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March 25, 2002


What is a hobby? Is it something you do, or something you're interested in, or both? I have many interests, but some of them are quite expensive so I can't actually do them yet. Is that a hobby, if I only learn about it? What if you do it as a business? My stepfather is a woodworker, and is always making wonderful furniture for people at a handsome price. He loves doing it, too. Is that a hobby? I don't know.

This question has raised itself recently in my life. Now that I've got a house and a vehicle and credit and a baby, money comes and goes pretty quickly. Consequently, neither my wife nor I have the cash (nor the time, predictably) to pursue our interests. She's into scrapbooking and stamping, which can start out cheap enough, but quickly grow. I have much more ambitious projects in mind, ones that make scrapbooking seem like a cup of coffee in comparison. No dice there, that's for sure.

In university, my roommates and I took a 4-night course on bicycle maintenance. It was taught by a professional racer who lived locally, and covered all the basics; brake adjustment, lighting, and lubrication. He also went much further, getting into winter cycling and how to care for your bike then, and even into how to properly ride and pedal. This got us all pumped up (very punny) about cycling, and we eagerly put his suggestions into practice. The result for me was that I was no longer lollygagging around campus on my bike but blasting through as fast as I dared go. My days of leisurely riding were over.

Shortly after that course I realized the lump of iron that I called a bike wouldn't cut it anymore, so I sold it off for as much as I bought it (all of $75) and hustled on down to our local Cycle Path and purchased a nice light mountain bike that was on sale. No suspension (that was before the time that even $200 CCM pieces of crap for your kid came with full front and rear suspension), just good components, a gel seat, all in a lightweight package. I added a rear fender for my year-round driving, a rear flashing light, a front headlight, and decked myself out in cycling gloves and reflective pant leg strips, to stop my pants from getting chewed up in the chain.

Cycling ceased to be a hobby and became a way of life. In early 1995 I was working out in Calgary for 4 months, from January until April. I lived about 20 minutes (on a bike) from my workplace downtown, so despite the freezing temperatures (generally below -10C) I biked to and from work daily. Of course, I didn't do so without first purchasing some more accessories, namely a cycling outfit, an extra lock to secure my front tire, some warmer gloves, and some sunglasses. (Cycling without glasses while it's snowing simply means you're blinking more than anything else.) The fun part about Calgary was the wild temperature swings. Bring in a Chinook and it's quite nice, sometimes balmy. Then a few days later, freezing cold again. I could tell if it was -15C or lower because the bridge of my nose would hurt like a sonofabitch for about 5 minutes on my way to work before it got numb. Man, that was fun.

I briefly had the ultimate in geek hobbies; learning Klingon. Believe it or not, Klingon is an actual language. It's not a natural language, mind you, but it still has structure, verb conjugations, grammar, and a vocabulary that one has to learn. Heck, even just pronouncing the letters and sounds of the Klingon alphabet is a challenge. Prepare to knock loose any phlegm in your throat.

First and foremost, you need the Klingon Dictionary. It's a Klingon-English English-Klingon reference book, which is quite invaluable. What makes it even better is that at the front of it the entire language is explained. First, it tells you how to pronounce the various sounds of "tlhangan hol" (Klingon for "Klingon language"). Next lesson is verb conjugation, then grammar and sentence structure, and so on, until you get to the actual vocabulary. I also had two audio cassettes to help me. On top of all that, there is an actual Klingon Language Institute, where you can sign up (for the cost of postage from the US) for a correspondence class in Klingon.

I was doing this in my last year at university, and it just so happened that I needed to fill an elective credit about the time I was starting to take the correspondence course. I thought, "Hey, if I can get a credit learning German or Russian or French, why not Klingon?" So I set about trying to determine how I could get a credit for taking my Klingon correspondence course. Sadly, it never did work out, but it came very close. I was going to get a credit as an independent study course, however, the course needed to come from an accredited learning institution, which the Klingon Language Institute was not at the time. So after a while my Klingon floundered, and I just never got back to it. I still have the book and tapes, and hopefully someday I'll be able to embarrass my wife and daughter by speaking fluent Klingon. Maybe, one day.

Magic: The Gathering was another hobby, although I didn't choose it, it chose me. Again, back in university, a bunch of my friends and roommates had started playing this collectible card game. You bought packs of cards (there were about 300 different cards at the beginning) and each card did something special. You'd learn what the cards did (spells, creatures, energy, Tim, etc.), how they interact, and design a deck that you think will be more powerful than your opponent's deck. They started slowly, but as what usually happens with these games, they quickly got sucked in and started playing and buying more. I sat on the sidelines and watched with an academic interest, knowing that I didn't want to get mixed up in the maelstrom of weird cards and late-night sessions of playing whatever it was they played.

Then one night, merely two weeks before final exams started, the bastards struck. A bunch of them got together and gathered up all their extra cards that they didn't want, need, or had too many of, and they made two decks that they gave to me. Well, shit, was I going to say no? Of course not. So I took the piddly little decks that they made me, and played with them for a couple hours, and was hooked. What started off as probably 120 cards quickly grew. I purchased more cards, and eventually even someone else's entire collection, and kept going. At one point I heard of someone selling off their collection, so I went over, looked through his cards, and came away $300 poorer but with lots of really great cards, including one card that I eventually sold on its own for about $300.

After university, my friends moved away, and I had nobody to play with. We got together a few times after that, but not nearly as frequently as we'd like. We were getting rusty, and the creators of Magic were whoring themselves, releasing new sets of cards every 3 or 4 months. So just recently I dug out my entire collection and decided that seeing as I hadn't played in over 2 years, I'd probably never play again. So I started counting and cataloguing so I could put the whole set up on eBay and get some money back out of my "investment". It was a huge surprise when it turned out that I had nearly 4000 cards! Yikes. I'm just lucky that I hadn't invested as much as my friends had. I'm sure some of their collections cost them well into the thousands.

When I had my del Sol, that's when the "hobbies I can't afford right now" phase of my life started. You've probably seen a few cars around that have been "hopped up" a bit; new rims, lowered stance, graphics, big-ass noisy exhaust, maybe a spoiler, too. Well, I had big, big plans for my little Honda. If you're into the import scene at all, you know that Hondas are the Chevys of today. There are so many aftermarket parts for your little grocery-getter that it's not even funny. How would you like to add a turbocharger? No? A supercharger instead? Or would you rather just install a different engine entirely, and then throw on some super lightweight rims, high-performance tires, and a full race suspension? All too easy.

I had numerous ideas as to what I wanted to do with my del Sol. I wasn't going to go full-out on this, but I did want something a bit more fun. New rims and a lowered suspension would be a good start. Chassis braces to make it handle better would be next. Lightweight fibreglass hood and trunk would pare away extra mass, and eventually some serious engine upgrades would give my efficient little commuter some balls-to-the-wall scoot. I even had thoughts of grafting an entirely different drivetrain into my car. Why settle for front wheel drive when I can cut the drivetrain out of a Prelude and graft it between the rear wheels? Or better yet, have all 4 wheels driven? Yeah, a four wheel drive Honda. Kick-ass!!

Of course, absolutely nothing happened to that Honda other than replacing the tires that had shifted their belts, and the exhaust that suddenly let go and made it the loudest car I've ever driven. I had even started a savings fund just for the car, and knew some people that could order the parts for me on the cheap. I guess it just wasn't to be.

Now my hobbies consist pretty much of having an interest in something, learning as much as I can about it, following it, but not participating due to lack of time and/or money. Raising a family is an expensive, full-time proposition, and thus far that's what I've committed to. It's not as immediately rewarding as having a sweet fast car, or being able to baffle everyone except the most devoted Trekkie with my obscure Klingon taunts and insults, but it definitely has its moments, and I wouldn't give those up.

I'my trying to look at the next few years as preparation time. I have many projects in mind, all of which are large undertakings. So while I'm trying to find the time and money, I can decide what would be more fun, what would present the best challenge, and most of all what I can get away with without sleeping on the couch for months on end, and prepare myself to leap in with both feet as soon as I can. Failing that, I'll have an extensive knowledge base on which to base a really excellent mid-life crisis when the time comes. I can hardly wait!


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