Monday, August 25, 2008

Review: Quo Vadis Habana

Notebook: Habana (5 stars, your pens are going to waste if they aren't being used in this notebook)
Manufacturer: Quo Vadis
Where: The Daily Planner
WTF: A soft cover, yet hard backed, ruled journal with amazing paper.
The Habana Review Set on Flickr
A full list of features can be found on the Quo Vadis webpage

In short? If you own any fine tipped pen (.4 or less) the paper in this notebook will make them feel like whole new pens. Any disgruntlement you've had with the .18 Signos will be resolved.

I've been a fan of notebooks and fine tipped pens for a long time, but the two have never quite met eye to eye before. The fine tipped pens, particularly the .18 Signo Bits, bite into paper and make writing difficult. However, the paper in the Habana makes me want to buy the multi-pack of .18s. I wrote an entire page with a .18 pen and it was smooth the entire way. I honestly wouldn't feel a difference between the .18 and the .38 Signo Bits. I felt that I could really write for the first time with that pen.

The Frixion are also another Habana win. The Moleskine paper buckles and shreds under the Frixion eraser, but the Habana paper showed no sign of it.

The paper was also very resistant to bleed through, and worked like magic with my fountain pens. As seen here, I drew three slow strokes each on the Moleskine and Habana. (Click on the picture to see it bigger on Flickr). The thicker and smoother paper of the Habana didn't allow the ink to feather and there was absolutely NO bleed through like you can see here in my moleskine.

The cover material is soft, but reinforced. This combination produces a cover that avoids floppyness (a major negative of the giant softcover moleskine), yet still feels supple. The cover moves freely with the spine when opened, and the notebook easily stays open on its own. The pages feel smooth and solid. The ruling is up to debate, and is a matter of personal preference. Personally, I like the title area on the top and bottom, and I'm undecided about the wide ruling. The only thing missing is the ability to fold the cover backwards, but that feature is in no way a priority.

The Habana just feels better to use than any of my Moleskines. Using one is a very enjoyable tactile experience from cover to cover. You will love to use it, and you will find all of your pens will feel better to use. I've used Quo Vadis planners before, and this paper quality is something you can find in all their products. Check out their HUGE selection of planners here. I'm serious, no matter what niche type of planner you need, they have it. If they don't? Let them know at the Quo Vadis Blog.

You NEED this notebook if... own pens that are .4 or below

Buy if... enjoy the feel of fine paper want a notebook that makes you feel good when you pull it out of your bag need strong paper for erasing, or heavy inks

Don't buy if... have a strange complex about title spaces enjoy the cold feeling of Moleskine hard covers

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Review: rEDCLOUDY Pencil Case

Case: rREDCLOUDY Envelope Pencil Case (5 stars! I adore it! Recommended without any hesitation!)
Where: JetPens
WTF: This is a pencil case styled to look like an envelope with a long strap to secure it closed. Comes in additional colors.
Compare to: I haven't seen anything else like it.

In the world of pencil cases there are the ones that hold everything you own, travel cases, and then the cases that put a smile on your face. This case is unique and wonderful, and has managed to blend all that with something completely functional and simple.

The premise is simple: Take an envelope, make it out of a wonderful material, and figure out a way to keep it closed that is a fluid system, slick, and doesn't ruin the aesthetic.

Their solution: high quality synthetic leather, lined with fun fabric, constructed to perfection, and a simple cloth strap to keep it closed. I was skeptical at first when I saw this closure, but I sprung for it when I had a giftcard to experiment with. The result: SO WORTH IT.

As you can see, it can hold quite a lot of pens. This is the comfortable amount, but you can easily double it (seen below) and still have it close. This feat can only be accomplished by the wonderful strap closure system.

About the strap: it is about two feet long and made of soft fabric. You simply wrap it around the case, and slip the end under the previous wraps. It holds, it works, and it is not cumbersome. This isn't a system that is meant to be used for changing pens every two seconds, or when you're in line at the store. Wrapping and unwrapping it is an experience to be savored, and I actually found it to be a calming part of my morning routine at work.

This is a case that I happily keep on my desk, and something that I use to keep my good pens in. Your Sliccis belong in this case! It is not only beautiful and functional, but it is built to take a beating. It has been thrashed around on the subway, stuffed in purses, dropped, and stepped on. Believe it or not, it doesn't show a thing. The size is also perfect. At the same time, this case can easily be used as a clutch for a night out. I would not change one thing on it.

The cost is a bit higher than other cases, but you will get nothing but quality in this case. This line is in a class of its own.

Buy if... want an elegant pencil case that will beautifully frame your pens. need a pencil case that is worthy of being seen in public. want a simple solution for carrying pens in a bag or purse. like flexibility in your pencil cases. need a gift for someone who has it all.

Don't buy if... plan to be opening/closing it a lot during a short period of time (e.g. for art), although you can just leave it open. only want pure utility cases. think rectangles are way too 80's. can only process things with zippers.

Review: Yen Plus-V01I02

Title: Yen +(plus) August 2008
Publisher: Yen Press
WTF?: A new monthly manga anthology
Compare to: Shounen Jump, Shojo Beat

September's month's Yen+ came out a little early! Packed between the full color covers of Nightschool and Nabari no Ou are the same 10 titles from the last issue, a full preview of another series, and a fun interview of the artist behind Nightschool.

I was pleased to find some great progression by the slower moving titles, and fun preview of Moon Boy. So, let's look at the new standings!

Titles that continue strong:

Soul Eater: Still in the Prologue stage, but feels just like what we usually see in initial chapters. This month features the introduction of Black Star and Tsubaki and a little more of the canon in the Soul Eater world. Still funny, still catches my eye. A solid title.

Nabari no Ou: A little more plot shows up, with some more action. We're just getting into the minds of the characters here, and it's picking up speed.

The only redeemer:

Nightschool: This series has me into it now. The end of the first chapter found me neutral but hopeful, and the second chapter met those expectations. The last four pages have made me a fan, and I and truly looking forward to reading more. This month's issue also features the first few pages in full color, and a fun bio and interview of the author, Svetlana Chmakova.

None of the other titles had a second chapter that impressed me as much as Nightschool's. I'll rank them next in an obvious order.

And the rest:

1. Jack Frost: This chapter hinted at enough of the canon and plot that I'm starting to get really intrigued. I predict that this title may move up with Nightschool in the coming month.

2. Pig Bride: There's now at least one character that I want to follow. I'm interested enough to stick with it. Funny so far, and it still catches my eye. I think I'm hating the first character less. Give this title a second chance if you were put off by the first.

3. Sarasah: And we finally have a plot...which looks cool towards the end. I think I may be able to roll with this, although I think end up disliking the main character.

4. Maximum Ride: Still just not quite my thing, but beautifully put together and I think I may be able to get into it. The build up is slow, but I believe the next chapter will be the decider.

5. Bamboo Blade: I believe I said this had promise. Now I'm just bored. Seriously bored. I don't get who the main character is, I don't know who to be rooting for, and so far it hasn't gotten anywhere. Okay okay, I think there's the beginning of something towards the end. I'm open to moving this up, but still bored.

6. Sumomo Momomo: I'm still very negative about this series, but a plot nugget was dropped that may redeem it.


One Fine Day: Maybe it'll pick far I'm just not seeing it. I'm still kind of neutral on it, which is why it's not in the other groups.

Higurashi: I hate mysteries. I hate harems. I flipped through this chapter and I'm not seeing anything I like so far. I'll flip through it again next month and reevaluate.

The preview title:

Moon Boy: Kind of a chaotic preview, but I'm seeing hints of something I could like. I hope we see more! Hopefully I can find a volume or two to flip through in the bookstore.

Overall comments:

...solid second issue, if you liked the first this will not dissapoint.
...the team at Yen Press put a lot of love into this project, and it shows.
...some titles are picking up, others are hinting at it, and all look promising. Obviously they have to be if they were put in.
...Yen Press took a gamble with a broad genre load, and I think they've found something in it.
...I had my first WTF moment (picture is a little NSFW for fanservice/panties) with One Fine Day and Jack Frost being back to back. Not a wise choice this month.

Lamy Fountain Pen

I put in an order for an extra-fine Lamy Safari and a new Coleto pen body at JetPens today. I hope they get here soon!

Do you guys have any review requests?

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Habana is here!

Thanks to the amazing team over at the Quo Vadis Blog, I have my very own Habana notebook!

It's big, it's orange, and so far the paper is making me want to trash my Moleskines.

So, my lovely readers, what would you like to see me do to this notebook for your reading pleasure? The early tests are looking great, and I hope to have my review up in a day or two.

Give me some suggestions!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review: Hi-Tec-C Coleto

I think I may have too many pens.

Which are my favorites? Hmm, possibly the Coletos. Although the Sliccis are a given.

What do you want me to review next?

In the meantime, a Coleto review.

Pen: Hi-Tec-C Coleto (4 stars for being a great pen, but not enough ink for an every day pen)
WTF?: This is a pen system: you buy color cartridges and throw them into a pen body you buy separately. You can customize your own multipen combo, and carry the extra colors around to save space.
Compare to: Any other multi pen, and the regular Hi-Tec-C line

Here we can clearly see the Coletos teasing us with their many colors. A flowing rainbow greats the user at first spread, with much more to come.

Moving downward, we have a good shot of their inks. As you can see, some of these pens have been used more than others. Naughty, naughty pens. They need to learn how to share. Are you done with the teasing? Let us move on.

The Coletos are now in full presentation of their features. Plastic ends showcase their natural colors, for easy comparison before use. In the middle, a conservative reservoir of ink is ready and willing to be spread over your favorite paper. At the other end, well constructed tips sit and wait to be pressed against a receptive surface.

All, in all, the Coletos are possibly the supreme example of multi pen technology. Featuring the Hi-Tec-C tips that act like the gateway drug of pens (everyone ends up with Sliccis in the end), and users have a choice in tip sizes. The major problem, which I'm certain cannot be avoided, is that these pens run out FAST. Seriously. Writing one page in a large sized Moleskine uses nearly a 1/2 inch of ink. Therefore, Coletos should be restricted in use. The other problem I have is with the bodies of these pens. The engineering is amazing, but there are so many little parts to play with! I make so much noise with this pen when I use it...

So, at $2 a cartridge, these pens are an okay value. You can get a 10 cartridge set for $15, which is a better value. The Coletos are certainly a staple for any decent pen collection, but not good for writing manuscripts or class notes due to how fast the ink is used. I use these for studying my notes, proofreading, and underlining books when I read. The pen body is super comfortable, but you will only get maybe 10-15 pages of writing in a large size Moleskine per cartridge.

Buy if... like the idea of being able to carry many pens with very little space. like the Hi-Tec-C tips. need the flexibility of carrying many colors. need a great pen for writing short notes or stickie notes.

Don't buy if... want to use for extended writing periods. hate the Hi-Tec-C tips. are a chronic fidgeter, or chew on your pens (could also be a Buy if...)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Review: Yen Plus-V01I01

Title: Yen +(plus) August 2008 (4 stars, a good buy!)
Publisher: Yen Press
WTF?: A new monthly manga anthology
Compare to: Shounen Jump, Shoujo Beat

On a routine trip to the bookstore I spotted a new contender in the anime magazine lineup: Yen Plus, a new monthly manga anthology from Yen Press. Yen Plus promises to feature new titles and artists to gain a fan base before releasing a full graphic novel, as well as English and Korean authors.

The structure of Yen Plus is a creative solution to the problem of reading traditions of English (l->r), Korean (l->r), and Japanese(l<-r). A nice info page explaining the problem greets the reader where the two sides meet in the middle. Overall, the advantage of Yen Plus is the broad representation of genres. There will be titles you love, some that you may find fun to read, and others that you read because you paid for it. This may be a big turn-off to some, but chances are they wouldn't even consider buying an anthology to begin with. I doubt there are any two people who could agree on the perfect 10 manga line up. On the plus, it really forces you to expand what you would normally read through. I honestly would never have given some of these titles a second thought had I seen the in a store.

I also really enjoy the little details. Instead of replacing the SFX, they put the romaji and translations next to it. I LOVE THIS, and I don't need to explain why. The whole thing feels well put together. Still, of course, a first issue, but it shows a lot of promise to come.

Why did I pick this up? Soul Eater. "Did you really pay $8.99 for 40ish pages of [Soul Eater] manga?" Ummm....ya. Kind of.

I went ahead and picked it up because I knew I liked Soul Eater, and I had seen a little bit of Nabari no Ō and enjoyed it. The other titles? Looked good. Other major plus: Since it is the first ever issue, I can start all the titles fresh. No catching up required.

My hesitation for Shounen Jump/Shoujo Beat is that I only ever want to read one or two titles per issue, and some of them are so far into serialization that I wouldn't understand any of the content. My reactions to Shounen Jump titles range from "Not. A. Freaking. Chance." to "seriously?". Now, I don't mind this, because I am in fact not a shounen, but Shoujo Beat can be just as disappointing.

I bet you're sick of reading this, so I'll just get into the reviews. I'm going to look at them from the perspective that I have: never read most before, and no idea where these things are going. I won't provide summaries, because you can easily wiki those or check the official sites.

Titles I love:

Soul Eater: I love this series for many reasons. Having read Soul Eater scanlations and seeing the anime subs, I can't wait to see more and I am happy to purchase an official copy. Since the first volume isn't schedule to come out until OVER A YEAR FROM NOW WTFBBQ!!!!, I'm settling with this. //grumble// I love this first chapter because it establishes all the key relationships immediately. The fanservice is...not as bad as others, and can be overlooked.

Nabari no Ou: Seems to deviate a little from the anime, but still really caught my eye. I've only seen a few eps, but I really like what I see so far. Again, it establishes a basic plot and the key relationships right away so I'm left intrigued but not hanging.

Titles that make me curious:

Bamboo Blade
: The opening is a little slower than I hoped, and the establishing plot events a little too improbable. However, I'm looking forward to see where it goes.

Nightschool: This initial chapter didn't establish enough to my taste, but something about it has caught my eye. This is a title I'm going to watch for next issue. I'll know more next month, I think. I can say is that I want to like it and I have high hopes.

Pig Bride: This one is rolling in the weird end. I think I hate the main male character, but we'll see. This is one of those "Make it work" titles: My opinion could really go either way depending on how they handle the next chapter...

Sarasah: One of my biggest pet peeve's with anime are the girls who are obsessed with a boy who doesn't return their affection, and go a little nutty about it. Can't stand it. In any way. This first chapter made me think "" until the last page. Now I want to read the next chapter like I look forward to the newest update to FailBlog.

Jack Frost: Meet main character. See her head get cut off. Now have wonderful commentary from the head through the rest of the chapter! Okay, you got my attention. Now blow me away next month.

The ones I'll read only because I paid for the thing:

Maximum Ride: I think I'm supposed to recognize this story. I do recognize James Patterson's name...but that's about it. Like Nightschool, I was left was left interested, but in this case unexcited. Everything about it is beautiful, and the full color spread was a great touch. So far, I think the story is just not quite the kind that gets my juices flowing.

Higurashi When They Cry: This chapter read like the opening 5 minutes of a boring detective game. Really really not what interests me. Then again, I have no interest in mysteries or suspense. I'll flip through it next month.

Sumomo, Momomo
: No. Just stop there, oh god it's still going, please...ya. I'm so done with this. Basically the chapter goes: "Oh my! I'm a female so I'm not powerful enough to protect my people. The only solution is to have (married, of course) sex with the most powerful man I can find!". Pig Bride left me cold towards the main character, but this one just pissed me off. I'll give it a second chance but I hold out no hope for liking it.

One Fine Day: I'm not negative towards this one, it was kind of funny, but it left me thinking "Why is this here....?" Animals? Cute. Cookies? Nummy. The art? Hilarious and wonderful. Cats, dogs, and mice having escapades in the city? I can roll with it. Plot? //crickets// Ummmmm, I'll look at it next week...but this may be a title I just skim.

Buy if... don't quite fit into SJ/SB well. want to start into an anthology from the beginning. enjoy a wide variety of stories. want to support a new choice on the market. want to read original English and Korean titles. love Soul Eater and can't wait until next October.

Don't buy if... are INCREDIBLY picky about what manga you read. don't like to experiment.
...SJ/SB are the most amazingest things ever created. will only drop money on Naruto.

I give it 4 stars because I'm not in love with two of their choices for this series. I plan to buy a full subscription to this title. At $50 for a year subscription, which is $4~ for each 400+page volume, I'm absolutely in.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The things we carry with us

Think back to when you first moved out of your family's home. How many of your family traditions did you carry with you?

What specifically made me interested in this is my tendency to watch the news that my family always did. They always watched the Today Show in the morning as everyone got ready, the NBC nightly news after work, and CBS Sunday Morning. Now that I'm working a 9-5 and I'm actually up early enough to watch morning programming, I found myself searching through the tivo for NBC.


Because it felt like home.

What made you feel like home when you first moved out?