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.