505 Stuff: My Interests and Hobbies

Hobbies of any kind are boring except to the people who have the same hobby." ~ Dave Barry 

Mom and Dad taught their three boys to be life-long learners.  It is my opinion that the more you travel, read, and try, the more interesting the personality...the more valuable the person.  I stick my nose into everything I can get my hands on.

At times, I had so many interests that it was hard for me to be good at anything.  The Army fixed that.  I had to prioritize, decide what was most fun, 0r most important.

Now that I have a lot more time (I love my job), I find that I keep up with the ones I "settled" on years ago....but, from years past, I can talk to anyone intelligently about most anything.



I read a lot, possibly to compensate for leaving college, but more probably because that is how I was raised.  There are times I will be reading three or four books at a time, mostly  history or historical novels.  I read slowly and I remember everything I have ever read.  The first book I read, that I chose to read on my own, was The Mystery of The Wooden Indian by  Elizabeth Honness, which I found in the the Woodlawn Library.  It began my love of fiction.  Currently I'm reading everything I can get my hands on about the last year of the War of Northern Aggression.

My favorite book of all time?  Dune by Frank Herbert.

Meet Bess

I'm from Alabama, so I am going to list my car.  I've had great cars before, but this little Mustang beats them all.  She is a 2005 Roush Sport and still turns heads everywhere we go.

I told Kim that if the '05 Mustang looked anything like the 68-70 models, I had to have one.  She balked at the notion, but when she saw this car sitting on the lot, she gave me the go-ahead.  Awesome Wife!

Since buying Bess, I've made a few improvements and will probably make a few more.  Let's just say she is fast and agile.


I am taking photos again.  I was in a bit of a slump for a while, but I am remembering how much fun it is to take photos of the people I like.  Kim facilitated this by buying me an amazing new camera..

Not much for still-life, I like photographing people.

I began taking photos of my people and giving them photos of themselves when I was just beginning the learning process.  I talked a couple I knew into sitting for me, my first ever portrait try, and it went very well.  I have found that I take the best photos of people I really know and have had time to observe.

My favorite model?  My Car.


The trails around Lexington are where I commune with the universe.  There is nothing more enjoyable than the minimal thought it takes to put one foot in front of the other on a hot summer day.  For me, it is stress relief at its finest.

I don't run fast and I don't run competitively; never have.  This attitude is probably an extension of my Type-B Personality.  When I am passed up on the Chessie Trail by the new mom pushing her racing pram or an elderly couple out for a stroll, I'm not bothered.  I really don't care.

OK.  I do pick it up a bit when meeting the W&L women's track team.  I call that Image Fartlek.


I enjoy reading and studying history, but more than that, I enjoy Walking History.  Summertime will find me walking the battlefields of the War of Northern Aggression after reading a book on the subject.  I have walked the streets of Troy, stood in the trenches at Gallipoli, and strolled across the La Fiere Causeway.  I have made my own pilgrimage to Canterbury, prayed in the church at Ste. Mere-Eglise, and worshiped at the temples of Artemis and Zeus.

There is something peaceful and reassuring in walking well-worn streets or Roman roads, visited now only by sheep and their shepherds, thinking of the people who came before us.


As far back as I can remember, my dad would take my brothers and me out at night to look at the stars.  He taught us the constellations and explained the heavens as no teacher ever could. 

One Christmas we got a nice little reflector telescope and then we learned about galaxies and nebulae, and searched the moon's craters.  Comets became the perfect excuse for family trips to dark hilltops or open pastures.  Pinhole viewing devices were a favorite family craft when a solar eclipse was anywhere in the area.  Dad and I even drove to Florida for better viewing of one eclipse.

Haley's Comet came through when Jonathon was a little tyke and I held him up to the eyepiece hoping he'd be able to recognize what I was showing him.  "It looks like a cotton ball Daddy."  That's exactly what it looked like.

I haven't done this much since the wind destroyed my telescope a couple of years ago, but Jake is almost old enough to be interested, so, for my 60th birthday, Kim gave a nice little Orion 4.5" scope. Now I'm waiting on some decent weather and clear skies.

Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy

My studies are for me and they are where I get some of the norms and standards by which I try to live.  I study, compare other information, check with  plain common sense, decide if I believe the information, and then attempt to put what I've learned into application in my life.  It is a simple process designed for a simple guy.  Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes I'm not.  I call that "wrestling with the gods."  Certainly I am no saint.

To me the Bible, for example, is instructional.  It is not history, though there is a lot of really good history in it.  It is not science, though it deals with scientific thought from the formation of the universe to Unification Theory.  It is a pattern on how you should live YOUR Life.  There are places where it should be taken literally, and others where we are supposed to see the symbolism.  There are still others where you just have to say, "That's Bunk!"

I don't argue about my beliefs and I don't proselytize .  I once did, and I found the dogmatic attitude pretty exclusive.  That is not what my process is all about.  I'm  "Listening" and if I listen closely enough, I find I really have nothing to say.  The more I read, the more I study, the more I realize that I know less and less about more and more.


I don't play music, wish I did, but I listen to most everything.  When I was a kid I tried the clarinet and the piano, but I never stuck with it.  I sang in the church choir and in the glee club at school.  I play a little guitar but I'm not very good.  My little brother Don was the real musician in the family; the boy could play anything. 

My tastes lean heavily toward Country Rock or Southern Rock, but on a given day my i-Pod will play just about everything but Rap and Hip Hop; not a big fan.  I have a young wife and two kids who keep me abreast of what's new.  They can usually tell if I will like something and give me a heads up.  Even their friends point me in the direction of good tunes.  I think they all must be afraid that I'll stay stuck in the 1970s otherwise.

Auburn Football

I am not a big sports fan, but I live-and-breathe Auburn Football.  Being the middle kid, cheering for a different team than everyone else in the family came naturally.  In Alabama, you are either for Bama or Auburn.  I chose Auburn at an early age, much to the chagrin of almost every Neel I know.  I married into a rabid Auburn family and it has made all the difference.

War damn Eagle Y'all.


Yes, I'm a bird watcher.  I have a little bird feeder out behind the back porch and I get lots of different birds.  Mom taught me most of them and gave me my first bird book.

I taught Jake and can't wait to teach Emily

My Computer

Here is where all the magic happens.

Back in 1996 I could hardly turn on a computer, much less do anything with it.  I would write out my papers in the Academy, in long-hand, and Kim would type them into our little Mac.  This, I thought, was the way it should be-Sergeants Major didn't need computers.

When I got to VMI I quickly learned that we did everything on computers. Thanks to a couple of smart young officers, I learned to check my e-mail, prepare my lessons, and make a few simple spreadsheets.  I went to school, taking classes and reading a lot of "for Dummies" books.

Now I do everything on my computer.  I've given away my darkroom equipment and use Photoshop.  Outlook keeps me organized and on time.  I make spreadsheets for everything. If you've ever seen VMI, you know how much easier communication is with e-mail, rather than running the Stoops.

It still amazes me that The SGM is considered the computer "expert" in the Commandant's office.