Today I’m re-launching as a “real” website at legomac.net! It’s hosted on Squarespace 6, so that means I’ll also be leaving WordPress behind. Feel free to peruse the new site and offer any suggestions, and I hope you come with as I transition over to a new platform. Since Squarespace 6 is very new, there are still a few bugs to work out; only once everything is working perfectly will I start redirecting to the new site and retire this one. So fear not, all the archived posts are still available at the new site, and I’ll be keeping up with both sites over the next few weeks until everything’s settled.
The uni-ball Power Tank is a mass-market take on the famous Fisher Space Pen‘s pressurized ink technology. The special ink can write in extreme heat and cold, underwater, or in the vacuum of space. I don’t really need it to do all those things, but it’s a comfort to know how reliable the pen can be.
This original model was my favorite go-to pen during high school. Since that time, the original capped version has been retired in favor of a retractable model (and more recently the Smart Series). While the pen’s legacy lives on, the newer iterations pale in comparison to the original. Not only does the classic blue Power Tank look fantastic, but it also writes more smoothly than any ballpoint I’ve ever used.
I still have a couple ink refills and one barrel, but I’m writing with a dinosaur. Not even Brad Dowdy, the Pen Addict himself, knows where to pick this pen up anymore. JetPens doesn’t stock it, and uni-ball’s U.S. website doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the Power Tank line. Of course the world moves on from any product, but it’s a pity that the new models neither look nor write as well as the old one.
When I originally bought the Power Tank, it came in three-packs at OfficeMax (black, blue, and red). The blue was always the standout, and later I found it sold singly in such mainstream locations as Walgreens. Once it was even paired with a stick of gum for some promotion. Not exactly where one expects to find a top-notch writing instrument. By 2007 they were hard to find, and I picked up my last two at a bookstore.
The Power Tank has a very small cap, which means its balance is barely affected by posting. Meaning you can either set the cap aside or post it without feeling like you’re using the pen “the wrong way.” The tapered shape nestles nicely in the hand, and the wide grip is just rubbery enough to grasp without feeling too squishy.
I always appreciated the little window in the cap. It’s utterly unnecessary of course, but a cool touch.
The barrel has a reflective label set under the surface which reads “Pressurized Refill – 3000hPa” That’s equivalent to 43.5 psi. I’ve no idea how that compares to the Fisher Space Pen’s internals or the modern Power Tanks.
As far as I know, the original Power Tank was only sold in the 1.0 mm variety in the U.S. The modern RT and Smart Series are available in .7 as well. That might seem pretty thick, especially compared to many foreign pens, but the 1.0 mm is actually thinner than your everyday American ballpoint. Here I’ve compared it to my two other pressurized ink pens – you can see that Fisher’s “fine” tip is identical to uni-ball’s widest size.
Notice the ink consistency (click the image for a larger view). The old Power Tank – virtually unused for 5 years – writes better than the Fisher, which I use every day. (It has been dropped a few times on its nose, so that might have something to do with its poor performance.) The Smart Series High Grade started off very faint – I actually had to draw the first line twice to get much of anything down on the paper. It never felt as smooth as the older model, even after it warmed up. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I’m left feeling that uni-ball is slacking a bit on the Smart Series.
The one downside to the Power Tank is its relatively fragile body. The eye-catching translucent plastic is prone to cracking, and the grip wears down easily. Indeed, my current barrel has a strange crack near the end, despite sitting in a drawer for years. I’ve also snapped off the clip when using it on a jean pocket. So in the end, the Power Tank really isn’t suited for an everyday carry, especially when I can’t find any more to replace it.
Of course, feel free to get in touch if you know where to pick some up!
Today marks one year since I posted the first little snippet here. At the time, I was looking for a hobby and curious to see what writing a blog was like. Turns out it was pretty rewarding, and I had a great time writing in my spare time. I didn’t gain much of an audience right away, though I attribute that more to my inconsistent schedule than anything else. I’m sure the site’s horrible SEO didn’t help any, but that’s not why I chose the name or the topic. At any rate, it looks like I’ve met my expectations for year one. Here’s what I’m planning for the next one:
Read less, write more. This might seem a bit counterintuitive since I cover so much news, but the truth is I spend far too much time buried in Reeder. It’s easy to get pushed over the edge by the internet’s constant news stream, and I’m too close for my liking. I plan to pare down my RSS subscriptions substantially, only keeping the very best sources. The upshot is that I’ll have much more time to actually write my own stuff. My current pace is about one post per day, which I’d love to see at least triple. There’s no better way to grow the site than to add content.
Grow the readership. This is pretty much the point of having a website. I don’t ever expect to earn money from legomac, and I’m quite content to post what interests me in my spare time. But it’s hardly worth it if no one ever reads. A regular writing schedule should help, as will creating a real website.
Mature the site. It’s time to grow up and get my own domain. I don’t know squat about web hosting, but I’m sure I can figure it out with a little effort. Not only do I need to move on from legomac.wordpress.org, but the site needs a redesign. Clean Home is a great theme, but it’s not perfect. I’d like to get rid of the ugly tags and author info under the title, and I need to lose the borders around pictures. There are also a few things I’d like to add, like category-specific RSS feeds. I’m sure some tech readers out there couldn’t care less about LEGO, and vice-versa. Since I can’t do that myself, it probably means hiring a professional web designer. This is probably the most important step, but it’ll have to wait until I have some extra money to throw at it.
Make connections. Both the AFOL and Mac communities are incredibly close-knit and friendly, and I’d like to forge some relationships there. That means reaching out more on Twitter and Flickr, attending conferences like Brickworld, and reaching out to people I read via email.
In the meantime, I’ll plan in keeping up with the site and writing about what interests me. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to another fun year ahead.
Legomac is approaching its first anniversary, so I thought I’d post some reflections about the year. After a couple years of avidly following tech news and interesting LEGO creations, I resolved last January to start a website and stick with it. I think I’ve accomplished that goal, although I haven’t been terribly consistent with my posting schedule. Legomac continues to be a hobby back burner of my “real life.” I guess it’s sort of the Apple TV of my daily routine. All in all, I’m satisfied with how the site has evolved in its first year and how my writing has changed in that time.
I’ve even managed to compose a few pieces that I’m fairly proud of. If you’re looking for an introduction to the site, here’s a list of my favorites this year:
Most of my LEGO posts were photos of exceptional MOCs from around the web. These usually didn’t require too much commentary, so I’ve highlighted the posts in which I was able to write to my heart’s content:
- Friends or Failures – I just got this one posted before the one year mark. I take on the critics of LEGO Friends with a tour through the murky history of LEGO’s more feminine toys.
- Red and Yellow – Two MOCs I made on LDD based on the original generation Pokémon games. 3-D representations of the main character sprites.
- Exocycle – My favorite MOC of the year, made to test out some new wheels.
- Steve Jobs looking at things – A new set on Flickr I’ve started in imitation of Kim Jong-Il’s famous site.
It was a pretty big year for Apple, and I had trouble narrowing this list down to only my favorite posts. Hopefully next year will be just as momentous, but less tragic.
- Eulogies – An extensive collection of reactions from around the web after Steve Jobs’ death.
- Steven Saves the Mac – Me reciting a poem by David Pogue.
- New iPhone Revealed!! – I had fun with this one. Every iPhone rumor I could find, mashed into one phrenetic post. I turned out to be about 50% right.
- In Defense of Mac User Intelligence – Protesting the “dumb Mac fanboy” viewpoint that is so pervasive on the web.
- Hard Times for iTunes – Sticking up for the program everyone loves to hate.
- iPod Minimalism – Why I love my iPod shuffle.
I did two rather long reviews of iOS games, as well as a Shawn Blanc-style review of my Magic Mouse.
- Russian Dancing Men: Mr. Weebl’s ridiculous new rhythm game.
- 1-bit Ninja: A re-imagining of the classic 8-bit platformer genre.
- 5 days of magic: Living with a Magic Mouse.
Some things I wrote about didn’t fit into any particular categories but still deserve to be mentioned.
- Sticky Note Aircraft: I take a certain pride in crafting exceptional tiny paper airplanes. This one is called the Ocelot, and I intend to eventually follow up with one or two more.
- Patrick Rhone’s new pencil: The most popular post all year long, as linked to by Mike Vardy and Patrick Rhone. Thanks for the hits!
This summer’s State of the Web has been released by the Oatmeal, and it’s just as good as the last. Interesting facts include: the average Facebook gamer is a 43 year old woman; Microsoft, through Skype, has now directly integrated with Facebook; and Tumblr has stopped using the Tumbeasts. For shame. Apple gets a mention, but Facebook is clearly the central focus – obviously this is as it should be, since Facebook IS the internet for more and more people every day.
The final launch of the space shuttle has passed without incident. It’s the last time the U.S. will ever launch humans above the atmosphere. While the cuts and retirement make fiscal sense, I can’t help but feel disappointment for the loss. A the Washington Post so eloquently points out, we were wrong about the future.
Be an astronaut? That’s become somehow – antiquated, like dreaming of being a telephone operator or a vaudevillian. That’s what the future looked like before we knew what the future really looked like. It’s of a piece with the flying cars and food pills and personal jetpacks. The future turned out to be celebrity tabloids and magical personal screens and the continuation of old feuds, not mankind suddenly clasping hands and setting its sights for the beyond. And perhaps we should have expected that.
What’s most astonishing to me is how NASA failed to come up with something better for over 30 years. Now that’s left in the hands of the private sector, which looks pretty sluggish right now. The best designs still fall short of NASA’s achievements in the ’60s, and most are pursuing the tenuous business plan of offering billionaire joyrides. If anyone can still push the envelope, my bet would be on Burt Rutan and Richard Branson, but their Virgin Galactic venture hasn’t produced anything since 2004. That’s 7 years of development, which is reasonable for a product of such magnitude. But in 8 years, NASA went from Shepard to Armstrong without any modern technology. The fact remains that national pride and military budgets are the fastest way to achieve greatness, especially in aviation. I can only hope that the next 30 years don’t see us abandoning space exploration once and for all.
It seems that Posterous does not seamlessly autopost to WordPress after all. Ever since my transition to writing on Posterous and having articles autopost to my original legomac site, the tags on each post have disappeared. They do appear on Posterous, but never on WordPress. Normally I’d just revert to posting on WordPress to get the tags back, but no matter what I do, they refuse to show up. I can draft a post in the online WP editor and it will still refuse to add tags. This is worrisome, since I’m not sure how anyone is supposed to find anything new that I write. All I can hope is that the new Posterous site gains back the readers I’m undoubtedly losing on WordPress. Looks like unless I can sort out the problem, Posterous is the default way forward. That’s a pity since I actually like my WordPress theme better, but at least Posterous lets me edit the HTML. Now I just have to learn how.
This post is about neither LEGO nor Macs. Brace yourself.
I started thinking about this when we made paper airplanes at my job last week. (I wasn’t goofing off, I just have an awesome job.) I went looking for paper airplane designs on the web and I was sadly unimpressed. Note Planes has a wide variety of airplanes listed, but far too many have a listed range as “5 feet.” What good is making a paper airplane if it can’t even fly across a room? The maximum range listed for any plane is 40 feet, but those are made from 4 notes. In my opinion, that’s a whole different category, so I set out to test my own designs using only one sticky note.
I don’t like to brag, but I designed two superior planes back in high school english class. Obviously Note Planes hasn’t been updated in a while, but these outclass anything I’ve found online. My apartment is only 35 feet from wall to wall, but I’m convinced I could get 40+ feet out of either of my designs.
Here’s how to make the first. I called it the Ocelot for some reason, and that’s a sufficiently cool name. It’s a very sleek plane that generates almost no lift. Instead, its advantage lies in its low air resistance and straight flight path. It manages to hit the opposite wall of my apartment with enough velocity to crumple the nose, and so far its range is limited only by that, the low arc to avoid the ceiling, and arm strength.
Fold a standard sticky note along the center, bisecting the sticky part and folding it inside (valley fold). It should be easy enough to line up the two sticky corners and make a precise fold. Then unfold.
Next, take take the two sticky corners and fold them into the centerline. This is a pretty standard way to make a paper airplane so far.
Fold the center crease back into the valley fold, then fold down the wings (mountain fold) about one cm away and parallel with the centerline.
Repeat this and you end up with a “W” shape when viewed head-on. Make sure the folds are creased well, since these form the main body of the airplane.
Next, fold the wings outwards so they resemble a narrow right triangle. This will make the wings smaller and stiffer.
Repeat again so the wings match. Keep creasing the wings, since all this folding will misalign some of the folds.
Fold the wings downward, making the fold halfway between the top and bottom of the central “W” peak. This way the wings are centered on the body.
After the wings are level, take the nose tip and fold it downwards and inwards as shown. I like to make the fold match the angle of the wings, but it can be any angle you desire.
Fold all the way down so it sticks past the bottom, and crease well.
Now fold it back up again, starting flush with the bottom of the airplane. The projecting triangle will be smaller, and stick straight up.
Repeat this step as many times as necessary to achieve a sleek nose to the airplane. The folds will get increasingly difficult to crease, but press as hard as possible. These folds give the nose a lot of concentrated weight, which is essential for such a small airplane to fly.
Your airplane should now look like this. Make sure the wings are of equal size, because any spiral in flight will drastically reduce range.
Next, make a cut about 3/4 cm from the back. Cut down the center, stopping halfway between the last two creases. Don’t cut all the way to the last fold.
Now reverse the creases in the cut portion and bring it down to form a stabilizing tail underneath the plane. This large tail keeps the flight path straight, and it works better hanging down than it does pointing up.
I usually do another fold where the cut is to mirror the nose, but it won’t affect how the plane flies.
Position the wings as shown. When the airplane expands after you let go, the wings will still be angled slightly upwards, which is ideal.
Hold near the nose, and throw it as hard as you’d like. Its range is almost totally dependent on how fast you toss it. If it doesn’t fly straight or far, adjust the wings to fix it. Often it helps to bend the backs of the wings up slightly, since the downward tail produces significant drag. Small airplanes often require a lot of tweaking to make them fly perfectly.
You’re done! I’ll post a step-by-step tutorial on how to make another plane eventually, which I believe to be a slightly better design overall. It’s not as easy to throw though!