Latest Nanoblocks

My most recent Nanoblock adventure involved the Empire state building kit.  It seems like I am pretty addicted to these things.  I have built quite a few of them now and I am hoping they continue to put out new sets regularly.  Of course, if they gain the same kind of fame that Lego has, with their small size they could put out some amazing things.

At first, I wasn’t attracted to this kit.  I had plans to tackle the Big Ben kit or the Itsukushima Shrine kit first.  Unfortunately, those kits have not appeared in Canada yet. I have seen them for sale on the US Amazon site, but being shipped from Japan they have a heavy price tag.  That being said, I am not sure how long I can resist the urge to buy them.

What’s in the box
Having had a bit of time to think about it, I decided to go back and reconsider this kit.  I like architectural models, and the building is quite iconic….. so after a short deliberation I decided that I would build this kit.  I am glad I did, because it turned out quite nicely.

It wasn’t particularly difficult, and actually since most of the floors are identical it got a little monotonous at times.  However, it was good building fun.

If you haven’t tried Nanoblocks, you should give them a try.  The small parts make it challenging sometimes, and the results are usually quite good.  I also suspect that there are going to be some amazing kits released in the near future.

I included this one because I liked the shadow

Books or Movies

Books or movies.  I love both.  Each of them have great qualities.  However, I am most often confronted with the fact that books are better than movies.  Books are pictures for the mind, while movies are most often pictures for the eyes.

Perhaps it really isn’t fair to compare the two.  Books can have many hundreds of pages to explore a topic, to describe and to present a story.  Movies have a limited time span.  They’ve got to get their message out in less than 2 hours usually.  This is true.  I must point out, however, that movies benefit from music and sound effects.  While this may seem small, I can assure you that this is a very important part of a movie.

On the plus side, I have to thank some movies for introducing me to a book. Had I not seen the film, I wouldn’t have even heard of the book.  In fact, if I see a decent film, one of the first things I do is get on the internet and see if the movie was based on a book (thank you imdb.com).  If it is, I will try my best to track it down and read it.
Most recently I watched the film Eddie and the Cruisers.  It was quite a good film, with believable characters (Tom Berenger did an especially good job of emoting Paul Newman)\ a compelling storyline and a solid ending.  The soundtrack was quite memorable too.  When I watched the credits I noticed a “based on ” credit for the book.  I checked it out of the library later that same day.

The book was good.  It told a straight ahead story that the film followed quite faithfully.  Its tone was a little darker, and its resolution somewhat grittier. but it still worked quite well.  As for a read, it was quite compelling and I finished it rather quickly.

Here is a list of books that I have read (and can remember) that outshone the films they were made into.

A Prayer for Owen Meany

The Time Travelers Wife
About a Boy
The Sun Also Rises

Of course some movies might equal the books they came from.  I think this is true when one thinks of spy novels.  As long as they are done correctly, films, with their shortened storylines, probably make those worlds more accessible.

Here is a list of films I believe were as good as the books they were based on (and didn’t stray to far from the original storyline)

The Quiet American

Presumed Innocent
Slumdog Millionaire
Sayonara

the novel Die Hard was based on
As for films that outshone their books (I would have put the Bourne movies in this pile, but when you change the story so much, I refuse to make a comparison) I can only think of one.  The movie Die Hard is based on a book.  A lot of what happens (though not all) comes from the book.  Thanks, in part, to some witty humour, good special effects, and good pacing, the film is much more enjoyable than the book.

If you would like to add any books for films to this list, please do so.

Ghosts of Christmas Past (part three)

 
Another great educational gift I received came from Radio Shack.  If their service were better, and their prices comparable to my local hobby shop, I would probably have given them quite a few of my hobby dollars.  As it stands, they only got a couple from my Mom and my Grandparents–and I did my best to recoup some of these expenditures where “battery club” was concerned.

The gift was a 75 in one Electronics Kit.  It was pretty cool, well organized and fun to put together.  I completed pretty much all the projects in the kit (there are bound to be a few that just didn’t excite me) and got my full value out of the toy.  I have seen modern versions of the toy, but it just doesn’t fill me with any great warmth–maybe it seems too easy.

Sadly, it did not imbue me with a great love for electronics and that is one thing that holding back my progress on my railroad.  I solder only when I have to, and there isn’t anything overly fancy or complex on my railroad.

As I have written, I received lots of educational toys and enjoyed most of them.  These days I have to go to stores that specialize in this kind of thing.  I find them fun and I encourage all of you parents out there to do the same.  There are lots of great educational toys–but they work best when you get involved in doing/building/experimenting with your children.

Ghosts of Christmas Past (part two)

 
One of the coolest kits (which was also quite educational) that I received for Christmas many, many, years ago was Capsela.  This toy was so cool that I have never been able to part with it, and the photos from this blog contain the actual kit I received on that cold (and possibly snowy) Christmas morning of my youth.

After checking Wikipedia, I found out that Capsela was created by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.  So, surprise, surprise, another cool toy came from Japan, though this one came from an era when Japanese toys were more pedestrian.  It beat out Tamagochi by at least 2 decades.  Apparently, these days, Bandai from Japan has re-released these toys and they go for staggering amounts on EBay, or ship from far away places in Asia.  I had seen them at a science store–but that store is now closed.

Capsela was a rather unusual toy.  It was a motorized toy that didn’t come in traditional shapes and forms.  I think its science fiction look also was part of it’s appeal.  In addition to that, there were things you could build for the bathtub–and nothing could be cooler than that (add some superfoam, a few boats, and you had the making of a fantastic sea battle–probably better than that Battleship movie.)
the back of the box–detailing the parts included

The toughest part of the toy was understanding gear ratios.  Trying to build beyond the instruction booklet was rather difficult.  You couldn’t put things in any order you wanted, because it just wouldn’t power everything correctly.  Having only one set, and no internet bulletin boards for help, I really couldn’t stray from the instructions (though I tried many times).  These days, things would most likely be different.  Looking back on it, I had probably been too young when I got the present to really understand that, and could have saved myself some frustration.

There must be cool things like this today, but they are probably more geared toward use with an iPad, rather than a stand alone construction toy.  At least, I hope there are toys these days which are about building and operating.  I know there are still RC helicopters and cars, so besides Lego, there must be stuff like this–let me know what is out there.  I’d love to know.

It was definitely a cool toy.  Someday I will check out the new version, and that will probably be pretty cool too.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

 
While out shopping on the weekend, I spotted many wise people doing their Christmas shopping early.  This was most evident where people were shopping for their children.  It was plain to see which toys were most popular this season.

When I was young I often got “educational” toys and games as Christmas gifts.  Looking back on it, I really loved them, and that is probably why I gravitate towards stores which sell things like that.  Though there are relatively few of them, I enter them whenever I come across them.  When I was a child there were several of these educational toys that craved.

One Christmas I got a chemistry set.  I had wanted that for quite a long time and was really happy to get it.  Sadly, I didn’t do as many of the experiments as I wish I had.  The ones I did turned out well, but weren’t as cool as fiction books and TV shows made chemistry sets seem.

Regardless, I entered high school with an appreciation for chemistry that only a few students had.  I carried that appreciation to university and managed to eke out one year of science before switching to my other great passion.  I think a lot of that can be traced to that chemistry set.

As a footnote, I kept that chemistry set for many years–well into adulthood in fact.  I moved it to new locations several times.  Most recently, I was mildly curious enough to see if stores still sold them.  I was disappointed.

Hobbies on Television

Why aren’t there any hobby reality shows?  When you get right down to it, hobbies seem to be poorly represented on TV.  It seems to me that there is an opportunity for some kind of program on television.  Why isn’t there one?

The way I see it we certainly could have shows about making models.  There is such a diversity of models out there that every week could be quite different and reach quite a diverse audience.  One week on airplanes,  (both military and commercial) one week on cars, one week on military models, one week on science fiction, one week on trucks, ….you get the idea.  They could build dioramas, showcase different techniques and materials–and just like those annoying “flea market type shows” educate us with some history.  In Japan, they have a show like this.  It is called Plamotsukuro.  It is amazing to watch.

I would love a show about the hobby of trains.  At least, in this area, there are some programs devoted to real trains, but there isn’t enough about model trains.  I don’t think it would be difficult to come up with some good programs about building, collecting, and running model railroads.

Of course, there are so many other hobbies out there.  Rather than have a show of people buying stuff hoping to sell it for more, why can’t we see the passion of people who aren’t in it for the money.  Those shows are on the history channel, purporting to be real, and dishing out relevant historical information.  I think a show about hobbies could do that just as well.

I would think a show about different hobbies could easily find a sponsor.  With Christmas approaching, wouldn’t there be a demand for hobbies and toys?  Wouldn’t people like to see things that would occupy them on those dark winter nights?

If you’re visiting a television channel or network website, don’t hesitate to let them know that a program about hobbies would be appreciated.  I certainly will be doing that, as soon as I finish typing this.

Video Games

Maybe it’s a guy thing–though things are changing–but guys love video games.  Some of my readers might say that boys love video games, and these men are just boys inside.  I can’t really argue with that too much.  Of course, as a hobbyist, I have been channelling the little boy inside me for a long time.  And that little boy likes his video games.

What does this really mean?  It means that I thumb through the weekly flyers for Best Buy and Future shop to see what games are out.  It means that I burrow deep into the “on sale” bin at department stores looking for gems in the rough.  It means that the sound of the arcade (mostly in movie theatre lobbies these days) calls whenever I pass.

Despite my affection for the games, I am not really a good player.  My hand eye co-ordination isn’t bad, my reaction time isn’t bad, but I just don’t have the intangible quality that separates the dabblers from the standout players.  I can complete games, but I probably don’t play them on the highest difficulty levels.  I win, but I don’t win convincingly.

As a hobby, video games don’t really get a lot of my time and attention.  I have a couple of portable ones when I need some distractions for the bus.  I have a less than modern system for the TV, and a couple of games.  I mostly play computer games, like Age of Empires, Sim City, and other games.  I like games that can be played in a couple of hours or less–having to spend a lot hours in front of the screen doesn’t appeal to me–my eyes get buggy and the headaches begin.

The new crop of video games that require full body movement are quite interesting.  I wonder how far this technology will go in the near and slightly distant future.