Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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66 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    It is very easy to get enamored of a new pair of xc skis or a new road bike. I’ll usually browse a bit on-line but never get really tempted. Skis and bikes can be a never end sinkhole for money if you aren’t careful. Ultimately my speed is governed by my effort and form more then my gear.

    I will by new clothes though since they can be the difference between comfort and cold: i got two new base layers for skiing this year; one heavy wool top for below 10 and a light weight one for spring skiing. I’m up to three pairs of gloves for skiing and i got nifty face/head warmer for temps under 10. I find its often the small accessories that matter a lot for comfort. I’m tempted to get a new bike jersey for this season but i don’t need one, so i won’t likely plunk down the money.Report

  2. Avatar zic says:

    Well, I knit professionally. But it’s still a hobby.

    Gear: yarn. (I have more yarn then many yarn stores.) I prefer natural fibers, hand-dyed, and soft. Needles. You can never have enough needles. Shears. Rulers. Gauges (lots of measuring). Stitch markers, tapestry needles, stitch holders, and a thousand other small tools that make the work easier. Calculator. Spreadsheets and word-processing software. Knitters graph paper (5 to 7 ration), graph paper, sketch books. Camera (with a fast lens for narrow depth-of-field). Blocking tools, including mats, pins, and wires. Crochet hooks because sometimes a girl’s got get multi-craftual. Technique books and pattern books (I have hundreds of them).

    Probably the biggest thing I covet is a set of interchangable needles. (I don’t use straight needles, but ‘circular,’ a flexible cable with a needle on each end, the interchangable needle tips, in different sizes, are interchangable, and there are different lengths of cable.) More on the covet side, though, is skills and accomplishment — it’s more what I can learn and do then what I have that matters.

    Best magazine? Probably Interweave Knits or Piecework. Even better: social media website called Ravelry, which is where I sell my designs.

    Other hobby: participating here. Requires a computer, internet connection, and some mental agility.Report

  3. Avatar aaron david says:

    I collect old tools. Mostly pre-war industrial, some early automotive. To me, taking 10-20 bucks and spending a Saturday wandering around old crap at flea markets, yard sales and estate sales is the ultimate pleasure. Sometimes I restore what I find, sometimes I leave it as is. I will also use these tools to work on and restore age related materials such as old English bicycles, fans etc.
    My wife thinks I am a hoarder…
    I also collect old books, and for years have sold online at places such as ABE, Bookfinder and Amazon.
    As far as magazines go, the internet has really taken over for me, as it is so much more instantaneous, and personal for these types of things.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      I seriously want to learn how to weld so that I can take the old tools, etc. I find in flea markets and turn them into sculpture. One of my most prized pieces of art is a small rooster, made from a bent desert fork, a gear, and two hairpins. I bought it at a junk shop for $5, but I tell you: it’s priceless for it’s grace and charm.

      We spend a lot of time looking at old tools in junk shops, too. In fact, that’s what we did today. My sweetie particularly likes old electronic stuff (tubes), particularly shortwave radios (he’s a HAM), and mechanical machines — he just got a mechanical adding machine at goodwill for $10, and it has the honor seat on top of his grand piano.

      If you’re ever northeast, Maine is a particularly good place for this. Lot of junk in all those falling-down barns on former farms.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        Your hubby has good taste!
        Welding these days is pretty easy – pop down to Sears and get a Mig welder, follow the instruction book and let it rip. When I learned it was gas (oxygen-acetylene) and high voltage arc. Much more versatile, but do take considerable skill.
        If I remember right Maine is very similar to NorCal, one large metro area (here SF) and then vast tracks of low population.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Welding these days is pretty easy – pop down to Sears and get a Mig welder, follow the instruction book and let it rip. When I learned it was gas (oxygen-acetylene) and high voltage arc. Much more versatile, but do take considerable skill.

        We have an arc welder; and we live in an old wooden house. Younger sprout does both types.

        Maine might fit that description; but 1) Portland is about 100,000 people, the whole state 1.1m; so the scale is simply magnitudes different; and 2) Maine’s been home to farmers, etc. since the mid-1600’s, so there’s just a lot of old stuff floating around.Report

      • Avatar johanna says:

        I loved to weld. I am terrible at tig welding since I really didn’t get much practice in learning the craft but I dug mig welding. Did you ever think of making small projects by just brazing? You can do that with smaller items and it is definitely fun!

        When I needed to find smaller gloves to fit me, I had to go to a welding supply store because I couldn’t find any that would fit me at Lowes and the clerk was shocked that I actually asked him for welding gloves for myself. My response was, What century do you think we are living in? Women were welding war machinery before you were born!

        I would like to knit again but I am so inconsistent with my tension that even when I gauge sizes it really never tends to stay that way. I still have a basket of needles and lovely yarn sitting idle in my hall closet. Sigh, someday…Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        I would like to knit again but I am so inconsistent with my tension that even when I gauge sizes it really never tends to stay that way.

        It’s like playing the piano; you’ve got to practice to get it into your muscle memory; 10 or 15 minutes a day, every day, and you’ll get it remarkably quickly. When I teach students, I typically help select first projects with this in mind; usually a long strip made of of wool so that it can be felted and then sewn into a bag, i-pad case, etc. The felting evens out tension and eliminates problems like dropped stitches, allowing the student to work on muscle memory first while making something that might actually be used.

        (And do know about needle felting? Tween/teen girls generally love it, an awesome way to ornament clothing and make smalls sculptures.)Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

      When my mom was in China, she bought a set of old hammers. This was 2004-2005.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      ha. I know someone investing in old tools. [which is how he managed to find Edison’s journals…]Report

  4. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    I suppose my hobbies are: reading, theatre, art.

    Reading: The gear is books. I suppose taking it to the next level would involve searching for first editions/rare books that interest me and building a library of my own. One book I would like is the Couragebook. Mother Courage and Her Children is the most important of Brecht’s plays and one of the most important plays of the 20th century. There was a famous production right at the end of WWII that was directed by Brecht. The East German Government to their brilliance decided to produce a nice three volume version. The first volume is the play, the second volume is Brecht’s notes, the third volume is a photo by photo layout of Brecht’s staging. I learned about this book in my History of Directing course during my first semester of grad school. Who knows how much it costs? I was at a rare book show in SF last year and all the German dealers immediately knew what I meant when I said I asked if they had a Couragebook. None did.

    2. Art: I have some really nice Japanese woodblock prints and a very small piece I got in Italy for about 50 Euro. I would like to start buying more serious (read: expensive) pieces. Not auction level expensive but nice stuff.

    3.Theatre stuff: Season subscriptions. Maybe even getting on the Board of Directors one day.Report

    • Avatar Sam Fran Sam says:

      if you are interested in Japanese woodblock prints i would take a look at Scriptum (in Berekely) and Frank Castle Fine Arts (in SoCal). they have the whole range from 18th Japanese to modern. I particularly like Ryohei Tanaka’s work (less expensive) and Kawase Hasui (more expensive)Report

  5. Avatar Philip H. says:

    model trains. Seriously. And political blogging . . . even if my time is not as devoted to either as it once was.

    And magazines are so passé’ – but Model Railroader, Rail Model Craftsman, N Scale, and N Scale Railroading are my 4 main reads.

    On line – start with The Railwire.net – and tell the mods I sent you when you sign up!Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


      Are you familiar with the on-line mag Model Railroad Hobbyist? My brother’s an editor of it. (But that’s about the limit of my knowledge of it.)Report

      • Avatar Philip H. says:

        I’ve been a MRH subscriber since the first issue, and even had an article published there. I’ve also been published in N Scale.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Nice. My brother spent years being certain he could write better articles than what he was reading, and a couple decades ago he started getting some published. In Model Railroader first, I belive. Then a couple years ago he told me was working with someone to develop an online mag. I’m delighted to (virtually) bump into someone who’s both read and published in it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        In my opinion most hobby magazines have sub-par writing. Same for hunting publications. And it’s also a lot of re-run type articles.Report

      • Avatar Philip H says:

        I think it depends. A lot of the issue in MR magazines is editing – both Model Railroader and RMC have a certain style, and you will get edited (sometimes badly) into that style like it or not. The smaller niche pubs – and the on line ones – seem to be more free flowing style wise. MRH, FWIW is a really heavily photo oriented publication, which stands to reason as its entirely web based. By starting from the visual and transitioning to the written, I think they do a great job of knitting together a regular publication that is appealing an dinformative, while preserving far more individuality in author style.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      My son does graphic design work for Intermountain Railway, a supplier of historically accurate locomotive and car models. There are a lot of serious model train enthusiasts out there.Report

  6. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I’ve let too many hobbies fall by the wayside over the years.

    For a while I was working on a database that included all of the scores of college football games that I was running analyses to compare and rank the conferences. I was actually looking to see if there were any systemic problems with Las Vegas spreads. It was looking like there was for a while (consistently over-favoring teams that were ranked towards the end of the top 25 against unranked teams, especially when playing against better-than-average unranked teams), but that stopped rather suddenly (I like to think it was because they discovered my work and knew I was about to make bank).

    Unfortunately, something went wrong and the data was lost.

    I’ve been trying to get back into comics, but it hasn’t really taken.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      I’ve been trying to get back into comics, but it hasn’t really taken.

      Collecting or creating? Initially, I though you meant creating, and I was going to ask you to post them here. If creating is so, I am requesting.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I lack visual art talent, I’m afraid. I tried to work around it for years and years, but eventually threw in the towel and realized that with prose, I don’t have to be able to draw. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        I’ve been trying to pick up drawing–not to be good, but to stop being horrible. I got the book Learn How to Draw in 30 Days, and it’s been awesome so far for my limited purposes. I draw for 10-20 minutes before going to bed.

        I also tried Drawing With the Right Side of the Brain. It has good exercises, but it’s filled with so much bullshit from a scientific viewpoint that I have a hard time staying focused on the actual exercises.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        I took some art classes a while back, and picked up two exercises that have helped me to not-suck. They have proper names, I won’t get them right, so I’ve made up my own:

        Speed sketching — pick something to sketch in 30 seconds. I particularly like the old-fashioned, hand-cranked egg beaters for this one; but rocky coastlines or street lights have all worked equally well for me.

        Blind drawing — Draw it blind; literally cover your paper so that you cannot see it. This is a particularly good way to do a self portrait; but my old friend, the hand-cranked egg beater comes in pretty handy here, as well.

        Funny how that egg beater moved from my kitchen to the shelf in my studio (knitting studio) where I keep my drawing supplies.Report

      • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

        Neil Gaiman cannot draw either, but he managed to do okay with comics.Report

  7. Avatar dhex says:

    due to home ownership and having a kid my hobbies now include all sorts of stuff i never had any interest in previously (landscaping massive outdoor spaces! crawlspaces! mosquito control!), and my actual artistic pursuits are basically in a coma.

    which is both good – i don’t want to buy gear anymore – and bad, as i don’t want to buy it as i wouldn’t have time to use it anymore. i’m hoping by end of summer i can get back into it and actually set things up correctly, as it is a genuinely lovely thing to get absorbed into.

    i have about 0.0 chance of finding anyone to play with out here as the local scene is all straw boater hat jazz and related grup stuff, but that’s what i get for leaving ny.

    on the other hand not having to move again (in theory!) is pretty dope. seven times in just about ten years was about two moves too many.Report

  8. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Reading is one hobby. There are certain authors who I want to read all their works, or at least whole series. I’ve spent years deeply involved in O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. Now I’m working through Forester’s Hornblower series (fun, not nearly as rich). And after having rrad a few LeCarre novels a few years back, I’m working my way through them all, as nearly in the order written as availibility at our library allows (other people in town keep checking out his books, dammit!). And I have a goal of reading all of Cormac McCarthy’s early novels, having read all his later works.

    Renovating my 1870 house is also a hobby, by turns maddening and intensely satisfying.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      One of the bad things about e-book readers is the temptation to resort to bittorrent. LeCarre is popular enough that downloading a set of his novels (infringing on copyright the while) is trivial [1]. I admit to being torn over the ethics of downloading out-of-print books. What I would really like is a web site where I could pay a nominal fee (say a dollar) that went largely to the author for an epub copy an out-of-print book. The author gets money they wouldn’t otherwise (hundreds per year? thousands?), and I get a legal copy. Might be kind of hard on the libraries, though.

      [1] Out of curiosity, the elapsed time between entering “lecarre novels bittorrent” into Google and having copies of 21 of his 23 novels on my disk was 4:24. It would have been less than that but I throttle my bittorrent client’s download speed.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Might be kind of hard on the libraries, though.

        The libraries that lend out books for free?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And have to justify their budget by how many times they do that.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        The libraries that lend out books for free?

        If they have them, and often after waiting a significant amount of time for the volume you want to become available. Inter-library loans makes the “if they have them” question somewhat moot these days, at least for the network my local public library is part of. There are times when I would spend a dollar to avoid a six-week wait.Report

  9. Avatar Vikram Bath says:


    You can really spend massive amounts of money on it. I do have more than $1000 invested into it, if you were to count up everything. The sad thing though is that I don’t think it’s really made me much better.Report

  10. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    In general, I agree with the others about magazines. Most hobby magazines are just collections of advertisements. Even the “articles” are actually just plugs for gear sold by companies that just so happen to advertise in the magazine.

    The Internet does better: http://www.lightstalking.comReport

  11. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Fencing and small electronics/software (eg, The World’s Most Sophisticated Whole-House Fan Controller™.

    My fencing is unlikely to ever move on to the next level, and equipment certainly isn’t going to make the difference. Weapon specifications are tightly restricted so that the gear can’t provide any performance benefit; spending more usually buys durability instead. Eg, I’ve broken every $25 epee blade in less than a year, sometimes in as little as three months, but my $75 epee blades are three years old and show none of the early warning signs. Losing 25 pounds might help; anyone got a pill that makes that easy?

    A better oscilloscope would be nice. Custom enclosures are one of the tricky things. Maybe a 3D printer or a laser cutter that can handle acrylics. One of the items on the “I’d like to do” list is an inexpensive compact DIY book scanner where the software chain can correct all of the faults of the limited hardware.Report

  12. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    My hobby, partner dancing, is known for being expensive, especially if you compete. The actual equipment, dance shoes, surprisingly don’t cost more than regular dress shoes. The expense comes with paying for the lessons and finding money for competitions and conventions. If your competing with a professional, which a lot of people do because finding another amateur partner is rather difficult, you also have to pay the professional. The required costumes for a competition can get expensive to. I’m still at the bronze level in ball room so all I need is a dark tie, black slacks, a black cardigan, and a white dress shirt. When I get to the silver and gold levels, I’m going to have to buy a tail suit. Those cost at least $1500. If I was a woman, the gowns would cost at least $2000.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      Fascinating hobby, Lee. Great exercise I would imagine. I never suspected there were so many costs involved with dancing.

      Have you been satisfied with your success in competitions?Report

  13. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Very few particular tools are needed for writing. A computer and good word-processing software, which has the advantage of doubling for productivity. Legal writing, like for the Ordinary Court project, requires some legal research tools but there are good free legal research tools available for the trained initiate.

    Cooking, on the other hand. Whoa. How much would you like to spend? My dream kitchen would require a structural modification to my house and by the time I got done with it, might cost as much as a house. I’ve probably spent around $10,000 on equipment, appliance upgrades, classes, and tools (in particular knives). Plus more for high-quality ingredients and consumable supplies like bottles of butane and carbon dioxide.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I consider cooking just practical, but that’s just me… Then again, I don’t buy too many fripperies, and my pots are 7 years old.Report

    • Avatar Neil Obstat says:

      For a proper kitchen, I need a new (to us) bloody house. Two people have difficulty working in the kitchen simultaneously. Raven & I tend toward what we refer to as “weapons-grade” cookware: one could defend one’s self & possibly do grievous bodily harm to a malefactor if necessary.Report

  14. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Like Mike Dwyer, I’ve had the temptation to start building models again, too. When I’m dragged to Hobby Lobby, I find myself dawdling in the model aisle. But I know anything I started would sit around half-done forever, and if I finished, what the hell would I do with the things?

    I get visions of my youth, when firecrackers and gasoline were used to dispose of them in an entertaining manner, but almost resulted in setting our shed on fire once, and another time almost burning down the woods across the street (but, hey, the old guy across the street almost did it once, too, so it must have been ok).

    Which brings to mind these two great songs by Hank Williams and Michelle Shocked.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      The ‘where do I put them’ question is why I haven’t taken the hobby back up. My wife and I abhor any sort of dust collectors in the house and those would be prime candidates. I do miss the hours of concentration. It was mentally rewarding.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      I’m curious about how model-building will translate into a world of CAD tools and 3D printing. Ultimately, it would seem that you would download the files and print the parts to be assembled. Or more challenging, design your own parts and print them.Report

  15. Avatar Kim says:

    I don’t have money to spend on hobbies, so eh.

    Did the news mention the spread of Black Plague near you, Mike? Apparently there’s an advisory out… (near the border of Kentucky and Tennessee)Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      I bet you have hobbies and interests which don’t require money, right Kim? This web site is one. You invest a lot of time and energy into the discussions.Report

  16. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Kim – link on that? I haven’t heard anything.Report

  17. Avatar Roger says:

    As a retired person, my life pretty much revolves around hobbies (and family).

    1). Surfing. This is a really inexpensive hobby. All you really need is a used board for a few hundred bucks and a wet suit for about the same. Other than that it just takes getting to the beach and jumping in. The real cost comes in getting to nice beaches when one lives in Chicago. I have learned how to fly really cheap. My personal goal is to surf 300 hours a year. Despite this I am still and probably always will be a kook.

    2). Audio. This one can be stupidly expensive. Absurdly and irrationally. I simply LOVE listening to music (Charles Mingus, Tijuana Moods is currently playing), so I have gathered rewarding, relatively cost effective components over time. My current speakers are 27 years old. Still, most of my “allowance” goes here. Oddly, good music is becoming almost free. I can get tens of thousands of CDs at local libraries, I have collected many hundreds of CDs and vinyl over the years, and streaming services are available with catalogues of millions for ten bucks a month.

    3). Painting. I spend a half hour or so a day painting. The costs here are marginal, maybe $25 a month or less.

    4). Reading. I pretty much focus all my reading to non fiction in the broad category of “progress” in all its manifestations (science, culture, economics, evolution, ethics, etc). I spend maybe fifty dollars a month on used books on Amazon. Someone needs to build a good streaming solution for old books.

    5). Exercising. I ride bikes and swim. Swimming costs a cheap gym membership. My bike is almost twenty years old, and I have a fifteen year old stationary bike for winter.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      I can’t classify my reading as a hobby; it’s much more like an addiction. I’m in the situation from one of Heinlein’s old novels:

      The truth is, I’ve got a monkey on my back, a habit worse than marijuana though not as expensive as heroin…. I’m a compulsive reader….
      “Psst! Rufo.”
      “Yes, milord.”
      “Look, is there anything to read around this dump?”
      “What sort of thing?”
      “Anything, just anything. Words in a row.”


      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I would not have know which book that was from except for the name “Rufo”.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        I always wanted Rufo’s job. My wife once asked me about my fixation on Heroes’ companions and I told her, “I want to be the person who’s been through the same dangers and survived them, and when the Hero sticks his hand out and says ‘Rope!’ have (a) recognized that a bit of rope might be handy at some point and (b) lugged the damned stuff through all those dangers.”Report

  18. Avatar Don Zeko says:

    Bridge, for one. the trouble is that I don’t know enough people that play to get a foursome together without a great deal of effort, so it’s basically been on hold for the past five years. Beyond that, I still spend unwise amounts of time and money on tabletop wargaming. But as with Bridge, what I need isn’t gear so much as something more human. I just don’t have the painting chops at the moment to really move forward, and I don’t have the time or the courage to start digging into more advanced techniques.Report

  19. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    In home brewing, you can spend crazy money on a full brewhouse setup.

    A gravity brewhouse would be awesome – no more hauling pails of water up from the basement (where the 20 amp 240 V supply for the dryer is), pouring hot water over the lauter tun by hand, hauling pails of wort back downstairs, inevitably spilling some in pouring it back into the kettle, etc. That would mean a very sturdy rack of shelving with three big beer kegs or equivalent vessels, plumbed together so each can drain into the top of the next, and burners under at least the top and bottom one.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      Fortunately, on the human support side of that hobby – it’s generally fairly easy to find opportunities to give people free beer.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        As a non-brewer who enjoys microbrews, I have benefited immensely from my friends’ brewing hobbies :). I really should be helping sponsor some of their setup stuff in some cases (and occasionally have).Report

  20. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    Guitar is one hobby. There is nothing I really need to buy for that right now, though I may need a dehumidifier in a couple of months. I would also like to get into banjo, and I would need to buy an instrument to do that.

    My other hobby, that tends to be the bigger money sink, is board games. However, I am still working to get a new group together so I can get back to playing regularly.Report

  21. Avatar zic says:

    I know bird watching is a hobby. It’s not one I’d say I participate in (no lists, no binoculars, no calls, etc.) but.

    The purple thrushes are back, rebuilding their nest on my front porches. This is their third year. And it’s definitely luxury digs; hey have a duplex. I have two front porches, and they use them both; they have a nest on one that’s more sheltered, and this is where they lay hatch their chicks. They have a second nest on the more exposed porch, and this is where they hang when they’re not tending the eggs/chicks.

    I’m surprised to see them (and robins, too) since there’s still a couple feet of snow on the ground.Report