Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A virtual convention if you can't attend the Nats

The IPMS-USA National Convention is two weeks away, and I'm not going. That makes me a sad panda. It’s the first time in five years that I haven’t been able to attend. The convention has always been a highlight of the year, and I come away from the show with a renewed passion for our hobby. In a perfect world I’d attend the convention and then take the following four weeks off to take advantage of that enthusiasm to completely immerse myself in models. I’ll have to wait until retirement, I suppose.

But just because I can’t attend that Nats doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the weekend. And that goes for you, too. A few years ago I offered several suggestions for those who couldn’t attend the Nats, so I’m going to drink my own Kool Aid this year and take my advice.

Here’s my proposal. If you can’t go, let’s celebrate the hobby by participating in a national, virtual convention!

To begin, let’s be clear of the spirit of the weekend. Since you won’t be at the convention itself, your goal is to spend as much time immersed in the hobby as you can. The convention runs Wednesday to Saturday, so ideally you'd take those four days off and spend a solid four days indulging yourself, but that’s probably not realistic for most of us. Maybe Friday and Saturday is an option. Or only Saturday. No matter, but since the convention schedule runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., you should plan to spend the entire day at our virtual convention.

Now that we’re clear on the goal, here are the specifics.

Prepare for the day by staking claim to the weekend. Take Friday off if you can, either using a vacation day or calling in sick. (Anyone feel a cough coming on?) Let your spouse, significant other, children, non-modeler friends, etc. know that you’re going to spend the day by yourself. You won't be available to mow the lawn, take little Timothy to his soccer game, or fold laundry.

Next decide how you’re going to spend your time. I suggest four ways to make the weekend productive.
  • Spend time with other modelers who aren’t attending the Nats.
  • Visit your LHS and treat yourself to a model or two.
  • Spend the day at the workbench.
  • Watch a favorite movie.
With these ideas in mind, plan your day. For example, if you were going to Columbia you’d probably be browsing the halls of the convention center by 9 a.m., so wake up early, have breakfast, and be at your workbench or headed to the LHS by 10 a.m. Or maybe watch a few episodes of Band of Brothers before painting your Dragon Sherman.

If you’re fortunate to have friends in the area, meet up with them for lunch. If you don’t have anyone nearby, pick up the phone and call a friend. This is a solitary hobby, but when I connect with friends — whether at a convention or one-on-one — it increases my enthusiasm for the hobby.

If you have lunch with friends, hit the LHS with them afterward. Take that $100 you would’ve spent for gas driving to South Carolina and spend it on a new release or two. Yes, I know you can buy those kits cheaper online, but support your LHS since you can't be at the “largest hobby shop in the world."

At the end of the day, if you didn’t see them for lunch, have dinner with your modeling friends. Or take your family to dinner to thank them for the time they’ve given you to attend the virtual convention!

So there you have it. You can enjoy the weekend even if you can’t attend the Nats. I hope you give these ideas a try. Send me your stories and photos, and I’ll post as many as I can in a follow-up article. I'm excited to see how you enjoy the weekend!

This effort is by no means offered as an alternative to actually attending the Nats. There are many compelling reasons to attend in person, as well as to enter the contest. This virtual convention is intended only for those of you who cannot attend the convention itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Your first flight

Do you remember your first flight in a small aircraft?

My first time was through an orientation flight as a Civil Air Patrol cadet in the early 1980s. It was amazing, and I knew immediately that I wanted to learn about aircraft and flying. I eventually took flying lessons later in high school thanks to a modest CAP scholarship, and soloed after 13 hours of flying time, one of the top five moments of my life to be sure. Sadly, my lessons stopped soon after that when I found that my $3.60/hour job bagging groceries would be insufficient for the expense of the more time-consuming training and flying that was to follow. I never became an Air Force pilot either, for reasons too complicated to explain right now, but I always take advantage of every opportunity I can to fly, even if it's in the aisle seat of an Airbus A320.

You probably remember your first flight as well, which is why I enjoyed this video so much. The kid's smile is priceless as the plane leaves the ground at the 2:11 point. You can see the magic of the moment, and you know he’ll never forget his first flight either.

By the way, in case you aren't aware of his videos, Mr. Aviation 101 is Josh Flowers, a 20 year-old commercial pilot, flight instructor, and YouTube sensation. He’s an excellent pilot with a rare ability to clearly explain what he’s doing in the cockpit. He's uploaded dozens of videos, each providing an in-depth look into flying that we non-pilots don’t often see. I think you’ll enjoy them. Yet another fun way to waste time away from the workbench!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The challenge of selling low-priced kits

I’ve been reducing the size of my stash over the last few years, four or five models at a time, using the many venues available to us modelers — eBay, discussion forums, and Facebook groups dedicated to selling and trading kits. I'm here to tell you that it ain’t easy.

Many of the models I’m selling aren’t worth much. I recently wrote about how to price pre-owned models, and I assure you I drink my own Kool-Aid. I price my models at what I believe to be a bargain price, and yet I don’t always get buyers.

For example, I recently offered an ICM 1/72 MiG-29 (with a mostly complete Repli-scale decal sheet) and a DML 1/72 Su-24 (with photoetch) in a Facebook group for $7 and $15 respectively. I think those were fair prices, yet no one expressed any interest. To be fair, you could say that both kits are “obsolete,” what with the new Trumpeter kits that have just hit the store shelves for these aircraft, but I know from experience that there is a market for low-priced models. Maybe that Facebook group isn't the place for them.

Or maybe it's the cost of postage. I would've sold the MiG-29 for just $5, but when you add another $6-8 for postage it doesn’t look like much of a bargain anymore.

These kits eventually went onto eBay with starting bids of 99 cents. Both models sold, but at less than my Facebook prices. I really don't mind, because  a dollar in my pocket is of more use to me than a kit in a box that will never be built. Had the kits not sold on eBay, there would likely have come a point where I’ll be happy to take the models to a contest, set the box in a corner with a FREE sign on it, and walk away.