Tag Archives: Analog

Skilcraft U.S. Government pens

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There are so many glowing reviews of the Skilcraft pens that I had to try them. They’ve been around forever and have a great story. A box of 12 costs $15, so the risk was pretty low.

My experience is that they’re pretty lousy pens. For a buck apiece I shouldn’t expect much, but they feel terrible in hand and the few that I’ve actually tried using have skipped regularly. They’re not supposed to do that. I’ll never know if they write in the rain or not because I’m not willing to go that far. Outside of nostalgia I can’t think of any reason to recommend them.

Mailing a letter

I pull the chair up to my desk and prepare to write another letter. She likes to receive letters and I like to send them.

I choose an appropriate stationery and just the right pen; this time a nice Pelikan fountain pen with dark green ink. I write, slowly and deliberately. I want to say the right things. Also, my penmanship is terrible. But it’s mine. I’m careful to finish before reaching the bottom of the page, so there’s still room to sign it.

“Love, Jack” it says.

I fold the page carefully and insert it into a matching envelope. I write her address on the envelope, even more carefully, as I want the post office to get it right. I affix the perfect stamp; something cute, but not too cute. Satisfied, I seal the envelope and walk it to the end of the driveway. I put the letter into the mailbox, leaning it against the side, just so. And finally, I flip up the little flag so the mailman knows there’s something waiting.

I walk contentedly back to the house and smile. It’s on its way.

Technology Failures this Weekend

People wonder why I like old, simple, manual, mostly analog devices and tools. This weekend served as a pretty good reminder of why I sometimes hate technology.

Bluetooth Headphones

I have a rather expensive pair of Bluetooth earbuds so I can listen to audio books while I ride my bike. I bought them so I could ride without worrying about tangled cables or the buds falling out. I charged them up (which is required before every ride because battery life is pretty bad) and drove to the bike trail. The headphones wouldn’t pair. They were paired yesterday, but suddenly nothing. I tried for 20 minutes and gave up.

iPhone

After failing to pair my headphones, I noticed that the battery meter on the iPhone said 29% even though I’d charged it overnight and it was only 10:00am. I shrugged, fired up Runkeeper, killed all other apps, and took off for my ride. 20 minutes later the battery was dead. This happens pretty regularly and is maddening.

AppleTV

I wanted to try using the Remote app on the iPhone instead of Apple’s horrible aluminum remote. Somehow I ended up unable to control the AppleTV with either the phone or the remote. Required a reset and some time on Google to find a fix.

DEVONthink

I’ve been using DEVONthink for years. One thing they still don’t have nailed is sync. There are all sorts of configurable sync options but I’ve not found one that works consistently. If I didn’t hate using Evernote I’d switch back to it just for its flawless sync. After an hour of fidgeting I’ve gotten things working again, but sheesh.

iMac

My iMac has been getting worse and worse. Very slow, very flakey. I’m almost positive it’s a hardware problem but Apple had it overnight and found nothing. A reboot takes up to 20 minutes before things are usable. Half the time only some of the startup items actually start. Time for something new I think.

Sonos

Sonos on my phone wouldn’t connect to any of the speakers so I couldn’t control my music. I tried updating to the latest 5.1 version via the desktop app but after it downloads I get a message saying that there was a problem with the update and to “please try downloading the update again”. Maybe later.

I think may just put on a record and read a book.

How Fountain Pens are Made

Discriminating writers still consider the fountain pen the ultimate writing instrument.

Fountain pens are fun to use and, for some of us, to collect. I’m left-handed, which makes using a fountain pen challenging. It’s worth it.

Here’s how quality fountain pens are made.

 

Olympia SM9

Olympia SM3 and SM9
Olympia SM3 and SM9

I saw an Olympia SM9 on Craigslist and couldn’t resist. It’s not especially pretty, but it seems to work really well. Rather than writing about it using a computer, I thought I should put the typewriter to use.

Olympia SM9 Sample

Writing Stuff on Index Cards

When I type something on my computer it can be easily filed forever into a giant hierarchy of files and notes. When I write something on an index card it gets in my way until I deal with it.

That sounds like a disadvantage of index cards and it is — but only if you have the wrong goal. My goal is not to find the easiest possible way to write things and file them. The the goal is to remember what I’m writing so that I can use it later. This is why I stick with index cards, notebooks, and Post-It notes. Their pain-in-the-assness is their greatest benefit.

Using Paper

I don’t use paper because I’m “nostalgic” for it. I use paper because I prefer it.

I use paper for as many things as I can. Notes, lists, tasks, everything that makes sense. I even tried a paper and folder based project management system for a while. I loved the idea, but it turned out to be less than ideal. I also really want to use a paper calendar, but the iPhone is better for that sort of thing. Dangit. It’s not for lack of trying, though.

Paper is slow, unsearchable, immutable, sloppy, prone to loss, and it kills trees. You know the list. It’s also better in almost every way that I find valuable. For example, slow is good. I know, all luddites make that argument, but the slow physicality of writing something down makes it “stick” for me. So again, slow is good.

Paper is immutable. This happens to be one of its best features. If I write something down, it stays there. On the other hand, whenever I type something into OmniFocus or nvALT or whatever I tend to change my mind a week later and move everything to Asana or VoodooPad or OneNote or whatever. For all the fancy ways I have to take notes, I can’t find shit half the time. You may do things differently, but for me, ink on paper sticks and remains useful forever.

Paper is sloppy. Yes it is, and that messiness helps me find things. I can look for something and find it based on ink color, bleed, flourish, stains, location on page, etc. This is a good thing. I love sloppy.

Paper is unsearchable. Well, I can’t argue with that, although I’m pretty good at finding things I’ve written down (see above). Mileage varies.

I wouldn’t try to convince anyone that paper is inherently better for everything, but I still prefer it, and if that means a few extra trees have to go, so be it.