Playing With Blocks

I may have a problem and it’s in the form of Mega Bloks World of Warcraft sets.

The picture above is from last week when my wife went out of town and I decided to keep myself occupied. I now have 13 of the World of Warcraft sets and I have no idea how many I’m missing.

I believe they’re discontinuing this line which makes me sad and simultaneously spurs me to buy them all before they’re all gone.

Spring Upgrades For The Mini 8ight

Spring is here (or so the calendar says) and it’s time for me to slip back into my RC hobby. What? You thought that was over? I guess it’s not.

Last year I had problems with the Losi Mini 8ight losing contact with the radio and smashing into things. I called Losi but the best they could offer was to have me ship the car and radio back to them. With today’s shipping prices? No thanks.

I decided to buy a new Spektrum radio with multi-model support in case I end up with a 2nd car but the DX3C has iffy reviews and the new DX4 with AVC isn’t out yet. I’m impatient so I went the cheap route: I ordered a Turnigy GTX3. For $40 I wasn’t expecting much but it couldn’t be worse than the radio included in the RTR kit. I’d have to swap out the receiver since the Turnigy isn’t DSM but luckily it includes one in the box.

The radio arrived on Wednesday and I was pleasantly surprised with the build quality. It’s not going to win any awards but it’s no more flimsy than the Losi radio and it has a lot more features like a backlit screen. Even my Spektrum DX6i which cost 3 times as much doesn’t have that and neither would the DX3C if I had bought it.

Here’s the radio fresh out of the box. I’ll write up my thoughts once I have more time with it.

Turnigy GTX3

As I mentioned, it included a receiver which was easy enough to swap in place of the SR300. It’s quite a bit smaller.

Turnigy GTX3 Receiver

Here it is installed in the chassis.

GTX3 Installed

I’ve only had time to run up and down my driveway a few times but it seems to work well. I won’t know if this solved my problem until I put in some serious wheel time, unfortunately the weather isn’t making that easy right now.

During my many crashes of 2013, I managed to bend the front and rear shock towers. I found these beautiful machined aluminum towers on The Toyz website and ordered both. I also swapped the shock tops out for Ofna bits. I’m not sure if the shock towers or the shock tops are the issue, but the rear shocks rub against the tower too much to work. For now, I’ve pulled the rear tower and put the stock one back in after straightening it a bit in a vice. I also installed plastic shock guards on the front and rear.

Front Shock Tower

This should be enough to get 2014 started, we’ll see how long it lasts before I’m rebuilding the whole thing again.

Revisiting My Black n’ Red Review

Based on the search terms used to find this site, a lot of you are looking for opinions about Black n’ Red notebooks. Either that or there’s some other Black n’ Red that I don’t know about.

Assuming it’s the notebooks driving the traffic here, I decided to revisit my review from 2009 and see what, if anything, has changed and maybe take a look at the company history while I was at it.

I still use the spiral bound Black n’ Red notebooks on a regular basis, they’ve become a fixture on my desk at home and work. I use them with all sorts of different pen types and the paper never lets me down.

There are rumors the paper changed some time after my initial review. If I recall, they say the paper became slicker, shinier, perhaps less friendly to fountain pens. I dug through my stash of notebooks and found the notebook used in the 2009 review and a more recent purchase. At the very least, the printing on the back has changed.

Black n' Red Side By Side

You’ll notice the branding changes from John Dickinson to Hamelin, a likely point for the paper to change as well. John Dickinson was purchased by Hamelin in 2005 but they seem to have waited until 2008 to change the Black n’ Red covers. The Dickinson era notebooks claimed “Made in the EU” while Hamelin claim “Made in Germany”. Germany is in the EU but who knows whether they’re manufactured in the same place.

A quick unscientific test of rubbing my index finger over a page of each notebook tells me the Hamelin branded notebook pages feel a bit smoother. That proves almost nothing but it’s worth noting. I can’t say I’ve noticed all that much difference using them with fountain pens but others have, specifically with drying time.

A visit to shows they’ve been busy expanding their product line, at least for the UK market. There are quite a number of great looking notebooks and planners available although I don’t think we can get many of these in the States. They have a link for USA buyers but it takes you to where they’re branded as Mead Black n’ Red and the selection is the same as I’ve seen in my local stores. The Mead branding is interesting since ACCO (parent company of Mead) and Hamelin are competitors in the office supply market. Maybe someone can explain that to me.

The prices have gone up as you might expect but occasionally you can catch them on sale and when you do, I suggest you grab them. The spiral and casebound notebooks are widely available at Rite Aid and Staples and if I were to hear whispers of their cancellation, I’d raid every store in the area to stock up for the future. That’s how good they are.

We’re blessed with a ton of great notebooks these days but I count Black n’ Red as one of the best you can find without ordering online. Go forth and buy!

My 2014 Goals: Three Month Check

Let’s check how I’m doing with my 2014 goals.

Read More – I haven’t cracked open a single book on my list. That’s unfortunate but I’ve read several short stories and numerous long form pieces so I won’t beat myself up too much.

Accumulate Less, Eliminate More – This is a noble thing to have on my list but I knew I’d have trouble with it. As it turns out, I’ve accumulated more stuff! At least it was quality stuff (so far).

Write More – This is going better than I expected. I’ve created a workflow for journaling my day which begins with a morning weigh-in (for the next goal), includes a log of my eating habits, and ends with notes about the day. Looking back over the past 2 months, the daily entries grew from single sentences to several paragraphs which makes me happy.

Along with journaling, I’m trying to use writing as a way to work out my thoughts on a subject. When I start jotting down my thoughts, it feels like my brain has more room to explore further, similar to the capture process of GTD. Once the thoughts are somewhere permanent, the brain can wander around looking for other avenues to explore. I’m still fumbling around with this process but I can tell it’s a beneficial practice.

Lose Weight – The eternal struggle — for me at least. I spent the months between November and March in a whirlwind of progress and failure. In the past month I seem to have regained my focus and I’m on my way to success.

Think – As I said earlier, I’m using my writing as a thought exercise. These may not be ground shattering thoughts or discoveries but it helps me figure out who I am and what side I’m on. As long as I know where I stand, I’m happy.