February 15, 2015

Uni Kuru Toga Roulette - My Pencil of Choice

This week Mike Dudek posted about the Uni Kuru Toga Roulette on his blog1. After years of only using pens I have returned to graphite over the past several months. My return to pencils started with the classic Golden Bear, and then I went ahead and bought some Blackwings; both the 602 and Pearl. The 602 is one of the best pencils I have ever used. The Pearl is amazing as well, but I just slightly prefer the 602. I will always keep a dozen of them on hand. Still, you have to keep woodcase pencils sharpened, so they are not always convienent.

I could not return to graphite without exploring mechanical drafting pencils. In college I used cheap Bic pencils for all of my engineering homework, but I coveted the fancy metal pencils with knurled grips. I couldn't justify spending the money back then, but nowadays I went ahead and bought the Rotring Rapid Pro and the classic Rotring 600. Both of those are amazing pencils, but they aren't the pefect pencil.

When I heard about the Kuru Toga Roulette I knew I had to have one. See, anytime you write with a pencil the lead gets worn down making a flat spot. You have to turn the pencil in your hand as you write with it to keep a sharp point. Well, the Kuru Toga Roulette does that for you. Every time you put a little bit of pressure on the graphite, it has an internal mechanism that spins it for you. Genius! I went to the local Walmart and bought one of the plastic ones. It immediately became one of the best pencils I owned. When I found out that made a metal version I had to get it. The Kuru Toga is my favorite pencil by far. Combined with some 3B lead, it creates a great graphite writing experience.

I use the Kuru Toga Roulette for most of my work notes and to-do lists. I bring it home every weekend for planning out projects at home as well. The spinning lead makes the graphite line so sharp and consistent. It is is unparalleled by any other pencil I have ever used. If you like writing in pencil I would highly recommend you try out the Roulette. The metal version is under $10 on Amazon. It is totally worth it!

➔ Uni Kuru Toga Roulette Mechanical Pencil - 0.5mm - Gun Metal — The Clicky Post
  1. The Clicky Post is one of my favorite pen blogs out there. I'd highly recommend following Mr. Dudek.  

February 12, 2015

Bigfoot.js Footnotes

Over the past several months a bunch of blogs I follow have wrote about Bigfoot footnotes. It is a bit of javascript and css that allows you to have fancy footnote popovers.1 Now, I don't tend to use a whole lot of footnotes on this blog2, so I didn't pay a whole lot of attention. This week I decided I was going to figure out how to make it work as more of a challenge than anything else.

Most of the sites I saw using it were folks who had their own Wordpress install. Stephen Hackett posted on his Squarespace site how you could make it work on that platform. Here at pretendcritic I just run everything on google's blogger platform. It is nothing fancy, but I have been able to strip out all the default styling and replace it with my own thing. I know this blog is simple, but it looks nice and I feel like it provides a good experience for the readers. I've been impressed with the level of customization blogger offers. It has been able to do almost everything I want to.3 A few months ago I was able to update my styling to look acceptable on the iPad & iPhone, something I thought I'd never figure out how to do, but ultimately was very simple.

At first adding bigfoot.js to blogger did not seem like it was going to be easy. Well I was wrong. Once it dawned on me how simple it was to pull in hosted files from Dropbox or Google Drive getting bigfoot to work was trivial. I think they look awesome. Next I need to figure out how to make a site search that doesn't stink.

  1. Like this little guy here.  
  2. I have a feeling you are going to see a lot more in the future.  
  3. There are still a few major limitations that I have not been able to get around. I'm sure eventually I will leave blogger behind.  

February 8, 2015

Justified Season 5

I feel like I’ve been waiting for a long time for season 5 of Justified to be free on Amazon Instant Video. It finally became available and I wasted no time marathoning all 13 episodes in just over a week. While I would not argue that Justified is the best show on television, it is one of my favorites. I’ve had a lot of fun watching this show. The plot seems to get more convoluted and nonsensical with each new season, but the core characters are still there; and they are still great.

I will go ahead and say that season 5 is the weakest of the lot. The show peaked during seasons 2 & 3, and has been on a gradual slide since. The season 5 antagonists, the Crowe family, were the least dynamic of the Justified villains. Season 5 introduced a ton of characters and I never quite understood what the plan was. Things jumped around a lot and I quit trying to figure out who was helping who and why. I’m pretty sure the last few episodes were more focused on setting the stage for the showdown in season 6 than resolving the season 5 storyline. I’m not sure I can wait for season 6 to be free on Prime. I might have to go ahead and spend the $23 to buy it.

If you have Amazon Prime and haven’t watched Justified… do it. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

February 4, 2015

Budweiser's Anti-Craft Beer Super Bowl Advert

Like most 30 something guys trying to seem awesome, I am into craft beer. I pretend that I can taste the subtle flavors each brew offers so I can discuss them in detail with my friends. In the past six months I’ve had some amazing beer, but I’m still very much a novice.

I was surprised to see Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad the other night taking shots at craft beer. I didn’t understand what their motivation could be to pit micro & “macro” beer drinkers against one another. Maybe normal people will delight in the idea that while drinking a Bud they are simultaneously mocking a pretentious mustachioed democrat. Still, I’m not sure how this commercial is going to stem the slide in sales Budweiser has experienced.

This article in Paste Magazine makes some good points about the advert…
And moreover, how stupid does Anheuser think the average viewer is? The effectiveness of anything in this commercial is almost entirely dependent upon the consumer’s ignorance—they’re praying you’re too stupid to realize that it’s all BS.
It seems impossible to me that there is an argument to be made for Budweiser beer tasting better than a good craft brew. I was amazed when I checked social media after the ad ran and saw how many people heard the rallying cry and were ready to go out and buy some Beechwood aged golden suds then punch a hipster in the bowtie.