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.

 

 

Thoughts on puzzles

Puzzles are not everyone’s favourite hobby, but I always find time to do a few a year.  The fact that trains are often featured in puzzles is a bonus.  I wouldn’t call it killing two birds with one stone.  That’s silly.  I would call it synergistic….but that’s probably because I was an English major and I need to utilize that expensive (albeit subsidized by the government) vocabulary.

standard assembly…edges first
Puzzles are a pretty solitary hobby with me.  I have known others who treat it as a family activity, but that isn’t the case with me.  Perhaps it’s selfish.  Either way, the best thing about puzzles is that you can easily see your progress, and more often than not, you do reach completion–which is not always the case with my other hobbies.

If I am lucky, I can put it in a place where the cat won’t disturb it and work on it from time to time.  I don’t usually put in big chunks of time unless I get sucked in by fitting lots of pieces, or because I should go to bed…and I keep telling myself, “just one more piece.”  In these cases, I seem to devote a lot more time to it.

I am a typical puzzle maker….I think.  I start by assembling the edges first.  That seems logical, but I wonder…is there someone out there who starts in the middle and works their way to the edges?  That would be pretty cool to see.

assembling the train is a priority
Since most of my puzzles feature trains, the train gets assembled first.  The worst thing is that I am usually left with sky, and lots of it.  This isn’t bad if you’re doing the puzzle under natural light, but under a light bulb differentiating light blue from lighter blue isn’t so easy.  This latest puzzle was rather odd in that I got the sky done before the mountains.  No complaints, but it just isn’t the way things have been going lately.

not just sky left…this time
I happy it is done, and I won’t be doing another puzzle until September or later….It’s funny how I think I can plan these things, when I know that’s not true.  I’ll do a puzzle when my fancy strikes me, not when I plan it.  I could have a hundred other projects before I see another puzzle.

DONE

 
 
An unfinished jigsaw puzzle just seems to hang over my head.  I usually do them in the guest room so I don’t have to look at them everyday.  In fact, I might even “forget” about it for a while, giving me some respite.

This time I opted for the dining room table, and paid for it.  Every day it nagged me.  Every day it harassed me.  It taunted and tested me.  Today, however, that taunting is over.  It is done, and now there are many more important things to do.  More housework, more studying, and occasionally more procrastination.

New Years Hobby Resolutions

Most people make resolutions for the New Year.  These usually involve promises to quit smoking, or join a gym, or other various forms of condemnation of procrastination.  I am not immune to this.  I have made those same kinds of resolutions (losing weight etc) but these are not really about hobbies.  For hobbies I have a separate list.

  1. Don’t start new hobbies if progress has not been made in other hobbies.  Nothing is worse than having a bunch of stuff gathering dust on a shelf or in a closet.
  2. Don’t become a collector.  Collecting stuff means having more than you can use.  Most hobbyists, myself included, have more model kits than they can build, more trains than they can run, more books than they can read, more paints than they can use before they dry up, and more money invested in non moving stock.
  3. Have more patience.  Nothing can ruin a good hobby than lack of patience.  I can’t count how many paint jobs or decal applications that have been ruined because I didn’t take my time.  Sometimes a near perfect paintjob was ruined because I wouldn’t let it sit long enough–the results were good CSI quality fingerprints.
  4. Get a better handle on this whole blogging thing.  I have enjoyed blogging, but I don’t quite know how to expand the audience of this blog.
  5. Take better pictures for the blog.  I haven’t done a bad job, but a quick tour around the World Wide Web, clearly indicates I could do better.
  6. Enjoy my hobbies more.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my hobbies, but I think there could always be room for improvement.  Enjoying life fully is not as easy as people think.  While hobbies are supposed to be a relief from pressure, they often create their own pressures. (see the previous five points and then tell me if I am wrong)
  7. Complete more.  If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might conclude that the sheer number of hobbies I have means that I don’t complete a lot, and you’d be right.  I hope that 2013 is different.

 

Happy New Year Everyone

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.

Completion

After writing about my CodeWord book the other day, I spent a bit of my commute time thinking about completion.  I have almost completed my book of puzzles.  It might have taken me the better part of a year, but it will get done.  Hopefully tomorrow on the bus I will fill out that last page.  I hope I will feel some sort of satisfaction, or pride, or at least a sense of accomplishment.

Applying this to my other hobbies I see that completion has played a big part in them also.

 Here are some acts of completion which make me feel pretty good.

Putting the last piece in a 1000 (or more) piece puzzle.
Taking the last part of a model from the sprue and attaching it to the model.
Filling in the last square of the Saturday Crossword Puzzle.
Getting the last number of a Sudoku puzzle.
Taking off your skates or ski boots after a long day on the ice or the mountain.
Planting the last artificial tree on the train layout.
Getting the last colour in the Rubik;s Cube
Acquiring that last country in Risk.
Conquering the last civilization in Age of Empires
Getting the last card for your set.
The Stanley Cup Championship game.
The last train stop on the journey.
Writing the last postcard of your vacation.
The match winning tennis shot (forehand, crosscourt lots of topspin)

These completions ring bittersweet.

Reading the last sentence in a great novel.

The last ski run of the day.
Watching the last episode in a TV series you’ve enjoyed.
The last piece of birthday cake.

These are completions which are terrible

Eating the last cookie.

Drinking the last beer.

Though I love completion, I do know that procrastination has a strong hold on my life as well.  I like to see some things done, but I don’t always start them on time.