December 28, 2012

Nomadic PE-06 Pencil Case

 I've been buying a lot of writing instruments and related accessories recently. I've kept some of the items, but have given many pens and pencils to my kids for use at school and around the house. My daughter's pen collection is larger than mine now, and my son's is growing, too. My daughter already has two pencil cases, so I felt obligated to acquire one for my son. We browsed the JetPens website for awhile (a long while, actually) and decided to get the Nomadic PE-06 case for him. Check it out; it's like a sleeping bag for pens. Read on for more details . . .

Let me begin with my conclusion: the PE-06 case is perfect for a small number of pens and pencils. I'm jealous of my son's acquisition.

So this thing is a clam shell design, and it appears to be made of nylon. A cool feature (shown in the first picture above) is the zippered pocket on the front of the case, which gives quick access to frequently-used items. The end of this front pocket has a mesh "window" so that you can see which pens/pencils are tucked away there - pretty cool design feature. Open the PE-06 to reveal the two halves of the main compartment:

I'm not feeling the bright orange color of the interior, but I can appreciate the "stylistic philosophy" driving the use of contrasting colors. The inside has a variety of slots and pockets of different shapes and sizes. The Japanese are so thoughtful: the PE-06 comes with detailed instructions and a diagram that shows where you can put things:

There really is a lot of room in the main compartment, enough to store more pens than I would ever need to carry around. It's nearly perfect for my son's use as a school case that usually stays at his desk (but occasionally comes home with him). I think it would be nice to have a pocket or some slots lined with soft material, but that's getting nit picky. My son likes it, so it was a successful acquisition. Here's one more picture that shows the PE-06 in all of its pen-stuffed glory:

December 22, 2012

Denim Jeans: Rant Mode = ON

I'm currently in a state of Japanese denim analysis paralysis. More specifically, I am looking to purchase a new pair of blue jeans because I'm somewhat over my Roy RN04 jeans (relevant post is here). I still love the workmanship, attention to detail, and overall coolness of the Roy jeans, but have concluded with 94% certainty that the "narrow" fit is not for me. Indeed, I've determined that the inventor of skinny jeans (for men) should be imprisoned. For life. Moreover, the inventor of low rise jeans (for men) should face a firing squad. Although the RN04 jeans are not overly "skinny" or extremely "low rise" per se, they can be uncomfortable and <ahem> constricting at times.

My rant continues after the jump: [Edit: jumps are silly; removed it]

Thus, I have a love/hate relationship with my Roy jeans. I am running out of patience and don't know if I'll to continue to wear them, especially when I know that there are many other options available these days. It's a shame because they are finally beginning to show some character and fading (caused by office chair abrasion, walking to the mailbox every other day, and daily car driving activity). If anyone wants to buy a used pair of RN04 jeans (tagged size 31), let me know.

Getting back to the analysis paralysis . . . I talked myself into believing that I really need a pair of Momotaro jeans (made in Japan by a Japanese company). They come in different models, fit profiles, and denim types, so it was somewhat easy to find a good candidate. I'm talking about the Momotaro 1005SP "Going to Battle" model. These are supposed to be a somewhat straight leg cut with a medium rise, so they ought to fit me better than the Roy jeans. So, step two in the acquisition process is to find a seller that has my size in stock. This is where the WTFs and LOLs come into play.

First, the 1005SP jeans are sanforized one-wash jeans. "Sanforized" supposedly means that the denim has been treated by the process patented by Sanford Cluett (not kidding), such that the denim will not shrink in the wash. "One-wash" means that the jeans or the denim fabric has already been washed, soaked, or rinsed. Momotaro takes this one-wash concept into the realm of ridiculousness by claiming that the 1005SP jeans have been rinsed in the ocean water off the shore of Okayama, Japan (there must be a market for salty, fishy smelling pants). Theoretically, sanforized one-wash jeans should be easier to purchase because one need not worry about any shrink-to-fit adjustments. This theory led to the following extended conversation with myself:

"This is great. I'll just find a size 31 online somewhere and make an impulse purchase."

"Hmm. I can't find any U.S. based sellers. No worries, I'll just find buy them direct from Japan. See, there are several online vendors based in Japan, and they all have size 31 in stock. They even have exact measurements published so that I can be sure of the sizing."

"Wait a minute, Vendor 1 says that size 31 actually measures 33.5 inches in the waist, Vendor 2 says that size 31 measures 31 inches in the waist, and Vendor 3 says that size 31 measures 84 centimeters in the waist (damn Metric system). Another seller notes that the waist may stretch up to one inch after wearing the jeans for awhile. Yet another vendor states that the jeans may shrink a little bit in the washer/dryer because the ocean water in Okayama is really chilly and, therefore, the one-wash treatment doesn't really get all of the shrinkage out of the jeans."

At this point, I'm almost certain that I'll just have to pick a size 30, 31, or 32, and roll the dice with the knowledge that I may have to return the jeans all the way back to the Japan. Meh, what a hassle. I probably should just pick up the size 31 as originally planned. Or should I? Maybe I should just scrap the whole idea and buy another fountain pen or another knife instead.

I will end this post with some awesome machine translations that I found while browsing the Rakuten website. I found several online sellers of the 1005SP jeans on Rakuten, and they all have very elegant and thoughtful descriptions of the jeans. I'm ready to hit the "BUY" button based on these translated product descriptions alone:

"The innocence of the core can enjoy the intense hit of the drop of the light and shade even if I say because I keep it."

"Watch pocket with the pink ear; Button fried food; Sheep leather foil push patch."

"Arranged Japan Line reflecting the image of a flag flag when Momotaro went to the front of ogre extermination for a right background pocket; taking the field buttocks."

"Thus, I can taste an omission brought on long."

You know, on second thought, I think I'll just keep my Roy RN04 jeans for awhile. All of this is just too silly.

December 15, 2012

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto 3-Color Pen

My current interest in writing instruments began when I decided to "upgrade" my daily use office pens, as explained in this early post. I feel that I'm near the end of the line here, and have settled on a couple of items for the time being. Item number one is a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipen. I wrote about the 2-Color version in this post, and I really couldn't resist the 3-Color version. This sucker is much more convenient to use than three separate standard Hi-Tec-C pens, and it's great to be able to switch between three colors (blue-black, red, and green at the moment) in an instant. Moreover, I'm beginning to believe that retractable pens are the way to go, at least for use at the office. I'm super anal retentive, and keeping track of caps becomes a chore, especially when the caps are color-coded and size-coded like the Hi-Tec-C caps. So, even though I dig the standard Hi-Tec-C pens, I'm retiring them in favor of the Coleto multipen.

I compare the 3-Color Coleto to the 2-Color Coleto after the jump. [Edit: jumps are silly; removed it]

Other than having an extra slot for a third refill, the 3-Color Coleto is virtually identical to the 2-Color version. The 2-Color version weighs in at 8.4 grams, while the 3-Color weighs 10.5 grams. The 3-Color body has a rubbery grip section, but the rubber material is not formed completely around the circumference of the body . . . instead, there are strips of the grip material around the body. Strange design choice, although it doesn't really bother me.

The 2-Color pen body is a little thinner than the 3-Color body (note that the 3-Color body is still easy to grip and comfortable to use; it is not too bulky or fat). I don't own any calipers, and don't know the critical dimension (i.e., pen body diameter at the grip section) of either version of the Coleto. Sorry. What I do have is a couple of side-by-side pictures of the two versions. The size difference is noticeable in the pictures.

3-Color (Left); 2-Color (Right)

2-Color (Left); 3-Color (Right)
Refilling and operating the 3-Color Coleto is a breeze. I did find one minor thing to complain about: one of the refills is located directly under the flip cap tab, which makes it a little difficult to snap open the lid. I mean, you actually have to expend a little bit of energy and move the refill out of the way before flicking the cap open. What an inconvenience! What a defect! OK, two things to complain about: the refills run dry quickly, and they are expensive for what little ink volume they hold. So you pay for the convenience of the multipen awesomeness.

By the way, I'm pretty sure that the Coleto gel pen refills are available in 15 different colors and in three different sizes (0.3 mm, 0.4 mm, and 0.5 mm). There are also mechanical pencil refills, an eraser refill, and a stylus refill. This impressive assortment of refills opens up a huge universe of potential combos. Moreover, the Coleto line includes several different styles of pen bodies, including 2, 3, 4, and 5 color versions. I might try a 4-Color version, but am concerned about the girth of the grip section. 

PS - Kids love these multipens, too! Look at the green and red Christmas colors in the above picture. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

December 9, 2012

Sansa Clip+ Digital Audio Player

I just picked up another Digital Audio Player (DAP): the Sansa Clip+ by Sandisk. I like to use the term "DAP" for a couple of reasons. First, all of my digital music is in the FLAC format, so technically my devices are not "MP3" players. Second, I don't like to use the word "iPod" generically when referring to a digital music device (unless, of course, the device happens to be an iPod branded device by Apple). Getting back to the Clip+, I can't give it enough praise. In fact, this is my second Sansa Clip; I also have a first generation Clip (without the "+") that still works perfectly. So why buy another one?

Well, the first generation Clip only has 4 GB of memory, whereas the Clip+ has an expansion slot for a micro flash memory card. The Clip+ also has 4 GB of internal memory, but I added a 32 GB card for a total of 36 GB, which is more than enough for my needs. The Clip+ also comes in an 8 GB version, but the additional cost didn't make sense to me when those micro cards are so cheap (the 32 GB card was about $20.00). I still can't believe that twenty bucks can buy 32 GB of storage . . . this is simply amazing.

36 Gigabytes of Music!
I realize that iPhones and Android phones are making stand-alone DAPs unnecessary and on the verge of extinction. I get it. However, simple and compact DAPs are still very useful in certain situations. This little gem is very well known for its audiophile quality sound, decent output power, great battery life, and outstanding feature set (e.g., native support of FLAC, WMA, and Ogg Vorbis formats, ReplayGain support, a voice recorder, and FM radio). If you say "dude, it doesn't show cover art" or "I want a touch screen UI" then just move right along and go iPad yourself. I use the Clip+ to LISTEN TO MUSIC, and the tactile buttons are great for executing basic controls without having to look at the screen. In fact, I intentionally got the Clip+ (an old model) rather than the newer Clip Zip model, which has a tiny color display that accommodates cover art. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate color displays or touch screens. I realize that touch screen DAPs and phones have their place and are a treat to use and stare at from time to time (indeed, I have a Cowon J3, which is a DAP with a touch screen; see below).

The Sansa Clip+ is my newest DAP and it will get a lot of use, especially when I'm exercising or traveling. I guess my first generation Clip will be moved to the bench for the time being, along with some of my older DAPs and iPods. Speaking of which, the following picture shows all of the DAPs and iPods in my house:

The devices are arranged in chronological order of acquisition, beginning at the top left. Regretfully, I did not keep my first two DAPs: a Sony MiniDisc player (circa 1998); and the first generation iPod Mini (early 2004). Yes, I consider the MiniDisc player to be a DAP because the music was stored in digital form. Anyway, at the top left is my first generation iPod Shuffle (2005). That sucker is still in pristine shape, and I even have the stupid necklace lanyard thing (never used). Some folks still insist that the first generation Shuffle sounds better than ANY other iPod model. Next is my third generation iPod Nano (2007). I'd still be using this if Apple would pull its head out and support the FLAC format. Perhaps I could Rockbox my Nano (Rockbox is replacement firmware that is universally considered to be a huge upgrade to OEM firmware), but meh whatever.

I'll never buy another iPod device unless it supports FLAC (as an aside, if you are interested in non-iPod music players, then you ought to check out Anything But iPod. I did). Indeed, FLAC support is one of the reasons why I bought the first generation Sansa Clip (2008) and its big brother, the Sansa Fuze (2009). These two appear at the top right of the picture. The Fuze has all of the benefits of the Clip, along with a nice color screen and a memory expansion slot. My Cowon J3 is in the bottom left position (I got this in 2010). The J3 has an awesome color touch screen, audiophile sound quality, a memory expansion slot, and many other cool features. I really should watch videos on the J3 to take advantage of its screen, but I only play music and an occasional flash game on it. Next to the J3 is a fourth generation iPod Touch (2012). In a moment of weakness I allowed another Apple device into my house. It is not mine, I don't listen to music on it, and in my opinion it's only good for playing Angry Birds and Doodle Jump. Lastly, we have my new Sansa Clip+, as described above.

Getting back to the Clip+, all of the positive reviews you read online are true. There is no better DAP for the money, from both a feature set and sound quality perspective. If you need something inexpensive for the gym, for biking, running, skateboarding, or hiking, you really should get one. If you want audiophile sound and features, then install the Rockbox firmware, get some decent replacement headphones or IEMs (see this post), load up the Clip+ with some lossless FLAC files, and enjoy the music.

December 3, 2012

Uni-Ball E-Knock Eraser

This is a post about a pencil eraser.

I wrote that first sentence to allow disinterested readers to hit another URL immediately. I mean, does anyone really want to spend more than two seconds reading about an eraser? I hope so, because I'll probably spend two seconds times 1000 preparing this post.

For anyone who is still reading . . . I recently acquired a Uni-Ball E-Knock eraser, and I'm quite pleased with my purchase. The E-Knock is basically a 5 mm diameter retractable eraser stick housed in a plastic body. It is shaped and sized to resemble a retractable pen, the body is clear, it has a nerd clip, and it has little indentations that are designed to enhance your grip during extreme erasing activity that might result in sweaty fingers. The overall design is very slick, and the build quality is impressive for something that costs less than two bucks. Not only is this thing super cheap, but eraser refills are available (the environment says "thank you"). The E-Knock is available in different colors (clear, blue, pink, and black), and I got the black version because it looks really menacing when I'm attacking renegade pencil marks.

But how does it work? Well, I don't have a performance scale or an evaluation tool for erasing technology, but I can say with some confidence that it can erase a pencil mark effectively and efficiently. The end result is about the same as the only eraser I've used for most of my life: the Staedtler Mars Plastic. However, compared to the Mars Plastic, the E-Knock leaves more post-erasing dust and plastic remnants on the paper. I can live with extra eraser fragments because the 5 mm tip of the E-Knock is much better for precise and accurate erasing.

The actuation mechanism works well, with good tactile feedback and a satisfying "click" when advancing the eraser stick. I dig the see-through body, which makes it easy to determine when a refill is needed. Although I don't intend to attach this eraser to anything, the pocket clip seems rugged enough for those who feel the urge to nerd out and actually use it.

By the way, although sold as a Uni-Ball product, the E-Knock eraser says "Mitsubishi" on it (along with the standard Mitsubishi logo). Now there's some useless trivia for you.

To summarize: the Uni-Ball E-Knock eraser is inexpensive, well-built, and refillable, it removes erroneous pencil marks as intended. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

November 27, 2012

My Two Cents on the Gerber Dime

I've wanted a Leatherman multitool thingy for many years, but never pulled the trigger on one because my desire to own one had been driven primarily by the "cool factor" more than the "hey, I could really use a multitool on a daily basis" factor. That said, I've recently changed my attitude about multitools and I convinced myself to buy one for the "just in case you need pliers or a screwdriver in an emergency" factor. That fresh outlook ultimately led me to the Gerber Dime keychain sized multitool.

Once I convinced myself that a multitool must be acquired, I did some research and price comparisons. I was browsing the offerings on the Leatherman website and got a little overwhelmed with all of the different models. So I did what I always do: checked out some online multitool reviews. I went straight to the reviews posted on the awesome Everyday Commentary blog, focused on the highest rated products, and was impressed with this stellar review of the Gerber Dime. Once I saw the 20/20 score, I was sold.

I purchased the Dime from the evil empire known as Amazon (free shipping with my Prime status) for less than $17.00 . . . "not bad" I thought. When I received it a few days later, I was surprised at its tiny size. The Dime truly is an EDC keychain-carry item. I was also surprised that the product looked like a pre-owned item. For example, the printed lettering on the scales was scuffed up and shoddy looking out of the box. Not really a deal breaker, but also not a great first impression.

Of course, I immediately started to fiddle with the Dime in an attempt to discover all of its useful features. Scissors: check (easy to deploy, well made, cuts paper). Knife: check (easy to deploy, sharp enough, interesting blade shape). Flat screwdriver: damn, that thing is jammed in there, let me try again; damn, I just chipped off my thumbnail, let me try again; WTF this thing sucks, does anyone have a Leatherman that I can use to open this screwdriver? Package opener tool: ditto (now there are two shards of thumbnail on the table next to the Dime). File: check (somewhat easy to deploy, and it came in handy to tune up my jagged and severed thumbnail).

I Used This! Twice!
The Dime also has something that is advertised as tweezers. Unfortunately, the tweezers are not very useful because they are biased in the closed position. Fortunately, I was able to use the end of the file as a pry bar to tweak and bend the tweezers open. After performing this tweezers mod, I used them to pick up and discard my thumbnail shards. Alas, the mod was only temporary; the tweezers returned to the closed position after I slid them back into their retaining slot. The tweezers in my little Swiss Army Knife are much better, and they work as intended without modification.

The pliers are well-designed, easy to deploy and fold, and have a nice spring action to them. I can't really complain about the pliers, and I'm tempted to keep the Dime simply for this nice feature. Tempted, but not convinced.

The Dime also has an exposed bottle opener and a split ring for a keychain. I didn't use either of them, but I assume that they work fine. Here's a picture of the Dime in all of its glory:

I honestly think that I may have gotten a unit that was made on a Monday or a Friday, because I refuse to believe that every Dime has tools that are virtually impossible to deploy and/or use properly. It's a shame, because this multitool has an impressive set of features, it looks great, and it seems to be solidly built (other than the tweezers).

These pictures will be saved, but the Dime is going back to Amazon. First impressions go a long way with me, and the Dime just doesn't make the cut. I still want to get a multitool to keep in my car, so it looks like I'll be navigating the Leatherman website again real soon.

November 21, 2012

Blue Ink Pens: A Quick Writing Comparison

By now it should be apparent that I've been buying and sampling a variety of pens for daily use at the office. I like to use blue colored pens at the office, so most of the pens that remain in my collection are inked in various shades of blue. I've intentionally stayed away from ballpoint and rollerball pens, and what I have today is a group of gel ink pens and a few fountain pens. I thought it would be interesting to see writing samples of these pens on one sheet of paper. In hindsight, it's not very interesting at all. In fact, it's rather boring and silly. That said, I feel obligated to upload the scanned sheet of paper, otherwise the previous 100+ words will be completely meaningless. So crack open a beer, click on the picture, and prepare to be totally underwhelmed:

The Blues

November 16, 2012

And Yet Another Keyboard Facelift

A Picture Is Worth Two Words
I recently scored an awesome, stealthy, and gloomy looking set of key caps for my mechanical keyboard. I'm pretty much over the "white key caps on black keyboard" look, primarily because white key caps tend to become brown gunky dirty key caps in just a few days regardless of the cleanliness of the user. Accordingly, I decided to replace my white ninja key caps with a set of dark gray key caps that should do a much better job at hiding the finger gunk that collects over time.

These new key caps are made of polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), which is a preferred material in many keyboard geek circles. PBT key caps are durable, tough, provide a nice finger feel, and can be dye sublimated to create permanent legends that never wear off. The color and white balance are a little off in the pictures; the key caps are actually dark gray with black legends, and they look stellar on my black Filco keyboard. I really like the subtle and sophisticated look of my keyboard with these key caps. Plus, the new colorway of my keyboard matches the color scheme of this blog (at least as of the date of this post).

I really need to stop buying sets of key caps. I now have four complete sets, but I have only one compatible mechanical keyboard. Hmm, maybe I should acquire three more keyboards? It would be a shame to let those extra sets of key caps go to waste.

November 10, 2012

Pelikan M205 Fountain Pen (Part 2)

This is a follow up to my initial post about my recently acquired Pelikan fountain pen. In the previous post I mentioned that the M205 is a piston fill pen, and I admitted that the ink filling routine was pleasant and fun, which really tells me that I need to get out more often. What about the ink itself? For my first ever "fill a pen with ink from a bottle" experience, I used Sailor Jentle Ink (Sky High color). It comes in a cool little glass bottle:

I would say that Sky High is a bright blue color. Brighter and lighter than what I would call a "standard" blue. The next picture shows a more accurate representation of the actual color.

Still interested? Read on after the jump. [Edit: jumps are silly; removed it]

The bottle contains some brilliant Japanese technology, too. You might say "ink is ink, there is no technology in ink." That's a fair statement. However, Sailor's bottle includes a well-designed apparatus that improves the ink filling process. Thankfully, Sailor provides instructions on how to use this inventive and complex bottle of ink:

I don't read Japanese, but the diagrams seem easy enough to understand: (1) turn bottle clockwise; (2) shake bottle; (3) look at bottle; (4) fill pen. This doesn't make any sense, but a quick online translation of Sailor's website is extremely helpful: "We have been well received and installed a reservoir to gentle for fountain pen ink bottle. Buildup of ink, reservoir by tighten the cap, undo the bottle upside down, we inhale it. Conventional but it may be difficult to suction the ink in the bottle will be a small amount, by attaching a reservoir, it is possible to inhalation no waste the ink in the bottle can be underneath." Thank you, Sailor, you've been helpful.

I did a writing sample the day after I got this pen, which was about a month ago. Since that time, I've concluded that the paper in my Moleskine notebook sucks for the extra fine nib on the Pelikan M205. The pen and ink work much better on other types of paper. I've also tried a couple of other ink samples in the M205 thus far (Diamine Oxblood color and Pelikan Edelstein Onyx color), and have had no problems or issues with cleaning the ink reservoir, refilling, ink flow, etc. This pen is a keeper (at least until Christmas), and I'm eager to twist, flip, and inhale the Sailor bottle when the ink gets underneath. LOL.

Here is the writing sample that I created using the M205 inked with the Sailor Jentle Sky High ink:

November 4, 2012

Pelikan M205 Fountain Pen (Part 1)

The title says it all. I broke down and bought a "next step above entry level" fountain pen. I was going to use  "impulsively" as an adverb to modify "bought," but nothing could be further from the truth in this case. Seriously, I must have spent 40+ hours looking at different pens, reading online reviews, adding and subtracting pens from various online vendor shopping carts, talking myself out of it, back into it, and out of it again, etc. I guess you could say that FPAD (fountain pen acquisition disorder) has settled in quite nicely here.

The first picture shows how the Pelikan M205 Blue Demonstrator eye candy is initially revealed to its lucky owner. The presentation is not too shabby (although I'm not really a packaging geek, so meh whatever). The hard shell case and silky taupe colored bed resemble a coffin, with the pen lying in state.

On to the details. This pen has an extra fine nib and it fills via an internal piston mechanism, which is visible through the translucent blue body. As far as I know, this blue demonstrator version is identical in form and function to every other Pelikan M205 pen, regardless of color. Dimensions, specifications, and a number of very good reviews of this pen are available elsewhere on the Internet. In fact, I read this review and this other review before making my purchase, and I thank those writers for their helpful insights.

My quick review and two cents: the pen is smallish and lightweight, but still feels like a high quality instrument; the nib is noticeably broader, wetter, and smoother than the extra fine nib on my Lamy Vista; the nib is more flexible (springy) than the nib on the Vista; the piston filling mechanism is very cool; and I love the design and look of the pen. I'm a sucker for see-through things, and I generally like all things blue, so I really couldn't resist this one.

So . . . here's a picture of the uncapped pen before I filled it with ink:

The end of the piston plunger is clearly visible inside of the body of the pen. Next up is a picture that shows the mama pelican and the baby pelican on the end of the cap. My daughter said "aww, that's so cute" when I showed this to her:

I believe that the clip is designed to emulate a pelican's beak. I've never paid any attention to water fowl rhamphotheca, but it sure does look beakish to me:

I like how you can see the nib and other innards even when the pen is capped. It really does look cool, and I can't believe that I'm actually writing sentences about how nice a pen looks. Yeah, so after staring at the pen and soaking in all of its awesomeness for a few hours, I decided to actually use it! This being my first non-cartridge fountain pen, I must say that I was geeking out a bit about the piston filling experience. Indeed, actuating the piston mechanism and watching the blue ink (of course I used blue) rise into the ink reservoir was something to behold. Well, not nearly as cool as the entry, descent, and landing of the Curiosity earlier this year, but still pretty cool. Here is a picture of the pen all inked up and ready to write:

If you look closely at the nib, you'll see yet another pelican. And the word "Pelikan." The designers at Pelikan are not shy about branding and trademarking.

As I mentioned above, the Pelikan M205 is a very smooth writer even though it has an extra fine nib. This particular extra fine nib is actually broader than what I expected; I prefer the line width of my Lamy Vista extra fine. If Pelikan made an XXF nib, then I think this would be nearly perfect for me. I'll make a follow up post soon, with a writing sample and some comments about the ink I used. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying the writing and piston actuation experiences.

October 30, 2012


This may be hard to believe, but I hate shopping in brick and mortar stores. I especially hate driving and walking around in search of something specific, only to return home empty handed. Window shopping? I hate the concept. On the other hand, I'm more than happy to make online purchases after I've determined exactly what I want, exactly where to go (have I mentioned that Amazon Prime is the Devil?), and exactly how much I'm willing to spend. In fact, most of the items showcased in this blog were purchased online. One exception is shown in the picture. Socks. More specifically: New Balance Enhanced Dry Low Cut socks in medium size. My pathetic, ridiculous, and disturbing story continues after the jump. [Edit: jumps are silly; removed it]

I should explain a couple of things. First, my feet like to be comfortable. They don't like thin, cheap, and generic socks. They don't like socks that have a huge protruding seam that interferes with the digits, and they don't like ill-fitting socks that tend to clump, bunch, and fold near the digits. Second, I've always favored crew length socks for some reason. Maybe because I wear pants to work, or because I'm punk rock and don't give a damn, or because I'm getting old, or because I'm clueless. Whatever: I like comfortable crew socks that fit. Sue me.

Although I admit to a certain level of cluelessness, I'm aware enough to realize that long socks + shorts at the gym = kook. I don't want to look like a 73 year old Galvinized Motorolan at the company exercise facility. Instead, I want to wear venue-appropriate footwear when I'm at the gym and when I'm wearing shorts. Fair enough, let's go buy some socks at the mall. A simple task.

Some time ago I picked up some "quarter length" New Balance socks at the local sporting goods store, and my feet were happy. Naturally, I went back to the same store with a focused and targeted plan of attack: (1) go to the store; (2) head directly to the sock department; (3) find the same socks; and (4) buy them. I even wore a pair of the old quarter length socks to help me with item (3). A simple task, right? Not really. I couldn't find the same socks, and, trust me, I conducted an extensive search for them. No big deal, I found a suitable equivalent (New Balance "No-Show" socks) and picked up eight pairs. I returned home, tried them on, "decided" that I liked them, and then MARKED THEM with a thick black permanent ink pen (this is a necessity in my household). That was a mistake.

Day One with the no-show socks was a little stressful, perhaps because I wore jeans before going to the gym, and my tender ankles were exposed to the chafing denim. That was definitely a contributing factor. The primary reason, however, was the automatic retraction feature of the socks. They kept sliding down my heel to the point where I said "those socks need to be pulled up a bit." With crew length socks this is a non-issue - just yank the ends of the socks up to your knees and you are golden. With no-show socks? Not a simple task. In fact, I had to remove my shoes to gain access to my trendy no-show socks. What a hassle.

Day One ended with the realization that returning the PERMANENTLY MARKED yet sill brand new socks was out of the question. A setback for sure. No big deal, I merely had to continue my quest for socks (soquest?) the following weekend. Back to the store, where I found some low-length socks by New Balance. This time I only got a few pairs because I wasn't completely sold on them. Long story short, I liked them and they didn't slip off of my feet, so I returned to the store the following weekend to pick up additional pairs. Sold out. At this point I was ready to buy any generic, ill-fitting, product with protruding seams just to complete the task, but I forged ahead. I finally settled on a few pairs of the socks you see in the picture. These are pretty good, too; I'll keep them. That said, I still haven't marked them up yet.

All this for socks. Socks?

October 24, 2012

Click Clack Skull

I'm happy to report that I recently acquired a limited edition Click Clack skull key cap for my mechanical keyboard. Yay! This is a big deal . . . just ask any keyboard enthusiast. You see, for reasons that I don't completely understand, Click Clacks are very highly sought after, collected, and traded among the seedy underground deviant population of mechanical keyboard geeks. I love the little skull key caps as much as the next guy, but some people are downright obsessed with them. Anyhow, this particular Click Clack skull is a deep orange color, and it's a good match for the Halloween season. I think I'll use it as my ESC key for the rest of this month. Trick or treat!

October 19, 2012

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens

My kid understands that I have a bad habit of acquiring stuff. He hoards Pokémon cards, and I hoard everything else . . . fair enough. He's been tracking my online interest in writing instruments, I've given him a few pens that I no longer use or like, and he really likes my Lamy Vista fountain pen. So I wasn't too surprised when he asked me to buy him a fountain pen. I couldn't say no to such a reasonable request, but I wanted to get him something super foolproof, cheap, and relatively child-proof. Enter the Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen!

These pens can be purchased online for about three bucks each, and I found a 7-pack of assorted colors for only $15.00. I thought it would be an inexpensive way to sample the different ink colors available from Pilot while satisfying my son's request.

I've seen a few articles and posts related to the Pilot Varsity pen, and the pen tends to get generally favorable reviews. I am an absolute fountain pen rookie, and am wholly unqualified to critique these pens in any meaningful way. Instead, I'll show a few pictures and point out some of their features. For example, the snap-on caps are color coded:

Each pen is outfitted with a medium size nib (unless the "M" marking stands for Minuscule or Monstrous or Mega-Large):

Each pen has a little ink window, but I found it difficult to see the dark ink colors. One interesting observation: when a pen is held nib-down, the ink level doesn't even rise to the top of the ink window. Seems like a waste of space . . . come on, Pilot, fill that sucker up!

As mentioned above, I don't have much fountain pen experience. Realistically, I can only compare the Pilot Varsity to two other fountain pens that I've used: Platinum Preppy (fine nib); and Lamy Vista (extra fine nib). Compared to the Preppy and the Vista, the Varsity writes like a sloppy drooling puppy floating on a cloud of cotton candy. I don't know how the Varsity does it, but each one wrote a solid, consistent, super smooth wet line immediately after uncapping. I'm sure this must be due to the medium size nib, although the Internet tells me that Japanese nib sizes run finer than advertised, so I'm all kinds of confused by this (I was expecting the Varsity to write as fine as the Lamy extra fine nib, but no such luck). Perhaps the Varsity's performance and line thickness has something to do with the odd looking nib, which appears to have a ball bearing precariously balanced on its tip. I analyzed the tip of the nib, and can confirm that the ball does not move like a rollerball or ballpoint tip, lol.

My conclusion: the Varsity is great, especially considering the price. For someone looking to try a fountain pen for the first time, I would totally recommend the Varsity over the Platinum Preppy. Sure, the Varsity is disposable, but it's an impressive "gateway" into the world of fountain pens. The only negative mark (which is subjective) relates to the girth of the medium nib. I would really like to score a fountain pen with a fine or extra fine nib that writes as smooth as the Varsity.

And my son? He loves them. Actually, he had to share them with his sister, and they both love them. In fact, my son was temporarily elevated to superstar status at school (so he says) after he showed off the Varsity pens to his buddies.

I'll end this post with a writing sample to appease any fountain pen dorks who may be lurking:

October 13, 2012

Surprise! Incoming Packages!

Yesterday was a banner day in the Acquisitions Department; I received three packages in the mail, two of which caught me completely off guard. Now, I admit to overbuying certain "not quite necessary" things via mail order (e.g., writing instruments, silly key caps for mechanical keyboards, and Japanese tea), but I also try to buy everyday necessaries online to the extent possible and economically feasible. Basically, I'm lazy and don't want to waste gas driving around to brick and mortar stores even if doing so results in better deals. This means that I'll buy ordinary goods online from time to time, such as: dental floss; sunscreen; batteries; shampoo; aftershave; paper plates; and coffee filters. This also means that I could have any number of incoming packages in transit at any given time.

Getting back to yesterday, package number one was a large box. I knew what it was as soon as I saw the box, but I was still surprised because I had forgotten about my online order. Although the item is not really relevant to this story, it was a framed canvas print of a digital photograph.

The other two packages were nearly identical: small padded envelopes. This was interesting because I was expecting only one small package. Indeed, one of the envelopes contained a set of 40A-L o-rings for my Filco keyboard, as expected. I kinda sorta explained o-ring use in the context of mechanical keyboards here.

The mystery item turned out to be a nice little care package from a friend who shares my interest in writing instruments and other miscellanea. Nothing beats a surprise package of interesting stuff. Unless it's a surprise package of FREE interesting stuff!

Surprise! Free Stuff For Me!

So this is what my life has become: cheap thrills over a cheap pencil, a tiny pump mechanism ("I don't even know what this is! This sort of thing ain't my bag, baby"), and some string. Hey, it was free and as they say: "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" (I think that's the proper context). Rather than identify and explain the freebies, I'll simply show the note that I received in the package:

So, What's In The Bag, Baby?

I'm stoked about this acquisition, and can't wait to give items (1) and (2) a try. I'm not sure about item (5), but perhaps I can tie something together today out of respect and as a gesture of thanks.

Let's summarize the new arrivals: a big framed picture; a set of o-ring keyboard dampeners; a Lamy refill thingy; a hacked Mont Blanc refill suitable for use in a Pilot G2 pen body; some pencil lead; a Zebra Color Flight mechanical pencil; and a useless length of paracord. Yesterday was a good day.

October 8, 2012

Pen Hack: Uni-Ball Signo RT + Pentel EnerGel Refill

Many moons ago I wrote this post about my first haul of pens and my quest for an ideal pen for the office. I've written with all of those pens and at this time have declared the Pilot Hi-Tec-C (0.5 mm) to be the winner. The Pentel EnerGel 0.5 mm retractable pen is a close second, but the barrel is a little too thick for comfort. After reading up on the "Mont Blanc refill + Pilot G2 body hack," I began fiddling with some of my pens. Click on the picture to read the results of my very own pen hack! I admit that this hack may have been previously published without my knowledge. I recognize this. That said, until proven otherwise, I hereby claim this pen hack as my invention and intellectual property. I will consider any and all reasonable licensing offers lol.

Postscript: After I made this writing sample, I realized that the EnerGel refill also fits into the Pilot G-Knock body (I assume, therefore, that it also fits into the standard Pilot G-2 body). Nonetheless, I prefer the look and feel of the Signo RT body.

October 4, 2012

Raw Denim Jeans

I was a little reluctant to write this post because I find it difficult to explain why anyone (me in particular) would devote so much time and money on something as ordinary as jeans. Seriously, I have little to no style and really don't care much about fashion trends and clothing other than being cognizant of the fact that I don't want to look like the color blind village idiot. For this reason, I still don't understand how or why I became interested in "premium" raw denim jeans. I do, however, recall the avalanche of thoughts that led me to pick up my first pair of ridiculously awesome jeans (the RN04 jean, by Roy).

The path to the RN04 jean started simply enough; I needed new jeans. A simple beginning, but the path had many steps:

1. OK, my stable of Levi's 569 Loose Straight jeans is getting old and ratty. I need at least one new pair.

"U Can't Buy This"
2. Damn, the cheap department store doesn't carry Levi's 569s anymore (duh, probably because loose pants went out of style in the mid 90s). No worries, I'm sure they are sold on Amazon or the Levi's website. This is interesting: a boatload of user comments on both Amazon and the Levi's website mention that the "new" 569s are cut much differently than the "old" 569s that I have (probably because balloon-cut pants went out of style with MC Hammer). Not a problem; I can adapt and find something modern to buy.

3. I'm too old to shop at Tilly's. Besides, skinny jeans + me = fail.

4. Huh? An entire thread on Head-Fi related to jeans? Whatever, I'll read it during lunch. What the hell are all of these random brands that I've never heard of? Nudie, Samurai, Momotaro, Eternal, Sugar Cane, what? Let me Google that for you. WTF, $350.00 for jeans that are made in Japan? Is that 350 U.S. dollars or Japanese yen? That is so ridiculous yet intriguing at the same time. Must. Do. More. Research.

5. Whoa, there is an entire subculture surrounding premium denim jeans, and they use strange terminology like: "raw denim" and "selvedge" and "18 oz unsanforized loomstate" and "18 months, one soak, two washes" . . . this stuff is rich. This Rawr Denim website is interesting, and it looks like the real serious enthusiasts are members of certain online forums such as Superfuture, which contains more information about denim jeans than anyone can imagine. I guess it's time to lurk and read up on the subject.

6. Maybe these crazy denimheads are on to something. I've read some valid justifications and some half-hearted rationalizations for spending $300 to $500 on ONE PAIR OF JEANS. For instance, I'm hearing reasons such as: "dude, these are handmade from the highest quality denim in the world," "this denim is super heavy, it's like leather," "I would gladly pay a premium for old world craftsmanship and attention to detail," "these jeans are woven from unicorn hair," "one pair of these jeans lasts three times longer than a pair of Levi's 569s," "these raw denim jeans are good for the environment because they are not chemically treated during manufacturing and because I never wash them," and "hey man, you wear these jeans and nurture them until they develop distinctive and unique fade patterns, and such that they assume a personality that reflects your lifestyle and philosophy." Wow, this is pretty deep. Definitely too deep for someone who simply wants to replace his Levi's 569 Loose Straight jeans. That said, all of this is extremely interesting.

7. So I'm really supposed to wear new jeans for a year without washing them? That is straight up disgusting. Must. Educate. Myself. Now I understand (I think); infrequent washing results in higher contrasting fade patterns, which seem to be desirable among the denimhead population. Still sounds pretty gross, though. I haven't been convinced to spend so much on a pair of jeans when my trusty 569s can be had for the cost of a twelve pack and a bag of chips.

8. Oh. Levi's 501s are the original old school raw denim, and they are still widely available on the cheap. I realize that 501s are far from "premium" these days, but perhaps I can buy a pair of new 501s (on sale) as a low cost introduction to this raw denim craze. Done deal. (As an aside, my mom used to buy 501s for me when I was a youngster, and they were dirt cheap. As in $15.00 or less from the Army surplus store). Hmm, shrink-to-fit made sizing a little challenging, but I lucked out and got it right. Hey, these actually fit pretty good and, in comparison, my old 569s now look like "husky" sized jeans on me.

9. The "501 Project" has convinced me to seriously consider a pair of premium raw denim jeans. Great. Additional research leads me to believe that Japanese denim is the way to go. Several retail websites carry the popular Japanese brands, but I'm not spending so much money on a ridiculous pair of pants without trying them on. Wonderful. I need to wait until a business or family trip takes me to a reputable brick and mortar store.

10. After an extensive amount of online research, I've narrowed down my choices to a few Japanese brands. I really want to check out some jeans by Samurai, Sugar Cane, The Strike Gold, and Real Japan Blues. These Roy jeans look pretty cool, too. Handmade in NorCal by a small company (small = one person, i.e., Roy). Wow, these videos are awesome, and they really make me want to support Roy. I'm really liking the DIY ethic associated with Roy jeans. Plus, that sticker on one of Roy's machines leads me to believe that he is down for skateboarding. Bonus points for that, so I'll need to check out Roy jeans, too.

Roy Jeans (Pocket Bag)
11. My life schedule is finally on track, and my travels are bringing me close to a store where I can check out at least some of the jeans on my wish list. They don't carry Samurai jeans, but at least I'm able to see many others and try on a few pairs. Damn, the jeans in this store are thick, heavy, and stiff as hell. Am I really doing this? Are these things really supposed to be comfortable to wear? No turning back now, I'm in. Even though I really want to buy something from Japan, these Roy jeans look super cool and are extremely well-made. The guy at the store is telling me that these particular Roy jeans were just released today, and that they will most likely be sold out in a day or two. Really? Nice salesmanship . . . ring me up for that there pair of RN04 jeans, please.

I have intentionally stopped before reaching the twelfth step lol. I don't have any "evolution" pictures of the Roy jeans because they don't have any high contrasting "sick fades" yet. I simply don't wear them hard enough or expose them to enough dirt, grime, or abrasion. I don't work on cars or cut down trees for a living. Instead, I walk to and from my air conditioned car, sit on my ass for eight hours a day, stare at a computer monitor, and use the restroom several times a day. These activities do not promote raw denim fading. That said, my Roy jeans ARE developing a little bit of character and flair (after one initial soak to shrink them, and one wash awhile ago).

I should concede that the Roy jeans look somewhat ordinary from ten feet away. Up close, however, one can appreciate the workmanship and attention to detail. For example, the picture at the beginning of this post shows the super thick real leather tag, and the picture next to step 11 shows Roy's chainstitched signature on the pocket bag. I'll conclude with a few additional pictures that show other nifty aspects of the Roy RN04 jeans. These are just some of the details that make these jeans special. (Note that my amateur photography skills really messed up the color and white balance in these pictures; at the time of this writing the true shade remains a deep and dark blue, very close to that shown in the next picture).

Seashell Stitching

Canvas Lined Back Pockets

Button Fly (Of Course) Using Burly Hardware