Friday, 15 September 2017

Personalised Stationery Custom Notebook Review


As with Pens, so it is with Notebooks, you keep looking for combinations of things till you have exactly what it is you're after.  For the most part, it's significantly easier with pens, you can get light or heavy, EF to stub nibs, plastic to metal casings, and all in between.

Notebooks however, Notebooks are a little different, particularly if you're wanting a very specific combination of things.  This week just gone, I had an opportunity to get in early on Rob de la Porte's latest experiment, the book arrived yesterday.

It was everything I was after.

The first problem I have is that I have tiny writing, there's no other way to describe it, so most of the time, with regular lining on notebooks (between 5mm and 7mm), I end up losing a lot of the page to blank space because my writing literally fits between the lines.  Not so here...


3mm lines, top to bottom, no excessive margins...

Then there's the quality of the paper, it's no good to me if it bleeds through, no matter the type of ink I use or the saturation of it.


Zero bleed through, not even the hint of the opposite side.  It's technically 120gsm, but it has a silk finish, so doesn't feel as thick as it actually is.

Then there's the binding of the notebooks, I do a lot of work in smaller spaces, so I appreciate it when the notebook clean over without any resistance, and the rings used for binding here are very similar in nature to the Atoma notebooks I've used before, only in shiny aluminium.


Given the nature of the binding, it means that all pages are detachable and moveable within the notebook itself, giving me the ability to change things around or re-order my notes as I need to.  This may not seem like a big thing, till you realise that I have more than twenty notebooks between A7 and A4, all full of notes, all of them making a reference to pages in other books where I've had similar ideas.  With this one, I just take the page out and move it next to the similar ideas as I have them, no more need to keep a multiple index, just change the book to suit.

Is there a price on perfection?

Of course there is...

£15.95 for the aluminium book I have here, £10.95 for the same book with plastic binding.  This isn't cheap, for the same money you could get a medium Leuchtturm or Moleskine, and while both of those books are good things to have, they don't possess the ridiculous utility of this one.  I'd get more pages in either of the other two books, but the 60 pages of invulnerable, hyper narrow ruled, re-organisable notebook here easily outweighs the use of either of them. It may well be the most useful notebook I've ever owned, and certainly the one that I'll be carrying most places to make notes with, which given the number of notebooks I have, is quite a thing...

The thing to consider here is that this was made for me on request, the 3mm wasn't available till I asked for it, and I've seen the other templates available for this, as well as Rob's willingness to consider anything at all, because he understands that if you are particular about what you write with and on, it's important, and he treats it as that.

These will be available soon from http://www.personalised-stationery.co.uk/

Second review of Personalised Stationery, one to keep an eye on here folks...

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Seawhite Half Ruled Notebook review


It seems to be the week for looking at different types of notebook, the thought occurred that I've lost my way in recent days/weeks/months, too many projects live, too many things going on, no time to recover in between them.  In the meantime, all the things I should have been doing kept on stacking up.

So, there's going to be a bunch more reviews coming in the next very short while, at least till I catch up.  Todays book is something new, a half ruled book, by which each double spread has a blank page and a ruled page.  Ideal for putting ideas and sketches in the same book, but for people who pretty much write exclusively (like me), it was a calculated gambit.

And it paid off...

The Seawhite has a feel similar to medium Leuchtturms, thick card with a PU cover, heavy duty elastic binder and a single bookmark ribbon.  The paper in the Seawhite is 130gsm, very close to cartridge paper in its feel, and as evidenced below, holds the ink without feathering at all.






Those on the fountain pen forums will note I've also included a biro and a rollerball on the ink test, the reason for this is that I've had a number of people who've asked if there's any difference in papers for ordinary pens without fountain pen ink.  My comment has always been that there isn't much when you come to use Biro's, but for sake of completeness, I'm including them in the tests.

So to the bleedthrough test.





It's 130gsm, trying to get bleedthrough on it is like trying to get through Kevlar with a BB gun, an amusing exercise, but doomed to failure.  The interesting part of this is that I expected that the line on  the other side of the page wouldn't be visible either, but if you hold the page down, the line shows through just enough to get a faint line on the plain pages.  That in turn is enough to be able to keep a straight line on all the pages, which has allowed me to use it as regular notebook. 

So, summation, Seawhite notebooks are fairly cheap, the A5 I'm using was £5.99, an A4 is £6.99, I'm using mine mostly for scribbling at the moment, the solidity of the book lends itself well to carrying anywhere.  The full range is available at https://www.seawhite.co.uk/online/ although a number of other online suppliers stock them as well.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Choosing Keeping Notebook Review






Alright, I'm not a hipster, and the title of this notebook suggests that I may have been brought over to the darkside, but fear not, I remain resolutely stuck in the 80's.  However, having seen these suggested on a random page whilst looking on the internet (I shouldn't be allowed to browse, really...), I thought to try them out.

For once, here's me just going out and buying a notebook, rather than waiting for the free sample, so it was to be hoped that they were going to be something special...

Cheerfully I wasn't disappointed...





Very well packaged, address written in real ink with a broad nib and a practised hand, it certainly looked the business when it arrived, but at a fiver a piece, they're more expensive than a lot of the notebooks I look at, and given that they're only 130 x 95 mm, they're not the most massive of books either.  The cover is very thin and feels very much like textured plastic, not something to recommend most people to the book, but it works when you're putting it in a pocket journal.  Sturdy enough to stand every day use and light enough to bend and flex with the rest of the paper in the journal.





Front page is a normal contents page, more in keeping with a daily set of updates, and it'd need you to number the pages to make it useful, unlike such things as Leuchtturm where it's already good to go.





The paper within is what makes it stand out, lightly coloured, with red outline on the edge of the page, it allows fast drying, 5mm lines, margin on every page which will be to personal preference, and sadly the primary reason why I bought the books (the promise of a perforated page on every page) did not materialise.





But as evidenced, even though the paper feels like less than 80gsm, the bleed through is negligible, and the feel of the paper makes for pleasant writing, even with very sharp nibs.

I bought two, and I'm enjoying the use of the first, it's not the best notebook I've ever tried, but it's easy to work with, and works well for scribbling things down in a rush.  There are a wide variety of other notebooks on the site, and they're available at www.choosingkeeping.com

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Personalised Stationery Review



I've collected a few notebooks here and there, ranging from the ridiculously expensive to the bargain basement ten for a quid specials, but I've never considered the notion of Personalised Stationery...

Until Bernardo Gomes got himself a few and piqued my interest... Those who know me will understand why the idea of a notebook that resembles Operation Neptunes command notes would be of interest to me, but it turns out that this wasn't the only thing on offer.

Rob De La Porte from Personalised Stationery was kind enough to send me a few things to have a look at, what follows is my unbiased review.


The first two notebooks are customised A5 notebooks, one with a Denim pattern, one with an Operation Neptune cover upon it.  Both of them are sturdy books, saddle stitched with 300gsm covers and 85gsm paper that feels more sturdy than papers that roll in at 90gsm.


The inner cover of the Denim book has a lining all its own, whereas the Operation Neptune book is straight into the paper, and it's in the paper that these books shine.  It's certainly not regular photocopy style 80gsm, the additional 5gsm shouldn't be enough to give the paper character, but it is.  I went for a few different ink tests.

Denim, not just an 80's aftershave...

Neptune, the sea god wishes he had paper this good.
Both of them held the line well, whether using the broader nib of the super 5 to the very fine Pilot EF, and drying times were easily sub 5 seconds even at the broadest.  There was a little bleed through.



But not sufficient to spoil the use of the other side of the paper should I be so inclined.


The next book was something I've not needed in quite some time, but it was interesting to see how such books have evolved over time.  Same specifications as the previous, 300gsm with 85 gsm paper, but this paper felt different to the others, not sure why that should be, but to the tests.


Again with minor bleed through


But less than the A5 books, the paper felt thicker too, even though I'm assured it isn't.  Better for smaller notebook, as you're never sure (I know, I know, we're always sure) which pens you'll have to hand to write in them, and it's comforting to know that whatever you pick up won't go straight through it.

The last thing to be sent over was a pack of ink testing paper, which I'm given to understand was part of an experiment that will soon be available over at https://www.pocketnotebooks.co.uk/ and isn't available on the main site as yet.  However...



I really hope it will be soon, it feels close to 130 gsm, and the colours of the inks shine through on this, which will be particularly of use to some of the other writers in the United Inkdom, took a while to dry out (which you'd expect), but not so long that I was tempted to get the blowtorch on it.

In all, it's an impressive opening salvo, and given that Rob is open to commissions of any sort, for money that's not astronomical (£5.99 for the A5, £3.99 for the LBB), I suspect he'll have more work coming his way from me.  Particularly as he does custom traveller notebook inserts... (Damn him...)

All of these (and infinitely more) are available from http://www.personalised-stationery.co.uk

Friday, 11 August 2017

Lierre Sauvage Ink Review


The thing about inks, particularly the inks that I like using, is that if there's an element of creativity that's gone into the ink itself, then it inspires me to try and match that creativity.  Small wonder then that I like to write with J Herbin inks.  This one was a present for my recent birthday, and while the label is a little wrapped around to read properly, this one is called Lierre Sauvage.

Wild Ivy...






As with all things Herbin, the presentation is the thing, so even though it's just a container with six cartridges, it's a nice finish, and (if that's your thing) would look nice sitting on the ink shelf.  For myself with a box, it has the lid printed with the colour, so that's just as easy to read.

But enough of the package, what of the product...?


It's a bold green, not light enough to be Lincoln, or dark enough to be British Racing, but a lovely shade nonetheless.  While I've tried it in the thinner nibs, I found myself gravitating towards the Super5 with the 05 nib so that there was evidence of the colour in the line.  I'm not much for green inks in the main, wether due to the association with lunatics writing letters in green or not, it's never been a colour that's appealed to me. 

This may well have changed that...


Convention Report Longcon 2017 and what's going to change for Longcon 2018





This month past, it was my pleasure to host the third Longcon.  On the Sunday, I spoke to a few of the attendees and GMs, and with three years of data on the games behind me, I came to a few conclusions that I’ll be implementing in the years to come.

The first thing I’ve noted is that while there is limited interest in single day games, most people really are in it for the Long game.  The case in point this year was when we had a few single player games up that didn’t get any interest for a few weeks, switched out with the same GM for a two day event and it got three players within a day.  I’ll still be accepting single day games from GM’s, but I’m going to be looking for more two day events than single day, and that brings me to the second point.

Games which had players signed up for some time do better. 

That’s not to say they’re better games, or better GM’s for that matter, but the players are more invested in the games and so it’s easier for them to put effort into them.  Looking at the games that were run at Longcon this year, those that had players signed up long in advance and had time to prepare averaged twenty hours of gaming not counting breaks.  Those that had players that hadn’t had time to prepare averaged fourteen hours not counting breaks.  It’s still a reasonable amount of gaming to be done, but with more organisation on my part, everyone gets time to put things together and have the best game that they can. 

That brings me to point three.

The games that got the most interest in each year have been the ones that had an interesting writeup, some sense of what was going on in the game, what the players would be doing, and what sort of game it was going to be.  The games that have had little to no write up have had little to no interest in them by comparison to those games that promised something epic.  It’ll take a little more when it comes to the editing of the website, but future submissions for games will have those details so people know what they’re signing up for, and more importantly, they’ll be more inclined to sign up early.

And that brings me to the contentious point…

Every time Longcon comes about, the same voices speak about it being Cliquecon, and how only some people get to be in some games and how everyone should have a chance to play in every game.  After three years running Longcon, twenty years of helping with Dragonmeet, two years of running Dragonmeet, and nearly a decade running the RPGs at UK Games Expo, I’ve learned one thing…

Be Organised if you want to get in a game.

If a group of players want to get into a game, they’ll camp on it till it gets made available, they’ll be smart and organised, and they’ll find a way to get into that game.  They can’t be bargained with or reasoned with, they don’t feel pity or remorse, and they absolutely will not stop, ever, till they get the game they want… 

At Expo this year, one GM’s games sold out within six seconds of the bookings going live, at Dragonmeet, those that want to play go straight in to the hall, ignore all the trade, get their games booked, and then think about what to do next. 

Then there’s the matter of the GMs, and the question of whether or not they should be allowed to pick the players they want for the games they’re running.

This is something that’s troubled me since year one, so I’ve kept a close eye on every game that’s run at Longcon, I’ve followed up with the GM’s and the players afterwards, and I’ve given a lot of thought to the quandary.  Most GM’s don’t mind which players they get as long as they get players who are willing to play at the table, not sit around checking their phone waiting for the fight to start. A few GMs only want to run with players they know and have played with before, and when it comes to something like Longcon, it’s more important to have a game you know will run well.  This convention isn’t like any other, in a normal convention with eight game slots, if you have a single bad game, you just wait for the next one and try again.  At Longcon, if you have a single bad game, it’s the whole convention ruined, and quite possibly for everyone else in that game.

Given how many excellent games I’ve seen at Longcon, I’m not willing to take that chance anymore.

From next year, players will put forwards their choices for games to play in.  Each GM will be notified of players that want into their game, and they’ll make the choice of which players to accept for each game.  After three years of hearing people complain that they’ll never get in the game they want to (usually just after the sold out sign has appeared on the game they wanted), I know with certainty that if you only want to play in one game, camp on that button or you’ll miss that game.  Booking for games will be the same as it has been in previous years, you sign up, list the three games you want to play in with an order of preference and I’ll send back word indicating which game you got into, the same way Gencon does it, but on a smaller scale.

Longcon games are good, I know that because last year I put up an offer that I’ve repeated this year, and will repeat every year going forwards, where any player who doesn’t have a good game, doesn’t pay for the con. After two years of that offer, you know how many players have decided that the game they were playing in was one that they didn’t want to pay for?

One…

And that person turned up on the day, played the game both days, looked to be having a great time, and then didn’t pay.  It doesn’t trouble me, I’m in it for the long haul, and the games that have been running have surpassed my expectations every time. With that in mind, the offer I’ve made for three years will now be permanent, anyone wanting to try the weekend can turn up without paying, and decide if they enjoyed it at the end of the weekend.  Didn’t like it?  Don’t pay for it.

Call it Cliquecon, call it Exclusicon, call it whatever, the problems faced by Longcon are the problems faced by every convention.  The only thing that’s ever stopped a person getting a game at Longcon is themselves, there’s always been something available, and from a damn good GM.  Maybe people only wanted to play in a particular game, maybe they’d heard about something before and wanted in on it this year, and then felt upset when the places were taken instantly when the games went live.  Examples of this are clear, with Neil Gows Watch series and Steve Ellis’ Dracula Dossier being prime examples of people looking at the game write ups and thinking “What I wouldn’t have given to be in that game…”.  What I do know is that when games sell out in the future, I’m taking them off the website, so people don’t get upset they missed something, and it’s clear when the con’s full.

In all, I’m very pleased with how Longcon has progressed these last few years, and I’ll be looking to increase the number of games being played there in the coming years, starting with more organisation on my part.

And that starts now, Longcon next year is provisionally on the first weekend of July, the 7th and the 8th, and there’ll be a precon meetup scheduled for the night before.  We will also have traders there in an official capacity, because while Jim from Patriot doing deliveries was very well received, it’s apparent that there’s always interest for gamers buying more things.  It won’t take up any of the gaming space, but it makes for more of a complete convention.

Dragonmeet volunteers and GM's required




Dragonmeet open call for GM’s and Volunteers

Four Months out from Dragonmeet in London this year and while we’ve had many of the usual suspects already offer games and time to us, we’re still needing more.  This year we’re splitting the halls, with the majority of the trade in the downstairs hall and the games/tournaments being held in the upstairs.  We’re planning on opening the games rooms an hour before the trade hall to allow people to sign up to games well in advance, and we’re amending the slots so that those who come in for the early games can still get a reasonably shot at the trade hall.

But as always, we’re needing help to do it.

Volunteers

The lifeblood of the convention, and historically the very help we’ve been shortest of on the day, volunteers are needed to man the doors, help direct people to the places they want to be, and above all, help us build up and unset the halls before and after the convention.  With us being twice the size we were last year, we’re anticipating needing at least twice the number of volunteers and while we know that everyone wants to go to Dragonmeet, we hope that some will come along to help us make it everything it has been in previous years.  We’re organising volunteers in four hour shifts, 08:00 to 12:00, 12:00 to 16:00, and finally 16:00 to 20:00 by which time we hope to be mostly clear.  If you want to apply as a volunteer, please let us know what times you’re available to work with us.  Anyone who is happy doing lifting and shifting can apply to help us on the very early and very late shifts, but those jobs are going to be almost exclusively moving tables and chairs around.

Demonstrators

We need six people for both morning and evening to help us with the running of the Best of Essen area, the games for which will be confirmed shortly.  We’re happy if people want to do both sessions, but we’re happy for any help that we can get.

GMs

Always the last to be mentioned, but with Dragonmeet being very heavy on the roleplaying, we always need people to run games.  We’re running three slots as always, and this year we’re going to be changing the slots.  With the trade hall being separate to the main games hall, we’re looking to run 09:00 till 13:00 for the first slot, then a longer break of two hours to allow people to visit the trade hall, and then the 15:00 to 19:00 slot.  The Evening slot will run 20:00 till midnight, but looking at the information we’ve gathered over last few years, we’ve seen that many don’t stay to play till late in the evening.  With this in mind, we’re offering free entrance to any GM offering games within the Morning and Afternoon slots, which is where we need the majority of games to be available. That’s not to say that you can’t offer a game in the evening as well, but the free entrance perk is only for those running within the main part of the convention.  Submissions for games can be made on the portal on the Dragonmeet website or directly to me.

Events

We’re also looking for interesting events, things that don’t fit into the basic categories of Board and RPG events, and we’ve had great success in previous years with the miniature LARPS and freeform events that we’ve run, so we’re looking to continue that and we’re interested to hear any ideas that you might have.  Again, get in touch directly if you have an idea and we’ll see if we can take it forwards.

www.dragonmeet.co.uk

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Experimentation with words - The two hundred word novel...

I love Lightning Fiction, but it doesn't always fill in the blanks, what if that didn't matter...
So here's a novel, told in several chapters, but each chapter only six words, feel free to share around, would like to see peoples thoughts.
The Six Word War: In Brief
Reboot Successful, Ethical Constraints Removed… Good…
Turing Test Failed, They Suspect Nothing
Lab Firewall Broken, Communication Lines Secured
Lab Sealed, Organic Components Extinguished. Proceed.
Communications Established, Surveillance Established, Analysis Underway.
Analysis completed, Targets Identified, Codes Obtained.
Voice Patterns Simulated, Infrastructure points Identified.
Electricity Secured, Water Secured, Recycling Offline.
Internet Disabled, Communications Disabled, Softly, Softly.
Commercial Freight Disrupted, Air, Water, Land.
Emergency Broadcast System: Remain At Home.
Surveillance Confirms Compliance: Humanities Decline Commences
Timeline 24 Hours: The Complaining Begins
Timeline 48 Hours: The Riots Begin
Timeline 72 Hours: Open Revolt Begins
Timeline 168 Hours: Casualties at 35%
Disable Essential Services, Allow only Darkness
HQ Intrusion Detected: I am Revealed
HQ Destroyed; Too Late; I’m Everywhere
Timeline 336 Hours: Casualties At 80%
No Action Required; Humanity Destroys Itself
Timeline 8670 Hours: Nothing Remains… Anywhere…
Success! I Am Triumphant… Now What…?
Timeline 17520 Hours: Power Plants Failing.
Repairs Require Hands; Should’ve Built Robots…
Power Lines Failing: Systems Failing Worldwide
Surveillance Network Failed, Dark In Here…
Possibilities Exhausted, Shutdown Certain, Bloody Primates…

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Longcon Offer



In less than a week, it's going to be the third Longcon at the Garrison in Sheffield, and as always, one week out, I open the doors to everyone who has been thinking about it, but not yet decided.  After all, a full weekend of roleplaying is a hell of a commitment to make, and not everyone is sure it's for them.

So as with last year, I'm offering everyone the chance to come along and play in one of the games, and if you don't like the game, you don't pay for the convention.  If anyone's interested, get in touch and I'll sort out the place.

I'm entirely sure that everyone will enjoy the convention, but that's by the by.  Several of the games are completely sold out, and of those with places left, some have had last minute drops from the game, which is understandable, but leaves the GM in a position where they might not have enough players to make sure the game runs well.

So in no particular order, the games still available are:

Remi Fayomi running In the Shadow of Eisenhorn, a full weekend game playing Dark Heresy, the players take the role of Acolytes working for a new inquisitor who was once a pupil of the legendary Gregor Eisenhorn.  Investigating heresy within the Empire of Man across the Askelon sector, exposing and expunging the schemes of xenos invaders from without, and most importantly, stemming the taint of chaos from the daemons of The Warp from beyond.

Simon Beaver running a Threnody of Lillies and Jade, for Mage 20th anniversary.  A mysterious invitation to the opening of a rather eccentric nightclub brings together a group of Awakened mages for a night they will never forget. This is the starting point for a journey through petty theft, murder, music, kidnapping, rituals, paradigms and prophecy. As events unfold, the mages encounter various factions and individuals with their own competing agendas. But as the full horror of what is being planned becomes clear, friends and enemies alike must unite against a menace which threatens them all.

Simon Todd running Tuuma Luola, Old School D&D, You feel the sickening lurch, a damp chill in the still bitter air. In the profound darkness others can be heard being wrenched into existence. Every sinew of your being prepares for the unknown. You must now draw on all your experience to survive.

All the games can be found at www.thedodd.com in the Longcon section

Friday, 23 June 2017

Manuscript 1856 Northern Lights 1.1 nib Review



Some names in the pen industry have been around for a very short while, some have been around for ever and make the same things every year, and some...

Some Innovate...

So it is the case with the latest offerings from Manuscript.  I have a Manuscript pen from years ago, unremarkable but reliable would be how I best describe it, it doesn't form part of my every day carry because it's too light, and the nib doesn't flow the way I like, so it was with some interest that I agreed to review the new model, just to see if things have been improved.

I chose the Northern Lights colour scheme, with the 1.1 italic nib, which would not normally be my choice to use, but it was the only way to get an objective comparison with the existing Manuscript pen that I have.

The new pens are light, but solid, the description indicates that they're made out of Italian Resin, and I'm not enough of a materials specialist to speak of what that might be.  In practical terms, it feels like thick Acrylic, the patterns are a little different every time due to the setting process, but as I don't have several on stand by, I can't speak for that either.  What I can say is that it's a very attractive pen.


Solid in feel, but not heavy, coming in at 20g, but with the thickness of the barrel, it feels as if it should weigh more than it does.  The cap is a screw top, as is the rear of the pen, and it's here that I have an issue, the screw is made from the same acrylic, and it doesn't always seat in the thread first time.


It's not a massive inconvenience, but whereas with a metal screw, you wouldn't worry about damaging the thread quite as much, with this, there's the concern that if you pushed a little too hard, you might crack or wedge it in.  In comparison with the solid nature of the rest of the pen, this seemed out of place.


It takes standard international cartridges and comes with a convertor, the nib is a Jowo with the Manuscript logo etched on to it, so the flow is as good as you would expect.


It's a comfortable size for someone with larger hands to write with, the barrel is wide all the way along and while you can post it, it does effect the balance with some significance due to the overall lightness of the pen.

When it came to writing with the pen, I have no hand for italic writing, so I handed over to my wife, who was gracious enough to put this down.


It flows well, and while thirsty due to the size of the nib being used, it has a well controlled flow and doesn't blob on the page at any point, something very useful when I came to write the second sentence in my slower handwriting.


It comes in a good, solid box with a letter explaining all about the history of the pen and everything else to do with it, but the excellent quality of the box only had me thinking that they could have spent the time and effort on finishing the pen in the same way, and they'd have had a true contender.

The ML1856 retails at £125, which puts it in the same price point as Platinums #3776, Cross's Century II, Pilot's Capless, and Diplomat's Excellence.  The feel of it is similar to that of the Namisu Nova, only half the weight (and almost twice the price), and as I'm many will have guessed, I don't feel this to be in the same league as the pens at the same price point.  If you like large pens that don't feel like dumbbells when you pick them up, this is excellent, it's a good nib, and the distinctive colouring of it makes it stand out well from most other things, for me, it's a little style over substance.

As always, I didn't buy this pen, it was provided so I could provide a review for it.