Archive for January 2011
Last year, FastMac announced the U-Socket. Designed to replace a wall outlet, it adds two USB ports for charging devices. Given that I had a plethora of devices–from my bike computer to my phone–that are USB charged, I pre-ordered three.
After a year of final development, discussion with Underwriter’s Laboratory, and production, I finally got mine, and installed the first one. The big win is that it provides a spot to charge without a “wall wart”–a big transformer that plugs in. So, I can put one next to my nightstand, charge my phone, and still have outlets for my lamp and clock. The cable is still required, however.
I am pleased to see USB becoming a standard for charging devices, in part because it allows things such as the U-Socket to provide power without large boxes. I definitely recommend it.
Vintage Star Wars action figures, and a circa 1997 Hot Wheels Mars Sojourner Rover.
Every so often, I’ll have a pen with some issue that takes me a bit to resolve. Sometimes, it’s finding a tool or a part. With some pens, it can be tricky to identify what is needed and a supplier who can provide it. Other times, it’s deciding what the best course of action is. If parts are no longer made for the pen, then figuring out what will solve the problem with the least impact to the piece is the challenge. With vintage pens, I want to try to maintain the integrity of the piece while still having something functional. I’d rather let it sit in the box than do something that damages it.
And then there are cases when it’s simply a matter of sitting down and doing the task that is obvious. Of course, most of my to-do list (pens or otherwise) fall into this category. Such was the case with my Sheaffer Intrigue.
The Intrigue was introduced in 2000, and was discontinued in 2004. It seems to blend some of the attributes of Sheaffer’s classic pens–most specifically, the overall lines of the pen, and the inlaid nib. However, they blended into that some modern finishes–mine is “silken black.”
Overall, this made it a nice pen, but probably not noteworthy (or, for that matter, discontinued). Sheaffer tried to blend the connivence of a cartridge-filling pen, like most modern pens, with one that filled solely from a bottle. So, they came up with a scheme that was ingenious in its design but complicated in its execution.
The back of the pen had two parts that could be turned. The one furthest down the barrel would unscrew and could be pulled back, revealing a tray. A cartridge could be placed in this tray, the whole assembly closed, and the pen would be inked. Alternately, a special convertor could be placed in the tray. This converter had a top that looked like a gear, which would engage with the back of the barrel. The quarter-inch of the back of the barrel could be pulled back and turned. Inside, the gears would engage and operate the convertor. The pen could be filled from a bottle without opening things up, just like the pens of yore.
it was the non-cartridge filling option had an issue, and it took me a while to get around to fixing the thing. Basically, my convertor was jammed in the pen, and cracked. I needed to replace the convertor. As mentioned, the pen hasn’t been made since 2004, so replacement convertors weren’t available through my usual sources.
I finally got around to calling Sheaffer, and ordering a replacement–one of the last five they had in stock. The woman said this was perhaps the most complicated pen Sheaffer made. While I can see this, Sheaffer has made a few overengineered pens over the years.
The pen writes well, though occasionally a reluctant started. I wouldn’t put it up there with some of my best-writing pens (like my Parker 51s), but it is probably above the mid-point in my collection. it is heavy for its size, and reasonably well balanced. I could see it being comfortable to write with for a while, save for a gasket around the section that hits me in a funny spot–I attribute that more to how I hold the pen than the pen itself.
One goofy thing is that this pen tends to seep ink out the nib. I can wipe it, use it, then cap it. Come back to it later, there is a small amount of ink on the top of the nib. This ink is unseen in the cap, and transferred to the barrel when the cap is posted. I learned this the hard way–when I carry this pen, I keep a paper towel in my breast pocket to distance the barrel from the cloth.
Overall, I’d say the Intrigue is a pen that is a good writer, but not so great that it stands out. It is an attractive piece that blends classic Sheaffer design with modern aesthetics. The filling mechanism is interesting, and, for collectors who like to go as retro as they can, is interesting in principle. However, the execution proves complicated, and its collection of quirks probably lead to its discontinuation. Still, I personally find it an interesting pen to carry–evident in the fact that I did take the time to get the convertor.
When my daughter was younger, there were pink beanbags for sale at a kiosk at the mall. She loved to go there and lay in them. My mom got her her own pink bean bag, with kitties and her name on it. She hasn’t used it as much as she used to.
Eddy has recently decided this is a great place for him to take a nap.
I’m glad to see someone is using it.
Confession: in middle school, I liked Duran Duran.
OK, perhaps that is a more shameful thing for a guy to say in high school in the mid-eighties, but there you have it. Of course, they didn’t make things easier. While their first three albums were pretty good, he slide to pretension was swift aft that. I moved on to Making Movies and Drum, Hat, Buddah.
In iTunes a few weeks ago, I saw you could download the title track from their newest album, All You Need is Now. Perhaps it was the mood I was in, or how I heard the lyrics from an older perspective, but I dug it. I downloaded the album, and it seems to be the best stuff I’ve heard from them since 1985.
Buying a new Duran Duran album as I drift into my four ties–who knew?
Now I’ll never get to use it!
I wanted to share a few more photos from our trip to Louisiana.
First, a few years ago, almost as a joke, my mom started a flamingo-themed Christmas tree. It took on a life of its own, until now it is her main tree.
My wife and I took a walk along the lake. I took a picture of First Federal Bank. When I got out of college but before moving to Cincinnati, I spent about three years working there (not including the summers while in college). This was my first IT job.
Of the 184 people who perished at the Pentagon on 9/11, two were from the Lake Area. A memorial has been set up on the Lakefront, including pieces of the World Trade Center, as well as a piece of granite from the Pentagon.
The I-10 bridge across the Lake is one of my favorite bridges. One decorative feature is that, on both sides, there are life-sized crossed pistols lining the bridge. They simply don’t do that sort of detail work anymore.
My mom said a pair of pelicans has been hanging out in the lake. I was able to catch one of them flying about.
One last shot is a happy accident. I was setting up a tripod with the remote for my camera, with the intent of taking a family shot. I wanted to do a test shot, to make sure it was set up. The camera didn’t seem to respond–it turns out the indicator light was blocked by the strap.
However, I kept hitting the remote as I walked back towards the camera. Once I realized what was going on, I was able to smile, and get a not-half-bad self-portrait.
Cropped down, this has become my new avatar picture.
In addition to going to the zoo, we walked around the French Quarter. That night, my mom watched my daughter, so my wife and I got to go out. We got some incredible pecan pie at the Camellia Grill–I didn’t know they had a location there.
We also walked through Jackson Square. In addition to the fortune tellers and street performers, we came across a telescope from Sidewalk Astronomy.
We were back at Cafe du Monde the next day, for my daughter to try out the beignets.
We had a great day!
…and they all ask’d for you.
While in Louisiana visiting my mom, sisters, etc, we took a couple days to go to New Orleans. Naturally, a zoo was involved, the Audubon Zoo. They had a lot of flamingos.
Flamingos were the favorite of my mom, along with elephants.
They had two white tigers, who were napping.
The amur leopard is among the rarest of cats, with an estimated 30 in the wild and another 200-300 in captivity. There were three in New Orleans, including a cub.
They also had a jaguar, who seemed rather pensive…
…until an emergency bath was required.
In the next exhibit was a baby jaguar.
Perhaps the high point of the collection was a set of Louisiana animals, in a swap. The had a bear.
An alligator swam by some ducks.
There was a very handsome cougar, giving some insight into Joseph and Tecumseh’s future:
Nearby, a raccoon hung out in a tree.
One exhibit had nutria, a small rodent native to the area.
The Audubon Zoo is one of the few places you can see white alligators.
Several otters were playing and swimming.
The bobcats were wrapping up their day.
Sly foxes watched the visitors.
Giraffes demonstrated big, bigger, biggest.
Perhaps a bit of state pride resulted in the inclusion of pelicans.