Phil Olin

The Ink Journal

When I first bought my fountain pen, I started a small “ink review” notebook. I wasn’t happy with it though. I just wanted a simple page with a small sample of writing and if I liked or disliked the color.

I found such a page template online. It includes spaces for ink brand and name, pen and nib used, and a writing sample. Exactly what I wanted.


I still have all the ink from the samples I ordered from Goulet Pens that I can put in the journal. The only ink that I’ve used and don’t have more of is the Lamy blue that came with my Safari. I really don’t care though, as I didn’t like the ink at all. It was a very boring and ugly blue.


I signed up for a NerdBlock subscription for January. NerdBlock is a monthly subscription of geeky toys sent to your door. You can get t-shirts, toys, blind boxes, candy, and other geeky things.

I received my NerdBlock package today. Inside was five items.

  1. a Batman t-shirt
  2. Ironman Pop! bobble-head figure
  3. My Little Pony blind box figure
  4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles splat toy
  5. Hunger Games figure


Overall, I like the t-shirt, the Ironman bobble-head is cool, and the My Little Pony figure is nice. The other two items are lame and just filler junk in the box. For the $30 cost of the subscription ($20 + $10 shipping), if this is what NerdBlock thinks is good, I don’t want another box. Subscription cancelled!

I’m going to wait a few months and watch Loot Crate. If it’s still looking good, I may sign up.

Game Night

We had game night at my sisters last night. Played another round of Shadows Over Camelot. It went smoothly this time. At the start, we finished off the Saxon and Pict wars. I found Lancelot’s Armor, Excalibur was lost to the Forces of Evil. Then we found the Holy Grail.


Things were very much in our favor. We had the majority of white swords around the round table. Only 3/4ths of the seige engines were surrounding Camelot. All we had to do was survice a few more rounds without dying or allowing the seige engines to completely surround Camelot.


We finished by ending a second war with the Saxons. The Knights of Camelot were victorious. Out of all the times we played Shadows Over Camelot, we’ve only won twice. Both times we’ve won, we’ve gone through the entire white deck and had to reshuffle all the cards. I’m not sure why that is, but it seems to be the key to winning.

America's Wagon

GM’s Mark Reuss thinks America deserves a new wagon. I agree. It’s hard to find a real wagon, especially an American made one. The majority of wagons sold today are imports, either Japanese or European. The Cadillac CTS is the only American wagon I can think of.


Wagons are the ultimate vehicle. They drive like cars (because they are), hold plenty of people comfortably, and piles of luggage while still getting awesome gas mileage. Today’s wagon replacements can’t do the same. SUVs and CUVs have nothing on wagons. I currently have a Subaru Impreza wagon, and when I end up replacing it, it will be with another wagon.


I’d love to see wagons become more mainstream in the US, but I highly doubt GM will be the company to do so. Their idea of of quality and a good car is much different than mine. Their CTS wagon is a nice car, but not something I’d ever want to buy. My 2006 Subaru Impreza is a much better built car than my wife’s 2013 Chevy Cruze.

Fountain Pen Ink

I ordered my first batch of ink samples for my Lamy Safari fountain pen. I placed an order for a few awesome blues, two greens and two reds. I’m eagerly awaiting filling my fountain pen with new colors. I ordered samples of Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki, Private Reserve Electric DC Blue, Noodler’s Baystate Blue, Diamine Oxblood, J. Herbin Rouge Hematite, Private Reserve Sherwood Green, and Private Reserve Speramint.

I really wanted to try the Diamine Sherwood Green, but it was out of stock at the time. I’m not sure which color I’m most excited to try as they are all pretty nice colors. I am slightly afraid of trying the Baystate Blue though. I’ve read plenty of horror stories about it staining everything, including the pen.

Now that the ink has arrived, Goulet Pens was fantastic, the order was placed on the 14th, arrived on the 17th, I immediately flushed out the rest of the Noodler’s black that was in my pen and cleaned the pen. I inked up the Kon-peki first, which is a very deep cerulean blue. I love it. It has nice shading and a deep saturated color. It’s an expensive ink, but I want a bottle on my desk. Up next will probably be the Diamine Oxblood.

Board Games

My first introduction to real board games was Settlers of Catan. By real board games, I mean anything not designed just to pass time and make you hate your friends when the game is over (like Monopoly and Risk). One of my friends brought Settlers of Catan over for a game night, and the next day I ended up ordering Settlers of Catan and the 5-6 player expansion for it. Thanks to Settlers of Catan, I’m now addicted to board games.


My next board game purchase was Small World. Small World is very similar to Risk, but its so much better. Small World makes Risk-like games enjoyable because even if you are starting to fall behind, you can easily take over large sections of the board with your new race and it’s army.

Small World led to more games. I bought some, recieved some as gifts and bought some more. We’ve started to get a decent collection now, including a currently very hard to get game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, thanks to my sister.


Sitting around a table with a few of your friends or family playing a board game is much more enjoyable than playing on a TV with your friends across the internet.

Ghost vs 10 Centuries

Since starting my blog/website back up, I’ve enjoyed using Ghost. It’s well designed, works decently, and does exactly what I need. But in a time when money counts, 10 Centuries is a much better deal. $12 a year for 10 Centuries, versus $60 for Ghost is a decent amount.

I signed up for 10 Centuries a few days ago to try it out. It is pretty impressive. Markdown support, use your own domain, custom css. It is the perfect blogging website. I’m very tempted to switch, and it wouldn’t take much to transfer everything over. Maybe I’ll play around a bit more with 10 Centuries before I make my final decision. I really like the idea behind Ghost, but 10C is extremely enticing.

I’ve started customizing a one of the 10C themes with custom CSS. I had recently found the Solarized color scheme when trying to find a better color theme for Visual Basic programming.

Black on white just wasn’t cutting it for contrast and readability. Solarized is perfect for a webpage. It has both a light and dark color scheme, and they compliment each other. The idea is to create a theme with the sidebar using the dark colors and the main content to be light.

Accent colors will be the same no matter the background color, as they work well on either color. Readability should be high, while still being easy on the eyes. Of course, I could also make a Ghost theme based on Solarized.

Ghost 0.4

Ghost 0.4 came out this morning. As I’m checking out 10 Centuries as an alternative. I decided to pull the trigger tonight and do the update, hoping it will go better than the previous update.

Following the update guide from Digital Ocean, everything went smoothly. No issues. It took about 5 minutes total. It was actually much quicker than updating my Mac Mini to Mavericks.

Currently, I’m leaning more toward keeping my blog on Ghost instead of switching to 10 Centuries.

Project RC Continues

I finished taking everything apart. The only thing I’m not taking apart is the transmission. I just don’t want to deal with that at the moment. Plus it worked fine last time I ran the truck, and it still spins freely.

I need to find some denatured alcohol to clean out the engine gunk. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a reasonably sized container this weekend. The smallest container I found locally was a gallon, I only realistically need one cup at most. I started the cleaning procedure of the rest of the truck. During disassembly, I put all the screws back into whatever piece they came out of, so that way I wouldn’t forget where they came from, and I wouldn’t lose them.

To clean everything, I have to remove the screws then scrub it clean. I drove this truck in some pretty gross conditions. So much dirt and grime, and the exhaust side of the truck is even worse, due to running the engine slightly rich, and having dirt and dust cling to the exhaust waste.

I’m hoping to get most of it cleaned up this upcoming week and to order replacement parts soon. The denatured alcohol will be coming in this week, and I’ll be able to clean out the engine. Hopefully I’ll be able to get everything back together and working in a few weeks.

HPI Savage

Back in 2009, I bought a HPI Savage, a 1/8th scale monster truck RC car. I beat the crap out of it. I ran into things, I took it off jumps. It flipped, rolled, and crashed. It didn’t stay upright very much.


I finally stopped running it because it sounded like it had a bad bearing. I didn’t know which once, and I couldn’t pinpoint which one it was. The plan was to buy a kit to replace all the bearings with new and better ones.


I never got around to it, so the truck just sat in the corner for a few years. After looking at RC cars again this week, I decided I wanted to get it running again. Turns out, there was still some nitro fuel in the engine from the last time I ran it. All that time sitting in the corner had gummed up the engine.

Complete RC teardown ensues. It is now in pieces on the dining room table. I need to order a few parts that were broken or missing, but I’m hoping that I can get the engine back together and get it running again.

Remote Control Cars

Remote control toys are fun. I could easily spend hours running my RC cars around the yard. I used to run several tanks of gas through my RC truck whenever I ran it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that recently due to a dead starter battery.

Today I watched a video of a RC Jeep that a guy mounted a snowplow to. He used to to clear the snow off of his sidewalk. His was an electric model, so it was no problem using it in a moist environment. It made me want to get my RC truck working again. At this point, I have no idea if just a new starter battery is all I need. It has been a few years since I last ran it.

I actually wouldn’t mind selling it and getting a smaller 1/10th scale truck. My current truck is a 1/8th monster truck and quite large. Larger also means replacement parts are more expensive.

Legends of Grimrock

If you grew up with Mac computers in the late 80s and early 90s, you may remember an old game, Scarab of Ra! Scarab of Ra was a dungeon crawl type game that takes place in an Egyptian pyramid.

The goal was to find three pieces of treasure. The Crown, Staff, and Scarab of Ra. The maze through the pyramid starts at the top of the pyramid. Each level gets progressively larger as you venture deeper into the pyramid. It wasn’t just a maze though. There were also traps and enemies out to harm you. I was never able to beat the game, but I spent thousands of hours trying to find the three pieces of treasure.


Legend of Grimrock feels very much like Scarab of Ra with a bit of Dungeons and Dragons thrown in. In Grimrock you explore a dungeon trying to find your way out. You control a party of four adventurers, and have to travel a maze of corridors and rooms, all while looking out for guards and monsters trying to kill you.

I’ve had lots of fun playing so far, but I’ve died numerous times trying to explore. I’ll explore a large part of the dungeon and die, completely forgetting to save through the entire period. Queue repeat sequences, until I remember to save as I progress through the dungeon. I like this game, but replayability is somewhat low. It’s not a roguelike game like Scarab of Ra was, so the map will never change, but it does have a dungeon editor. There are plenty of custom player created dungeons on Steam.

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.


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.


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.


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. img_0227

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. img_0226

Time to look for a new knife. I asked the awesome people of 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. img_0228

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.

Tiny Death Star

Star Wars makes everything better. Tiny Death Star is the newest game from NimbleBit. If you liked Tiny Tower, then you should like Tiny Death Star. Darth Vader and the Emperor need money to build the largest Death Star.

The game plays just like Tiny Tower, but everything has been given a Star Wars feel. Holographic menus, floors are all given names from the Star Wars universe. img_0200_2 I’ve played Tiny Tower quite a bit since it’s been released. I made it to 89 floors. Now that there is a Star Wars version, I doubt I’ll be playing plain Tiny Towers anymore.

Yes, Tiny Death Star is a freemium game, but its made in the usual NimbleBits fashion, and its easily playable without purchasing any IAP.

Small World: The Board Game

I love board games, and I’ve been slowly building a collection. I picked up Small World probably two years ago. Small World is a world domination type game where you play as fantasy races. Each race has their own racial power, and they each get a special power at the start of the game. The board is never large enough for all the races to occupy it peacefully. After the first few turns, it turns into a cutthroat race to kill off as many of your opponents characters as possible.

I like to describe the game as like Risk (but not enough that you want to kill your friends or throw the board) with a little Settlers of Catan thrown in. Games also usually only last 60-90 minutes so you don’t have to devote an entire weekend to one game.

No two games are the same as the special powers are seperate from the races. Each stack gets shuffled independently of each other, and there are more special powers than races. After a few games there will be a few combos you’ll be on the lookout for. The Stout Ghouls, Fortified Trolls, and Flying Giants are quite fun.


Small World is probably our most played game. My mother-in-law very much likes it. Games with my in-laws turn into a brutal game of not letting my mother-in-law win. At least for me. My wife and father-in-law just play like they normally would. No matter the outcome, we all have fun, and usually reset the board for a 2nd or 3rd game.

I highly recommend adding Small World to your board game library. Fun for most ages, the recommended age is 8 and up. Small World was featured on Table Top with Will Wheaton. Watch the show and get an idea of how it’s played and if you’d like it.