Hobbies I would take up: The Bottom Five (part 5–vlogging)

I am a big fan of YouTube.  I have subscribed to more than 15 people, and I check it daily.  Mostly, I watch jvloggers (as we call the people who make video blogs from Japan).  Having lived in Japan, most of what they show me isn’t really new.  I’ve eaten most of the foods they talk about, purchased beer and other drinks at vending machines they talk about, been to apartments much like the ones they show, and shopped at quite a few of the stores they tour around.  However, Japanis a country full of surprises, so sometimes they surprise me.  Sometimes, they really surprise me.  That is what makes wading through some of it worthwhile.

I started blogging because some of these jvloggers have blogs that are companions to their jvlogs, or are done in the same tone as their vlogs.  It got me interested, and now I have my own blog (2 in fact, and maybe someday soon 3).  Without having stumbled across these jvloggers, I wouldn’t be writing this today.

I guess why I haven’t vlogged comes down to several reasons.  I don’t have a digital video camera (or iPhone).  I could buy one, of course, but it just doesn’t seem like a priority, mainly because of the other two reasons.  I would like to put my voice on these vlogs, but probably not my face.   I don’t know if I would be self-conscious, or nervous or what, but the prospect of appearing on camera (and not acting–because if you gave me the lines, I think I could do it) and adlibbing seems hard.  Lastly, Japan is interesting, exotic, and full of surprises.  South-western Ontarioseems less so.  If you’ve never been here, there might be something that really wakes you up (when my students see snow falling for the first time they get pretty excited, and when they see the fast hard pace of hockey they get excited), but I am not sure I could really get behind that.  My students could make Canada vlogs and that would be cool.  Me….. not sure.

Maybe someday I will find the impetus for this, but I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

If you want to see some of the jvloggers I mentioned, please go to YouTube and check out the following:
(Most of them have entertained me greatly, and even infomred me.  I appreciate their work and have no reservation recommending them whatsoever)










Through these jvloggers, you can find many others (if this is your thing).


Hobbies I would take up: The bottom 5 (part 4)

I am a big fan of tennis.  It is a sport that has everything I am looking for.  It has good one on one competition, requires finesse as well as brute strength, and can be played with a low number of people.

squash, at least on the surface, has those same qualities, though brute strength is needed less.  The one difference seems to be about location.  In the fine summer months (and the spring and fall, if you don’t mind the cold, the giant puddles on the court and sometimes the pile of leaves) you can play tennis outdoors.  Squash, as far as I know, always has to be played indoors.

This minor difference really means you have to join a gym, or club, or community centre.  While this is not particularly daunting, it does require scheduling that tennis doesn’t.  You can’t just call your friend and say, “Squash in 30 minutes.”  You’ve got to call the court, make a booking….. and all that standard stuff.  If the facilities are popular, there is no way you’re going to get a court on short notice.

Of course you also need people to play with.  Most people have a tennis racquet, or could borrow one.  The number of people who have a squash racquet kicking around seems much smaller.

I tried joining a league, but there schedule really didn’t allow for commuters.  I could make later games, but there was no way I could make the early starts.  Perhaps there was a way of accommodating my needs, only time will tell.

I would take this one up, it there were some easy way to get it done.  (And yes, I know, there is probably an app for that–but then again, there is probably squash on the Xbox Kinnect.

Hobbies I would take up: The bottom 5 (part 3)

I’m a guy.  Not a particularly enlightening sentence (and much shorter than I allow most of my students to construct) but true nonetheless.  As a guy, I come with typical guy attitudes and stereotypes.  One of those is guys should be good with tools, have lots of tools, and be able to talk about tools.  This does not discount women.  I have met women who met all three criteria.  I am not inept with tools, and I have quite a few of them, and I have completed a project or two.  However, there will not be a reality show featuring me completing wonderful and complex projects in a quick half hour.  The problem is, sometimes, I wish I could.

I wish I had more time, energy and talent to build wonderful pieces of furniture.  I hate going to stores and seeing the crappy, particle board furniture that is ubiquitous.  I want to build beautiful solid wood pieces.  I’m talking about a new headboard, a new TV stand, wood paneling for the pool room (someday), a coffee table with a train layout in the bottom.  The problem is a lack of pure talent, space, energy, and money. The last being rather important because good wood is rather expensive–and the lack of talent could only lead to beginner mistakes and more purchases of lumber.

At to this that well made, ornate furniture would probably require some carving or filigree (thank you spell checker) and that requires talent.

Someday, I may take this up, starting small of course (bird house, deck) and work my way up to coffee table, or end table.  However, until that time, I guess I will have to shop at better places.


Hobbies I would take up: The Bottom Five (part 2)

I love to eat (as my not particularly svelte figure will attest) and though I do not really like to cook, I do wish I could bake more.  Maybe it is the aroma of baked goods, or the warmth of the oven.  Either way, baking would be a pretty good hobby–and the upside would be all that delicious food.

Money isn’t the obstacle to baking.  You could sink a lot of money in mixers, pans, and decorative measuring cups, but that isn’t really necessary.  I have rolled out dough using a glass coke bottle, and gone without accurate measuring cups.  You can make do.  Yes, a good mixer would save your arms, but you probably need the exercise is you’re going to eat everything you bake.

Time seems to be the real problem.  It takes quite a bit of time to put together good baking–though my mother can whip up quite half a dozen loaves of bread in no time flat.  After I get home from work, I just want to eat. I don’t have the energy to start kneading flour and greasing bake pans.  As for the weekend….. there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  There’s yard work, house cleaning, and a ton of other chores.  Add to that the hobbies that I already have (see the previous 80 or so posts) and you can see that time isn’t on my side.

Hobbies I would take up: The bottom Five (part 1)


I originally intended this to be a top 5 of hobbies I would like to take up, but can’t or won’t for various reasons.  When I came up with this topic, I had five.  When I took a moment to write them down, I found out that I had more than 10 (and as I type this I my brain is firing out new ideas… and when I walk around the mall this afternoon, I am sure I will come up with a few more) .  So, basically, I will cap the number at 10 and rather than rank the ones that are not in the top five, they will just be called the bottom five.

So here we go:  hobbies I would take up if time or money (or space, or energy or talent….) were not a consideration.

A musical instrument.

a) The guitar

What person hasn’t wanted to learn a musical instrument?  I have always envied that guy at the party who whips out a guitar and has every girl’s attention.  I remember one radio DJ (the great Kristie Knight) who said that if you wanted attention from women, learn how to play Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.  Apparently, it isn’t a particularly hard song to learn, and actual real guitar talent is not needed.

I have tried learning guitar before.  I spent a bit of time when I lived in Japan pursuing the hobby.  I have fond memories of playing on the deck of my friend Matt’s house, drinking beer, hoping for breeze and looking at the rice fields.  I didn’t really play, I just strummed the one chord while he did his thing.  Surprisingly, the effect was not bad.  It might not have set the pop charts on fire, but …..

I have always been fond of the blues and would love to play the slide guitar.  There is just something so moving and powerful about blues music and the slide guitar.  Of course, in addition to the guitar I would have to learn all about “open tuning”…. but I guess I am getting ahead of myself.

As I said, I have tried to learn, and even managed to build up some decent calluses, but a lot more time and effort would be needed.  I didn’t really give it a good shot, but like all hobbies, if you don’t make the progress you think you should make, in the time you think you should make it, then you probably won’t continue.


b) The Cello

Though, I am not a big fan of classical music, there is something I really like about the cello.  Perhaps it relates to my fondness for slide guitar (the crying sound of the instrument perhaps) or because of some lost episode of fame in which Julie Singer played a cello solo.  Either way, I would love to play this instrument.

The obstacles to this are quite numerous.  I probably don’t have an especially good ear for music, and there is definitely a lack of raw talent.  In addition to this, I am pretty sure the instrument itself is pretty expensive.  When it come right down to it, I don’t know how popular the instrument is, and finding a teacher might be difficult.  Lastly, of course, when was the last time you saw a person pull out a cello and entertain people at a party, or at the cottage, or around the campfire?  If you answered never, you’re probably in good company.


Comic Books, Prices and Priceless

Why do comic books have to cost so much money (and why do any books have to cost so much for that matter.  Shouldn’t we be encouraging literacy instead of discouraging it?

I went to my local bookstore, and found myself looking at the latest comics as well as their repackaged (and now hardcover) versions.  I must say the art looks great, and the production seems pretty slick, but the price left me gasping for air.  Comics were about a dollar when I was growing up, but now they are closer to five dollars.

We live in a modern world, and you would think that the technology for printing and binding books would be much more advanced, and also cheaper.  As the price of comic books, and regular books for that matter, has increased over the last decade, I am left to conclude that this is indeed not true.

I guess I should look at it another way.  Maybe now creators, writers, artists, and all the other people involved in producing the books are making more money now.  Maybe this means that they can focus on a smaller number of books in order to survive.  This should me better quality, but probably not a better price.

I still like my comic books and I am a sucker for any superhero movie that hits the big screen.  I think the genre is largely untapped, and there is a lot of room to grow.  I am sure we can count on sequels to the Avengers, Iron man, Spiderman, and The Xmen.  There is also likely to be other major superhero movies, but I don’t know which ones they are yet.

I would love to have a big collection of books, but that doesn’t seem likely.  Both space and monetary considerations make this less likely than I thought in my past.  If I filled up the guest room with comics where would my family sleep when they were visiting?


Nanoblocks to the Rescue

What do you do when you aren’t making any hobby progress?  Most people would preach patience.  That would be fantastic, if I had any.  When I get stuck, I tend to switch my focus.  That is how I became jack of all hobbies, after all.  I don’t box things up and walk away (though that might be the wiser thing to do) but just sort of amble onto other things.  Presently, I have so many projects on the go that it shouldn’t have been a problem.  Unfortunately, I really wasn’t feeling inspired.

Ziploc package of nanoblocks
Nanoblocks to the rescue.

I decided to poke around Toys R Us (if there is a way to make that R like they do at the store on this computer, I don’t know what it is) in search of inspiration.  I probably should have gone to a hobby shop, but the toy store was much easier–it’s in the same building I take the subway home from work in.

I came across some fantastic Lego train sets that I had not seen before.  I was painfully tempted to buy them, but I have an N scale train that needs building, and working on a Lego train set would be like having an affair.  I should remain faithful (at least for now).
When you open the package

While browsing I came across some Nanoblocks.  I love Nanoblocks, but had no idea they were now being sold at Toys R Us.  I had to go to Scholar’s choice, or Amazon to get them before.  They didn’t have too many sets left, but I managed to find a couple of projects for me.
For those of you who don’t know (and haven’t ready my previous posts on the subject) Nanoblocks are a locking brick toy from Japan that is similar to Lego, but much smaller (I guess Japan has a reputation for miniaturizing things, don’t they).  They have quite a few architectural sets, animal sets. and all purpose sets.  They aren’t cheap, but they won’t break the bank.  They are a little challenging for small children (and they are certainly a choking hazard for little ones) those they require nimble fingers.  They usually turn out quite well.

Everything sorted out and ready to go
This morning, after my morning coffee, and before I have to rake the leaves, I tackled the drum set.  This was the first time I purchased a set that didn’t come in a box.  This one came packaged in a zip lock bag.  It wasn’t too difficult, but my fingers are a little large, and not particularly nimble.  I needed tweezers, and some restraint.  I only dropped the pieces onto the carpet 10 or 11 times.  Fortunately, I was able to find them before frustration set in. 

the remaining pieces
I managed to put it together in the length of time it took me to listen to Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells A Story. It turned out quite well, and I have a bunch of parts leftover for some future project or some abstract art if I can’t figure out what to do with them.  And to answer your questions, before you ask them, the leftover parts were intended–There are always leftover parts.

I have included a few extra pictures, so that you can get a better idea of what comes in the package and what you have left at the end.

The Fix for Photos

Sometimes, I am a little gadget mad.  I guess you could say that I get overly enthused by technology (despite this, I have managed to easily resist the lure of a smart phone–I love the apps and all the cool stuff that goes with it, but I am really not interested in having a phone).  I love to wander the aisles in a computer store and relish any opportunity to purchase more technology.

Thanks to this blog I have taken quite a few pictures.  Yes, I have taken them for more reasons than this blog, but I have done more with the photos for this blog than any other photo I have taken.  Now, I am just wondering what kind of photo software would best serve my needs.

The program that came with the computer is certainly adequate, but seems a little cumbersome.  I imagine that with a more sophisticated program I could do more with the pictures (I am not really sure what that “more” would look like, but I feel confident that it would be better–in some way)I imagine that some better software would make my pictures better…..in some, non-specific, nebulous kind of way.

Storage is another difficult area.  I can easily file my pictures away, but I have trouble finding where I stored them when it comes time to write this blog.  I guess I am hoping that some electronic genie will help me with all this.

I guess I will have to spend some time this weekend browsing the aisles at the electronic store. I will have to brave the crowds looking for bargains, and maybe I will have to brave the overly aggressive, and incredibly early, Christmas shoppers.  I know, it is a hardship, but I am going to have to do it.  At least it will be warm inside.  Who knows?  Maybe, I will find the perfect piece of software that can easily solve all my problems.


The Colour of Autumn

Living in Canada, I take some things for granted.  Some of these are related to issues of tolerance.  Some of these are related to equality issues.  Some of these are related to sports (usually).  Finally, some of these are related to weather.  I know winter will come, but before that, the leaves will change colour and there will be some stunning views when it happens.

When I was in Japan, many people I met went to a great deal of effort to see the fall colours.  They boarded trains or busses and they took long drives into the countryside.  They planned it rather obsessively.  They treated it more like a hobby.

Though I thought it was a nice idea, I didn’t really think it should take so much work.  I just walk outside my door and open my eyes.  As I said, I take some things for granted.  However, upon reflection, it does look spectacular out there.  The patchwork of colours is amazing.  I took a nice drive over the thanksgiving weekend, and I enjoyed it immensely.  I understand why they took it so seriously and how, enjoying the natural world can be very fulfilling,

On the personal hobby front, I think I may construct my railroad forest scenes with an autumn theme.  I will make trees with those wonderful colours I have seen.


Full Contact Monopoly

What is Canadian Thanksgiving really about?  Definitely, it is time for family, turkey, leaves turning colour, and a chance to prove your prowess at some game with all your family members.  It is a time to bond, argue, laugh, and pester.  It all sounds so wonderful.

In past years, we’ve played pool, street hockey, video games, DVD board games and a variety of more traditional board games.  My older sister prefers the aforementioned DVD board games because she has good voice projection and can win the shout out questions.  I usually put in a decent showing at this game, but pay the price with a wicked headache later.  Traditional board games usually mean the Canadian invented Trivial Pursuit.  I favour the 80’s version, while my father favours the classic.  I think this is because he has memorized all the cards.

Yesterday (we celebrated early to accommodate family schedules) we engaged in what came to be known as “Full Contact Monopoly”.  We considered calling it Texas Death Match Monopoly, but since wrestling has fallen off the family radar in favour of MMA, it the name didn’t really work.

The name might imply violence, but that isn’t what happened.  There was no violence, very little yelling, and due to the length of the game, no clear winner (though I will contend that I was in the best position to win).  Full Contact Monopoly is meant to convey the complex house rules and multi-stage negotiations that took place.  (And, just to clarify, though we did have a copy of the official Monopoly rulebook, we pretty much through it out the window–and were very aware of the fact that we were not playing by tournament rules)  To get the sense of it I need to cite some examples:


  • I negotiated to get 40% of the pot if one player landed on the free parking and captured the bonus pile of money.
  • Several people negotiated free passes if landing on properties.  They did not have to pay rent if they landed there before the owner improved the property to a hotel.
  • One player negotiated the sale of all his properties to another player in exchange for 15% of all future revenue, provided that the receiver of the property paid all bills and fines for the first player–most people would let this person leave the game to tend the turkey, but of course we didn’t.  We made the second person continue to roll and pay bills for that person.  Was that fair?  Probably not, but neither was the first transaction.
  • At one point, I proposed to exchange properties with another player and threw in a nickname change to sweeten the pot–he decided to keep the nickname and the deal fell through.
  • On the verge of elimination, one player negotiated a loan in exchange for cooking dinner the next week.


My father said we weren’t playing monopoly, but just talking.  I can’t say that he was wrong.  In between mouthfuls of pumpkin pie, and turkey, and both foot ball and baseball games on TV, I think I only made it around the board 6 times (maybe less) but managed to acquire 15 properties.  I got to hang out with the family, and laugh a whole lot.  The game didn’t get finished, but does it really ever end?