Interesting Stuff 20180608

For Eyeballs:

Free online courses. I’m a big fan of teaching myself things. There are hundreds of great online course offered for free all over the place. This is a collection of hundreds. 

This art piece fills me with joy. I wish I could participate in something like it near me. Helium and charcoal ball.

I roast my own coffee. Sweet Maria’s has a good starter how to and loads of archived resources. There’s a forum somewhere.

For the Ear Holes:

Call Your Girlfriend, a super smart podcast with 2 lady co-hosts talking about all sorts of women’s issues, smartly. I’ve listened to almost all the episodes from ep 1, but the most recent years worth are the best.

Get to Work Hurley is a great podcast by the author Cameron Hurley. It’s smart, funny, and a pointed reminder that even published authors have a rough time. It’s decidedly NSFW as Hurley and I have a similar trucker like vocabulary.

 

Review: Brandless Softcover Notebook 3-pack

I reviewed the Brandless gel pens over here. My wife likes to add on a new stationery item with every order as a surprise to me. 🙂

Like all the other Brandless items a 3-pack is $3. Each notebook contain 30 sheets or 60 pages. There are multiple signatures in each notebook and they are stitched together and then glued to the cover. The cover is soft and pretty floppy, it is impossible to write in hand with these notebooks. That said they are about composition notebook size and fit into any cover that fits comp books. The corners are square and not rounded.

The matte cover features ridges of texture and a white area to write into, no Brandless info on the front cover. Discreetly on the back is the brandless logo.

The paper inside is college ruled in dark gray. The ruling is dark enough that it doesn’t blend into the background but stands out. The paper is thin, very thin. It does not work well with fountain pens. Some of my inks feathered, but not all. Most all had show through and many had bleed through. Even some of my gel pens bleed through the page. The paper responded best with ballpoint and pencil. Pencil was really nice on this paper.

These aren’t great notebooks but they aren’t bad if you stick to pencil and are just looking for something to jot down a few study notes or thoughts on book reviews. They don’t feel special or particularly nice, but they are okay. It’s not a bad way to get your Brandless order up for free shipping. Continue reading

Review: Baron Fig X Codecademy Computerworld LE Vanguard

I’ve reviewed a few BF vanguard sets in the past. This set sports the same great paper and soft but sturdy card cover with stitched spines. The big difference in this set is that they arrive in a box, instead of belly banded and shrink wrapped. If you are seeking a lovely presentation for a gift, this is a good one. The interior paper is printed with a nicely sized ruling with numbered lines. The numbers are pale enough that if you wish, you can write over them and it won’t interfere with reading your writing later.

What is truly enjoyable about this set are the covers. Each cover sports a different theme and intricate artwork that I can’t help but stare at as I think. The covers are colorful but use muted shades of all the colors used. Teal, yellow, and magenta call back to the late 80s and early 90s while the interior numbered lines are a full-on thrown back to dot matrix printer paper I used in elementary school.

The back cover of each book is one solid color with an icon in the center and the title of the set in the bottom center. It is a simple reprieve from the business of the front. The inside covers sport a pale shade of that back cover with info about the cover in white text. Overall, the covers are lovely.

This is the first Vanguard set I’ve received with a sheet of stickers. I think it is a great addition to the set. BF has pulled out little icons from the covers and made stickers. They are a lot of fun.

Overall this set is a lot of fun. It looks great and has amazing paper inside.

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Review: Baron Fig LE Apprentice The Atomic Edition

Baron Fig hasn’t put out an Apprentice in years. This is a great new edition that I love. My RSVP cohost, Lenore might hate the planetary atomic model but I love the look.

The pale baby blue textured cover feels great in my hand. The tactile feel of all the BF covers really draws me in, this is no exception. I find myself picking the notebook up without thinking about it. The spine is stitched, which I’ve blathered on about my favorite of all the pocket notebook bindings.  It’s sturdy and mine are all straight and well done.

Inside the covers live 48 pages of cream-colored dot grid paper. As usual, the grid is pale gray and fades behind any writing. The paper is great with pencil, ballpoint, gel, and rollerball, but I found that my fountain pens tended to have a great deal of show through and even a bit of bleed. It doesn’t feather so I use my EF and F nibbed pens on it and ignore the show through.

My big problem with the BF Apprentice isn’t the bleed or show through with fountain pens, it is the size. It is about ½ inch (1cm) too short and roughly ¼ inch (5mm) narrower than most other pocket notebooks. The size feels precious and small. The size feels great in hand but it doesn’t fit any over my covers and slides down deep into my Nock FodderstackXL. Of course, this means that if I want to slap this into a cover I’m stuck using the BF Guardian.  

Overall, this is a worthy addition to the scores of pocket notebooks on the market, but I think BF missed out by not making this the standard pocket notebooks size. The stitched binding could have made this a serious contender but instead, it falls a little short and narrow. Continue reading

Review: Baron Fig Mysterium Squire

I’ve previously reviewed the BF Squire pen, so it’ll be no surprise for me to say that I like this pen. Let me tell you more about the Mysterium. A friend of the blog, Harry Marks wrote a lovely short scifi story for the pen, you can head to the previous link to read it, everyone should, it’s lovely.

First off, it is a lovely shade of burnt orange. Orange may not be my favorite color but this shade is less brilliant and more toasty and warm than safety cone. It looks great with all of my stationery items. It goes well with the Stone.

Secondly, it’s got a d20 engraved in place of the Squire sword. Don’t know what a d20 is? It is a 20 sided die, and it is integral to playing certain roleplaying games. To get geeky on you, BF rolled a 20 on this pen.

Finally, it is filled with the Schmidt P8126 with black ink. Of the rollerball refills available, this is one of the best. It is smooth and free flowing and deep black. It works perfectly on all BF paper, plus anything else available.

The twisty mechanism is smooth and satisfying. The big problem that I have with the Squire is that if I toss it into a pocket the twist mechanism deployed in my pocket and the free flow of the refill destroys my pants. As a result, I have a Tofty clip on mine, it works but is ugly as hell. Continue reading

Review: Jinhao 992 Fountain Pen

I picked up 5 Jinhao 992 fountain pens for about $2 each on eBay. I purchased the clear model but they are also available in a variety of colors like grey, orange, and blue. Mine arrived with a converter and a fine nib. Each was sleeved in a clear plastic envelope. They were gathered in one big zipper bag and Shipped in a snug bubble mailer.

Mine has silver trim and clip. The clip works really well and can be clipped to a shirt if needed. The converter holds a tiny amount of ink but makes these great for sampling ink and testing out colors. For this purpose they are amazing. They write well and hold enough ink for a day. At $2 a pop, you can buy one for every color of ink available. The size is on the small side. They are perfectly sized for my small hands and feel balanced even when posted, which is something I don’t often feel.

I have only ever found them in a fine nib but I understand that you can find them with a medium as well. I purchased mine to fiddle around with nib grinding and smoothing. They don’t need much to write a wet buttery smooth line on even cheap paper. A swipe across the shine side of a nail stick is all it takes. I tried to grind mine down to a fine architect grind but I’m not even close. I think I need to start with a medium to make that happen. That said mine write well.

Another experiment that I wanted to try was turning them into an eye dropper. The body of the pen holds a whopping 3 ml of ink! Massive ink tank possibility here! Sadly only one of my 6 were sealed from the factory. To turn them into an eyedropper you’ll need to invest in some E6000 or other clear epoxy and practice dribbling it into the end of the pen. Mine all look like hell after I dribbled E6000 into the barrel. I now have 6 sealed pens I can eyedropper.

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Review: Baron Fig Squire Click

Baron Fig announced the clicky version of the squire last week. When I received the reviewer announcement I was excited- a click mechanism is my preferred pen point deployment method. I immediately asked BF to YES PLEASE SEND ONE!

Mine is in the fig wine colorway. You can also get charcoal gray. The fig wine color is burgundy or maroon depending on your level of fancy. The anodized coating is really tough. I tested it by slipping it into my Nock Fodderstack XL pen pocket along with my MetalShop CT Twist Bullet Pencil. I carried it around like that for the week, sitting on the two as I was at work and around the house. Some aluminum transferred from the Twist bullet, but there were no scratches.

The most important difference between the Click and the standard Squire is that the Click is substantially smaller than the standard. It is narrower and lighter and weighted toward the click and slightly less balanced than the standard Squire. For smaller hands, the Click is a great pen. Inside it uses a standard Parker refill or the Schmidt Easy Flow 9000. If you are going to use a ballpoint refill this is a great refill. It’s smooth and dark. I do wish it used the regular Squire refill but if I’ve gotta use a ballpoint the Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 is great.

My least favorite part of this pen is the nock. I prefer a nock with a satisfying and notable click, this nock doesn’t deliver that at all. If you like the Kara’s Kustom nock, it’s the same. It works really well and feels good, but doesn’t give me the sound I want in a nock. The Click would be made substantially better with the addition of a clip. The lack of clip means that I need to stash it into my Fodderstack XL or get one of the pen cases BF sells. (Or a Tofty printed clip.) If I don’t get one of these options and it is loose in my pocket the point is deployed and well, the ballpoint is less messy, but still marks up my pocket and wallet.

Overall, I like the Squire Click. Because it is smaller and lighter than the standard Squire I find that I can write with it for longer periods of time without hand fatigue. It did take a bit to become accustomed to the balance but now that I am, not an issue. The Click is a sturdy well made pen. It retails for $45.

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Review: Starrett 6’ Steel Measure Stix

This post is written by Lenore from RSVP Stationery Podcast. This is a great post about a useful tool!

I actually ordered the regular (polyurethane) version of the Starrett Measure Stix, and what came in the package was this steel version. Until I was writing this review, I naturally assumed I had ordered the wrong item by accident, but looking back through my order history, it’s clear that the vendor sent me the wrong one (I actually can’t find a link on Amazon to what I received, but here are links to the 4’ and 12’ versions). My intent had been to throw a piece in the covers of my non-FN pocket notebooks, and the steel definitely wasn’t a great choice for that. At the price, though, it was definitely worth using rather than sending it back. The steel tape measures come in various combinations of length (at least 4’, 6’ and 12’ options), scale (English only or English + Metric), and direction (reading left to right or right to left), but not all combinations are available.

25 years ago, give or take, I had put some tape-measure tape on my cutting table for sewing projects, and it’s been peeling off. I was looking for a replacement for that, and when I saw that an option was available with both English and metric scales, I thought I’d expand it to use in my notebooks as well. So a word about that: if the scale is all you need, and you don’t necessarily need the markings to start at 0 at the edge of your surface, then the two-scale tape can be cut to any length, and into any number of pieces, and work fine (it just won’t start at 0). But since inches aren’t tidy multiples of centimeters, the scales only align at the beginning of the tape and every 50 inches (127 cm) thereafter. I’ve been looking for some adhesive tape marked just in cm but haven’t scored any yet.

I literally have no idea how one was supposed to get into this package gracefully. I had to go full hulk on it.

The steel tape is a little springy and pops into looser coils as soon as it’s taken out of the package. The print is sharp and clear. You can see that there’s a short (a centimeter or so) leader at each end, unmarked; I cut off the left end because I wanted to put the 0 mark right at the edge of my table. The package says to cut it with scissors, but I don’t have any scissors I was willing to abuse this way, so I used tin snips. (As you’ll see a little later, they didn’t make quite as tidy a cut as I would have liked, but this is a utilitarian, rather than a decorative, addition.)

It’s a 3M adhesive. The backer paper was easy to get a corner free to peel, and the adhesive was fresh and sticky. (VERY sticky. This is an aggressive adhesive.)

If I were putting this on a project table, I would certainly put it on the top of the working surface. This table, though, is in my office at school; I mostly use it for meeting with students during office hours and as a work table for shuffling papers and grading, so I didn’t want to give up the smooth top for a ruler I wouldn’t use often. The steel is thin; it’s thick enough that you could use it as an edge to bump a piece of paper or card stock against it, or thicker material (like carboard, mdf, wood, etc) if it had a very defined corner, but fabric, or any hard material with a blunt corner, would slide up right over the tape. (You can also see the yellow handles of my tin snips lying on the table in this picture.)

The application was easy. This is NOT intended to be repositionable, but I did have a couple false moves where I stuck a small area to the table and was able to pull it off again and get it straight. I peeled the backing off a few inches at a time as I worked across from the zero end, lining it up with the edge of the veneer as I went.

My table is only 5 feet long, so I cut the tape at the corner and then went ahead and wrapped it around onto the end. I didn’t try to make a sharp bend; it’s possible it could be done, with care or with the proper tools. This is where you can see that the tin snips made a little bit of a messy scratch on the surface.

 

It also turned out that because I was placing this so close to the top of the table, the sharp corner of the cut end was a little too noticeable and was catching on my clothes or my students’ sleeves if they brushed against it, so I trimmed it down a little, and then just threw a piece of scotch tape on it for now to protect myself. (Unfortunately, this corner of the table is the most prominent and the most likely to be bumped or brushed against.) This will also protect the surface of the ruler from wear. I may come up with a cleaner, more permanent solution later.

While this is labeled as a 6’ tape, it actually goes a little beyond 2 meters, as you can see here. The total marked length on the English scale is 81 inches, and there’s some space on both ends, so it’s almost 7’ long and will have to be trimmed in any application to a surface shorter than that, which means the sharp corners at the cuts will have to be dealt with.

Overall, this product was surprisingly inexpensive for what it is. It’s well-made and easy to apply, and it looks good. I’m going to follow up with the vendor and see if I can get the regular polyurethane version.

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Review: Show Tell Baron Fig X Dribble LE Confidant

The Show and Tell (ST) is the latest limited edition Confidant from Baron Fig. It has all of the usual Baron fig goodness- sturdy stitched binding, nice tactile covers, a debossed logo on the front, and best of all it’s filled with that lovely Baron Fig paper. I love that warm cream colored paper with all my pens, inks and pencils. The ruling of this paper is different- the top half is blank and the bottom half is lined. The ruling is in a pale grey shade the perfectly accents the warm dusty purple of the cover. I quite like the combination. The ruling is pale enough that it retreats to the background of any writing- be it pale shades of blue, black or the silvery shades of graphite. The coloring of BF’s ruling always makes me happy. The half blank and lined pages are great for life and nature drawing. In my undergrad many many years ago, I had a class that required the use of a similar setup sketchbook. They were radically overpriced for a slim sketchbook with okay paper. The BFXDribble is around the same price as that sketchbook but with more pages and better paper. I can see myself working on some art journaling in this sketchbook. This would be a great journal for Speed Journaling or add a mandala or color swatches of the day. I see this as a great gift for the artist in your life.A great change which I feel is notable is that the page marker, which perfectly matches the cover, is long enough that I can grip it, and use it to open the journal. This is a vast improvement in the Confidant. I hope that BF makes this change in all of their upcoming Confidants. Continue reading

Review: Brandless Gel Pen 0.7mm Black

The Brandless brand is a simple set up- think Muji but American and with a focus on groceries. As a small upstart brand, they are interesting. Their schtick is that everything on their site is $3, and you qualify for free shipping at $30, or 10 items. They have frequent free shipping offers, so you can often get your goods at $3. The look of Brandless is minimalistic and simple. Labels are barebones and, I find them aesthetically pleasing. The pens are available in a 4-pack for $3. The package is a clear hard plastic box. The backside sports a white label with product info. Simple. The pens are semi-opaque white frosted plastic. The plastic is matte with a glossy white “Brandless” label printed in the middle of the pen. Simple. The cap is short and reminds me of many other inexpensive gel pens, specifically Poppin, but without the bright colors and carefully designed clip. The clip on the Brandless pen does its job, holding the pen to a notebook or the placket of a shirt. The cap is short. It offers a soft click as the pen is capped or posted. The pen posts easily and the cap stays in place.

The cap does not stay put if you clip the pen to your lapel or put it in your pocket. the cap will fall off. The good thing is that the gel ink doesn’t seem to bleed too badly into the fabric of your pockets but it is a danger. Don’t pocket carry if you like your pants.
The refill is held in place with a rear cap that screws into place. When my pens arrived this rear cap was loose on two of the four pens. It was easily screwed down with my fingers. Once tight the refill doesn’t move or wiggle. It is quite an efficient method of holding the refill in place. I found that several of the refills weren’t as full as others. In use I find the pens quite comfortable, they have a slightly thicker body than other gel pens. They fit my hand well. If you grip your pens close to the tip you might find that the drop between the tip and body is uncomfortable. The ink flows smoothly and darkly without soaking through most of the pocket notebooks I use, or the crappy paper at my DayJob. They respond quite well to crappy DayJob paper but also in my Baron Fig confidant I use as my book journal.

Overall I quite like these pens. If you need something to get you up to $30 for your free shipping, this is a good opportunity to get some decent black ink pens for cheap.(These are also available in blue ink. Though I have not tested them.) Continue reading