Review: Faber-Castell 1423, Ballpoint, 0.5mm

While visiting the Somjai stationery store in Thailand earlier this year, I only purchased two pens. The first was the uni-ball Laknock (you can read that review here), and the second was this, the Faber-Castell 1423 Ball Pen. At 10 Thai Baht (about $1 USD), it’s not an expensive or fancy pen, but what drew me to it was the Faber-Castell name, which is primarily known to me as a high quality pencil manufacturer. As it turns out, they do manufacture plenty of pens as well, and so I was looking forward to trying one out.

Well, the 1423 doesn’t scream “premium quality” with its looks. The design is simple, and its body is entirely plastic. Probably the first thing I noticed was that the cap secures and posts very tightly. But when I got to writing with it, the overall experience was pretty good. The ink goes down dark and smooth, and it produces a clean line. However, the ink is also quite wet and will smear if you don’t give it a few extra seconds to dry.

Oddly, the 1423 feels more like a liquid ink (rollerball) pen than a ballpoint, which traditionally use oil-based inks that don’t tend to smear very much. Regardless, I like this pen, and I’ll find some use for it. But I wouldn’t suggest going all the way to a Thai stationery store to get one. A pen like the Pilot Acroball will provide a similar writing experience.

Retro Talk: Stealthy Terabyte 2.0

Back in 2015, Retro 51 and Anderson Pens released the original Terabyte Tornado as a limited edition of 500. I loved the design, and, having assumed it would be a hot item, I pre-ordered one immediately. It turns out that it actually took a couple of years to move all those pens, but it was apparently still successful enough to launch a follow up: The Terabyte 2.0

I like the barrel design of the Terabyte 2.0. However, as far as I can tell, it’s identical to the original – hidden Anderson Pen’s logo and all – except that the green motherboard color has been replaced with black. Beyond that, there isn’t much to say about this pen that I didn’t already mention in my write-up for the 1.0.

This disc at the top of the 2.0’s twist even popped off, just like it did for the original. Luckily, that’s an easy fix with some super glue.

I like the stealthy style of the 2.0, but Retro 51 and Anderson Pens probably could have done a little more to make it stand apart – acid etching or a new circuit pattern, for example. That disc at the top has a new bull’s-eye pattern, I guess, but that is hardly significant. It’s really more of a version 1.1.

So, if you feel that you missed out on the Terabyte 1.0, then you’ll be pleased with the Terabyte 2.0. But unlike the original Terabyte, the 2.0 isn’t a limited or numbered edition, so there’s probably no need to rush your order.

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Review: uni-ball Laknock, Ballpoint, 0.5mm

I wasn’t planning to visit any stationery stores during a recent vacation to Thailand. But one afternoon, as temperatures in Chiang Mai rose to over 100ºF, we took shelter in the MAYA Shopping Center where I spotted a storefront loaded with the good stuff. The shop, I later learned, is a Thai chain called Somjai, which is full of all sorts of cool stationery and art supplies.

Unprepared and slightly overwhelmed, I didn’t end up buying much while I was there, but one item that caught my attention was this uni-ball Laknock ballpoint. I’ve reviewed a lot of uni-ball products on this blog, but I’ve never heard of the Laknock before. And, honestly, I kind of just liked the product’s name.

The Laknock is a retractable ballpoint, and it was priced at 30 Thai Baht (about $1 USD). It has a comfortable, rubbery grip and a body that is constructed with plastic. Overall, the look is very similar to your run-of-the-mill Pilot G-2. It seems to come in multiple tip sizes, but I went for the smallest one I could find at 0.5mm. For a ballpoint, this tip size feels very fine, though I do like it. However, like most ballpoints, the ink isn’t particularly dark, and I’ve experienced the occasional blobbing and smearing.

For a dollar, the Laknok is a nice ballpoint, but there’s nothing that really sets it apart from any other ballpoint you’d find for a dollar. It’s rather generic, and there’s little to say beyond that. So, if you find yourself at a stationery shop in Thailand, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up one of these ballpoints. But, otherwise, you’re not missing too much.

Off Topic: The Internet Sometimes Forgets

I’ll begin with two short anecdotes:

The first comes from the sci-fi book Death’s End by Cixin Liu. In the story, our solar system is facing the threat of a catastrophic destruction, and the main characters are discussing the construction of a Museum of Humanity. The goal is to save our history, our beliefs, and our greatest works of art in hope that some alien civilization will discover it in possibly millions (or billions!) of years. The question is, how do you preserve all this information for such a long time? Well, I don’t want to give away any spoilers – it is a very good book series – but I will tell you that the idea of storing this information on data drives, the same ones that form the backbone of the internet, is quickly dismissed because that hardware degrades too fast.

The second anecdote – and the reason I decided to write this piece – started when I began to re-read a few of my old blog posts. I noticed that a lot of outgoing links (that is, other webpages that I’d linked to) were broken or dead. Sometimes the pages had been moved, sometimes they’d been edited or deleted, and sometimes it seemed like an entire website had disappeared off the internet. Mind you, these were sites that seemed perfectly fine two or three years ago, and now they’re just gone.

This happens because websites and internet services require upkeep. For this blog, that upkeep is as simple as remembering to pay my hosting bill, but for others it involves complicated stuff like server maintenance and security patches. When a blogger/webmaster/company decides it’s no longer worth their time and money, all that information and data can vanish.

This isn’t a phenomena known to only smaller websites either. Geocities, which hosted many personal websites in the early days of the internet, shut down in 2009 and deleted all its old content. Google Plus, a once viable contender for social media dominance, recently ended its services. And there’s no guarantee that bigger companies like WordPress, Facebook, or Amazon will be around forever. Even The Internet Archive, which runs the incredibly useful Wayback Machine, has had fires and funding issues.

I’ll admit that all of this worrying seems odd. If anything, the common concern is that too much of our past will be archived online. Teens are often warned to be mindful of what they post on social media because “the internet never forgets!” You don’t want something you did online when you were 15 to ruin your career when you’re 45. We certainly don’t think about digital preservation very often, but we should.

So if you want to save your content – pictures, writings, etc. – what should you do? In Death’s End, the solution was to carve the most important work of humanity onto the walls of a cave on Pluto – something like that could potentially last millions of years. But that might be overkill for most of us. A more practical solution would be to burn all of your important information to an archival DVD, which could last over 100 years. Though, you might potentially run into data compatibility issues sometime in the future.

But if you really want your stuff to last a long time, a better solution might simply involve paper and ink. Print your stuff or write it down using archival quality supplies. If preserved properly, it could last hundreds of years. For proof, look no further than The New York Public Library’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible; it is over 500 years old and still looks beautiful.

So, if you want your digital stuff to last, take action. Back it up or print it out. You just have to first figure out what’s worth saving – a complicated topic on its own. But that’s a blog post for another time.

Pencil Review: Palomino Blackwing Pearl

For a humble pencil, the backstory of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl is surprisingly lengthy. Here’s the short version —

The original Blackwing is a legendary pencil that was favored by a lot of famous authors and artists, but it was discontinued in 1998. In 2011, as people’s stockpiles were dwindling and prices on the secondary market were surging, the Palomino company got hold of the trademark and began to reproduce the pencil as best they could, calling it the Palomino Blackwing.

Since then, Palomino has been fiddling with the formula, and this pencil, the Palimino Blackwing Pearl, is a version made to have slightly softer graphite. Though, it still manages to produce a medium-dark line. Also, as the name suggests, it substitutes the original black paint job for a white one.

I’m no pencil expert, but the Blackwing Pearl feels like an upgrade from your standard woodcase pencil. Part of it is aesthetic – the signature Blackwing ferrule and eraser look pretty classy, despite it looking a bit like a #2 Dixon Ticonderoga had its end caught in a metal press. The graphite also feels like it hits the page cleaner and smoother than I’m used to. And did I mention that you can pull the eraser out further as you use it up? Amazing.

There are a lot of pencils out there, and I haven’t used too many of them. So take this for whatever its worth: the Palomino Blackwing Pearl is darn good. The quality of this product is obvious as soon as you pick it up. So, if you’re looking to upgrade your pencil experience, then try the Pearl out.

Pencil Shavings