Hobby Forums and Message Boards

Despite debating the pros and cons (I called it The Gift Versus the Curse) of the internet on hobbies, I probably fall more on the pro side.  Especially where message boards, or forums are concerned.

For those not in the know, the aforementioned forums or boards are places where (in this case) hobbyists can go and exchange information.  They are as simple, if not simpler than, email.  Not only can you post questions and get answers, but you can read other people’s questions and answers as well.  In addition to the answers, you might also get photos which better illustrate the point the person was trying to make.

I belong to several boards.  I belong to nscale.net for my train hobbies.  I also belong to scale auto enthusiast forum for my car models.  For a time I belonged to a forum for remote control cars, but sadly they went out of business.  In addition, I have checked out other forums for my various hobbies.  If I didn’t join, it is more likely that I got what I needed without having to post my own question.

My experience has been very positive.  Many people have helped me, patiently answered my questions, given solid advice, and sent many helpful pictures.  I haven’t come across any insulting behaviour or obnoxious people.  Okay, in truth, once a guy lowballed me on a price for something I was selling, but not in an rude way–business is, after all, business, and like most of us, he was just looking for a deal.  When I suggested he was lowballing me, he wrote back and candidly admitted that was the case and made me a better offer.

I guess that my positive experience is due to both the majority of good and helpful people who make up the hobby and the wisdom of the moderators who keep the haters and the trolls at bay.  I estimate it is an 80/20 split, with 80 percent on the side of good people making up the hobby.

If you have never joined a message board, or forum and are into a hobby there is probably a forum out there for you.  I suggest joining, and increasing your circle of like minded hobbyists.  If it isn’t for you, you can always “unjoin” or just never go there again and ignore them like I do when a salesman comes to the door.

Anyone with a good story of joining a forum, or associated wisdom, is invited to comment.
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Leggo my Lego

Owing to a transit strike and too much time to kill before I could get a ride home I found myself doing something I rarely do.  I did a complete tour of a shopping mall at a leisurely pace.  Normally I am a get in, get what you came for and then get out kind of person. I can’t really say I had a great time, but it wasn’t a complete waste because I came across the Lego store.

I have always liked Lego, but never really had any.  I had one set when I was a child. but it wasn’t a huge “megaset.”  I could maybe build a small house or car, as long as colour symmetry wasn’t a priority.  If you’ve read my blog called The Massive Collection and the Mind of a Child you might remember my friend’s Playmobil collection.  What I didn’t mention was that he also had a very impressive collection of Lego. Impressive because he had enough Lego to build a small village of houses, all tastefully colour coordinated.  I was pretty jealous, but we played with it together often enough that I only have good memories of it.

The Lego store is a pretty amazing place.  I hadn’t realized how many products they had.  There were so many cool kits and stuff that I had no idea they made.  For a moment….. actually longer than a moment, I was a kid again.

I spotted that Lego train and made those important financial calculations that all hobbyists have to do.  It is a complicated formula involving the  (fun quotient X the building time X the buddy brag factor )/ (the cost factor + the once finished dust collector factor+ the wasted money factor)
I walked out of the store without a box of shiny new Lego and a healthy respect for the store clerks who patiently dealt with children (including one who listed every kit he owned in alphabetical, then chronological order.)  And although I managed to thwart the temptation, the seed has been planted, the need has been created.  Only time will tell where this will lead.

And You Decided to Take up This Hobby Because….

Where does the inspiration for a new hobby come from?  For me, it could be anything really.  I might see something cool on TV, or it might come up in the newspaper.  Then again a store window or a magazine cover might catch my eye.  I am also surrounded by people who purposefully, or maybe accidently talk about something they are interested in, and in doing so provoke me to become interested in their hobbies.

If my friends are reading this, and thinking that I am blaming them for my ever expanding collection of hobbies, they are right.  Actually, they are only half right.  When you come into contact with people who are really interested in something, there are only too possible responses.  The first, and the one that leads to my downfall, or at least the investment of my cash and time, is COOL!  The other, which I seem to use less than other people, is WHAT?!? or ARE YOU NUTS?!

When I do have the latter reaction, I can often overcome this by sheer force of will and rationalization.  I may not find the hobby cool, but this person seems to be enjoying themselves.  They don’t seem to mind the money and time they’ve spent, so why should I.  Add to the fact, they haven’t hurt anyone, and soon all resistance fades.

Several years ago, while living in an apartment, I met a man in the elevator lamenting the fact that he needed to buy more Rubbermaid containers for a new shipment of beanie babies that he had purchased.  He exclaimed they were a great investment.  At first I was a bit confused, but I applied the above criteria, and it didn’t seem so off putting.  At least I was able to take my hand off the emergency stop button and finish the elevator ride.

I had one friend tell me that when I found the perfect hobby for myself, all the others would simply fade to insignificance and I would be satisfied.  That sounds like sage advice, but I wish a timeline had been provided, or at least she could have given me tips on where to store the ever expanding pile of stuff until that day.

Currently I am not facing the “new hobby dilemma” but rather the “old hobby dilemma”.  I have been working on a train layout for a long time, but have never managed to make it work right.  I have two solutions (though there might be a few more that I am ignorant of).  The first is to take apart what doesn’t work on this one, and rebuild it.  This would mean saving materials, and therefore money.  On the other hand, I could buy a kit which would teach me some of the skills I am lacking, and make the whole thing more visually pleasing in a shorter period of time.  There are some downsides to this of course.  The first is money.  The kit is not exactly cheap, and doesn’t even factor in the costs already acquired.  The other, more emotionally expensive downside is admitting defeat.  As a hobbyist, we tend to think we can complete what we start, and that the plans that we laboured over are good and feasible.   Funny how things work out.

The Gift and Curse of the Internet

Probably the greatest impact on hobbies has come from the internet.  It has been the greatest gift, and probably the greatest curse.  I don’t say that lightly, but I stand behind it.

The Gift

There is no other way to get so much information about hobbies.  There are so many websites, boards, images, and videos.  In the old days we were constrained to magazines, fairs, and people who hung around the hobby shop.  If I ask a question on some of the boards I belong to, within minutes I get a reply and often some photos illustrating the point perfectly.

This blog and hundreds like it owe themselves to the internet.  The two or three people who read this could only get it from the net.  It has given me a place to express myself, and I am enjoying it.

The Curse

There is probably too much information and diversity of opinion.  It can be overwhelming.  I love to research hobbies, but I can spend months learning about something before I feel confident to walk into the shop and make a purchase.  I can spend hours procrastinating and neglecting things (housework, lesson preparation, etc.)
The Gift

There are some huge hobby shops online which can cater to all my needs.  I can find products and have them sent to me within days or weeks which my take months, or might never be available at my local hobby shop.

The Curse

All of these great deals come at the expense of the local hobby shop.   I am certainly guilty of this.  I have scoured for the best deal, and bypassed my local store.  I comforted myself with the confidence of any consumer.  However, a little part of me says that we need to support the local person, especially because that is how I got into a lot of my hobbies.  They are probably struggling, and could easily go out of business.

The Gift

I don’t have to endlessly search through magazines looking for an article or inspiration.  It is there at the click of the mouse.  I also don’t have to pay for them, or trudge down to my library to read them (even though I still do, and would consider buying complete CD versions of some of my favourite magazines.)

The Curse

Not only have those magazines scaled back production or disappeared completely, but the sense of anticipation is gone.  I eagerly looked forward to the day my magazines would come out.  I often made it a special event to peruse my magazine sitting in my favourite chair, with a cup of hot chocolate (who’s kidding who, I was drinking a beer, but I think the imagery of my first idea is better).

The Gift

It is easy to find people interested in the same hobby, and with the relative anonymity of the keyboard, any shyness you feel can be overcome.

The Curse

Actually, I have to say that in this case, there is only win.  I have enjoyed messaging with people on various model and train boards.  They have been friendly (and sometimes quite humorous) with their advice.

The Gift

Some YouTube videos have given me a view into a hobby I could not get elsewhere.  I have watched many great model builders put together award winning models.  I have learned great tennis exercises to strengthen my sore shoulder.  I have seen people unbox their products, so I knew exactly what came with hobby kits they bought. 

The Curse

I probably spend too much time on YouTube and have lost some precious sleep.  A small price to pay, but when I find it hard to drag my sorry self out of bed on a cold weekday morning (or any morning for that matter–I am decidedly a night person) I wonder if it was worth it. 
If I have forgotten anything, or should consider something else, please feel free to comment.

Choices

When I started model building the choices were pretty clear–cars, planes, or tanks.  At least that is what I thought.  After just a few short visits to hobby shops I came to realize that cars meant, cars, trucks, race cars, motorcycles, and other commercial vehicles.  Planes meant military, as well as passenger planes.  And tanks meant every piece of military hardware that has ever existed.

What makes someone choose a particular subject.  For me it was my love of the 1966 and 67 mustangs.  For a friend it was a love of Star Wars and old war movies like The Great Escape.  Another friend loved motorcycles incredibly, but could never convince his parents to let him have one, so he settled for a shelf full of the scale replica version.

The reason is probably not terribly important.  As long as there is a hobby shop to meet those needs, those needs can stretch from wide and far.

Of course, it can work the other way.  A trip to the hobby shop could spur you to build something you had never considered.  This is especially true if the shop stocks lots of  unusual things from far and wide.  I once came across a shop which sold model kits of scale versions of musical instruments.  I remember one of the kits was of a replica Beatles drum kit–sadly there was no Ringo Starr figure to go with it.

As you can imagine, if you have been following this blog, I might have started out with the Mustang, but that doesn’t mean that is the only kit, or type of kit that I have bought or somehow managed to add to my collection at no cost to myself.  A man can get bored building only one type of kit.

I have (built an unopened)      race cars

                                                motorcycles

                                                military half tracks

                                                a Japanese aircraft carrier

                                                a helicopter

                                                a garage with tools diorama

                                                family cars

                                                Japanese robots

                                                One KFC outlet

                                                Several train buildings

                                                a Japanese Castle

                                                a large trailer for hauling liquids

to name a few

And the strange thing is, if I were to enter a hobby shop tomorrow and they had a kit of an old pinball machine, I would probably buy it and put in on the shelf next to the rest of them.

For me the inexhaustible variety of kits is a blessing.  For the potential newcomer, I can only guess such a variety is daunting.

Finesse

Despite what it seems like from my previous posts I also take part in hobbies that require some physical fitness.  For the past few years, I have been an avid tennis player.  This is no mean feat as I live in a country which experiences some low temperatures, and unlike this past winter, has a decent amount of snowfall.

Like most sports, and unlike most of my other hobbies, it requires scheduling.  People are busy, courts are full, and sometimes it’s raining.    Of course sometimes your tennis clothes are unwashed, your tennis shoes are chew toys for the family dog and that brand new can of tennis balls won’t be found until you purchase another one.

I read a book by Haruki Murakami on jogging.  He made the point that jogging was one physical activity you didn’t need a partner for.  He makes a good point.  I have tried tennis alone, me against the school wall.  Sadly, I haven’t found a high enough wall, so this man versus wall confrontation only serves to lose those newly found tennis balls.

Perhaps the biggest appeal of tennis is that it so clearly illustrates that technique and finesse can overcome raw power and fitness (meaning an older, heavier guy with some skills can beat a young, fit guy who doesn’t seem to get tired, and can still rush the net after several hours in the hot sun)  As I get older, I take great solace in such a thing.

In terms of money, because everything looks good until you consider how much it’s going to cost you, tennis doesn’t have to be expensive.  A pair of shoes lasts a long time.  A racquet needn’t cost that much.  I bought mine at the end of the season–actually I played for about two more months, but some of those nights were rather cold–for 50% off.  Tennis balls are cheap, and who cares what you’re wearing–though ladies, the tennis dress does look fabulous on you.

Weather is a factor, but there are ways to overcome that too. For one glorious winter I belonged to a tennis club.  I played two or three times a week and never once worried about the snow.  Sadly, that is no longer economically possible.  Things have changed, and prices have gone up.  However, it was wonderful.  There were water coolers for every court, the nets were regulation, and there were some talented tennis dress clad women on adjacent courts.

Spring has come early, and the tennis nets are up.  I have been out twice this year and enjoyed it both times.  I can’t say as I am in prime shape yet, but I feel good about the effort.

The Massive Collection and the Mind of a Child

I admit it.  I admit it freely.  I was incredibly jealous of my best friend while growing up.  What gave rise to this jealousy?  My friend, in his few short years on the planet, had amassed a massive collection of Playmobil figures and vehicles.  I, on the other hand, had a small collection of micronauts.  My friend’s collection was large enough to warrant its own cabinet.

He had a vast array of figures and vehicles from all different eras.  I grant that I couldn’t identify everything he had because some of it was ….subtly different than what I was seeing on the streets of our small town.  Looking back on it, he got most of his collection as birthday and Christmas presents from his overseas relatives.  Playmobil wasn’t as common in those days so I was fascinated by it.

We didn’t often play with these toys.  They sat protected from dust in their cabinet.  That is, until one day, I proposed a daring feat.  I suggested, maybe cajoled is a better word, that we use all the Playmobil in one massive scene.

We spent hours laying out all the figures vehicles and accessories in his living room, dining room, as well as up the stairs, throughout the hallway and into his bedroom.  We debated the merits of each placement like we were planning a great battle, right down to the posture of each figure.

It was with great sadness that I had to leave shortly after we placed that last piece to let him have dinner.  I would have come back after dinner to help him put it all away if only he had asked me.