Sunday, 13 April 2014

Reading Can Be Hard


 
 
 
What makes a book a hard read?

With some books I just blast through them like a manta ray cutting through the water.  Other times, I am a salmon swimming upstream.  Some books are gone in a day or two while others take weeks.  In the following paragraphs, I consider some of the obstacles to fast reading.

Physical Characteristics

Some books are just longer.  Dickens couldn't seem to write anything shorter than a phone book.  His shortest novel probably still comes in at over 700 pages.  Granted, he was selling his stuff one or two newspaper pages at a time.  Whatever the case may be, some books are longer, so they take longer to get through.

Some fonts are hard to read.  You know how most books these days contain a little blurb about the typeface.  They all glamorize their choice of typeface, but that doesn't mean they are perfect.  Some are just plain difficult to read.  They look dense and really clutter up the page.

Dialogue versus Description

Dialogue is much easier to read than long paragraphs of explanation and description.  I imagine a 300 page novel that is all dialogue probably won't take more than an hour and a half to read.  This is especially true when they stop writing the he said, she said parts and just have the people ping pong back and forth.

Depth

A deep book.  A book with a lot of meaning and symbolism, as well as self referencing will require slower reading.  The book I am currently reading (Ghostwritten by Mitchell)  is a book like that.  All the stories are connected, but only with great subtlety.  It requires careful reading, and re-reading.  One does not always want to miss what's going on.

The Reader

I have been horribly sick, and concentration has been hard to come by.  I should have read two or three books in the time I took on the last one.  I blame the cold.  On some days, I just didn't want to read.  I was too busy hacking and coughing (not to mention shaking and sweating).

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The State of my Hobbies (part one)


 
 
I don't want to jinx it, but it certainly seems like spring is underway.  The snow is almost gone and things are looking up.  The only question for this blog is to address the hobbies.  We will call this part one--because I am sure I will miss something.

Darts

This is going well.  I have progressed well and I have several playoff games upcoming.  I have most enjoyed my darts season and will definitely continue it.  My biggest obstacle is that I don't have my board up yet.  I am wavering between installation methods, causing a complete lack of home progress.

Nanoblocks/Loz blocks

There are a few kits I have my eyes on, but I haven't stepped up and got them yet.  My display space is pretty much taken up.  Until I do some reorganizing, this may stay on hold.  Of course this would change if Toys R Us carried more of these kits.  I am much more likely to buy on impulse when I am out than when I am surfing the web.

Trains

I have lots of train projects on the go, just nothing completed.  I had big plans for this weekend before illness caused me to slow down--don't worry, I've just got a cold and don't have the energy to concentrate on stuff.  Even writing this short blog requires frequent rests.

Reading

I have decided to try reading some harder books.  What I mean by that is I am trying to read some more challenging books.  I am on pace to read about 60 books this year.  I decided that I would try and read some Pulitzer or Man Booker prize winners.  It would be great if I could read them all, and I might make that a goal next year.  The current book I am reading is Ghost Written by David Mitchell.  It is very well done and I recommend that anyone looking for a good book to read it.

Puzzles

I still do the crossword puzzle every day, but the one I am doing is only challenging because they have a lot of geographical clues and modern music clues that I have no idea about.  I can usually solve it, but I get frustrated at some of the "cheap" clues they give.  I haven't done any Sudoku puzzles lately, nor any logic puzzles.  Maybe spring will reawaken these pursuits.

Writing

I am hoping to do more of this.  I still harbour the dream of being novelist/writer.  What I have learned is that it really depends on me and my discipline.  Of course I could say that about a lot of things.  I won't let go of this dream.

Blogging

This is something I enjoy a lot.  The truth is, I haven't written as much as I would have liked.  My students seem to enjoy my English teaching blog.  Unfortunately, I have to spend a bit of time reminding them to read it on Facebook. I will need to find ways to attract more people to this blog.  Maybe I will have to write about more controversial topics.....or Justin Bieber.

Gardening Landscaping

Though this may be a hobby for some, it really means work for me.  I have at least a week or two before I need to start on this, but it probably wouldn't hurt to start getting the supplies.  I cut the grass far less than I had to shovel snow, so this really isn't a problem.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Killjoys, Jerks and Doucebags


 
 
In the past, I have written how great it is to interact with people in hobbies.  This includes strangers met at shows or conventions, or in hobby shops.  This also includes meeting people at events where you do your hobbies.  I didn't lie to you.  There are many great people in the aforementioned places.  I just wasn't entirely honest either.  Amongst the great and cool, there are a bunch of complete...hmmm, what is the right word....douche bags. 

Sorry if I offend, but someone has to candidly set the record straight.  Additionally, there are quite a few other words I contemplated using, but chose not to.  I guess I should stick with my original title and call them killjoys. 

My most recent encounter with a killjoy comes from my latest obsession-darts.  This person criticized my behaviour.  While they had some valid points, they overlooked several things.  First, I am new, and don't know all the etiquette of the darting world.  Two, rather than instruct, they chose to criticize.  Third, they chose to take their darting seriously despite being a spare player and holding me to a level of etiquette they did not afford me when I was throwing.  I followed their example.  I guess what was good enough for me, was not good enough for them.

I am not the most confrontational of people, but I am no doormat either.  I can give as good (or better) than I get.  I have lots of weapons in my arsenal, and very little restraint.  Regardless of that, basically this person ruined a good night at the oche.  I left feeling rather upset.  In conversation with other darters, they all said the same thing.  There's always one, or rather, two.  One on your team, and one on the other team.  I guess.

Basically there are some great people out there who will share their love of hobbies with you, but just like real life, there are going to be jerks out there who ruin things for you.  While this particular jerk ruined my night, they won't ruin my season.  I will continue, and if necessary stand my ground against people like that. 

Maybe in future blogs I will talk more about the archetypical jerks you can find in hobbies.  Feel free to add your own stories.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

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.
 


Monday, 17 February 2014

LOZ Tokyo Skytree...Unboxing and Comparing


 
 
I received an interesting gift today.  It was the LOZ "Micro Blocks" version of the Tokyo Skytree.  There are several things I should say.

First off, I have been calling them Micro Blocks, mostly because that is how they are listed on Amazon.  However, nowhere on the box is that written.  I guess I should call them LOZ Blocks.

I liked the way the box opened.  It opened like a book.  This seems quite comfortable and more useful than the standard Nanoblock box.  It isn't a big thing, but we usually appreciate the little things.

Someone is sending me the Nanoblock Tokyo Skytree, and when that happens, I will build it and do a side by side comparison.  Until that day, you just have to make do with my impressions of the kit.  Of course, if you want to see it, please click on the link to my YouTube video below.  I unbox the Skytree and compare some of the blocks.  I should probably do a more in depth comparison, but this should be useful in the meantime.

The kit has some uniquely shaped pieces that I am interested in.  I hope there are extra ones so I can combine them with my stash of leftover Nanoblock pieces.  Yes, they are compatible.  That was one of the first things I checked.  This will definitely be a plus for the creative people out there.  I expect there are already some fantastic creations out there.

 
 
I haven't worked with the pieces yet, but they seem quite similar in style and quality to Nanoblocks.  Once I put this together, I will have a better idea.
 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Advice Overload


 
 
In my last blog I wrote about the dilemma of choosing between an e-tailer and a retailer.  I should let it be known that I purchased my darts from a retail store--a seemingly one person operation.  I bought less expensive darts than I planned as a result of talking to this person.  Yes, that's right, he undersold me.  I have never had that happen before.

One of the interesting things that the salesperson told me was to "beware of all the advice people want to give you." 

I have been thinking of that ever since.  Not because people have inundated me with information and "tips" on how to play better darts.  In fact, most people have been encouraging rather than discouraging.  Nobody has told me what to do.  If I want that kind of advice, I am going to have to ask for it.

However, the warning still holds true, but it needs to be modified.  Yes, I am sure lots of people will want to give me advice, but I also bring it upon myself.  By joining a darts chat room, I am sure I will get exposed to lots of "expert" opinions.  By searching our reviews of product, I will be exposed to lots of "expert" opinions.  I can only blame myself.

In my other hobbies, much the same thing happens.  When I wanted to get into RC cars, lots of people to me what to buy, or at least, what not to buy.  They were sure what wasn't good, but not as clear on what was good.  They had a lot of ideas on how I should spend my money.  Sadly, very few of them agreed, so I was left with lots of information and little direction.

Sometimes these differing opinions are good.  It is good to hear the voices that are debating in your head, actually do it live and in front of you.  It is so much easier to distinguish the truth from the lies, the plausible from the implausible, and the exaggeration from the cynicism.

The dart store owner's advice is good, but doesn't help us fight against our nature.  We do things that don't help us because we overestimate the need for information.  We seek it out, when we should be seeking out experience.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Rethinking the Man Cave


Having watched a lot of shows on the theme of Man Caves and talked to a lot of guys, I guess there are a lot men who want this kind of room.  I think, at some   I have had visions of pool table, hockey tables, pinball machines and a full standing Galaga machines.  Of course, I also need room for the train set. 

level, I too fall into this category.

No doubt, TV has played a lot into this stereotype.  TV shows have glorified the Man Cave and raised it to an art form.  No longer is the big screen TV and a couple of La-Z- Boys enough.  I remember when the pinnacle of a Man Cave was a bar fridge.  Oh how times have changed.  Now, you practically have to hire a designer to get things done.  You need a theme, hidden sound systems, and fully integrated remote controls.  Start budgeting now.

What got me thinking of the Man Cave was my latest obsession.  As anyone who ready my last post knows, I have become hooked on darts.  Darts require a dartboard and some kind of set up, or at least an inconspicuous wall to hang the dartboard on.  It kind of goes with the whole pool table set up.  At least, I think so.  Of course, I may have been conditioned to think so.

Above I mentioned all the things I would like to have in my Man Cave, but the truth is, it is unlikely to ever happen.  I just don't have the space or the extra money to fulfill this dream.  Yes, if I stopped having hobbies and blowing my money on them, I might have the financial wherewithal to fund the Man Cave--but without the interest in hobbies, there really wouldn't be a need for a Man Cave.  There would still be a need for a library full of books, though.