Category Archives: Random

Things that don’t fit my very narrow list of categories.

Doing Your Part To Regulate YouTube

Continuing the theme from my last post, I’m going to show you how to help squash YouTube trolls. It’s pretty easy and I hope you all join in.

Here’s a sample comment I found on the latest PenHabit review (I think this might be clever spam but I can’t be sure):

Who Says Things Like This?

1 – The first step is to give that comment a thumbs down.

Next, hit the reply button and let them know you disapprove. Don’t stoop to their level, just point out the error of their ways. We’re here to talk about pens, no need to be nasty.

That’s generally enough, a typical human should feel shameful when called out on such a transgression. But what if they don’t? Well, let’s go nuclear.

2 – That little arrow in the top right of the comment is the door to the big red launch button.

3 – Yup, that says “abuse” and “spam”. Maybe it’s a little overboard but I think a lot of these mean posts qualify as abuse.

I haven’t tried this but I like to think YouTube will suck that comment into a black hole while they review it. Maybe that’s wishful thinking but hey, it’s worth a shot. At the very least, if enough of us join in, that account isn’t sticking around and the less garbage being spewed at the souls who devote their time to our hobby, the better.

Consider yourselves deputized, go forth and regulate. Don’t forget to leave a nice comment for your favorite videos, kindness goes a long way to offset the trolls.

Let’s Restore Civility In Pendom

Note: This was edited on 2015-02-15.

While writing about civility, I described internet trolls with words that were anything but civil. Those words undermined the intended message of the post and should have never been written. I’ve edited the post to remove the negativity and name calling and I’m sorry. -Brad

I’ve been in a number of communities during my years on the internet but none so accepting and friendly as the community of pen enthusiasts.

Ah, the penfolk, champions of the pen, embracers of ink, purveyors of paper. We grasp our pens and hold them high in protest of a world claiming digital as the new way of life. But yet even as we’re deep in the good fight, some in our midst are spreading a darkness over our community.

Let’s travel back to in time to the year 2007. We’re in the bedroom of a third floor apartment staring at a man digging through boxes of stuff he probably should have thrown away. From one of those boxes he retrieves a Parker Vector fountain pen. He bought that pen years earlier at a local supermarket because it looked neat and it’s about to send him down a rabbit hole.

He finds a package of Parker Quink cartridges and manages to get the pen working. Something deep inside of him awakens, he feels the urge to learn about fountain pens. Luckily it was 2007 and he had the internet at his disposal.

That guy was me but you already knew that right?

I remember finding Fountain Pen Network and being amazed that there were so many people still using fountain pens. Not just dabbling like I was, these were full blown collectors and enthusiasts. As someone with a tendency to latch on to strange hobbies, this sucked me in deeper. The first thing I noticed: everyone was extremely nice.

I’ve spent most of my life since my early teens in the car enthusiast world. This is a hobby that has no shortage of bickering and drama. No matter how you modify your car, someone out there thinks you’re doing it wrong and they won’t hesitate to start a flame war with you online. In 2007 I was waist deep in that drama and FPN was a welcome escape.

In the fountain pen world, it’s not uncommon to find someone with a collection of Montblanc fountain pens praising a much cheaper pen. Penfolk just like pens that write well, price be damned. This sets our little group apart, we just love pens and ink and paper and we want to use as many different types and brands as we can.

You’d think a group of enthusiasts who are so open that they’d place a $2 pen next to a $1200 one might be incredibly civil and for the most part they are. But while most of us are enjoying our hobby and watching it grow, there are a few bad apples who are spoiling the fun for some of us.

There are a few prominent bloggers and video reviewers that I think every fountain pen enthusiast knows. I’m talking about Brad Dowdy, Ana Reinert, Ed Jelley, Matt Armstrong, Stephen B.R.E. Brown, and Azizah Asgarali. There are plenty more but I feel like these folks are specifically front and center when someone tries to enter this hobby. They spend their time writing great reviews, taking amazing pictures, or shooting and editing video simply because they love pens.

So we have a number of great people who are pouring their time and efforts into our hobby and who shows up? Yup, the internet trolls.

They seem harmless if you’re not on the receiving end. “Just ignore them” we say, but it’s not that simple. Why does Matt need to deal with constant comments about his lack of hair? Why does anyone need to complain about Stephen and Azizah’s on-air chemistry? Why waste the energy to type a negative comment in the first place?

Surely you’re familiar with the saying: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I like to imagine most of the penfolk follow this rule but there’s a select few of you who don’t and it’s time you learned.

I believe the good penfolk outnumber the trolls so I’m calling on all the good folks of our community to counteract them. Whether it be a nice comment or an admonishment of theirs, help us run these rabble-rousers out of our town. The worst we can do is to say nothing.

The next time you watch a YouTube review or read a blog post and you see someone acting rudely, counteract it with a kind comment and make it clear you don’t support such negativity. I may be giving them too much credit but I think they’ll get the message.

Be nice. Be civil. And most of all, call out those who aren’t. The internet is a cesspool but that doesn’t mean our little pond needs to be polluted.

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.

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.

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.