Minutiae · November 17, 2006

No time to be a proper Renaissance man!

The problem with having a wide-ranging interest in things, and having too many hobbies, is that sometimes I just can’t keep up with all of it. There are times like this week when life decides to throw a spanner in the works and that forces me to put my interests on a back burner.

And man, I have a lot of interests!

I’m also surprised at how many people are reading my little blog. This blog really started out as a way for me to put my thoughts into words and create a web presence that I can point out instead of re-stating my positions on Atheism and pseudoscience for the umpty-ump time. I appreciate that people enjoy my writing, I enjoy creating it.

Perhaps some of you may be interested in the things that keep me occupied, when my life is calm enough for me to enjoy them. I break these things into two categories – what I call ‘hobby projects’ and ‘research projects’.

Hobby projects:

  • Build a thickness sander for my woodshop. I’ve been drawing it in the Google Sketchup CAD, and will soon be ready to start cutting wood on it.
  • Purchase or build the perfect lathe. I’ve got a tall order for a lathe. I want to be able to lathe wood or metal, and I want the lathe bed long enough to take a 36 inch work piece, and solid enough to do precision work over that length. I want to do both precision metal work, and general woodturning. Oh, and I want it for less than $300. If that means buying a busted, used lathe that needs some tender care, I’ll go for it.
  • Rebuild the 15 inch band saw that I got for free. The motor’s good, but the pulleys need help, and there are pieces missing.
  • Woodwork for friends – simple wood projects mostly. None of these smaller projects require a thickness sander, lathe, or band saw.
  • Woodwork for sale – I’ve found a few simple items that I can make that bring a decent price. My last piece sold for $60 – after the store’s commission and my materials I made a profit of about $35. Sometimes I sell items directly so my profit is closer to $45 for those items. Not much, and the items take time to shape by hand. But it’s helping to pay for my addiction (hobby).
  • Improve my skills as an artist. I’ve only recently – after years of drawing – come to the conclusion that I’ve been fooling myself on my drawing skills. I’ve learned some useful shortcuts but I need to understand how to draw the human figure at a very fundamental level. My research into past masters has been very helpful in understanding this.
  • Improve my skills as a graphic artist – I think I’ve finally come to an understanding of Photoshop – I’m not diving into the instruction manual quite so much. I have fun using Photoshop along with Xara, Thumbsplus, and yes even Microsoft paint. I’ll usually start with a scanned sketch of my own.
  • Improve my skills in C programming. I so completely aced my college programming class that I blew the curve for my classmates. So it’s shameful that I’ve allowed that training to atrophy. I have the tools I need to start programming in embedded 8051 series microcontrollers – and I need to set aside time to do that.
  • Robots! I love modifying (perverting) trashed toys into robots. Unfortunately my lack of C skills prevents me from giving them the brains that they really deserve. I’ve created line followers and edge crawlers in assembly and with a BASIC stamp, now I want to use C and kick-ass processor to create more independent robots. I’ve got a robot dog that I’ve modified with wheels and upgraded motors – but right now he’s only a straw man. (He needs a brain!)

Research projects

  • Yes, I’m still researching the “Icons of Evolution” book. I’ve finished preliminary research, and have created a ‘names list’ of the people that Wells has quoted in his book so that I can find out who these people are. (There are quite a lot of them, Wells likes to name drop! It doesn’t seem to matter to Wells to quote someone who is pre-Darwin as proof that Darwin was wrong.)
  • Ghost detection equipment. Ghosthunters use a surprising amount of equipment in finding their spooks – you’d think that with five thousand dollars of precision scientific equipment they’d be able to provide better evidence of Casper than photographic orbs or random bits of pseudo-speech dredged out of background noise. Ghosthunters are also being fleeced by online ghosthunting stores that sell dreck equipment for premium prices. I’ve designed better equipment on the back of napkins – and I want to build my very own ghost detection equipment in the same sort of ghosthunter tradition – then I’ll document why it’s pseudoscience.
  • Atheism / Secular Humanism philosophy and ethics. There is so much that I don’t know about this subject. There are enormous implications of an ethical system that cares about humans in the here and now as opposed to caring about the supernatural now and an afterlife later. In simple terms it is all about feeling empathy and reducing suffering. This is only one bullet point, but it has so MUCH homework!
  • Atheism / Secular Humanism activism. I’ve started 3 different non-belief organizations in Fresno so far, but starting such an organization is simple, helping it succeed and grow is completely different. I have a lot of learning to do here. I’d love to just be a member of one of these organizations, but unfortunately they didn’t exist.
  • Political research. I keep learning more about how the American political system works, and find it fascinating. In this area I’m such a newbie. This frightens me because compared to my friends I’m miles ahead of them in understanding our system. I can see that my high school and my semester of political science in college was not enough to really understand what is going on. This takes a LOT of homework too!
  • Bible / Quran scholarship. I know, I know – an Atheist Bible expert is either a trite, confusing or scary image depending on who you are. But I do find the Bible fascinating because it has impacted the American political system in so many ways, and it shapes who we are as a country. This scares me because of all the evil that the Bible supports. The Quran is the same for another religious majority – not knowing about what it says is fast becoming detrimental.

Lastly, two things that don’t categorize easily; first I need to not only keep my electronics engineering skills current, but I need to improve them. This means going back to school at some point. Second, is volunteerism – I love to volunteer, teaching is enjoyable to me. I need to be better at it, and I should possibly look at volunteering for a political campaign.

As you can see, there is seriously not enough time to keep up with everything, plus go to work every day (and also most weekends!) My blog slips in priority and that’s too bad because I love to write researched articles, but I just don’t have the time to do all the research that I would like to create such an article.

Also, as bullets in this list are completed and checked off, I run into other things that I would like to do and I add them to my list.

So I’m afraid that my blog will continue in a somewhat sporadic fashion. However, my projects tend to spin off articles almost by themselves, so I’ll blog them when I have them.