Friday, 26 December 2014

Hobby Hacks: Hobby Hack Number One


 
While I am waiting for my model helicopter parts to dry, I thought I would share something with you.  I have decided to call this a hobby hack.  These are useful tips that one can use while making models or other hobbies.

I can't remember exactly where I bought these clips, but I am pretty sure it was a dollar store.  I can't guarantee it was in Canada because it might have been from a 100 yen shop in Japan.  Sorry.

I am pretty sure I bought them to clamp something together, or hold something together while the glue was drying.  The funny thing is that I have never used them for that.  I think the clips are a bit too strong and could harm or scratch something (probably not, but you never know).  Instead I found a cool use for them.

They make a great stand for parts sprues while they are drying.  Let's call this hobby hack number one.


Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Quick Puzzle Before Christmas



Despite being the king (oops, I meant jack) of all hobbies, I have to admit, I haven 't done a lot of hobby related things lately.  I could blame the weather, or I could blame myself and the fall TV schedule.  Either way, I haven't had a lot to write about.

I have been writing my other blog, whose links you can find on the right side of this page under the title "cool blogs".  Mine is called Today's Perfect Moment.  I have been putting a lot of energy there and have grown a rather large community in a short time.  There seems to be a lot more cross blogging done there and the page is set up to encourage followers.

HOBBY HAPPENINGS

While I haven't done a lot, I have done some things.  Most recently, I got the itch to do a puzzle.  Maybe it is because I associate puzzles with Christmas.  I am surprised that no one gives these things as stocking stuffers anymore.  Knowing how addicting that can be, I really wasn't in the mood to tackle a monster 5000 piece puzzle.  I also didn't want to spend a lot of money.  What was my answer...the dollar store of course.

I found a couple of decent puzzles at the dollar store (Dollar Tree in this case) and purchased them for $1.25 each.  Even with Canadian tax, that still brought in two puzzles for less than $3.

I spent a couple of nights on the first one.  There seems to be no deterioration in my puzzle building skills and I was able to do it rather quickly.  Of course, that first night, I did the usual "just one more piece before I go to bed" thing, and wound up spending a hour or more when I should have been sleeping.  This probably was to the detriment of my students but I didn't actually yawn while teaching.

The puzzle wasn't the best quality.  The fit was a little loose and it came apart a couple of times.  Some pieces still had untrimmed edges (there seemed to be extra paper at the bottom layer of some of the pieces) and one was a little crumpled.  However, it only cost $1.25, so I can't get tremendously angry about that.

When I lived in Japan, I bought frames and puzzle glue for the puzzles.  However, these days, now that I have finished, I will probably take it apart and give it to someone else to do.

Monday, 13 October 2014

On Hockey Pools


 
 
The first week of this year's hockey pool is done.   By determination, research and skill (also known as blind luck) I am leading.  While this is no indication of future success, it makes me feel good nonetheless.

What I have found amazing over these past couple of days is the technology of it all.  Websites provide services that allow one to customize your pool in a dizzying array of ways.  Additionally, they provide real time stats.  The fact that it works so well is only blown away by the fact that it is provided for free.

What did people do before?  What poor soul had to sit down with a newspaper/many newspapers on Monday and work out everyone's points?  Either pools were a lot simpler then, or that person didn't get any "real" work done that day.

Having talked to a few people, it seems like the technology has not only made it easier to keep track of things, but somehow it allows people to be in a number of pools at once.  How they don't get confused between players from one pool team to the next is beyond me--or maybe they don't remember and have to spend a lot of time online checking and rechecking.   I guess that is what a smart phone is for, or is it?

Week one was fun.  Hopefully week two will be just as fun and just as successful.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Fantasty Hockey

 
This year I am joining a Fantasy Hockey League.  My strategy lacks hard work and hockey IQ.  Hopefully, I will be lucky. 
 
We had to come up with team names.  Since my name is Anthony, I decided to play with a bit of alliteration.  We also have an Andrew playing--he took Andy's Army.
 
I decided to call my team The Sarcastic Aces.  I chose the above image as my team logo.  I considered a bunch of other images.  Some are probably too sexist, but so is the internet.  The reasons for not choosing the following had to do with cropping it down to size.  I might have been able to do it, but a lot of the image would have been lost.  Which one would you have chosen?



Sunday, 31 August 2014

Cycling: What I Have Learned So Far






As I push ever farther into the world of cycling I have learned lots of fascinating things.  I have been thinking of getting a new bike, but with winter approaching (add as many Game of Thrones quotes as you want here) I am wondering if I should wait.  As a result of this indecision, I have been doing a lot of research.

Ø      Not far from where I live, there exists a 15 km or so (it is longer, but construction issues for bridges and such has blocked off part of the trail until next year).  I have ridden it a couple of times and it was amazing.  If you want to read about my ride and see some great pictures, please click on the link here: http://todaysperfectmoment.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/august-24-2014-the-nokiidaa-trail/

Ø      There are a huge number of bike shops in my area, and along my commute path, and near my work.  I had no idea cycling was so popular.  When I was young, only children rode bikes.  The upside of this is lots of places to shop.  The downside is that even places which sold reasonable bikes now have some higher end bikes, and prices seem quite high.  I mean, I have seen bikes which cost as much as my car did when I bought it new.

Ø      There are a lot of magazines devoted to the hobby/pursuit.  I have counted about 10, and I am sure there are more.  That's incredible.  Whoever said the printing medium was done was obviously wrong.  Despite the complaints of these magazines just being glossy catalogues that push expensive and unnecessary products on the gullible, there is some decent writing between the pages.

Ø      There is a crapload of extras for the cycling crowd.  Is all of it necessary?  Of course not.  Is some of it vanity driven?  Absolutely.   Does it affect me..... sadly, I have to answer yes.

Ø      I like riding a bike much more than going to a gym.  Seems pretty obvious, but that is what fuels the decision to buy a nice bike.  Living in a climate which produces bone chilling cold and snow for a large part of the year doesn't help.

Summing it all up.  I am definitely interested in this hobby.  Where I take it from here, only time will tell.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

RIP Television


 
Is television finished?  Of course it isn't, but are we in the midst of its decline?

I was out riding my bike around today, trying to decided if I should buy a new TV.  I found a couple that I am interested in, and if I bought them today, I wouldn't have to pay tax.  I couldn't decide if I should spend 900 bucks on a new TV and sound equipment, or if I should save the money for the cool bike that I want to buy.  (feel free to comment--but I have about 1 hour to make this decision).

While riding I stopped to talk to a woman who was also riding, but taking a rest.  She mentioned that she loved watching Netflix on her laptop, and was planning on throwing out her TV.  I didn't ask her if she would give it to me, but not that I think about it, maybe I should have.

The point being, I know a lot of people would rather pay a small fee and their internet provider rather than traditional cable.  If they had sports on Netflix, I am sure a lot of us would do the same.  If they make more TV series for Netflix only, would more people rather watch them?  I don't have the answers to these questions--and I am still wrestling with the TV debate, but I guess only time will tell.   Maybe this is the beginning of the end of television as we know it.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Back in the Saddle Again


Okay, I succumbed to tool lust.  I bought the bike repair stand.  I admit it.  And yes, I have been to several bike shops.  I probably don't need the big box of tools, because I have lots of other ones.

The good news is that I have so far resisted the urge to buy a new bike.  I used the bike stand to tune up my neglected bike.  So, I feel pretty good.

I even took the bike out today.  I realized three things. 

  1. I, in fact, do love riding.  It felt great to get the bike moving at a good speed.
  2. My cardio is terrible.  Despite losing some weight, I really need to up my cardiovascular training.  Fortunately, that was the reason for getting on the bike again in the first place.  Why go to the gym and get on an exercise bike when I can bike on an actual road.
  3. When you fall, or crash, it still hurts.  Yes, in my first bike ride in a couple of years, I had minor accident.  I was cutting through a catwalk that, rather than paved, consisted of rectangular concrete sidewalk patio stones (or something like that).  They had spread apart in the centre, leaving a gap just big enough for my front tire to find.  Escaping it resulted in a collision with a chain link fence, some scrapes, and a probable bruise.
On the plus side, I was rewarded with an encouraging number on the scale as well.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Hobbies Lead to Tool Lust


Once again I find myself in a hobby conundrum.  The only good thing is that I recognize it, and might be able to escape this one.  However, I am not really sure.

I used to love riding my bicycle.  I rode all over the place.  This might have a lot to do with the fact that I didn't have a car, but I am pretty sure that isn't all of it.  I know I loved the feeling of speed and power.  I remember once thinking I could be in the Tour de France.  I was never that good, but every boy has to dream.

I have always owned a bike.  When I had a job as a teenager, I took my bike to work every day.  If I had the choice of bus or cycle, I always chose cycle.  When I lived in Japan I bought a bike on a whim and had to carry it home on a very packed subway and train.  This was the kind of thing I did.  I never second guessed decisions like that. 

Lately, I have been thinking about getting back on my bike before the dust in the garage consumes it completely.  It would certainly help with the fitness part of my diet.  Of course, being dusty, it is going to require a bit of maintenance, and that is where the dilemma comes from.  I could pay someone to do it for me, or I could do it myself.


I know that I would rather do it myself.  Yes, it is a mechanical job, but it doesn't seem that hard.  So, I did what I always do.  I checked the internet and found lots of good resources and tools.  Do you see where I am going with this?

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) know that I have tool equipment lust to a terribly high degree.  Sometimes, I love hobby tools more than the hobby itself.  I thought I was strange, but after reading other blogs and internet forums, I know I am not the only one.  Plus, I am one of those guys.  I think tools are cool.  I want them, and I want good ones.

My current lust features two things:  A bike stand for working on the bike, and a dedicated set of tools.  Of course, there are some really flashy ones out there, but I have settled on these two.  The fact that they come in sexy anodized blue is just a coincidence--or is it.  Perhaps, I really don't need these things, but I scratched the itch, and I am now I am starting to obsess.

I probably have enough tools that I only need a few specialized ones to do any repair that I want.  I also don't need sexy blue tools.  Plain ones will do.  As for the bike stand, while not necessary, it certainly would be handy.

The next deadly step is to go to a bike shop (rather than the internet) to see what they have.  I might succumb and regret it, but what else can I do.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Latest Hobby Itch: Arduino



 
 
I know I shouldn't do it, but I've got the itch.  I have become obsessed--no, that's not right.  The word is too strong.  Okay, I've become intrigued by Arduino, though I am not sure why.  However, I can explain how it happened.
I was looking for a new project.  Actually first I was working on my decision making processes.  That is why I read a book that differentiated between gain and pain tasks, and how we put off gain tasks in favour ending pain tasks.  The book recommended scheduling time for gain tasks, and not worrying about how long they take, or whether they every get finished or not.  Sounded wonderful to me.  (If I can figure out how to do it, I will put a link to the book in my Amazon store at the side of the page)
So, despite having lots of these tasks, I decided I wanted something new.  Kind of a silly thing, but that is how my mind works.  That is how I started writing this (and three other) blogs.  If nothing else, my typing skills have gotten better.  I thought I would like to do some sort of science/technical project.
In days past, I would have gone to the Efton Science Store.  Alas, that has disappeared, and I had no idea where to look.  So, I consulted my fallback position.  I checked Amazon and searched for "project kits".  That is where I found Arduino.  Just like a boy, I saw a kit full of interesting parts (all the bells and whistles), and thought, WOW!  I need that.  Though, in truth, I was not overly clear on what it was.
You've got to admit, this is cool.
After some YouTube videos, which are a tech nerd's dream, I am still interested, though perhaps overwhelmed.  It is probably too complicated, but I am as fascinated and overconfident as I am nervous and confused.  I consider this a normal state when thinking about a new hobby.
So, I ask you.  Have you had any experience with Arduino?  Can you tell me anything about it?  I would really like your help.  Also, if you know anybody with experience, could you send them to this blog to help me before I spend all my money and end up with a desk full of electronic bits and pieces.  Please.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

World Cup Thoughts


 
World Cup season is upon us.  My television is full of games, repeats of those games (condensed and not condensed) and a whole lot of commentary about those games.  My students, often proudly wearing their nation's jerseys or waving flags, are chatting non stop about the game.  They have begged me to watch the game in class on at least one occasion.  I suspect in the coming weeks, this will become a regular occurrence.

There are positives and negatives to all of this.  It is great to see such enthusiasm in people.  There is a hum in the air, and electric vibe if you will.  In most cases, I can tell they are talking about the World Cup, even though I can't hear what they are saying.  They are either discussing the latest controversial calls, the penalties or lack of penalties, the game, or making plans to watch the game.  All in all, that's pretty exciting.

There are a few negatives, sadly.  One downside is that my students are not really paying attention to school.  The begging to watch the game which seemed cute on the first day, will grow pretty tiring by the end of it all. 

Also, probably since I am not a fan, the marketing looks rather insincere.  When the Olympic hockey was on, the sports channels proudly proclaimed it "our game".  For the Soccer World Cup, the same station is calling it something similar.  While I guess it might be true for some, it doesn't ring true for me.  It just seems like shameless marketing.  Of course, what this means is that I am a victim of marketing.  They manipulated me before, and now they are manipulating someone else.  I guess I am more upset at myself than them.

In the end, I hope my students and everyone else enjoys this month of soccer.  I hope no ill feelings are created by these games.  I hope this tournament creates some happiness in the world.

 

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Yahoo vs YouTube


So I have heard that Yahoo is going to offer a competitor to YouTube.  I am kind of excited about this idea.

Don't get me wrong.  I love YouTube.  Anyone who has read this blog knows that I watch a lot of JVloggers, and spend more time than I should watching old TV shows and clips online.  I even have some videos on YouTube.  I think I have about ten.  They haven't gone viral (and I wouldn't receive any money even if they did) and only one of then has had a really strong number of views--though I am not sure what the attraction is, and nobody has commented on it.

I guess I just want to be there, on the ground floor when it happens.  While it won't be a new thing (like YouTube was), I would like to say I was there from the beginning.  I want to be one of the originals, even though the idea won't be that original.

There are problems, however.  What kind of content should I put up?  I am not in Japan, so JVlogging is out.  I live in Canada, and while I love my country, I cannot see any blogging potential there.  I love my hobbies, but since I switch them around so much and am rather lax on completion, I am not sure there is anything there either.  I love to rant (check out my other blog site to see what I mean) but I have a face for radio--and who would want to see a static image of a wall or picture while I rant away?

I am excited and I want to participate, but I don't know how.

On another note, I still don't know what they are going to call this thing.  YouTube is a brilliant name.  Yahoo tube sounds derivative.  YahooTV doesn't sound cool.  They already have Yahoo Screen--so I guess that's not it.  I suppose, if I were to name it, I would call it OnYahoo.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Modern Day Dilemma


I can be a bit of die hard.  I can hang on to technology far longer than some.  I haven't gotten a Blu-ray player or flat screen TV yet.  On the other hand I have an eBook reader, and I was the first to get a DVD player.

The question is whether it is time to go completely digital where my music is concerned.  I already have an MP3 player and have most of my library on my laptop.  I could put every single CD I have onto my computer and then either store or get rid of my CDs.  This would have been unthinkable years ago, but now...

When cassettes became passé they ended up in the trash (or recycling box...which then probably got put in the trash) or got sent to people who still had cassette players in their cars.  I didn't get rid of my LPs and now they seem to have come back in fashion.  I may have to go and dig them out of their storage/hiding spot.

This is such a first world problem.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Passion Lost


 
I just finished watching the Indy 500 on television.  I have to say that there was a time in my life when that was really important.  There was a time when I looked forward to it all week.  There was a time when I planned my snacks for the big event, like I do for the Grey Cup.  That time seems like a long time ago.  I guess it just doesn't capture my imagination like it used to.

I still like motorsports.  I dedicatedly watch the British Touring Car Championships.  I love the speed and the technology.  When I write like that, it is hard to understand why the 500 just doesn't do it for me.  I can hardly understand myself.

I am not going to repeat those oft cited 200 laps of left turns.  Those never made sense to me before, and they aren't going to start now.  I also am not one of those people who watch for crashes.  Thankfully safety technology has cut down on the fatalities in auto racing.  Sadly, they have not been eliminated entirely.

Maybe it is the commentary.  Despite the in car views, telemetry and abundant stats, I find some of those racing comments like nails on a chalkboard.  I don't blame the commentators entirely.  I blame them (and all commentators) for relying on cliche and hackneyed expressions, but I know that some of those are directed at less than knowledgeable and casual fans.  In this great high tech, high bandwidth TV universe, couldn't we have a secondary channel where they didn't state the obvious, didn't speak to me like I was five years old?  Let me choose, I might surprise you.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A Valiant Effort



I am not really a basketball fan, but the Toronto Raptors certainly had my attention.  Although they did not win game seven and will not advance to the next round, they have earned everyone's respect and should be thanked.  They brought a winning, can do attitude to a city that seems stuck in a sporting slump (except the Argonauts or the Rock).

I was shopping today and I heard the stock boys and cashiers discussing the score.  Every few minutes another voice would ring out, begging for an update.  I don't remember the last time I witnessed something like that.  It was great.

They might have lost, but they aren't losers.  They along with the fans (die hard and bandwagon types alike) are the winners.  It was a great playoff series, and they deserved to win.  They deserve some respect.  They earned some respect.

Thank You.  You have done an amazing job.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

What One Season of Darts Has Taught Me


 
My first season of darts is over and I see a need to reflect on it.  There were highs and lows, and some genuinely warm moments.  I decided to play darts in February after watching it on TV.  I joined two leagues and three months later, my latest obsession is still going strong.

Apparently there are two seasons of darts.  Fall through spring, and summer.  As you might guess, the summer season is only about half as long as the other season.  I guess lots of people go on holiday in the summer, so I don't expect the shortened season to be as serious, or as well attended.

What I have learned:

Ø      Darts, like many other activities, gets better with practice.  In the past few weeks my three dart average has increased, and my ability to hit doubles and triples has gotten better.

Ø      Competition makes you better.  Despite not being that competitive, wanting to win makes me a better player.  Unlike some, I don't get down on other players, and try not to let my performance get to me.

Ø      With any activity there is a whole new lexicon to learn.  Without knowing it, I have added a lot of dart related words to my vocabulary, much to the chagrin of my coworkers.  Of course, they use a lot of ESL related vocabulary that other people in their lives don't understand....so it's pretty much a wash.  I throw around words and phrases like treble, three in a bed, checkout, double out, oche, flights, sisal, double bull, 9-darter and so many others. 

Ø      Leagues only work because so many people put in a lot of work.  Casual or not, a lot of organization and stats keeping is needed to keep the league going.  It seems like a lot of the people who I play with are retired, but it still requires a lot of their time.  Thanks.

Ø      The temptation to buy lots of equipment exists whenever you start a new hobby or pastime.  Fortunately, I have resisted the urge to spend a lot of money.  I've got some darts, a board at home, a small case for the darts, and a few extra parts.  Most people I have seen have several sets of darts, a rather large executive case, a large number of spare parts, and various tools.  Knowing me the way I do, I am sure I will get there, but for now, I am keeping it simple.

Ø      There are a variety of people and people types involved.  While most of my experiences have been good, some have been bad, and I have to accept that clashes will happen in the future.  Hopefully calm heads and rational thinking will prevail.

Ø      There is a huge world of darts out there.  There are professional leagues and huge tournaments.  I have only encountered the tip of the iceberg.  I may or may not make that big jump in the next year. While being a professional anything appeals to me, I know there are drawbacks to taking something you enjoy to a level like that.  Friendly competition is good, but intense competition may not be so great.

I have enjoyed darts, and I will be playing summer darts.  I will let you know how that goes.



Friday, 18 April 2014

The Age of Superheroes

 

I went to see the second Captain America movie the other day, and I must admit, being a comic book nerd who has read too many comic books lately, this is a great time for Superhero movies.  The technology has caught up with our imagination, allowing for some pretty amazing scenes.  It is certainly a far cry from when I was young.

I grew up watching the campy  Adam West Batman series.  I enjoyed it then, and have a deeper appreciation for it now.  It certainly can't compare to what we've been treated to lately, but it managed to work in a low tech era.  Not forgetting of course that Julie Newmar was a fantastic Catwoman. (Anne Hathaway looks great too.)

Other attempts to bring the heroes to the big or small screen were less successful.  Those Captain America movies were pretty bad.  The Spiderman TV series was.... well, let's just say I can't watch them again.

Animation did a much better job of capturing my heroes than live action film did.  Though looking back on it, sometimes the effort just wasn't there.  I guess most network executives were trying to sell toys and sugary cereals rather than bring the best to Saturday morning television.

 
I have enjoyed most of the recent comic book movies.  Green Lantern didn't really work for me, but I have a special fondness for that character that is often disappointed.  I guess I just like science fiction concepts too much, and can't bear it when they just aren't treated as reverently as I would like.  There is so much potential..... but I guess that's all that it really is.

Like most "nerds" out there, I am eagerly anticipating the next Avengers movie.  It's going to be more than a year away, but at least I have the next Xmen movie to tide me over. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Reading Can Be Hard


 
 
 
What makes a book a hard read?

With some books I just blast through them like a manta ray cutting through the water.  Other times, I am a salmon swimming upstream.  Some books are gone in a day or two while others take weeks.  In the following paragraphs, I consider some of the obstacles to fast reading.

Physical Characteristics

Some books are just longer.  Dickens couldn't seem to write anything shorter than a phone book.  His shortest novel probably still comes in at over 700 pages.  Granted, he was selling his stuff one or two newspaper pages at a time.  Whatever the case may be, some books are longer, so they take longer to get through.

Some fonts are hard to read.  You know how most books these days contain a little blurb about the typeface.  They all glamorize their choice of typeface, but that doesn't mean they are perfect.  Some are just plain difficult to read.  They look dense and really clutter up the page.

Dialogue versus Description

Dialogue is much easier to read than long paragraphs of explanation and description.  I imagine a 300 page novel that is all dialogue probably won't take more than an hour and a half to read.  This is especially true when they stop writing the he said, she said parts and just have the people ping pong back and forth.

Depth

A deep book.  A book with a lot of meaning and symbolism, as well as self referencing will require slower reading.  The book I am currently reading (Ghostwritten by Mitchell)  is a book like that.  All the stories are connected, but only with great subtlety.  It requires careful reading, and re-reading.  One does not always want to miss what's going on.

The Reader

I have been horribly sick, and concentration has been hard to come by.  I should have read two or three books in the time I took on the last one.  I blame the cold.  On some days, I just didn't want to read.  I was too busy hacking and coughing (not to mention shaking and sweating).

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The State of my Hobbies (part one)


 
 
I don't want to jinx it, but it certainly seems like spring is underway.  The snow is almost gone and things are looking up.  The only question for this blog is to address the hobbies.  We will call this part one--because I am sure I will miss something.

Darts

This is going well.  I have progressed well and I have several playoff games upcoming.  I have most enjoyed my darts season and will definitely continue it.  My biggest obstacle is that I don't have my board up yet.  I am wavering between installation methods, causing a complete lack of home progress.

Nanoblocks/Loz blocks

There are a few kits I have my eyes on, but I haven't stepped up and got them yet.  My display space is pretty much taken up.  Until I do some reorganizing, this may stay on hold.  Of course this would change if Toys R Us carried more of these kits.  I am much more likely to buy on impulse when I am out than when I am surfing the web.

Trains

I have lots of train projects on the go, just nothing completed.  I had big plans for this weekend before illness caused me to slow down--don't worry, I've just got a cold and don't have the energy to concentrate on stuff.  Even writing this short blog requires frequent rests.

Reading

I have decided to try reading some harder books.  What I mean by that is I am trying to read some more challenging books.  I am on pace to read about 60 books this year.  I decided that I would try and read some Pulitzer or Man Booker prize winners.  It would be great if I could read them all, and I might make that a goal next year.  The current book I am reading is Ghost Written by David Mitchell.  It is very well done and I recommend that anyone looking for a good book to read it.

Puzzles

I still do the crossword puzzle every day, but the one I am doing is only challenging because they have a lot of geographical clues and modern music clues that I have no idea about.  I can usually solve it, but I get frustrated at some of the "cheap" clues they give.  I haven't done any Sudoku puzzles lately, nor any logic puzzles.  Maybe spring will reawaken these pursuits.

Writing

I am hoping to do more of this.  I still harbour the dream of being novelist/writer.  What I have learned is that it really depends on me and my discipline.  Of course I could say that about a lot of things.  I won't let go of this dream.

Blogging

This is something I enjoy a lot.  The truth is, I haven't written as much as I would have liked.  My students seem to enjoy my English teaching blog.  Unfortunately, I have to spend a bit of time reminding them to read it on Facebook. I will need to find ways to attract more people to this blog.  Maybe I will have to write about more controversial topics.....or Justin Bieber.

Gardening Landscaping

Though this may be a hobby for some, it really means work for me.  I have at least a week or two before I need to start on this, but it probably wouldn't hurt to start getting the supplies.  I cut the grass far less than I had to shovel snow, so this really isn't a problem.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Killjoys, Jerks and Doucebags


 
 
In the past, I have written how great it is to interact with people in hobbies.  This includes strangers met at shows or conventions, or in hobby shops.  This also includes meeting people at events where you do your hobbies.  I didn't lie to you.  There are many great people in the aforementioned places.  I just wasn't entirely honest either.  Amongst the great and cool, there are a bunch of complete...hmmm, what is the right word....douche bags. 

Sorry if I offend, but someone has to candidly set the record straight.  Additionally, there are quite a few other words I contemplated using, but chose not to.  I guess I should stick with my original title and call them killjoys. 

My most recent encounter with a killjoy comes from my latest obsession-darts.  This person criticized my behaviour.  While they had some valid points, they overlooked several things.  First, I am new, and don't know all the etiquette of the darting world.  Two, rather than instruct, they chose to criticize.  Third, they chose to take their darting seriously despite being a spare player and holding me to a level of etiquette they did not afford me when I was throwing.  I followed their example.  I guess what was good enough for me, was not good enough for them.

I am not the most confrontational of people, but I am no doormat either.  I can give as good (or better) than I get.  I have lots of weapons in my arsenal, and very little restraint.  Regardless of that, basically this person ruined a good night at the oche.  I left feeling rather upset.  In conversation with other darters, they all said the same thing.  There's always one, or rather, two.  One on your team, and one on the other team.  I guess.

Basically there are some great people out there who will share their love of hobbies with you, but just like real life, there are going to be jerks out there who ruin things for you.  While this particular jerk ruined my night, they won't ruin my season.  I will continue, and if necessary stand my ground against people like that. 

Maybe in future blogs I will talk more about the archetypical jerks you can find in hobbies.  Feel free to add your own stories.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Watching the Big Game


a great team effort
Watching the men's and women's gold medal hockey games for the Sochi Olympics was a great experience.  In the future, when we are reminiscing about these kinds of things (maybe because the professionals won't be going to the Olympics) I can always tell people where I was.  However, it will be with a little regret because I was watching the game by myself while drinking coffee and eating cereal.

It isn't overly profound to make the statement that "big games" are better when they are shared by a group of people, but it doesn't diminish the truth of it.  Watching a big game with friends, or even a crowded bar of strangers is pretty amazing.

I remember when the Toronto Blue Jays won their first World Series.  I was in a bar in London (Ontario) called the Governor.  We had a great time drinking, cheering and even dancing out on the street when it was all over.  I won't ever forget it.

Fantastic work ladies
When they won their second World Series I was in Japan and had to read about it in the Japan Times.  I still cheered, but the memory is unclear.  They delivered the newspaper quite early in the morning, and I am sure the motorcycle delivery guy made a hell of a lot of noise bounding up my steps to deliver the paper.  Beyond that, I can't really be sure.  Maybe I had made my coffee, maybe I had it after.  Maybe I went across the street to the vending machine to get the coffee.  It just isn't that memorable.

Just like it was yesterday
When you think back upon big moments, including both the good and the bad, what do you remember.  I bet it was where you were and who you talked to about it.  I doubt the words you said were particularly profound, but the feeling should still be there.

Maybe it was the time difference, or maybe it was the effect the internet has had on news transmission.  I am in no way qualified to pontificate about that.  I do know that watching the game with friends or family would have been much better than it was.  I can only blame myself for not making that happen, but at such an early morning hour I don't know many who did.
 
When the Leafs finally win their next Stanley Cup, I hope I am surrounded by my friends.
 


Monday, 17 February 2014

LOZ Tokyo Skytree...Unboxing and Comparing


 
 
I received an interesting gift today.  It was the LOZ "Micro Blocks" version of the Tokyo Skytree.  There are several things I should say.

First off, I have been calling them Micro Blocks, mostly because that is how they are listed on Amazon.  However, nowhere on the box is that written.  I guess I should call them LOZ Blocks.

I liked the way the box opened.  It opened like a book.  This seems quite comfortable and more useful than the standard Nanoblock box.  It isn't a big thing, but we usually appreciate the little things.

Someone is sending me the Nanoblock Tokyo Skytree, and when that happens, I will build it and do a side by side comparison.  Until that day, you just have to make do with my impressions of the kit.  Of course, if you want to see it, please click on the link to my YouTube video below.  I unbox the Skytree and compare some of the blocks.  I should probably do a more in depth comparison, but this should be useful in the meantime.

The kit has some uniquely shaped pieces that I am interested in.  I hope there are extra ones so I can combine them with my stash of leftover Nanoblock pieces.  Yes, they are compatible.  That was one of the first things I checked.  This will definitely be a plus for the creative people out there.  I expect there are already some fantastic creations out there.

 
 
I haven't worked with the pieces yet, but they seem quite similar in style and quality to Nanoblocks.  Once I put this together, I will have a better idea.
 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Advice Overload


 
 
In my last blog I wrote about the dilemma of choosing between an e-tailer and a retailer.  I should let it be known that I purchased my darts from a retail store--a seemingly one person operation.  I bought less expensive darts than I planned as a result of talking to this person.  Yes, that's right, he undersold me.  I have never had that happen before.

One of the interesting things that the salesperson told me was to "beware of all the advice people want to give you." 

I have been thinking of that ever since.  Not because people have inundated me with information and "tips" on how to play better darts.  In fact, most people have been encouraging rather than discouraging.  Nobody has told me what to do.  If I want that kind of advice, I am going to have to ask for it.

However, the warning still holds true, but it needs to be modified.  Yes, I am sure lots of people will want to give me advice, but I also bring it upon myself.  By joining a darts chat room, I am sure I will get exposed to lots of "expert" opinions.  By searching our reviews of product, I will be exposed to lots of "expert" opinions.  I can only blame myself.

In my other hobbies, much the same thing happens.  When I wanted to get into RC cars, lots of people to me what to buy, or at least, what not to buy.  They were sure what wasn't good, but not as clear on what was good.  They had a lot of ideas on how I should spend my money.  Sadly, very few of them agreed, so I was left with lots of information and little direction.

Sometimes these differing opinions are good.  It is good to hear the voices that are debating in your head, actually do it live and in front of you.  It is so much easier to distinguish the truth from the lies, the plausible from the implausible, and the exaggeration from the cynicism.

The dart store owner's advice is good, but doesn't help us fight against our nature.  We do things that don't help us because we overestimate the need for information.  We seek it out, when we should be seeking out experience.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Rethinking the Man Cave


Having watched a lot of shows on the theme of Man Caves and talked to a lot of guys, I guess there are a lot men who want this kind of room.  I think, at some   I have had visions of pool table, hockey tables, pinball machines and a full standing Galaga machines.  Of course, I also need room for the train set. 

level, I too fall into this category.

No doubt, TV has played a lot into this stereotype.  TV shows have glorified the Man Cave and raised it to an art form.  No longer is the big screen TV and a couple of La-Z- Boys enough.  I remember when the pinnacle of a Man Cave was a bar fridge.  Oh how times have changed.  Now, you practically have to hire a designer to get things done.  You need a theme, hidden sound systems, and fully integrated remote controls.  Start budgeting now.

What got me thinking of the Man Cave was my latest obsession.  As anyone who ready my last post knows, I have become hooked on darts.  Darts require a dartboard and some kind of set up, or at least an inconspicuous wall to hang the dartboard on.  It kind of goes with the whole pool table set up.  At least, I think so.  Of course, I may have been conditioned to think so.

Above I mentioned all the things I would like to have in my Man Cave, but the truth is, it is unlikely to ever happen.  I just don't have the space or the extra money to fulfill this dream.  Yes, if I stopped having hobbies and blowing my money on them, I might have the financial wherewithal to fund the Man Cave--but without the interest in hobbies, there really wouldn't be a need for a Man Cave.  There would still be a need for a library full of books, though.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A Pointy Dilemma


 
The internet has been a boon to the hobbyist.  We can research things and find things we could never do before.  We can order and receive products without ever leaving the comfort of desk chair.  While I have reflected on this before, it bears repeating and re-examining.  While the hobby industry is benefiting, hobby shops are not.  Hobby shops can't compete with internet.

In most cases, I tend to side with the hobby store.  I appreciate their knowledge and understand that their costs (actually having a store) are going to be higher than someone on the internet.  That doesn't stop me from looking and comparing, though.  (As I mentioned before, doing research on a new hobby is almost as exciting as the hobby itself--call it armchair hobbying)  I am mindful of the price difference when I enter the store.  As long as the difference isn't too great, I most often choose the hobby store.

If you read my last post (If you haven't go back and read it now.  Read them all now!!--We will call that a desperate plea for readers) you will know that my latest hobby obsession is darts.  I have only played once, and have sunk absolutely no money into it so far.  In fact, the only livelihoods I have supported are the Royal Canadian Legion's and its employees.  That is if you call drinking a couple of beers at ridiculously low prices support.

I digress (as usual).

I have started looking for darts.  I spent part of yesterday's snowstorm driving around to all the usual stores seeing what they had.  Alas, what they had really wasn't much.  In the end, I ended up at a store that had a whole range of darts, dart accessories and dartboards.  It was tucked away in an industrial area.  I probably wouldn't have found it without the help of Google and Google maps.

I spend a fair bit of time at the store, trying out various darts and talking to the store owner.  He was helpful and knowledgeable and didn't try to pressure me.  The prices were a little high, but it was a specialty store and they didn't really have any low end stuff.  After some practice, I settled on a set I planned to buy.  I say planned because I need to wait out the credit card cycle a little.


Being research driven, I came home and searched out these particular darts on the internet, and found them for sale on EBay.  The price with shipping would save me about forty bucks, if I understand the tax laws.  Of course, I might get hit by duty, but how much could it be.  Maybe five dollars?  So I would save only thirty-five.

The dilemma for me is that I appreciate the time the owner spent with me.  I also would like to go back there to buy accessories and whatnot.  I don't know how many customers they get, but while I was there (a not insignificant amount of time) I was the only customer.  I don't think he will forget my face, and he might wonder what happened.

If this were some nameless, faceless corporation run out of the mall, I wouldn't see it as a dilemma.  I would probably have bought them already.  Of course, I probably wouldn't have spent so much time at the store talking to the person either.

Basically, I am asking for your opinions--or if you want to share your experiences.  I know some of you run businesses, so you must give me your honest take on the situation.