{ Phil Olin }

Musings of a geek.

Month: December 2013

Fountain Pens: A Different Writing Experience

I’ve never written with a fountain pen until recently. I picked up a Lamy Safari Fine point recently with a gift certificate (otherwise I probably wouldn’t have purchased it). I have to say that I’m very impressed with it. It’s easier to write with, the pen glides over the paper. No need to work the pen to get your words to appear on the paper.

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I bought a bottle of Noodler’s Bulletproof Black ink to go with the Safari. Nothing special about it, it is just a basic black ink. I didn’t want anything too fancy to start with, just to make sure I liked the pen. Aside from the basic black ink, ink selections are amazing. So many unique colors. I just recently finished the cartridge that came with the pen, Lamy blue. Now my pen is filled with Noodler’s black in a converter.

There are disadvantages to a fountain pen. Maintenance, price, leaking ink, but for once I enjoy putting pen to paper again. I’ll see how long it lasts, it could be just due to getting a fancy new pen. I feel that the advantages of a fountain pen far outweigh the disadvantages. I’m eagerly looking forward to trying out some of the more unique ink colors.

The Room

Puzzle games are fantastic on the iPad. They easily adapt to touch controls. The Room and The Room 2 by Fireproof Games are both awesome puzzle games.

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The Room is an immersive puzzle game. Once I started playing, I didn’t want to put it down. The beautiful background music and ambient noises fit the game and help draw you in. As you fiddle with switches, and pull levers, little pieces click into action.

The Room and The Room 2 are easily the best games I’ve played on my iPad to date! I’m hoping there is another sequel. Games this good don’t appear often.

Shadows Over Camelot

Shadows Over Camelot is a cooperative board game. You play as the knights of King Arthur’s Round Table. You need to protect the kingdom from the Forces of Evil. It’s a cooperative game, but there is usually one player that is a traitor out to help Evil prevail.

Your team of knights go on quests to achieve victory. It’s not a simple task though. The Forces of Evil are not working in your favor during the game. We somehow managed to win, but it looked like it was going to be a complete loss for quite a while. All the knights were very close to death and the castle was surrounded by seige engines. There was a very dark shadow over Camelot at that point of the game.

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After defeating the Black Knight and winning both the Pict and Saxon wars, things started to look better. We soon found the Holy Grail and retrieved Excalibur. Victory was only a short distance away, as long as none of the knights were killed and we didn’t lose either the Pict or Saxon wars. (The Pict and Saxon wars repeat themselves as soon as they are finished.)

After a long and grueling period of questing, the Knights of the Round Table had saved Camelot from the Forces of Evil.

It was the first time any of us had played Shadows Over Camelot, but we had a blast. Gameplay should be improved next time we play as we’ll have a better strategy now that we know how the game plays. If you are interested but unsure, I’d recommend checking out Will Wheaton’s Tabletop episode of Shadows Over Camelot.

Edit: We played again on Christmas Eve. This time there was a traitor involved. This time Evil prevailed. Halfway through the game, things were starting to look bad. We had 2 white swords and 6 black swords. None of the quests were close to being finished, and it just went from bad to worse. My brother, being the traitor, made sure that the next quest failed, and the game was over. Our strategy that we thought we had, failed to work.

EDC Upgrade

I’ve carried a pocket knife since I was in my early teens, if not earlier. When I was younger, it was always a cheap folding knife, something I didn’t care if I lost or broke. By 16 I started carrying a better knife. By better, I only mean marginally better. I started carrying a Gerber Paraframe.

The Paraframe was the only knife I’ve lost. That was replaced with a Kershaw Blackout. I carried the Blackout for several years before it was replaced. One thing I’ve noticed with the Kershaws are that out of the box, they are nice knives. The assisted opening works great. Easily and quickly deploy the blade. Then the spring for the assisted opening broke.
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I replaced the Blackout with another Kershaw. This time a Kershaw Leek. I wanted something a little smaller so it fit in my pocket better. Except the Leek isn’t a solid working knife, it is more of a “gentlemen’s” knife. Something sleek to carry in your pocket, for when small tasks need it. Which is exactly why it got replaced. A few years after the assisted opening spring broke (yeah, it broke in both of my Kershaws), I snapped the end of the blade off.
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Time to look for a new knife. I asked the awesome people of App.net what they recommended, and Maddie recommended an Emerson, which I was very interested in. The wave opening system on the Emerson knives was cool, and no stupid spring to break a few years down the line. But I couldn’t justify the price or the size. The normal Commander is a huge pocket knife. After carrying the Leek for so long, I didn’t want another huge knife.
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I finally decided on a custom Benchmade Minigriptilian. Benchmade offers a “Customize a Griptilian” option on their website. Choose between the normal and mini griptilian, four different blade steels, hardware colors, and grip colors. I went with a Mini Griptilian with silver hardware, neon green scales, and S30V blade steel.

This knife is fantastic. It feels like a much higher quality knife than either of the Kershaws did. After the break-in period it opens smoother, even without an assisted opening spring. The Axis lock system is nice, and seems more solid than the typical liner or frame lock that was on my previous knives. Overall, I’m very impressed with the knife. I’m even tempted to order another one, just so I can have two to choose from. Kershaws have been put on my do not buy list, but I’d still like to get an Emerson at some point.

Yosemite – A Time Lapse

A beautiful timelapse of Yosemite National Park. Somepoint in my life I want to do a backpacking trek through the park.

I highly recommend watching this in full screen with HD.

Dungeons and Dragons and the iPad

The iPad was originally introduced in January 2010. At that point, I was playing Dungeons and Dragons almost every weekend. I was using a tiny Samsung netbook running Windows. Wizard’s Character Builder program was far from optimal on the miniature 10in screen on my netbook, but at the time it was much better than using pen and paper and scribbling and erasing all over my character sheet.

When I got my first iPad, I wanted to use it to play Dungeons and Dragons. It could do so much, and better than a piece of paper. And a much better device than the stupid netbook. At that point, the iPad was too new to have a specialized Dungeons and Dragons app. I found iPlay 4e. I could create my character, and upload it to iPlay 4e, then use my iPad to manage my character sheet. iPlay could also look up things in the D&D compendium if you have an active Wizards account, so playing via iPlay wasn’t that bad.

Notice the emphasize on playing. You still have to use the Character Builder to actually set up and build your character. The Character Builder that until the past year or so was Windows only. It’s still far from perfect though. The new version of the Character Builder is a browser app, so to use you always need a internet connection.

I just wish that Wizards would pull their collective heads out of their collective asses and progress to modern technology. I would love an app that I could use to create and maintain my 4e characters. This is something I could see myself, and others using frequently. I’d gladly pay Wizards DDI subscription again if I could use the Character Builder and Compendium on my iPad.

I won’t keep my hopes very high though.

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