Pens, inks, and rocks

While still feeling bummed about missing the LA pen show this year, I saw on the FPN that the PenWorks in Carefree is having a pen show today. I was so excited about the fact that one can find a pen show even in AZ, I planned a family trip without hesitation.

The show turned out to be much bigger than I've expected. In addition to the usual suspects (Visconti, Lamy, Bexley, etc), the Penchetta line of pens (hand-turned by Anthony, the shop owner) really caught my eye. Some of the designs and materials are very interesting and good looking. Alas, I'm in my saving mode now and have to resist the temptation of buying new pens. In the end I came home with only a bottle of ink, Noodler's Zhivago, which turned out to be great (reviewed here).

After a short stop at the shop, we took the kids to the Deer Valley Rock Art Center to see the petroglyphs left by the Indians. Luckily, it happened to be their annual Rock Art Expo and there are a lot more than the regular exhibit to see. Everyone was pretty happy about this wonderful Saturday.


Nina, aka Jack

Recently the girls' favorite game is the "Little House on the Prairie". For the game to work, they need a dog to play "Jack" in the story. Needless to say, Nina got this role uncontested. Now that she is pretty comfortable with either name the kids used to call her, I worry if dog can get dissociative identity disorder.

No wonder there are shrinks for dogs.

Getting hot

It's only mid-March now and I already need a water bottle for my 6-mile bike commute. I really wonder how I survived last summer.


Idiotic racers in a truck

Two guys in a truck yelled at me on my way home today, first time when they passed me on the road and second time when I passed them after they parked on their driveway. It was fast and loud so I can't quite understand what they were trying to say, but it sounds like something along the line of "We are awesome and you suck because we can drive faster in a truck than you can go on a bike". Pure idiots.

On a side note, the new tires I put on yesterday held up well to some unplanned tests. They are quite rigid compared to the stock tires so the ride wasn't as comfortable. The funny thing is that just seconds after I had this thought, I was forced to ride through two piles of broken glasses that spread across the entire bike lane. Maybe I am being superstitious, but it seemed like the tires want to convince me that puncture resistance is far more important than supple rides. You won, I am sold.


I hate flats

While bike commute has many things going for it in Tucson (e.g., countless sunny days, well-planned bike lanes), the over-abundance of thorns and the generally poor pavements are definitely not. After having a good number of flats, I finally gave in today and spent some good money on a pair of Continental Ultra Gatorskins (700c x 25). Hopefully this will do the trick.

Now some observations about the tires before I have a chance to ride. First, they are pretty easy to mount. I read some reviews about how difficult it is to get these tires mounted and was kind of dreading about doing that. To my surprise, the ones I got (with wire beads) went on without causing my any trouble. In fact, they are easier to mount than the stock tires that came with my bike.

Second, the QC may not be as good as I expected. When I saw the asymmetrical thread pattern, I asked the people at the bike shop (our local Performance Bike) about the direction of rotation. The answer they gave me was to put the sizing label on the left. However, when I was mounting the second tire, I noticed that the sizing labels are on different sides for the two tires that I got. So if I follow this direction, I'd end up with two tires with opposite thread patterns. Although it probably doesn't really matter, this makes me doubt about what the label "Handmade in Germany" really say about them. Sloppy workers maybe?


Chess tournament and parenting thoughts

I took Alyssa to her second chess tournament this afternoon. Despite the fact that she didn't win any game this time (first two were a tie and she lost the last one), we had a great time going out together. She enjoy the games and the chance to play with her classmates outside of the school, and I simply enjoy being with her.

I can't exactly describe what I experienced today, but somehow I got a deep feeling of pride watching her. It seems like a blink of eye, and she is almost full grown. I always have some self-doubts about whether I have been doing a good job as a father. Seeing that all three of them turn out to be such great kids seems like a perfect verdict for our success. More importantly, by being close with them, I feel that I somehow made up the regret of having a distant relationship with my dad.


Funny bees

The biology in the Bee Movie is a terrible mess, but that does not stop it from being a hilarious movie. In addition to the main storyline, the film is choke full of little jokes. Some of the ones that I find really funny include:

  • The passengers on the airplane wait impatiently for the seat belt sign to go off

  • The depressed cow who felt like "a piece of meat"

  • The mosquito who is "preadapted" to be a lawyer

Anyway, it is a funny movie that worth watching if you want to get a good laugh.

How I got hired remained a mystery

With the interview season upon us again, we have been seeing a number of people going through our lab and department. Just out of curiosity, I asked my boss why he decided to hire me on the spot when I interviewed for my postdoc here in his lab. Much to my disappointment, his answer was "Really? I did? I don't remember anything about that."

Well, at least I got the job and have been enjoying it a lot. I guess that's what really counts.


The ones that got away

The True Writer from Levenger has proven to be dangerously addictive. The build quality is solid, the QC is good, many of available colors are attractive, and most importantly, they often can be found at a great bargain through Levenger's ebay outlet. While I would be hesitate to buy one at the full list price, the sale price really makes them a deal that I can't refuse. The sale price can easily go around $20, sometimes even lower. The record for me is a demonstrator for $10.95; considering that it comes with a converter and a bottle of ink, the pen is basically free.

To put this into perspective, I compare them to one of my recent acquisitions: a Namiki Falcon. While the Falcon is a wonderful pen that I absolutely love, for the price I can have 5+ colorful TWs, each loaded with a different ink. As much as I love the sensation of writing with the Falcon's soft and springy nib, TW wins hands down in the value department. Another big plus is that I feel comfortable about leaving a bunch of TWs in office so I always have access to some fountain pens at work. This is something that I'll never do with any of higher priced pens.

So even after owning more than 10 TWs, I still crave for more. Specifically, I am itching to get a Sea Glass (the color that got me interested in True Writer in the first place) and a Carnaval (gave mine to my father-in-law and have been missing it terribly). Therefore, I almost jumped when I got an email from Levenger's ebay outlet about another sale, with a Sea Glass, a Carnaval, and a Golden Tortoise (intended for CP) listed at <$20 each. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of waiting for kids to go to bed before ordering. By the time I sat down in front of the computer again, all three of them were gone (darn it, don't you people have a life?).

Well, to look at things in a more positive way, I did take the chance to get my hands on a couple more pens, including a TW Amethyst (the matching ink is a lovely medium purple), a TW Blue Illuminator (I no longer interested in metal pens and have gotten this one for my father-in-law; that said, the brushed metal finish looks/feels really good), a TW Obsidian (the stub nib is nothing to get excited about but it works reasonable well), and a Decathlon.

Now the Decathlon is really an interesting pen. While it is not really that different from a TW, the faceted body certainly looks much nicer and the clip design is much more elegant. Notably the facets of the cap/body lined up perfectly when the pen is capped. Given all the advancements made in the pen industry over the past few decades this really shouldn't be a big deal, but one would be surprised about how many higher priced pens are having problems with this simple issue (hey Bexley are you listening?). Although the $138 list price is more like a joke for this pen, I am more than happy to fork out $19.95 for a refurbished one.

As I ponder which inks to use in these newly arrived pens, I can't help but to wonder: when will I get a TW Sea Glass and a TW Carnaval?


Girls on a roll

Seeing Vivian got a skateboard for her 5-year old birthday, Alyssa asked us for a pair of roller skates for her 7-year old birthday. Looks like we are going to see some intense actions in the back yard soon.