June 27, 2013

Skateboard Deck By Craig Driscoll

Photo: Craig Driscoll
And now for something completely different . . . tattoo art. I admit that I find tattoos and tattoo art (if done well) very intriguing. That said, I do not have tattoo acquisition disorder due to: (a) the extremely high cost of tattoos rendered by top-flight artists; (b) the permanence of tattoos; and (c) the pain that usually accompanies tattoos. Speaking of top-flight artists, I consider Craig Driscoll to be one of them. I've always liked his tattoo designs, paintings, and artwork, especially his skateboard deck pieces. In fact, I was going to buy one of his decks a few years ago, but he sold it a few days before I had a chance to make an offer. So bummed.

Skip ahead (or back) to a couple of months ago. I was randomly checking out Craig's website, and I saw that he had some cool skateboard decks for sale once again. I contacted him to discuss the artwork, chit chat, blah blah blah, and ultimately commissioned him to create an original deck for me. I wasn't 100% set on a design, and I decided to let him choose between a snake design or a koi design. That's about all the input I gave him; I wanted the finished artwork to be a surprise.

The original, hand painted, piece of awesomeness is shown in the picture. The logo at the top is Craig's signature, and the bright blue painted highlights and paint splatters are intentional. I love this skateboard deck! If anyone is wondering, the answer is "HELL NO." I will not be riding this board; it lives on the wall, where it will remain indefinitely.

June 17, 2013

Pilot 78G Fountain Pen

The Pilot 78G is generally considered to be one of the better fountain pens in the "budget" category. Although I may be mistaken, the 78G may technically be discontinued or otherwise unavailable in the United States. Even if that is true, there is an abundance of overstock on the market, and it's pretty easy and financially painless to acquire a 78G.

I got the teal colored pen, with a medium sized nib. It came with a black ink cartridge (one that only fits Pilot pens), a CON-20 squeeze-type ink converter [edit: that is similar to a CON-20 converter], and an extra large bag of awesome. Is the nib as smooth and consistent as, say, my Pelikan M205 or my Pilot Custom Heritage 91? No. Is the pen body cheap, lightweight, and plasticky? Yup. Is the faux gold trim cheesy and tacky looking? I think so. So what? The 78G costs less than a couple of Happy Meals at McDonald's. At that price point you could almost treat it as a disposable pen!

The pen writes well enough, doesn't skip, and isn't too scratchy. It comes in different colors and different nib sizes. It is cheap enough to buy on a whim, and you won't lose any sleep if your kid happens to bend the nib, use it as a dart, or trade it for a not-so-rare Pokemon card.

I was going to describe the pen in more detail, but then I found a much better review with great pictures, all of the specs, and even a video. I hope the folks at Gourmet Pens don't mind the reference: Pilot 78G Review. Oh, and here's another good review at Ink of Me Fondly: Another Pilot 78G Review. The pen in the first linked review has a broad nib, and the pen in the second linked review has a fine nib, in contrast to my medium nib.

The above picture shows the 78G in a disassembled state, with the ink cartridge installed. No surprises there. I'll finish this post with some writing samples on different types of paper.

The first sample also includes short blurbs written with other fountain pens that are described elsewhere on this blog, just for the sake of comparison.

The bottom line with me and the 78G: it's well worth the price and is a decent pen, but I'd rather use my Pilot Custom Heritage 91. In fact, I gave the 78G to my son for use as a school pen. I would recommend the 78G as a "first real fountain pen" (rather than, say, a Pilot Varsity, a Platinum Preppy, or a Lamy Safari).

June 7, 2013

My Newest EDC Light: EagleTac D25A Mini

I don't know why it's taken me so long to write a post about a flashlight. I paid lip service to my Photon X-Light Micro and FourSevens Preon P1 flashlights in a previous post, but I didn't really say much about them. So, before I get to the EagleTac D25A Mini, I'll give a quick flashlight backstory.

The Photon X-Light Micro was the best thing I acquired in 2011. It still resides on my keychain, with the original battery alive and kicking. I use it almost every day; it's just great to have on my keychain. I have the high-tech looking clear version, which has a glow in the dark button. Max output is 4.5 lumens according to Photon, which is sufficient for my intended use cases: finding keyholes; navigating hallways at night; and reading menus in dark restaurants.

I tend to use the Photon's simple click-on, click-off mode. The click button, however, can also be manipulated to provide a variable output level and to select different beacon and SOS modes - pretty impressive for a nine dollar light. The Photon is very well made, too. The plastic case, the split ring and the keychain clip are all very tough, and they appear to be designed to withstand the daily abuse of keychain carry. I now have one of these lights on every one of my keychains.

Next up, the FourSevens flashlight. I purchased the Preon P1 for use as my daily pocket-carry light, and it works just great for that purpose. According to FourSevens, it is only 2.95 inches long and only 0.6 inches in diameter. It's pretty small, and it really disappears in the pocket.

The Preon is powered by a single AAA battery, and it has a max output of 70 lumens. It has a standard twisty head UI that can be used to select low (1.8 lumens), medium (8.5 lumens), and high (70 lumens) output modes. Flashlight geeks will appreciate that the Preon uses a Cree XP-G2 LED; and, yes, many people care about such specs. The UI can also be manipulated to access the "special" strobe, beacon, and SOS modes (which I only use when I want to be annoying or when I'm demonstrating the features to someone).

I Can See The Cree!
I love the easy-to-use twisty UI and the basic design of the Preon. My only gripe: the finish is too silky smooth, which makes it difficult to twist on and off with one hand. I wish it had some texture or knurling at the head.

The Preon P1 And Its Power Source
End of backstory. So what's up with the EagleTac D25A Mini? To be honest, I simply wanted to buy another flashlight. No big deal. I initially looked at other AAA lights, but soon decided on a AA light. I also considered the following AA lights before deciding to acquire the EagleTac: Maratac; Lumapower LM31; FourSevens Mini MA; and EagleTac D25A Clicky. I was about to order the titanium clicky version of the D25A, but then common sense and frugality took over.

The D25A is very small and compact. The EagleTac website tells me that the D25A is 3.1 inches long with a head diameter of only 0.69 inches. It's not that much larger than my Preon, and it also fits nicely into my pocket. I feel that the AA size of the D25A is a perfect compromise between utility and EDC capability.

D25A Mini (Top), Preon P1 (Bottom)
The flashlight has a solid and tough pocket clip that I'll never use for its intended purpose (mine is black versus the silver colored clip shown on the EagleTac website; what's up with that?). The D25A also came with a belt holster (that I'll never use) and a lanyard with clip (that I'll never use). The end of the D25A has a slot to accommodate the lanyard clip; this allows tailstanding when the lanyard is attached.

D25A Mini (Left), Preon P1 (Right)
The EagleTac D25A is compatible with AA sized batteries, including standard alkaline batteries, long life disposable lithium batteries, rechargeable NiMh batteries, and high voltage lithium ion batteries (which may result in blinding sunlight output and molten aluminum, which equals awesome). I'm using a regular AA cell at the moment, and it works just fine. I've read that better performance can be had with a Sanyo Eneloop battery, and I will give that a shot next. The housing is not much larger than the AA battery itself, as shown here:

Now, I supposedly ordered the latest and greatest version of the D25A, i.e., the one with the Cree XP-G2 R5 LED. According to the marketing department of EagleTac, this emitter generates 179 lumens on high, 47 lumens on medium, and 5 lumens on low. I am not an LED expert, nor do I care to become one. I only know these facts: this flashlight generates plenty of light for my EDC needs; the low mode is great for skulking around the house at night; and the color of the light is more of a natural and warm hue (in contrast to the Preon P1, which seems to be "cool white" in comparison).

Cree XP-G2 R5 LED
The light uses the same type of twisty UI as the Preon P1, so it was easy for me to learn how to use it. The D25A Mini also has some "hidden" modes for strobe, beacon, and SOS. I guess these modes could be useful in certain urban emergency scenarios (flagging down the car valet at the five-star hotel, signaling for help when your mountain bike tire goes flat on the golf cart path, indicating that you've raised the bid on that rare bottle of wine, etc.). Speaking of the twisty interface, EagleTac was kind enough to provide ample knurling on the body and head of the flashlight. The knurling, combined with the protruding pocket clip, makes it very easy to operate the twisty UI with one hand. For this reason, I'll be carrying the D25A Mini more often than the Preon P1.

Grip It & Twist It
So that's about it for the EagleTac D25A Mini. If and when I NEED another flashlight, I'll keep the EagleTac brand in mind.