Outside of work, family, church, and community involvement, I have little time, but when a free moment comes, you may find me engaged in or thinking about one of these other interests or passions.
I played an enormous amount of soccer growing up, and I sometimes still do, when I can find both the time and a game, a hard combination. I avidly follow the U.S. Men's National Team, and am already looking forward to 2014. I try to keep up with the sport around the world, and I enjoy watching important matches, especially international ones; when the World Cup or European Championships are on, I've been known to participate in television marathons with friends.
I used to play very regularly in college and graduate school, but now only play occasionally. I have no interest in the NBA, but I love college hoops. I am especially a fan of ACC basketball, with a particularly deep loyalty to Duke, both my alma mater and my employer. Two of the best weekends of the year are the ACC Tournament and the first weekend of March Madness, though I could do with fewer commercials (another great thing about watching soccer).
I enjoyed a brief rowing career during my two years in Oxford, both for my college (Magdalen College Boat Club) and for the university (Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club). While rowing in a Magdalen novice VIII in my first term, we won the Christ Church Regatta, and while rowing for the Magdalen first VIII in my last term, we won blades in Summer Eights, bumping four colleges and going from sixth to second on the river. I have not had many opportunities to get into a shell since leaving Oxford and wish there were more opportunities for rowing now: I dearly miss the unique combination of technical focus, synchronization, cardiovascular conditioning, teamwork, commitment, and early mornings out on calm water.
I enjoy playing ultimate, tennis, and disc golf. I used to play a decent amount of volleyball and baseball, but don't much any more. I used to watch football on television but have mostly lost interest, except perhaps in the occasional matchup between top ten college teams, or very small doses of the NFL playoffs. I grew up as a Washington Redskins fan, so you can see why I have not followed pro football in a while. As for baseball, I grew up as a Baltimore Orioles fan, but my time in Boston and my New England in-laws have converted me into a Red Sox fan. Either way, I don't root for the Yankees, but you've got to respect them because they are a storied club and rivalries are better with a worthy opponent (see also Duke vs. UNC).
Hiking and Backpacking
Although I go on walks and hikes locally throughout the year, I only manage to undertake a serious trip every couple years. I have spent a reasonable amount of time hiking and backpacking throughout the American and Canadian West (the picture above was taken near Mt. Assiniboine in the Canadian Rockies). I like being outdoors by myself, or with my family or friends, untethered from the modern communication grid, with nothing to do but cook breakfast, strike camp, hit the trail, revel in the beauty of creation, pitch camp, make dinner, and sleep under the stars (or in a cozy thermal sleeping bag). For me, being out in the wilderness is an escape, and hearkens back to a simpler and more rugged life.
I love reading. I have been an avid reader since I was a child, and still make regular time for reading. I like to read a little of everything: classic literature, modern classic literature, biography, history, philosophy, theology, travel, science and technology, academic research papers, newspapers, comic strips, backs of cereal boxes, etc. It would be hard to create an exhaustive list of my favorite books, but to give a hint about what I like, the list would certainly include The Bible, Lord of the Rings, Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick, Brave New World, A Soldier of the Great War, Heart of Darkness, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Founding Brothers, To the Lighthouse, The Hiding Place, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Lost in the Cosmos, The Screwtape Letters, Harry Potter, and anything Calvin and Hobbes.
The nice thing about a good movie is that it tells a story in a short amount of time: it's the pleasure of a book compressed into a single evening. Because I don't have as much time for movies as I once did though, I have grown to be somewhat selective; I have learned through much trial and error that a good old, foreign, or independent movie is better than almost any new release, but that just because a movie is old, foreign, or independent does not necessarily make it good. Thus, I have come to rely on AFI's 100 Greatest American Movies of the 20th Century, IMDB's Top 250 Movies, and Metacritic for helpful hints in making wise selections. I have finally worked my way through all 100 on the first list, but the other two lists are continually moving targets.
Although my first computer was a TI99-4A and my second an old Apple II+, I spent most of my university life using either PCs running Windows, or workstations running various flavors of Unix. But when Apple decided to convert their Macintosh line of computers to Unix-derived OS X, I began to seriously consider switching to Macintosh for the first time in my life. I made the leap a few years back and have fallen in love. Computing has become more fun and aesthetic. I like that Mac OS X inherits the stability and power of Unix, but adds a simple and elegant user interface. I like how configurable and scriptable it is, but that it also “just works” when I do not have time to make any modifications. I occasionally visit various Apple rumor mill sites.
Travel can be wonderfully exhilarating. I like visiting new places best when I am in the company of someone who knows the place well. Since that is not always possible, I have over time come to enjoy individual exploration. I have visited five continents, and lived (at least nine months) on three. I have been to 49 states (I've never visited Alaska), four provinces in Canada, most of Western Europe, five islands in the Caribbean, Bolivia, Brazil, India, Kenya, Uganda, and Egypt. Although I have wonderful memories of most of those places, Italy occupies a special place in my heart for some reason, along with England and the Netherlands for reasons of personal history. I would love to visit more countries along the Pacific Rim—New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, and many places in Polynesia—and am dying to visit more places in Africa—South Africa, Botswana, Madagascar, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Morocco. Perhaps some day.
Tea and Coffee
I drank tea occasionally as a child, and perhaps surprisingly, only moderately while in England, but in recent years—perhaps out of nostalgia for my time in the UK—I have come to really enjoy it again. I have come to understand the difference between green, Oolong, black, red, and herbal tea, but I am certainly no connoisseur. My favorite preparation is as chai, whether Kenyan or Indian. Since having kids, I've also started to drink coffee. I can only tolerate it with lots of sugar and cream, but I can vouch that it is extremely addictive.
I am a big fan of The Simpsons (at least back in its heyday, with Conan O'Brien at the helm), U2, folk music, classical music, A Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk, The Office, eating, sleeping, and working in the yard. I try to live a life that is simple, uncluttered, and meaningful (emphasis on the word try; success is elusive). Here is a quote that resonates strongly with me (I should clarify that I just stumbled across this quote and have not read the book):
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
—Lazarus Long (Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love, 1973)