Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Bittersweet Accomplishments


Reading is a passion of mine.  There is a problem.  When you find a character you love, you tend to read all the books.  While they last this is great.  In the last few years, I have enjoyed Ian Rankin's Rebus, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, and Barry Eisler's Rain.  When the book supply is finished, you're left without a character to read.

In the above examples, there will be other books.  Maybe every year or so, the author will write one...maybe.  I guess I should consider myself lucky.  When I came upon these authors they had written quite a few books, so it took quite a while to get through their catalogue.  However, now I am caught up, and there will be a long wait between books.  Before, as soon as I finished one, there was another one waiting for me.  Now, I will have to wait a year or so.

Luckily for me, my bus is full of commuters who also like to read, though I am noticing more people doing "work" on their tablets or laptops.  By work I mean Candy Crunch, but that's another story.  If I have the courage, I ask them for recommendations.  If I feel shy, I just try to read the title or author and remember what they are reading for the next time I go to the library.  I probably won't hit upon the literature I read for my degree, but it should be passable commuting fare.  Since I've read all the classics, and quite a few post-modern tomes, some escapist fiction won't kill me.

Recently I have been reading the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson.  One of my commuter buddies recommended it.  He said that the first few were a little slow, they would pick up later.  I have read ten of them, and the last few have been really good.  Happily, I have at least ten more to read.  That should get to spring, especially if I read a couple of other books between those adventures.

There is a great sense of satisfaction when you come to the end of a series, but there is also a feeling of loss.  Bittersweet is too romantic a word,....but it seems to be fitting.  Maybe I need to go back and read all the Musketeer's books.

Feel free to recommend some book series to me.  I will need something for late spring.



Thursday, 28 November 2013

Car Dreams


It may sound corny, but one of the things I want to in my life is build a Cobra replica car.  Knowing my track record with such projects, I should just work hard, save my money (maybe win the lottery) and just buy the thing.  The project would probably take too long and too much space in the garage.... but I just can't let go of the idea.

Why the Cobra?  That and the 1967 Mustang are my two favourite cars.  It probably isn't a coincidence that Carol Shelby had a hand in both of those cars.  They are both beautiful cars.  It also isn't a coincidence that neither of these cars is suited for Canadian weather.  If I had them (and could afford the insurance) they would both be summer cars.  That would mean having them and my winter car....and people say money isn't a solution.

I came close to buying the 67 mustang once.  I went to look at it with the hopes of purchasing it, but the owner, despite making the appointment, didn't stick around to show it to me, or even talk to me.  I guess he didn't like the cadence of my voice over the phone.  Luckily the car was parked outside his house (not a great option in winter in Canada).  His neighbour talked to me about it, but he didn't give me the hard sell and I was able to leave with my money in my pocket.  Realistically, it wouldn't have been a good purchase.  I was in the middle of my studies and within a 16 months would be off to Japan.  I didn't know that at the time, but it is funny how fate works out.

I have never been close to that car again, but I still think about it.  I have seen them build those cars on various TV shows, and every time I have been a little envious.  I really need my own TV show.  They could let me build my dream car and document my mistakes (and probable injuries) for everyone to see..... I had better start working on my pitch.

In England, there is a car company called Caterham, which allows you to build one of those funky roadsters you see in British TV shows from time to time.  It comes as a kit and you assemble it.  It sounds like a dream, except that I watched those guys from BBC's Top Gear get fed up and argue constantly about it.  They said that you might get satisfaction out of building it, but everyone else around you would go completely bonkers.  Of course, according to the video you can buy it assembled for an extra 2000 British pounds.  I am not sure what would be best.

Winter seems to have started early this year (there is snow on the ground), so I guess I had better put off the idea until spring...or I could just let it nag away at me all winter.  Such is the life of a dedicated hobbyist.


Monday, 25 November 2013

Rummaging Through The Bookstore


I had a chance to look around the bookstore yesterday and I have a few observations I want to share with all you hobby people out there.  And, whereas I might whine about them gearing up for Christmas on my other blog, this will be a more positive blog.

The Gift of Literacy

I have to admit, shopping at a bookstore is one of my favourite things.  I don't do it as much as I used to because I generally take advantage of the wonderful library system we have in Ontario.  While I used to love having a whole library of books, I have moved so many times that I really don't need that huge library any longer.

Oddly enough, I have met so many interesting people in the bookstore over the years.  This includes my university bookstore, Kinokuniya in Japan, and the soon to be closed World's Largest Bookstore in Toronto.  Just yesterday, I met someone very interesting... but I digress.

I just wanted to say that books and things you can buy at the bookstore make fantastic gifts.

Just for Christmas

I noticed that there are a lot of interesting gift packs for Christmas.  I came across a catapult kit, a boomerang kit (I was sorely tempted....but then I would have to wait until spring.....but I am still tempted.  Besides it's orange.  I might be able to find it in the snow.  Besides, it might come back to me......) learn guitar kit.  The list is endless.

Add to that, there are so many interesting book sets.  The complete Calvin and Hobbes is now on sale in paperback for those of you who couldn't justify getting the hardcover version.  I saw so many interesting things that I want to go back today and spend more time looking around.  Maybe I will.  Maybe I will pick up the whole Ender's Game series just so I can watch the movie and not look like a complete newb.

If you're shopping, the bookstore is a good place.  Sadly, hobby books for trains, model cars and the like don't seem to get much shelf space in these stores.  I guess the hobby shops have sewn up that market, but that really isn't fair.  I would think that it would be easier for the hobby inclined to send anyone wanting to buy them a gift to the bookshop rather than the hobby shop.  For some, the hobby shop is a little intimidating.

Sorry for rambling, but I roamed around the bookstore, and now you've roamed around my thought process..... I am off to the bookstore to look around some more.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Competition Has Arrived

 

I would have to say it is official.  Nanoblocks have become a force to be reckoned with.  Why do I say that?  Surprisingly, it is not because there is a big push on them for the Christmas rush--though I did see them available at a store that had never had them before.  Instead, I give them credit because they have inspired some competition.

Micro Blocks, produce by a company called Loz, are now available.  They don't seem to be available here in Canada yet.  This might have something to do with a bit of a conflict with the people who brought you Mega Blocks.  This company (based in Canada I believe) uses the name Micro Blocks for the blocks that share the same size with Lego.  Sounds complicated doesn't it?

They seem to be competing in the same space as Nanoblocks.  They offer lots of architectural themed kits of world famous buildings.  This should appeal to adult builders as well as kids.  It also seems to have a broad international scope, so it should be easy to spread.

I am all for competition.  More tiny blocks equals more fun.  The other thing is that more block producers mean more designs and creative ideas.  It might also mean more interesting pieces.  I wonder if the two sets are compatible.

I don't know if either Nanoblock, or this new Micro Blocks company will every dominate the space that Lego has, but I am interested nonetheless.  I know as a Canadian I will have to wait a long time before I see them, at least I can think good things about 2014.


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Get an Early Jump on Christmas


 
 
Though I might complain about Christmas being foisted on us way too early, I still think Christmas is important to the hobbyist.  This is the chance to prod someone (gently or not so gently) into getting us what we want.  We can also do our best to try and entice someone into a hobby by selecting a gift that might start a lifetime of hobbying (I will touch on this in a later post).  And if all else fails, we can always justify a bigger expense by telling ourselves (and who ever else we might have to justify the expense to) that this is a Christmas present.

If your special someone is an efficient shopper, they might already be looking for your gift.  You might need to start dropping hints as early as tonight's dinner.  Some of you might need to start working on that list.  Some of you (the indecisive type) should start making decisions as to what you want.  If you don't, maybe there won't be anything under the tree.

If your someone special is a last minute panic shopper, well then you've got time.  Lucky you.  Of course if you aren't around at the moment of that last minute panic, and don't have your list on your smartphone when they call..... well then, too bad.

The funny thing I find is that whenever you ask people what they want, they often don't know.  I know this is not true.  If I asked you for ten things you would buy right now if I set you free in a hobby shop with a $50 (or whatever amount) gift card, and said you had ten minutes to get something or the car would expire....I am sure you could get something.  The problem is that people thing a gift has to be something different.  It doesn't.  A gift is something free.

I know, a gift should be something "you wouldn't buy for yourself."  What a silly idea.  If I wouldn't buy it for myself, I wouldn't want it.  A gift is something that you want, but can't justify spending your own money on.  When it's someone else's money, it should be easy.

My advice, write down everything you want.  Just that you want it, not that you would or wouldn't spend the money on it, not that you are or are not going to buy it.  When you're done, look it over.  Wouldn't it be nice if someone gave you anything from that list?  If you're smart, before letting a loved one look over the list you might want to organize it by price, or bundle a bunch of things together that might fit their budget.  Either way, now you've got something to tell them to get you.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Blog Photos


a blurry view of my nanoblock menagerie
 
 
I feel very strongly that every blog post should have a photo.  My train of thought is that photos are visually appealing, and that they give a preview of what the blog will be about.  Maybe, thanks to google searches, they might even net me a reader or two.

I should be thankful that the digital revolution has made taking photos and adding them to blogs (as well as adding them to facebook, or bombarding relatives with the latest 100 cute cat pictures) really easy.  Maybe too easy.  I remember when all we wanted to do with our photos was slap it on a cup or maybe make a calendar.  Oh how times have changed.

My camera is pretty good, and I love the photos it takes of friends and family.  However, I am not often such a fan of the pictures I take for this blog.  Sometimes I forget to push the button for macro, so I just get a blurry mess. Sometimes the simple act of pushing the button is enough to jostle the camera causing another burry mess.  Sometimes, I am just too lazy for the photos to get from the camera to the hard drive of the computer.  It is a wonder how, in the old days,  I was able to wait a week or more for my photos to develop.

I have built a generic backdrop, and I am going to turn it into a psyche (I don't know if I spelled this correctly, but I mean a backdrop which is curved so that it looks like there is no bottom and back--somebody please comment with the correct term).  It has worked okay, but I am not completely satisfied with it.  I may have to do it again.

my non-descript backdrop
Thinking back to the old days, we probably took a lot fewer pictures.  Heaven forbid I waste film on a poor shot, and that is without even thinking of the more expensive flashcubes.  Now, I can take pictures to my heart's content.  For a hobbyist that is a good thing,  If I go to a model show, or train show, I can snap a whole lot of pictures.  I can even take a lot of video.  Wow, times have changed.

As for the blog, I want good photos, and I know those generic ones you can get off the internet don't really appeal to people.  I understand that, I just succumb to laziness sometimes.  All I can do is pledge to do better in the future.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Hobby Progress


I just wanted to update people on my hobby progress.  Quite a long time ago I featured the painting of a train building I was working on.  It is finally finished and I thought you would like to take a look at it.

This was the only the second train building I have made, so it is not perfect, but I am happy with the results, and I will continue to make them, hopefully improving every time.  I haven't added any roof details, but I purchased the kit, so perhaps sometime later today.

I am not sure this will go on my layout, because I am hoping to build better one--perhaps adding some window details or signs. 

The model featured is Design Preservation Model, Haye's Hardware.  It was painted with Polly Scale paints, and the roof is done with Woodland Scenics coal.


Saturday, 19 October 2013

Discontinuations




Goodbye Polly Scale
 
I made up a word....I'm an English teacher, I do that all the time.  Besides, it really fits the topic of this blog.  As a hobbyist, you have lots to cope with.  Of course those things include time, money, frustrations, small parts, and delays in delivery.  The one that seems to bother me the most are discontinuations.

Discontinuations refer to products you want to buy no longer being sold, and there being almost no way to get them.  It's like going to a Japanese convenience store.  You continually buy a product, only to discover one day that it is gone, and it's not coming back.  You thought by buying them that you'd send a message to the manufacturer that they should keep making it, but you were wrong.

This happens to TV shows that you love.  You think it's great, but you might be the only one.  I loved Firefly, and though I know I am not the only one, they killed it.  I loved an 80's TV show called Shell Game, but it didn't live past five episodes.

For the hobbyist, what usually happens follows two patterns.  In pattern one, the hobbyist waits to buy something.  Maybe they don't have the money (usually my case) or they are hoping to score a better deal somewhere down the line, or they just put some other item ahead of it in the queue.  Regardless, when they finally decide to make the purchase, it's gone.  Lone gone.  They scour the internet and every hobby shop they can find, but to no avail.

The other pattern is that the hobbyist uses something religiously.  They come to depend on it, perhaps even take its availability for granted.  Then one day, it is gone.  The manufacturer has discontinued it.  There were probably warning signs.  There might have been announcement in the various magazines that cater to the hobby.  Perhaps someone had remarked on it in an internet bulletin board.  Had they taken the news to heart they would probably have known about it and stocked up.

Recently, the paint that I have been using for my model train buildings has been discontinued.  What does that mean?  It means that I will have to use something else.  I really shouldn't worry because there are lots of paint manufacturers out there.  Any day now, that same company will probably announce a replacement.  Even if it doesn't, the hobby store will have to find a new supplier, because paint is an integral part of the hobby store.

The uncertainty is frustrating.  When will it happen?  When will it be resolved.  I am not a great enough painter that I have such a detailed understanding of paint or the different characteristics of paint.  I buy what they tell me is good at the hobby shop or they talk about in the magazines.  It's just a minor annoyance.  However, there are hobbyists who have mastered the characteristics of a particular paint brand and are probably going to be frustrated.  They are going to flood the hobby chat rooms and bulletin boards, announcing Armageddon.    I will quietly sympathize, and hope that my paint supply doesn't run out soon.


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Me and The Monocle


 
If you have read this blog before, you know that I like books.  There is something about magazines though.  Maybe it's their ever changing content.  Maybe it's the ease at which they can be picked up and put down.  Either way, it's pretty rare that I become a loyal follower of a magazine.  I've been a on again off again follower of some magazines.  Model Railroader and Radio Control Car Action certainly fit that bill.  I enjoy what's inside, but sometimes it seems like I've had enough.  I pick up one issue every 3 months or so.  Either something catches my eye or it doesn't.  I either read it at the library or scan through the issue at the bookstore.

For a magazine to inspire loyalty, it really has to speak to me.  Kansai Time Out was one such magazine.  I loved it, and I still feel bad that it is gone.  It has been replaced by the free Kansai Scene....it's good, but it isn't the same. It really isn't.

There was a time when I really loved Outside magazine.  It was well written, and regardless of the topic, I poured over every word.  One friend described it as the only magazine that could make anything a visit to the fishing hole seem epic.  I have not read it recently, but the last time I was quite sure that the honeymoon was over.

Most recently I have come across a magazine that fascinates me.  It is called the Monocle.  I cannot pinpoint exactly what I like about it.  It's all about a higher end life that seems so remote from mine. It's about the environment.  It's about quality over quantity.  It's about a lack of clutter and a more minimalist life.  Even as I read what I have written, I am not sure that I have actually hit it.

I've read two issues and really enjoyed both of them.  It's got a lot of pages, so I keep them around on my coffee table to flip through them on Saturday mornings when I am sipping coffee.  It's still early days, and I don't know if I will in fact become a loyal follower.  So far I enjoy it, but it will take at least half a year before I know for sure.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Nanoblocks Big Ben: my thoughts and videos


 
 
Building a new Nanoblocks kit is usually pretty fun.  When you get to build one you had been waiting for, things are just that much better.  Maybe it's anticipation.  Of course if the theme of the kit appeals to you, it is much better.

This kit wasn't as challenging as the Space Shuttle kit, but it was quite fun to build.  There were some new design wrinkles from the people at Kawada, or whoever designed this one.  I liked the colour scheme and I liked the nice mix of water, road, building and even a bus--though the representation of the bus seems a little out of scale.

I spent quite a bit of time on this one, mostly because my fingers are not as agile as they should be and those round pieces always seem to give me trouble.  I was enjoying myself, so I didn't really notice the time.  I had the radio on and my cat was keeping me company.  All in all it was a sunny fall morning and I relished it.

In addition to that, I took a lot of pictures of the build, showing people what it looks like step by step.  And before anyone says anything in the comments section--yes, I made a few mistakes along the way, and my application of the decals was a little poor.

Again, I found this kit quite enjoyable.  I paid more for this kit than I did for some of the other world landmarks series, but I blame that on the place I purchased it.  I probably could have held out longer, hoping for a sale.... but I am tired of missing out on something.  I was a little afraid that if I didn't strike now, I would lose the chance.  I am still kicking myself over the Maersk Lego Train.

There were quite a few pieces leftover--more than usual.  I wonder if they have been getting a lot of flack from customers about not having enough parts?  I have never been short, but it stands to reason that it might have happened to someone.  I guess I will just file them in the parts box.  I have enough extra parts now to build something....I wonder what I should build.

 
I have included links to two of my YouTube videos here.  One is the step by step build (but it's stage by stage rather than piece by piece) and the other is a 360 degree view of the finished product.   I hope you enjoy them.

 

What Comes Inside the Big Ben kit from Nanoblocks


I think unboxing videos are cool.  Maybe it is the association with Christmas and unwrapping presents, but I like it.  I don't have many YouTube videos up, but the most popular one is the unboxing of the Statue of Liberty Nanoblocks kit.  Keeping that in mind, I have made a video to show people what is inside the Big Ben kit.

I will also post my pictures and video of the built kit shortly.  I will be trying to upload a series of pictures to show the stages it was built in.  Please enjoy everyone.
 
 

Friday, 27 September 2013

Never A Bad Idea To Visit a Toy Store


I stopped by the toy store today...it must have been fate because I had had no intention of setting foot in the place.  Fortunately I did, because new Nanoblocks have arrived.  New Nanoblocks have arrived!

There were probably 4 or 5 things that I wanted to buy, but will have to wait.  I managed to pick up two kits and I will build them this weekend.  My plan is to do YouTube videos of opening the box and showing the built up version.  I will put the links up here.  At the same time, I will also write a blog or two about them.

Obviously I am a looking forward to putting them together.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Hobbies Build Relationships


I had one of those epiphanic moments at the hobby shop on the weekend.  I went in to pick up something I had ordered (a couple of roof detail kits form some of my model train buildings) and couldn't resist spending a few moments looking around the store.  Before you rise up and tell me that I fell for their trap, I should tell you that I walked out with only the kits I ordered.

While I was walking around I came upon a father and his son.  They were busy discussing the future of their model railroad--they were discussing roadbed issues and trestle choices.  What impressed me most was how communicative the two of them were.  Nobody was yelling, nobody was being bossy, nobody was claiming to have all the answers.  Basically, these two people were a great example what a hobby can do.  They were doing something together and loving it.  Though my faith in hobbies never wavered, it was certainly strengthened by that scene. 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Lamenting the Lost


I happened to pass this building today, and felt a little melancholy.  Another hobby business packed up and left.  I don't know what happened really.  Maybe they moved somewhere else, or maybe the idea just didn't fly.  A lot of hobby related businesses just don't succeed and whenever they close, I feel a sling twinge (or pang) of sadness.

While out for a walk I came across this
 
I cannot really say I was part of the solution.  I avoided going into the store because I didn't really want to start another hobby, and this one seemed really tempting.  Lego and robotics..... Had I gone in, my paycheque might have been a memory.  Despite having some advertising on this sight, I am a long way from having it generate any kind of hobby budget.

We live in a great time for hobbyists, but perhaps not such a great time for people running a large hobby business.  I would guess that running a home hobby business (I imagine somebody making flatcar loads at home, or building train layouts, or designing replica buildings) would be possible.  It would require a great website, a great idea, a spare room or two and probably easy access to a post office.  Running a business with a store location would require the same things, but would also mean renting out a store--and I imagine that it would cost a lot of money.  I am impressed by anyone who does it because it must be hard.  Taking that risk must be pretty scary.

I would hope that Lego had a stake in this enterprise, and therefore nobody lost their shirt trying to run this business.  However, a short portrait in the very local newspaper seems to indicate otherwise.  A brief bit of googling hasn't brought me any answers.  If you know something about it, please post it here; for my curiosity and others.  I would also appreciate any thoughts on how your local hobby stores are doing.

On a side note, at the bookstore, there still seem to be quite a large number of magazines about hobbies still being published.  Flipping through some of them, I can see that they are making an effort to go digital, but still seem to be publishing.  Feel free to comment on this as well.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

To Buy or Not to Buy....


 
Going to a hobby shop can be such a wonderful experience.  You get to see lots of new stuff, talk to people who are interested in some of the same things as you, and get inspired to tackle a hobby project.  Why is it then, that every time I leave a hobby shop I have a moment of doubt about what I purchased?

Sometimes, it isn't about what I purchased, but rather that I spent any money at all.  It is more than likely that, in the car or in the parking lot or at some point before I entered the store,  I promised myself I would just look and not spend any money.  Funny how that rarely works out.

I think the cause goes back to my childhood.  I went to lots of garage sales and flea markets in my youth.  I would spend a long time trolling the various aisles or digging through piles.  I was the Indiana Jones of the used junk world.  The point is, I rarely came home empty handed.

The rationale goes something like this....I'm here.  I spent the gas money.  I won't be back this way for a long time.  If I get it now, I'll have it for later.  The rationalization isn't nearly as hard as you think it will be when you're in the parking lot.

I guess the only way to remove temptation is to actually remove temptation.  Then again, who's kidding who?  If I couldn't keep the first promise I mentioned, how in the world could I keep that one.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Hockey is Back!



Today, hockey returned to television.  It was only one game in the rookie tournament--hardly NHL quality, but hockey nonetheless.  I have been looking forward to this the whole summer.  I know I shouldn't wish the tail end of summer away, but I can't help it.  I am excited to watch hockey again.

I am excited to be overly optimistic about my team's fortunes.  I am ready to dissect every play and referee call.  I ready to fantasize about unrealistic trades.  I am ready to live and die with every win and loss.

Welcome back hockey, let's get the season started.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Writing a Successful Blog



 
I can't really be sure what anyone's motivation for writing a blog is.  I know what mine is.... or at least I have a reason which seems to resonate with me.  I want to be a writer, and this is practice.  When you think of the way the publishing world has gone digital, maybe this is more than practice.  Maybe this is writing.  There is no editor, so no way to judge whether I am being successful at this or not.

Before I became a blogger, I read quite a few blogs.  The seeming ease at which they created content bolstered me quite a bit.  Since becoming a blogger, I have read a lot more.  Some update their content regularly.  Others, seem to have lost steam and haven't posted in a year...except those that posted self-chastising blogs about how they have to blog more.  I've read blogs that have fewer followers than I, and others that seem to have a legion of followers and readers.

How do you measure a successful blog.  Is it the number of followers?  I can't be sure of that, since quite a few people told me that signing up to be a follower was a passé way of doing things.  Things in the digital age move quickly.  In a few years things like Instagram and Facebook might no longer be relevant.  Sacrilege?  Does anyone remember MySpace?

Do you measure success in the number of page views?  I must confess that I do.  When I see someone's blog has ten times the number of page views that I've got, I get a little bit jealous.  I spend time on Facebook pestering my friends to check out my blog.  I comment on other blogs, hoping that some of their readership will get curious.

Do you measure success based on the number of comments people make?  This sounds reasonable, but doesn't register with me.  Not only due to the dearth of comments, but also because of my perspective.  If people really wanted to comment, they could probably start their own blogs.

I keep writing, and I alternate between feelings of success and disenchantment.  I enjoy it, but I do hear that voice, occasionally, that wonders why I am doing this.  When I need to answer this voice, I just point out that if Hemmingway were alive today, he would probably have a blog and if Shakespeare were alive today, he would probably be making clips for YouTube.

To Blog or not to Blog...really too late to ask this question.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

When Something Needs Stirring...


 
 
We've all said it.  You've said, I've said it.  Like I said, we've all said it. You buy average tools all the time, and you buy quality tools only once.  Or maybe you said, the right tool makes the job easier.  The question is, do you really believe it?

I was doing some painting yesterday.  I noticed the paint needed to stirred up.  So I reached for my official Tamiya paint stirrer.  Yes, that's right.  I have an official paint stirrer.  I could have used a tooth pick, but I employed the paint stirring tool.

At a 300 yen price tag (actually I bought it for 240 yen...and I won't tell you where just in case Tamiya takes their recommended sales price overly seriously) I could have bought a box or two of toothpicks.  All I can really say, is that it was definitely worth it.  Two hundred and forty yen is just shy of three Canadian dollars, when tax is figured in.  Of course, I bought it in Japan, so if I include the price of airfare the overall price really skyrockets.

It isn't so much that it works better than a toothpick, or that I couldn't have MacGyvered something similar with a coat hanger, but I just feel that much more purposeful.  I feel like I am really working on a project and that the project is not working on me.  It is one less thing to worry about while I concentrate on the real task.

Sometimes you just need to have the right tools.  In my various hobbies, I have spent the money sometimes, and cheaped out sometimes.  Sometimes I have been creative and found very workable things at dollar stores.  Who knows?  All I know for sure is that the money I spent on the paint stirrers was not a waste.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Risks and Rewards in a TV Rotten World


 
 
I find myself really interested in the TV show Ink Master.  Before you say it, yes, I should get back to my hobbies and stop watching TV.  I have so many half finished projects that all of the internet should rise up and scold me for not sticking to the topic.  I just can't help myself.  And for a lot of people, TV is a hobby.  It just shouldn't be mine.

I watch the show, and I have so many questions.  First of all, should you be getting a tattoo with a time limit?  I understand the need to put a limit on someone for a television show/competition.  Without time pressure these people could certainly all put out some works of art.  However, would you want your tattoo artist to feel such pressure?  Despite remarkable advances in laser erasing, these things are still pretty permanent.

Next, after getting a tattoo would you really like to hear the experts tell the person who did it that it was an absolute piece of garbage?  Yeah, you might have enough self confidence to deflect that...a few times.  Imagine if every single person you know (from those you like right down to the complete idiots that you hate) has seen the show and starts echoing those comments--and remember the idiots are not going to be echoing them, they are going to be repeating them word for word.  Instead of that stupid "hot enough for ya?" question the idiot usually peppers you with, it will be "why does that spider tattoo have only seven legs?"

I am guessing that there must be some kind of consolation prize for these people.  I wonder what it is.  I wonder if it could really be enough.  Would you get the seven legged spider tattoo if your prize was a Toyota Corolla?  Maybe it's cash.  Maybe it is a pre-paid gift card for tattoo removal.  Maybe the need to be on television is so great, your skin is really a secondary concern.

I guess I could liken it to a hair cutting show.  Your hair grows back, though.  Would you sign up for a show called "Practice Surgeon"?  What about "rookie fireman"?--I have an image of them setting your house on fire, hoping they can rescue you and put out the fire.

Despite my questions, I will probably tune in tonight before going to bed.  Last week I fell asleep, so I have no idea who went home.  This isn't really an obstacle as there will be a recap at the beginning of tonight's program.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The disappointment of a pathetic crossword


These days I have settled into a pattern for my commute (no I am not talking about the schedule--I never manage to catch the same bus two days in a row).  After getting on the bus I do the crossword from the previous day's newspaper (perhaps newspaper is not the right word for the free Metro newspaper), then maybe the Sudoku.  After that, I turn on my e-reader and get into whatever novel I am reading.

Though this sounds good, I am becoming rather upset with the crossword puzzle.  I guess I feel as though the puzzle is rather weak.  I don't feel challenged.  Don't get the wrong idea.  I am not a crossword puzzle snob.  I can't finish the New York Times Sunday Crossword.  I am an average crossword puzzle solver who is terrible at any clues that revolve around geography or capital cities.  However, this puzzle bothers me over little things.

What are these little things?

This puzzle seems to think that using possessive s on every clue is a good thing to do.  I don't know how many clues I have read that included phrases like "Mr Lenon's" or "limo driver's"--and those are the good ones.

Really, I think the puzzle creator is being lazy.  Since I am doing the free newspaper crossword, I can't expect much.... but I shouldn't be fed a constant diet of crap.  At least once a week, I would like to be faced with an interesting puzzle.

I think tomorrow I will crack open my book of logic puzzles instead.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Lindberg's 1949 Tudor Coupe 1/32 scale


 
Usually shopping at Dollarama means looking for scratch building supplies or looking for some container that I need to organize my hobby stuff.  Today I came across a model kit for sale.  The price was a reasonable three bucks.  Hard to complain about that.  Of course, I once got a 1/24 Scale Ford Fairlane for $2 from Walmart, but since they don't have models anymore, that was probably an unannounced clearance sale.

I really don't need any more models.  I've got a shelf  full of unbuilt kits, and dozens of other hobbies to pursue--not to mention umpteen household chores that have been the victim of procrastination.  I guess curiosity got the better of me, and by writing this, hopefully it won't get the better of you.  You will be armed with knowledge before scouring the Dollarama.

 
So, what came in the box?  Watch the YouTube video if you want to see the unboxing.  It will give you a good idea of what is inside.  Basically, this is a bare bones kit if I have ever seen one. No chrome, no rubber tires, the body comes in three pieces (and those other pieces are the sides, not the hood and truck lid) no engine and no decals of any kind.  The wheels are all plastic and need to be glued together.

Is this a good kit?  Well, for three dollars, I wasn't expecting a Tamiya masterpiece.  I am pretty satisfied with the contents of the box.  The mould lines look good, and I don't see any sink holes or injection marks....so I really shouldn't complain.  With some good painting, and putty to fill up the gaps, this will turn into an acceptable model.  I will post pictures when I can.  I've got some bare metal foil to make the bumpers and grill, and I certainly have enough paint.  Mostly, I am probably worried more about what colour to paint it.  Red looks good, but I have never painted a red model that I have been satsified with.

The Dollarama in my neighbourhood had 3 different models:  two convertibles and this one.  If anyone finds different ones, please post here.  If anyone has completed one, feel free to send some pictures.





Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Dresden Files



Reading is one of the joys of my life.  I love books and bookstores.  I love going to the library--since the books are free there.  I have written about reading as though it were a hobby, but I really feel that it is so much more.  It is more of lifestyle.

I have enjoyed reading Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books.  They are an interesting blend of modern mystery and fantasy.  I would not really consider myself a fantasy reader.  I have only read two of the Game of Thrones books, after all and I have not read any of the Lord of the Rings (stop gasping....I will read them someday.....I have the books, I have seen the movies...sorry.  Don't run away!)

Back to Jim Butcher.  I have read almost all of the Dresden books, though I have read them out of order and am slightly confused, I have enjoyed all of them.  I took some time to check Wikipedia and discovered that they had made a television series out of the books, and shot it in Toronto, and even had the beautiful Joanne Kelly appear for a couple of episodes (okay, I am totally smitten with her...If I knew where they filmed Warehouse 13, ....I had better stop now before the restraining order gets filed)

Now, I've lost my train of thought.....Joanne Kelly....beautiful......ah yes, the Dresden Files.  So, basically, I bought the DVD's of the series.  Sadly they only made one season.

I have watched two episodes, and I can only conclude that they had some difficulty bringing the story to the screen.  The production isn't bad, but they were certainly hampered by budget, and by trying to cram dense storylines into 40 minutes.  The acting is good, but character development seems to have also been hampered by time.  Too often the conversations were stilted because they had to give away parts of the plot.  I know writing is difficult, but that kind of thing can be tough on a series.

It seems to me that the show could have been fantastic.  There are moments when the potential is obvious.  The source material is excellent....I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

If you have the time, read the books.  If you've got even more time, check out the series.
 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Spiro-graph! Dexterity and Patience Required



other than the rip in the paper, this turned out pretty good
 
 
I remember as a kid being fascinated by some of the stuff my sister had.  She is very much into arts and crafts and had lots of stuff like that.  She had a glass making kit and a candle making kit.  She had a wood burning set and even a jewellery making kit.  The best part was that she was actually able to use most of it and she produced some pretty good pieces.

One day she showed me her Spiro-graph kit.  That was pretty cool.  She was older and had greater dexterity, so she was able to actually make the stuff they displayed on the box.  I probably didn't hurt that she also had a lot of patience and was a bit of a perfectionist.

I was never able to create the kinds of things that she did.  I certainly didn't have the patience or the manual dexterity.  That, however, did not stop me from trying.  In the end, if I messed up bad enough, she probably took pity on me and made a good version herself.

For reasons unknown to me, the thought of her Spiro-graph kit came back to me a couple of weeks ago.  Even more peculiar, the idea took hold in my brain and I had a hard time shaking it (kind of like a song you hear on the radio and can't get out of your head).  I went so far as to look up Spiro-graph kits on Amazon and see how much they cost.  I even had one on my wish list for a couple of days.

Rather than go that route, though it is often my go to route, I decided to poke around an art store.  The clerk, who took pity on me, or was just really helpful, told me that they didn't sell it, but that she had seen the same kind of thing at the dollar store.

two dollars is a good price for a box of fun.
Really?

Short contemplation reasoned that maybe this was the better way to go.  I doubt the thing could hold my interest for very long--it's not as if years and maturity have really solved the patience and dexterity gap--who's kidding who?  Maybe one or two dollars was better than twenty.

Surprise, surprise, they did indeed have a Spiro-graph knockoff at the dollar store.  So, to get that monkey off my back, I plunked down two dollars, plus tax, and brought home my very own not actually Spiro-graph, Spiro-graph.

It was kind of fun, and the designs are cool, but it was harder than it looked to make a perfect design.  the gears keep slipping out of cogs....or the cogs slip out of the gears, or....you know what I mean.

One week later, I think I have put it behind me.  It is no longer an obsessive need, but a curiosity in the jack of all hobbies scrapbook.  I am left wondering though, is there an app that can do this for you already?

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Limits




When I tell people I have a lot of hobbies they mostly ask what they are and leave it at that.  The more adventurous ones might wonder how I can afford it.  Funny though, no one wonders where I keep it all.

I have written a couple of blogs about storage, but that's common to all hobbyists.  We've all got tools and supplies and various other equipment.  It takes up space, but most of that is "out of the way" or stuffed into a closet.  There is always room for that stuff.  What nobody really stops to consider is what do you do with the finished products.

If you have a hobby that results in some finished product, you might want to display it.  In some cases you've got to display it.  Sure, you can give some of it away--some people do crafts that turn into Christmas presents.  But, how many times do your family and friends want that stuff?  If it is a quilt, you probably don't mind having six or seven of them, but how many wool sweaters do you want?  How many hooked rugs do you need?  How many paint by numbers can adorn your walls?

Okay, some of these crafts are beautiful.  Hence the reason I wrote that you've got to display them.  Sometimes these crafts are so integral to your life that everyone expects to see them on display at your house.  No problem there.

I, Jack of all hobbies, however, have so many hobbies, and do not often produce things of display quality.  What do I do then?

Limits.  I have limits.  There are only so many of one thing that I can have before it needs to get pared down.  If I make a good car model, it usually displaces a model I am less happy with (though some parts end up in the parts box for that diorama I am going to do someday).  I've only go so much shelf space, and the better models make the bad ones look rather poor.

New magazines displace old ones--or more likely, deluxe editions of books put out by these magazine publishers displace the magazines.  Realizing that they had me paying twice, I read the magazines at the library and only buy the books....but this is a topic for another day.

Train stuff....well, I can always make more room for train stuff.  I am into N scale, and that doesn't really take up  a lot of room.....besides, you've got to have priorities, and you've got to rationalize.

Take my latest puzzle.  I did it because I liked trains.  I thought about putting it up over in the room where there will be a train...but then I realized that wall space was at a premium, and I had already done a couple of other train puzzles that I thought were better than this one.  So what could I do?  Despite my pack rat nature, I am going to pass this puzzle off to someone else who will have to figure out what to do with it once they are done.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Encouraging The Blogger In Everyone


As altruistic as the title sounds, I don't really want everyone to blog, but I wouldn't mind if they did.  I have been blogging for a little while and I am really enjoying it.  It gives me the chance to write, and it gives me the chance to put voice to some of the things I am thinking and doing.

Recently, a friend has started blogging, and I want to do my best to steer some traffic her way.  Her blog is quite interesting, and definitely worth checking out.  She is writing about things which are quite universal, and definitely provide food for thought.  Here is the link.

http://woodziewarrior.wordpress.com/

For the rest of you out there, if you've got something to say, blogging might be a good forum for you.  It is never too late to start, and never underestimate the power of the written word.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Japanese Moment


A Japanese Matsuri, or festival, was held in Toronto today.  Things Japanese took over the Yonge and Dundas Square.  As a fan of things Japanese, and lover of Japanese food (over the top five-star cuisine as well as homey festival food) I decided to partake of the event.

It was pleasant to walk around and hear the sounds of Japanese mixed with the tones of tourists asking questions.  It was nice to smell the wonderful cooking odours of takoyaki, and karage.  It took me back some seventeen years to festivals past. to parts of my life that seem so remote from now, but really aren't so far removed.

I think of Japanese festivals held down by the edges of rivers, hundreds of stalls (Toronto had maybe a dozen) selling all manner of grilled things, fireworks lighting up the night sky, children panning for goldfish, and people enjoying beer.  Sometimes I feel like I have come so far and other times I feel like I have gone so far.  Strange journey I have undertaken, which has, for this afternoon at least, left me melancholy.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Thoughts on puzzles


Puzzles are not everyone's favourite hobby, but I always find time to do a few a year.  The fact that trains are often featured in puzzles is a bonus.  I wouldn't call it killing two birds with one stone.  That's silly.  I would call it synergistic....but that's probably because I was an English major and I need to utilize that expensive (albeit subsidized by the government) vocabulary.

standard assembly...edges first
Puzzles are a pretty solitary hobby with me.  I have known others who treat it as a family activity, but that isn't the case with me.  Perhaps it's selfish.  Either way, the best thing about puzzles is that you can easily see your progress, and more often than not, you do reach completion--which is not always the case with my other hobbies.

If I am lucky, I can put it in a place where the cat won't disturb it and work on it from time to time.  I don't usually put in big chunks of time unless I get sucked in by fitting lots of pieces, or because I should go to bed...and I keep telling myself, "just one more piece."  In these cases, I seem to devote a lot more time to it.

I am a typical puzzle maker....I think.  I start by assembling the edges first.  That seems logical, but I wonder...is there someone out there who starts in the middle and works their way to the edges?  That would be pretty cool to see.

assembling the train is a priority
Since most of my puzzles feature trains, the train gets assembled first.  The worst thing is that I am usually left with sky, and lots of it.  This isn't bad if you're doing the puzzle under natural light, but under a light bulb differentiating light blue from lighter blue isn't so easy.  This latest puzzle was rather odd in that I got the sky done before the mountains.  No complaints, but it just isn't the way things have been going lately.

not just sky left...this time
I happy it is done, and I won't be doing another puzzle until September or later....It's funny how I think I can plan these things, when I know that's not true.  I'll do a puzzle when my fancy strikes me, not when I plan it.  I could have a hundred other projects before I see another puzzle.