My Hobbies and Interests

Below is an account of various interests and hobbies I have accumulated over the course of my life, with present, active interests first.

Creative Writing

Writing is one of my most venerable and enduring interests, and probably one of my strongest talents. I've been writing stories since as early as 1st grade. (I still have some of these early "gems" around: here are a few. I think of them as amusing time-capsules of my younger self and how it thought and viewed the world. Some artists disdain and discard their early creations, ashamed of them for some reason, but I figure one's early works are stepping stones to the later and worth keeping, at least as a record and memento of growth and progress made.) Mostly, I wrote short fantastic stories involving myself and friends and our comic-book exploits. My taste in writing has always been for the dramatic and the fantastic. I think there is a restless, unsatisfied element in the psyche of many artists which is seeking to create new, more exciting and engaging worlds in their works than the one the they feel they are living in. My esthetic tastes and writing style are probably a reflection of this.

It wasn't until my first year at IMSA (the Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy) that I began to try to write more serious works. I started writing a fantasy novel called Chronicles of Korzan, which I got maybe six chapters into before abandoning. Other than this, my first attempt at serious literature was a poem called Time Puppets (online here), which was published in my graduating year at IMSA in the student literary magazine. This was inspired by the experience I had reading T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. I had had the urge to write about the breakdown of order that he was talking about, but to put it in more accesible language. While this poem is rather clumsy by my standards today, it was an achievement and a milestone in those days, and it heralded a shift in my writing medium from prose to verse.

In my undergraduate years, my abilities as a poet began to unfold. Much of the poetry I wrote during these years was of the depressing, self-pitying variety, but still there were some gems that emerged from that period, and I even managed to get a handful of these published in small press.

During my years at UCSD and afterwards, I continued to hone my poetic skills, even writing a verse-play: a parody (sans music) of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde called Trystan and Cuckolde (online here). For awhile, I had even done readings of some of my (shorter) works. Lately, due to events on the career side of my life and focus on longer prose works in my creative life, I have been (mostly) poetically dormant. But there is a first draft I have written—about 60 pages of unrhymed hexameter—for an epic in the same sort of millieu as Gilgamesh which awaits my revision and possible publication (online here but needs much revision). Having created the earliest version of this website in 2000, I created another site at the same time—a Poetry Gallery—for publishing some of my works on-line in a kind of adventure-game-like format in which you wander a virtual gallery and look at pictures with associated poems. A non-graphical, and far more exhaustive, collection of my poetry is visible here.

Since the summer of 2007, my focus as a creative writer has been on a fantasy/romance series of novels called Emancipation. I would describe it as "a Jungian psychological fantasy with Greek mythological motifs." The protagonist of the story is a young comparative studies (comparative religion, mythology, etc.) professor named Paul Masterson who was touched in his childhood with troubling dreams of a mysterious woman imprisoned under torture in an unknown infernal region. Years after these life- and career-shaping childhood dreams have ceased, she returns to his life, bringing both disruption of his current life and the promise of a more fulfilling existence. In September of 2009, I finished a first draft for what was the entire story, but when I went to revise this, the story ballooned into so much material that I felt the need to break it into multiple books. The first book, Lady of the Morning Star, I have (on December 27, 2017) published on Amazon KDP. I am presently at work on Book 2, which will hopefully be the conclusion of the series and a completion of the story, but there is some possibility that the work may expand into a trilogy.


I think almost every person touched by the spirit of music goes through a life-long esthetic journey. I've had the pleasure of being on both sides of the instrument, so to speak. My listening tastes have grown immensely since junior high school. At various times in my life, I have taken up an instrument, though, sadly, never long enough to become what I would consider a competent performer. I've even done some musical composition late in my high-school, early in my college years, and at very irregular times in recent years.

It may seem strange, but my love of music began a taste for heavy-metal bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. (I suppose it was the D&D in me: see below.) I took up playing the electric guitar because of these groups and how much I loved their music. If I love an art enough, I almost invariably will try to do something in it. So I started learning guitar. I specialized in playing lead; all of those exotic scales the lead-guitarists use were fascinating to me, then. I used to sit and jam for hours in my dorm room. I wanted to write my own songs, and I did write two or three, one of which (Fall of the Black Knight (lyrics online here)) I'm still fairly proud of.

My desire to write songs, naturally, made me want to learn more of the concepts, the theory of music. So, I ended up during my senior year at IMSA taking a music theory class. In that class, and in some art-rock groups such as King Crimson that I was listening to, I was exposed to classical music. Using an old Macintosh program called Studio Session, I composed a 22-minute suite called A Squire's Tale. It was the only work I ever finished of that scope.

Since those years, my love of classical music has grown to dominate my musical tastes. Romantic-era composers such as Wagner, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky and early 20th century composers such as Debussy and Scriabin are my favorites, but I continue to explore both earlier and later music. I still listen to 70's art-rock / prog-rock groups like Genesis—the pinnacle of that genre in my opinion—ELP, Pink Floyd, and King Crimson, and occasionally to some of my old heavy-metal favorites. I've recently taken to some folk music and jazz as well. The universe of music is limitless.

In the summer of 2004, I wrote some short compositions for acoustic guitar, including classical-style and folk-style short pieces, and scored these using the wonderful Sibelius program. I've published 11 original guitar preludes (.wav files of these can be downloaded here) and a guitar arrangement of the Volga Boatmen on the (now-defunct) SibeliusMusic site. A pending future project is to round out these preludes to 24, one for each key, similar to the Chopin op. 28 piano preludes.

Around the same time I started writing Emancipation, I had been teaching myself flamenco guitar from a number of manuals. My technique had improved considerably, but I will probably never be a professional performing guitarist. Life is too short (at least until the aging problem is finally cracked). I've had piano and violin lessons in addition to my serious love-affair with the guitar. But instruments are demanding mistresses. You have to devote many hours of practice to an instrument before you have even the meanest skills that would allow you to, without shame, get up in front of a bunch of people and play something you admire. Composition is demanding, too, requiring you learn a whole language of scoring and instrumentation. I've long wanted to write a symphony, and I believe I have the inner ear for composing one, but the training involved would be considerable. So, as I've gotten older, I've settled more into being an "enlightened" connoisseur. Music, ironically more than literature, is the art which I find myself most often enraptured with as a "consumer."

Personality Theory and Typology

As a pretty thoroughgoing introvert and a student of psychology and artificial intelligence, one of the topics that most fascinates me is the nature and the source of the differences between people's personalities and temperaments. Why are some people extroverted and others introverted like myself? Why do different people have such different emotional experiences and reactions and communication styles and interests? I've been interested both in the phenomenological differences and theories related to the causes (including neurophysiological) for those differences. I am interested both because of my self-oriented desire to understand myself better, and curiosity about human nature in its variation. I would not say I have decided on a particular theory of personality that covers all of my interests, but I have found some explanatory value in a number of systems, including the Jungian Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), David Keirsey's related theory of temperament, the Enneagram of Personality, and the Big Five factor theory. The various systems tend to illuminate overlapping aspects of personality, but their focuses and their justifications are often different. (For example, the Enneagram is more focused on Basic Fears and Desires as a basis for its classification, whereas MBTI is based on theorized cognitive functions (Sensation, Intuition, Thinking, Feeling) and attitudes (Extroversion/Introversion, Judgement/Perception).) I've found the various personality typology systems to be excellent tools for helping me architect the psychology of characters in my novels as well.

Adventure / RPG Gaming and Programming

Dungeons & Dragons. I think there must be a silent fraternity out there of men who fell under the spell of D&D in their teens. Certainly D&D was my first exposure to adventure gaming. I remember how excited I was when I first was given the D&D Basic Set. I remember how much delight it always was to buy a new Advanced D&D manual, and to devour it and dream up all kinds of adventure scenarios. I really never played on that many campaigns; I was mainly interested in writing adventures. I still have buried in my possessions several maps and monster specifications for various adventure scenarios I'd been working on. But the trouble with the paper-based role-playing games (RPGs) was that I could never find a consistent group of people to play with and the referee of the games—the Dungeon Master as they're called—was rarely very serious about the task.

So when computer adventure and role-playing games hit the scene, I ended up playing those instead. Wizardry, Bard's Tale, Ultima, Pool of Radiance: I remember treasured hours hacking and slashing my way through virtual dungeons and wildernesses, building up levels and armaments for my characters.

In junior high, I discovered a public-domain text-based adventure gaming system called Eamon. It had an already-made Dungeon Design Kit which provided myself and my friends with endless creative enjoyment. We would all write adventures using this system and play each other's scenarios. So much of my creative energy in those days went into these adventures, and it was so cool seeing the little worlds I had created come to life. I have tried at least three times with varying degrees of success to create my own text-based adventure gaming system. I came so close to completing a couple of these systems; it still sometimes bothers me at night that I've never finished that ultimate neo-Eamon.

Fortunately, however, one of my friends, Aaron, in the summer of 2003, introduced me to a wonderful multi-platform text-adventure system called TADS (which stands for Text Adventure Development System). This is a simple Java/C++ type of language created by Michael J. Roberts for easy development of Zork/Infocom-style adventure games, complete with full-sentence parsing.

In 2003 and 2004, I was developing a fantasy RPG expansion to TADS 2.0 which has most of the features (and then some) of all of my previous adventure game efforts. I designed an adventure with this system (called The Ogre's Tower) which I had planned to enter in the annual TADS contest. My RPG expansion of TADS is called Seeker, and is largely based on my previous adventure-game effort of the same name. Other interests and priorities interrupted my work on this project, so my Seeker systerm is unfinished. When and if I return to this work, I will probably want to learn the latest version of TADS, and redesign my code library around that.

Lately, I've had little time to play (or develop) adventure and RPG games, which is a shame because they are getting more and more incredible as time goes on. Some of my all-time favorites include: Myst and its immediate sequel Riven, Gabriel Knight II: The Beast Within, and Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment. These games represent a major artistic advance over the hack-and-slash dungeon-quests I grew up on. (I've not even played the massively multiplayer online games such as Ultima Online or Everquest.)

This brings me to a subject that has been on my mind about art. I would define art loosely as a perceptual experience conveyed to an audience which has been calculated by an artist or artists. (I make no claims that this definition is complete. For a more complete attempt to define art, see my Art and the Artist essay.) Art, like technology, has gone through a kind of evolutionary process, both in terms of its subjects and its media. The traditional arts offer a one-way experience. A work laid down by an artist presents itself—or is presented by a performer or cast of performers—to an audience. A painting or a sculpture presents itself as a static moment to a viewer's eyes. A piece of music presents a sonic (and hopefully emotional) experience to a listener. A piece of literature presents an experience in many sensory modes, provided the reader takes the time to construct the experience in their minds. Movies, plays, and operas present sequences of visual and auditory experiences in an integrated, immediately perceivable fashion.

But something truly new has begun to happen with the advent of the personal computer, a possible artistic revolution. It began with Space Invaders and Pac-man, but it is made explicit by games like Myst. Art is becoming interactive. The audience of the traditional arts sits back passively and soaks up the experience that has been prepared for them. Of course, any avid reader knows that the experience of taking in a work of art is not wholly passive because you have to make an effort to focus your attention to get at the conceptual heart of an experience as well as the details. I've also noticed that, when listening to an unfamiliar piece of music (or even a very familiar but complicated piece of music), I often notice things I didn't notice before. But the experience is still largely dictated by the artist, and I don't have much input into it. (I won't go into works of art that are so ambiguous in their meaning that the literal aspects of their interpretation have a wild variance; I would only say that in my opinion this is inferior art.)

Adventure games—heck! computer games in general—are ushering in the next step of artistic evolution. An adventure game is like a novel where the reader gets to enact and perhaps even write some of the plot. The player can exercise their wits and make things happen in these experiences which makes them all the more immersive. The game-writer lays down a world and its inhabitants. His creation is not a static score, script, or book, but a dynamic system. The same player of a game might have a different experience each time they play the game, at very least because they would probably make different decisions during each game. This is something I think any artist in our time should find truly exciting.

As a writer, something I'd like to see in adventure games is more conceptual depth. I'd like to see interactive Goethe, Coleridge, and Joyce. But I think things are definitely moving in that direction. It would be an exciting time to be an adventure game designer / developer. (Unfortunately, I've had to set aside my work in this direction because of work and my ongoing efforts in the more traditional realm of novel-writing.)


I have taken only one actual class on philosophy (Foundations of Philosophy in Cognitive Science, taught by Andy Clark). Most of my exposure to philosophy has been through books outlining the basic beliefs of the philosophers in history and through Ayn Rand's Objectivism, and a friend who was an Objectivist for a time. (I am not an Objectivist, although a great deal of the content of Objectivism strikes me as sound in principle.)

What is philosophy? Philosophy I see as being a set of fundamental questions about human existence, and the attempts by thinkers throughout history to answer these questions.

What has philsophy done for me? I'm not sure that my study of philosophy has fundamentally changed my world-view. However, I believe it added a certain rigor to my analytical abilities with respect to these fundamental questions. I can credit my study of Objectivism for much of this benefit. Whatever its faults, Rand's philosophy of Objectivism presents a model of integrated thinking on philosophical issues. The concepts are tightly related and integrated in a beautiful, harmonious organic whole. Intellectually, this seems ideal, what any thinker should strive for: to have a set of ideas which are consistent with each other while still reflecting reality. The better a person understands how their ideas are related to each other, the better the quality and depth of their thinking as a whole.

Public Speaking

While working at ORINCON, I had the good fortune of having a couple of co-workers introduce me to the local Toastmasters club. At the time, I figured: "What the heck... It would be a useful career skill, to be able to present talks." What I discovered was that it was also a wonderful creative outlet. Some of the speeches I have written and delivered I regard in almost as high an esteem as my poetry. There is an art to preparing a speech, whether it be a technical talk or a dramatic recitation. And you get response for your efforts, which isn't always true with writing. I was a member of Toastmasters for almost four years, and I found it to be one of my most rewarding choices of activity.


Another rewarding activity has been dance, specifically ballroom and round-dancing. My first steps in dancing were very tentative. In my junior year at UIUC, I began taking a ballroom class, but dropped it because I was overwhelmed with course-work and frustrated by my own incompetence. A few years later, I enrolled at a quarter-long ballroom class at UCSD. I did better, but I still felt abysmally inept. Physical coordination had never been one of my strong points.

Finally, while I was at ORINCON, a co-worker introduced me to round-dance. Round-dance is essentially ballroom figures which are choreographed. A dance-cuer calls out the figures and the couples move around the line of dance according to those figures. From this time until the end of my stay in San Diego, I took round-dance classes and attended a few events. I actually feel that I achieved a certain degree of ability in my dancing. I was able to lead, and dancing (well, formal dancing, at least) was a more natural activity for me. I even wrote a couple of round-dance choreographies.

At current time of writing (May, 2018), I haven't done any regular dancing in almost 20 years. I do find, however, that when I learn those kinds of skills, it doesn't take long to recallibrate my ability. So who knows? Maybe dancing could be in my future again at some point in life to come.

Martial Arts

On and off, between my days at Sony and my departure for Indiana, I attended classes in Kuk Sool Won, a Korean martial art which integrates many varied fighting styles. I managed to even attain a yellow belt which is the one right after the beginner's (white) belt. I'd tried karate several years ago at UIUC and had gotten frustrated with it, but I think my experience with dancing made my experience with Kuk Sool Won more rewarding. I regret that the long hours at my workplace prevented me from pursuing this further. It was probably the best activity for me in terms of exercise and fitness.

Other Interests

There are a few other noteworthy interests that have surfaced relatively briefly in my life. I used to play chess with my friends and, during one year at IMSA, I played last-board on the chess team in a couple of matches. Like many grade-school boys, I had a fascination with dangerous animals: dinosaurs, snakes, sharks, and such when I was in elementary school. (I guess that just more evidence to some people that "men are from Mars.") I've read a goodly number of fantasy novels, although the ironic truth is that I have always been less of an avid reader of fiction than non-fiction. History for me used to be a dull subject, but I now find it fascinating because it is a drama of dramas, the drama of human civilization. Related to my career interests in cognitive science and artificial intelligence are my interests in psychology, neuroscience, and mathematics. At a certain point, every interest a person has is connected, if for no other reason than the fact that it's the same person who carries the interests. Mine, I think, are connected by a love of dramatic art and of ideas.