For the Love of Sandwiches

I take my lunch to work.  Yes, I am one of those people.  Pretty much everyday, without fail, I make, pack and take a lunch to work.  It isn’t that I don’t want to have fast food.  I am certainly not on a health kick.  And I certainly don’t have a phobia of what could be in the hotdog.  I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten worse than that.  Going to restaurants (if I may use that word for fast food) really just presents me with too much choice.  I spend too much time wondering if I made the right choice, and thinking (usually while eating) that I made the wrong choice.

Some people like to bring in leftovers. I am not really into that.  That is where the sandwich comes in.  The sandwich is my go to lunch choice.  Sometimes I might bring in pizza, but that is the exception, not the rule. 

I take my sandwiches seriously, and put a lot of effort into their construction.  I’m talking about two different kinds of meat, toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, watercress, sprouts and a variety of cheeses and mustards.  Most importantly, I take a lot of time choosing my bread.  Weak bread leads to a weak sandwich.  Great bread turns a good sandwich into a great sandwich.  As you can see this is not some thrown together mishmash of a sandwich, rather it is a work of art.

You probably have questions.  Is this worth the effort?  Are you really that serious about it?  Is this really a hobby?

The answer to these questions is


It’s a hobby like cooking is for some people.  As far as being worth the effort, every time someone asks me where I got the sandwich, I know that they wish they could eat it.  As far as being serious….. like all things in life, you should do it to the best of your ability.  If you do something as good as you possibly can, you will see the reward in it.

A Manly Way To Shave

By my taste in literature, it is pretty obvious that I was born in the wrong time.  I would probably have fit in better in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.  It isn’t that I am totally in the wrong place.  I am no luddite, otherwise this blog wouldn’t exist.  I certainly don’t want to throw away all that we have gained, all that has been accomplished,  Rather, sometimes, I just like to look back on how some of the things we did were cool and stylish in a way that they no longer are.  I have heard it called retro, or steam punk, or any number of labels.  Whatever it is, there is a something lost for all that we have gained.

Though it might be preposterous, as someone said to me, but I love the old time shave.  I have been lucky enough to have a full straight razor shave on a couple of occasions.  Despite the apparent danger, I enjoyed it immensely.  If you have never had it done, get a few days of stubble on your chin and go and give it a try.  It is phenomenal.  Your whole face will tingle–in a good way.

While I cannot replicate this at home, and cannot afford to do it frequently, I do what I can.  I eschew the foam can (though I will agree that the gel was a vast improvement over the foam) and go old school at home.  I shave with a brush and soap bowl.  I consider it a more manly shave–that also might have to do with the scent of the soap.

Of course, it doesn’t save time, nor is it cost effective.  However it is time and money well spent.  When I shave, I shave like a man.  Sexist?  Probably, but I revel in the masculinity of it.  If TV shows like Mad Men, or Life on Mars have shown us anything, in the past style was important.

I could spend time pointing out the eco-friendly nature of this pursuit.  Though, really it is not a pursuit or leisure activity, just a fascination with me. (That is what qualifies it for this blog) I could drone on about the lack of chemicals etc.  However, I will just stick to my original idea.  Like a black and white photograph, it is about style, and I personally like it.

Pessimism is Rising

I have officially joined the land of sceptics (on this topic, for most others I have held the presidency for years– I usually try to remain optimistic in this area)  I am pretty sure there will be another hockey lockout this year.  I am a big hockey fan and the thought of no Hockey Night in Canadafills me with a horrifying dread.

Could any good come out of a hockey lockout?  Let’s see.  Last time, instead of showing sports from around the world, we got Texas No Limit Hold’em pretty much 24/7.  A little bit of this was okay.  Granted it started a whole new industry and a large number of cheap, easy to produce TV shows.  It made several gamblers quite famous.  I don’t begrudge that, but every time I turn on the TV I see the same hand of poker being played.  (You know, the one where the guy in the pink shirt gets crushed by the pros)  Obviously someone is making money from this, but I am not sure who it is. 

I do like poker, and I admit it is TV friendly.  I even have the World Series of Poker software for my PSP.  I just don’t want to see it as much as I had to during the last lockout.  If it is so cheap to produce, I shouldn’t have to face multiple reruns.

Back to the point.  Could any good come out of a lockout?  Well, last time the players caved and we got a salary cap.  Revenues are up and the cap is still taking the same percentage as before.  Sounds like a recipe for financial stability.  Apparently not.  Some teams are still not making money.  Some teams are still in jeopardy of failing.  I lost a year of hockey, and nothing has changed. Go figure.

The sticking points seem to be revenue sharing and players’ salaries.  I understand that.  If my team were in a profitable market (mine is) then why would I want to give money to a team that can’t even fill the best seats in the house at rock bottom prices?  As for players’ salaries….. They took what they were offered.  Can’t blame them for negotiating well can you.  I certainly wouldn’t like it if someone came to my work and told me they thought I was overpaid (regardless of how much money I was making).

Maybe there are too many teams in the NHL.  Fewer teams would mean that there would be fewer professional players (the players union certainly wouldn’t like that) and that would mean the overall quality of each team would rise.  There would be glut of almost good enough players, so their salaries would probably decrease.

On the down side, there would be fewer games on TV and there would be fewer minutes spent discussing hockey.  I am not sure that would be a bad thing.

This year my team is scheduled to take part in “the Winter Classic”, but that could be shelved due to scheduling conflicts.  Irony is a bitter pill to swallow.

Time will tell, but I expect a lockout.  I expect owners who travel in Limousines and eat at five star restaurants with supermodels to tell me that they are paying players too much.  I expect players who drive exotic sports cars and eat at five star restaurants with supermodels or A list actresses to tell me how much they miss playing.  I expect both sides to say they just want to do what is best for the game.  I expect the various sports channels to find something new for us to watch 24hours a day–maybe darts, or competitive skeet shooting.

Hockey season hasn’t started yet and already I miss it.  Maybe I should take up jogging.

An August Progress Report

I seem to have found myself with a little bit of spare time, so I thought a progress report was in order.
I went to the dollar store (I think this one was called Dollar Tree)  I had never been there before, but I was, pardon the cliché, in the neighbourhood.  I wonder if that applies to big box stores.  I guess what you can say is that I was in the general vicinity after shopping for some airbrush bottles at an art store.
In this new dollar store I was only really thinking about getting something to drink.  Somehow I managed to spend $7, so I guess their master plan worked.  I came out with 2 more jigsaw puzzles.  I don’t really regret it because you can’t really complain about paying $1.25 for a puzzle….. and yes, even though it is a dollar store, there are things that cost more than $1.
I decided to take the systematic approach first.
Step 1)  Get all the edges
Step 2 Separate into 3 piles: Sky, Buildings, and transition from building to sky
Step 3) attach all the pieces that transition from building to sky.
Step 4) fill in the building part
Step 5) scream because now I am left with only sky
I almost decided to quit the puzzle and move onto something else.  I mean, I had the picture done, all that was left was the sky.  That huge, multi-piece blue sky.  My friend who needs a hobby urged me to carry on, so today I finished it.
I also had some time to apply my first airbrush coat to one of the buildings for my train layout.  Never having worked with that paint before I have to say that I made it too thin.  The result wasn’t bad though, and the slight variation should look okay on the building.  This is Design Preservation Models Hayes’ Hardware (N scale).   It isn’t the most complex building, but it has served as a good introduction to this type of modeling.
I will apply the next, slightly thicker coat, tomorrow.
Now you know where things with me stand.

Another Mini-Review

I haven’t done it in a while, but I think it is time for another book review–because reading is amazing and important.  Long live literature.

In books, perfection is hard to come by.  If any book that I have read comes close to that,  I would have to say that A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is that book.  I realize that kind of statement is rather strong, but I truly believe it is well earned.  The book is fantastic.

What makes this book really good is how well it is thought out.  While some books seem to be killing time, inventing subplots and following meandering plot lines, this book does none of that.  In that regard it might demand more of your attention, but most really good books do.

Perhaps the greatest things about the book is how it makes you feel.  By the end, you will feel as though you have experienced something amazing.  By the end, you will feel as though you have been on an incredible journey.

I have decided not to try and explain the plot in this blog.  I would rather you experienced it without any outside influence.  However, if you need to check out the plot, well google brought you here, so I am sure google can provide you with a plot site.

I rarely read books more than once, but this is one of those books that I will read again and again. It speaks to me much in the same way that A Separate Peace does,  Youth is an amazing time, and though it is long past, I can celebrate it in books.

B-2–The BINGO Chronicles

There I sat, dabber clinched in a my right hand, one eye on my meagre collection of three cards, one eye on the game program and my ears attuned to the caller.  A dab of sweat on my forehead testified that this was more than a contest, more than a diversion, this was BINGO.

I can’t say that I play bingo a lot.  I can count the number of times I have done this on one hand.  Usually I only go because my mother wants someone to go with.  Normally I decline, but occasionally I give in to the temptation and go.

This most recent occasion was partly to celebrate my vacation, and partly because they refused to hear my refusals.  I think they asked me more than ten times.  I said NO nine of those times, and they claimed they understood.  Then they asked me again.  I can’t blame them, I made the decision to go.  They tried to tempt me with visions of winning back the money I spent on my vacation–but I never thought that realistic, BINGO is a game of luck after all.

Taking a look at my family, you would think that BINGO is hereditary.  My grandmother, as legend has it, could still play 24 or more cards of BINGO despite being somewhat diminished by Alzheimer’s.  She couldn’t remember who you were, but she could play and win at BINGO.  My mother is also a formidable player who seems to be able to play more than 24 cards–she has to watch mine after all.

Once I did venture to playing 12 cards, but I nearly had a nervous fit.  I could barely keep up with the dabbing, let alone figure out if I got the “magic square” or “mystery X” or the “postage stamp” (if you fail to recognize any of these, then you probably aren’t a BINGO player) I vowed that night to never play BINGO again.  However, who can say no to their mother.

My most recent BINGO outing pitted me against a small group of two handed BINGO dabbing enthusiasts.  I hazard to guess that, as a man in his forties,  I was probably the second or third youngest person in the room, without counting the bingo caller, who I was too busy to get a look at.  Thankfully for me, smoking is no longer allowed at BINGO.  I imagine that there was a time when the haze of smoke was so thick that you really had to be on top of your cards.

In the old days BINGO players had to lug around a bag of chips that rattled and clinked like poker chips, as well as lucky troll dolls.  I didn’t see to many of those, but again, I was too busy concentrating to look very hard.

In the end, I didn’t win anything, and three cards weren’t too many.  I probably could have handled six. but certainly no more.  I would vow to never go again, but I am sure my mother will ask me the next time she visits, and reluctantly I will go with her.

A Friend in Need…… Indeed

My friend needs a hobby.  Obviously, as a proponent of hobbies I feel like everyone needs a hobby.  My friend, however, needs one more than most.  Most people have hobbies, whether they see them as hobbies or not.  Some people follow sports, some follow TV shows (collecting their seasons either by buying the DVD’s or acquiring them from some online source),  and then some take up jogging.

My friend, though athletic, doesn’t want to take up a fitness trend.  There are lots of them out there now–there are quite a few infomercials dealing with that–and I know some people who have become absolutely ripped doing them.  My friend doesn’t want to pursue the kinds of hobbies I do–building model trains or cars doesn’t suit him.  Maybe he doesn’t think he has the dexterity (maybe he doesn’t) or the patience, or even an eye for colour (he’s American so he would prefer I write that he doesn’t have an eye for color–but it’s my blog dammit, and I will write the way I want.

I know, I should probably let him pick out his own hobby.  And normally I would do this.  Really, who wants someone telling them what to do.  Well, in fact, in the end, he will choose for himself.  I just want my readers (few in number, but strong in wisdom) to give his some advice.

Left to his own devices my friend has considered some hobbies on his own, though the results have only given me cause for worry.  He has proposed indulgence in heroin and other recreational chemicals, and though he was kidding, the fact that the joke crossed his mind means he is bored and wants to do something.

His latest proposal is pipe smoking.  I can’t gauge his seriousness because our Skype connection doesn’t allow for really good reading of facial details.  I suspect he is serious.  Then again, do people still smoke pipes?  I don’t recall seeing anyone do that in a long time.  I know that there are still tobacco shops (at least in Canada) but I thought that they were mostly for people who want to buy Cuban cigars, or rolling papers for smoking marijuana–though I do go there to buy pipe cleaners to clean my airbrush– but they always have to root around in a drawer for them, so they can’t be that popular–can they?

My friend has shown an affinity for some TV shows, but he gets bored easily.  He could become a movie watcher, but I am not sure he has the patience.  Basically he needs something that he can pickup, and drop at a whim, that won’t take up too much space, won’t require too much concentration or money, and doesn’t involve a huge effort.   I am not sure he wants other people to be involved or not.

I have presented a negative picture of my friend, and as for thinking of a hobby that is very intentional.  I have proposed many things, only to be shot down, so I have stopped doing that.  However, my friend is a good person, a GREAT friend, incredibly moral and loyal, puts other people above himself far too often, as well as being funny and helpful.

He does crosswords, and he might be working on a Codeword book I sent him.  In addition to that he is a voracious reader, and has a huge amount of stories buried deep inside him.

I want to help, but frankly, I am stumped.

The Completed Puzzle

Done, that is all I can say about my jigsaw puzzle adventure.  I enjoyed it, despite moments of frustration and, thanks to the heat in the room I was working, sweat.  I had great moments of accomplishment (getting all the sky or snow done) and moments of great aggravation when I couldn’t locate a piece I was looking for.  Either way, it is done now.
A friend commented that it wasn’t a particularly hard puzzle–he may be right, but not having done one for years, it seemed hard enough to me.
As far as accomplishments go, this one doesn’t rate very high.  It was fun, but since it isn’t a primary hobby I can’t really jump for joy.  In addition, what am I going to do with it now?  Most likely, soon after finishing this blog, I will take it apart, put all of it (hopefully) back in the box and give it away to somebody who would appreciate doing it. I don’t have room to keep it (though I do have a large bottle of puzzle glue, so I could keep it–but it isn’t about trains, or Japan, so ….. not likely going to happen.)
The same friend who watered down my accomplishment said that he hates completing jigsaw puzzles, that there is in fact a kind of melancholy associated with it.  I can’t really agree, but I understand where that feeling comes from.  I experience it with good books, or even watching the final episode in a TV series that I have followed.  In this case, though, I was pretty happy to slam that last piece home.  I did it without ceremony, or pause to consider how final the act would be.  I was just happy to be done.  Now I can move onto something else.
the complete puzzle

One interesting thing about this puzzle that I should note is that it is very well constructed.  I was able to pick the thing up and wave it like a flag and it did not come apart.  That is pretty incredible.

Goodbye Zellers–thanks for the 1000 pieces of frustration

Needing a few Lego blocks (I needed a customizable right angle to ensure that a railroad building I am working on is actually square) I headed off to my local Zellers, only to discover that it is closing.

Farewell Zellers.  You’ve gone the way of Towers, Bargain Harold’s, The BiWay and other Canadian retailers.  I will miss you.  When I got back into model cars after years away from the hobby it was Zellers that had that provided that car.  It was Zellers that supplied my first collection of paints and paintbrushes.  Come to think of it, I have bought more than my share of hobby paraphernalia there.  Puzzles, board games, camping gear, sports equipment, stuff with the Maple Leaf logo on it–all of them were bought at Zellers.

My trip there was not really nostalgic, nor fruitful.  The 30% sale ensured that there was very little Lego left.  I could have bought a huge box of Microblocks (not to be confused with Nanoblocks, but bearing more than a passing resemblance to Lego) but I really only needed about a dozen blocks.  In fact, there was quite a bit missing from the store, and I expect most of it to be gone by the end of the weekend.

I, of course, was not immune to the lure of a good sale and I bought some stuff.  As concerns this blog, I bought myself a jigsaw puzzle–1000 pieces of pure frustration–okay, not exactly true.  I imagine pure puzzle frustration to be something like a 5000 piece puzzle entitled whiteout.  I have started the puzzle, and I guess I am about 50% done.

maybe 50% done
This is not one of the deluxe Japanese puzzles I wrote about earlier.  However, at less than four dollars, it isn’t a bad timewaster.  I looked at some other jigsaw puzzles of trains when I was at the train shop the other day, so I am sure I was influenced by that.  I thought about buying one that day, but it really wasn’t in the budget and the subject matter was good because it was about trains, but not specifically the subject I was looking for.  I wish my Zellers purchase had been a train picture, but this was the best of the lot.

The remarkable thing I find about doing puzzles is how quickly you learn to spot patterns and minor differences between pieces.  In a couple of days this skill has been sharpened considerably.  The other remarkable thing is how much time can disappear when you are doing a puzzle.  The other night I decided to put in a “couple of pieces” before I went to bed.  Those couple of pieces turned into more than and hour and a half.  Good thing I am a night owl.