The Latest Hobby Itch: Arduino

 
 
I know I shouldn’t do it, but I’ve got the itch.  I have become obsessed–no, that’s not right.  The word is too strong.  Okay, I’ve become intrigued by Arduino, though I am not sure why.  However, I can explain how it happened.
I was looking for a new project.  Actually first I was working on my decision making processes.  That is why I read a book that differentiated between gain and pain tasks, and how we put off gain tasks in favour ending pain tasks.  The book recommended scheduling time for gain tasks, and not worrying about how long they take, or whether they every get finished or not.  Sounded wonderful to me.  (If I can figure out how to do it, I will put a link to the book in my Amazon store at the side of the page)
So, despite having lots of these tasks, I decided I wanted something new.  Kind of a silly thing, but that is how my mind works.  That is how I started writing this (and three other) blogs.  If nothing else, my typing skills have gotten better.  I thought I would like to do some sort of science/technical project.
In days past, I would have gone to the Efton Science Store.  Alas, that has disappeared, and I had no idea where to look.  So, I consulted my fallback position.  I checked Amazon and searched for “project kits”.  That is where I found Arduino.  Just like a boy, I saw a kit full of interesting parts (all the bells and whistles), and thought, WOW!  I need that.  Though, in truth, I was not overly clear on what it was.
You’ve got to admit, this is cool.
After some YouTube videos, which are a tech nerd’s dream, I am still interested, though perhaps overwhelmed.  It is probably too complicated, but I am as fascinated and overconfident as I am nervous and confused.  I consider this a normal state when thinking about a new hobby.
So, I ask you.  Have you had any experience with Arduino?  Can you tell me anything about it?  I would really like your help.  Also, if you know anybody with experience, could you send them to this blog to help me before I spend all my money and end up with a desk full of electronic bits and pieces.  Please.

Yahoo vs YouTube

So I have heard that Yahoo is going to offer a competitor to YouTube.  I am kind of excited about this idea.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love YouTube.  Anyone who has read this blog knows that I watch a lot of JVloggers, and spend more time than I should watching old TV shows and clips online.  I even have some videos on YouTube.  I think I have about ten.  They haven’t gone viral (and I wouldn’t receive any money even if they did) and only one of then has had a really strong number of views–though I am not sure what the attraction is, and nobody has commented on it.

I guess I just want to be there, on the ground floor when it happens.  While it won’t be a new thing (like YouTube was), I would like to say I was there from the beginning.  I want to be one of the originals, even though the idea won’t be that original.

There are problems, however.  What kind of content should I put up?  I am not in Japan, so JVlogging is out.  I live in Canada, and while I love my country, I cannot see any blogging potential there.  I love my hobbies, but since I switch them around so much and am rather lax on completion, I am not sure there is anything there either.  I love to rant (check out my other blog site to see what I mean) but I have a face for radio–and who would want to see a static image of a wall or picture while I rant away?

I am excited and I want to participate, but I don’t know how.

On another note, I still don’t know what they are going to call this thing.  YouTube is a brilliant name.  Yahoo tube sounds derivative.  YahooTV doesn’t sound cool.  They already have Yahoo Screen–so I guess that’s not it.  I suppose, if I were to name it, I would call it OnYahoo.

Nanoblocks Big Ben: my thoughts and videos

 
 
Building a new Nanoblocks kit is usually pretty fun.  When you get to build one you had been waiting for, things are just that much better.  Maybe it’s anticipation.  Of course if the theme of the kit appeals to you, it is much better.

This kit wasn’t as challenging as the Space Shuttle kit, but it was quite fun to build.  There were some new design wrinkles from the people at Kawada, or whoever designed this one.  I liked the colour scheme and I liked the nice mix of water, road, building and even a bus–though the representation of the bus seems a little out of scale.

I spent quite a bit of time on this one, mostly because my fingers are not as agile as they should be and those round pieces always seem to give me trouble.  I was enjoying myself, so I didn’t really notice the time.  I had the radio on and my cat was keeping me company.  All in all it was a sunny fall morning and I relished it.

In addition to that, I took a lot of pictures of the build, showing people what it looks like step by step.  And before anyone says anything in the comments section–yes, I made a few mistakes along the way, and my application of the decals was a little poor.

Again, I found this kit quite enjoyable.  I paid more for this kit than I did for some of the other world landmarks series, but I blame that on the place I purchased it.  I probably could have held out longer, hoping for a sale…. but I am tired of missing out on something.  I was a little afraid that if I didn’t strike now, I would lose the chance.  I am still kicking myself over the Maersk Lego Train.

There were quite a few pieces leftover–more than usual.  I wonder if they have been getting a lot of flack from customers about not having enough parts?  I have never been short, but it stands to reason that it might have happened to someone.  I guess I will just file them in the parts box.  I have enough extra parts now to build something….I wonder what I should build.

 
I have included links to two of my YouTube videos here.  One is the step by step build (but it’s stage by stage rather than piece by piece) and the other is a 360 degree view of the finished product.   I hope you enjoy them.

 

Never A Bad Idea To Visit a Toy Store

I stopped by the toy store today…it must have been fate because I had had no intention of setting foot in the place.  Fortunately I did, because new Nanoblocks have arrived.  New Nanoblocks have arrived!

There were probably 4 or 5 things that I wanted to buy, but will have to wait.  I managed to pick up two kits and I will build them this weekend.  My plan is to do YouTube videos of opening the box and showing the built up version.  I will put the links up here.  At the same time, I will also write a blog or two about them.

Obviously I am a looking forward to putting them together.

Writing a Successful Blog

 
I can’t really be sure what anyone’s motivation for writing a blog is.  I know what mine is…. or at least I have a reason which seems to resonate with me.  I want to be a writer, and this is practice.  When you think of the way the publishing world has gone digital, maybe this is more than practice.  Maybe this is writing.  There is no editor, so no way to judge whether I am being successful at this or not.

Before I became a blogger, I read quite a few blogs.  The seeming ease at which they created content bolstered me quite a bit.  Since becoming a blogger, I have read a lot more.  Some update their content regularly.  Others, seem to have lost steam and haven’t posted in a year…except those that posted self-chastising blogs about how they have to blog more.  I’ve read blogs that have fewer followers than I, and others that seem to have a legion of followers and readers.

How do you measure a successful blog.  Is it the number of followers?  I can’t be sure of that, since quite a few people told me that signing up to be a follower was a passé way of doing things.  Things in the digital age move quickly.  In a few years things like Instagram and Facebook might no longer be relevant.  Sacrilege?  Does anyone remember MySpace?

Do you measure success in the number of page views?  I must confess that I do.  When I see someone’s blog has ten times the number of page views that I’ve got, I get a little bit jealous.  I spend time on Facebook pestering my friends to check out my blog.  I comment on other blogs, hoping that some of their readership will get curious.

Do you measure success based on the number of comments people make?  This sounds reasonable, but doesn’t register with me.  Not only due to the dearth of comments, but also because of my perspective.  If people really wanted to comment, they could probably start their own blogs.

I keep writing, and I alternate between feelings of success and disenchantment.  I enjoy it, but I do hear that voice, occasionally, that wonders why I am doing this.  When I need to answer this voice, I just point out that if Hemmingway were alive today, he would probably have a blog and if Shakespeare were alive today, he would probably be making clips for YouTube.

To Blog or not to Blog…really too late to ask this question.

Lindberg’s 1949 Tudor Coupe 1/32 scale

 
Usually shopping at Dollarama means looking for scratch building supplies or looking for some container that I need to organize my hobby stuff.  Today I came across a model kit for sale.  The price was a reasonable three bucks.  Hard to complain about that.  Of course, I once got a 1/24 Scale Ford Fairlane for $2 from Walmart, but since they don’t have models anymore, that was probably an unannounced clearance sale.

I really don’t need any more models.  I’ve got a shelf  full of unbuilt kits, and dozens of other hobbies to pursue–not to mention umpteen household chores that have been the victim of procrastination.  I guess curiosity got the better of me, and by writing this, hopefully it won’t get the better of you.  You will be armed with knowledge before scouring the Dollarama.

 
So, what came in the box?  Watch the YouTube video if you want to see the unboxing.  It will give you a good idea of what is inside.  Basically, this is a bare bones kit if I have ever seen one. No chrome, no rubber tires, the body comes in three pieces (and those other pieces are the sides, not the hood and truck lid) no engine and no decals of any kind.  The wheels are all plastic and need to be glued together.

Is this a good kit?  Well, for three dollars, I wasn’t expecting a Tamiya masterpiece.  I am pretty satisfied with the contents of the box.  The mould lines look good, and I don’t see any sink holes or injection marks….so I really shouldn’t complain.  With some good painting, and putty to fill up the gaps, this will turn into an acceptable model.  I will post pictures when I can.  I’ve got some bare metal foil to make the bumpers and grill, and I certainly have enough paint.  Mostly, I am probably worried more about what colour to paint it.  Red looks good, but I have never painted a red model that I have been satsified with.

The Dollarama in my neighbourhood had 3 different models:  two convertibles and this one.  If anyone finds different ones, please post here.  If anyone has completed one, feel free to send some pictures.

A Win Win Situation

 
Getting some trains running has buoyed my spirits.  I got the chance to hear the clack clack of the engines running over the tracks, see the lights on the diesel blaze ahead of the train, and got to see some of my trains perform.  We will call that a win.

I also got the inspiration to shoot some pictures and some video.  The pictures I will include here, and the video….well, despite my belief that I would never do it, I uploaded the videos to YouTube.  A few people have stumbled across them, but I don’t expect that number to grow rapidly.

I think the motivation for putting things on YouTube was in fact a combination of several things.  The first is that I took some video, and wondered if it could be uploaded.  The second was that, despite my reservation, I want to emulate those Jvloggers (like Busan Kevin, Tokyo Cooney, discount sausage, and the late Rodger Swan) that I like so much and be on YouTube.  The third is that I was hoping to draw a few more people to my blog.

The last of these things seems a little selfish, but it is true.  Right now, about twenty people see each post (and sometimes fewer).  Though I don’t think it will ever reach thousands, I can dream.  I’d like to think I am entertaining people, and that I could find a larger audience.  Of course, I need to be realistic as well.

Regardless of the motivation, the end result is that I have some train pictures to include here, and four videos up on YouTube.  Again, we would call that a win-win situation.

 

Progress Report: Nanoblock Space Shuttle

Just a short break in the list of hobbies I would take up if time and money were no question (but in reality always are) to give you an update on my hobbies.  For this issue, we will be looking at my latest Nanoblock build.



I picked up the space shuttle when I got the drum kit I previously reviewed.  Overall, I am happy that Nanoblocks are more widely available.  I hope that other people find them as much fun as I do.  I did a quick check and found that the price for this particular kit is much more expensive in Japan (the home of Nanoblocks).  I checked it out on Amazon.  I guess things that are not of Japanese interest are more expensive in Japan.  It’s worth checking out.



What happens when you drop a piece

It took quite a lot of time to put this particular model together partly due to the number of pieces and the size of the pieces.  (I was going to invent a word like itsybitsiness, or teenyweeniness–but as an ESL teacher, my colleagues would probably never forgive me for it)  I would suggest not assembling this anywhere near heating vents.  As you can see from some of the pictures I have carpet–it keeps the pieces from flying too far away.



ready for final assembly
The kit came with some unique pieces.  That probably means that some very creative people in Japanhave bought a bunch of these kits and will utilize them in some fun and unique way–I have seen this before on a TV show called TV Champion, Lego edition–the things they could do are amazing.  I will have to check out YouTube. (a quick check shows that there are quite a few Nanoblock videos on YouTube as well.)



the finished product



If you haven’t put together any Nanoblocks yet, this would be a good kit to start with.  It wasn’t my first, and I am sure it won’t be my last.

Hobbies I would take up: The Bottom Five (part 5–vlogging)

I am a big fan of YouTube.  I have subscribed to more than 15 people, and I check it daily.  Mostly, I watch jvloggers (as we call the people who make video blogs from Japan).  Having lived in Japan, most of what they show me isn’t really new.  I’ve eaten most of the foods they talk about, purchased beer and other drinks at vending machines they talk about, been to apartments much like the ones they show, and shopped at quite a few of the stores they tour around.  However, Japanis a country full of surprises, so sometimes they surprise me.  Sometimes, they really surprise me.  That is what makes wading through some of it worthwhile.

I started blogging because some of these jvloggers have blogs that are companions to their jvlogs, or are done in the same tone as their vlogs.  It got me interested, and now I have my own blog (2 in fact, and maybe someday soon 3).  Without having stumbled across these jvloggers, I wouldn’t be writing this today.

I guess why I haven’t vlogged comes down to several reasons.  I don’t have a digital video camera (or iPhone).  I could buy one, of course, but it just doesn’t seem like a priority, mainly because of the other two reasons.  I would like to put my voice on these vlogs, but probably not my face.   I don’t know if I would be self-conscious, or nervous or what, but the prospect of appearing on camera (and not acting–because if you gave me the lines, I think I could do it) and adlibbing seems hard.  Lastly, Japan is interesting, exotic, and full of surprises.  South-western Ontarioseems less so.  If you’ve never been here, there might be something that really wakes you up (when my students see snow falling for the first time they get pretty excited, and when they see the fast hard pace of hockey they get excited), but I am not sure I could really get behind that.  My students could make Canada vlogs and that would be cool.  Me….. not sure.

Maybe someday I will find the impetus for this, but I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

If you want to see some of the jvloggers I mentioned, please go to YouTube and check out the following:
(Most of them have entertained me greatly, and even infomred me.  I appreciate their work and have no reservation recommending them whatsoever)

tokyocooney

rodgerswan

discountsausage

brotherannie

BusanKevin

nihonjenn

Postascribe

TwilightsSerenity

 

Through these jvloggers, you can find many others (if this is your thing).

 

YouTube, MeTube

Shortly the new fall TV season will be in full swing.  We will be deluged with soon forgotten, poorly conceived, badly acted and oddly contrived manifestations from Hollywood.    There will be a bunch of sitcoms, cop shows, and the odd drama.  Of course there will be a huge pile (and I use this word very knowingly) of unreal reality shows.  Through it all, even if I should somehow be caught up in the hype, I will never let it interfere with my two addictions–hockey and YouTube.

Of course the NHL may have beaten me to the punch and ruined the upcoming season.  I could start a rant–should start a rant–but I won’t.  I am not sure blogger would really allow all the bad words that I would have to use for my anger to subside.

As for YouTube…. what’s not to like about it…except that I seem to spend more time on it than most people would consider healthy.  I can’t really complain, except that it takes time away from my other hobbies.

I started out on YouTube mostly looking at videos from Japan.  I have watched enough apartment tours to become a real estate agent.  After all those videos, I can only conclude that my Japanese apartment was slightly below average–of course that was a long time  ago, and my memory might be playing tricks on me.

These apartment tours led me to Jvloggers.  Jvloggers are an interesting group of people that make video blogs on Japan.  Most are funny, some are informative, and some are just weird.  I still watch a lot of them to this day, and I certainly encourage you to watch the likes of tokyocooney, the late rodgerswan, brotherannie, BusanKevin (and his other page jlandkev), nihonjenn and others.  If you have an interest in Japan, I think you should check them out.

At one time I really wanted to become a Jvlogger myself.  I have written down a bunch of ideas that I would have made vlogs about.  Of course, I don’t live in Japan, and probably won’t (at least for the foreseeable future) so this idea is on hold….probably a long hold.  In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog was because of some of the blogs that the above vloggers have.  There really isn’t anything in my life that I would like to vlog about, but there seems to be quite a lot of stuff I am willing to blog about.

I also love YouTube because they have so many great videos about building models and model trains.  I have learned a lot by watching other people explain and build their models.  I even found a fantastic Japanese program with some truly incredible videos.  Fortunately for me my Japanese is good enough to follow these programs (though I wish it were better)

I also love it for the collection of weird stuff that’s on it.  Where else could you find Japanese Spiderman (you’ve got to see it to believe it) or space janitors, or IKEA Heights, or the wacky Japan”english series”, or the classic “will it blend?”  I even find the unboxing shows pretty cool.   If only they would put the travel in Japan series that Jane Seymour made onto it, it would be perfect.

Yes, I spend too much time on YouTube. that much is obvious.  There really isn’t much I can do about it….. and I probably wouldn’t even if I could.