Thursday, October 22, 2009

Too Good Not to Share #2

Here are links to more things I've enjoyed on the World Wide Web.

The BBC Wildlife Magazine and London's Natural History Museum own the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition:

The winning photographs for 2009.

Caution! This may make you die from laughing:

Cat Betrayed Girlfriend.

You don't need blue skies to make good pictures:

Fifty Beautiful Photographs of a Cloudy Day.

Nice, strange, beautiful, fun, bizarre: is a blog on the oddities of this world.

Do you think you've got a hard life? You can't make this stuff up (although a few do sound like it): - Your everyday life stories.

Finally, some beautiful music (I love the rain drops and thunder sound effects they make.):

Perpetuum Jazzile performs Toto's "Africa".

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Adding to the Gov't. Coffers?

Yesterday, the FTC released its revised Guides, effective December 1, 2009, regarding reviews stating that when products or money are given to bloggers by merchants, the bloggers must reveal the "material connection" or face a fine up to $11,000 for each post in violation because such reviews are no longer consumer reviews, but endorsements.

Conceivably, the main groups that will be affected by this change will be those like the gamers, who review gaming software and hardware, mommy bloggers, who review goods and services for parents and children, and celebrities who tweet about what they use. The FTC holds that people like them are acting as advertisers who aren't truly independent from the merchants and that consumers need to be apprised of any material connections since bias may exist.

Now, truth-in-advertising and all that is fine, and I'm thinking that honest bloggers won't take issue with the change, which is the first in 29 years, since I read blogs that already have been thanking merchants for providing them the goods they've been reviewing.

What I anticipate may be surprising to some of them is that the IRS considers it as income and expects taxes to be paid just like for bartering, sweepstakes, gambling winnings, and the cars that Oprah gave away. The revised FTC Guides will make it easier for the IRS to go after any unreported income which, for some bloggers, may add up to tens of thousands of dollars' worth of goods and services received.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Platinum Preppy


Length capped: 5-3/8 in.
Length uncapped: 4-13/16 in.
Length posted: 6-1/8 in.
Diameter: 0.5 in., grip is 3/8 in.
Weight with cartridge: 0.42 oz.
Weight as ED filled pen: 0.48 oz.
Capacity as ED pen: 3.75 ml
One proprietary Platinum cartridge included, capacity: 1 ml
Proprietary Platinum converter, optional
Adapter for standard international cartridges, optional
O-ring size for optional DIY ED modification: 5/16" inside diameter x 7/16" outside diameter x 1/16" width or 1/4" inside diameter x 3/8" outside diameter x 1/16" width.

The Platinum Preppy is an inexpensive, full-sized, ultralight, clear plastic demonstrator fountain pen with a clip and painted nib that are color-coded to the included cartridge of ink. It's available with a 0.3 mm Fine or 0.5 mm Medium tipped, stainless steel nib with seven matching ink colors: Black, Blue-black, Green, Pink, Red, Purple, and Yellow.

Platinum also makes an adapter so that the relatively easy-to-find standard international cartridges may be used instead of the scarcer proprietary Platinum cartridges, although the adapter itself isn't easy to find.

The Preppy is very comfortable to hold for long writing sessions with the snap-on cap unposted, as I prefer, and the Fine nibs that I got write nearly as smoothly as expensive pens and more smoothly than any school pen ($5 - $30) that I've tried. As such, the Preppy is an impressively good introduction to fountain pens for as low as $3 - $4 from such online pen stores as JetPens and Swisher Pens which also sells the modified eyedropper (ED) pen for $6.

Unfortunately, I had a Preppy blow out on Friday afternoon. While I was writing, a large blob of ink formed on top of the nib where it comes out at the end of the section. I quickly capped the pen to prevent the blob from dropping onto my paper. It was strange behavior for a cartridge pen because that's how a too-empty ED pen behaves.

Upon examination, I saw that the feed was flooded with ink and, pulling out the nearly empty cartridge over the sink, I discovered a crack on the rim of the cartridge.

Was the crack made when I inserted the cartridge and broke the seal? I don't remember if it was difficult or if I might have inserted the cartridge in such a manner as to cause the crack.

I speculated that the flooding might have been caused by the cracked cartridge not fitting tightly enough onto the nipple to create a seal to contain the very low volume of ink. Did the warmth of my hand expand the air within the barrel forcing the ink to flood the feed as is typical with an ED pen that's too low on ink?

Putting a new cartridge in my failed pen after flushing it out flooded the feed, again. Oh, well. Transferring the new cartridge to a new Preppy got me back to working in short order.

That's why I like demonstrator pens: They let you see what's going on inside.

I advise against shaking a fountain pen or any other active method to get ink flowing within a fountain pen because it isn't necessary and because the pen might slip and crack from the sudden fall and subsequent impact. These Preppy pens, in particular, are better known for fragility than they are for durability compared to other plastic pens such as the Pilot Petit1. Just stand any fountain pen in a cup, nib down, to get it going. If it doesn't start writing in a minute or two, go do something else for 10 - 15 minutes. Patience is a virtue!

I've been using a Preppy since April '08 and got my first Preppy ED pen with a bottle of Noodler's Bay State Blue ink from Swisher Pens that included a free Preppy modified into an ED pen by Nathan Tardif.

Now this one blobbed as if it was an ED pen too low on ink and a new cartridge didn't fix the problem like refilling an ED pen does.

It's disappointing because the Preppy is a great pen. Beside being comfortable and smooth, I've let mine lay horizontally for weeks at a time and they always start right up. Since it's so inexpensive, did I get what I paid for? On Friday, I was thinking that we'll see what the final score is after I go through the rest of the colors I bought.

After a flash of inspiration yesterday, I converted the failed Preppy to an ED pen by adding an O-ring and some silicone grease to the section threads and filled it.

Voila! No more blobs.

If you want to try an inexpensive fountain pen, if you want to sample Platinum's exceptionally smooth nibs, if you want to experiment with grinding your own nibs, I highly recommend the Preppy.

If you want to modify a Preppy into a high-capacity eyedropper pen as a DIY project, you may go to a hardware store or a home building supply store to buy the O-ring. While you're there, buy a tube of 100% silicone grease to dab onto the threads to keep the O-ring from drying out and to ensure the seal won't leak ink through the section and barrel threads. Or, you may order the large O-ring, code ORING-LG, from Pendemonium as well as a small container of pure silicone grease.

[Warning! Do not use anything other than 100% silicone grease with fountain pens. Petroleum jelly (i.e. Vaseline), especially, will do nasty things to certain materials often used in fountain pens. Pure silicone grease is safe for fountain pens and it's better to be safe than sorry.]

You'll have to stretch the O-ring a bit to get it over the end of the section. Then, screw it down or roll it over the threads until it's flush with the stop just past the threads. Screwing the barrel on gently will ensure the O-ring is as far down as it will go. Be careful not to use too much force with the barrel or you may risk cracking it.

Remove the barrel and dab silicone grease onto the O-ring and section threads.

Next, you're ready to fill the barrel with your chosen fountain pen ink. Go ahead. Use a clean eyedropper and fill the barrel all the way up to the bottom of the threads. Then, screw on the section and you're good to go.

Just keep in mind that when the ink level gets 2/3 - 3/4 empty in an ED pen, the air in the barrel may expand from the heat of your hand and cause more ink to come out than you'd like, such as the blob I had. To prevent this from happening, simply grab your eyedropper when the level of ink is down to 1/3 - 1/4 full, refill the barrel, and dab on a bit more silicone grease to refresh the lubricant on the O-ring and threads.

Other than that, the only other difference between a Preppy and an ED Preppy is that the Preppy ED pens I have write slightly broader than the Preppy pens I use with cartridges that I refill using a 25¢ syringe I got from a local pharmacy. The difference is a .4 mm line from a cartridge-filled Preppy versus a .5 mm line from an ED Preppy and, like other pens using fountain pen ink, the line width may depend on the ink used as well as the paper.

Oh, yes. There's also the fun factor of watching the ink slosh back and forth in an ED barrel. Back and forth. Back and forth. When the barrel is to capacity, it's like a giant bubble in a level. Back and forth. Back and forth. When the ink level gets lower, it's more like a miniature wave machine. Back and forth. Back and forth. It's great for boring meetings or general daydreaming (ahem!).

Even though a Preppy failed on me, I still think the pen is well-worth buying because it's a comfortable, smooth writer that's priced in the same range as the Pilot VPen and Varsity disposable fountain pens or a disposable gel pen such as the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. The way I look at it, if a Preppy fails irreparably, it was a disposable fountain pen and I get to keep the good parts as spares. If it keeps working, it's a great, low-cost, user fountain pen that's more versatile for being easily modified into an eyedropper pen with a huge ink capacity.

Either way, it's a winning situation with the Platinum Preppy fountain pen.