Archive for January 2013
You may have heard that in the early days of the space race, NASA spent millions of taxpayer money developing a pen to write in space. The Soviets, faced with the same problem, used mechanical pencils.
The Fisher Pen Company set out to create a pen that could write in all conditions: extreme cold and heat, underwater, and, of course, without gravity. It was patented in 1965. NASA purchased the pen for evaluation in 1967, and first flew it on Apollo 7 in 1968. Fisher sold 400 to NASA–at a discount. The Soviet program also bought the pens for use on their space flight (also at a discount). Myth busted.
A maxim among fountain pen
snobs collectors is that a “ballpoint pen is just a fancy holder for a refill.” I don’t believe that to be completely true, as the “fancy holder” does have an influence over writing (how it is gripped, how it is balanced, etc.). However, it is the refill that provides the characteristics that make a Fisher Space Pen a pen for space. The refill is pressurized with nitrogen gas, to force the ink to the tip. The ink is designed to remain a gel until it comes out of the tip (to keep it from being pushed out under the pressure).
While I do not have the true astronaut model, the AG7, there are two other models represented in my collection. The Bullet model was covered before. Its fits into a pant pocket quite readily. When posted, the cap makes it the length and balance of a full size pen. These are quite handy to carry around, though its portability may be its downfall.
One year, for Christmas, my sister gave me a black grid shuttle model. I like having ballpoints that retract, as it makes it easy to pull out for a quick note while standing (rather than having to handled the cap). The action on the mechanism is quite solid–push the button on the top, and the tip extends. The button on the side retracts it solidly.
As a fan of the space program, the fact that these are descendants of pens
design to be carried in to space is a thrill. However, what makes it well suited to write on the International Space Station–that it can write anywhere–is what makes this pen handy to have in one’s pocket.
Testing a new Strava feature. <40 degrees right now. See this cold, cold ride.
I try to pull my camera out once a week, to keep fresh with it. Usually, something comes up, and I’m taking pictures. However, while we’ve been busy, it’s bee typical work and household stuff.
It had been about two weeks.
Luna was sitting on the couch, watching TV. No joke: my daughter had on “Cats 101.” Such a pretty little girl.
She was in a corner, with windows open to her right and behind her. I should have closed the one behind her to correct for the the glare.
As most readers of this blog know, I take a lot of photos. While I’m mostly all-digital, I do like to print a few, either to give to family, or for my own enjoyment. The wall behind my desk is decorated with them. I’ve posted about this before, but it’s grown, and moved from including bib numbers to now nearly all photos (and a few postcards).’
The photos are printed on my printer onto photo paper, and attached with a Scotch Restickable Glue Stick, which make the back of the print like a Post-It*–no damage to the wall if I remove and reposition them. I move older picture from the center of the spaceright over my desk to the outer perimeter–this is so I don’t have baby pictures of my daughter upfront while needing to crane my neck to see a more recent one. It’s proven to be a fun, easy way to decorate our study.
*Post-It makes photo paper with a back already like that, and I even have some. Of course, it’s almost never loaded in the printer.
I came across arepas at just the right moment. I started becoming interested in non-Mexican Latin American food through a coworker, who introduced me to Bolivian and Peruvian during trips to my data center in Northern Virginia. I’d been testing the waters in the Cincinnati area. Then, a post on a food blog introduced me to how to make arepas, a corn meal staple of Venezuelan cuisine. A trip to Jungle Jim’s got me the raw material, and started making something good. Trips to Venezuelan restaurants in Indianapolis and Columbus confirmed I was on the right track.
It took me a while to find what to fill it with. The same food blog had a recipe for La Reina Pepiada–the Peppered Queen. It’s a quick thing to make–usually, I can make it and a batch of arepas in about half an hour. It has become a favorite of mine and my wife’s. However, I did tweak the recipe a bit, to make it a bit healthier, and a bit more to our tastes. I won’t claim it to be authentic; just yummy.
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon diced onion
½ diced red pepper
¼ cup chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons plain yogurt
Peel and chop the avocado. Mix the chicken, avocado, onion, red pepper, yogurt, and cilantro in a bowl. Mix, then mash with a potato masher or a fork (usually, I wind up mixing it again after mashing, to ensure proper distribution of ingredients). Serve on an arepa.
For holding paper, there are two common options. You can go with a spiral notebook, which allows you to fold it back on itself (as opposed to two pages wide), but you only really have the paper that it comes with. You can go with a binder and add what you want, but either the paper has to come out, or it takes up the space of two side by side pages. Either way, it only takes one size paper.
Enter disc binding.
Disc binding allows paper to be inserted and moved around like a three-ring binder, but can be folded back on itself like a spiral notebook. It also allows for pages of various sizes to be incorporated into a notebook. A pocket-sized shopping list can be put into an A4 notebook as just another page. The office supply geeks I follow on twitter and I have been talking about this off and on for a few months. Mostly, it’s been noting that we are all fans, and exchanging various tips.
Where three ring binders and spiral notebooks use a closed hole in the paper to thread a loop though, the holes in a disc binding are have an open slot smaller than the main hole. This has been described as a “mushroom.” To bind the paper, discs are inserted. The outer edge of the disc is rased, so the paper is gripping the ring. The rings are about an inch apart. This allows sheets of varying sizes to be inserted into the notebook. The sheets can be re-arranged at will, while still being able to fold back on itself liek a spiral notebook.
The main disadvantage is that the system is propritary–only a handfull of companies make components for it. The two key disc binding lines in the US are Circa by Levenger, and Arc from Staples. I’ve seen disc bound notebooks from Clairefontaine and the Container Store sells a line as well. The Circa and Arc systems appear to be compatible with one another (and we’ve gotten paper from the Container Store as well). Since it does not work by default with material from the office supply cabinet, it does present a higher cost of entry.
I started using a disc bound notebook for work about a year ago when I got a Circa starter pack from Levenger. Since then, it has been augmented with parts from Staples. In particular, I got the Arc punch, which is both cheaper than the Levenger product, and, quite frankly, I like the design and action better. This allows me to put any sheet in my notebook. The official intent is to put printed documentation in there, which I do (such as process documents for work). However, it also allows me to harvest notepads of my choice for paper to fill the notebook with (I’m a bit fussy about my paper).
A coworker of mine also uses this. She described it as “a SmartPhone for notebooks,” given the flexibility. I think that’s a great description. It allows paper to be mixed, matched, and moved, while retaining the compactness of a spiral notebook. I definitely love mine.