Visit my new site

This website has moved over to legomac.net, hosted by Squarespace. If you enjoy what you see here, stop by and see more recent material!

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legomac gets an upgrade

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.


Review: uni-ball Power Tank (original capped model)

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!


Year One – Looking Forward

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.


Year One – Looking Back

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:

LEGO:
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.

Apple:
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.

Reviews:
I did two rather long reviews of iOS games, as well as a Shawn Blanc-style review of my Magic Mouse.

Miscellaneous:
Some things I wrote about didn’t fit into any particular categories but still deserve to be mentioned.


The Oatmeal’s State of the Web

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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 Last of the Final Frontier

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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.

Also, it might be a great time to buy LEGO City’s Space Shuttle, though it pales in comparison to older sets like 10213 and the classic 1682.