Cool little dude

A phone conversation that I overheard today:

Grandpa: 弟弟你今天是穿長褲還是短褲?
David: 我是好酷.

Here's the translation:
Grandpa: Are you wearing long pants or short pants today? (note: 'pants' sounds like 'cool' in Mandarin)
David: I am very cool.


Rocks and ruins

Taking advantage of the Thanksgiving break, we planned a 2-day trip up to Sedona, AZ to enjoy two things that I found fascinating: natural wonders and ancient civilizations.

On our way up, we first stopped by the Montezuma Castle National Monument, which is a 20-room high-rise apartment built into a cliff by the Sinagua people around 1,000 years ago:

After enjoying a short hike there, we got back on the car and took AZ SR 179 to enter the Red Rock Country. The various rock formations along the way are spectacular (even more so with the fabulous lights provided by the setting sun):

Our original plan for the next morning was to see the Devil's Bridge (the largest natural sandstone arch in the area). Unfortunately, the unpaved road to the trailhead is too much for our minivan to handle and I decided to turn back before it's too late.

As an alternative, we took another trail next to the Midgely Bridge on US Alt 89A to get down to the Oak Creek:

We are all very happy to see a creek with water in it again (you don't see that very often in AZ) and the kids had a lot of fun play with the water:

On our way back, we took a detour to see the Tuzigoot National Monument, which is a huge pueblo on a hill top with 110 rooms:

Before we head back home, we stopped by the downtown of Cottonwood to enjoy the atmosphere there. The kids are thrilled to find a rock shop and each got away with a pretty crystal to hold the sweet memory of this wonderful trip.


Our little silent singer

Vivian has always been a slow eater since she was a little baby. When we are not in a hurry, watching her savors every single bite of her food is actually quite enjoyable. However, the long wait it takes for her to finish a meal drives us nuts from time to time.

This week we noticed that she is eating even slower than usual (hard to believe that this is even possible). What's really strange is that she has been exceptionally quiet during meal time. While Alyssa and David were fighting to tell me about their day during dinner time, Vivian just sit there and said nothing. In the end, it took me three days to figure out this mystery. As it turned out, my little girl was sitting there and singing to herself in sign language everyday. Finally, she perfected the whole song and showed it to me before went to bed this evening.

My kids are truly an inexhaustible source of amazement.


Lost & found (plus a new one)

Perhaps this is just another variant of the Murphy's Law: if you can't find something, it will show up when you buy a replacement. This is exactly what happened to me recently.

Several weeks ago I was frustrated about my tremolo harmonica went missing. As I keep looking for it, my urge of wanting to play a harmonica grew stronger. Although I still have a diatonic one, somehow it just doesn't feel right and playing with it did nothing to help; in fact, it was more like pouring fuel on fire. Finally I broke down and ordered a new tremolo. Not surprisingly, the old one surfaced right after I received the shipping confirmation.

Initially I was a bit upset about this. However, I am quite happy after I received the new toy today: a shiny 24-hole Suzuki 2 Timer tremolo harmonica in A major. It is for sure a big step-up from the Hoher Echo Celeste that I have. As soon as I tried out the scale, I was shock about how well it performs. It is effortless to play and every note coming out of it is so clean and beautiful, despite the fact that I am still a unskillful player after all these years. In addition, this is my first experience with a harmonica that's not in C-major, and I am quite pleased by the different feeling it brings. Although the $27 price tag is almost twice that of a Hoher Echo Celeste, the joy it brings me certainly more than justified the cost. No wonder people are willing to pay some crazy price for good quality music instruments. Good thing that I am only into harmonicas, not violins. Even buying a Suzuki Humming or other top-of-the-line models won't break the bank.

On a side note, the name "2 Timer", like the English name of many other Japanese products, are positively confusing (Sony Walkman is a classic example), and worse, doesn't sound good at good. Is it referring to the double-reed design of a tremolo harmonica? I have no idea.


Growth record (Nov 2009)

Alyssa: 7 yr 8 mo, 131 cm, 22.7 kg.
Vivian: 5 yr 9 mo, 115 cm, 18.2 kg.
David: 3 yr 4 mo, 97 cm, 14.5 kg.


Pen Review: Delta Napoli

Also posted on the FPN.

This is a short review of Delta Napoli, a FP/RB set that I received as a gift from my parents-in-law. According to the box and the booklet that come with the pens, these pens belong to a Fountain Pen Hospital exclusive limited edition of 100. Strangely, I can't seem to find any information about these pens on the web, not even on FPH's own website.

1. Appearance & Design
The pen comes in a big blue box, with some very nice scenery printed on the outer paper box.

According to the booklet, the cap/barrel is hand turned from a solid bar of light blue resin. As a result, there is no seam in the material, which adds to its attractiveness. The main design features are two big engraved 925 sterling silver bands on the cap. The top one has some elegant patterns and the bottom one has the scenery from the bay of Naples in addition to the word "NAPOLI".

The serial number is engraved on the top of the cap:

and mine is the matching set of 065/100.

The blue colors of the resin is very beautiful, and they remind me of the movie "The Big Blue" directed by Luc Besson. The choice of the platinum-plated furniture compliment the body quite nicely.

2. Construction & Quality
These are substantial pens with very good construction quality. The barrel is quite thick and all the threads work perfectly. The engraving on the cap is done beautifully.

The only thing that I can nitpick about is the lack of attention given to the matching of the resin patterns between cap and barrel. While most of the resin is in a darker blue, there are two layers of lighter blue in the material. I thought that it would be nice if the these parts can match up between the cap and the barrel when fully closed to from a nicer flow. Unfortunately both of the FP and the RB have the same problem of mismatched resin pattern between cap and barrel. Considering that this is not really that hard to do, even a $10 Pelikan Pelikano Jr. can have threads that make the nib and the logo on the barrel lined up perfectly everytime, it is disappointing to see an expensive limited edition pen to fail at such tiny detail. Well, at least these are not faceted pens, otherwise it would be really unsightly.

3. Weight & Dimensions
The pen is about the same length as the Pelikan M800.



The diameter is slightly larger than the M800. However, it actually feels lighter compare to M800, possibly due to the fact that this is a C/C fillter and has no complicated filling mechanisms inside. I like the way that they put the engraved silver bands on the cap, which makes an attractive pen while maintaining a light body. The large size and light weight makes it my favorite these days. I can write with this pen for a long time and feel very comfortable.

4. Nib & Performance
The FP comes with a mono-tone platinum-plated 18k gold nib, about the same size as the Pelikan M800 nib. Right out of the box, the nib performance is a big disappointment. I need to press down pretty hard to get the ink flow started, and the nib makes a squeaking sound when I write. Even without looking, I know the tines are probably misaligned. A quick examination under a 10X loupe confirmed my suspicion: the tines are pinched together way too tight, and the right tine is higher by about half of the nib's thickness.

Fortunately, the nib is quite large and soft, which makes the adjustment relatively easy to do. After 10 minutes of tweaking, this pen quickly becomes one of the best writers I have. The F-nib writes a true fine line with a hint of springiness. It is softer than a Sailor 1911 nib, but not quite as soft as a Pelikan M800 nib. The extreme smoothness of gliding this nib across paper gives a very nice sensation that I enjoy a lot.

5. Filling System & Maintenance
This pen is a standard C/C filler. Nothing exciting here but it works as intended.

6. Cost & Value
As I mentioned in the beginning, this pen is a gift from my in-laws. I have no idea about the listing price or the street price because I can't find any info of it on the web. Judging from the construction quality of the pen and the usual going price of the Delta's LE pens, this pen is easily the most expensive pen by far in my collection (my Pelikan M800 being the runner-up). A pen in this price range is way out of what I'd feel comfortable to spend on a single pen so I can't comment on the "value" either.

7. Conclusion
This is my first experience with pricy (>$300) LE pens and also my second Italian pen (the first being a Signum Orione). I don't really know what to expect from such pens and was pleasantly surprised for the most part. The beautiful design, detailed engraving, solid construction quality, comfortable ergonomics, and nib performance are all big pluses going for it. However, the lack of attention to details (resin pattern matching between cap/barrel) and poor quality control of nib tuning in such expensive pens both left me baffled.

Overall I like the pen a lot because of how well it works as a tool. However, I don't see myself spending this kind of money on a FP now or in near future. To me the most important thing about these pens is that they are gifts from people who I love and respect, so I would cherish and enjoy them while I can, and eventually pass them down to my FP-loving children. NOPE, not now and not in near future either. Those Pelikano Jr. ought to last for quite some years to come. :)