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[Pen/Pencil Review] The Write Dudes Gorilla Lead 0.7mmm Mechanical Pencil

Posted by reudaly on July 28, 2014 in Review, writing instruments |

I didn’t pick up any fun pens at ArmadilloCon this, but I did get to spend time with Mark Finn and Rick Klaw – so in the honor of The Apes of Wrath (and a pretty lame reach for a connection) – I’m reviewing the Write Dudes Gorilla Lead Mechanical Pencils from Target.

There won’t be a writing sample – because well, mechanical pencil. 0.7mm #2 HB Lead all looks the same. It’s the rest of the piece that’s important. The fact they put “fine” on the package does make me roll my eyes. 0.7mm is NOT fine, and doesn’t apply to pencil points. But the selling point for this pencil is supposed to be the strength of the lead – “combining the strength and fury of gorillas”.
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Okay so the hype is cute. The package comes with two pencils and extra lead for a relatively reasonable price. I bought the rubberized black ones. They also come in a silver/gray. The pencil runs about 5.75″ long. The black is rubberized for a good grip…and speaking of the grip. It’s…odd. Not bad, but definitely takes a bit of getting used to. The grip is an ergonomic triangular with ridges and smooth parts, but done in a way that almost makes it too narrow for me. And you have to use the grip. There’s no comfortable way to choke down like I normally do. Which isn’t completely bad?
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The hardware is chrome plated and stepped down to the lead. The clip seems sturdy. The rounded plunger cap covers the refill tube and eraser. Now… about the lead… It is a good lead. I’m not sure it’s “Gorilla Strong” – it does break. But I put quite a bit of pressure to bear on the lead. and it took effort to get the lead to snap. It’s probably easier to do early and late in the lead life.

It’s a decent mechanical pencil for the price. These are not all that expensive at Target (and other retailers) – and with back to school sales, they’re probably even on sale. I’d be wary if you were have big hands or fingers – this is a narrow grip. It’s taking some time to get comfortable for me. But it’s inexpensive and amusing.
The numbers:

1. How does it work?1 – It works like it’s supposed to. The lead advances and retracts. The grip is grippy. And the lead is sturdy.
2. Grip and feel0.5 – They make a concerted effort for ergonomics. But I find it a bit too narrow and high up on the barrel. You might not.
3. Material1 – It’s actually fairly solid. The rubberized grip is part of the whole barrel. The lead is sturdy. The chromed metal parts don’t seem in any danger of tarnish, cracking or flying off into the eitherh
4. Overall Design0.5 – It’s okay. The narrowness is a problem. There are ridges that can dig in. And I don’t think the lead is a strong as furious as they think it is, but should still last a good while.
5. Price Point1 – These are not expensive. A 2-3 pack of pencils (most with extra lead and – maybe – erasers) runs about $3.50 at Target. For a the quality of the pencil and the longevity it should have… this is a fantastic price – and might even be less expensive if you catch a sale.

That’s 4 of 5 bronze pencils.
Pencil 4.0

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[Spotlight Post] Flashpoint – Cross Post

Posted by reudaly on July 25, 2014 in Life |

I head out to ArmadilloCon in a few hours, so one more crosspost from Celtic Music Magazine. This one is a local DFW band called Flashpoint
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Flashpoint intrigued me when I saw their EP, “A Timely Misadventure,” come up on the list for review. Not just because they’re local to me, and I do like giving local talent a shot, but because I’m addicted to television and I liked the show by the same name. But that’s neither here nor there, this is all about the music.
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Flashpoint is a three-piece band consisting of Joseph Carmichael, David Mehalko, and Daniel Mehalko. These three young men play a wide variety of instruments in a predominantly instrument collection of songs on this new EP, “A Timely Misadventure.” This five-track project has one song with vocals, the other four are all instrumental with some interesting twists. All three members play multiple instruments – from whistles to accordions, fiddles to mandolin and banjo. Being young, they blend a variety of styles in to traditional folk and celtic music for a fresh fusion of sound.

I liken this project to a soundtrack album. It’s inspiring and entertaining, but it also doesn’t distract from whatever you might be doing. That’s not to say it’s boring, because it’s not…not at all. But for people who like either instrumental music or can’t focus on tasks with vocals, this is good stuff. I found myself typing faster – or more accurately – to the beat of the track playing at the time, and that’s always a good sign. So is the fact I find myself “chair dancing” to the melodies. I’m not sure which one of the three does the vocals on the third track, but he has a lovely voice.
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This isn’t “rock and roll” celtic music. It’s traditional and mostly acoustic. My first foray into Celtic music was the Barra MacNeils in the 1990s. And though Flashpoint isn’t quite as complex – they’re half the size – but it reminds of them, and I’ve loved that album for a very long time. But it’s that a good thing, at least to me. The tracks are mostly two-song melodies woven together with skill and harmony. If I have to pick a favorite, it would be… difficult because I tend to let it flow like a soundtrack and find myself disappointed when it’s over.

These three men are highly skilled and really talented – and they’re just getting started. I look forward to seeing what they do in the future, because as good as this EP is, I think their best is ahead of them as they learn and gain life experience.
Artist: Flashpoint
Buy Album: Here

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[Writing Post] Life, Swag, and Other Things

Posted by reudaly on July 23, 2014 in Conventions, Family, Life, Writing |

Today is supposed to be a writing post, but honestly – that’s not really going to happen. It’s been an… eventful…week, and it’s actually ramping up. I continued my word count progress – it may be small but it’s growing – around the North Texas Comic Book Show (managed to do a bit of editing there). I met a few people and sold a few books. It was good.

My dad was taken to the hospital on Monday evening. We still don’t know what’s wrong with him. He’s finally having some diagnostic work done (hopefully as I type) that will tell us what may be happening. But that’s a distraction no one could foresee. Forgive me if that takes a certain amount of precedence. And with it all, we had structural work done on the house this week, and my husband is fighting off something. And ArmadilloCon is coming.

So, I know it all comes off as excuses and such. But it is what it is. In all things, family comes first.
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I did have a very heart-warming moment at NTCBS. There was an adorable little girl (who’s apparently a staple there) in a green tutu Riddler costume carrying a Batman Doll with a green tutu. I gave her a notebook and pen (also green…because Riddler, hello). And she zipped around getting quotes and stuff. It was the most adorable thing EVAR.
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The next day I got emails from her mom and (apparently) aunt thanking me so much for that little act. And how much the child loved it. Almost made me cry. Will they be customers down the road? Maybe. Maybe not – the aunt did buy a coloring book to read to her new grandchild – but that kind of thing is better than a sale.

I bring it up – not because “aww, look at me”, but because I saw a post on Facebook a week or so ago about how swag was pointless. The only promotional thing an author needs to do is write the next book. And yes, that’s really, super important…but…swag (or promotional items) some opportunities can be lost. Especially at tables like the comic shows where someone might like YOU but is short of funds. A promotional item given freely is an impression on the potential customer. Something they can look at later – if they still have it, granted – and remember, “Hey, that person was cool, let me go ahead and check out that website now.”

It’s all important.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] The Nock Co Hightower Pen Case

Posted by reudaly on July 21, 2014 in Review, writing instruments |

I’m in a place where I need to find out what I’ve reviewed in the past and what I might still have left. My current “new” stuff has been done, for the most part. I do have one more Nock Co. pen holder to introduce you to, and that’s The Hightower.

The Hightower is more functional. There’s a three-pen side with a flap for protection and a single pocket on the other side that can either fit a notebook or more pens if you don’t mind some rattling around. I currently have six lower end pens and pencils on the single pocket side. It’s has a “heavy, DWR coated nylon exterior and durable pack cloth liner”. It comes in three colors – gray and teal, navy and silver, red and orange. I picked the navy and silver.
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This pen case feels good. The slots are wide to accept big barreled pens. The fabric feels like it’d described. I don’t get the impression I’m going to rip this thing if it goes rattling around in a purse, computer bag, or book signing box. Which is a good thing, because that’s EXACTLY what I’m using this pen case for – my everyday work bag pens. This holder is 8″ wide by 6.75″ tall and it folds in the middle to make it a bi-fold. This is the pen holder I throw into my work bag. It’s tough. It’s durable, and it’s easy to deal with.
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The Nock Co. store is now up and running with free shipping over $50. Oh, and if you’re a bigger pen geek than me, one of the founders of Nock Co. is Brian Dowdy of The Pen Addict. He knows his pen stuff.
The numbers:

1. How does it work?1 – It works really well. It holds three thick barrel pens (which it’s advertised for) on the flap side (you can probably get six). And at least six on the single pocket side or a 3×5″ (ish) notebook.
2. Grip and feel1 – Okay, so there’s no grip, but it does feel durable and solid while being flexible. The pens work out well in them.
3. Material1 – The material for the outside reminds me of canvas or heavy denim. I’m not sure what DWR coating is – but it feels water-resistant to me (and as someone who spills, that’s cool). The pack cloth liner is soft enough I don’t feel like it’ll scratch while being tear-resistant.
4. Overall Design1 – It’s well-designed for what it is. They don’t overhype the case. It’s a good, versatile pen case.
5. Price Point0.5 – None of these are going to be cheap. But they’re made here in the USA (in Georgia) by guys who know their stuff. This one retails for $20 on the Nock Co. Which isn’t horrible but it is an investment.

That’s 4.5 of 5 bronze pencils.
Pencil 4.5

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[Spotlight Post] Celtica: Pipes Rock Legends and Visions – Crosspost

Posted by reudaly on July 18, 2014 in Review, Spotlight |

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This is a repost of the review I wrote a couple of weeks ago at Celtic Music Magazine. If you like this review, check out the website for more.

When I wrote a review of Celtica Pipes Rock Oceans of Fire, they asked if I might do one of their new album, Legends and Visions which was only being sold at shows when I wrote the last review, now it’s available for sale in other venues.
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To recap. The band is back together, Celtica: Pipes Rock is once more a six-piece band. Their piper, Jane Espie is back. That’s one of the things that makes this band great, not only is it real rock and roll, it’s real Scottish pipes with a female piper, to boot to complement Duncan Knight’s awesome work. I’m sorry I missed seeing them perform live at the North Texas Irish Festival, but I will see them in concert one day. Just not when they’re in Tulsa in a couple of months, darn it.

Legends and Visions has a similar format to their other albums. It’s set up as a “show” or story. There’s an intro before going into their tracks. One of the main things I like about this album is that it has a fun sci-fi/fantasy theme to it along with rock and roll and Celtic standards done in their signature style. What’s different is the naming conventions. In the past they’ve told you what songs they’re mashing up in their medleys. Now you get to guess – except for “Love U2!”, that one’s pretty self-explanatory – and an excellent medley of songs skillfully woven together.
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Their versions of “Albas Shore” and “Whiskey in The Jar” probably aren’t what you’re used to, but I rock out to them – as with all the tracks. The vocals are minimal – mostly instrumental. I keep this band on my Writing AND Road Trip playlists for those times I need LOUD but good because this band has more skill than I could ever imagine. It’s also good fun – especially if you’re having a bad day and want to hide. You can’t listen to this album and sit or stand still. “Rolling with the Goblins” has a SWING DANCE beat to half the song, how does anyone stay still for that?

They did put a track on this project that I’ve been waiting for. When I was introduced to Celtica, I looked them up on YouTube and fell in love with their video for their cover of “Don’t Stop Believin’” – which they encourage the audience to sing. They did a compilation video from their tour of the song. I believe it was their encore song, and now it’s the encore of Legends and Visions and for a live track, it’s fantastic.

EDIT: Gajus Stappen commented on the original post that all the songs – including Alba Shore is written and/or arranged by Celtica: Pipes Rock. This is a truly unique sound.

Artist: Celtica: Pipes Rock
Buy Album: CD BABY

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[Writer Post] The Surreal Life

Posted by reudaly on July 16, 2014 in Conventions, Podcast/Media, Writing |

A writer’s life is sometimes very surreal… okay, well, at least mine is. I probably shouldn’t speak to other writers’ lives, but yeah, mine can be very surreal. It’s a very weird mix of “Mundane” with spurts of “Holy Cow”. I’m kinda going through one of those spurts at the moment and part of it is convention season when we get away from the laundry and have people treat us like we’re special (and sometimes “Special”).

But sometimes… it’s just weird.

Like when you write a bizarre little story that has an editor saying, “you better send that to me”. Yeah, that doesn’t normally happen (but when it does, it’s usually when you’re throwing up your hands saying, “I’m never going to sell anything ever again!”). I’m not saying I was there, but I haven’t been as prolific on the short stories lately, so this is gratifying.

I’ve been approached by SciFi4Me.Com to be part of their radio show in August for Book Month. Their show is live on BlogTalkRadio Monday-Thursday from 10:30-11 pm CST – and yes, that’s late for me. I hope to be coherent on August 5th. They do archive, and I’ll mention it again before time, but dude, I’m going on the radio(ish).

Then the really weird but cool thing…last week, I got a private message through Facebook. A musician I used to hang with at a coffee house was looking for lyrical inspiration for his band. I flippantly threw out some of my more bizarre story topic. He jumped at them. So there might be some very bizarre music coming out of the DFW area in the not too distant future. It’s hugely flattering, but so far beyond what I would consider the norm that…hey, surreal.

So yeah, that’s my highly non-standard week as a writer. These are very, very few and far between unless you’re much, much bigger than me. But it’s still cool when it happens. Now… on to the North Texas Comic Book Show on Saturday and ArmadilloCon next weekend.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] The Palamino Blackwing Geek Moment

Posted by reudaly on July 14, 2014 in Review, writing instruments |

This is pretty much a “rerun” post because I left anything I might need to review at home. Hello, Monday, good to see you. However, there’s a “new” twist to this rerun. I had a nice little social media/blog shout out from the good folk at Palamino Blackwing because I’m rapidly becoming “That Pen/Pencil Geek”. Jimmy and I are enjoying Murder in the First on TNT. In the episode “Who’s Your Daddy”, there’s a scene with James Cromwell and Tom Felton. Cromwell is fidgeting with a Palamino Blackwing. It’s a distinctive wooden pencil. I mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook, it got back to Blackwing. They blogged about it, giving me credit making me a happy, happy pen blogger. So, to that end, here’s my previous review of Palamino Blackwing pencils.

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I was not alone in receiving a pretty black box for Christmas – though mine did not contain jewelry, but a dozen Palomino Blackwing pencils. I’ve held off reviewing them because 1) there was a glut of reviews on them right after Christmas; and 2) I have a habit of randomly plucking thing out of my “to be reviewed” cup. So, today… the Palomino Blackwing wooden pencil.


I tell people I go in cycles with my writing instruments. There are days/weeks all I want to write with are fountain pens, others pencils – and anything in between. And even with the pencils I go in cycles between wooden and mechanical. I have some weird “productive” feeling about working through an entire wooden pencil. The drawbacks I have with wooden pencils is that I like (really, really like) sharp points on my pencils, so I sharpen a lot. I also really like dark, soft leads. I’m a 2B kind of girl. Herein lies my dilemma – soft, dark leads require more sharpening. Another issue I can have with wooden pencils are using up erasers long before the pencil, requiring the need for extra erasers.

The Palomino Blackwing somewhat addresses all of these problems. They are a dark, soft lead like I like. There’s nothing on the black lacquer body to tell you what the lead actually is, but it feels like a good B to me. Which means it’s NOT A #2 PENCIL for standardized tests/scantron sheets, but really, why would you? These are too pretty for that. The black body and the gold trim just makes it a pretty, pretty thing to look at. It’s also a sturdy pencil of solid wood, not that plastic pseudo-wood that bends and doesn’t sharpen well.

The Blackwing also caters to those of us who like to erase. Instead of the standard eraser on the end of the pencil, the Blackwing was a flattened, rectangular eraser that resembles a paintbrush in shape. The white eraser rubs the graphite out cleanly without crumbling. Over time it remains flexible instead of going hard like cheaper erasers. It’s also held into the end of the pencil with a spring clip so it can be adjusted to length – and makes it an oversized eraser so you don’t run out of eraser before you run out of pencil. And if you’re using a LOT of eraser, JetPens sells replacement erasers in black, white, and pink, so you can choose your look.

Now to the numbers.

1. How does it work?1 – I really like these pencils. They’re a good, solid wood. When I fidget with them, I have no worries that I’m going to snap them in half or bend them out of shape, like with really cheap pencils. It is a soft lead, so if you like a hard, sharp point, you might be a little disappointed, but I like a solid, dark line, so this is my happy place pencil.
2. Grip and feel1 – It’s a standard, hexagonal pencil. But like with the above comment, it’s a good sturdy pencil that feels good in the hand.
3. Material1 – One of the best built pencils I’ve had in a while. Solid wood, nice accents. The eraser mechanism is well-built and solidly attached.
4. OveraPencil 4.0ll Design1 – I don’t know what else to say about this pencil’s design. It just rocks – for me.
5. Price Point0 – It’s an expensive wooden pencil. A box of 12 will run about $20. They may be worth it if you really like wooden pencils and/or replaceable erasers, but this is not going to be your “back to school” pencil. You are paying for the fact it’s a darned good wooden pencil – and if you go for the pretty gift box? You’re paying more. That’s the only real drawback to this pencil. If you’re used to getting a dozen for a $1…this will be sticker shock.

I give it 4 of 5 bronze pencils.

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[Spotlight Post] Socks in the Frying Pan – Crosspost

Posted by reudaly on July 11, 2014 in Review, Spotlight |

This was a recent review for Celtic Music Magazine. If you like this review, go check out the Celtic Music Magazine Website and podcasts for MORE music.
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When it comes to reviewing albums, something has to grab me – where the band is from, their influences, and sometimes even the band’s name…that’s what drew me to Socks in the Frying Pan. This is a trio from Ireland that does traditional Irish/Celtic music with unique twists and turns. The trio consists of two brothers, Shane and Fiachra Hayes, and Aodán Coyne. The trio is from County Clare and is now moving out of West Ireland to take on the world. They’re embarking on their first US tour in 2014.
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They mailed me their self-titled CD from Ireland, which was nice of them – I don’t get mail from overseas often. In taking a look at the packaging, I actually appreciate that they identified what kind of song each track was – a reel, a jig, a “song”(which means vocals), etc. That gave me some idea of what I was listening too. Five of the twelve tracks include vocals, the others are instrumental.

I like the mix of instrumental and vocal. The reels and jigs tend to be upbeat and high energy. They immediately went in my “writing” playlist. Not only do these tracks get your toes tapping, but at least my fingers flying across keyboards (yes, I type to tempo). I’m amused that the first track on the album is called “The Finale”. The songs have lovely woven harmonies to the melody in that traditional Celtic sound that’s both soothing and energetic, especially since you can hear the brogue in the vocals.

In albums like this, it’s hard to pick a track that stands out, it all flows over and around in cohesive whole, but if I had to pick one – it would be “Foreign Lander”. This is the only a cappella song, and it’s not only tight vocally, it’s a haunting melody and gorgeously arranged. The Track for the Criac brings in several other musicians to play – as The Odd Socks (which makes me giggle) – and is beautiful community track with all the extra layers.
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So let’s welcome Socks in the Frying Pan to the US. If you have a chance to see them perform, go. It’ll be worth it. If you can’t, pick up the album and just let it wash over you.

Artist: Socks in the Frying Pan
Buy Album: From The Artist or From Amazon

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[Writing Post] NT Comic Book Show & ArmadilloCon Schedule

Posted by reudaly on July 9, 2014 in Conventions, Writing |

Just had the “OH CRAP IT’S WEDNESDAY” brain jolt. Did I know this all day, yep. I knew I had a blog post to write – but I had Day Job pop up with stuff and FenCon Stuff… and well, things cluttered up. But here we are. It’s Wednesday.

Upcoming Events…
Saturday, January 19th. I’ll have a table at the North Texas Comic Shows. They’re bringing in Mike Grell and Jeff Shultz – and other awesome artists. It’s one 8 hour (ish) day with an $8 admission. So come by the DoubleTree Market Center in Dallas and say hi. Maybe buy a book. These are smaller shows that let you take your time and have space to talk to people. Come check us out.

July 25th-27thAramadilloCon in Austin. This is an awesome fan-run literary convention. This year they’re back at the Omni Southpark Hotel on the South side of Austin. If you haven’t gotten your room yet, do it quick (or if I KNOW you, ping me…) Love this convention and am looking forward to being on panels there – especially Fannish Feud.

Here is my schedule:
ArmadilloCon 36 Schedule for Rhonda Eudaly
Stupid Movies We Love
Fri 5:00 PM-6:00 PM Room D

Rountree*, Eudaly, Hailey, Person, Whittaker
Hollywood makes many stupid genre moves, but sometimes they are so bad, we love them.
Autographing
Fri 6:00 PM-7:00 PM Dealers’ Room

Acevedo, Eudaly, Weisman
I Need to Floss My Brain
Sat 10:00 AM-11:00 AM Conference Center

Eudaly*, Antonelli, Trimm, Weisman
Weird fiction isn’t for everyone, but if you like it, here are some great stories.
Fannish Feud
Sat 4:00 PM-5:00 PM Conference Center

Finn*, Babcock, Eudaly, Chiang, Close, Law, McDonald, Orth, Walsh, Weisman, Wilson
Reading
Sat 10:00 PM-11:00 PM Southpark A

Eudaly
Sub-genres of Fantasy
Sun Noon-1:00 PM Room E

Kimbriel*, Benjamin, Eudaly, Marmell, Swendson, Thompson
They are literally hundreds of sub-genres in fantasy. Here are some of the lesser known and why they are so good.

And now it’s time to kick my brain into gear and get writing and work done before ArmadilloCon – and not waste any of the creative juices from SoonerCon and let ArmadilloCon build on it. I’m doing okay, but there are deadlines out there circling like impatient sharks. Though I could really use a closer one to really make me time manage better – but I also need to simply make use of the time I have in a more efficient manner. So I think I’ll go do that.

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[Pen/Pencil Review] The Indiana Jones Souvenir Ball Point Pen

Posted by reudaly on July 7, 2014 in Review, writing instruments |

This weekend was an adventure for Jimmy and me… A house full of people, the Fourth of July, adventures with air conditioning. But we did manage to do one of those “We really should go to…” things on our list. We went to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History to see the Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeology Exhibit. It was so much fun that I had to hit the gift shop. And, obviously, I bought a pen… and if you know me at all, you know I probably bought more than one.
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This one is part of the “official” exhibit merchandise. It’s a decent “Parker Style” ball point pen. It’s a classic bullet design with a black lacquer barrel with chrome hardware and accents with the logo printed on the barrel. The retractation mechanism was difficult at first, now that I’ve messed with it for a while, it’s loosening up. The ink retracts through a barrel twist near the point.
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The pen is about 5.25″ long with the ink retracted and 5.5″ with the ink extended. It’s a good diameter for comfort and has some weight to the barrel. This pen has decent balance with a springy clip that should be sturdy since it’s metal. The pen came with a generic Parker style ballpoint black ink refill which was probably a 1.0 mm. It’s okay… some skips and stuttering getting going, but functional. But “functional” isn’t necessarily what I want in an Indiana Jones pen, so the moment I finished an initial writing sample, I replaced the ink with one of the Fisher Space Pen fine point refills sent to me a couple of months back. Why? Because an Archeological Adventure pen should write anywhere, right? And now it does.
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The numbers:

1. How does it work?0.5 – I’m knocking this down because right out of the package we had some stutters. The twist mechanism was so stiff it took a while to figure out how to get to the ink. The ink it came with took “priming” so it wasn’t a smooth, out of package experience. It is now though with my modifications.
2. Grip and feel1 – I do like it for a “desk” type pen. It’s long enough to be fairly comfortable. The weight and diameter are good with a decent balance. The ridges between barrel and grip are rounded and inset enough not to get in the way.
3. Material1 – It’s a solid metal pen. The logo design is in no danger of wearing off. I think this pen could last a very long time.
4. Overall Design0.5 – I like this pen. It’s functional. It’s more functional with the mechanism used some to not be super stiff and a better refill. I’m knocking it for the “learning curve” and the fact it’s a lot of chrome for fingerprints. If you don’t like smudgy pens, this will drive you crazy.
5. Price Point0.5 – It’s not cheap, but not stupidly expensive. It was $7.50 – which isn’t bad for a museum gift shop. This is a refillable and reusable pen, so it’s not that bad. But for the price, I would’ve liked a better grade of ink in it. I have that now, but only because I had it.

That’s 3.5 of 5 bronze pencils.
Pencil 3.5

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