I have too many hobbies. It's always been true. And, indeed, a quote by Mike Dunford has spurred me into writing a post... but not this one. The other one will come sometime (I hope). In grad school, I suppose it's possible I would have graduated sooner if I hadn't done some much theater. I wasn't always doing a play, but I had small roles in the musical Working and a sort of dramatic reading of John Brown's Body; I was the stage directory for a musical revue (the baby of my housemate, musical director Deepto Chakrabarty); I was a unicycling waiter in Hello Dolly!; I was Brutus in Julius Caesar (my favorite role); I was Antonio in Twelfth Night; and I was Polonius in Green Eggs and Hamlet. (Assuming I haven't forgotten anything.) I was also, the entire time, principle second violinist of the Caltech/Occidental orchestra, and was regularly playing with a chamber group administered through the excellent chamber music program of Caltech which was (at least at the time) amazingly well run by Delores Bing. And, I was a C-128 and Amiga nerd, idly participating in some things associated with that— at one point I ran the premier ftp site (this was pre-widely known Web) for the C64 and C128. I also started the Dramatic Exchange with Mike Dederian.
Now that I'm pre-tenure, I don't have time to do any theater at all, and I'm no longer involved in Amiga or C-128 stuff. I do still play in an orchestra sometimes, but I'm not doing a lot of chamber music.
I know that us scientists are supposed to absolutely hyperfocus on what we do and put all of our time and energy into that, but I've never been able to work that way. I've always had too many diverse interests.
Alas, I've found yet another one.
Second Life is sort of a "massive multiplayer online roleplaying game," but not really. It doesn't have a lot of "game" elements with it; there are no quests, goals, experience, etc. Really, it's a virtual world created and run by Linden Labs. Almost everything inside that world has been created by the residents. When you create an account, you create an "agent" or "avatar" (really the former, but people use "avatar" to mean a couple of different things). You choose a name for it; it's almost impossible to make it your own name, even if you wanted to do that. You then are injected into the world. You can wander around, teleport freely to where you want, fly around, look at what's going on. There are live music events (people show up and listen to music being "performed" by people who are streaming the music— sometimes truly being performed live). There are game-like things (including "combat sims," although I have yet to wander into that sort of thing). You can buy land and build things; there are plenty of impressive builds to find and look. And there's urban blight and sign pollution. There are griefers, people who's fun involves trying to annoy the crap out of everybody else. There are classes on how to get around. There's massive amounts of shopping, where you can spend "Lindens" (where 1 US$ is about 270 L$— you can buy L$ directly at about that rate) to purchase clothing for your avatar, or even new avatars.
And, there is the occasional educational event. One of my favorite places is The 'Splo, the SL (Second Life) arm of San Francisco's Exploratorium, run largely by Patio Plasma, who is the SL avatar of Exploratirum employee Paul Dogherty. There's the Science Center run by SL avatar Troy McCluhan, which frequently hosts talks by scientists (including me). There's the Slacker Astronomy group, who recently sponsored a talk by Bad Astronomer Phil Plait (although I didn't make it myself, and don't know Phil's avatar's name).
When in Second Life myself, I am Prospero Frobozz. I chose the last name from a list of last names that were available when I signed up; the name is a reference to the classic Zork games; the second game was entitled "The Wizard of Frobozz." The first name went with the wizard theme, choosing one of my favorite Shakespeare characters, the wizard of The Tempest. While many in Second Life conceal their real life (or "FL," First Life) identity, I'm open about who I am.
Working on my Celestial Sphere model
So what do I do there? Hang out, goof off. I am working on building a planetarium. I have built a small "tabletop" model of the Celestial Sphere, which you can set to rotating and such. Indeed, I sometimes fantasize about gettin gmy entire Astronomy 103 lab into SL to play around with this thing.... I also own an island and a gadget store. I've built some things. I've written some code. It's a fun diversion.
If you're in Second Life, look me up.
I will certainly be writing more about Second Life in the future.