September 29, 2012

Multipens: Coleto Versus Sliccies. Fight!

Multipens. I intentionally used the plural form there because, believe it or not, there are multiple multipens available these days. Almost everyone knows about THE multipen; the one and only ubiquitous and classic Bic 4-Color ballpoint pen. I had one back in my formative years, and thought it was cool even though I rarely used it. Admit it, you had one, too. I always assumed that the Bic 4-Color was the only multipen out there, perhaps because until very recently writing instruments were near the bottom of my list of interesting things to acquire, along with vacuum bags, rubber gaskets, and yarn. Well, times have changed.

I wanted to try a modern multipen with gel ink refills, and narrowed my choices down to the Pentel Sliccies 2-Color and the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto 2-Color. There are MANY other multipens available these days; I wanted to ease into the field by trying out two popular models. I also wanted to start with only two colors because I'm not a fan of thick ass pens, and I assumed that 3, 4, and 5 color pens would be unruly. Besides, my plan is to use these at work, where I typically juggle blue and red pens on a daily basis. I don't really NEED a third, fourth, or fifth color, a mechanical pencil cartridge, a stylus cartridge, etc. A toothbrush or dental floss cartridge might come in handy, but I haven't found one yet.

Both of these pens have been reviewed many times, and I don't really have anything new to add in that regard. Simply put, both of these pens are awesome. They are virtually identical in shape, size, and weight (about 8.6 grams; yes, I weighed them). Both have "normal" sized barrels with ridges near the grip region, both are made of cheap clear plastic, both have pocket clips that enable you to nerd out if so desired, and both are refillable with a wide variety of different colors and tip sizes. Like I said, they are awesome. The primary difference is in their loading and actuation mechanisms. The Coleto refills load from the top of the cap (after opening the lid), and the Sliccies refills load from inside of the barrel (after unscrewing the two halves). The actuation tabs on the Coleto refills are color coded and marked with the tip sizes. In contrast, the actuation tabs are integrated with the Sliccies body and they are neither color coded nor marked in any way. The refills for both pens provide great writing quality, although I do prefer the smoothness of the Coleto refills (they are, after all, based on the killer Hi-Tec-C design). These pens will remain on my desk for a long time.

September 24, 2012

Traditional Wet Shaving. Seriously.

And now for something completely different (I'm getting sick of writing about pens). Today's entry is about another fascinating and extremely interesting topic: traditional wet shaving and related gear. I suppose that "wet shaving" could mean anything from "scraping your face with a wet Neanderthal spearhead" to "squirting some gel crap on your face and wiping it away with the current multiblade cartridge that costs $6.00 per unit." This is true. Accordingly, I use the term "traditional wet shaving" with reference to the act of shaving the old fashioned way with traditional style shaving cream or soap, a shaving brush, and a non-multiblade razor instrument (e.g., a straightedge razor, a safety razor, or the like). I am also willing to concede that the definition of "traditional wet shaving" may also include the use of alternative products and/or gear, as long as the essence of what I'm about to describe is fairly captured. What you see in the picture represents a very modest collection of shaving gear and products. What you don't see is the ridiculous amount of time I spent, wasted, and/or enjoyed getting to this point.

A good friend and coworker of mine is 100% responsible for this particular "hobby," and I don't know whether to thank him or kick his ass for it. One day a few years ago my friend mentioned that he switched to traditional wet shaving, showed me some shaving cream from a 150+ year old English company, and proclaimed that there is a huge online wet shaving community. Of course, I loled, wtfed, and called him a metrosexual. But deep down I was at least somewhat interested because at the time I was getting fed up with the less-than-acceptable shave I was getting from my electric razor. After this so-called friend sent me a safety razor as an unexpected gift, I decided to give wet shaving another try.

I said "another" try because my first whiskers (or fuzz) were cut via a wet shave technique. Like most guys, my dad taught me how to shave. At the time, Dad used a disposable Gillette Good News razor with some type of canned shaving foam or gel. Now, I do remember Dad using a safety razor, a shaving soap mug, and a brush, but he had decommissioned those items by the time I was ready to learn. Although shaving with a disposable double-bladed razor and an aerosol foam hardly qualifies as "traditional," it requires water and, therefore, I consider that technique to be wet shaving per se. As time passed, I stopped using disposable razors and graduated to the Gillette Sensor cartridge system, along with Edge shaving gel or Barbasol shaving foam in a can. I used this stuff for many years without really paying any attention to the quality, comfort, or feel of the shave. At some point, I switched from wet shaving to dry shaving with an electric razor. I used electric razors (Braun or Norelco) for many years and lived with the discomfort and generally poor results because I had convinced myself that I was saving money and time with the electrics. I always felt that my electric razor saved precious morning time at the expense of quality and comfort.

Coincidentally, I was in the process of researching modern electric razor offerings when my buddy planted the traditional wet shaving seed. Even though I had a brand new safety razor in hand, I wasn't completely sold on the idea. Moreover, it had been ages since I had used anything other than an electric razor, and I had never used a safety razor before. I was afraid. Very afraid. So I decided to ease back into the world of wet shaving rather than go all in at the outset. I put the new safety razor away in a safe place out of harm's way, and picked up two items from the local drugstore: a disposable Gillette Mach3 razor; and a tube of shaving cream (made by The Real Shaving Co.). After getting comfortable with that combo, I went back in time from a shaving gear perspective and bought a Gillette Sensor razor (yes, they still sell them), a Gillette Atra razor (yes, they still sell them), and a Gillette Trac II razor (yes, they still sell them), along with their respective cartridges. Eventually, I broke out the double edge safety razor and got the snowball rolling with vigor.

As the snowball rolled downhill it picked up other items, namely, shaving brushes, different razors, shaving soaps, shaving creams, pre-shave products, aftershave products, shaving mugs/bowls, double edge (DE) razor blades, etc. Yeah, the craziness took over very quickly. Keep in mind that almost all of the items listed above may have a related acquisition disorder. In fact, I learned the term "acquisition disorder" (AD) from the gents at Badger & Blade in various contexts (RAD = razor acquisition disorder; ASAD = aftershave acquisition disorder; and so on). That said, I am in a state of semi-recovery now, which is why my cabinet only includes a meager collection of shaving stuff. At this time, only the aftershave department (top shelf) is out of hand, which is odd because I've never liked cologne (still don't) and I don't like smelling like a 70's era disco.

Wow, this post is way too long. I'll end it with a contents callout. On the top shelf, from left to right: Old Spice Classic aftershave (I don't really like it, but there's a story behind it); Lucido aftershave (from Japan!); Proraso aftershave; D.R. Harris Arlington aftershave; Speick aftershave; 4711 aftershave; and Kiehl's Facial Fuel with SPF 15 sunscreen (not really sold as an aftershave product, but it works well in that role). On the bottom shelf, from left to right: a few boxes of DE razor blades; an Old Spice shave soap mug sitting atop a Pyrex container that is perfect for most pucks of shave soap; D.R. Harris Arlington shaving cream; Tabac shaving soap; and Arko shaving stick sitting atop the container of Tabac. The Old Spice mug contains an assortment of razors (from left to right): modern Gillette Sensor handle; modern Trac II style handle (sold under the Bump Fighter brand and available in most drug stores); modern Gillette Atra handle; my father's vintage Gillette Slim razor; and my daily DE razor, the Mühle R89 razor. The Mühle is an awesome implement, and I love the fact that the name includes an umlaut. Hey, I'm a big fan of Mötorhead and the use of röck döts in general.

I lied about the end of this post, and need to write one more paragraph to explain why I'm currently hooked on traditional wet shaving. I think it relates to the overall philosophy of "try to enjoy your everyday activities to the fullest extent possible." It's either that or "you are two cans short of a six pack," so I'll run with the former. Now, some wet shaving practitioners will toss around reasons such as "it's cheaper than using modern cartridges" or "it's good for the environment" or "I get the best results using my DE razor" or "chicks dig it" - those and other reasons may indeed be valid. In my case, the morning ritual of wet shaving is usually enjoyable, it gives me ample time to chill out and get mentally prepared for the day, and it's fun. Not as much fun as bowling or skeet shooting and not "funny ha ha" like a clown, but fun nonetheless. Actually, I sometimes look forward to a good shave in the morning, rather than dread what used to be a chore. So there you have it.

September 19, 2012

Pentel Slicci Gel Pen

As a quick follow up to this post, and continuing the seemingly endless series of pen-related posts, I wanted to show off the ridiculously cool design of the Pentel Slicci gel pen. Even though the Slicci is a little thin for daily use as a workhorse pen, it really looks nice. Have I mentioned that the Japanese love their pens? The Japanese design team must have spent a few months designing this pen, using CAD tools and carving out prototypes from blocks of clay. This thing looks like something that can break the sound barrier, something that can shoot down aircraft, a time capsule, or a fuel rod from the Curiosity. Just feast your eyes and behold the awesomeness that is the Pentel Slicci.

September 15, 2012

Another Keyboard Facelift

Well, my latest and greatest keyboard layout didn't last very long. I still think the red and white colorway is outstanding. Unfortunately, those key caps are not compatible with my o-ring switch dampers, which are used to attenuate the normally clicky-clacky sound of my mechanical keyboard. The first picture illustrates the issue. On the left is one of the red-on-white key caps, in the middle is one of my white ninja key caps, and on the right is another ninja key cap with an o-ring installed on the switch stem. Notice how the ninja key caps have cross-shaped reinforcement bars near the switch stems? Well, those bars are critical for proper o-ring sound dampening. In contrast, the red-on-white key cap lacks anything that remotely resembles the reinforcement bars. This means that o-rings installed on the killer looking red-on-white key caps make absolutely no audible or tactile difference! Damn. I really wanted to try my Filco keyboard with the o-rings. No worries . . . just do another keyboard facelift!

I already had the set of white ninja key caps, so all I had to do was remove the Red Alert set, install the o-rings on the ninja set, and install the ninja key caps onto the keyboard. No big deal. The ninja key caps are full of awesomeness, too. Check them out. That's right, they are clean and stealthy. Perfect for someone who is an expert touch-typist. I mean, only rookies need legends printed on their key caps, right? Maybe. I guess. These key caps are "ninja" style for a reason that will be revealed after the jump. [Edit: jumps are silly; removed it]

As shown in the third picture, the ninja key caps have side-printed legends that are obvious and easy to read when viewed from the front. An added bonus is that the printed legends will not disappear after use. That said, the top of the white key caps get scummy and dirty in a matter of days, especially if you are a scummy dirty person who doesn't wash up often.

I realize that it's too soon to make a final decision, but I do like the feel and sound of the keyboard with the o-rings installed. I really wish the Red Alert set had the cross bar reinforcements on them!

September 11, 2012

Fountain Pens

As I mentioned in this post, I recently acquired a Platinum Preppy fountain pen. I admit that I bought the Preppy merely as a super low cost entry into the fountain pen world, and with low expectations. Seriously, how good can a $3.00 plastic fountain pen be? Nonetheless, I intentionally delayed its "maiden voyage" and kept it pristine and unused for awhile. Why? I didn't want to open the floodgates and let loose yet another acquisition disorder, but I eventually caved in, took it for a test drive, and said hello to FPAD (Fountain Pen Acquisition Disorder). The Preppy served its purpose honorably, and convinced me to look for a better fountain pen. After weeks of research and analysis paralysis, I finally pulled the trigger and bought the awesome looking pen you see in the picture: the Lamy Vista (extra fine nib).

The Internet is replete with reviews, videos, and comparisons of the Lamy Safari (Vista = transparent version of the Safari), and I don't have enough experience with fountain pens to add any meaningful content. Instead, I'll explain how I arrived at the decision to buy the Vista.

Me_1: "This Platinum Preppy isn't as smooth as I'd like, it writes a little dry, and it skips every now and then. Moreover, the cap has already cracked and the written line width is kinda thick, even though I have a fine nib on it."

Me_2: "Dude, it cost $3.00. Get over it and buy something better."

Me_1/2: "Sounds like a good idea. Let's do some research to find a few candidates. I guess my budget is around $50.00 because I'm still not 100% convinced that I like fountain pens. OK, after spending way too much time online, these look pretty good: Kaweco Sport; Pilot Prera; Lamy Safari; Sailor Lecoule; and Twsbi 540. Let's pick one."

Me_1: "I'm going to read some threads on The Fountain Pen Network and watch YouTube video reviews before I make a decision. I'm also going to create an online poll to see what fountain pen experts recommend. Perhaps I'll try to demo these pens in a brick and mortar store. Ooh, I really like the demonstrator/transparent pens."

Me_2: "I like the Prera the best. It looks super slick, Pilot has a great reputation, the cap prevents the nib from drying out, and it comes with a converter thingy."

Me_1: "I like the Lamy Safari. It gets great reviews and everyone recommends it for a beginner fountain pen. Plus, it's less than $30.00 and it comes in many different colors, including the transparent Vista version. By the way, the Prera is overpriced, and you can get the same nib on the Pilot 78G pen, which only costs $10.00. I don't care about a converter because I'm going to use ink cartridges for awhile."

The Lamy Vista
Me_2: "Whatever. The Lamy is too long, the extra fine nib is too wide for me, and the triangular grip section is wack (I concede that the Vista looks pretty cool). I don't care what the online poll says, I'm buying the Prera. In blue trim. The Japanese know their pens."

Me_1: "Just listen to all the fountain pen experts. They all say Lamy. It's no contest. Moreover, the Lamy is much cheaper than the Prera, which will reduce the likelihood of buyer's remorse. The Germans know their pens, too."

Me_1/2: "Alright, I'll take a look at the interactive comparison tools on the Goulet Pens website, flip a coin, or whatever, and will order the Pilot Prera. Or the Lamy Vista. Or the Pilot Prera. OK, this is ridiculous, delete the Prera from the shopping cart and get the Vista instead. But the Prera looks SO cool. Sure, but the design is juvenile. Arrrggggghh. Lamy Vista!"

I'm really glad the above-described ordeal is over. The Vista is simply a beautiful and well-designed pen. I even like the clip, which some people hate (pro tip: the pen is balanced such that it can assume a planking position resting on the clip). The Vista writes more consistently and looks much nicer than the Preppy.

Exploded View
My pre-purchase research made me realize that people like to see writing samples. I want to feel like a member of the fountain pen community, so I've included a few samples of my sketchy block printing. I don't remember when I gave up writing in cursive, and I don't remember when I gave up writing in lowercase. Regardless, the end result is my boring ALL CAPS writing style. You can find the writing samples at the bottom of this post.

PS - even though I probably could have saved a few bucks or found free shipping elsewhere, I decided to patronize Goulet Pens because I found their online tools, FAQs, and "Fountain of Knowledge" to be extremely helpful. If you are a fountain pen beginner like me, I encourage you to pay Goulet Pens a visit.

Writing Samples

First up is an entire page of Lamy Vista goodness (or badness, depending on your perspective):

Lamy Vista on Moleskine Paper

I thought it might be useful to show samples using different types of paper and different pens. Unfortunately, I don't own any "good" paper, so feel free to break out the lulz. Next up are some writing samples on cheap notepad paper:

Crappy Notepad Paper

I repeated my writing on a different notepad that said "Diamond" on it. The paper is definitely thicker and of higher quality, but I don't know how it compares to the good stuff known to those in the fountain pen world:

Not-So-Crappy Notepad Paper

Finally, an attempt to squeeze some writing onto a single page in my Moleskine notebook:

Comparison on Moleskine Paper

September 7, 2012

EDC Pens

If you look carefully in the stack o' pens shown in this previous post, you might see the four compact little pens in the picture to the right.  I bought these pens (coincidentally, all of them are Zebra brand pens) in an attempt to find a decent EDC item to keep with me in my pocket, on my keychain, etc.

Yeah, yeah, I know about the super popular Inka keychain pen, but have some reservations about it (after spending a few days reading online reviews of it, as though it's a luxury vehicle or a major appliance). Instead, I opted for the following, shown left to right in the picture: Zebra F-301 Compact ballpoint; Zebra Minna Mini ballpoint; Zebra SL-F1 Mini ballpoint; and Zebra Penpod ballpoint.

The F-301 Compact is based on the regular F-301, which is good for a ballpoint. It has a lanyard hole to accommodate keychain carry, but I think it's too long to keep with my keys in my pocket. When closed, the cap is very secure, but when posted on the end it is really wobbly and shaky. When the cap is posted, the pen is virtually a full sized pen. This makes it comfortable to write with, but an EDC pen for me will typically be used only for quick notes and reminders. All of these factors put the F-301 Compact in last place for me.

The Minna is super thin and compact, and I like the design even though it's a little feminine. It might be tough to see in the picture, but there is a very cool Japanese style graphic in a clear window section of the barrel.  The body is very thin, and most of the pen fits inside the cap when closed. I like how the ends are rounded and the thin body makes this easy to keep in my jeans coin pocket.

I'll take the SL-F1 Mini for the win here.  This pen is weighty (I believe it has a metal construction), compact, and sleek.  The gray color is nice, and it does come in other colorways.  The pen telescopes to reveal the tip and to extend the body.  The extended length is somewhat short, but still OK to write with for a quick note or two.  When closed, it fits perfectly in my jeans coin pocket.  Moreover, pen has a deep carry clip configuration, which I like better than the shallower clip found on the Minna.

The Penpod is a good option if you really want to carry something on your keychain.  I don't, and the girth and deployment mechanism of the Penpod make it less than perfect for pocket carry.  The pen itself is spring loaded and a quick twist releases it from the cap, which stays on the keyring.

So I wasted a few dollars and a whole lot of online research time to realize that the Zebra SL-F1 is nearly perfect for my needs.  It usually lives in my jeans coin pocket (or in some other pocket when I'm not wearing jeans) and it's so small that I don't even notice it.

September 3, 2012

New Pocket Knife: Cold Steel Tuff Lite

Payday = New Stuff! In this case, new stuff = new knife. I'm still searching for cool EDC knives to add to my meager collection. There are billions of knives on the market these days, which makes it rather difficult to choose only ONE to buy. Fortunately for me, there are loads of blogs and YouTube channels devoted to knives, EDC concepts, etc. Indeed, the awesome Everyday Commentary blog led me to investigate the Tuff Lite knife by Cold Steel. More specifically, this post includes a good review of the Mini version of the Tuff Lite. That review really piqued my interest, but I had second thoughts after seeing pictures that show the tiny size of the Mini Tuff Lite. Not to worry; my research flow path quickly led me to the larger sized Tuff Lite knife (shown in the picture).

Rather than "review" this knife, I'll just point out some features that led me to buy it. First, I wanted to try a different/unusual blade shape. This knife has a Wharncliffe blade shape (yes, I learned a new word) that is characterized by the straight cutting edge and the curved top edge. I like this shape because I often use my knife to open packages and unruly envelopes, and the blade works well for those applications. Second, I like the way it looks when the blade is open. Third, I wanted to try a different brand (I already have a Spyderco and a Benchmade).

The knife is somewhat portly when closed. It's probably the thickest knife I own as of today. I like the look of this knife when closed, but it really looks great when open. The curved "turtle shell" profile is different than any other knife I own.

Although impossible to tell from my pictures, the blade is hollow ground, and it is literally razor sharp. The straight cutting edge will be perfect for all of my extreme box-cutting chores lol. If I ever encounter a particularly menacing box, those super well-defined finger choils (yet another word recently added to my vocabulary) should do the trick!