At the Unipex Stamp Show

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What I said then

Do you remember when I said I was trying hard not to become a stamp collector? Do you remember me telling you that Lawrence Block, with his fantastic Keller (the well adjusted, stamp collecting, cool as a cucumber, hit man) series was creating the urge to start a stamp collection, and that I was fighting it.

Yes, I know, I have relapsed a few times. I have bought some magazines.  I have taken the catalogue of Canadian stamps out of the library and renewed it the maximum number of times.  I have started conversations online with stamp dealers (enquiries, just enquiries).  I have even purchased a few commemorative stamps for Canada’s 150th birthday.  And Lastly, I purchased and brought back some stamps from Vietnam as souvenirs.

That, seems to pale in comparison to today.

Fate intervenes

Today, I succumbed to fate. I am not sure how I discovered the information, but I did. I guess I will blame it on random internet searches….or Google.  Anyway, I found out that there was a stamp show relatively close to where I live this weekend.  To top it off, admission was free.

So, I went to my first stamp show. Having been to train shows, and model shows, I know the ability to not spend your money is hard at these things.  There’s probably something to tempt you there.  They’ve got catalogues, magnifiers, books, cases, a wide variety of tweezers, and of course the stamps themselves.  I sort of guessed that I would buy the catalogue of Canadian stamps.  If I can’t have the stamps, I can at least see what they look like.

As for the people, while I did not see any children, I saw both men and women, young and old. I saw people checking off numbers in small notebooks, unwieldy pieces of paper, and even a few ipads.

Some dealers were organized and others were haphazard, but all were knowledgeable. In fact, I should probably add that everyone was very friendly.

Lessons learned

What’s my takeaway from this?

  • You’re bound to spend more money than you budget for.
  • There are lots of friendly people in the hobby.
  • There are some attractive women who collect stamps (I met one who was interested in Japanese stamps and wished I had asked her out for coffee).
  • The stamps themselves aren’t necessarily expensive.
  • There are way too many categories of stamps and stamps. You could get swamped by it all.  One dealer, told me that if I jump in, it would be better to pick one country or one theme and stick with it.  It’s good advice, but nobody else seemed to be taking it.
  • You’ve got to invest not only money, but also time in the hobby.

My overall experience was good. I saw many interesting things, but was able to hold off buying.

Near Misses

I was hoping to get the Canada Post Souvenir card for my birth year.  Sadly, many dealers mentioned having it, but deemed it unworthy to bring to the show.  I understood.

I did find the Calvin and Hobbes stamp set I wanted, but thought the price was a bit uncomfortable.

I did come across something that made me almost buckle. There was a collection of Japanese stamps in hingeless mounted albums.  It was fairly complete.  The price was ….certainly more money than I had, ….or that I could spend…..but I wanted it.  I really wanted it.

Thinking upon it now, hours later, I still want it.

I did pick up an inexpensive set of bicycle stamps. I don’t know whether this is the start of a collection, or just a passing fancy.  I had spent quite a bit of time talking to the dealer, and felt I should spend a little money at his booth.

I don’t suppose I could start a kickstarter campaign that would allow me to buy stamps…

Looking For My First 180

I took the plunge and bought new darts.

This was harder than it sounds. I don’t want to end up as one of those people who has multiple sets of darts and can’t choose which ones to use.  There is one guy at the club who I watched change which darts he was using more than four times in one night.  He seemed dissatisfied with all of them.  It made me think that the darts probably weren’t the problem.

I could have bought these darts through eBay or some other website (though not Amazon) but I chose to go to my local games store. This was fun as the owner is quite talkative and quite fun. I am a big believer in supporting local enterprises.

darts-010

It also gives me a chance to see what other things he has for sale. This usually includes video games, poker tables, pool tables, and of course interesting dart accessories. Did you know that they have a special dartboard with smaller beds to help you improve your aim?  Ever heard of dart golf?

I bought some different shafts and flights to compliment my darts and to make it easy to distinguish them from my previous set at a glance.

My trip to the shop was fun. Sadly, he sells very few pinball machines anymore.

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I wouldn’t mind having this on in the man cave

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 Canadabecause 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.

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.
 

Car Dreams

It may sound corny, but one of the things I want to in my life is build a Cobra replica car.  Knowing my track record with such projects, I should just work hard, save my money (maybe win the lottery) and just buy the thing.  The project would probably take too long and too much space in the garage…. but I just can’t let go of the idea.

Why the Cobra?  That and the 1967 Mustang are my two favourite cars.  It probably isn’t a coincidence that Carol Shelby had a hand in both of those cars.  They are both beautiful cars.  It also isn’t a coincidence that neither of these cars is suited for Canadian weather.  If I had them (and could afford the insurance) they would both be summer cars.  That would mean having them and my winter car….and people say money isn’t a solution.

I came close to buying the 67 mustang once.  I went to look at it with the hopes of purchasing it, but the owner, despite making the appointment, didn’t stick around to show it to me, or even talk to me.  I guess he didn’t like the cadence of my voice over the phone.  Luckily the car was parked outside his house (not a great option in winter in Canada).  His neighbour talked to me about it, but he didn’t give me the hard sell and I was able to leave with my money in my pocket.  Realistically, it wouldn’t have been a good purchase.  I was in the middle of my studies and within a 16 months would be off to Japan.  I didn’t know that at the time, but it is funny how fate works out.

I have never been close to that car again, but I still think about it.  I have seen them build those cars on various TV shows, and every time I have been a little envious.  I really need my own TV show.  They could let me build my dream car and document my mistakes (and probable injuries) for everyone to see….. I had better start working on my pitch.

In England, there is a car company called Caterham, which allows you to build one of those funky roadsters you see in British TV shows from time to time.  It comes as a kit and you assemble it.  It sounds like a dream, except that I watched those guys from BBC’s Top Gear get fed up and argue constantly about it.  They said that you might get satisfaction out of building it, but everyone else around you would go completely bonkers.  Of course, according to the video you can buy it assembled for an extra 2000 British pounds.  I am not sure what would be best.

Winter seems to have started early this year (there is snow on the ground), so I guess I had better put off the idea until spring…or I could just let it nag away at me all winter.  Such is the life of a dedicated hobbyist.

In Pursuit of Trivia

 
 
In the early 80’s a game came out that changed our family get togethers forever.  That game, in case you hadn’t guessed, was Trivial Pursuit.  That famous trivia game, invented in Canada, set the stage for epic battles for years to come.  While this is true of my family, I am sure it is no different for many other families out there.  Who wouldn’t want to prove that they are smarter than their family members, friends, or anyone else hanging around.

I love the game, and have a decent enough memory to be mildly successful.  I am not great at all categories–geography (the blue wedge) often eludes me.  Of course, calling this category Geography vexes my sister to no end (when one’s major is geography, and nothing they studied ever appears on the cards, they have a credible point).  I guess we all have our favourite categories.  I prefer arts and lit. (the brown wedge)

There probably is an important strategy question.  Should one go after their easiest wedge first, or should you tackle your most difficult one?  I usually opt for my favourite first, hoping to get a lucky geography question.

My family has several (and by several I mean more than seven) versions of the game–and no, we do not have the Twilight Version–we do have the Friends version of SceneIt, but that’s another, often loud, story.  I am better at the Baby Boomer and 80’s versions of the game.  My father can’t stand either of them, so they don’t get played very often.  This is obvious when you need to pull out the dust rag every time you want to play them.

The game is about answering trivia questions, rolling the dice, moving between “roll again” spaces endlessly until you have to answer questions that really matter.  Of course the game is also filled with asides, inside jokes, family needling, and incredible digressions.  Basically, it is a lot of fun.

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? 

Camping: The Lost Art

My tent was just like this

I haven’t been camping in more than fifteen years.  I find that funny because that was something I used to look forward to every summer.  That’s only partially true.  Camping fever started around the May long weekend (what we in Canada refer to as May 24, or Victoria Day).  It was rarely the perfect weather, but you could usually plan to spend some days outdoors.

Though I haven’t been camping I have kept up with advances in camping technology.  Most of my friends have opted for hard top tent trailers (if they haven’t been able to afford a cottage, but nowadays who can?), propane stoves, space heaters, air compressors to blow up air mattresses, though more likely for beach balls, water wings and other inflatable water toys.  Heck, they even have full sinks.

It is a far cry from my days with a square tent with heavy aluminum poles (state of the art at the time) and guide strings.  I remember having to pump up both the stove and lantern before they could be used.  Washing dishes required a good size bucket and again, pumping that stove for hot water.

Though I sound bitter, I am probably just jealous.  Today’s tents go up in a flash, and I wouldn’t have to go into oxygen deficit to blow up an air mattress.  Heck, I could probably bring along a portable DVD player and watch a movie or two.

Among my circle, I must congratulate my younger brother and sister (as well as their spouses) for still being hardcore enough to hike kilometres through dense bush and portage between rivers and lakes and mosquito infested areas for that pristine, back to basics camping.  Though I wouldn’t do it, I respect them for keeping it real in every sense of the word.

As I look back on it, I probably gave up on the whole camping thing after one memorable trip in which every single one of us decided to bring hot dogs as our contribution to the communal meals.  I like hot dogs, but I am not sure they should be eaten every meal.

A Choice of Scales

As the jack of all hobbies I often find myself trying to spur others onto a hobby.  I have already related my efforts to get people to blog  and to find a hobby for my friend so as to keep him from other more dangerous hobbies.  Unfortunately my friend has not taken to blogging, and fortunately he hasn’t resorted to mind altering chemicals.  Neither of these things has deterred me from sticking my nose in and trying to raise interest in a hobby with a colleague of mine.

My colleague is a very good military modeller–prize winning in fact.  He is also far more disciplined than I–he actually completes most of the projects he starts.  We have been discussing his entry into the world of model trains.  Thanks to the internet he has done a lot of research and is pretty secure in his choice of era and subject matter.  My contribution has been mostly to act as a sounding board.  His only question is scale.

In Model trains there are several scales.  HO (as I have been told) is the most popular.  There are bigger trains: G, O and S and there are smaller scales.  These are N and Z.

My colleague is considering the two smallest scales.  He is fascinated by miniaturization and is currently leaning toward Z.  Of course he has never seen a Z scale train up close, let alone the buildings and landscape material.  We will probably have to travel to a couple of hobby shops (LHS–local hobby shop in the parlance of the model railroad crowd)  to get to see a good cross section of what is available.

When I started in trains I quickly gravitated toward N scale.  I had dreams of running 100 car freight trains all across my basement.  As unrealistic as that dream has shown itself to be, I can’t get that image out of my head.  Someday, probably when I join an N-track club, I will make that a reality.
something very Canadian

Choosing scales is a tough choice.  HO offers the biggest variety of equipment and accessories, and benefits from the volume of sales.  It’s biggest drawback is that it takes up a lot of room.  N which is not exactly half as big offers a slightly less wide variety but thanks to advanced manufacturing techniques doesn’t suffer from a lack of detail.

Z scale is the smallest, and perhaps hardest to find.  The biggest advantage of this is that you can pack a whole heck of a lot of railroad into a small space.  I have seen a lot of great creations involving tiny spaces and highly detailed Z scale layouts.  The biggest drawback is that there just isn’t as much stuff being produced in Z scale.  There aren’t walls of trains and building kits.  Sometimes there isn’t even a corner, just a small shelf or tiny display case.

I didn’t mention the difficulty you might encounter if your eyesight is not quite perfect–hoping of course that it was obvious.

the battery is to give you an idea of scale (AA)
Should you find yourself wanting to take up trains, get yourself to a hobby shop and see it up close before you go online and plunk down a lot of money.

I just thought that I would add some pictures of my collection of freight cars.  I haven’t included my Japanese trains, but someday (if people want that) I will put my pictures of them up on this blog.