Thursday, 29 November 2012

Latest Nanoblocks

My most recent Nanoblock adventure involved the Empire state building kit.  It seems like I am pretty addicted to these things.  I have built quite a few of them now and I am hoping they continue to put out new sets regularly.  Of course, if they gain the same kind of fame that Lego has, with their small size they could put out some amazing things.

At first, I wasn't attracted to this kit.  I had plans to tackle the Big Ben kit or the Itsukushima Shrine kit first.  Unfortunately, those kits have not appeared in Canada yet. I have seen them for sale on the US Amazon site, but being shipped from Japan they have a heavy price tag.  That being said, I am not sure how long I can resist the urge to buy them.

What's in the box
Having had a bit of time to think about it, I decided to go back and reconsider this kit.  I like architectural models, and the building is quite iconic..... so after a short deliberation I decided that I would build this kit.  I am glad I did, because it turned out quite nicely.

It wasn't particularly difficult, and actually since most of the floors are identical it got a little monotonous at times.  However, it was good building fun.

If you haven't tried Nanoblocks, you should give them a try.  The small parts make it challenging sometimes, and the results are usually quite good.  I also suspect that there are going to be some amazing kits released in the near future.

I included this one because I liked the shadow

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Books or Movies

Books or movies.  I love both.  Each of them have great qualities.  However, I am most often confronted with the fact that books are better than movies.  Books are pictures for the mind, while movies are most often pictures for the eyes.

Perhaps it really isn't fair to compare the two.  Books can have many hundreds of pages to explore a topic, to describe and to present a story.  Movies have a limited time span.  They've got to get their message out in less than 2 hours usually.  This is true.  I must point out, however, that movies benefit from music and sound effects.  While this may seem small, I can assure you that this is a very important part of a movie.

On the plus side, I have to thank some movies for introducing me to a book. Had I not seen the film, I wouldn't have even heard of the book.  In fact, if I see a decent film, one of the first things I do is get on the internet and see if the movie was based on a book (thank you  If it is, I will try my best to track it down and read it.
Most recently I watched the film Eddie and the Cruisers.  It was quite a good film, with believable characters (Tom Berenger did an especially good job of emoting Paul Newman)\ a compelling storyline and a solid ending.  The soundtrack was quite memorable too.  When I watched the credits I noticed a "based on " credit for the book.  I checked it out of the library later that same day.

The book was good.  It told a straight ahead story that the film followed quite faithfully.  Its tone was a little darker, and its resolution somewhat grittier. but it still worked quite well.  As for a read, it was quite compelling and I finished it rather quickly.

Here is a list of books that I have read (and can remember) that outshone the films they were made into.

A Prayer for Owen Meany
The Time Travelers Wife
About a Boy
The Sun Also Rises

Of course some movies might equal the books they came from.  I think this is true when one thinks of spy novels.  As long as they are done correctly, films, with their shortened storylines, probably make those worlds more accessible.

Here is a list of films I believe were as good as the books they were based on (and didn't stray to far from the original storyline)

The Quiet American
Presumed Innocent
Slumdog Millionaire

the novel Die Hard was based on
As for films that outshone their books (I would have put the Bourne movies in this pile, but when you change the story so much, I refuse to make a comparison) I can only think of one.  The movie Die Hard is based on a book.  A lot of what happens (though not all) comes from the book.  Thanks, in part, to some witty humour, good special effects, and good pacing, the film is much more enjoyable than the book.

If you would like to add any books for films to this list, please do so.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Ghosts of Christmas Past (part three)

Another great educational gift I received came from Radio Shack.  If their service were better, and their prices comparable to my local hobby shop, I would probably have given them quite a few of my hobby dollars.  As it stands, they only got a couple from my Mom and my Grandparents--and I did my best to recoup some of these expenditures where "battery club" was concerned.

The gift was a 75 in one Electronics Kit.  It was pretty cool, well organized and fun to put together.  I completed pretty much all the projects in the kit (there are bound to be a few that just didn't excite me) and got my full value out of the toy.  I have seen modern versions of the toy, but it just doesn't fill me with any great warmth--maybe it seems too easy.

Sadly, it did not imbue me with a great love for electronics and that is one thing that holding back my progress on my railroad.  I solder only when I have to, and there isn't anything overly fancy or complex on my railroad.

As I have written, I received lots of educational toys and enjoyed most of them.  These days I have to go to stores that specialize in this kind of thing.  I find them fun and I encourage all of you parents out there to do the same.  There are lots of great educational toys--but they work best when you get involved in doing/building/experimenting with your children.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Ghosts of Christmas Past (part two)

One of the coolest kits (which was also quite educational) that I received for Christmas many, many, years ago was Capsela.  This toy was so cool that I have never been able to part with it, and the photos from this blog contain the actual kit I received on that cold (and possibly snowy) Christmas morning of my youth.

After checking Wikipedia, I found out that Capsela was created by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.  So, surprise, surprise, another cool toy came from Japan, though this one came from an era when Japanese toys were more pedestrian.  It beat out Tamagochi by at least 2 decades.  Apparently, these days, Bandai from Japan has re-released these toys and they go for staggering amounts on EBay, or ship from far away places in Asia.  I had seen them at a science store--but that store is now closed.

Capsela was a rather unusual toy.  It was a motorized toy that didn't come in traditional shapes and forms.  I think its science fiction look also was part of it's appeal.  In addition to that, there were things you could build for the bathtub--and nothing could be cooler than that (add some superfoam, a few boats, and you had the making of a fantastic sea battle--probably better than that Battleship movie.)
the back of the box--detailing the parts included

The toughest part of the toy was understanding gear ratios.  Trying to build beyond the instruction booklet was rather difficult.  You couldn't put things in any order you wanted, because it just wouldn't power everything correctly.  Having only one set, and no internet bulletin boards for help, I really couldn't stray from the instructions (though I tried many times).  These days, things would most likely be different.  Looking back on it, I had probably been too young when I got the present to really understand that, and could have saved myself some frustration.

There must be cool things like this today, but they are probably more geared toward use with an iPad, rather than a stand alone construction toy.  At least, I hope there are toys these days which are about building and operating.  I know there are still RC helicopters and cars, so besides Lego, there must be stuff like this--let me know what is out there.  I'd love to know.

It was definitely a cool toy.  Someday I will check out the new version, and that will probably be pretty cool too.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Ghosts of Christmas Past

While out shopping on the weekend, I spotted many wise people doing their Christmas shopping early.  This was most evident where people were shopping for their children.  It was plain to see which toys were most popular this season.

When I was young I often got "educational" toys and games as Christmas gifts.  Looking back on it, I really loved them, and that is probably why I gravitate towards stores which sell things like that.  Though there are relatively few of them, I enter them whenever I come across them.  When I was a child there were several of these educational toys that craved.

One Christmas I got a chemistry set.  I had wanted that for quite a long time and was really happy to get it.  Sadly, I didn't do as many of the experiments as I wish I had.  The ones I did turned out well, but weren't as cool as fiction books and TV shows made chemistry sets seem.

Regardless, I entered high school with an appreciation for chemistry that only a few students had.  I carried that appreciation to university and managed to eke out one year of science before switching to my other great passion.  I think a lot of that can be traced to that chemistry set.

As a footnote, I kept that chemistry set for many years--well into adulthood in fact.  I moved it to new locations several times.  Most recently, I was mildly curious enough to see if stores still sold them.  I was disappointed.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Hobbies on Television

Why aren't there any hobby reality shows?  When you get right down to it, hobbies seem to be poorly represented on TV.  It seems to me that there is an opportunity for some kind of program on television.  Why isn't there one?

The way I see it we certainly could have shows about making models.  There is such a diversity of models out there that every week could be quite different and reach quite a diverse audience.  One week on airplanes,  (both military and commercial) one week on cars, one week on military models, one week on science fiction, one week on trucks, get the idea.  They could build dioramas, showcase different techniques and materials--and just like those annoying "flea market type shows" educate us with some history.  In Japan, they have a show like this.  It is called Plamotsukuro.  It is amazing to watch.

I would love a show about the hobby of trains.  At least, in this area, there are some programs devoted to real trains, but there isn't enough about model trains.  I don't think it would be difficult to come up with some good programs about building, collecting, and running model railroads.

Of course, there are so many other hobbies out there.  Rather than have a show of people buying stuff hoping to sell it for more, why can't we see the passion of people who aren't in it for the money.  Those shows are on the history channel, purporting to be real, and dishing out relevant historical information.  I think a show about hobbies could do that just as well.

I would think a show about different hobbies could easily find a sponsor.  With Christmas approaching, wouldn't there be a demand for hobbies and toys?  Wouldn't people like to see things that would occupy them on those dark winter nights?

If you're visiting a television channel or network website, don't hesitate to let them know that a program about hobbies would be appreciated.  I certainly will be doing that, as soon as I finish typing this.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Video Games

Maybe it's a guy thing--though things are changing--but guys love video games.  Some of my readers might say that boys love video games, and these men are just boys inside.  I can't really argue with that too much.  Of course, as a hobbyist, I have been channelling the little boy inside me for a long time.  And that little boy likes his video games.

What does this really mean?  It means that I thumb through the weekly flyers for Best Buy and Future shop to see what games are out.  It means that I burrow deep into the "on sale" bin at department stores looking for gems in the rough.  It means that the sound of the arcade (mostly in movie theatre lobbies these days) calls whenever I pass.

Despite my affection for the games, I am not really a good player.  My hand eye co-ordination isn't bad, my reaction time isn't bad, but I just don't have the intangible quality that separates the dabblers from the standout players.  I can complete games, but I probably don't play them on the highest difficulty levels.  I win, but I don't win convincingly.

As a hobby, video games don't really get a lot of my time and attention.  I have a couple of portable ones when I need some distractions for the bus.  I have a less than modern system for the TV, and a couple of games.  I mostly play computer games, like Age of Empires, Sim City, and other games.  I like games that can be played in a couple of hours or less--having to spend a lot hours in front of the screen doesn't appeal to me--my eyes get buggy and the headaches begin.

The new crop of video games that require full body movement are quite interesting.  I wonder how far this technology will go in the near and slightly distant future.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Number One Hobby I Would Take Up--RC Helicopters

And we come to the end of my list of hobbies I would like to take up if time and money were no concern.  I hope you have enjoyed it and I would like to hear what hobbies you would like to take up if you had either time or money or patience or whatever.  Please leave a comment.

The number one hobby (at this moment--because my mind changes constantly) that I would like to take up is RC Flying.  This one is kind of a surprise to me because I spent a lot of time at a few RC stores (once upon a time I was into RC cars--actually I still am, just not as much) and rarely ever looked at the planes.  I think I was intimidated by the whole thing.  Either that or those crappy planes on a string that I had as a child didn't inspire me at all. (You remember those things, they basically went around in a cirlce)

I should clarify.  I probably wouldn't get into airplanes (though a model of the Red Baron would probably look cool) but rather into helicopters.  I find helicopters fascinating and would love to learn how to fly one (definitely the $50,000 it would take to learn makes this idea out of reach) for real.  Perhaps it was my television upbringing that inspired this.  On several of my favourite childhood shows (The A Team, Riptide, Airwolf) helicopters featured prominently.

Unlike most of my "would like to" hobbies, I really haven't done any research.  I haven't checked out the magazines.  I haven't scoured online stores and I haven't gone to any stores recently.  These are all things that I would normally do, but somehow I have resisted.  I can't say it will never happen, but I really have to complete a lot of other things first.

I don't know a lot about RC helicopter flying.  I imagine that I would have to do it in a park, probably when there weren't a lot of kids around.  Even then, there might be some bylaw against it.  However, it sure would be cool.

That's the end of the list, but not the end of the blog.  As I wrote above, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please leave a comment about my list, or a list of your own.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Number Two Hobby I Would Take Up if I had Time, money,..etc--Kung Fu

As a kid I loved watching Kung Fu movies on weekend afternoons (I really can't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday).  I was amazed by that stuff.  Some of my favourites were Super Ninjas, The Five Deadly Venoms, and the man with the Golden Arms (If I am not mistaken, this film has been remade and is out now at the theatres).  The moves were so cool and the extended fight scenes were fantastic.  I even thought that the weapons they used were cool--I remember scouring a Kung Fu magazine with friends trying to decided which weapons we should order--of course we never did.

I have always been fascinated with the martial arts.  In this case, money is not the issue.  I deem the money spent on tuition at a school worth the money.  I see martial arts as benefitting me not only in fitness, but in calmness of mind as well.  While a year's fees would be high, they would be just as expensive as going to a gym (well maybe a little more).

The biggest problems are location, time and comfort.  There are lots of places to study martial arts, but it depends on what you want to study.  The current popularity of MMA means that there are quite a few places to study that, but that isn't really what I am interested in (though I do like it, do see its value, and respect what it teaches).  Most places I have seen are tucked away in industrial areas of the city.  Some are convenient, some are not.

When it comes to time, I will always have this problem because I am a commuter.  Getting out of work, and getting to the classes on a scheduled time only works if the classes are later in the evening.  Most places I have been to tend to split the schedule so that it would only be possible half the time.  Maybe I could get there, but I would have to eat my dinner on the bus--possible, but not attractive.

Comfort is the really big factor.  I encourage everyone who is thinking about taking a class to take advantage of any trial offer, or trial class.  Don't be fooled by glitz and glamour.  You have to be comfortable with the environment, the teachers, the atmosphere and attitude of the class.  Everyone is different and not every school fits every person.

In my case, I would love to study Kung Fu.  I found a school that I really liked, but its location made it impossible to get to.  I would also love to study Kendo, but mostly due to laziness I have not pursued this (also because it isn't really as practical as Kung Fu or MMA).

I will keep looking.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Number 3 Hobby I Would Take up if I had time space and money

No surprise if you have been reading this blog (or have glanced at a few of the posts right now before reading this one), but I love trains.  I am not really sure why.  Maybe it's the little child in me, maybe it's the yearning for freedom that riding the rails represent, or maybe trains are just cool.

Either way, if I had space and money, and my dream N scale layout was built, I would probably buy all the Lego trains that are out there.  At last count I have come across four different ones in this modern era. (I should note that this includes an antique looking one that could have come from a Harry Potter movie)

They seem very cool to me, and I instantly desired them (and they were are on sale last week).  Somehow I managed to walk out of the store without buying any of them (I should really be working on my almost dream N scale layout).  I really don't have the room for them, and I certainly don't have the money.  I don't have any need for them either.

To top all that off, my N scale trains are much more detailed and realistic scale models of trains.  Nonetheless, I desire these Lego trains and spend a bit of time each month pondering the possibility of buying them.  This pondering is either scoping them out on the internet or checking them out at the toy store or the Lego store.  Though this is time that could be better spent blogging, I really can't help myself.

My greatest worry about this is that they seem to put these sets out for a limited time.  If they don't sell, or if they sell out, I may never see these sets again.  I am pretty sure that I won't buy one of them in the near future, but I may never be able to buy one ever.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Progress Report: Nanoblock Space Shuttle

Just a short break in the list of hobbies I would take up if time and money were no question (but in reality always are) to give you an update on my hobbies.  For this issue, we will be looking at my latest Nanoblock build.

I picked up the space shuttle when I got the drum kit I previously reviewed.  Overall, I am happy that Nanoblocks are more widely available.  I hope that other people find them as much fun as I do.  I did a quick check and found that the price for this particular kit is much more expensive in Japan (the home of Nanoblocks).  I checked it out on Amazon.  I guess things that are not of Japanese interest are more expensive in Japan.  It's worth checking out.

What happens when you drop a piece

It took quite a lot of time to put this particular model together partly due to the number of pieces and the size of the pieces.  (I was going to invent a word like itsybitsiness, or teenyweeniness--but as an ESL teacher, my colleagues would probably never forgive me for it)  I would suggest not assembling this anywhere near heating vents.  As you can see from some of the pictures I have carpet--it keeps the pieces from flying too far away.

ready for final assembly
The kit came with some unique pieces.  That probably means that some very creative people in Japan have bought a bunch of these kits and will utilize them in some fun and unique way--I have seen this before on a TV show called TV Champion, Lego edition--the things they could do are amazing.  I will have to check out YouTube. (a quick check shows that there are quite a few Nanoblock videos on YouTube as well.)

the finished product

If you haven't put together any Nanoblocks yet, this would be a good kit to start with.  It wasn't my first, and I am sure it won't be my last.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Number Four Hobby I Would Take Up

If I had enough room in my basement I would love to have a true "man cave" like I see them build on those supposedly reality based TV shows.  I would love to have the bigger than big screen TV, the well decorated and stocked bar, the array of La-Z-Boy recliners for me and the buds, the deluxe table hockey game, and of course a fantastic pool table with the balls to play snooker, 8 ball and 9 ball.

I have seen Paul Newman as Fast Eddie in The Hustler many times--I even bought my father the book last Father's Day.  I love watching those incredible shots the pool sharks make, and I would love to be good at pool.  I would love to be able to walk into a pool room, assemble my cue and beat the best in the house.  I would love to be a ranked player playing matches on television.

I have loved playing pool since I was a child.  I have ventured into pool halls of questionable character, and played at bars.  I have always dreamt of having my own table, and my own cue.  Nothing marks a person so clearly as a two or three piece cue slung over their back as they are mixing with the huddled masses of the public transportation set. 
Of course, there are several obstacles to these dreams.  Money and space seem to be the two biggest of them.  I could barely fit a 4X8 table in my basement (and then I would probably have to relocate both the television and the train set.  So making it a "man cave" seems to be out of the question unless I move to a bigger house, or at least a house with a bigger basement.

As far as money goes.  I think if one is going to buy a pool table they should buy a good one.  A crappy pool table with thin slate and low quality felt would quickly become old and undesirable.  If you have to replace it quickly then it really wasn't worth the money--at least that's how I look at it.

As far as becoming a great player.  I would need a lot of practice, and that would eat into my other hobbies.  In addition, I am probably too old to ever become great at pool--but at least I would be able to beat my friends when we went out to a bar.