Playing With Drones

A couple of months ago, we ventured to a ‘surplus store’ where they sell returned products at dramatically reduced prices. It was a lot of fun to peruse the aisles and see the random items that were available; a lot of the items may have come from WalMart or other similar stores. 

I was pretty intrigued by the drones they had. There were several different models, and the prices ranged from about $20 to $80. These were NOT DJI or other professional type drones. But rather that more toy style streaming drones. 

 Since I am interested in technology, and drones I thought it would be fun to pick one up. I made sure to get one that had its own controller because I knew that those are generally more responsive and capable. 


The one I got had decent flight and control capabilities: GPS for auto-takeoff and landing, along with telemetry in the remote control to provide back information about altitude, speed, compass heading and battery levels. 

The flight time on this drone was roughly 6-7 minutes, which is not great compared to most mid-level drones, but adequate for learning. Removing the video module saved on battery life enough to make it worth it - especially since the streaming video was very poor quality. Video is streamed over a WiFi connection to a smartphone app, and while the range was good the quality was just very poor. 

My first flight wasn’t so hot, as you can see. Never launch under a tree! Gradually, I got better at it., even flying one handed while I shot a video on my phone.

I really feel like this has been a great entry point into the exciting world of drones. They are so fun to fly, and terribly easy to crash - if you haven’t got a huge amount of money invested, then you can afford to be fearless. Graduate to something better when you’ve outgrown the cheap one, and have no regrets if you destroy it. 

My little drone currently needs a new propeller shaft, but it’s ready to fly again once I order it! 

The Pen Post - A Look At My Fountain Pens

I have always enjoyed the elegance of a fountain pen; the intriguing nature of writing by the controlled diffusion of ink to paper. Rollerballs, ballpoints, and gel pens have not captured my imagination the same way - though I am fond of a good very fine point regular pen such as a Pilot Precise series in a pinch.

Years ago, I purchased a couple of Jinhao fountain pens and played with them for a little while - but the quality was definitely lacking, as was my understanding of the pen brands, nib options, and so forth. Finding excellent pens at <$20 prices was also very difficult at that time.

Today things are quite a bit different, and there are many excellent pens that can be had for as low as a three or four dollars. In particular, the Japanese Platinum Preppy series is an excellent introduction and low cost option for those interested in fountain pens.

I’ve owned a few Preppys - and Platinum has iterated their design each time I go to buy another. The latest ones, available at Goulet Pens, are essentially a completely clear plastic body, with just the name of the pen printed on the side. This I find very ideal: I use these pens to hold colored inks for marking documents or writing out my schedule in my bullet journal. To have the ink sloshing around in there makes for a colorful and fun set of pens!

I had originally started with Preppy pens using the extra fine nib - but honestly that was much too fine for my taste. The nib tended to scratch, and when using lighter inks the lines were not all that noticeable. I’ve settled on their fine nib, and am very happy with that - though my red pen is a medium nib, which puts down a nice, solid line and feels good on the page.

As you can see, I choose to eyedropper fill the Platinum Preppy pens. They hold a LOT of ink, and it is worth setting them up with the O-ring and silicone grease to have unlimited ink choices. No modification to the pen is needed, other than slipping on the O-ring and greasing the body screw threads.

My Pens

The last pen I use is my Conklin Nozac Israel 70 Limited Edition. What a mouthful. It’s a standard Conklin Nozac, but fitted out with the colors of the nation of Israel in honor of the 70th anniversary of its re-birth. The cap is magnetic, which I love, and the pen overall has a very sharp look to it.

This is a piston fill pen - all you do is turn the silver knob at the end of the pen to run the piston inside. Conklin likens it to winding a watch, and indeed it really does feel that simple. The only caveat is that without an ink window, it is very hard to figure out where you stand.

I originally picked this pen up with a Conklin Omniflex nib; but after some issues with dryness and then over-wetness with the ink, I switched it to an extra fine nib. The Conklin extra fine nib is more akin to the Platnium fine nib, and rides very smoothly on the page. Long writing sessions are a joy with the Nozac - the feel and weight of it in the hand eliminate the possibility of strain on my hand. With the Preppy pens, the narrower body is just enough to give me hand strain after awhile, so I use them in a secondary fashion. All of these pens post well, though I prefer the balance of the Nozac without the cap posted.

Here’s an example of the inks I use:

Platinum Preppy Fine Nib with Diamine Apple Glory

Platinum Preppy Fine Nib with Diamine Pumpkin

Platinum Preppy Medium nib with Diamine Poppy Red

Conklin Nozac with Extra Fine Nib and Diamine Asa Blue

I really enjoy the vibrant Diamine inks - but they do tend to be a wet ink. Being a lefty, I can easily smudge if as I write if I’m not careful - but this isn’t usually a problem except with a broader nib. The color range more than makes up for it, and I really enjoy the opportunity for some creative fun with my fountain pens!

Watch Out! The Orient Star Retrograde Review

In the world of mechanical watches, names like Seiko and Rolex are the brands everybody knows. The proliferation of micro-brands using standard Sellita or ETA movements means there’s not a huge opportunity to differentiate watches sold by lesser known brands, unless the ‘standard’ movements they tend to use are being heavily modified; it's strictly the look of the watch that sets it apart.

The Orient brand is one exception. As a Japanese company, they started out competing with Seiko and Citizen in the Asian watch market. Now owned but Seiko, they operate as an independent watch company, complete with original designs and in-house movements that are amazing value for money. The watch enthusiast looking for something a little more than the average can find what he's looking for here.

Orient markets their standard watch line both in the American and Asian markets, but the Orient Star - a higher priced line - seems to be focused primarily on the Asian markets, and they are a bit harder to find in the US except through gray market dealerships.

I purchased my Orient Star Retrograde from Creation Watches, which is based in Singapore. Their excellent free shipping meant a Friday order arrived on Monday afternoon - which blew my mind! Depending on the price point of your order with Creations Watches, you may or may not receive a branded watch box.

My Retrograde came in a very nice Orient box, and was well packed. Opening it was a treat! 


The watch is placed on a black velvet style pillow that comes out very easily, and since it was a new watch was wrapped in plastic, tagged, etc. 


The watch overall is about 39.5mm in diameter, and a slightly deep 14.25mm. The dial is a champagne colored off-white, with guilloche styling on the main and sub dials. Each sub dial sports a different pattern. The subdials on this watch are:

  • 12 o'clock power reserve
  • 9 o'clock date
  • 6 o'clock retrograde day

Hour indices are very pronounced and sit quite proud of the dial, while each sub dial is slightly recessed.

The day dial also sports a polished edging to set it apart from the main dial, while the date and power reserve have a very tiny metal band outlining their edges.

The hands are very angular, polished on one side and matte on the other which is intended to aid readability.

The sub dial hands are not consistently styled, sometimes it feels rather like the Retrograde day hand is pulled from a different watch altogether! The power reserve and date hands, while not identical, are similarly styled with a triangular look which is congruent with the hour and minute hands. The retrograde hand has a more smoothly tapered design, and it could be shorter - it obliterates the text on the subdial. There is a lack of consistency here; each subdial kind of doing its own thing in terms of where it lands on the indexes. Not a complaint, just an observation - an easy opportunity for perfection.

The retrograde function is quite fun - rather than a circular dial, the retrograde hand will snap back to the first index after it reaches the last one. So, at the end of Sunday, it snaps back to Monday. This is a run and uncommon complication that is one of the main things that drew me to this watch.

The lume is small and does not have a lot of staying power; for a dress watch it's probably not even necessary.

The dial is overall very readable, though the small text of the date may be hard to read with a quick glance, and at times the minute hand can make it hard to read the date at all, but that is to be expected.

The movement is an Orient 40A50, 22 jewel movement that is both hacking and hand winding capable. On mine, using a timegrapher app on my phone, it gains about 5 seconds per day - which is not bad given the price. Conveniently, I can look at the official time app on my phone once a day, pull the stem out for about five seconds, push it back in and I’m basically in sync! The watch is incredibly quiet too...put your ear to it, and you won’t hear much; the rotor is also very quiet. The movement is decorated with Cotes de Geneve, a nice touch for a watch at this price point.


The automatic winding seems very efficient, I have no trouble keeping the power reserve at maximum in the normal course of a day, even with my fairly sedentary job. A quick wind on weekends is indeed all that is needed to keep it running. Winding the watch is a joy, with just a small amount of resistance, and it really is quite fun to watch the power reserve move.

The case is polished stainless on top, and brushed on the sides. The lugs are beautifully shaped and meld in nicely with the bracelet, which combines brushed and polished portions of the links in a very tasteful way. Overall the watch comes together as a splendid unit, elegant in appearance and classic in design. The sapphire crystal is domes ever so slightly, and has held up to my wear and tear without fail so far.

Overall, this is an excellent watch for anyone who is looking for an interesting automatic. The retrograde function is not too common, especially at this price point, and the in-house movement is a treat as well. The build quality is really quite fine - probably not Seiko Presage quality, but close. Overall, I definitely recommend this Orient Star Retrograde.