Spring Means Playoffs (finally)

Ah spring finally seems to be here.  You might expect that this blog would be about gardening or yard work or other stuff like that.  In years past, that might have been the case.  The last nine years in fact, that might have been the case.  This year, however, it is not the case.  This year I can focus on one of my true loves; hockey.  More specifically, my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.  They are in the playoffs, and I will be watching (although I am rather busy, and can’t afford to spend too much time in front of the TV, or blogging for that matter)

As a hockey fan, the playoffs are what really matters.  I watch every game I can, but the playoffs are what really matter.  In the playoffs, heroes emerge, the unbelievable happens, and highlights come fast and furious.  I can’t wait.

It might be spring, but Carleton only cares about the playoffs
For the city, and province, there will be a large economic benefit.  Not just in games played, but in beer drunk and merchandise hawked.  I am no economist, but even I can imagine how much money will be generated.  Of course increased TV ratings and ad revenue will follow.

None of that really matters to me.  What matters to me is that my team will be competing for what I consider to be the hardest trophy to win.  Other sports might play more games, but none can match the physical toll the game of hockey takes on an athlete.  Imagine a two hundred plus pound man, perched precariously on two thin slivers of steel, racing on a slippery surface at high speed being met by other 200 plus pound men wearing state of the art Kevlar body armour.  If you can’t respect the toughness of these athletes, there really is nothing I can do for you.
All that remains to be said is,



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.

Puzzle Pieces Prompt Procrastination

Just one more piece.  These are the famous last words of anyone hooked on a jigsaw puzzle.  Okay, these aren’t the last words, these are just the words that cause them trouble.  One more piece, then I will go to bed.  One more piece then I will make dinner.  One more piece and then I will… you get the idea.

It is funny how something so simple can cause so many problems.  Maybe that is precisely it.  It seems so simple, but that one moment of searching for a piece can turn into hours.

I remember once, a long time ago in a country far far away, I said to myself, just one more piece and then go to bed.  The next time I looked at the clock several hours had gone by and my eyes were stinging.  I guess that is just the way it is.  I guess that is just what puzzles do.

When Things Come Together

I like trains.  I like jigsaw puzzles…..can you see where this is going?  Call it luck, call it weird, call it whatever you want.  While browsing in the supermarket I came upon two puzzles with train themes.  They were on sale too, but that really isn’t the point….. or is it?  No, the point is that I came across these puzzles, bought them, and now I am sharing them on this blog.  That’s it.
unusual packaging
As you can see I am a edges first kind of puzzle builder.  I don’t know why that is.  Everyone who I have ever done a puzzle with has always built them this way.  I have never scene a centre outwards builder.  I am not really even sure that such a person exists.  Maybe edges first just seems like something you do, and nobody questions it.  I guess you would either call it common sense, or logic, or an unwritten rule.  Regardless of what you think, this is the way I do it, and it seems to be working for me.

sort those edges
This puzzle had a few negative points right off the bat with me.  The box didn’t really lend itself to my typical sort and sift method.  Normally I would use the top and the bottom of the box for this.  This particular box was not built for this, and I had to tape up the insert box and use a Rubbermaid container along with it.  The other problems with this puzzle is that too many of the pieces were still together from the initial assembly.  I find that rather frustrating. (I have a friend who considers that cheating–I won’t go so far myself, but I can sympathize with his point).  The pieces also have a lot of cardboard dust attached to them, making it a slightly messy experience.  I guess I can see why it was on sale.  The puzzle also purports to be a “sure-lox” puzzle.  The last puzzle I built fit together so nicely that I could pick it up an wave it like a sheet.  I highly doubt that will be the case this time.  If, however, that turns out to be true, I will make a video of it and put it on YouTube.
Get those edges done first

Hopefully this puzzle will look good when it is finished, but who is to say for sure.  I think the theme is good, so I am looking forward to the result. 

A Friend in Need…… Indeed

My friend needs a hobby.  Obviously, as a proponent of hobbies I feel like everyone needs a hobby.  My friend, however, needs one more than most.  Most people have hobbies, whether they see them as hobbies or not.  Some people follow sports, some follow TV shows (collecting their seasons either by buying the DVD’s or acquiring them from some online source),  and then some take up jogging.

My friend, though athletic, doesn’t want to take up a fitness trend.  There are lots of them out there now–there are quite a few infomercials dealing with that–and I know some people who have become absolutely ripped doing them.  My friend doesn’t want to pursue the kinds of hobbies I do–building model trains or cars doesn’t suit him.  Maybe he doesn’t think he has the dexterity (maybe he doesn’t) or the patience, or even an eye for colour (he’s American so he would prefer I write that he doesn’t have an eye for color–but it’s my blog dammit, and I will write the way I want.

I know, I should probably let him pick out his own hobby.  And normally I would do this.  Really, who wants someone telling them what to do.  Well, in fact, in the end, he will choose for himself.  I just want my readers (few in number, but strong in wisdom) to give his some advice.

Left to his own devices my friend has considered some hobbies on his own, though the results have only given me cause for worry.  He has proposed indulgence in heroin and other recreational chemicals, and though he was kidding, the fact that the joke crossed his mind means he is bored and wants to do something.

His latest proposal is pipe smoking.  I can’t gauge his seriousness because our Skype connection doesn’t allow for really good reading of facial details.  I suspect he is serious.  Then again, do people still smoke pipes?  I don’t recall seeing anyone do that in a long time.  I know that there are still tobacco shops (at least in Canada) but I thought that they were mostly for people who want to buy Cuban cigars, or rolling papers for smoking marijuana–though I do go there to buy pipe cleaners to clean my airbrush– but they always have to root around in a drawer for them, so they can’t be that popular–can they?

My friend has shown an affinity for some TV shows, but he gets bored easily.  He could become a movie watcher, but I am not sure he has the patience.  Basically he needs something that he can pickup, and drop at a whim, that won’t take up too much space, won’t require too much concentration or money, and doesn’t involve a huge effort.   I am not sure he wants other people to be involved or not.

I have presented a negative picture of my friend, and as for thinking of a hobby that is very intentional.  I have proposed many things, only to be shot down, so I have stopped doing that.  However, my friend is a good person, a GREAT friend, incredibly moral and loyal, puts other people above himself far too often, as well as being funny and helpful.

He does crosswords, and he might be working on a Codeword book I sent him.  In addition to that he is a voracious reader, and has a huge amount of stories buried deep inside him.

I want to help, but frankly, I am stumped.

Two Dreams Unrealized

Get ready to be shocked.  There are two things that I am passively working on.  I say passively because I really want to be able to do them, but am not sure I ever will.  Probably if I put in a large amount of effort or work I could probably gain a respectable amount of skill, but somehow I am not sure that is going to happen.

I want to learn how to juggle and I want to learn how to do yoyo tricks.

I know, not really a spectacular ambition.  Other people are getting their MBA’s  and PhD’s and I want to be a party entertainer.  When I put it like that, it does sound pathetic. really pathetic.  I might as well learn how to make balloon animals. (see tomorrow’s blog–just kidding)

I don’t think it is really about entertaining.  I really can’t imagine performing in front of people.  Don’t get me wrong, once I get over the stage fright, I can perform in front of people.  It is a weird thing, but I can stand up in front of a crowd of strangers and make them laugh easier than I can ask questions to the clerk in a hobby shop.

Rather than be an entertainer, I just want the skill to be able to do those things.  The juggling came from a Japanese TV show called TV Champion.  It is a wonderful show that can make an interesting contest out of anything (juggling, making ramen, building Lego, making models, redecorating, and painting to name a few)  They had a great juggling contest and I was hooked.  Of course, my high school girlfriend was also a professional clown and could juggle–and ride a unicycle–so maybe that was part of it.

The yoyo came from watching my brother do amazing things with the yoyo. and then watching very young people on YouTube do impossible things.

I bought the yoyo and can do some very basic tricks with it (okay, one trick.  Thanks to the ball bearings, I can make it sleep for an incredibly long time)  I got the juggling balls for Christmas and have never managed more than a few revolutions before they come crashing to the ground and I have to gather them up again.  The instruction booklet recommended practicing over a table to make it easier to round up the balls.  It would be good advice if they didn’t roll off the table.

Not having mastered either of these skills I have considered giving these things away in my annual donate to family ritual, but have never managed to do it.  Even now, hunting for the yoyo to take the picture, I was worried that I had given it away.  Like most things, I think someday I will do it.  I just wish I knew when that someday would come.


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.

Procrastination, Thy Name Is Research

At last count I had more than 15 books dedicated to my train hobby.  This doesn’t include magazines, which despite some recent purging is still a formidable pile.  These are books, probably culled from magazine articles or possible specially commissioned from contributors to those magazines.  I kind of feel like I’ve built my own reference library.

When I check my Amazon “wish list” I’ve got somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 more waiting for me to get over my reluctance to part with my cash and load up my shopping cart.  If this keeps up I might have to buy another bookcase…. I could build one, but that sounds like the start of a woodworking hobby, and despite the draw of tools that almost all men feel on a genetic level, I do not have the room and I like my fingers.  When it gets right down to it, I’ve got a brother who is quite good at that sort of thing, and I am happy to make him feel useful.

Having a train book library sounds great.  However, having a working train sounds better.  I often find myself spending a lot of time planning and researching, pricing and searching.  A great train book library can take up a lot of time.  However, there comes a time when you have to put down the books and pick up the tools, get off the sofa and get on the workbench.

And I am going to do that ….. just after one more peak at Amazon, and a quick look in one of those books, and….