Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Parents, Hobbies and Children

Parent and Child working on model

Many parents like to see their children involved with hobbies, particularly productive hobbies that result in more than a high score on the latest video game. We get lots of parents who bring their kids in to browse, hoping for magic to strike and for the child to walk out of the door with a brand new hobby. We try our best to help, but it doesn't usually go quite that smoothly! Keep the following in mind when shopping for a hobby:

Hobbies are Hereditary

You cannot pick someone else's hobby, but you can infect them with one! The best way to give your child a hobby is to have one yourself. Your child may pick your hobby if they are interested in closer bonding with a parent, or they may pick a different hobby if they are looking for a way to express their own individuality. Either way, your example will tell your child it is OK to have a hobby of their own.

Support Your Child's Hobby

That doesn't mean just giving them hobby money, and it doesn't necessarily require you to actively participate in the actual hobby. But it might mean building shelves to display their finished car models, hanging airplane models from the ceiling with fishing line, listening while they describe an esoteric painting trick, or driving them to an early morning Sunday tournament at the local store.

Hobbies are Not Chores

It's not a hobby if you have to make them do it. "You're going to play Warhammer and like it!" is not really going to help.

Also, let your child continue to choose their hobbies. Helping your child schedule their time to enable the hobby is one thing, being a strict taskmaster about a leisure time activity is something completely different.

Children Do Not Fail At Hobbies

Children almost inevitably go through several hobbies. Don't be discouraged if a hobby doesn't last. It doesn't mean there is something wrong with your kid, and it doesn't mean the hobby is worthless. All it really means is that the hobby wasn't a match for the child's current needs. There are plenty of other hobbies to try. Stay optimistic that the next one will be a lifetime activity.

Hobby Interruptus

Even if your child drops a hobby, it may only be temporary. We often see 30-somethings returning to the hobbies they enjoyed in college or high school, after they have established their careers and family life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Continuing our series on getting started in hobbies, let's look at hobbies that involve building models.

Miniatures Games

Grey Knight trooper
A Grey Knight figure from the
Warhammer 40K miniatures game
Miniatures games are generally two player, with each player commanding an army or fleet attempting to complete a military mission. Games may be set in historical eras like World War II or ancient Greece, or far-flung galaxies in a science fiction universe. The game pieces are all models, which the players assemble and paint. Making your army unique provides an amazing outlet for creativity and imagination in the science fiction and fantasy games, and great opportunities for historical research in more true-to-life campaigns. The Whiz Store carries a wide variety of miniatures games, including:

  • Warhammer 40,000AD (usually called 40K) is a science fiction game set in a galaxy at war. This is the single most popular miniatures game worldwide.
  • Warhammer Fantasy (or just Fantasy) is medieval sword-and-sorcery combat.
  • Warmachine & Hordes are paired steampunk games with giant robots pitted against even larger warbeasts in a magical world.
  • Malifaux is set in a very dark, alternate Victorian earth, where wild west gunslingers face off against Dr. Jekyll, Japanese demons and other villains from in your favorite horror movies.
  • Flames of War is the world’s most popular historical game, depicting the epic European battles of World War II.

Regardless of the game you choose, getting started with any miniatures game is similar:

  • Ask your local hobby store to show you a demo of the game.
  • Browse the boxes of models available for the game. The single best predictor for a player being successful with an army is that they like the way the models look.
  • Check to see if the game has a two player starter set, or a starter box for your army. These are usually good deals, saving you 20% to 70% off the price of the contents.
  • Buy a few models, and the tools you need to assemble and paint them.
  • Get a rules book before acquiring a large number of models, to ensure you are building a legal, playable army.
  • Start attending the play dates at your local store! We play Warhammer 40K on Tuesday evenings, Malifaux and Warhammer Fantasy on Wednesday evenings, Warmachine & Hordes on Thursday evenings, and Flames of War on Sunday afternoons.

Model Rocketry

Model rocket launch
Model rocket launch
Model rocketry allows your budding Goddard  to build and launch actual flying rockets. How cool is that! This is a favorite activity for cub scout packs and summer camps.

  • Begin with a starter kit that gives you rocket(s), launch pad, controller, wadding and a recovery system (parachute or ribbon). Starter kits usually run from $35 to $50. Add a few engines ($10 to $15 for a pack of three).
  • Rockets are available that are ready to fly out of the package, or challenge yourself by building and painting a kit from scratch.
  • Make sure you have plenty of open space for a launch site.
  • Your first shot each session should be with a low powered engine, to estimate how far your rocket will drift downrange. Save the high powered shots for windless days for the best chance to recover the rocket!

Model Building

Finally, you can just build models for the joy of building and painting them .You don't have to make them fly or play games to enjoy models! 

  • Youngsters should begin with a snap-together model that requires no gluing or painting. These are roughly equivalent in difficulty to a simple Lego model.
  • Pick from planes, cars, tanks, airplanes and ships.
  • Modelers often collect particular types or eras, like 1950’s muscle cars, WWII planes or modern tanks.
  • Graduate from snap-together models to glue and paint versions. Skill level 2 are basic models with simple paint jobs. Skill levels 3 and up typically have many pieces, small finicky details, or intricate paint jobs.
  • After mastering plastic models, you may wish to explore balsa models (typically planes) and hardwood (typically ships).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Specific Advice for a Few Hobbies

My last post talked about starting a hobby in general. Here are a few more specific tips for collectible card games:
MTG logo

Magic: The Gathering 

Magic: The Gathering, or MTG or just "Magic", is the first and foremost collectible card game in the world. Players play the game using pre-built decks, and they collect the cards they need by purchasing random packs, by trading with friends, or by purchasing selected cards at game stores. Players take the part of a sorcerer engaged in a magical duel, where playing a card is equivalent to casting a spell. 

To get started with Magic:  

  • Pick up an introductory deck. The current decks for Return to Ravnica are a great deal, with well constructed 60 card decks and two free packs for $15. These decks illustrate how a Magic deck works, and come complete with the rules of the game..
  • Play some games with friends. This is especially good if you play intro decks versus each other.
  • Pick up a few booster packs ($4 each) and reinforce your deck with new cards.
  • Maybe pick up an event deck, approximately $25. These are coherent decks intended to give you a fighting chance in a Friday Night Magic event.
  • Start attending local Magic events! The Whiz Store has Friday Night Magic starting at 6PM, Saturday Commander starting at 8:30PM, Sunday leagues from noon to 4pm, and Modern format tournaments on Sunday afternoons from 4PM until done.

Yu-gi-oh! logo


This is another collectible card game which generally appeals to a slightly younger group than Magic: The Gathering. Yugioh is a Japanese word that means "King of Games". Two players duel with magical creatures and spells, with an emphasis on transforming your creatures into more powerful forms, in keeping with much of Japanese mythology.

Getting started with Yu-gi-oh! is very similar to starting out with Magic: The Gathering. Buy an introductory deck, buy a few packs to build better decks, and attend our Yu-Gi-Oh! games on Saturday evenings from 6PM to 8:15PM.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thinking about Hobbies

What is a Hobby?

“A hobby is a regular activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure,
typically done during one's leisure time.”

Many kinds of activities can be considered hobbies:
  • Sports – skiing, golf, baseball, football, basketball
  • Games – computer games, board games
  • Collecting – stamps, baseball cards, CCGs, figurines
  • Creative or productive hobbies – building models, painting, music, model trains, woodworking, photography, rocketry
  • And almost anything else: gardening, cooking, home decorating, etc
Many hobbies combine several types of activities. These hobbies are often the most satisfying, and can be lifetime endeavors. For example, miniatures gaming involves acquiring models (collecting), building and painting those models (productive), and then using those models in games. Collectible card games involve acquiring cards (collecting), building decks (productive), and then playing a game.

How Do You Get Started With a Hobby?

Step 1: Pick a hobby!

Not every hobby is for everybody. It’s often best to experiment with several hobbies before you settle on one.
  • Do some reading about hobbies that interest you.
  • Many hobby manufacturers have easy, inexpensive beginner’s kits to help you determine if a particular hobby is for you.
  • Many hobbies are best enjoyed as a social activity. Do your friends have hobbies? If so, you may enjoy the same activities.
  • Many hobby clubs exist, and are usually happy to lend expertise and supplies to get a beginner started.
  • Hobby stores will often be happy to demo different hobbies or help with instruction.
Don’t be afraid to have multiple hobbies. Most people do! Personally, I play Magic: The Gathering, have armies for the Flames of War, Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy, Lord of the Rings, Warmachine, and Hordes miniatures games, play lots of board games (particularly railroad games), and play ultimate Frisbee.

Step 2: Determine your budget and schedule

Set aside a little bit of time periodically. It should be fairly frequent to maintain interest and skill levels, so we recommend you do some hobby activity each week. Similarly, determine a dollar amount that you will invest each week. A little bit of time set aside each week for your hobby, using a set amount of investment, will eventually achieve magnificent results.

While almost all hobbies can be enjoyed in small doses without extravagant dollar outlays, many hobbies do require a bit of up front investment for tools, equipment and supplies. Getting started is easier if you can borrow or share tools and equipment with friends.

Step 3: Take the plunge!

Buy something and get started! Don’t forget the tools and supplies you need.

The most important thing when getting started is to keep a positive attitude. You are doing unfamiliar things, and your first attempts at a hobby will generally not give perfect results. Take a look at what you did, and think to yourself about where you can do better. Sometimes you will need better tools and materials, but the vast majority of the time, getting better just requires practice.

Step 4: So practice!

Remember when you set a budget and schedule? Use that time to practice, and the budget to give you more material to practice with!

Step 5: Improve your skills

Most people enjoy getting better at their hobbies. Here are some ways to think about:
  • Check out online forums related to the hobby.
  • Most hobbies have guide books or manuals devoted to techniques and skills.
  • It’s hard reinventing a hobby all by yourself. Ask fellow hobbyists or the friendly staff at your local hobby store for advice to make things easier.
  • Some hobby stores and clubs have hobby nights where you get together to practice your craft. (The Whiz does hobby nights on Mondays from 5-8PM. It’s mostly modelers and painters but anyone is welcome!)
  • Some hobbies have events to show off your work. Entering these events is a great way to find out ways to get better.

Step 6: Have FUN!

Enjoy your new pastime!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rocket Engine Codes

Can you read the codes on a rocket engine? Neither could I until I discovered the following post on a forum somewhere. I’m not sure who the original poster is. Full credit goes to them! I’ve modified it slightly to reflect the products available at The Whiz Store.

How To Interpret Rocket Motor Code

Sport rocket motors approved for sale in the United States are stamped with a three-part code that gives the modeler some basic information about the motor's power and behavior:

  • A letter specifying the total impulse ("C");
  • A number specifying the average thrust ("6");
  • A number specifying the time delay between burnout and recovery ejection ("3").
Total impulse is a measure of the overall total energy contained in a motor, and is measured in Newton-seconds. The letter "C" in our example motor above tells us that there is anywhere from 5.01 to 10.0 N-sec of total impulse available in this motor.

Average thrust is a measure of how slowly or quickly the motor delivers its total energy, and is measured in Newtons. The "6" in our example motor tells us that the energy is delivered at a moderate rate (over about 1.7 seconds). A C4 would deliver weaker thrust over a longer time (about 2.5 seconds), while a C10 would deliver a strong thrust for a shorter time (about a second).

The rocket is traveling very fast at the instant of motor burnout. The time delay allows the rocket to coast to its maximum altitude and slow down before the recovery system (such as a parachute) is activated by the ejection charge.

Total Impulse

At The Whiz Store, you will find engines in power classes from 1/2A to E. Since each letter represents twice the power range of the previous letter, total available power increases rapidly the further you progress through the alphabet. There are higher power engines available, but these require actual licensing before use so we do not handle those.

Average Thrust

As a rule of thumb, the thrust duration of a motor can be approximated by dividing its total impulse by its average thrust. Keep in mind that you cannot assume that the actual total impulse of a motor lies at the top end of its letter's power range -- an engine marked "C" might be engineered to deliver only 5.5 Newton-seconds, not 10.

Time Delay

The time delay is indicated on our sample motor is 3 seconds. Other typical delay choices for C engines are 5 and 7. Longer delays are best for lighter rockets, which will coast upwards for a long time. Heavier rockets usually do better with shorter delays -- otherwise the rocket might fall back down to the ground during the delay time.

Motors marked with a time delay of 0 (e.g., "C6-0") are booster engines. They are not designed to activate recovery systems. They are intended for use as lower-stage engines in multi-stage rockets. They are designed to ignite the next stage engine immediately once their own thrust is finished. Often their labels are printed in a different color to help prevent you from using them in a typical rocket. In a multi-stage rocket, you would usually select a very long delay for your topmost engine.