November 30, 2014

Sennheiser HD 239 Headphones

Wow, I've ignored this blog for so long. I hope a few people are still interested in what I have to say. With that out of the way . . . I acquired another set of headphones (a long time ago, but laziness and lack of time have caused an impressive delay in writing about them). Another set of Sennheiser cans: the HD 239 model.

My process went like this: (1) finally got my "decent" audio (home theater) system set up at home; (2) decided to bring my "decent" office headphones (Sennheiser HD 650) home for proper use with my home rig; (3) took my Sony MDR-ZX700 closed headphones to work; (4) concluded that I really need and prefer open cans at the office (so that I can hear phone calls, people yelling at me, intruders, etc.), but wanted to get something better than the portable Sennheiser PX-100-II headphones, and wanted to get something other than Grados, which I've had before; (5) a fair amount of research and good pricing on Amazon led me to the HD 239.

I like these headphones. There is a single, thin, and somewhat short cable with an eighth-inch plug (no adapter is included). The lightweight cable is nice at the office; no heavy or bulky cord bothering me as I stare at the computer. The headphones look good without being flashy or tacky. They don't look like something that anyone on the train or at school might think are expensive enough to steal. The ear pads are really soft and comfy, although the frame may be a little tight for those with large craniums, especially if worn for extended periods of time. The compact ear pads are small enough so that I can wear my glasses without much additional discomfort.

How do they sound? Better than the Sennheiser PX-100-II, comparable to the Sony MDR-ZX700 (which I prefer when additional isolation is needed), but inferior to the Sennheiser HD 650 (as are many other headphones).

Postscript: I never use headphones with my home system, so my Sennheiser HD 650 cans are back at the office. I use the Sennheiser HD 239 headphones with my portable music players and phone when lounging around the house, and I use the Sennheiser PX 100-II when out and about.

October 12, 2014

Hot/Not Swapping Lamy Nibs?

Ha ha ha very funny. Whoever told me that "hot swapping" Lamy nibs is easy to do . . . is a liar. I just pulled off the ridiculously scratchy and always-clogging EF nib from my Lamy Vista (with a converter full of dark blue-black ink), and exchanged it for an F. The "F" in this case stands for Fail. The adhesive tape trick didn't work so well due to the wet nib. I finally managed to yank the EF nib from the feed, but I almost lost it down the drain. Ink splattered all over the sink and my fingers got a nice dosing of blue-black.

I thought I'd be smart and use a tissue to hold the F nib during installation, but that resulted in a tissue fragment getting caught between the edge of the nib and the feed. So I had to remove the F nib, clean it off, and re-install it. Good times.

October 4, 2014

Nussbaum Pen Co. - "Jon Ross" Fountain Pen

Many fountain pen fanatics are familiar with iSellPens, an online pen vendor. I've had nothing but great service from iSellPens, and highly recommend them. OK, enough with the free plug . . . I only mention iSellPens because you will find the Nussbaum Pen Co. (the house brand) on that site. Many months ago I acquired a Nussbaum pen (the Jon Ross Series, with Blue Rings), but I no longer see it listed on their web site. Perhaps they are discontinued or are in the middle of a restock. Oh well, here is a picture of the pen (pardon the food particles on the counter):

The pen is really handsome, and the fit and finish is outstanding for a pen that cost $45.00 (full online retail price). The black resin is nicely offset by the silver embellishments and the sparkly blue rings. The resin body is pretty solid, and the pen feels heavy to me (it weighs about 26 grams with an ink cartridge installed). The cap can be posted, and the pen feels comfortable in the hand. The "Nussbaum" branding and the blue ring can be seen better in the following picture.

At the time of purchase, this pen was only available with a medium steel nib. More specifically, an "Iridium Point Germany M" nib. The nib doesn't give very much and, if I'm honest, it doesn't write as consistently as I'd like (especially when using impenetrable paper such as Rhodia). By this I mean that the pen skips more often than it should, and sometimes the ink flow seems to be lacking. Perhaps the nib just needs a minor adjustment or a tune up. The bottom line is that I prefer the writing experience of my Sailor Pro Gear (medium), my Pelikan M205 (extra fine), and my Pilot Custom Heritage 91 (fine). But those are very good pens that are considerably more expensive than the Nussbaum Jon Ross.

I found it interesting that the threads for the cap are located at the very end of the body, rather than on the grip section. I guess this makes the grip smoother to avoid fingertip chafing? Or maybe it's designed that way to seal the cap better? Or maybe I simply need to get out more often.

I will end this post with a picture of a small writing sample that I created with the Nussbaum pen, Diamine Emerald ink, and a small Rhodia pad of paper. That is all.

September 16, 2014

Skateboard Acquisition Disorder

Although I recently bought a new skateboard deck, I'm still on the lookout for an ideal new shape to ride. Soon after I published my last post, my local skate shop let me know that they stocked a slightly smaller version of my new deck. That quickly led to the acquisition of my second new deck: the medium version of the Creature Heathen series.

This deck is 8.375 inches wide, 32 inches long, and (importantly) it has a wheelbase of 14.5 inches. That hits the sweet spot for me. To be honest, the actual real world shape and size of this deck is almost identical to the large version that was the subject of my last post. I guess I'll just keep this one as a backup in case the other one breaks.

So . . . I was at the skate shop today killing time and some decks from Welcome Skateboards caught my eye due to their atypical shapes. Most of them were a little too wide for me, but a few looked right on target. I borrowed the shop's tape measure and found one that should do the trick: the Fate Owl graphic on the Wormtail shape.

Some quick online research provided some detailed specs. The board is 8.4 inches wide, 32.5 inches long, and it has the perfect 14.5 inch wheelbase. I really like the "rounded square" nose and tail of this deck, which is a departure from the traditional popsicle stick shape that I usually ride. It looks cool, and I hope it rides well.

The line of Welcome Skateboards is refreshing because they have a lot of different and unusual shapes. I like how the company names the different shapes so that picky anal retentive OCD skaters can easily identify their favorite shape. The graphics are sick, too, and you can find the same (or similar) graphics on different shapes. Thus, Welcome Skateboards are offered as a combo of shape + graphic, e.g., Fate Owl on Wormtail. The shop also had the Wolfgod graphic on the Wormtail shape, but my son wanted me to pick the Fate Owl, and he's the boss. If I'm honest, I prefer the graphic on the top of the deck. I also like the shade of the green stain on the top. Too bad all of it will be covered by grip tape.

Although the pictures don't reveal it, the deck has a nice concave to it. I suspect that the deck began life as a standard rectangular blank that was simply cut into the Wormtail shape. It doesn't really matter as long as the end product works. In this case, the deck was made by a well known and reputable manufacturer that has been around for decades. I have no doubt that this is a high quality deck.

Mark of Approval
With this latest acquisition of wood, I am now riding a relatively new Creature Heathen (Large) deck while foaming at the mouth because I really want to set up my new Welcome deck. Moreover, I am guilt tripping myself because I have a brand new Creature Heathen (Medium) deck waiting in the wings. There are two or three other shapes by Welcome Skateboards that have also piqued my interest. They might be the subject of a future post!

September 2, 2014

Creature Skateboard Deck

It's always great to acquire and set up a new skateboard deck. I'm talking about a deck that will actually be ridden, not some hand-painted work of art. This is actually my THIRD deck I've ridden in the last week, because I'm pretty much a poster boy for OCD when it comes to the dimensions and specifications of my skate decks. Before I get to that, let me share a couple of pictures of this new deck by Creature Skateboards.


The deck is part of Creature's "Heathen" series, and I got the large size (8.5 inches wide, 32.25 inches long). 8.5 inches is usually too wide for me, but this particular deck actually measures in at around 8.25 inches wide, which is my preference. The all-important wheelbase dimension (close to 14.5 inches), however, is nearly perfect for me. The wheelbase of my last deck, which I rode for only a couple of days, was too short and caused numerous issues involving gravity, momentum, inertia, and centripetal force. Now, this deck isn't really ideal, but it's the closest thing that I could find in my local skate shop. Besides, the graphics are sick!

The bright green colorway seems to be a trademark of Creature Skateboards. The deck appears to be dipped in green paint, which covers both the top (see above picture on the left) and the bottom (see above picture on the right). The artwork is by Brandon Holt. The Internet tells me that Mr. Holt is a tattoo artist, and that the skateboard graphics you see here are indicative of his style.

Here is a closeup picture of the "Creature" graphic that appears on the top of the deck. I plan to keep this graphic exposed rather than cover it up with griptape.

And here is a closeup picture of some badass four-legged dragon-winged lizard-tailed buzzard creature perched atop a mountain of human skulls. The dripping saliva/blood is a nice touch that really punctuates the image. Too bad it will be completely obliterated after a few days of skateboarding.

This beauty should keep me occupied for a while. That said, I'm thinking of pushing the envelope beyond my comfort zone and trying a deck that measures a true 8.5 inches wide with a true 15.0 inch wheelbase. Unfortunately (fortunately?) that might require the acquisition of new trucks and wheels, too. Stay tuned.

August 18, 2014

Maratac Flashlight

I've concluded that AAA flashlights are ideal for EDC purposes, which means that said flashlights are on my acquisition wish list. I'm still a big fan of my Olight i3S, and use it regularly. Nevertheless, I've had my eye on the Maratac torch for a while and I finally decided to buy one.

I got this little gem from CountyComm (I believe this is the only online source, but I could be wrong) for the not-quite-affordable price of about $30.00. The flashlight is solid, well-built, and works great, so perhaps the $30.00 price tag is justified. By the way, I got the basic black Rev 3 version of the flashlight, which is the latest and greatest model as of this writing.

The flashlight arrived in a plastic box, which seems to be mislabeled "Maratac Extreme" (the CountyComm website says that the Extreme is discontinued). Whatever. The description on the label is really impressive. Aircraft grade! Type III Military anodizing! Anti-Reflective lens coating! Proprietary circuit design! Reverse polarity protection! All that for the low low price of only $30.00; what a bargain!

Marketing language aside, there is a lot to like about the Maratac AAA. According to the website, the flashlight is only 2.75 inches long, with a diameter of 0.5 inches. It has a twisty UI (which is common in the flashlight world) that steps through three levels as follows: Medium-Low-High. Damn, I would gladly trade the Military grade anti-reflective reverse lens coating for a Low-Medium-High pattern. Note that the Low mode generates a fair amount of light (1.5 lumens) . . . I wouldn't call it a moonlight mode. Medium = 40 lumens, and High = 138 blinding lumens.

Although this flashlight looks all "tactical" in flat black with gnarly knurling, it does not include any of those crazy modes that you often find in tactical lights. No disco strobe light, no emergency beacon pattern, and no S-O-S mode. So, if you plan on getting lost or stranded somewhere, don't take this flashlight.

The Maratac comes with a cool glow in the dark diffuser cap, which works as advertised. I was unable to capture a good shot in the dark, so just imagine that the diffuser in the following picture is illuminated like a deployed lightsaber.

I really like, but don't love, this flashlight. It would be perfect (for my use) if the activation pattern progressed from low to high, and if the low mode was actually a moonlight level. AAA perfection is out there, I just need to find it.

July 28, 2014

Platinum Pro-Use Drafting Pencil

I acquired yet another mechanical drafting pencil. I really had a moment of weakness here. I don't even use pencils that often, and I certainly didn't need a new one. That said, I have no regret or buyer's remorse because the Platinum Pro-Use is super cool. Just look at the thing:

I don't remember how much I paid, but the Internet tells me that this pencil is now going for about 15 dollars. That's a lot for a pencil, but the Pro-Use is very well made and sturdy, and the fit and finish is great. I opted for the 0.5 mm size (0.3 mm and 0.7 mm sizes are also available), which has become my standard lead size. Platinum is nice enough to provide a big fat lead size reminder on the tail cap:

Although Platinum probably has a better reputation for its fountain pens, I'm impressed here. I really like the brushed metal finish of this pencil, and the overall "look, I'm a rocket ship" design aesthetic. The grip is fat and meaty, and it features some groovy channels that wick away your sweat during those aggressive penciling sessions. If I'm honest, I think that the grip section ought to be a little longer (extending further up the body). Other than that, I have no complaints. The pencil is well balanced, not too heavy and not too light, and it has a lead hardness indicator above the grip section. I assume that this is important to people who pencil for a living.

Even though I don't use this writing instrument that much - perhaps only two pieces of lead so far - I still recommend it highly. If you are a fan of mechanical or drafting pencils and/or you collect shiny metal objects, then check out the Platinum Pro-Use.

July 5, 2014

Sencha Fukamushi Super Premium (From Hibiki-An)

I recently acquired some Japanese green tea from the online retailer Hibiki-An. I don't work for them and they do not sponsor me or give me any kickbacks (although I'd be happy to receive money, tea, or some of their ridiculously expensive matcha bowls as a token of appreciation). I believe that Hibiki-An grows, processes, and sells their tea; unlike other online vendors that may simply serve as distributors. Anyway, I got a bag of their Sencha Fukamushi Super Premium. I like this tea.

Fukamushi is a type of sencha that is subjected to longer/deeper steaming during the processing of the tea leaves. This results in smaller pieces of tea in the final product, which in turn results in a sweeter and more "full bodied" taste relative to regular sencha. You can see some of the fine particles of tea dust in the following picture.

The back of the package includes Hibiki-An's preferred brewing recipe. You can customize the flavor of the tea by varying the amount of tea and water, the water temperature, and the brewing time. I don't have a special fukamushi brewing vessel; I use my standard kyusu, which probably isn't ideal because the strainer doesn't catch all of the tea particles during the pour.

I won't try to describe the flavor profile in detail, because the taste can vary from day to day depending on how I brew the tea. Generally speaking, I would say that the tea is balanced with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Not bitter, and not too "grassy" or "veggie" tasting. In view of its relatively high price, however, I'd hesitate to buy this tea again. That said, I would gladly accept a free bag or lifetime supply from Hibiki-An if they decide to sponsor me.

June 21, 2014

Shave Soap & Shaving Cream

I've been doing the traditional wet shaving routine with a double-edged razor for a relatively long time now, and I've kicked the habit of trying to find the best shaving products to use. I admit to buying too many different shave soaps and shaving creams in an attempt to find a holy grail that really doesn't exist (and even if one does, nobody really cares that much; we're talking about shaving your face here, not a cure for cancer).

Traditional shaving cream is WAY better than the gel, foam, and slime that you commonly find in convenient pressurized cans. One of the best shaving creams that I've used is this one from The Real Shaving Co.

This stuff is manufactured by the same company that produces shaving cream for famous and expensive brands such as Truefitt & Hill. In fact, I believe that the basic composition is the same regardless of the brand. The ingredients are listed on the tube:

You'll find a virtually identical ingredient list on high-end branded shaving cream, but you'll pay 3-5 times as much. So, this product from The Real Shaving Co. is super economical, available at some local drug stores (Rite Aid, for example), and a tube lasts forever. Buy a tube if you see one on the shelf next to a can of slime.

Some shave soaps are much better than the aforementioned canned goods. Things can get a little hairy when dealing with shave soap, however, because some are difficult to lather up, some do not perform well, and some smell terrible. I recently acquired a stick of soap (lime scented) from Mike's Natural Soaps, and it falls into the "much better" category.

It looks like deodorant or antiperspirant, but it's shave soap packaged in a form that can be directly applied to the skin before whipping it into a foamy lather with a shaving brush. I found the stick to be a little inconvenient, so I removed the soap and smashed it into a soap dish for use with a brush in a more traditional manner.

Anyway, this guy Mike knows how to make shave soap. The soap is old school because it's made with tallow and lanolin (vegans beware). The soap lathers up quickly and easily, the lather is really slick, and the natural lime scent isn't overpowering or artificial. After using the lime soap for a while, I decided to acquire a tin of Mike's "Orange, Cedarwood, & Black Pepper" shave soap. I think the basic soap formula and quality are the same . . . it just smells different. I like both of Mike's soaps enough to become a repeat customer.

That's about all for now. Two products that work well and improve the shaving experience. Good stuff.

May 26, 2014

New WASD Keyboard

I'm happy to report that I temporarily kicked my keyboard (and keyboard-related accessory) acquisition disorder. Indeed, I hadn't spent a dime on anything associated with keyboards for more than a year. Until . . . one day at work, after gleefully hammering away on my Filco (which is outfitted with "clicky" blue Cherry switches), a co-worker subtly hinted that my keyboard was too noisy. My response of "That's nothing, you should hear how awesome it sounds without the sound-deadening Shore 40A durometer o-rings installed!" fell on deaf ears. This news bummed me out a little, but also got me thinking about a return to the quieter "tactile" brown Cherry switches. Keyboard Acquisition Mode: ON.

If you are interested in the backstory, read THIS, and THIS, and THIS, or search for posts tagged with the "keyboard" label.

I didn't really do much research before deciding to acquire a "blank" keyboard with brown switches from WASD Keyboards. "Blank" in this context means "sold without any keycaps and shipped in a nice understated box".

Blank keyboards are really intended for keyboard geeks who already own a set of replacement keycaps and are not interested in boring unattractive stock keycaps. So, inside the box you will find this:
Brown Switches, Duh
The box also contains everything needed to install the keycaps and get the keyboard up and running. In the following picture you can see a keycap puller, a USB cable, a USB-to-PS adapter, clip thingies and lube for the keycap stabilizers, and instructions.

Swapping out my keycaps was very easy, but really time consuming. The finished keyboard is shown below. I like that the chassis is void of branding and stickers. It's just basic black.

I kept the sound-dampeners on the keycaps that get the majority of day-to-day use, as a peace offering to my acoustically hypersensitive coworker. The brown switches are definitely quieter, and typing on them is buttery smooth. I actually prefer the fingerfeel of the brown switches over the blue switches.

Again, the keyboard has no labeling or branding on it. It does, however, have two pinhole LED indicators for Caps Lock and Scroll Lock. These indicator lights are subtle, which I prefer over larger LEDs that tend to emit a blinding amount of energy.

LED Indicators
The brown stems of the switches can be seen through the clear keycaps. Meh, the brown color is ugly in comparison to the bright color used for the blue switches. Moreover, I still prefer the clicky noise that the blue switches generate. That said, the typing feel and muffled sound of my new keyboard are perfect for my workplace environment. Accordingly, Keyboard Acquisition Mode: OFF.