A Quick Puzzle Before Christmas

Despite being the king (oops, I meant jack) of all hobbies, I have to admit, I haven ‘t done a lot of hobby related things lately.  I could blame the weather, or I could blame myself and the fall TV schedule.  Either way, I haven’t had a lot to write about.

I have been writing my other blog, whose links you can find on the right side of this page under the title “cool blogs”.  Mine is called Today’s Perfect Moment.  I have been putting a lot of energy there and have grown a rather large community in a short time.  There seems to be a lot more cross blogging done there and the page is set up to encourage followers.

HOBBY HAPPENINGS

While I haven’t done a lot, I have done some things.  Most recently, I got the itch to do a puzzle.  Maybe it is because I associate puzzles with Christmas.  I am surprised that no one gives these things as stocking stuffers anymore.  Knowing how addicting that can be, I really wasn’t in the mood to tackle a monster 5000 piece puzzle.  I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  What was my answer…the dollar store of course.

I found a couple of decent puzzles at the dollar store (Dollar Tree in this case) and purchased them for $1.25 each.  Even with Canadian tax, that still brought in two puzzles for less than $3.

I spent a couple of nights on the first one.  There seems to be no deterioration in my puzzle building skills and I was able to do it rather quickly.  Of course, that first night, I did the usual “just one more piece before I go to bed” thing, and wound up spending a hour or more when I should have been sleeping.  This probably was to the detriment of my students but I didn’t actually yawn while teaching.

The puzzle wasn’t the best quality.  The fit was a little loose and it came apart a couple of times.  Some pieces still had untrimmed edges (there seemed to be extra paper at the bottom layer of some of the pieces) and one was a little crumpled.  However, it only cost $1.25, so I can’t get tremendously angry about that.

When I lived in Japan, I bought frames and puzzle glue for the puzzles.  However, these days, now that I have finished, I will probably take it apart and give it to someone else to do.
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2013: A Year in Hobbies

The most popular place in Tokyo to spend New Year’s Eve–in Nanoblocks (fitting isn’t it)
 
 
Despite what people might think, Christmas is not necessarily the greatest time for hobbyists.  Yes, Christmas brings the potential of much wanted presents for the hobbyist.  It might also bring a good boxing day sale (as it did in my case) but that doesn’t mean there really is time to actually do anything.  Christmas is so full of stuff that the real hobby season may not begin until the start of the new year.

I know there are people out there who had planned and executed their Christmas shopping and preparation by September.  Those people probably have had lots of time to play with trains or build model cars.  Based on what people on my favourite train site are saying, there seems to have been lots of time to improve their models and run quite a few trains.

I have not been blessed with too many vacation days–yes, I am that guy.  They guy you see marching off to work like some lemming every morning while you are still in your PJs enjoying that first cup of coffee.  While this may sound like sour grapes (and at times it is) I was still better off than the people around here who didn’t have power until Christmas day.  Even if those people had the day off, they couldn’t have run trains or powered an airbrush.

 

The new year is upon us, and I should take stock of the –in terms of hobbies.  Life has been pretty full, but I’d rather focus on what this blog is supposed to focus on.

  • I have enjoyed blogging and while this blog’s readership has been growing slowly, the blog that I set up to help my students’ English has done remarkably well.  I have even done a good job of preparing and working ahead, so I don’t need to panic the day before a lesson is supposed to be published.
  • I have reconnected with the Nscale.net website and have enjoyed their advice and stories as part of my effort to build my n scale train layout.
  • I have built and painted several models, and can feel good about my improvement in these areas.
  • I have spent time running trains and have reignited my passion in this area.
  • I have come to love Nanoblocks, but hate that they aren’t as readily available as their big brother Lego.  While they are popping up at toy stores, they soon sell out and restocking seems to take months.
  • My passion for reading allowed me to read 44 novels this year.  While this is by no means a record for myself, I think it isn’t too bad since for a quarter of the year I had my head buried in ESL methodology books.
  • I found time to do a few Jigsaw puzzles, but wonder what to do with them after they are built.
  • I have watched far too much YouTube, but I am happy that the few things I have posted have seemed popular.  Though, honestly, I am not sure why unboxing the Statue of Liberty Nanoblock kit is so popular.  Maybe one of you could watch it and let me know.
  • It hasn’t been a stellar year for practicing Japanese, but I still feel good about my ability.
In my next blog, I will look ahead to the coming year and what joy it may bring.   Thanks for reading.

 

 

Competition Has Arrived

 

I would have to say it is official.  Nanoblocks have become a force to be reckoned with.  Why do I say that?  Surprisingly, it is not because there is a big push on them for the Christmas rush–though I did see them available at a store that had never had them before.  Instead, I give them credit because they have inspired some competition.

Micro Blocks, produce by a company called Loz, are now available.  They don’t seem to be available here in Canadayet.  This might have something to do with a bit of a conflict with the people who brought you Mega Blocks.  This company (based in Canada I believe) uses the name Micro Blocks for the blocks that share the same size with Lego.  Sounds complicated doesn’t it?

They seem to be competing in the same space as Nanoblocks.  They offer lots of architectural themed kits of world famous buildings.  This should appeal to adult builders as well as kids.  It also seems to have a broad international scope, so it should be easy to spread.

I am all for competition.  More tiny blocks equals more fun.  The other thing is that more block producers mean more designs and creative ideas.  It might also mean more interesting pieces.  I wonder if the two sets are compatible.

I don’t know if either Nanoblock, or this new Micro Blocks company will every dominate the space that Lego has, but I am interested nonetheless.  I know as a Canadian I will have to wait a long time before I see them, at least I can think good things about 2014.

Get an Early Jump on Christmas

 
 
Though I might complain about Christmas being foisted on us way too early, I still think Christmas is important to the hobbyist.  This is the chance to prod someone (gently or not so gently) into getting us what we want.  We can also do our best to try and entice someone into a hobby by selecting a gift that might start a lifetime of hobbying (I will touch on this in a later post).  And if all else fails, we can always justify a bigger expense by telling ourselves (and who ever else we might have to justify the expense to) that this is a Christmas present.

If your special someone is an efficient shopper, they might already be looking for your gift.  You might need to start dropping hints as early as tonight’s dinner.  Some of you might need to start working on that list.  Some of you (the indecisive type) should start making decisions as to what you want.  If you don’t, maybe there won’t be anything under the tree.

If your someone special is a last minute panic shopper, well then you’ve got time.  Lucky you.  Of course if you aren’t around at the moment of that last minute panic, and don’t have your list on your smartphone when they call….. well then, too bad.

The funny thing I find is that whenever you ask people what they want, they often don’t know.  I know this is not true.  If I asked you for ten things you would buy right now if I set you free in a hobby shop with a $50 (or whatever amount) gift card, and said you had ten minutes to get something or the car would expire….I am sure you could get something.  The problem is that people thing a gift has to be something different.  It doesn’t.  A gift is something free.

I know, a gift should be something “you wouldn’t buy for yourself.”  What a silly idea.  If I wouldn’t buy it for myself, I wouldn’t want it.  A gift is something that you want, but can’t justify spending your own money on.  When it’s someone else’s money, it should be easy.

My advice, write down everything you want.  Just that you want it, not that you would or wouldn’t spend the money on it, not that you are or are not going to buy it.  When you’re done, look it over.  Wouldn’t it be nice if someone gave you anything from that list?  If you’re smart, before letting a loved one look over the list you might want to organize it by price, or bundle a bunch of things together that might fit their budget.  Either way, now you’ve got something to tell them to get you.

Limits

When I tell people I have a lot of hobbies they mostly ask what they are and leave it at that.  The more adventurous ones might wonder how I can afford it.  Funny though, no one wonders where I keep it all.

I have written a couple of blogs about storage, but that’s common to all hobbyists.  We’ve all got tools and supplies and various other equipment.  It takes up space, but most of that is “out of the way” or stuffed into a closet.  There is always room for that stuff.  What nobody really stops to consider is what do you do with the finished products.

If you have a hobby that results in some finished product, you might want to display it.  In some cases you’ve got to display it.  Sure, you can give some of it away–some people do crafts that turn into Christmas presents.  But, how many times do your family and friends want that stuff?  If it is a quilt, you probably don’t mind having six or seven of them, but how many wool sweaters do you want?  How many hooked rugs do you need?  How many paint by numbers can adorn your walls?

Okay, some of these crafts are beautiful.  Hence the reason I wrote that you’ve got to display them.  Sometimes these crafts are so integral to your life that everyone expects to see them on display at your house.  No problem there.

I, Jack of all hobbies, however, have so many hobbies, and do not often produce things of display quality.  What do I do then?

Limits.  I have limits.  There are only so many of one thing that I can have before it needs to get pared down.  If I make a good car model, it usually displaces a model I am less happy with (though some parts end up in the parts box for that diorama I am going to do someday).  I’ve only go so much shelf space, and the better models make the bad ones look rather poor.

New magazines displace old ones–or more likely, deluxe editions of books put out by these magazine publishers displace the magazines.  Realizing that they had me paying twice, I read the magazines at the library and only buy the books….but this is a topic for another day.

Train stuff….well, I can always make more room for train stuff.  I am into N scale, and that doesn’t really take up  a lot of room…..besides, you’ve got to have priorities, and you’ve got to rationalize.

Take my latest puzzle.  I did it because I liked trains.  I thought about putting it up over in the room where there will be a train…but then I realized that wall space was at a premium, and I had already done a couple of other train puzzles that I thought were better than this one.  So what could I do?  Despite my pack rat nature, I am going to pass this puzzle off to someone else who will have to figure out what to do with it once they are done.

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 Perfect Christmas Beer

Is there a perfect Christmas beer?  Marketing people must thinks so.  Why else would the liquor store (LCBO for me) be stocked to the rafters with the huge variety of beer gift packs that normally don’t warrant all that shelf space.  Though they make attractive gifts and keepsakes, if I bought them all, I would have way too many glasses for my shelves.

Forgetting the novelty of these gift packs, is there a perfect Christmas beer?  I have sample some of the winter beers, and most often been disappointed.  They seemed more like wine, and less like beer.  I like strong beer, but I still want it to taste like beer.  I can only conclude that winter beer really isn’t the perfect Christmas beer.

 
Now, if this was fictional, I would list that the perfect Christmas beer got you happy tipsy, but never fall into the Christmas tree (or fireplace) drunk, doesn’t fill your bladder just when it is time to open the presents and it wouldn’t provide you with a hangover (the least favourite Christmas present) but the reality is a little different.  A perfect Christmas beer is one that tastes good, goes with all the Christmas foods, doesn’t make you feel stuffed and doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste which leads to bad Christmas photos.

I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on the issue.  Recommendations will be followed up as soon as I can go to the LCBO, or Beer Store.