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