Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: Pilot Prera


Length capped: 4.7 inches
Length uncapped: 4.25 inches
Length posted: 5.4 inches
Diameter: .5 inch, narrows at the section to 3/8 inch
Weight: 0.5 oz.
One cartridge supplied.
Optional converter.

The Pilot Prera is a very attractive pen with silver-toned trim. The clip is on the stiff side and is best for thinner fabrics such as a dress shirt rather than a thick fabric like corduroy.

Shorter than the Pilot Ecrino, the Prera is still comfortable for me to write with the cap unposted as I prefer. The Fine nib I got is typical of Japanese pens, being about a half-size narrower than a European pen with a Fine nib. There's a bit of spring to the nib which adds to the comfortable writing and the line varies only slightly as pressure changes, not enough to call it a semi-flex nib. It writes smoothly with consistent ink flow and good start-up.

The balance is great as may be expected of a Pilot pen.

Since I'm not in the habit of laying down a fountain pen uncapped, I can't say how well it starts after lying out that way for a while.

Available in Brown, Ivory, Lime Green, Royal Blue, Slate Gray, Soft Blue, Vivid Pink, White, and Yellow in Fine or Medium nibs, at $42 or less, this is an excellent pen for people who need a conservative look as well as those who want fun colors.

For those who like to match their pens to their inks, the Soft Blue I bought is leaning toward turquoise, somewhat lighter than Noodler's Britannia's Blue Waves.

I think the Prera rivals the Waterman Phileas that serves so well as a starter pen or gift or extra pen for those who like fine, low-cost, user pens.

The bottom line is that I like it. I like it! I REALLY like it!

I'm trying to figure out what other color(s) I should get :).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Let There Be Light

When I left home at age 17 to move into my own apartment, Dad set up a small toolbox for me that included a small flashlight saying, "Here, this is a good one."

How right he was!

I didn't realize it at the time, but there's a wide range in the quality of flashlights, more so now that LEDs have transformed the world of flashlights.

So, there I was, happy for years with the silver flashlight from Dad kept in the kitchen followed by a brilliant blue Mini Maglite that I bought later because I wanted a flashlight in the bedroom and someone told me that Maglites are good flashlights. Later, I added a blue Maglite Solitaire to my purse because I was tired of the electricity going off at work just before I needed to use the Ladies' room.

Eventually, with the advent of LEDs, I tried a Garrity keychain flashlight and was very pleased to be the heroine several years ago when a car hit a pole and took out the electricity for several blocks while I was at the dentist's office.

"What do we do, now?" I asked the hygienist.

"We're done with your cleaning, but the doctor still needs to check your teeth. If the lights don't come back on, you might have to come back," she replied.

Inwardly, I groaned. When the dentist came by, I asked if he could use my flashlight to check my teeth so I could leave. He examined my flashlight, was impressed with the quality of its light, checked my teeth, then asked if he could borrow it to finish another patient. As he returned, another woman asked to borrow it because she needed to use the rest room.

"That's a great light," the dentist said while the other patient went off to the rest room. "Where did you get it? I'd like to get some for us here in the office."

I told him that I got it from Wal-Mart for less than $5 and he wrote down the name of the manufacturer before leaving me.

The woman returned my little Garrity with great thanks. There's nothing like not being able to see in an unfamiliar facility well enough to relieve yourself when you really need to go.

My hygienist laughed as I picked up my purse to leave, "You didn't know you were going to be a heroine today, did you?"

Since that afternoon four years ago, I've been on the lookout for good LED flashlights. The thing is, although I want a good flashlight, "good" means different things to different people. I don't need a tactical flashlight that costs $300 or want one that uses expensive batteries or need one that puts out 200+ lumens and runs through a set of batteries in an hour or two like some other people do.

I converted my blue Mini Maglite using the Nite Ize three-diode conversion kit, but that was a disappointment. The only reason I didn't convert it back to the Krypton bulb is because the batteries last longer. Since then, Nite Ize and other companies have come out with better conversions. If I try another conversion with other Mini Maglites, I'll probably get one by Terralux because there are more options. Deciding on one gets tricky because more watts and more lumens also mean a shorter battery life. I have to decide the trade-offs I'm willing to make to get an acceptable light with a decent run time.

The next thing I tried was a couple of Forever Flashlights because I like the idea of not needing batteries. One problem is that I don't like waiting while I shake it when I need light. I thought I'd resolve that issue by leaving them in the well on the floor of my car between the driver's seat and door. Evidently, I don't drive enough or brake enough to simulate shaking because the lights are really dim until after I shake them for a minute or two.

Another problem is that they produce a rather small spot of light and one is dimmer and more yellow than the other although brighter than my Nite Ize converted Mini Maglite. The final problem is that since the shake flashlights are magnetic, care must be taken around magnetic media to avoid corruption.

After severely bashing my little toe in a motel in Oregon when a storm put out the lights, I decided to get a Garrity LED lantern/AM-FM radio combination, model KP052, that charges by electricity or the hand-crank. It has several LEDs in it and is a decent area light for preventing stubbed toes, although it isn't bright enough for reading even if it's right next to you. It looks like it's supposed to be able to charge a cell phone, but there wasn't a cord or plug in the package or a card to return to Garrity to request one.

Because the Garrity lantern is rather large for travel and hiking, I next bought the little yellow Coleman MicroPacker 2-LED lantern that was so much dimmer in my motel room than my single-LED Garrity keychain flashlight, I immediately returned it. Some people may like it; I'm not one of them.

Late last year, I tried again with the hand-sized Eton Microlink FR 150 that has a solar-charged/hand-crank AM/FM/NOAA weather radio and flashlight. It may also be charged via USB if you have a cord to do so, but it's a lot easier to keep it on a sunny window sill. The light isn't very bright, but is somewhat adequate for reading except for the strange pattern of light it makes when close up. I'm glad I bought it because it's a nice, small, compact, all-in-one unit that could charge my cell phone if I requested the free plug from Eton. That it has a flashlight is a bonus.

Attracted by the half price on Sierra Trading Post, I bought a Solar Lite by All American Light last month. It's nice that it needs only bright light to charge, but it produces a spot light that's similar to my Forever Flashlight. I'm glad I didn't pay full price for it and, like the Forever Flashlight, wouldn't recommend it unless you need something that's better than nothing and doesn't need batteries. What's nice about it is its light weight and that you don't have to shake it. It's also nice that you don't have to be careful with it around magnetic media.

At last, I am very happy to report on the next generation of the 2 AA Mini Maglite LED flashlight. Mine is gray, model #SP2209HJ, that I bought from Wal-Mart for $21.88 on Tuesday.

Where the older style of the Mini Maglite LED has a larger head than the incandescent version and no hole on the tail cap to attach a lanyard, with the next generation Mini Maglite LED, we see the return of the smaller head so the rubber rim for the face cap fits as well as the lenses of the accessories pack. The hole to attach a lanyard is back in the tail cap.

It measures 1/2" longer than the incandescent version.

The holster still doesn't have the Velcro flap that the holsters for the incandescent Mini Maglites used to have and is a tighter fit than my Velcro-flapped holster, but then, that applies to the current incandescent Mini Maglite's holster, too. I guess Mag changed the design to save on production costs.

Although the corona isn't quite as bright or quite as white as the diffused beam of the 80 lumens Duracell Daylite 2 AA LED flashlight that I bought at Wal-Mart for $26.88 at the same time, the hotspot is brighter and the overall diameter of the beam is broader than the Daylite's. I like the Mini Maglite LED much better, not only because the beam is broader, but also because it weighs less, is narrower and shorter, and doesn't have a push-button on the tail cap. Plus, the Mini Maglite may be set up in candle mode for wider illumination (directions are on the package).

I'm VERY pleased with the Mini Maglite LED because it has settings for 100% power, 25% power, blink, and SOS that is definitely good for signaling for help whether by a lost hiker or a survivor of a natural disaster or other emergency situation. Just twist as usual to turn on, then twist off & on again to sequence to the other modes.

What that does to those who prefer the tail cap push button modifications offered by different companies, I don't know. I prefer to twist the head and can do it easily by gripping it with my little, ring, and middle fingers while twisting with my forefinger and thumb of the same hand.

At the 25% power level, designed for reading or saving the batteries during prolonged emergency use, instead of lasting for hours of continuous use as on the 100% setting, the package says that fresh batteries will last for days. I haven't tried to run down a pair of batteries through it to see how long they'll last, but it makes sense because any of the brighter LED flashlights go through batteries faster than those producing fewer lumens.

[Updated on 8/31/09 - I tested the battery life with a pair of fresh alkaline batteries at 100% power and a second pair of fresh alkaline batteries at 25% power.

Continuously on at 100% power, it dimmed to an unusable level and started flickering at 116 hours (4 days, 20 hours) until it went out at 117 hours.

Continuously on at 25% power, it started flickering at 192 hours (8 days) and went out some time during the next 6.5 hours while I was asleep.]

All in all, this ends my search for a small LED flashlight. I think Mag did this version of the Mini Maglite LED right and hope they do as well when they upgrade the Solitaire to LED.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Strength of a Woman

The flux of 007 movies on the USA network that started over the Independence Day weekend led me to think about, not my favorite James Bond actors (Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig), but my favorite Bond women (portrayed by Carole Bouquet, Judi Dench, Halle Berry, and Michelle Yeoh) and why. It's because they are determined and have their own missions in the war of good versus evil.

This led me to think about the roles of men and women in society, how some cultures recognize women's voices in councils while others relegate women solely to domestic duties to the aboriginal tribe that reversed the traditional stereotypical roles to the point that the men breast-fed the babies.

Here in the United States of America, great progress has been made toward recognizing women's abilities in fields as diverse as politics, business, and the military; capable in all fields as proven by history and supported by the Bible.

In fact, it is a shame for those who call themselves "Christians" to relegate women strictly to the traditional role of homemaker when the Bible tells us by example that women can do anything.

In Deborah, a prophetess and judge over all Israel, we see a spiritual and national leader (Judges 4:4). In Jael, we see an assassin (Judges 4:21). Huldah was a prophetess who men, even a priest, consulted for God's advice (2 Kings 22:14) and the Proverbs 31 woman is a land owner who also has a cottage industry.

Jumping into the New Testament, we find Lydia the merchant (Acts 16:14), Phebe the deaconess (Romans 16:1), Junia the apostle (Romans 16:7), and may read Paul's instructions about women preaching (1 Corinthians 11:5-6, 15).

There are more, but having enough examples to level that particular playing field, we're free to take another look at the question: What is the role of a woman?

Shedding light on this question was the discovery by a former team leader of mine who, expecting her first child and reading child development books, was dismayed upon learning that a child's personality is basically set by age five.

"I have only five years to mold this child!" she exclaimed. "I thought I'd get at least 10 years. I was hoping for more time, not less!"

Therein is the strength of a woman. As far as biological, survival-of-the-species purposes go, while a man's upper body strength makes it easier for him to provide for and protect his family by sheer physical strength, it is for the present and short-term future. For women, the division of labor is much more significant than the immediate care demanded by diapers, snotty noses, and drudgery that is too often held in low esteem by men and even by many women themselves.

If we look beyond that, we'd see that God also entrusted women with the long-term future by enabling them to teach a child from birth and breast, to instill foundational values while the child still clings to the mother's knee, values that may be passed on to future generations and effect changes for the better just as we've experienced through the history of the U.S.

My hope is that women around the world draw upon their strength and advantage to make the war of good versus evil their personal mission for the adage is true: "The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Laughing Cow

Bored, my eyes cruise the deli cheeses at my local grocery store where "The Laughing Cow...Original Creamy Swiss...A French Favorite..." catches my attention.

Sure, why not?

Having been burned by Gouda cheese pretending to be imported when, in fact, it was from Wisconsin and tasted nothing like the Gouda I got when I was in Holland, I examine the Laughing Cow label more closely and turn it over to read the rest.

Hmm. "Original Creamy Swiss Flavor" means there's more to this than I would have otherwise thought.

"Indulge in the rich creamy-delicious taste of imported Swiss cheese, blended with a touch of cream for easy spreading."

The tiny print running below the bar code says, "bel brands USA, 25 Northwest Point Blvd., Elk Grove Village, IL ..."

I chuckle. Taste of imported Swiss cheese, indeed. It certainly isn't Swiss cheese that was actually imported.

My eyes skim over the nutrition facts to the ingredients, below.




Other shoppers look at me.



Yes, I laughed today! Who knew the first word of a list of ingredients would be so funny?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What I Wish I Said

It's been 100 degrees hot for several days and when the temperature was in the low 90s on Tuesday afternoon, it felt cool enough for me to drive with the windows down.

So, there I was starting to back out of a parking space when a 30-ish man approached from I-don't-know-where and bent down to talk to me through the passenger window.

"Could you give me a ride to the store on the corner? It sure is hot," he said.

"Sorry," I said, "I'm not going that way." Then, I backed out and drove off in the opposite direction.

What I wish I said is, "What makes you think I'm dumb enough to give a ride to a complete stranger, a hitchhiker who wants to go only two blocks when it's cool enough that I'm not running the a/c?"