I enjoy listening to classical music and heavy metal. I play basketball and try to go diving at least once a year. I don't really have hobbies in the traditional sense... I engage in too many activities already through the actions of my characters.
Dawn was written well before 9/11. People speak a lot today about the banality of evil, but not all evil is banal. Some of it is carefully structured and well-thought-out. That's where the real danger lies.
Advances have fallen, generally, for everything except the biggest potential bestsellers. Given all the changes, both economic and technological, SF hasn't done too badly.
There's certainly more new SF available than when I started writing. That means there's also more bad SF available. Whether there is also more good is a matter for future historians of the field.
Besides the mistakes that are pointed out, I love the way readers become involved with the characters. When readers start asking about character motivations instead of concentrating on the special effects, it means you're connecting with them on a personal level.
In one book, CACHALOT, just for my own amusement, every character is based directly on someone I have known.
Living gives you a better understanding of life. I would hope that my characters have become deeper and more rounded personalities. Wider travels have given me considerably greater insight into how cultural differences affect not only people, but politics and art.