Rants and Raves

Kareem’s Playlist

I’m a subscriber to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s newsletter on Substack. He’s a great writer – check out the Mycroft Holmes books he’s written – or re-watch season 3 of Veronica Mars- or look at the long list of articles, posts and books if you don’t believe me. Or subscribe to his newsletter!

One of the great things I love about the newsletter is that he usually has a music recommendation or three towards the end. I’ve been trying to save the recommendations to a playlist on Spotify. I don’t have everything on here- but I go back a bit from when I started paying attention. Save the list below and give it a listen sometime.

A Recap of the SF Pen Show 2022 – My first show

A few weeks ago I went to my first pen show. Senol and I drove down to Redwood City and visited the 2022 San Francisco International Pen Show on a Saturday which was day 2 of 3 of the show. We only had a few hours but it was very interesting and fun (for me at least). But it was also a bit overwhelming.

I was a bit naive about how popular pen shows were, although in hindsight I shouldn’t have been. Pulling up to a hotel with a rapidly filling parking garage structure and seeing a line outside should have reminded me that every niche hobby has tons of fans, and I have enough hobbies that I should have remembered that- cycling, coffee, wine, etc… any show/gathering of any of those would draw a big crowd.

What I was realized later was that different pen shows gather different vendors. There’s a big show in DC each year WashPo story and that draws vendors and attendees not just from the East Coast but from Europe. The SF Show draws a lot of attendees from the entire Bay Area but also a lot of people from Asia.

Most pen fans will go elsewhere to read a recap and see “haul” videos, so I’ll just recap a little bit for friends who don’t know about these types of events. One thing to get out of the way first is that I mentioned above that it was overwhelming. That’s more because of me- I’m still a bit awkward about crowds, so whenever I see a gathering of people, I get on edge a bit. About half to two-thirds of the people there were masked. I’m not sure if that matters or not, but I notice and care for now even though we’re both vaxxed. In addition to the mask factor, I’m still weird about crowds in general. To be fair, most pen folks seem like they trend towards being introverted, so maybe I wasn’t the only one feeling awkward?

So I did know a bit beforehand about what to expect from the vendors and class/events list. We only had a few hours due to a bunch of stuff going on so I didn’t register for any seminars- but it’s nice knowing that’s an option in the future. I had a rough plan to try to focus on finding just a few vendors I was interested in and then treat everything else as a bonus. And I was able to do that.

My pre-game plan was to check in on Schon Dsgn (I have some of his pens), Peyton Street Pens from Santa Cruz, Curnow Leather and notebooks, and to swing by the Franklin Christoph booth to see if they had any of their specialized demo nibs out.

Most of my focus was to check out some pen models in person because sometimes I can’t quite grasp pen sizing off of website measurements or YouTube videos (nice pun- grasp… sorry). I was able to visit all of the above, and yes, I went over budget grabbing notebooks for myself and I did pick up some new pens. Oh, and we definitely wanted to see the Rickshaw Bags table, but that was super popular so we had to time our visit. But we were able to swing by and picked up some pouches.

The bonus table visits were seeing the notebooks from Musubi from Singapore, Odysey Notebooks, trying the nibs from Franklin Christoph for a possible future purchase, talking to the people from Plotter USA and Traveler’s Notebooks, and getting my hands on an oversized Esterbrook Estie.

Other bonuses were:

  • running into Figboot-on-Pens (unfortunately as we were both coming out of the bathroom) and I got to talk to him about the LCD Soundsystem show (and I was able to say thanks for a pen I had just gotten from him recently) – His recap video is here
  • seeing the Narwhal (now called Nahvalur) and picking up some pens from them, one was a show exclusive
  • seeing how nice the vintage pen people were – as in the watch world they are enthusiasts and like to see the older models get restored and get usage in the real world. I’d buy a vintage one in the future
  • looking at the craftwork of the boxes from Toyoka Craft (they sold out of all of their stuff at the show apparently as I found out)
  • Having Ian Schon recognize my Doxa and talking about watches for a while and also checking out his watch. I realized (weeks later) that I had read articles about him on Hodinkee years ago.

The only regrets I have are that I didn’t pick up any ink. And speaking of inks- I didn’t even try out any of the ink stations that were set up by volunteers(!) so people can actually write and demo various inks in their own notebooks.

But that’s fine, there was enough going on that I knew I would definitely be interested into going to another show.

Senol had maybe seen enough though. She’d rather go to something like the Renegade Craft Fair in SF- coming up in November by the way.

Another Quick Rave – Bivo Bottles

tl;dr: Bivo Bottles Rock

No, I didn’t buy one of these bottles because it’s close to the name of the mascot of my alma mata. I bought one of these initially to be able to clean it more easily and to help me stop buying plastic that wears out.

I had noticed that despite some of my best efforts, my standard plastic bottles were getting kind of nasty on the inside. It’s not that I wasn’t cleaning them well, I just wasn’t able to dry them well. In fact, that’s still a difficulty for me in my apartment.

There’s not much to say – it’s a bottle. It’s a metal bottle with a coating. Hopefully it will keep me from buying more plastic long-term.

You may wonder how to drink out of it since you’re not able to squeeze the metal bottle- but it’s fine, the straw piece helps with the flow. They have more info on their site here.

The ONE drawback, if there is one, is that the bottle doesn’t fit well in all bottle cages. It fits great in one of my bikes, but on the other one it’s just slightly more snug. That’s about it.

A Quick Notebook/Paper Rave – Kokuyo Campus A5

Kokoyu Campus Mio

I’ve been using these A5 Campus notebooks from Kokuyo for a while nd I quite like them. I’ve mostly been using them for work and the A5 softcovers have been durable but easy to put away at the end of my work day.

They’re both the same size, but the first one I started with is slightly different, and I hadn’t noticed the difference at first. I think I just ordered two different ones to try and I only noticed the difference later.

The cream-covered notebook has “MIO Paper” and has a High grade label on the front. I had originally assumed that ‘high grade’ was a pun about being a school notebook and the owner wanting an A+ in her class, but I quickly realized the paper is slightly different.
MIO stands for Mobile Ideal Original.

I’ll link below to JetPens.com where I bought the products. They come in and out of stock frequently, so just set up a ‘notify me’ thing on JP if they don’t have them the day you try to order some.

Both are great for fountain pens and rollerballs. Minimal ghosting as you can see in the pic.

Store links on JetPens:

The “plain one”
[Kokuyo Campus Notebook – A5 – 7 mm Rule – 70 Sheets]

The MIO version

Aftershokz: A Rave

I know the blog is called RANTS and Raves, but I’m making an effort to rant less and rave more. As part of that I wanted to share some thoughts on something that warrants a positive rave. That something is my AfterShokz Titanium headset. The AfterShokz were one of my most surprisingly used things last year.

I never used to wear earbuds or headphones when riding. I know other riders who do wear buds and I’ve always been surprised that they could ride with them. About once a year, I’d try riding with one (wired) earbud in place and put on music or a podcast when I was really far away from traffic on a rural ride. But I usually hated it and it felt wrong and I’d shut it off. That said, I never felt that I missed music or input, I just thought it’d be a nice-to-have.

Also- I started to get judgey about people who I encountered on rides who had in-ear earbuds in place. Mostly because as I’d ride up next to them and say hi, they never heard me coming and then I’d wonder about the safety aspect. I also tended to be slightly jealous that they were riding with earbuds that weren’t slipping out. My airpods are great for work, but there’s no way I’m going to risk losing one on a ride. Even cheaper knockoffs I’d be nervous about.

But enough people recommended that I give the AfterShokz a try that I decided to get a pair. I had looked at them years before but I didn’t like them at the time. I’m not sure if they improved or if I was more open to trying them, but they clicked this time.

They fit around your head and sit on your cheekbones, near your jaw hinge. The sound goes to your ear via bone conduction. Because of that your ears are open and you can hear all the sounds around you. They were perfect for walks, jogs and the bike. The only negative is the sound isn’t great if you’re thinking that you’ll have audiophile-level quality, but that’s a minor point. That only effects me when I’m on the bridge where it’s really windy (but I still don’t usually have music or podcasts on when I’m on he bridge out of habit). They’ve been great on really long rides.

The only other possible negative is that they could be slightly uncomfortable if you have other stuff on your face. By that I mean during Covid I typically ride with a Pandana (see this post) or a mask or a regular bandana that I raise and lower. In addition I’ll have my glasses and helmet on too. So it took me a little bit of time to get used to putting things on in an order that I like. Again, a minor point, but something to think about. In the pics below you can see how small they are. So it shouldn’t be a major concern.

So there you have it- a nice Rave to start off the year.

Troubled Blood – big and entertaining

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this up because I saw it on a list of the CWA Ian Fleming Award candidates (along with the Robatham author I had read recently…). I went in blind not knowing anything about the characters or even that the author’s name was a pseudonym – although I found that part out pretty quickly after adding it to Goodreads. But I was trying to avoid spoilers so I tried to avoid seeing anything about the story online.

I usually don’t start at #5 of a series of previously established characters- but that didn’t matter here. Good character depth and really well written.

I was a bit impatient in the middle – it’s a long book – but that’s because a lot of mysteries I read are pulp and I was thinking that this case would be solved quickly. I also read this as an e-book that’s why I wasn’t grasping that this would be that a long tale. But it was worth sticking out.

View all my reviews

A Quote from Simon Sinek

This quote resonated with me.

The goal isn’t just to hire people who need a job, it’s to hire people who believe what you believe.
If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat, and tears.

(from Start with why – link below)

Answering Your Questions About That Pizza Oven

I recently posted a video to Instagram of me using an Ooni gas fired pizza oven when we were housesitting. I received a number of questions from you all basically asking the same thing: “Worth it?”

I wanted to give you some feedback and hopefully answer your question.

First I just wanted to say that I think the Ooni oven is a really well made product. It’s light, it’s relatively small (it can fit on a smaller table), it’s easy to hook up and get running and it’s very easy to clean up.

Notably, the interior pizza stone on the inside is removable and can be cleaned off if needed. Most of the time you can just do a “burn off” and flip the stone over to do this process. But you could use a grill brush after a burn off if needed.

That said- here’s my attempt to answer your question- “is it worth it?”

Yes and no.

Do you have outdoor space? Do you like to make multiple pizzas for one meal? Do you have a family and maybe each person wants their own pizza? Do you entertain frequently?
If so, go for it.

Do you live in a small apartment with no outdoor space? Do you really only need to make one pizza to share for dinner?
Then no, skip it. Get a baking steel.

The recommendations as an alternative idea for the “no”.
When my friends bought their ovens (I have multiple friends with the Ooni), I received a birthday present called a Baking Steel. You may have seen them in use on Kenji Lopez-Alt’s videos. The Baking Steel is perfect for making pizzas on indoors in an oven. The version I have is also flippable and can sit on the stove as well. I used mine as a part-time griddle and also as a pizza steel.

It works in any oven, but excels in ovens where the broiler element is up top. Sadly, my broiler is one of those old-school drawer types that sits below the main oven compartment. But it’s still great.

I recommend the Baking Steel for anyone as it has multiple uses. You can even use it to make smash burgers (video below). That said- if I had outdoor space, I’d have an Ooni too.

Let me know if this helps or if you have any other questions.

Here are some pics from the Ooni and my Baking Steel. Some useful videos below as well. Both Andris from BS and Kenji have loads of videos. Kenji has a lot using the Ooni as well as his Steel.