Crazy windy days

The weather in desert can get quite extreme sometimes. Today we have 25+ mph winds with 40+ mph gusts. And as if that is not enough, the winds are expected to continue into tomorrow and bring the daytime temperature down by about 30-degree F compared to today. Perhaps I should consider taking a break from biking.


Another trip to Taiwan

Back from my second trip to Taiwan in two months, very tired but nevertheless quite happy. It is interesting to see how my body adjust to these frequent international travel and jet lag. Last time I slept quite well from day one, but lost my appetite almost completely and couldn't taste the food at all. This time I had trouble sleeping for the entire trip, but thoroughly enjoyed all the delicious food that Taiwan has to offer.

Work aside, I got to see my mom and my brother's family again, and of course, my nephew's excellent performance of making faces:

I also visited my in-law's new house

and saw a bunch of orchids and roses that have been keeping my father-in-law busy:

Luckily, my travel schedule allowed me to stay for my father-in-law's birthday, so I prepared a Think Tigre FP for him

and also a Lamy Pico for my mother-in-law as a very late b-day gift. What I didn't expected was that I'd come away with some really awesome party favors, including a Delta Napoli limited edition FP/RB set (FPH-exclusive)

and a yellow Aurora Ipsilon.

Now while I deal with the jet-lag (yet again), I will have some great time playing with these new toys.


Sleep seminar

While falling asleep during a seminar may not be all that rare (I do that some of the time and see people do it all the time), listening to a seminar about the science of sleep is definitely a first for me. Having good sleep during the night is difficult for me most of the time for as far back as I can remember, so when I saw the seminar announcement entitled "Sense & Nonsense to Improve Sleep", my interest is piqued and I can't wait to know what Dr. Richard R. Bootzin have to say about the subject. Here are the things that I learned today:

1. Sleep problems in toddlers and teenagers are good predictors for other problems (depression, substance abuse, etc) 10+ years down the road. Presumably, the same logic applies to adults.
2. Having <6 or >9 hours of sleep per day is not good; 7-8 hours would be the optimal for most people.
3. The use of bright light (in conjunction with darkness) is one of the most effective ways to influence circadian rhythm.
4. The stories about those crazy cyclists who participate in the Race Across America are absolutely fascinating. The hallucinations about aliens and such when one is under tremendous physical/mental stress and sleep deprivation can make very funny stories.


Pen Review: Libelle Season Collection

Here is a short review of the three pens from the Libelle's Seasons collection: Autumn Leaves, Summer Breeze, and Winter Storm. This is also posted at the FPN.

0. Background.
Well, it's not that I have never splurged on 3 pens at a time, but this is definitely a rare event. The main culprit of this crazy-impulse-purchase, although much delayed, is the Autumn Leaves, so I figured that I'd start with a background story.

I first saw the pen about an year and a half ago. My second daughter, Vivian, just started school that year. The first song she learned at her school is called "When the leaves are red and yellow in the fall", which is to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain". The lyric goes like:

When the leaves are red and yellow in the fall, (clap, clap)
When the leaves are red and yellow in the fall, (clap, clap)
When the leaves are red and yellow, then the apples taste so mellow,
When the leaves are red and yellow in the fall. (clap, clap)

She enjoys singing the song at home all the time, and she looks so cute when she does that it melts my heart every single time. She kindly agreed to sing the song again for me today, but she is very shy this time:

Note: I believe that having a song as a part of a pen review is never done before at FPN. :)

One day, I had a chance to stop-by the Artlite pen store in Atlanta, and saw the Libelle Autumn Leaves there. The beautiful color combination of green/yellow/orange quickly caught my eyes, and when I learned about the name, I instantly thought of Vivian and her song. I almost bought the pen on the spot, but refrained from doing so because I really have too many pens and we were about to move all the way from Georgia to Arizona at that time. However, the image of this pen etched deeply into my mind, along with Vivian's song. For this reason, I simply can't shake the pen out of my mind. As I followed the pen, I noticed the subsequent release of Summer Breeze and Winter Storm in the Libelle Seasons collection, which are also quite stunningly beautiful. I keep telling myself that I really don't need another pen, but well, you know how that goes.

1. Appearance & Design
Each pen arrived in a nice cardboard/faux leather box. The black/white combination of the box did a good job to showcase the brilliant colors of the pens.

Inside the box, there is the pen (of course), a converter (with a bead in it), an international cartridge, and a small instruction card.

I've only seen the Autumn Leaves in person before I ordered the pens, and its colors are as wonderful as I remembered. The name pretty much said it all about what you can expect.

The Summer Breeze is a combination of white and blue with pearly irradiance, which reminded me of those wonderful times we had at beaches in summer. The Winter Storm is a very powerful/striking combination of black and white. I am very happy with the appearance of all three pens, and they are much better looking in person than any of the photos that I've seen on the web. Here's a shot of all three pens together.

Initially I thought that I wouldn't like the black part used for the cap/barrel ends because I always like pens that use the same material through out. However, this design feature makes the three pens look really great together, and I have learned to appreciate it on each individual pen.

To match up with the pen, I have PR Orange Crush for the Autumn Leaves, Pelikan Turquoise for the Summer Breeze, and Visconti Black for the Winter Storm. All three pen-ink combos look great for the moment.

2. Construction & Quality
The cap/barrel are thick in these pens, which makes them feel quite substantial. The construction quality is pretty good. I would prefer the barrel to be made thinner, such that (1) the pen can be lighter, and (2) the fit of converter wouldn't be so tight (you can feel a vacuum when you pull the barrel up and down, but this is a pretty minor issue). BTW, because the threads are on a metal part, eye-dropper (ED) conversion is out of the question with these pens.

3. Weight & Dimensions
I don't know the exact weight, but these pens feel heavier than my Bexley Americana and are similar to my Pelikan M800. These are definately full-sized pens, here is a shot with a Pelikan M800 (top) and a M200 (bottom) for comparison:

I like the balance of the pen when un-posted. The cap can be posted, but I don't do that for any of my pens except for Pilot M90.

4. Nib & Performance
The pen comes with a standard stainless steel Iridium Point Germany (IPG) nib, with M-nib as the only available option. All three pens that I got worked well right out of the box. They are all smooth writers with a medium ink flow (5 out of 10).
Although I probably should be happy with how well they write, I do have some complaints about the nibs that are not related to their writing performance. First, at this price point, Libelle could have use a nib that carry their own logo (the dragonfly should look pretty good on a nib). Second, the nib feels too small for the pen. It probably will look more balanced if a larger nib is used. Third, given that a generic IPG nib is used, they should have make it a screwed-out so that user could replace/upgrade the nib. Last, more nib size options should be available.

5. Filling System & Maintenance
These pens are standard CC fillers. Not much to add here.

6. Cost & Value
The MSRP is $80, and I bought them new for $56 each from TheInkFlow.com (standard disclaimer here). To me these pens are in the same category as the Levenger TrueWriters, so I think they will be a good benchmark to determine the "value". The Libelle pens look much nicer than the TrueWriters so they win hands down in the appearance part. The build qualities are similar. However, I am not so happy with the Libelle nibs, plus the Levenger TrueWriter can be had for a touch cheaper (or much cheaper if you go with the Levenger Ebay outlet), so it all depends on how much you like the look. Rationally, I think the Levenger TrueWriter has a much better "value", but then again, the reason I bought these Libelle pens are not entirely rational, and I am quite happy with the pens that I got for the price.

7. Conclusion
Overall I am pretty happy with these pens. To me the most important value of these pens are not how good they write or how good they looks, after all, it is difficult to put a price on the good memories from my daughter's 4-year-old days (yeah I know that this sounds like those cheesy credit card ads, but it's true). Now if Libelle come out with a Spring one with some cheerful colors, I would not hesitate to add that to my collection.


The ridiculous health insurance bill

Just been hit by the new health insurance bill: a 42.4% increase over the previous year. Honestly, I didn't get the memo about some hyperinflation going on in the US.

So, here is my plead to the guy who just won the Nobel Peace prize: Could you please do something about this ridiculous situation? *Sigh*


Growth record

Alyssa: 7 yr 7 mo, 130 cm.
Vivian: 5 yr 8 mo, 112 cm.
David: 3 yr 3 mo, 95 cm.

Fall is here. Really?

It was like someone just flipped a switch somewhere. The temperature suddenly dropped from mid-90s to mid-80s and has been stayed like that for a week now. I even feel a bit chilly on my bike rides. Is the summer really over? Is that even possible in Tucson?


And that's the last of it

Tucson is a great city for biking. Most of the major roads have dedicated bike lanes and the weather is simply great. We have 350+ sunny days here, so for the most part I don't have to face the situation that I hate the most: riding in the rain. However, all that sunshine and dry weather comes with a great pain in the a$$: cacti and all sorts of thorny plants are everywhere!

Even with Continental Ultra Gatorskin for both my front and rear, I managed to run through 5 inner tubes in 3 months. Initially I was worried about the broken glasses/metal sharps on the road, but so far all my 10+ flats are caused by thorns. The last fresh tube in my stock went into the front today. Guess it is time to stock up again. *Sigh*

Incidentally, I noticed a Motobecane Fantom Cross Outlaw started to show up in the bike enclosure at work this semester. The disc brakes and the wider tires looks really cool. Could that be the answer to my problem? Hmm...