Pen review: Pilot B2P

Pilot B2P writing sample
Pen: Pilot B2P 0.7 (furnished by JetPens)
Paper: Rhodia No. 12 Graph Pad
I wanted to hate this pen. After all, it’s just a G2 refill in an eco-friendly body, right? I’m supposed to look down my nose and scoff at it, aren’t I? Well, I don’t hate it. I don’t know if I love it either, but it has enough redeeming qualities that I can’t dismiss it outright. It feels better in my hand than the standard G2 barrel, though not as good as a G2 Pro. For this ink, the 0.7 seems to flow more smoothly than the 0.5. To be continued…
…I definitely prefer the aesthetics of the B2P to those of the standard G2, but that may be simply because the G2 hasn’t had an update in eons, and I’m just sick of looking at it. (Enough with that gross, rusty-looking area near the top of the refill!) The biggest design differences in my opinion are that the B2P barrel is a little wider, and the “grip” is simply some indentations cut in the plastic. The eco aspect (89% recycled content) is a nice touch, and the price differential is actually insignificant enough that it’s easy to justify choosing the B2P over the G2. That was an important business decision by Pilot, because as the premium prices of hybrid vehicles have shown us, sometimes the upfront cost of going green can be hard to swallow.
At the end of the day, it’s still a G2 at heart. That can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your writing habits and personal preferences. While I may be a tad biased, I will share a story that I hope proves the degree of objectivity with which I approached this review. I put the B2P up against the three other pens that JetPens recently sent me for review, and let a small group of my work colleagues evaluate them with no pretext whatsoever. This is a group of people with diverse tastes in writing implements, and every single one of them independently chose the B2P as the winner. Take that as you will, but it certainly speaks to the broad mass-market appeal of this pen.

Pen review: Kaweco Sport Classic

Kaweco Sport Classic

Kaweco Sport Classic

Fine Nib

Rhodia No.12 Graph Pad

I’m a firm believer in maximizing utility. Perhaps that’s why I shied away from fountain pens for so long. They always struck me as overly fancy instruments that tethered the writer to a desk. This pen completely changed my mind! Form follows function here, no doubt about it. It writes smoothly, is lightweight and is perfect for carrying around all day in a pocket. Bravo, Kaweco. You’ve made a believer of me!

Pen review: Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.3mm

There must be something I’m missing when it comes to Micro Tip Gel Ink pens. The Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.3mm feels good in the hand, but it seems like it will take some time for me to get used to. This is definitely the finest point I’ve ever used for writing, and there’s undoubtedly going to be an adjustment period. They seem to be well-loved by aficionados, so I’m being very patient and giving it a chance.

Every stroke is like sandpaper across the desert. And I can hear it, too. For my writing style, at least, it’s quite fatiguing. Nor is it a smooth writing experience. Perhaps this was a poor choice with which to begin my journey, but if nothing else this will give me a valuable sense of perspective as I continue to explore different options.

Love the push clip design, and I suspect I’d love the whole package a lot more in a 0.5mm or 0.7mm tip. The Viridian Green ink is gorgeous in color. I don’t usually give much consideration to color when writing, but this ink’s vibrancy made me take notice.

Maybe I’m just not ready for the 0.3mm yet. It’s too scratchy for my inexperienced hand. I’ll have to revisit this down the road. I’m not ready to pass final judgment, but for now, this isn’t a pen I’ll be returning to on a regular basis.

Pen: Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.3mm, Viridian Green (furnished by JetPens)
Paper: Ampad Envirotec Recycled Steno Book # 25774

Cloud Integration Shootout: Office Suites part 2 (the Mac conundrum)

Users of modern Macs face an unfortunate dilemma when it comes to cloud-integrated office suites. Google Cloud Connect is not available for Macs; the company blames Microsoft for their lack of support for open APIs in the Mac version of Office. And the OOo2GD extension for OpenOffice (and friends) doesn’t work properly on any version of OSX after 10.4 (Tiger) due to Java issues. What this effectively means is that true Google Docs integration is simply not possible at the current time. Users are left with two equally cumbersome and unappealing options.

Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac includes native (though rudimentary) hooks into Microsoft’s own cloud infrastructure. Applications in this suite offer the ability to “Save to SkyDrive” or “Save to SharePoint.” There is not, however, support for automatic synchronization. It is still a manual process, an extra step in your workflow which means this is not true integration. And for established Google Docs devotees, it requires a separate collaborative space to be created and maintained.

NeoOffice is a Mac-specific fork of OpenOffice. I tested version 3.2 Beta Patch 1. Through a feature known as “NeoOffice Mobile,” it does provide support for saving to Google Docs; but again, true integration eludes us here. Users are inexplicably required to create a separate NeoOffice Mobile account, even if they’re only using it for the ability to save directly to Google Docs. The account creation process is tedious (you are asked to donate money), and credentials do not appear to be saved between sessions. So when you quit NeoOffice, and then start it up the next time, you have to separately login to both NeoOffice Mobile and Google Docs. And you have to do this every time. There’s no automatic synchronization, either.

The elegance and seamlessness of both Google Cloud Connect and OOo2GD are sorely missed in OSX Leopard and Snow Leopard. Hopefully someday soon, one of these options will be available, or perhaps an entirely new solution will present itself.

Cloud Integration Shootout: Office Suites

google cloud connect



Analysis: LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD versus Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect


The following is a comparison of cloud integration options for two popular office suites. Both options allow synchronization of documents, spreadsheets and presentations to Google Docs. Both options allow for either automatic or manual syncing, depending on user preference.



LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD advantages:

  • None of the costs associated with Microsoft Office
  • Multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, many other Unix variants)
  • Supports other cloud services besides Google Docs (Zoho and generic WebDAV)
  • When used with user-controlled WebDAV, allows for total control/ownership of all data
  • Translated into many other languages besides English


LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD disadvantages:

  • Some problems with certain versions of Mac OSX (seems to be Java related)
  • Needs Java 5+ to work, on any platform


Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect advantages:

  • Allows user to disable Protected View for documents synced with Google Docs
  • Allows application-level configuration of a proxy server to access Google Docs
  • Does not require Java


Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect disadvantages:

  • The cost of the office suite
  • Limited to the Windows platform
  • No option for end-to-end control and ownership of all data
  • Does not support any services other than Google Docs



The most impactful factors to consider are the platforms being used by all potential collaborators, and any enterprise requirements for internalization of data.

If you’re dealing with a heterogeneous client environment, OOo2GD is the way to go. The interface looks the same across all platforms it supports, which simplifies training through consistency and uniformity; the only caveat is that you may have problems if any Mac users are running one of the versions of OSX affected by the known Java issue. If you’re an all-Windows shop, none of the above is a concern, and either option will work fine.

Some companies are hesitant to embrace cloud computing because of the inherent risks of having your data stored on someone else’s hardware, in a physical location you do not control. This would be a show-stopper for Google Cloud Connect, because all synchronized documents will live on Google’s servers. Assuming your company sets up its own internal WebDAV instance, which could be accessed by employees via VPN, OOo2GD would provide a completely self-owned and internally-controlled solution. This would allay many of the typical fears associated with cloud computing.


My experiences with Shoreline East commuter rail: the first 4 months.


Shoreline East

After driving back and forth to work in New Haven since July 2003, I’ve been commuting by train for four months now. The following is an objective document of my experiences thus far, in hopes of better informing the decisions of those who might be contemplating such a change to their daily routine. I should mention that this evaluation is from a decidedly Yale-centric perspective. Your mileage may vary. I’m also going to jump quickly from one thought to another, so bear with me.


The obvious primary benefit, to most, will be the freedom from having to compete with rush hour traffic on Interstate 95; this is especially important during the winter months, when snow often makes a bad situation even worse. You also save on gasoline, since you’re not driving as much. Normal wear and tear on your vehicle is reduced for the same reason. A monthly train pass, when purchased using pretax savings to receive a discount (a Yale benefit), is often far less expensive than monthly parking fees, especially on Yale’s medical campus. The majority of shoreline train stations offer free parking, so if you live too far away to walk or bike to them, you likely won’t be paying to leave your vehicle there during business hours. Yale offers numerous and frequent free shuttle options to and from the State Street and Union Stations. Shoreline East’s service is generally very reliable, even during this brutal winter, especially when compared to Metro North. In unexpected situations where there is an appropriate need, riders are offered a guaranteed ride home program, facilitated by a local taxi company; this compensates for the loss of “mobile autonomy” that comes with taking the train. Many riders enjoy the personal relaxation time afforded them by train commuting, taking advantage by reading (as I do), catching up on email, or grabbing a quick nap. Cellular providers’ voice and data coverage of the Shoreline East route appears to be reasonably good, with at least one unfortunate dead zone for most in the area of Hoadley Neck. You should check your own provider’s coverage map to be sure. Finally, there’s the intangible benefit of knowing that you’re doing something good for the environment, by keeping one more pollution-emitting vehicle off the road.


Being on a fixed commuting schedule set by someone else can be a bit jarring at first. It reminded me of being back in elementary school, and taking the bus. You are adding a bit of extra time on both ends of your commute, particularly on those infrequent occasions when the train is late. Walking to your job from State Street or Union Station (or taking a shuttle) also adds some extra time, and every once in a while a shuttle will be too full to accommodate any additional passengers. The bottom line is that you will probably have to leave your home a bit earlier, and arrive back home a bit later, than if you were driving. You may also have to make special arrangements with your supervisor depending on which train home you wish to catch. The Shoreline East train departing Union Station at 5:10pm requires most folks to leave their offices prior to 5pm in order to get there in time.  If you do elect to walk, you may want to take into consideration the route you may have to take. The most efficient route can sometimes take you through a potentially unsafe neighborhood, and you should plan accordingly. Although Shoreline East’s service is generally reliable as I mentioned previously, those rare times when a train is significantly delayed or cancelled can be a source of major headaches; this is part of the sacrifice of personal convenience you make when taking the train. Lastly, during peak periods in the holiday season, Shoreline East trains can be plagued with occasional overcrowding by non-commuters. The aforementioned relaxation factor is usually negated during such rides.


I continue to enjoy commuting by train, finding that the positives have outweighed the negatives. Since my perspective thus far is limited to the colder months, I look forward to a time when I can leisurely walk or bike to my local station instead of driving there. I expect my appreciation for train commuting will only increase when that time comes.

Two and a half memes?

For a few days already I’ve been sick of hearing about a certain delusional actor who likes to hit women and generally act like a supreme douche. But the more you people talk about him, the more you inadvertently promote him and ensure that he will eventually continue to make money off of the suffering and hateful exploitation of other human beings. Stop quoting the catchphrases, stop turning this into a meme, just let it quietly die and drop out of the media spotlight. Even that is more than he deserves.

The rhythm of life, as experienced through first-time parenthood.

We’ve all heard that experience is the best teacher. Before our first child was born, I heard over and over again from friends who already had children, “Everything changes. Your time isn’t yours anymore.”  Now, I consider myself a logical and rational human being, capable of comprehending speech… but these warnings never really sunk in for me. I heard what was being said, but perhaps the cliched and repetitive nature of the delivery had me tuning out without really thinking. Now that I’ve been going through it myself, I’m finally beginning to understand what all the fuss was about.

As a new parent, the underlying rhythm of your life fundamentally changes; comfortable routines either vanish entirely or are so heavily modified that they barely resemble their former incarnations. Things start earlier, and end earlier. Your revised notion of “free time” consists solely of those moments when your baby is sleeping. And even then, you’re not always so lucky. Your willingness to commit to social gatherings starts to revolve around when events begin; if it’s after a certain time of day, it seems not even worth going because of all the frustration you’re guaranteeing yourself. Traveling even short distances becomes a much more complicated affair. Your prep time increases. Your list of standard equipment for such journeys grows exponentially. Sometimes, if the destination doesn’t have certain pieces of said equipment readily available, once again you find yourself questioning whether you should even bother going. And good luck if you ever find yourself waking up with a hangover. It doesn’t take much to realize that’s not really an option anymore.

I don’t preach this stuff to my friends who plan on becoming parents in the near future, because I remember how annoying it was to be lectured by bitter, spiteful “it’ll happen to you” types. And I am now the guy who catches heat for not hanging out as much as I used to, the same type of guy that I once ridiculed. I just assume that everyone will eventually go through what I’m writing about here, awash in the realizations I’ve mentioned. That process, that feeling, is sufficient; I don’t need to scornfully waggle my finger at anyone. I just need to worry about me, and my young family.

A blogger is me.

How do I define what will populate this blog? Thoughts that are too complex or lengthy for Twitter, perhaps. Ideas that may not necessarily be appropriate for a professionally-oriented forum. Or maybe just whatever comes to mind. In any event, please bear with the mind-numbing banality as I get started. I promise, it’ll get interesting soon.

We'll know what we want when we find it.