Interests

08/05/15

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Just as an ice-breaker, I'm listing some things that we like to do or have interests in. There's no particular order other than the fact that sports is a primary interest of mine.  I invite you to read the items below and write me to comment on anything that stikes you.  

bulletSports - If they keep score, I'm usually interested.  While I enjoy the Pros, I have a special love for collegiate athletics.  I've seen many important events in my life, but my biggest sports thrill to this day was to be at the NCAA Final Four when John Wooden closed out his historic coaching career at UCLA with a national championship.  Coach Wooden has long been the person I most admire.  His death at the age of 99, while sad, was an opportunity to again bring him to the attention of later generations who may never have been exposed to his teachings and example as a great human being.

Since the Univ. of Texas is my Alma Mater, I bleed burnt orange.  I've replayed the recordings of the 2005 Rose Bowl and 2006 National Championship games dozens of times.  Each time the games end with Texas winning a narrow last second victory over Michigan or USC as I sigh in relief.  The UT teams do well enough nationally to keep my interest up.  Believe me, if UT had lost, I wouldn't spend another second watching the replay.  It hurts too much.

"Hook 'em,"  says my friend King Konghorn.  The San Diego Chapter of Texas Exes is large and active.  We gather each week at a local eatery to watch the Longhorn football games.  Once a year we have a large BBQ in which we fly in food from Salt Lick BBQ in Austin.  This raises a lot of money for our scholarship fund.  I wish I could be less emotionally invested in the success of the Longhorns or the San Diego Chargers.  The past few years haven't been my best as a fan, I suppose.  The Longhorns of late have been mediocre at best and the San Diego Chargers are probably going to leave town next year.  I try to convince myself it's only a game and not that important.  But who the heck do I think I'm fooling with that blasphemous talk.  Vince Lombardi said that football isn't a matter of life and death...it's more important than that. 

Since I attended the Univ. of Wisconsin for grad school, I'm a fan of Bucky Badger as well.  However, I'm not as intense a Badger fan as I am a Longhorn devotee.  As I said, "Ya dance with the one what brung ya."  But the Badgers did get me hooked on hockey long before their return to power in Big-10 football and now basketball.  Like Austin, Madison is another great university city.  I absolutely loved living in both places.

I also follow auto racing--especially Formula One and Indy cars.  I'll watch NASCAR races if I happen to catch one on, but that's mostly because I want to be able to take part in the conversations while chomping down on some chicken wings at Hooters.  NASCAR seems to have lost its appeal once they tried to expand the market out of its natural home in the South.  It ain't as much fun unless it's between the Good Ol' Boys who appreciate NASCAR's orgin and traditions.  I'm afraid my interest in NASCAR is mostly to see if Danica Patrick can ever pull herself out of the back of the pack.  I want to see women succeed in non traditional roles.  

As for participative sports, I am eternally grateful to Dick and Kathi Dwelle for getting Janet and me involved in snow skiing back at the Univ. of Wisconsin.  As a result, the long cold winters in the Midwest turned from an experience in misery to a joy.  From that humble beginning of about 600' vertical drop in Upper Michigan, we've been blessed to enjoy the Rockies, Wasatch, and Sierra mountain ranges out here in the West.  To me it is a religious experience to be on the mountain on a beautiful day.  I'm completely blown away by the magnificence of it all.  I still love to ski, but Janet quit years ago because she hates being cold.  On a recent trip to Breckenridge, CO I found the base altitude (9600 ft) alone was extremely challenging.  Just looking for the TV remote in our villa was exhausting.  My skiing days may be severely limited or over.  

Pickup basketball was how I spent any leisure afternoon with other grad students.  Then it seemed we started having to take someone to the health center with injuries about half the time.  That was a clue that we were getting a bit long in the tooth for the game.

I used to play more tennis.  However,  I kept attracting crowds of people who would come over and look at my Jack Kramer racket.  A dad would say to his children, "I told you they use to make tennis rackets out of wood.  And none of you would believe me."  I had to trade a car in to afford it, but I finally switched to a carbon fiber racket just about the time all my friends gave up tennis for golf.

Golf is something I have purposely avoided much the same as I avoided contract bridge when in college.  I've watched it consume people alive.  But, alas I may eventually yield to golf so as not to be a social pariah.  I like the 19th Hole tradition.  I even took golf lessons and went so far as purchasing my own clubs.  Who knows, I might have a go at playing with others.

Fishing is another thing I like to do when given the opportunity.  Being here in San Diego, you can frequently catch a ride on a friend's boat or take off on a charter with a limited size group to do some ocean fishing.  While we take what we can get, we are always in search for yellowtail, blue fin tuna, and albacore. Some of the happiest moments in my life were spent swapping yarns and drinking soda with my good friend, Charlie Jack, on a lake in Wisconsin as we sat in a small boat day after day catching absolutely nothing other than rays from the sun.

Running is something my nose does.  We have friends that still jog despite knee surgeries and hip replacements.  The father of a good friend is John Bingham, affectionately known as The Penguin, who use to write a monthly column in Runner's World magazine.  John is a living testament of how an out-of-shape. middle-aged smoker can become a revered runner.  He travels the globe with a huge following.  Yet with his fine example, I still confine my running for dashing to and from my car in a rain.  And in Southern California, those are rare events.

bulletTravel - We have enjoyed traveling around the U.S. and to several other countries.  Wherever we go, I'm always looking for the "hole in wall" places favored by the locals.   Ok, some of that is because I'm pretty cheap and hate to spend a lot of money on atmosphere contrived for tourists.  When visiting other countries, I particularly like to experience common, everyday things like public transportation systems, food stores, open air markets, sidewalk cafes, and--get this--restrooms!!! Restrooms around the world can be a whole adventure in and of themselves. 

I actually like the challenge of learning some amount of language to get by in other countries.  It's frustrating when you can't and very gratifying when you can.  However, I have found that the language problem can be just as severe when traveling to places like the heart of Boston.

 

bulletMovies and Theater - We see lots and lots of movies.  However, we almost never see movies in the theater anymore.    If we do, we go to the bargain priced matinees early in the morning.  You can do that when you are retired.  But the bulk of the movies we see are via NetFlix.  Their service is truly worth it because you can finally see excellent foreign films or low budget independent films that rarely make it to the movie theaters for more than an eye blink.  We have also discovered ways of streaming just about any movie or TV show over the internet by using XBMC or Kodi.

Live theater is quite active in San Diego.  There are several excellent repertory theater groups throughout the area.  In addition to the traveling theater troupes that visit all major cities, San Diego is blessed with The Old Globe Theater and the La Jolla Playhouse

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Books - We can't seem to have enough. Sometimes we even read them.  Bookstores and libraries are some of our favorite haunts.  When we go out of town, we try to stop by the "Friends of ... Library" in the area we are visiting.  Amazon.com worries if I don't buy something from them every so often.  Too many books and an aging memory has made it necessary for me to create an inventory listing of what books we have.  Finding that we had acquired two copies of the same book on more than one occasion was a bit disconcerting.

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Television - Of course, anyone who loves sports as much as I do watches a lot of TV.  I have always loved television.  The image on sets these days is so compelling that it is difficult not to watch it all the time.  Every time new technologies and better sets are announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I can't wait to get my socks blown off at a demo.  I'd like to tell you we mostly watch Public Television, but the truth is I get sucked into a lot of other shows I wouldn't watch if I wasn't retired.  However, I just don't watch any of the reality shows that now dominate the air.  The DiscoveryHD and Travel channels are the gift that keeps giving.  I think we are actually saving money we might have spent on travel just by watching these station to filter out places that may not be right for us after all.  Like a lot of people these days, I've thought about "cutting the cable", but am not quite there yet.  We've gone to a digital subscription for our newspaper and are still trying to get use to it.  So cutting cable TV may be too much too soon at this time.  

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Cooking and Wine - Like most of us, I like to eat.  My waistline shows it.  Consequently, I like the idea of being able to prepare good food.  I don't understand why there are so many people who enjoy eating but refuse to learn to cook at all.  And the number of these people is increasing over time.  That's why someone like Rachel Ray can become a food maven overnight.  My latest cooking adventure is cooking sous vide  with a precision water immersion cooker.  I got turned on to it by following Thomas Keller and his book Under Pressure. It's not really hard and the results are really spectacular.  I'm also attracted to sous vide because it reminds me a lot of being back in the laboratory and experimenting.  

I am not a wine connoisseur nor an expert, but I genuinely feel that wine complements good food.  Do you ever find that there is synergy between foods that you can't explain?  Pairing things like milk with chocolate cake or cheese with slices of fresh apple produce effects greater than the sum of the components.  The same thing happens with wine and certain foods.  And you don't have to buy expensive wines to attain this enjoyment.  Honestly, I can't distinguish the difference between a $15 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle.  So don't worry that I've gone high hat.  As much as I like wine, years in Texas and Wisconsin have taught me that nothing goes better with BBQ and brats than a cold beer.

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Cats and fish - Having always been a dog person until I got married, the thought of cats made me dizzy.  But after my wife talked me into one, I realized how wonderful cats can be as well.  I adore them as much as I like dogs.  At the moment we have lost all the cats that have blessed our lives.  We are "on hold" for new cats because we want to be able to travel spontaneously for a while.  However, pets are just so cool.  I'm thoroughly convinced I'd be fond of a snake if we had one. 

We had a terrible habit of caring to death any goldfish my kids would bring home from a birthday party or school fair.  When my son was very young, he was skimming a book on fish diseases and said they didn't cover the most deadly illness--The Moys.  I eventually learned that I was trying to keep the tank too clean and that I had to cultivate proper bacteria in a fish tank.  Since then I have expanded from a fresh water aquarium to a salt water reef tank as well.  I didn't realize it at the time that you have to become an amateur marine biologist to keep a successful salt water tank.  It's a challenge and  a bit of work, but enjoyable in-between.

bulletComputers and other gadgets - I spend loads of time on my computer and the internet because it fits in so nicely with just about everything else in which I'm interested.  The ability to research or find out more about anything by sitting at a keyboard and monitor in my own home is intoxicating.  It's a never ending source of education and entertainment.  I find eBay an amazing phenomenon of commerce.  I've started to sell things on eBay that were useless to us and cluttering up our garage.  There always seems to be someone willing to pay you for something you were prepared to throw away.  Now I'm hesitant to throw anything away for fear I might be depriving someone of a treasure.

I've become interested in two things related to computing.  First is the use of Photoshop to restore and retouch photographs.  I've always been interested in traditional photography and darkroom techniques.  Digital photography has moved much of the darkroom process to the computer.  It's absolutely fascinating what can be done.  I like trying to restore and enhance old photographs.  

The picture with Mel Gibson in the Photo Gallery is 100% real.  I didn't "Photoshop" this picture.  We were fortunate to be able to spend the day on the set with him when my mother-in-law had a small, but significant, part in What Women Want (she was the little Asian woman who directs Mel Gibson to an address in Chinatown).  At the time, Mel Gibson was unquestionably the most popular male actor in the business.  Of course this was long before his tragic anti-Semitic tirade.  I honestly thought he was a terrific fellow.

I considered myself a pioneer in the use of GPS for navigating our highways.  I was using my handheld pocketPC to successfully navigate the highways both here and abroad long before there were dedicated GPS devices.  But time and technology moves so fast that consumer navigation devices were coming out so fast that they were almost obsolete by the time they got to market.  So one of my hobbies became just watching the technology grow by leaps and bounds.  Today, you can get a smartphone that provides sophisticated navigation, cell phone, web browser, email machine, hi resolution camera, TV and video player, and all the handheld apps you can think of in one small easy to carry device.  I couldn't even contemplate this capability 15 years ago.  It is such a thrill to see all these things come into existence.

I love electronic navigation devices.  We had a research division at work that was doing leading edge research into military applications of GPS technology.  So my interest was particularly keen.  You know how guys just hate to stop and ask for directions?  The truth is that I hated to ask for directions because I could never remember the long verbal series of turns and distances-usually given in some unintelligible local accent.  I would always get the directions out of sequence.  It's really embarrassing to get lost even after having asked for directions.  A woman doesn't mind asking for help because she'll keep asking the person to repeat themselves until she's remembered the sequence.  If a man has to have directions repeated more than twice, people treat him as if he is brain damaged.  Electronic navigation has almost put an end to the problem of getting lost, whether it's on the road or out hiking around.  I say "almost" because my friend John Shockey and I have had hilarious incidents in which we have watched our GPS issue insane directions at critical times.  One still needs to use a healthy dose of common sense in working with any electronic device. 

 
 

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