All posts by Brad

You Need To Read: The Cramped

Here’s something new, I’m telling you what to read! Scratch that, I’m ordering you to read this and you’ll listen or else!

If you’re not familiar with Patrick Rhone, the man behind Patrick Rhone dot com and Minimal Mac, you should be. Even if you’re not aware of his work, feast your eyes on his celebration of the analog way of life in the form of a website called The Cramped.

I’ll let him describe it:

If you are the sort of person who appreciates nice paper, a decent pen, a well-crafted notebook, a solid pencil, writing and receiving handwritten correspondence, beautiful handwriting, or the clicky-clack of a dependable typewriter, you have come to the right place. The Cramped is a site dedicated to the pleasures of writing with analog tools (the name is purposefully ironic).

If that describes you, maybe check the site out. There are a number of guest authors and lots of regularly posted content. It’s like an analog smorgasbord.

The Retro 51 Tornado Flipper

I’m trying not to fall down the rabbit hole of collecting Retro 51s but this would be my fourth and they keep releasing limited editions that tug at my wallet, begging me to spend more money on pens I’ll never use.

My latest acquisition is the Flipper from their Popper line of rollerballs. I love pinball but I usually have to settle for a quick game on the iPad rather than standing in front of a machine in an arcade because, you know, those aren’t very common any more.

I really like the presentation of the Retro 51 limited editions. This is the tube it ships in, my Omega Popper shipped in a similar tube so this must be their standard limited edition packaging. I use this one to further clutter my office with things I don’t need to save.

Retro 51 Tornado Flipper

The pen is brightly colored with antique silver trim that I find quite striking. They only made 750 of these and I have #478 which makes me feel special. I’m sure this number means absolutely nothing unless society falls apart and the only means of currency are limited edition Retro 51. In that case I’ll trade this one for a couple questionable pork chops and 3 eggs to feed my 4 children and a wife who tolerates the fact that her husband has been carting around a bunch of pens in a post apocalyptic world where there’s very little paper.

If you’ve used a Retro 51 rollerball, you know the refill is delightful. If you haven’t used a Retro 51 rollerball, I’m sorry. You should probably buy one and let the box clutter your domicile.

Here she is, the pen that will one day serve to feed my unbathed and tired family. Feast your eyes on her glory.

Retro 51 Tornado Flipper

Retro 51 Tornado Flipper

I Replaced My Brakes And You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!

Thanks for falling for my clickbait title, you’re a peach. Let me tell you the story of my weekend and the struggle I endured while replacing the brakes on my Civic.

I started bright and early at 8:30 AM on Saturday. The sun was already blazing as I walked outside. Confident this would be quick work, I carried several boxes of parts outside and stacked them neatly on our patio table.

I jacked the car up and removed the wheels. I forgot that Honda screws their rotors to the hubs. Great, screws + Michigan winters should guarantee these won’t come out. I tried a regular screw driver but as I feared they weren’t budging. This called for an impact screwdriver but I don’t have one of those.

Off to Sears! Luckily I live about a half mile from one. The screwdriver was on sale, $10 off! Now I’m only $15 poorer but also I’m richer by one impact screwdriver so that’s something. I rushed home to dominate those screws.

I may have been a bit too cocky, only a couple screws came out, the rest still wouldn’t move. I mangled the threads on one so bad I have no choice but to drill it out. Oh joy.

About now I realize if these screws are all mangled and/or rusted, I probably need to replace them with new ones. What else can I do? I’m headed to the nearest Honda dealer!

OK, I’m back with 8 new screws. I also found a YouTube video that said placing a ball-peen hammer against the screw, then smacking that hammer with another hammer would loosen the rust. What do you know, it actually worked! Well, it mostly worked. I mangled another screw so badly it needs to be drilled out. I guess 2 out of 8 isn’t so bad.

Finally, hours after I started, I remove the driver side front caliper. I’m replacing the front brakes with the parts from a 2008 Acura TSX because they’re larger and will provide better braking performance. With the caliper removed, I realize there’s a part I didn’t think of, the caliper bracket. Do I need a different bracket for the TSX calipers? Yes I do. Did I order the calipers that come with brackets? Nope.

I’m ready to throw in the towel but I decide to check the local auto parts stores. I bought the calipers from Autozone so I check their website and sure enough, a few local Autozone stores have the brackets in stock. I head to the Lincoln Park store hoping they have 2 in stock.

They only have one. I buy it but I need another so they call the Taylor store and reserve it. I can handle this, it’s only a few miles away.

I get to the Taylor Autozone. No, not the one by Heritage Hospital, the other one. Yes I stopped at that one first, I didn’t know there were two stores in Taylor. Now I’m at the right one so I’ll just grab the bracket and be on my way.

The guy starts ringing me up when he asks if I need caliper pins.

I don’t know, do I?

I didn’t even think of those. I bet the Civic pins won’t work, I probably need TSX pins. Of course Autozone doesn’t have them in stock at any of the local stores. I guess I’ll try to make the Civic pins work.

There’s an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store on the way home so I stop to see if they have the pins. They don’t have them but the store on Van Born Road does. I’ve come this far, why not go a little further?

I find the Van Born O’Reilly’s and buy the pins, I’m all set, nothing can stop me now! The wife wants ice cream, I make that happen like a boss.

Guess what? The remanufactured TSX calipers came with pins, I didn’t need these after all. That’s 45 minutes I’ll never get back. Oh well, at least I can return them.

I now have everything I could possibly need, let’s get these brakes done! It’s almost 2pm now, I’ve been on the road longer today than I’ve been under the car.

I knew the front dust shields would need trimming to fit the TSX brakes but I never stopped to question whether I had snips.

I don’t own snips. I head to Sears for the second time.

Snips in hand, I cut the shields and install the front rotors, calipers, and pads. They go on as easily as I expected. The rears are just as painless.

I stop to think about how easily this would have been if only I had all the right parts and tools in the first place. It’s about 3:30 PM, I expected the job to take about 2 hours. I was way off.

Time to bleed the brakes, I enlist the wife’s help. The finish line is in sight.


The wheels are on, the car is on the ground. I start it up, back down the driveway and… the brake pedal is super spongy. I have to go to my nephew’s birthday party, I’m already an hour late so it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Fast-forward to Sunday; of course it’s raining.

The rain lets up around 1pm and by 2 it’s dry enough to get back to work. Once again the wife has control of the brake pedal and this time I find a bunch of air in the passenger side front line. No air anywhere else, we’ve run plenty of fluid (ATE Type 200 Amber) through the lines, I think we’re good.

I drop the jack-stands and set the car on the ground, hopefully for the last time. Next is the step most people don’t know about, burnishing the pads. I head across Southfield Road to the old Farmer Jack’s and use the parking lot to make a bunch of stops from 35-45 mph. This heats the pads up and bakes the oils out of them. It’s a pretty important step.

I’m not satisfied with the pedal, it feels too low but I can lock the brakes up hard enough to trigger the ABS so I’m guessing it’s ok. I’ll circle back and bleed them again next week after a few days of normal driving. Finally, a job I expected to take a few hours is complete.

If you’re not a human who loves cars, I bet you’re shaking your head right now. How could someone screw up this much? How did I forget so many things? Am I new to this?

I assure you I’m not. I might be scatter brained or a little forgetful but I think this is a normal occurrence. Go find your favorite car nut and show them this story. I bet dollars to donuts (I don’t know what that phrase means) that they’ll relate and even have a story of their own that rivals mine.

The moral is, no matter how prepared you think you are, you aren’t. Ever. The car always wins.

Tactile Turn Mover & Shaker First Impressions

I don’t remember what made me jump on the Kickstarter campaign for the Tactile Turn Mover & Shaker but I ended up ordering one of each. It wasn’t the strange backer video that drew me in so it must have been the pen design. I originally backed the Mover but I added the Shaker at the last minute to make sure I could handle any gel refill my heart desired.

The pens arrived today in these crazy tubes that I absolutely love. I have no idea where he found these but I need a stash of them to store my pens that aren’t safely nestled in their Nock Co cases. I’m serious when I say the packaging almost made me forget how excited I was to get the pens.

Tactile Turn

They both come with a predetermined refill, the Mover with a Pilot G2 .38mm refill while the Shaker includes a Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 ballpoint refill. Neither of these meet my standards but that has nothing to do with my impression of the pens. After all, I purchased these to put my favorite refills in so the fact they shipped with anything is a bonus.

I’m not a ballpoint fan so the Schmidt was replaced with the only option I had handy: a Parker Gel refill which — after playing with it a bit — is almost as bad as the ballpoint. Luckily the list of refills that fits the Shaker is quite long so I shouldn’t have a problem finding something I like.

Dark Blue Shaker

The Mover presents a small problem in that it doesn’t fit my favorite refill — the Uni-Ball 207 — without a little work. The website says “must fill in back space” which sounds easy enough but I haven’t tried it yet. Instead I rummaged around my stash of pens and found a .7mm Blue-Black Pilot Juice to steal the refill from. I hadn’t tried the Juice but I’d heard good things and the rumors were true, this is a fantastic refill.

Let me take a moment to comment on the .38mm G2 refill that came with the Mover. I can’t believe people use these things! I’d compare the experience to dragging a needle across paper and praying ink falls out of it, this isn’t a writing experience as much as writing torture. I don’t understand how anyone can use < .7mm on a daily basis unless they write in ultra tiny letters that no one can read.

OK enough of the commentary, back to the review.

Dark Blue Shaker

My biggest gripe is one that you’ll only run into when changing the refill: there’s something weird about the threading. I’m not an engineer or designer but it feels like the 2 halves could have been better matched in size to make a more exact fit. Maybe the threads are too fine? I don’t know. Often it feels like the halves are about to cross-thread and I have to back them off and start over.

That’s all I really have to complain about, let’s get on to the good stuff.

The click mechanism is silent as advertised and the clip is nice and sturdy. You can actually unscrew the clicky bit and thereby marvel in its simplicity. When the mechanism is off, it also frees the clip from the pen which I suppose could allow you to replace it if bent or broken. I’m not certain that Tactile Turn is expecting to sell these bits but it seems like a very serviceable pen.

Mover & Shaker

I ordered my Mover in raw aluminum color and my Shaker in dark blue and they’re quite striking in this combination. The dark blue Shaker has a nice contrast with the aluminum clip and click mechanism which makes me wish I had ordered a colored Mover as well. If I had a chance to do it again, I’d order a green version instead of the raw.

Now to the part I was most worried about: the patterned grip. Machined pens tend to have a slight roughness which send shivers down my spine if I slide my fingers across them wrong. Imagine fingernails on a chalkboard, that’s the feeling. I assume it’s the micro grooves from machining that cause this and while I’ve learned to tolerate it, I was afraid the patterned grip would be a problem.

Raw Mover

As it turns out, the grooves are deeper than I imagined and are a wonderfully functional addition. I have another machined pen with a smooth section and I’d love to have this pattern machined into it. It’s just so darn grippy!

While I’ve owned these pens less than 12 hours, I’m quite happy with them. The number of refills available should provide me a decade or two of use which crazy considering what I paid for them. Sure plastic pens are cheaper but I’d rather have something more substantial in my hand and these fit that bill.

Tactile Turn is now listing the Mover and Shaker in their shop for $65. I highly recommend them.