Pocket Pen

As mentioned in my previous post on pens I like to carry a writing instrument on me as part of my everyday carry. In school I always had a mechanical pencil, moving into pens I first tried roller-ball then felt-tip pens before landing on fountain pens. Fountain pens have many advantages over other types of pens, but being pocket safe is not one of them. Because they use liquid ink drips or leaks can cause a lot of damage (think of the opening to Shawn of the Dead). Last century wanting safety from leaky pens was such a necessity that people would line their shirt pockets with plastic envelopes bring us the dweebish stigma around the pocket protector. Luckily today the fountain pen enthusiast has better options.

A large point of not spilling your ink is how you are filling your ink. Older fountain pens used latex bladders or lever activated pistons to pull ink directly into the barrel of the pen. Now it is much more common to insert a small ink filled plastic cartridge or a converter which uses a screw piston. These ink distribution methods are much more reliable and will prevent ink from seeping out of the pen. But that’s not good enough for a pen that I want to throw in my pocked with my keys and other things.

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The Liliput is nearly the perfect pocket pen. It adds protection by having a twist off cap that will never come off in your pocket, and will never let ink out. Coming in at a little under four inches capped its a pocket-able aluminium ink fortress. But its only nearly perfect. Being small, slippery, and perfectly round this pen wants to roll of and get lost. To be truly useful this pen needs a clip. There are clips make by Kaweco for this pen, though the selection is very limited. Instead I tried fabricating my own.

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I have a 3D printer, but the nature of a pen clip makes it difficult to print on a 3D printer. Printing a ring to fit around the pen was easy enough, but attaching a clip to it introduces structural weakness that will not stand up to being pocketed over and over again. This has to do with the direction of layers, for the ring having the layers perpendicular to the pen makes printing the shape simple. For the clip the layers should be oriented parallel to the pen otherwise the clip will just snap off at the weak layer joins.

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I printed the ring to fit around the pen and then looked to some model making techniques to finish the clip. I happened to have some very fine brass rods around that would make a durable, but flexible pen clip. Using a very small drill I made inserts for the ends of the brass rod and bent it them glued it into place. A little bit of sanding to smooth out the printed plastic and I have a very functional clip for my favorite pen.

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Now this little pen is perfect for a pant for shirt pocket. With the oblong shape of the plastic ring it also no longer rolls away! With this clip I have been carrying the pen around for a few weeks now. Haven’t lost it and no spills! I’ve also got a rather odd way of filling this mini pen to maximize the amount of ink it will hold, but that’s a story for another time.

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Getting to the Point

This week Apple announced improvements to the Apple Pencil, the precision iPad stylus, at WWDC and a few weeks ago Microsoft announced the new Surface Pro tablet with the all new Surface pen to put their previous Surface pen to shame. I have my own set of styli that I would like to share, but mine are much more analog.

Though I work in tech I often take handwritten notes. I find them very helpful when trying to learn or remember something, or to visualize a problem I’m trying to figure out. My office stocks the standard red, black and blue Bic ballpoint roller-ball pens that you can find literally anywhere. These are perfectly functional, but I would prefer to write with something nicer. From about the start of the year I had been caring with me a fine-tip Prismacolor marker and using this to write notes. Recently this went dry and I needed to find a replacement.

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New Prismacolor (top) and worn down used one (bottom)

 I was directed to give fountain pens a try. Though most of the world has moved on to ballpoint and gel pens there is still a community of fountain pen users and still many producers of classic and new pens. I dove in and got a beginner pen, the popular Lamy Safari and I was hooked.

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Top to bottom: Pilot Metropolitan, Kaweco Liliput, and Lamy Safari

So what makes fountain pens different? Most would point the the nib as the largest difference between other pens but the differentiating factor is really the ink. Fountain pens use water based liquid ink, while most roller-ball pen use ballpoint ink which is oil based and much more viscous, gel pens of course use gel ink which falls somewhere in the middle. This liquid ink is stored inside an internal reservoir inside the pen to flow, like a fountain, out of the tip or nib of the pen. The distinctively shaped nib has no moving mechanical parts like a roller-ball pen, as it relies on gravity and the capillary action of the water to pull ink from the reservoir down to the tip at a consistent rate.

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Roller-ball, Fountain, and fine tipped marker

The Lamy Safari is an amazingly good pen. Solid ABS plastic and a nib that is very easy to use. The pen is a bit big and bulky, and has a very utilitarian style, which I appreciate but sometimes I want a fancy pen to look fancy too. This lead me to the pilot metropolitan. A little more sleek and with an italic nib it allowed me to try writing in a more stylized script. The last requirement I had was a pen I could pocket.

Putting a fountain pen in a pocket can be a risky move. The pocket protector wasn’t created because people thought is stylish, fountain pens hold liquid ink which likes to seep everywhere it can. While this is unlikely, some pens have threaded caps that screw on to for a seal to stop any ink from leaking. For a pocket pen I went with the Liliput. A tiny pill that when posted turns into a usable pen.

When taking notes the writing instrument is only half the equation. There is also the variable of what you are writing on, and with fountain pens paper choice is very important. That watery ink fountain pens need to function does not work well with all types of paper. Some paper can be too absorbent and suck up extra ink, which makes the letter look like they are bleeding into the page. Some paper takes too longer for the ink to dry and the ink will smudge it touched. For most of the writing I do its fine if there is a little bleeding but its nice to write on good paper.

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with water based inks, paper quality matters

Lastly, with a fountain pen comes the chore and choice of ink. These are not single use pens (though single use fountain pens exist) and once the ink runs out the pen can be refilled. While filling some pens can be a hassle, being able to fill your own ink gives you so many options. There are hundreds of different colors and formulations available! No longer is writing with a pen confined to blue, black, and red. Currently I am using purple, turquoise, and black across my pens, but I have the ability to change out the inks at anytime.

So with new pens, new paper, and new inks I am ready to take notes in style and luxury. When writing with one of my fountain pens or with a simple Bic I have found a new level of understanding and appreciation into how much thought and effort has into creating the tools white allow us to write.

Udon

I ended 2016 with a promise to increase usage of this blog and to provide updates on my many hobbies. With a mix of trying to create some meaningful changes to my life and lots of lethargy I have failed to update this blog since.

Falling into the publisher’s dilemma: going too long without an update means that the next thing to be posted must be of sufficient quality to compensate for the gap. The gap grows to the point where no post would be enough to fill weeks of neglect.

Breaking this tread I give everyone dinner I be made and my first attempt at making one of my favorite noodles; Udon at home.

Podcasts

One of the podcasts I have enjoyed this year encouraged all their listeners to review the podcast on iTunes before the New Year promising prizes for a few of us if they reach more than 1000 reviews. As this is a comedy podcast with a lot of inside jokes this is the review I wrote.

Adam and Ben are so short sighted, some of us viewers have some manner of intelligence and respect (though not much as we still listen to this swill) and are not in the pocket of big Apple. I fell into Adam and Ben’s fatal trap and installed iTunes onto my PC just to write this review, but I am savvy, I will pull all the isolinear chips from this computer so Apple can’t Jake all my Data.

However the podcast (when downloaded from respectable sources) is great. Every week I look forward to finding out what’s next in store for the star ship Entrepreneur; will Diana find that there is more to life than chocolate, will Geordi crack under pressure and be relieved by Argyle, will Data take over the enterprise again and appoint Spot his number one, will Riker confess his true love to the leaning wall, and will Picard admit that his favorite crusher is the boy Wesley?

All this and more may (probably won’t) be answered on the Greatest Generation.

As a listener of podcasts I am often asked what podcasts I listen to and which I would recommend. After finishing up the silly iTunes review its probably more helpful to do a full overview of all the podcast to which I subscribe.

The Greatest Generation

The podcast for which the above review applies is The Greatest Generation, a Star Trek podcast by two guys who are somewhat ashamed to have a Star Trek podcast. The host Adam and Ben seem to have started the podcast almost on a dare, unsure if they would even release the first set of recordings, and even more unsure if anyone would listen if the did. I am very glad they released their bashful first recordings and continue to release podcasts twice a week as it is often the highlight of my Mondays and Wednesdays.

The podcast follows Star Trek the Next Generation, the hosts watch episodes of the iconic television show before the podcast then talk the listeners through the story points and highlights of the episode. What makes the podcast amusing is their bizarre sense of humor.

The show has lots of jokes that build on previous episodes so I would very much recommend going back and listening from the beginning. While I often skip the first season of the Next Generation when re-watching it, some of those terrible episodes make the best podcasts.

Hello Internet

Another favorite podcast is Hello Internet, the podcast by YouTubers CGPGrey and Brady Haron. This podcast is the pinnacle of the ‘two dudes talking’ genre and has no specific topics or subjects. Popular conversation points usually focus around Grey’s peculiarities, plane crashes, Audrey the chihuahua, follow-up from previous episodes, paper-cuts, vexillology, emoji, and occasionally YouTube. The subject of conversation really has little effect on the quality of the podcast as most of my enjoyment comes from the excellent chemistry shared between the hosts. Grey and Brady often see the world in completely opposite ways, vet they are still extremely good friends.

For a little taste of the podcast, some of the best bits have been put together and animated by listener Dovsky.

Hello Internet is not uploaded on a regular schedule, which makes it a pleasant surprise when there is a new episode sitting in my queue.

Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project

Still Untitled is the podcast of Adam Savage the former Mythbuster, though when the podcast was started he was still busting myths. The show was started as part of a collaboration between the Discovery channel stars and Tested.com a technology review site. The podcast is usually half hour period for hosts Adam, Will, and Norm to catch up and talk about Adam’s adventures, current events or to go in depth on a movie or book.

The podcast is released every Tuesday and is conveniently the length of my morning commute. There is a large backlog of episodes, but the discussions are very topical and there is no need to go back and listen to the back episodes to follow the current conversations.

Cortex

Cortex is another podcast with YouTuber CGPGrey, this time with Mike Hurley as his co-host. Similar to Hello Internet this falls neatly into the two dudes talking genre, though this podcast is focused a little more on matters of work, productivity and how to run a podcasting empire. Grey goes much more in depth about workflows he uses to force his lazy side to be productive, and Mike shares his learnings on what its like to run Relay.fm podcast network.

Also like Hello Internet this show does not have a regular schedule, but it is released with more consistency with Mike trying to get podcasts out a normal intervals.

This is Only a Test

This is Only a Test is Tested.com’s weekly technology podcast. Norm from this Still Untitled is often present along with other rotating hosts (usually Jeremy and Kishore). This podcast is very topical as the popular culture, technology and virtual reality news from the past week are the main topics of discussion.

The podcast publishes every thursday and I find it entertaining as well as a good way to stay informed about what is going on in the tech world.

Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics is the show produced by Stephen Dubner for public radio in podcast form. Its a well produced show that  looks at different topics each episode in depth and usually from the perspective of economics, even if its a topic not normally associated with economics. The shows are always interesting and often insightful.

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me is another show produced for public radio released as a podcast. Wait Wait is a game show hosted by Peter Sagal focusing on the more ridiculous pieces of the last week’s news. Wait Wait is an entertaining way to take in the highlights of a week’s news.

 

I have many other podcasts that are sitting in my queue that I have not yet had the chance to  listen to, as keeping up with 7 podcast is a lot of audio to listen to every week. Next I get the time RadioLab, Lore, Planet Money, and Welcome to Night Vale are waiting for me.