Science, the great outdoors and Nature, sports(playing & watching), programming, game design, ancient/medieval history & mythology, Theology & philosophy, chess(variants)/strategy/logic, irreverent comedy(mostly British), flying, travel, collecting books (see mwirkk on LibraryThing), tinkering/repairing and crafting things, and *starting* projects (bad habit of losing interest after 95% complete: if end="in sight" goto next), agriculture and land stewardship, local Finn-Am culture/heritage. I was born the day after Yuri Gagarin became the 1st man in space. Grew up on a farm. Prepared for career in software by majoring in zoology/wildlife biology, then worked almost 8yrs as deckhand/engineer on crab boats in Alaska/Russia -- isn't that how everybody does it? My pic above is from 2003 when I was "42"; which is, as everybody knows, the answer to the BIG Question: "What's the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything?" (That answer would be in base 13, obviously!). :)
First Lord of the Rings reading experience:
Had first heard of Tolkien and the Hobbit/LotR when I was about 9 (~1970), but didn't really know what it was about until I finally read the Hobbit in high school ('75/76), chiefly because of publicity(unwanted?) it was getting due to the indirect associations being made with it and D&D, as D&D was itself then gaining some notoriety with the media and parents, "Oh no! My kid's gone crazy!" (The R&B Hobbit came out on TV in '77, but it did little to pacify the panicked frenzy of the ignorant masses.;) But, really, Critical Mass of Interest for me was reached when my brother (Todd, 2yrs younger and a D&D player) recommended it to me. He generally knew what he was talking about where fiction was concerned; I've always been more of a non-fiction guy, believing the greatest stories are usually based in true events. But at that time I didn't make much distinction between Tolkien's stories and the world of D&D. I just wasn't a student of it yet. But about a year later (~'77) I had a teacher who got me interested in mythology (Kiitos Mr.O'Connell!:), which led to an interest in the histories and cultures that bore them. As my knowledge of that developed I started gaining a real understanding and appreciation for Prof.Tolkien and his works. So, my transformation was not so much an epiphany, as an evolutionary process. Therefore, my love of things 'Tolkien' sits more on an intellectual base than an emotional one.
Favorite Tolkien character:
Who?: Gandalf. Reason: Because as much as the cycle might seem to be concerned chiefly with the arch of the hobbits in Middle-earth, in the background it's all about how Gandalf completes [his] overall mission.
Next favourite: The Nine - the Black Riders. Because they are Gandalf's antithesis. And those black stallions kick ass! Same goes for Smaug. ;P
Third: The contrast between the Silmarillion and the Shire Reckoning. Not "characters", I know, but it's much of what transforms what would otherwise be just a series of fantasy stories into mythology...It's a feature I really enjoy pondering.