lessons in Buenos Aires, where the Argentine Tango was born.
It's been a lot of fun, even though I've awfully far from anything approaching mastery (or even solid competance!).