Pen World Profile

I checked through my mail yesterday, and found a few advanced copies of the February 2016 edition of Pen World in there. It should be out on store shelves soon, or pick up a copy at the LA International Pen Show. You can find a PDF copy on the Press page.

Speaking of the LA Pen Show, I will be in town for it, but not setting up a table this year. I will have a few pens for sale with me, so if you want to sit down and take a look, please let me know. I'll be around from Thursday to Monday, and happy to meet with people.

Links for May 11, 2014

NYC is turning their pay phones into free wifi hotspots. What a great use of existing infrastructure. Article

I'm a huge fan of Threes on iOS. An interesting thing that happened in the wake of it's success is the huge number of clones of the game. The creator of the most successful clone, 2048, talks about the struggle he faced with it. Article

Alton Brown shows us how to use a saber to open a bottle of champagne. Video

I sound like a broken record sometimes explaining to people that correlation is not causation. This wonderful website gives a number of great examples to prove that… Article

Jimmy Fallon is doing some good work on the Tonight Show. Here's a fun bit about science. Video

I'm a bit of a Kevin Spacey fanboy. I'm intrigued by his interpretation of Richard III. Article

It's common to get sponsor information in many of the RSS feeds I subscribe to. This one for Jetpens is worth a read. Article

Here's a great idea out of The Netherlands for improving night time driving conditions. The lines of the road are painted with a glow in the dark paint which absorbs energy during the day. Article

Some more great street art, this time out of Greece. Article

Esquire interviews Roger Christian, the man who built Star Wars. Article

I like the way the dial is offset from the escapement on this watch. Article

I've posted about Kintsugi before. It's a Japanese art where broken pieces of pottery are reassembled using lacquer, and the lacquer seams are covered in gold. Article

Facebook recently bought the makers of the Occulous Rift, a new VR headset in the early stages of development. There are some developer models out in the world, and one of them was used to make a simulator for flying like a bird. Article

Dangerdust has been getting some great attention online over the past few weeks. Here's a video documenting one of their guerrilla chalk drawings. Video

Previous link posts can be found here

Link list for May 4th, 2014

Video footage from London 1924 is superimposed over footage from 2014. Video

An excellent dissection of the arguments put forth supporting the use of torture. Article

Some more good news from the US on patent trolls. The Supreme Court has ruling allows fees to be transferred entirely to one party in the case of a frivolous suit. This is an important tool in dissuading patent trolls from launching hundreds of suits using questionable patents. Article

The fascinating story about the oral history of the IRA, and the legal issues it caused Boston College and the potential ramifications for peace in Ireland. Article

I've been looking into mics for recording work recently. The Wire Cutter has an excellent review of what to buy. Article

Mashable has some excellent coverage of the fighting going on in Ukraine right now. Article

Radiolab recently aired an excellent episode where they dissected the resolution which has given the US President the authority to launch and continue the "War on Terror". Podcast

A great video from Leica showing how they hand finish one of the cameras. This gives a brief idea of what is involved in hand finishing a high end product like what custom jewellers make. (If you can't make it through the video, don't ever take a job making high end pieces of metal work) Video

Well this is embarrassing… Article

Genetic anomalies in butterflies make for some interesting photos. Article

Run An Empire looks like an interesting running game coming later this year. Article

A great video from Japan showing 50 amateur fencers up against three experienced fencers. Video

With a dead whale in the news recently, Tested looks at how to prevent them from exploding. Article

Here's a great looking woodworking conference practically in my backyard. Of particular interest is Chris Schwartz who writes some of the best books on woodworking I've come across. Article

Nice short video showing off a 5 axis mill. Video

Previous link posts can be found here

Eggroll Challenge

Last night we held an eggroll challenge to see who makes the best eggrolls in Ottawa. The idea came from a conversation with several people on twitter. Three names kept coming up in the conversation: Golden Palace, Dragon Fortune Delight, and Ruby Inn. We decided the best way to settle the argument was to hold a blind taste testing of the contenders. Dave Hicks and Shawna Tregunna were kind enough to host our challenge.

In Ottawa, the general opinion is Golden Palace has the best eggrolls in the city. In my case, I grew up on Ruby Inn eggrolls, and more recently, Dragon Fortune Delight. All three have one thing in common, they are all open ended eggrolls. We decided to add Wong's Palace for the contest since they are also open ended, and we'd heard good things about them.

One of the big surprises for me was how much attention the challenge attracted. I knew it would get some attention amongst my friends online, but it went much further than that. CBC's afternoon radio program, All In a Day, got in touch, and had me on their "D is For Dinner" segment last week (you can find the audio of the segment over on their site). I was on with Dave Niel from athe Piggy Market to talk about the challenge, and eggrolls in general. Dave brought some of his eggrolls along to try out. They were spicier than most eggrolls, and more like a spring roll with extra greens in the filling. Not to my liking, but I know some people are devotees. Anyway, the radio attention attracted a few extra people to the event, and got people in the city talking.

The event itself was a great success. Everyone took the judging seriously. There were four criteria to judge on: overall, filling, shell, and sauce. The sauce was the big surprise at first. I don't think any of us realized just how different they were from each other until they were all laid out side by side. This was a blind test. The samples were all laid out by someone not participating in the test. After a few instructions everyone dug into the food. It didn't take very long before all score cards were completed, and they could be tallied.

The big upset of the evening was for Golden Palace. There is a lot of press about how they are the best eggrolls in the city (The Citizen recently did a story on them claiming people order them for their last meal in the hospital). But during our blind test they were overwhelmingly the least favoured of the four. Their sauce was disliked by nearly everyone as well. The general consensus was their eggrolls and sauce were very bland, and the filling had a strong pork taste. The Golden Palace eggrolls are the only ones I would turn down if offered in the future.

The other three were very close in the final tally. All had excellent sauce and eggrolls. Personally I would be happy to eat at any of the three. So here are the final results: 1. Dragon Fortune Delight: 14.33 2. Ruby Inn: 14.31 3. Wong's Palace: 14.22 4. Golden Palace: 11.83

Thanks to everyone who was involved. This may be something we do again in the future. It certainly was a lot of fun.


All of the contenders laid out.


Some of our judges hard at work.

How to make perfect popcorn

Popcorn may just be the perfect snack. In fact it probably deserves to be a food group on its own. No matter what your preference, salty or sweet, there is some way to prepare popcorn which will satisfy anyone.

I've been a popcorn fan as long as I can remember. It was a great snack after school while watching Doctor Who, and mandatory while watching a movie. I've had popcorn of all kinds, and they are not created equal. Here are my recommendations on how to make the perfect batch of popcorn.

First off, let's talk about the corn. There are two primary types of popping corn, yellow and white. Yellow is what you'll find in movies theatres and commercial popcorn products. It's cheap, and pops to a large volume. White corn is more difficult to find, and doesn't pop to the same volume as yellow. However, white corn is sweeter, more tender, and produces fewer of the husks which get caught in your teeth. If you're making this for yourself at home, don't bother with the yellow. Here in Ontario it is easy to find white popcorn at the Bulk Barn. I've tried some of the "premium" brands, and the bulk white is just as good.

Next comes your popping method. I don't think it's possible to make good popcorn without oil. Air popping just isn't an option for good popcorn. The best popper I've found on the market is the Whirley-Pop. It allows you to make up to 1/2 cup of white popcorn easily on a stove. I've used a few other stove top poppers, but I think this one has the best features, and is a reasonable price (as a bonus, it works well over a camp stove, so you can bring it along when you go camping).

Now for your popping technique. Use whatever oil you prefer. I know some people like coconut oil, I prefer canola. You need an appropriate amount of oil for the amount of popcorn you're making, but not too much. Put your Whirley-Pop on the stove at medium heat. Do not use high heat! If you use high heat you will get tough popcorn, and damage your popper. The heat should be just high enough to get the oil to popping temperature.

You are going to pre-heat the oil. Put a few kernels in the oil while its heating. Once they have all popped, wait another 30 seconds before adding the rest of the popcorn. If you like salt on your popcorn, add it to the oil while its heating. You should use a fine ground salt. I add 1/8 teaspoon for 1/3 cup of popcorn. Adding the salt to the oil will evenly salt the popcorn, and allow easy control over how much salt you use. The popcorn needs to be constantly stirred while heating to get tender popcorn. A gentle stirring is fine, no need to go crazy.

Once the popcorn is nearly finished popping, give the popper a few shakes to settle any unpopped kernels to the bottom. Put it back on the heat and let the rest pop. Remember to keep stirring. Once its finished, dump out into an appropriate bowl, and apply whatever butter or seasoning you prefer.

A few years ago we started making a sweet kettle corn on occasion. It's a cinnamon flavour, and is always a hit at parties. It does take more time to clean up the popper after, but it's worth it. Follow the same instructions as above, but add the following to your oil while pre-heating: 2 tablespoon sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon

It is critical you don't overheat this. The amounts are appropriate for 1/3 cup of popcorn. Once it has finished popping, empty the popcorn onto a cooking sheet and allow it to cool. It will want to stick together, so break it apart before putting it in a container.

Now, enough talk about popcorn. Go off and make some of this perfect snack.

Links for April 27th, 2014

Intellectual Ventures is perhaps the biggest patent troll out there. Fortunately the judge in their most recent case sent them packing. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Article

The story of the last of the Japanese Mermaids. Article

We live in rural Ontario (even though we're only 50Km from downtown Ottawa), and have to live with miserable infrastructure. Most of the issues are thanks to lack of funding. Article

Great little video of spending an afternoon with your AT-AT. Video

The World Cup is coming. I'm sure there will be plenty of links, but the first is from Nike. Video

How Audemars Piguet makes their watch bracelets. Video

A bit of history about invisible ink. Article

I love the clean look of Nomos' watches. Article

I do a lot of work with moire patterns in my engine turning, and love the effects possible. These animals from moire patterns are quite clever. Article

The Internet in the US took a hit this week with the FCC's change of direction on net neutrality. This ruling highlights one of the major issues with appointing people who have, or will, work for major telcos. Marco Arment has a good write up on the bullshit of the current language being used to support the new direction. Article

Previous link posts can be found here

Links for April 20, 2014

I've had the pleasure of visiting Warwick castle a number of times. A castle has stood on this site since 1068 when William began fortifying the countryside. It was also instrumental in the War of the Roses during the 15th century. A few years ago they built the world's largest trebuchet as an example of what medieval war machines look like. It's still in operation today. Video

I have a great deal of respect for people who are able to make a family business work well, and particularly transition from one generation to another. The Globe takes a look at the pros and cons of working in a family business. Article

Sara Sagan writes about the lessons she learned in mortality and immortality from her father, Carl Sagan. Article

The Atlantic talks about the perception of genre fiction. Article

I'm a big fan of Banksy, and this week he posted two new pieces on his site. (BTW, if you've never seen Exit Through the Gift Shop, make some time this week to watch it). Article

Brad's writes about his 2014 Atlanta Pen Show experience, and comes to the same conclusion I have about what makes these shows great. Article

The article is a bit sparse on details, but the idea of converting sea water to fuel is intriguing. Article

Rachel Sussman's project to photograph the worlds oldest living things before they die. Article

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of our premier science communicators, and he discusses his latest project, the continuation of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, in this interview. Video

I love woodworking, but I hate the noise and mess of power tools. Chris Schwarz writes excellent books and articles on hand tool only woodworking. This week he published what he considers the minimal tools required in your tool chest. Article

I've been very tempted to build a Ruben's tube for parties, and this week Derek at Veritasium ups the ante with a group of science educators who have made a 2d Ruben's tube. Video

Freedom of speech is the core of a free society. A number of high profile people have said some particularly dumb things lately, and been attacked for it (and in a couple of situations run out of their positions). Some have defended them saying they are just exercising free speech. While freedom of speech is important, it doesn't protect you from the consequences of what you've said. Article

I love these marble vases which are made to be broken and transformed into a new shape. Article

Slovakia has an innovative way to increase the number of businesses paying VAT. Since tax collection is a major issue in a number of countries, we might see this becoming more common. Article

With BBQ season now upon us in the Northern hemisphere, I recommend watching some of the great videos over on the Kamado Joe cooking channel on YouTube. John has some excellent tips and recipes to keep you well fed this summer. Video

The brilliant Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are reunited. I love these two. They heavily informed my sense of humour while growing up. Once you've finished watching this, go find Jeeves and Wooster, and A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Video

Previous link posts can be found here

Links for April 13, 2014

Halley Docherty takes famous paintings with street views, and superimposes them onto Google street view images. Article

A look at making a Nomos Glashüette watch. Video

CGP Grey asks are Hong Kong and Macau countries? Video

Phones are making significant leaps in image detection. DeepBelief SDK looks to improve that ability by teaching your phone what an object looks like, and then detecting it later. Some interesting possibilities here for store apps, museums, and tourism. Article

Men's only sewing classes are on the rise in London. Article

'Dealt' is a documentary coming next year about magician Richard Turner. He was fortunate, and good enough, to study with Dai Vernon (Vernon is probably the best slight of hand magician to live). His card handling skills are unbelievable. Oh yeah, and he's completely blind. Video

An offensive fiddle, appropriate for rowdy audiences. Article

Some impressive contact juggling with juggling rings. Video

A closed garden sealed in 1972 is still thriving with nothing more than sunlight. I love science. Article

The NSA is claiming they have never exploited Heartbleed to get secure data. They're going to have a difficult time convincing anyone they didn't know about this exploit, and chose to capitalize on it instead of revealing it to the world. You'd think that someone at the NSA would have learned as a child what happens to habitual liers. Article

The whole idea of tipping for service is a bit odd. I'm not really a big fan of it for various reasons (personally I think servers should be paid a fair wage for the work they're doing instead of being paid below minimum wage, and then being forced to make it up in tips). This is the most recent piece I've found on the success of tip less restraurants. Article

I hear a lot of people moaning about poor battery life on their iPhone. Most people blame the latest version of iOS for their battery woes, but in reality it's usually one of their apps misbehaving (I'm looking at you Facebook). If you're having issues with battery life, go through this guide. Article

Some great looking tattoos by Jan Mráz. Article

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have recently finished a 6300 page report on the CIA torturing prisoners since 9/11. Apparently its findings include that the CIA did in fact torture prisoners, they lied about the scope of the program, and lied about the effectiveness of the torture (spoiler, torture is ineffective for intelligence gathering). Unfortunately the public will never see this report. Only a small portion will be made public, and the CIA get to redact it before it's published. Barry Eisler discusses the issues with the situation in an interview with a German publication. Article

Xkcd perfectly explains Heartbleed. Article

Feynman is one of the best presenters I've seen. A friend relates a few Feynman stories. Video

I've been finding plenty of cool street murals lately. Article

If you are going to invest in bespoke pens and watches, it makes sense to have a bespoke safe to protect them. Article

We've heard plenty of stories about Steve Jobs, but these from Don Melton remind us that he was a normal guy. Article

If you're not familiar with Brad Dowdy's, he collects and reviews a wide range of pens and paper. Every week he posts his link list of reviews for pen and paper around the web in Ink Links. Article

I'm not sure how practical this is, but this prop driven train looks very cool. Video

During a recent chat with friends, the topic of amazing guitar work came up. I've always been impressed with people who can play Bach's Toccata and Fugue in Dm on the guitar. Here's a great example. Video

Previous link posts can be found here

Links for April 6, 2014

For many years, we've heard amazing stories of people surviving for extended periods of time during hypothermic conditions. A new experimental treatment for extreme trauma patients will attempt to use the same principles to save people previously thought lost. Article

Last weekend the UK experienced the barbaric practice of changing the clocks for daylight savings time. Computerphile takes a look at the issues with timezones. Video

It was difficult to make it through this video entitled The Expert. This was my life for 15 years. Video

Last week I shared The Pen Company's blog post on removing ink stains from carpet and hardwood flooring. This week they have a follow up on removing ink stains from leather and silk. Article

Good tutorial on how to make an accurate planet cake. Article

It's sad to see watchmakers retiring with nobody to replace them. Article

If you've ever wondered about how a slapshot differs from a regular shot in hockey, here's and excellent video. Video

If you're reading my blog there's a chance you are keen on pens. If you are, you should be listening to the Pen Addict podcast. Episode 100 came out this week, and is worth a listen. Podcast

It's sad how little reaction there is from the media when a white guy gets arrested for terrorism. Article

Week three with something related to the game Threes. This week it's a computer playing Threes. Video

Matt Schofield will be in Kitchener for their blues festival in August. That makes it a very tempting trip this summer.

I'm the last person to judge if this is accurate, the science behind what women want on the dance floor. Article

These maps showing mobile platform use of twitter are fascinating. Article

I've never been a fan of Rolex watches, but the Cellini collection looks great. Article

I'm always keen to find new ways to make a great burger. The smashed burger looks like it has some potential. Article

I'm impressed these guys can paint lettering on the road by hand. Video

We've recently lost a few of the classic voice over guys for movie trailers. Here is a great look at the history of the movie trailer. Video

The conservators at the Staffordshire Hoard are working on making a few replicas of some pieces from the collection. They are providing a great look at how they are doing it. I wonder if they would be willing to made that 3D model available to those of us studying these pieces… Article

A voice actor demonstrates some of the accents of the UK. Video

Here's a great promo video for a stone setting class in the UK. It gives a great sense of the skill and detail involved in stone setting. Video

Doublespace give us a bit of an architectural tour of Shinzen. Article

Jack is trying to make the rest of us look bad…

What to watch and play

I recently watched the 2013 movie 47 Ronin staring Keanu Reeves. What a horrible mess. For those unfamiliar with the story of the 47 Ronin, it is a true story about a daimyo being murdered, and 47 of his retainers taking revenge. It is a perfect story, and gives a window into Japanese culture (it is said that to understand this story is to understand Japan). Some idiot at the movie studio decided it would be a good idea to turn the movie into a fantasy film and ruin a perfect story. Instead of supporting and rewarding this insulting attack on Japanese culture, here are some alternatives.

The best rendering of the 47 Ronin is a recent comic published by Dark Horse. It is available on the iPad using the Dark Horse app, and looks great. Article

While looking into a few of the Japanese actors in 47 Ronin, I found out about the 2003 film Twilight Samurai. This film is stunning. The look and feel of 19th century Japan is perfect, and the story is beautiful. Find a copy of this film. It may be the best thing you watch this year. Video

Speaking of beautiful and stunning, the guys at Ustwo Games released Monument Valley this week for iPad and iPhone. I don't normally recommend games to non-gamers, but this is one you need to play even if you're not a gamer. It is a short game (it should only take a few hours to finish), but each and every screen could be turned into a gallery print. The game play is also inovative, using optical illusions to alter the game environment. As close to a perfect game as I've ever played. Article

One of my favourite films from the 70's is on iTunes at a great price. The Conversation with Gene Hackman is worth a watch if you've never seen it. Video

Previous link posts can be found here