Stretch's 2014 Reading and Pencil Reviews.

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Stretch's 2014 Reading and Pencil Reviews.

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Edited: Dec 31, 2014, 11:04am

Books Read in 2014 by Tag:

Sports Writing
You Herd Me!: I'll Say It If Nobody Else Will by Colin Cowherd (12/29/13)
Keep Swinging by Rick Marin (2/23/14)

Graphic Novel
Axe Cop Volume 3 by Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle (1/7/14)
Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega by Joe Hill (2/22/14)
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle (11/3/14)

Science Fiction
The Cold Equations by Tom Goodwin (3/8/14)

Harlem Renaissance
The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes (11/9/14)

Historical Fiction
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (8/4/14)
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt (10/26/14)

Thinking Fast and Slow by Danile Kahneman (1/29/14)
Barriers to Women in Academic Science and Engineering (2/7/14)
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (3/7/14)

American History
Reporting Vietnam: Part One 1959-1969 by Various Authors (2/1/14)
The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote (7/23/14)
In the Hands of the Great Spirit by Jake Page (12/15/14) *

Great Geological Controversies by A. Hallam (2/1/14)

OCD and Geography
✔ My Sisters Chaos by Lara Fergus (11/12/14) *

How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees (2/8/14)

The Minimalists: Essential Essays by Joshua Fields Millburn (11/13/14)

Japanese Internment
When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2/21/14)

20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill (5/28/14)
John Dies in the End by David Wong (7/8/14)
✔ The Wanderer of Unknown Realms by John Connolly (12/8/14)

Pencils and Sharpeners Reviewed:

Forest Choice HB graphite
Mongol 482
Dixon Ticonderoga
Dixon Ticonderoga Black
Papermate Mirado
Carl CP-80
General's Cedar Pointe
Staedtler Norcia 132 46 HB
Palomino Prospector
Mitsu-Bishi 9850 HB
Palomino Golden Bear
》 Musgrave Test Scoring 100
》 Staedtler Noris school pencil

✗ Books off the TBR as of 1/1/14
✔ Books Bought in 2014
Percentage of Books read off the TBR pile = +2.2

Jan 1, 2014, 4:34pm

Stretch, are you really reviewing pencils? That's kind of awesome. I am always looking for pencils that don't suck for my language homework (not bold enough to write in pen!).

You mentioned in the intros thread that you're looking for recommendations of women authors. Some of my favorite woman-authored books that I do not see in your library are:

-- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - a woman is born and dies, over and over again, in early 20th century Germany. Somewhat fantastical without being a fantasy novel. Beautifully written.

-- The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones - a lot of people hate this book because all of the characters are nasty, snotty upperclass British people who think only of themselves when they are forced to house victims of a train derailment. Hilarious, dark, and surreal.

-- White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi - about the odd & probably unhealthy relationship between a pair of siblings. vaguely creepy and unsettling but avoidance of straight-out-horror or shock tactics, multiple unreliable narrators, a menacing house, and a general sense of unreality while remaining completely grounded in the mundane "ordinariness" of real life.

-- The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West - about a shell-shocked WW1 vet who returns to his home and wife. Quietly shattering.

Jan 1, 2014, 6:49pm

> fannyprice, thanks for the recommendations. They all sound right up alley. I like dark elements to my books so they all sound perfect. I plan on getting to The Return of the Solider, I've had it on the Kindle for months now and with the WW1 theme in CR seems like a good time to get to it.

And yes a few pencils will make there way into the thread, mostly they'll be a few of my personal favorites.

Jan 1, 2014, 8:39pm

The currently reading six look very intriguing.

Jan 2, 2014, 7:28am

I'm excited about the pencil reviews!

Jan 2, 2014, 12:26pm

Looking forward to following your reading again this year. Do you plan to read any more Japanese novels? I remember that you liked the Yoshimura books you read last year. He's one of my favorite authors.

Edited: Jan 2, 2014, 5:24pm

> Yoshimura was definetly a stand out last year and he certainly is one of my new favorites. I still have a couple of authors left on my shelves currently and I'm certain I'll find a couple more this year to add. I haven't planned much this year so we'll see...

Jan 3, 2014, 1:08pm

You Herd Me!: I’ll Say it if Nobody Else Will by Colin Cowherd

I’m a fan of sports. A casual fan, not a fanatic that lives and breaths for their teams. Sure I love the teams I root for, but my weekend, even if it is the Superbowel, isn’t ruined if the team doesn’t come away with the victory. That is to say I want to be entertained by the athletes not live through them.

That’s probably why I enjoy listening to Colin Cowherd’s daily radio show. For Cowherd sports are business and the athletes who play them are people. Sport is not religious metaphor and the athlete’s gods. In a culture that values athletic achievement far too high, Cowherd even with bombastic Type-A personality is voice of reason in world of sports talk radio. With a common sense approach Cowherd is able to cut through all the emotion driven hysteria that is universal across the dial. It’s this same approach that Colin has brought to his first book, that’s mostly about sports, or how we should view sports and the athletes who play them.

Basically the book is a distilled version of what you get from his radio show. Normally his points are bit chopped up by the radio format and can be redundant at times. With the book Colin has the time and space to fully develop his ideas without the repetition. And even though I’ve listened to Cowherd for years and have heard him make similar points over and over again I still found myself nodding along in agreement. My one major sticking point with the book is that Cowherd uses almost exclusively modern sports and athletes to make his points. This aspect of the book will become dated fast as new and upcoming figures replace his examples. It doesn’t make what he says any less true but I think he should have relied more on his own writing talent and less on making parallels to current events.

So in summation it’s retread for regular listeners to his show, but it’s a good retread.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 2013
Pages: 304
Rating: ★★★½

Jan 4, 2014, 10:06pm

I haven't heard of him. I'll pass on the book, but keep his name in mind to look up sometime.

Jan 6, 2014, 4:22pm

Well done review Stretch. It is good to read about someone who has a level headed approach to sports journalism. All of the rah! rah! has killed some of my interest in the subject.

Jan 8, 2014, 8:53am

>Dan and Bill, I think he's mostly a West Coast Guy sense the 10am to 1pm slot for national radio is the morning rush out there. The long hours in car my job reqiures you get pretty good at spinning the dial. Besides NPR, Cowherd is the only thing I can stand for long periods of time.

Jan 8, 2014, 9:20am

Axe Cop Volume 3 by Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle

The premise for this series is pretty simple: what if a comic was written by child but drawn by an adult.

Well the result is confirmation that inside every eight year old boy is a genocidal, psychopath. Mass murder, child abuse, arrogance, gender bias, and a bit homicidal rage are the traits of the Heroes of Ethan's stories. The bad guys are mostly just stupid. And as expected from the imagination of an eight year old the stories are full of improbable plots, twist and turns, and the convenience of having the ability to create and magically wish away the problems and shortcomings as they appear in the natural arc of the storyline. Otherwise great stuff for an eight year old.

It was fun to see the world from an eight year old perspective. (As a side note: We have broken a generation of children with our recycling propaganda, in Ethan's stories there is literally a specific trash for everything. Even the heads of bad guys get a specific trash bin; clown heads in one, general thugs in another.) It was also fun to relive some of those old imaginative stories I at least made up when I played with my action figures, full of the same plot holes and improbable twists as Ethan's stories. But they get old story after story, eventually you want something that makes sense and isn't going to go sideways just because it can.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 2012
Pages: 160
Rating: ★★½

Jan 8, 2014, 9:24am

Axe Cop sounds very much like my son and his best friend playing their version of cops 'n robbers -- featuring Max Cop and Steve Wicked. There was a lot of, "ok, but then say my arm can dissolve missiles." type thing.

Jan 8, 2014, 9:39am

It is exactly like that Ridgewaygril.

Jan 8, 2014, 1:04pm

Love the idea of that book.

Jan 9, 2014, 4:47pm

Hi Stretch! Enjoying your thread already, and looking forward to more ahead. Just noticed you have Langston Hughes' The Ways of White Folks on the go. It looks like an interesting read and I've just wishlisted it.

Jan 9, 2014, 5:23pm

#17 I read that many years ago and enjoyed it.

Jan 10, 2014, 9:09am

Hey Polaris, thanks for stopping by! The Ways of White Folks is really good so far. But I have trouble reading the stereo typical southern accents and dialogue. So it's a bit slow going one to two stories a week. But Hughes writing and topics are one of a kind and it is a fascinating look into race relations from the not so distance past.

Jan 11, 2014, 9:23am

Hey there's nothing wrong with slow reading! If the stories are good - that's what matters. One or two a week sounds about like my own tempo most often - just about right to let the mood and characters really settle in your mind I reckon. Glad to hear it's really good so far, and also that Rebecca enjoyed it - has to be a good'un!

Jan 11, 2014, 10:15am

Langston Hughes's poetry and two-volume autobiography are also good.

Jan 11, 2014, 12:03pm

In a bit of synchronicity, my husband was just watching Axe Cop as part of Fox's Animation Domination. I didn't make the connection until we were in the car and he was telling me about it, and that he thought the interesting thing about it was that it was written by a child. At which point I excitedly pulled out my phone and read him your review.

Jan 11, 2014, 1:34pm

>Cabegley, that's pretty cool. The older brother alludes to the fact that some of the stories are animated, but I figured it was some internet videos. I had no idea they were on Fox. I'll have to see if i can catch that sometime to see if it translates from book to screen. What did your husband think of the show?

Jan 11, 2014, 1:49pm

Hughes essays are lovely and moving.

Jan 12, 2014, 3:18pm

Great books in progress in msg#1. I loved Thinking, Fast and Slow and hope you're enjoying it. Looking forward to your comments on In the Hands of the Great Spirit and Langston Hughes's stories.

Jan 13, 2014, 7:31am

Just stopping in, stretch, to see how the year is beginning for you. I love the combo of books you are attempting to read in post#1, a nice mix.

As for recommendations for books by women, I'd have to study your reading a bit before I jump in and recommend some. I also tend to like dark elements in some of my reading.

Jan 15, 2014, 1:02pm

It looks like I can skip Axe Cop.

I have a volume of Hughes poetry. Poetry is one of my themes this year I will have to put his book on my tbr list.

Jan 15, 2014, 3:29pm

>23 stretch: He said it had Nick Offerman, Megan Mullaley and Ken Marino, so what's not to love? He thought it was a bit silly, particularly the plot holes and twists, but he would watch it again.

Jan 15, 2014, 4:00pm

I still remember your pencil book from last year; looking forward to more this year.

Reporting Vietnam is a book I have been reading for some time (years?) with excellent writing, some published elsewhere. How are you finding it?

Since Joan Didion made your favourites from last year, can I suggest Janette Turner Hospital for this year? I see you don't have any and she should satisfy your dark requirement.

Jan 16, 2014, 9:30am


So far Reporting Vietnam is proving to be an excellent collection. I knew next to nothing about the Vietnam War going in and have learned so much about not only the battles, but the politics and general feelings about the war both at home and abroad.

Oyster by Janette Turner Hospital looks really good. Thanks for the recommendation I don't think I would have ever come across her myself.

Jan 29, 2014, 4:27pm

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

So Thinking Fast and Slow is not my typical sort of popular science. In fact if it weren't for the great reviews it got on CR and all the hype after its publication, I'd probably would've passed on this one. I'm glad I didn't, but I still found this book to be outside of my wheelhouse. There is a lot of tremendous insights into decision making and real world economic theory to be gleaned from these pages. (I have more highlights from this book than any other on my Kindle) The first two parts of the book a fascinating psychology. There is just so much to think about from these chapters alone to make a very good book. However, the latter half of part 3 when Kahneman begins to delve more into our decision making on a more economical level is where I began to think his conclusions were a bit too simple. While luck is an important factor in outcomes Kahneman's examples and evidence when put under the microscope don't really support his conclusions that blind luck is just as good or superior to experts. It was just to neat to be believed and from what I've found the relationship of randomness in our lives is profoundly more complicated. And part 4 while initially very interesting became very repetitive. I guess there is only so much you can do with abstract economic theory before it runs out of steam.

What I really respect about Thinking Fast and Slow is that Kahneman doesn't shy away from the science. The science is upfront and the story is secondary. This is something Gladwell and the like should take note of. There are no easy conclusions here, no big take away you can sell to others. Instead it is series of logical conclusions that build upon the whole to form a theory. This isn't a self improvement book disguised as science.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 2011
Pages: 512
Rating: ★★★½

Jan 29, 2014, 4:39pm

Really interesting review that Stretch. Sounds like a book well worth reading.

Jan 29, 2014, 7:24pm

Kevin, love the phrase "outside of my wheelhouse" not heard that before. I am determined to drop that into conversation at the earliest opportunity. Good review of Thinking fast and slow. There might be too much science for me to enjoy it,

Jan 30, 2014, 7:21am

^Polaris, it really is worth reading. it's got me thinking about how I react to things differently. I'm glad that branched out into the world of psychology just this once.

^Bas, wish i could tell you where the phrase originates from. Good luck casually dropping that into conversation.

Jan 30, 2014, 10:44am

I always think of it as related to boats/ships of one kind or another, which is one meaning, but I wondered about this usage too. I just looked it up (granted only on Wikipedia) and it seems in this context it might come from baseball, technically The sweet spot of a baseball player's strike zone where the most power and strength can be utilized
Wikipedia goes on to say it is an English language idiom derived from baseball jargon meaning area of knowledge.

I guess it's sort of like "outside my bailiwick"

Jan 30, 2014, 10:52am

Huh, I have thought it being boat and/or ship related too, no proof of that mind you. I have heard of wheelhouse in baseball terms but never thought of it that way before. I didn't know that Wikipedia even collected idioms, now I'll have much searching to do in the near future.

Edited: Apr 10, 2016, 1:24pm

For the first Pencil Review I'm going to go with one my favorites:

Forest Choice #2 graphite pencil

Wood: Incense-cedar; Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified
Core: HB (#2) graphite
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Unfinished cedar, sanded extremely smoothly, no varnish or lacquer
Ferrule: Solid green metal, thin paint
Eraser: Soft pink, non-smudge
Markings: Dark green gloss. On one side, the FSC insignia and “ForestChoice” Logo. On the flip side, “”
Origin: California (wood); Thailand (manufacturing)

I'm hesitant to review these right off the bat since like so many of the more premium wood case pencils these days. These can only be found online. But these are always at the top of my list of favorites.

The first noticeable advantage of this pencil is that it is a sensory extravagancy of a prefect tool. This is a strikingly beautiful pencil. The natural grain color of cedar untouched by varnish or lacquer with the dark green ferule and imprint is an inspired choice. Looking at this pencil on a desk or in a notebook causes me too long for something profound to write; because something this beautiful shouldn’t be wasted writing to do lists. The feel of this pencil matches perfectly with its looks. The slightly rounded hexagonal edges and utterly smooth sanding make it the perfect choice for those long stretches of writing this pencil begs for. Finally, the smell of this pencil is well wonderful. It’s the cheapest cedar closest I know of.

The looks of a pencil are one thing, but what really separates this from the rest is its performance. The graphite core is as smooth writing as its sanded body. The line this pencil makes is dark and bold, similar to a 1B lead, you’d think the core was devoid of clay with how smooth and dark the lines it produces. Somehow Forest Choice has achieved this with a wax HB core as dark as some of those real cheap box office store brands without the smudge factor. A remarkable feat considering that this pencil isn’t much more than those brands and will last so much longer.

The eraser is a standard soft pink rubber, that does a decent job of taking the dark lines off the paper. If you are a forceful writing like me it won’t take the line away completely, but then again neither will a Hi-polymer eraser. Overall the eraser is a good match for the pencil and only adds to the aesthetics.

Sharpening is a breeze, of course, since the cedar has a long and straight grain. And the shavings exude that subtle cedar fragrance. Of course I use a Burr sharpener (like the ones attached to school walls) but the pencil itself after being newly sharpened has the same fresh cedar fragrance.

From the people who manufacture the high end Palomino brand and the revamped Blackwing 602 this more modestly priced choice ($2.95 for 12 + shipping and handling) is a nearly perfect pencil.

Jan 30, 2014, 12:52pm

Hi Stretch - getting caught up here. Looking forward to more of your thread this year.

Jan 30, 2014, 3:06pm

Would it be inaccurate to call the above review "pencil porn"? And now I'm surfing sites with names like

Jan 30, 2014, 3:35pm

>Nice to see you here Merrikay. I once lived near Folsom.

>I don't know if it's a accurate term, but it certainly felt like it when I was writing that review. is owned by manfacture of the Palmino/Blackwing brands, California Republic is somewhat independent of the others but I think they are tied slosely with the others. the site has the best "prices" fr these particular pencils, not sure if there shipping is priced the best though. Been a while since I needed to buy a set from them. I wiash more stores carried quality pencils these days but alais woodcase pencils is a niche market.

Jan 30, 2014, 3:52pm

40 Well depending upon how long it's been, you wouldn,t recognize it now. Course thats probably true for most places. We just moved into Folsom from Rescue about a year ago. Small world.

Jan 30, 2014, 5:19pm

Fantastic review of the Forest Choice #2 graphite pencil Stretch. I love it. I use a pencil pretty much all day and every day, outdoors and indoors, and I want one of these pencils. Do you think I'll find a supplier in the UK?

Can't wait to sharpen one and smell the Calocedrus sp.

Jan 30, 2014, 6:11pm

Interesting pencil review, and very "sexy" picture.

This was refreshing to see after having students asking me if I had a pencil to borrow. As a substitute who is now 15 years loyal to her Pentel mechanical pencil, I did not. Don't ask me how they make it to 2pm in the afternoon in a school without a pencil with them. Or how the pencils they do have end up as mangled as they are.

Jan 30, 2014, 7:48pm

>31 stretch:, Enjoyed your review of Thinking Fast and Slow. I've had it on my Kindle for too long now. I mean to read it this year.

>37 stretch:, And what a great pencil review. Pencil porn for sure. I feel happier just having read about this pencil.

Edited: Jan 30, 2014, 8:04pm

>Polaris, unfortunately the only place I know you can purchase these from is, the shipping to the UK makes them a little over a dollar apiece, unless you buy a gross. They do have dealers worldwide with the Palomino brand but I don't know of a boutique shop for the UK. But I'll ask around see if they got something more local. I'm jealous you get to use a pencil at work. We have to write with pens for the off chance we end up in court, but a pencil would be so much more practical.

>Lillisin, I would draw the line there. How could you be without a pencil they are so ubiquitous, no excuses. At least the Pentel is a respectable mechanical. They always had such a sleek look to them. I write much to hard and make too mistakes for effective usage.

>fanny, I hope you like Thinking Fast and Slow. And thanks pencils make me happy too.

At some point I'm going to figure out how to put writing samples online and my own pictures to get a true sense of the line darkness.

Jan 30, 2014, 8:12pm

My husband is a music librarian and uses pencils a lot for his work and has just begun to get interested in finding the perfect pencil. I think he now sees a use for all the time I spend on LT as he's very interested in your pencil reviews! He has one Japanese pencil that he loves but he can't get more since it was a gift. Hopefully your reviews will lead him to one he loves!

Edited: Dec 11, 2014, 12:19pm

>Japaul glad to hear about yet another pencil enthusiast lurking out there.

So I wasn't really expecting this whole pencil review thing to take off, my initial intent was to unofficially catalog my current pencil collection. But since it has taken a turn in a different direction I'm going to full in. I have purchased pencils that are cheap and found in better much every box store on the planet to premium top of the line pencils, and I've gone worldwide.

First is the criteria, the pencil must be woodcase, hexagonal, and it must have an attached eraser. Otherwise its just a light gray pen that can be rubbed out. I also prefer pencils that are under $1.00 a piece, I occasionally gift the world at large one of my prized pencils and i personally don't feel bummed out by that happy accident. Other than that I am somewhat partial to American graphite/wood supplied pencils. I think we have the best graphite, clay, and timber in the world this is a personal and biased belief of course.

Pencils to be Reviewed:

1.Forest Choice HB
2. General's Layout
3. General's Semi-hex
4. The Mongol 482
5. Dixon Trconderoga black
6. The last production made American Ticonderoga
7. Palomino Blackwing
8. Palomino Blackwing 602
9. Palomino Golden Bear
10. Palomino Orignal
11. Palomino Prospector
12. Tombow 2558
13. Uni Mitsubishi 9850
14. Papermate Mirado
15. Write Dude's USA Gold
16. Staedtler Norica
17. Helix Oxford
18. Calepino No. 2
19. General's Cedar Pointe
20. Staedtler Full HB
21. Staedtler Wopex
22. General's Cedar Pointe
23. Lee Valley
24. Chung HWA 615
25. Staedtler Noris school pencil
26. General's Test 580
27. Musgrave Test Scoring 100

Jan 31, 2014, 11:10am

I'm used to getting drawn to books on this site, but, dammit, now I want a pencil!

I have a set of Staedtler Mars Lumograph bought in an art store here. Is that rare? ;)

From my very limited experience, American colour pencils are the best, rich and smooth, almost creamy.

Jan 31, 2014, 11:55am

General's Layout Pencil is my personal favorite, although not always easy to find. I'm looking forward to your review.

Jan 31, 2014, 2:38pm

There's a book deal here Stretch surely, just look at the interest among us....

Will check out over the weekend!

Jan 31, 2014, 3:47pm

I just ordered the Forest Choice pencils from Amazon--I couldn't resist that review!

Jan 31, 2014, 7:00pm

Kevin's passion for pencils is infectious.

Jan 31, 2014, 7:03pm

stretch, do you have a recommendation for a portable pencil sharpener? I want to buy some of the forest choice pencils for my Arabic study, but I need a sharpener that I can take with me on the go.

Edited: Apr 14, 2016, 11:53am

>Lola, the drawing pencils are actually fairly common here, but Staedtler's writing brands are much harder to find. I like the Mars pencils but now I use HB's and 1B's for all my drawing needs (pretty basic line drawings).

>Ridgewaygril, the General's layout pretty much violates all my rules but I love it so much that I don't care. I can only find them in Hobby Lobby's and Micheal's Art supplies stores.

>Polaris, or at least a commission.

>Cabegley, fabulous new"s I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

>Bas, I like to think of it as pleasant rash.

>Fanny, depends really on the kind of point you like and what you mean by portable. The stuff you find down most office supply isles and big box stores is pretty much junk. They use cheap blades and plastic parts that just don't last. And electric just eat pencils.

Handhelds: hands down Kum brand sharpeners are the best. Germany made with very sharp blades. All metal components for the actual sharpener. Kum sells replacement blades separately which makes the investment in their sharpeners a better value than most.

A simple brass wedge is good for short stubby needle points. No container for shavings though.

The other handheld sharpener is the Kum automatic long-point sharpener. This is a two step sharpener that creates a medium sized needle point. Does have a container for the shavings. I have one of these, I like the extra length myself. Typically its orange.

Another sharpener I own is the Alvin Brass Bullet. Pretty similar to the Kum simple wedge. Kum blades actually fit this one as well.

Desktop: If you are looking at a little more space and want a burr sharpener. There's only one modern go to.

The Classroom Friendly Sharpener is singled burr, hand crank, automatic stop, pinch holder (this is what allows you to hold the sharpener in place while the crank is turned), and is self contained. Produces a long but blunt point that crumbles less than the needle points. The pinch holder does leave small indentations on the pencil. This happens to be my go to sharpener of choice.

Jan 31, 2014, 10:43pm

Awesome, thank you.

Feb 2, 2014, 3:06pm

Admittedly, the pencils don't interest me that much, even if your review was fun (and terrific). But pencil sharpeners are a different matter. I hate them - but the ones you list provide a window of hope for my pencil sharpening future. I may just look up the Classroom Friendly Sharpener.

I appreciated your review of thinking fast and slow. I requested it as an audio book, but the library only gave me two weeks, and I had other things lined up. So, maybe in the future. But, actually, what I really wanted to say is thanks for adding this line: " This isn't a self improvement book disguised as science.

Also - your review belongs on the book page.

Feb 2, 2014, 4:43pm

Kevin I loved Thinking, Fast and Slow and am glad you enjoyed parts. (Dan, I listened on audio; I think printed would be better, but then again it would probably still be in my TBRs.)

--Unfinished cedar, sanded extremely smoothly, no varnish or lacquer
--the smell of this pencil is well wonderful. It’s the cheapest cedar closest I know of
--the shavings exude that subtle cedar fragrance

I've long splurged a bit on pencils, but thanks to you I've started a pencil wishlist!

Feb 2, 2014, 6:54pm

>Dan, thanks for the compliments. I'll add the review to the book page. Funny rules about reviews still gets in the way.

Did a more formal review of the classroom friendly sharpener last year here with an picture of the different points here.

>MJ, at this point my future estate will be mostly pencils. I keep telling myself I'll never see the bottom of the box again yet I keep buying more and more. I have problem...

Feb 3, 2014, 11:47am

lol at your future estate!

Feb 4, 2014, 11:04am

Pen nerd here. Uni-ball Signo gel pens my favourite. I hadn't even considered pencils before... will have to find a good stationer's.

Feb 5, 2014, 11:04am

#54 I am favoriting this post about pencil sharpeners. I remember fondly the one we had when I was a child, mounted in the kitchen. It looked sort of like this:

Feb 5, 2014, 12:16pm

We had one of those in our laundry room. I think it may still be there!

Feb 6, 2014, 12:54pm

>61 rebeccanyc:. The bane of teachers everywhere.

Feb 6, 2014, 12:56pm

Reporting Vietnam, Part 1: American Journalism, 1959-1969

Library of America has put together a unique collection of newspaper and magazine articles from some the most prominent writers and journalists from the Vietnam era; detailing America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Part 1 covers everything from the first deaths of American advisors in 1959 to the growing protest movement of 1969. Included in this collection is everything from detached and dispassionate pieces on policy to gut wrenching firsthand accounts of battles and protests. Laid out in chronological order, this collection is the history of the Vietnam War’s first ten years, at least from the American perspective.

Prior to this book I really didn’t know much about the Vietnam War. For instances, I didn’t realize the complexity of the politics, tactics, and the Vietnamese culture was so obvious to so many of these authors. It seems naïve now, but I thought much of these details were only reveled to us through the lens of history. Granted this collection is very pessimistic or anti-war. There’s not must of a hawkish point-of-view presented within its pages. Which is a fault, my parents remember the public debate be much richer than what is presented in this collection. It’s hard to gauge whether this is an actual accounting of the history without the propaganda or if this is the whitewashed less complicated version. It would have been nice to be presented with both views, so that a reader like me could get a more balanced view of the time. Not that a single coherent thread is a bad thing. It’s just nice to have a few more counterpoints sprinkled throughout the collection for a more nuanced view of history. The advantage though of a single minded approach makes for a coherent thread and an understandable timeline for a novice.

This collection is informative, sad, and tragic. There’s no light reading, it’s all pretty rough and will leave you ragged by it all. But it’s worth it. It’s worth understanding the sheer stupidity of war, it’s worth understanding the motivations of those that serve, it’s worth understanding the social and political turmoil of the era, and it’s worth understanding the complexity of the decisions faced by the people that come before us. Vietnam was an important time for the America for so many reasons.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 2013
Pages: 858
Rating: ★★★★★

Feb 6, 2014, 2:31pm

Very interesting. The Vietnam war had a wrenching impact on my generation, and I read a lot of what was written at the time. Not sure I'm up for revisiting it, though, so it was good to read your review. I tend to forget that for younger people it's history.

Feb 7, 2014, 9:27am

Excellent review of Reporting Vietnam, Kevin. Later this month I hope to attend a talk by Nick Turse on his book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Despite being from the Vietnam generation, I feel that there is still much to learn from this time.

Feb 7, 2014, 12:21pm

>Rebecca, for me Vietnam, even with my father serving there, is all a bit vague. I guess for my generation the war isn't real in any sense like it is for those that lived through it. And with what seems like a general reluctance to talk about it, it almost seems lost.

>Linda, that book is on my list of possibles after I get through LOA's part two.

Feb 7, 2014, 12:22pm

64 Great review Stretch.
66 Kill anything also sounds interesting. Let us know how the talk goes.

Feb 7, 2014, 1:39pm

Good review of reporting Vietnam. I am interested because contempory reporting does not always present a true picture of what was happening.

Feb 9, 2014, 11:01am

Enjoyed your thoughts on Reporting Vietnam, the only review on the book page.

Feb 12, 2014, 9:31pm

I was 10 in 1959 and grew up with the Vietnam war. You have a good point about the book only presenting one point of view. I remember reading a good amount of pro-war literature at the time. I guess the editors surrendered to the present day politically correct point of view. Thanks for a very good review. Another volume for my tbr list.

Edited: Feb 12, 2014, 9:55pm

For some reason I find the Vietnam War really fascinating so I really enjoyed reading your review. I've really enjoyed reading the books by Tim O'Brien that show the American point of view on soldiers in the war. And recently I just read Takeshi Kaiko's Into a Black Sun which is the Vietnam War in the perspective of a neutral Japanese correspondent, and I found the point of view really interesting.

Funny we both choose to read books about the Vietnam War considering this year is the year for reading about WWI.

Feb 13, 2014, 7:17am

>64 stretch: That is an interesting review of Reporting Vietnam. That war was so divisive. My family were very anti-war. My father had been a medic during WWII and felt "there is no way my sons are going to that war". I really think that my parents would have been ready to send my brothers to Canada. Fortunately, neither had to go, so they were able to get on with their lives and attended college instead. I was married in the middle of the 60's and my husband was excused because we had a child. His father was on the other side of the "should we or shouldn't we" camp, and we had some very heated discussions about the war, and about whether we should or shouldn't have been there. Many years later, I remember him coming to me and saying something to the effect of "it looks like you guys may have been right". I am now married to a man who signed up to go to Vietnam right after he graduated from high school. He doesn't talk very much about it. He still believes he did the right thing. One thing I think most people agree on is that the servicemen were treated terribly after they came home.

Feb 16, 2014, 6:03pm

For two fictional perspectives on the Vietnam war, one US and one Vietnamese (the American war to them), I highly recommend Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes and The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh.

Feb 16, 2014, 8:27pm

Thanks everyone! Sorry for the late/short reply. Just got back from a little emergency surgery.

>Bill, I can understand why LOA went so one sided with this edition. Presenting both sides of the picture in one volume for the early parts of the war would have rendered it a confusing mess. They made a choice to side with a majority view from today's (1998) vantage point. I would have liked inclusions of more pieces from the pro side of the war if for nothing else robustness sake. Still not a LOA edition I would pass up.

>lilisin, had Into the Blacksun on a wishlist some time ago but back then I couldn't even get a used copy on amazon. Your review and the perspective really make me want to get a hold of this one. It's funny the timing of the Vietnam war read for me sense I just grabbed it off the self out of the blue and now I just want to keep on going.

>Nana, my father avoided the draft for the very same reason (two kids) at the time. But I had two uncles volunteer for the service during the war. My family wasn't pro- or anti-war at the time. They were to busy being worried for politics. Both my uncles are reluctant to talk much about their time there, but I get from them they were mostly confused about the reason why we were there. They weren't exactly pro-war when they came back, but they were and still are proud of the service.

>Rebecca, Matterhorn has been in the wishlist for ages I think its about time to move it up. I hadn't heard of The Sorrow of War before but it sounds fantastic. Immediate wishlist thanks.

Feb 17, 2014, 7:46am

I only read The Sorrow of War last year, Kevin, and only discovered it because of the Reading Globally theme read on Southeast Asia. But it was great.

Hope you are OK after the emergency surgery.

Feb 17, 2014, 7:09pm

Great Geological Controversies by A. Hallam

Science when practiced correctly is not a stagnate thought process. Ideas are debated, the pros and cons weighed, and good theories become mainstream. Arguments for and against theories are often intense, often heated, and can be dragged out for years. Eventually the stronger theory wins out and becomes mainstream until a new group of brash scientist strike out on new set of theories that better explains the data; and the cycle begins again. The history of geology is no exception.

There have been many groundbreaking debates throughout the history of geology,the origin of igneous rocks, the method of deposition of sedimentary rocks/fossils, the age of the earth, and most recently whether the continents shift about the surface of the earth. All these debates have had huge ramification for the science, and some are still being debated today albeit with bit less heat.

Geologic Controversies is a detailed account of the debates that have shaped the earliest days of the geological sciences to the modern incarnation of the science. Hallam's accounts of the lively debates is very through and academic. It's written to be informative and not entertaining. This can get a bit dull and doesn't put much life into that the subject matter deserves. I really hope one day an author with more of a mainstream approach can punch some life into these arguments as they waxed and waned there way to final acceptance. Right now I would only recommend this book to the hardcore geology history geek. There were times even I wished Hallam would just get to the point and skip some of the detail.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 1989
Pages: 244
Rating: ★★½

Edited: Feb 17, 2014, 7:25pm

How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees

My love of the wood case pencil is well known here within CR. And 100% agree with Rees that the sharpening of a pencil is both a craft and an art to a degree. There is much to be learned from Rees study ship of the subject, especially for the novice. I found the chapter on hand carving to be invaluable, and that my technique could use some sharpening. And throughout the book Rees has sprinkled some ideas for new and bold sharpeners I haven't really put much thought into. And the appendices of the book has lead to some great further reading on-line. There is just so much that I loved about this book, that I'm a little torn about Rees tone. There are times when I struggle with Rees' sincerity. On some points he is so serious that it strains even my sensibilities on the subject matter. And then without skipping a beat he moves into absolute silliness that the tone and what's being conveyed just don't belong together. Pencils are a serious tool, but we don't have to take them so damn seriously to make a point. It is still a great addition to any pencil enthusiast library, but come on Rees lighten up just a little.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 2013
Pages: 224
Rating: ★★★½

Edited: Apr 10, 2016, 1:21pm

Mongol 482 #1

Wood: Incense-cedar
Core: HB to B (#1) graphite
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Distinct yellow lacquer
Ferrule: Brass with a painted black top and bottom
Eraser: Soft cherry pink, non-smudge
Markings: Black gloss. On one side, the Eberhard Faber EF insignia and “Mongol 482” Logo.
Origin: Manufactured in the Philippines or Venezuela depending on batch.

This one is a nostalgic favorite. My very first pencil was a Mongol 482 made in the USA, that was giving to me by father. They had long ceased manufacturing operations in America before I had a chance to test these out of the box. Pencil collecting is an inherited disease. I no longer have that first pencil, but thankfully it has been revamped in somewhat lesser form.

The Mongol 482 wasn't just the flagship of Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, it was the standard. When it comes to the woodclinched pencil world, the Mongol is like the BC/AD divide in history (BM/AM in this case). Have you ever wondered why pencils are yellow? It was because the Mongol was yellow. Sure the legendary Koh-I-Nor premium pencils were truly the first yellow pencil ever sold (no ferrule, erasers and sold at $0.75 in the late 1800's relegated these to dustbin of history), but the Mongol popularized the ubiquitous color in the U.S. Believe it or not this is the most popular pencil ever sold. With its distinct yellow paint,black and gold ferrule, and cherry red eraser it's no wonder that teachers once required students buy only this pencil for their classes, no other inferior brand was allowed. And yet sadly the Mongol wasn't able to keep the Eberhard Faber company afloat. Today the Mongol is only manufactured in the Philippines and Venezuela by off brand companies, and yet it still retains the original formula that made it a iconic pencil.

The black and gold ferule in combination with the bold yellow color is something beautiful to my eyes at least.

I know I'm cheating, the pencil I'm reviewing is #1 and not a #2. Normally that would indicate a B type lead but since pencil grading isn't standard across the globe here this #1 writes more like an HB to B pencil then a straight up 1B lead. Because of its place of manufacture the core and clay used is not that of the original. It still leaves a solid dark line, but is just a touch scratchy. The scratch isn't bad but you do certainly feel some feedback.

The eraser is a dyed red pink rubber, that does a decent job of taking the dark lines off the paper. Nothings perfect and this eraser crumbles a bit more then a standard pink eraser. This is due to the dye. Some say the cherry red of this eraser is much too red and the original was more pink, but I think those folks were color blind. This eraser is exactly the same red as before.

Being made of incensed cedar, sharpening is no problem. With a thick lacquer the fragrance is less pronounced, but still pleasant.

I loved my original Mogol 482, and I love these modern versions. Are they as good as the originals? Probably not, but then again the originals are probably not as good as we remember them.

*As a side note to the Mongol, if you watch shows/movies closely enough Hollywood sets are split 50/50 between the Mongol and the Dixon Ticonderoga. Even the cover of Thinking Fast and Slow features a Mongol.

Feb 18, 2014, 11:41am

stretch, while I am often consumed by props and backgrounds in movies, I don't think I have ever thought about the pencils. Now I have something else to look for!

Just the sound of Incense-cedar is wonderful. Do you know why some erasers dry out more quickly than others?

Feb 18, 2014, 1:45pm

>Hey Sassy, ingredients for the basic eraser are as diverse as the clays and adhesives in the core. Pink erasers are made primarily out of synthetic rubber and a mix of powder additives that either increase or decrease the abrasiveness. Some like the Mongol use a dye to get a distinct color. Other erasers are made of latex and vinyl, these are typically white. Really soft art erasers are made from a natural gum, typically brown or gray colors. Really cheap and gimmicky erasers are made of synthetic gum or plastic that usually is sub par when compared to the above, rainbow colors for these puppies.

A majority of pencils use a basic pink eraser. What seperates them is the manufactures unique formula of additives. Straight synthetic rubber will dry out very quickly but is very effective as an eraser. So a good pencil has to strike a balance between moisture and abrasivness. Some use fewer additives for a hard eraser but drys out, others go to the other extreme and have erasers that literally crumbles at the touch. And obviously there's a large range in between.

The more premium pencils use the latex vinyl erasers that can last for years without drying out and leave behind less dust.

The really cheap office store brands are almost pure rubber or use alcohol as a short term preservative. These dry out the fastest.

Feb 18, 2014, 2:53pm

Nice review of How to Sharpen Pencils, and enjoyed very much your thoughts on the Mongol. I'm very tempted to wishlist the former. As I always use a pencil outdoors when making site notes, I often end up sharpening mine with a knife. Can you convey just a tiny part of the essence of how Rees recommends hand carving?

As for noticing stuff in film and TV show sets that you're not meant to: For years now I can never watch a programme or film without noticing (or probably commenting to my suffering partner) whatever trees are in the background or in the scenery. I like it if I can spot historically accurate (i.e. 'traditional') forestry or pruning techniques in a period piece. Or on the other hand when I can spy modern tree surgery work done to trees in the background street or park scene of say a Dickens or Bronte drama.

I'll be keeping an eye out for the penware (?) now in my favourite shows as well. What do they supply the Mad Men of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce I wonder?

Feb 18, 2014, 2:54pm

Ah, you made me want to pick up a pencil! I haven't done that in ages, I use my iPad for writing and drawing now. But I have all these unused notebooks piled up somewhere, and I do miss them sometimes.

Feb 18, 2014, 3:42pm

>Polaris, the basics of sharpening with a knife is to use the knife to cut and shape the wood slowly back from the core. The idea is to leave the core exposed as cylinder to be shaped in your preference with a small piece of coarse grit sandpaper or piece of scrap paper. I've always used the knife to sharpen both wood and lead at the same time with mixed results. I can see the merits of Rees basic concept.

I don't know about pens in Madmen, but as for pencils I've seen the copy writers/artist use original Blackwing 602s and Musgrave marking pencils (red). They copy pencil looks like an EF Van dyke, but its hard to tell. Colored and copy pencils all look similar to me. I've never seen them use a layout pencil which is werid considering the profession. All the pencils used in the show are period accurate. I get upset when they don't riflect the times accurately. I wish set folks cared enough about geology for me to even begin noticing when its wrong.

>Florence, always happy to influence the use of the pencil. To me tech just isn't as satisfying as paper and pen.

Feb 27, 2014, 7:03pm

Thanks Stretch! Must get me some sandpaper for the car...

Great observations on the Mad Men pencils as well. I'll be keeping an eye out for them all!

Mar 1, 2014, 5:07pm

>79 stretch: Fabulous!

>78 stretch: There are times when I struggle with Rees' sincerity. On some points he is so serious that it strains even my sensibilities on the subject matter. And then without skipping a beat he moves into absolute silliness that the tone and what's being conveyed just don't belong together.
I agree; I thought How to Sharpen Pencils both satire and serious, the two almost in equal amount but never mixed. It's the silly chapters that strained credibility for me.

(Huh just noticed via the Preview function that LT now pulls the poster's name when you reference a post#. A good little upgrade.)

Mar 3, 2014, 10:05am

>86 detailmuse: Thanks MJ. For some reason I'm really enjoying the revieiwng procss for pencils, it's more enjoyable then I thought.

(This reply feature is actually quite cool.)

Mar 3, 2014, 10:41am

Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega by Gabriel Rodriguez and Joe hill

Alpha & Omega is the last installment if the outstanding Locke & Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez. The series as a whole is great; solid writing and beautiful artwork to match. For imaginative horror graphic novel, this series is easily one of the most creative and fun of the bunch. It’s not high end literature but it’s very entertaining and not a bad way to waste half an hour. I’m sad that Alpha & Omega ends such a great run. It certainly went with a bang. A little too tidy of ending but it can be forgiven in comparison with the rest of the series. Now I have to find a new way to waste my time once a year for approximately half an hour. Thanks Joe Hill!

Origin: USA
Date published: 2014
Pages: 212
Rating: ★★★★

Mar 10, 2014, 8:33pm

Kevin, I am loving the pencil reviews! (oh, and the portable pencil sharpeners!) Enjoyed the review of Thinking Fast and Slow also.

Mar 15, 2014, 6:52pm

Man I've been away for a while. I've missed so much this year. Club Read is moving so fast lately good to see.

>89 avaland: Thanks Lois.

Actually it has been a big week on the pencil front the past couple of weeks. A new sharpener that has replaced the Classroom Friendly sharpener I'll have to review. I've added more international pencils from German, UK, and French brands that have manage to cause a major reshuffling of the pencil ranks. And in big news there is a new pencil podcast done by some of the best pencil bloggers out there. Erasable. Total nerdfest for me this month.

An important fact that I left out from review of the Forest Choice is that ferule and eraser are made from recycled materials, so for the sustainable minded the pencil is 95% sustainable in terms of material.

Edited: Mar 15, 2014, 7:37pm

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

The internment of Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American citizens during World War II is a disturbing chapter in American History, that doesn't receive much attention. Thousands of ethnic Japanese citizens and families were stripped of their freedom, homes, businesses, and sense of security overnight. Limited to what they could carry in a single suitcase, they were ushered from homes to temporary living facilities in horse stalls to their final destinations, tent cities in the harsh, remote desert regions of our country. If that wasn't shameful enough the government forced everyone to take loyalty tests, which if answered honestly could result in separation or deportation. They lost everything they had built before the war and during the war they lost their dignity. For their trouble each person was given a train ticket home and $25.00 (the same package given to convicted felons upon release) with which to start their lives over again. And yet their really isn't much written about this period.

When the Emperor was Divine is the story of one family as they struggle to prepare, adjust to live within the camp, and come home from a internment camp in the Utah desert. The story is told from the perspective of members of the family in alternating chapters. The first chapter is told from the mother's point of view as they are forced to prepare for the evacuation. The fear of the unknown and the struggle to maintain their pride is palpable. The second chapter is told by the daughter as they travel to their new home, and dealing with their loss sense of identity. The third chapter is from the young son's perspective as they adjust and learn to live within the camp. The final chapter is told from either a more mature son's perspective or a combination of both the boy and girls voices telling of a once proud father, who is now just a broken paranoid shell and a family struggling to put their life together in a world they are now very unfamiliar to the world they left.

Each chapter is unique and distinct. Normally a story told like this can be choppy, but here they flow together with no harsh transitions. This book is unrelentingly depressing and dark. The family makes the best of their situation, but they are clearly broken and they are never too far from crumbling under the stress. The only thing holding them together are their bonds. Hope is in short supply.

The only real problem with this book is that it is far too short. The four chapters only cover the first few months of the war and the aftermath for this one family. It's not enough to explore the entirity of the effects of forced relocation on the family. This book calls for a much more in depth exploration of internment. But really this is only a minor defect of a well written book, that I'm glad I was able to snipe off the wishlist.

Source: USA
Date Published: 2002
Pages: 160
Rating: ★★★★½

Mar 15, 2014, 7:56pm

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Steven Dunbar

Since this seems to be such a wildly popular book I really don't have much to add to the discussion. It's hard to imagine that economics could ever be considered popular in a public market place. Levitt and Dunbar have accomplished something wonderful. They have gotten people to read and enjoy an economics book. Granted it's not the typical economics texts you find in say an economics department, but the principle is the same. And they managed to not dumb down the hard to understand data and facts that led to their conclusions. This isn't the sort of fluffy pop-science used to sell books. There is something to be learned here and has the power to alter biased thinking and shatter previously held truths. I quite enjoyed this read even if most of the same information can be gleaned from the excellently produce documentary of the same name.

Source: USA
Date Published: 2009
Pages: 315
Rating: ★★★★

Mar 16, 2014, 9:36pm

Really enjoyed your review of When the Emperor Was Divine. I've also heard great things about The Buddha in the Attic by the same author.

Mar 17, 2014, 9:59am

The Buddha in the Attic looks very interesting I hope to get it someday. I think it may actually be a better choice sense it looks a bit more involved than When the Emperor was Divine

Edited: Apr 10, 2016, 12:56pm

,u>The Dixon Ticonderoga and the Dixon Ticonderoga Black


Wood: Incense-cedar
Core: HB graphite
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Bright Ticonderoga yellow lacquer
Ferrule: Green aluminum with two yellow painted bands
Eraser: Soft Pink, non-smudge
Markings: Green Foil. Dixon Ticonderoga and grade with a 2 in a small diamond
Origin: Mexico and China


Wood: Incense-cedar
Core: HB graphite
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Black laquer
Ferrule: Green aluminum with two yellow painted bands
Eraser: Soft rubber dyed black, non-smudge
Markings: Sliver Foil. Dixon Ticonderoga with the word black and the grade with a 2 in a small diamond
Origin: China and Mexico

Another hugely iconic pencil in America is the Dixon Ticonderoga. The distinct yellow barrel, topped with a green ferrule with its two yellow horizontal bands, and pink eraser are instantly recognizable the world over. I wanted one of these so badly as a kid. I mean I loved the Mongols and Independents, but a Dixon was the Cadillac ® of No. 2’s. At least that was my Impression. Sadly these pencils are no longer American made and have lost much of their iconic status.

The move of operations to China and Mexico has been a bit of a mix blessing for Dixon. There has been an explosion in their product line: triangular pencils, jumbo sized beginner pencils, pencils with rounded barrels, and some new and exotic finishes. However, the fit-and-finish and graphite cores have suffered as of late. It’s impossible to view their new product lines without revisiting the old.

First the last American made Ticonderoga model 1388-22 HB. This pencil is a Dixon classic, yellow barreled, green foiled pencil of greatness. The lead is nice and dark with just the right amount of grit. Topped by what I think is finest pink eraser ever made. The eraser is somehow both soft and gritty enough to remove just about anything laid down. For a standard HB pencil used by mostly students, it really was a fine specimen.

Now the new Ticonderoga’s. These pencils come in two finishes, one in the classic yellow with a pink eraser and one in black and silver with a black eraser. The iconic markings have been simplified to just the name of the pencil and its grade. Personally I think they lost what made them special with the new design. Having the country of origin and the model number printed alongside the brand gave it the certain something that made it an object of desire. Both the black and pink erasers are as good as the original even if they are bit harder than the originals. The real disappointment comes from the core itself. The clay and graphite are locally sourced, resulting in a scratchy light gray leads that are nowhere near as dark as the originals. Also, what’s troubling is that pencils made in China not only have a better quality lead than Mexico, they also seems to be a large discrepancy in the quality control. For some time pencil form Mexico had glued ferrules instead of being crimped to the barrel. This has for the most part been fixed but there are still reports that the many leads are still off center and that the lacquer is still thinner than their China counterparts. The differences in quality make it difficult for the consumer and only hurt the Dixon brand.

Sold just about everywhere you can buy a pencil, they are still in a strong position to dominate the market. Yes they have fallen some, but with the increased diversification it is hard to come too negatively Dixon’s move to relocate its manufacturing process outside of America. Just stay away from the made in Mexico ones until they get the quality issues sorted out.

Edited: Apr 10, 2016, 12:49pm

Papermate Mirado

Wood: Cedar
Core: HB graphite
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Yellow-orange finish with gold foil
Ferrule: Brass colored with a single horizontal red band
Eraser: Hard Pink, not useful in anyway
Markings: Gold Foil. Papermate Mirado Classic with a strange grading system near the top that is largely meaningless
Origin: Mexico

I’m going to be blunt about this pencil. These pencils are pretty much crap. And as far as I can remember these have always been crap. They can be found in gas stations in packs of two. Sometimes the lead is very dark and smooth, but more likely than not it’s so faint you might as well as be writing with a dried up pen. The eraser is so hard its more likely to smudge your line off the page than to actually erase it. It often leaves a pink smear behind where you tried in vain to erase a line and if you not careful you tear right through the page. For me there isn’t much redeemable about this pencil, except maybe it would make good kindling.

Some people swear by the Mirado Black Warrior as one of the best pencils made today. I don’t know what they are talking about. A Mirado isn’t even something I would use in a pinch. I’d grab a pen before I’d write with one of these monstrosities.

An interesting note about this pencil: When it was made by the Eagle Pencil Co. its original name was the Mikado until WWII when the company thought it better not to sell a pencil with a Japanese name.

Mar 17, 2014, 11:54am

>96 stretch:, "They can be found in gas stations in packs of two." - Best put-down ever.

Mar 17, 2014, 12:06pm

Just what I don't need, another mania, chasing vintage pencils now. :)

(Un)fortunately, pencils don't get better with age, rather the opposite, no?

I'm on the lookout for a vintage Scrabble game made in the USA.

I was shocked recently to discover that the new Monopoly tokens don't have the same size, heft and detail as the ones in my 40 year old (American made) set. I know how much the shoe weighs and the new ones do not weigh the same. Not only that, the property cards, Community Chest, even the money, are different--smaller, different shape etc.

Of all the portents of a great civilization passing, these are some of the worst.

Mar 17, 2014, 12:24pm

>91 stretch: I enjoyed your review of When the Emperor Was Divine. This program proved that any government action can be approved in the name of national security.

Edited: Mar 17, 2014, 12:32pm

>97 fannyprice: Somehow being able to purchase them at gas station perfectly sums up all the qualities of this pencil.

>98 LolaWalser: pencils don't get better with age, rather the opposite, no?

Sadly, most people don't care for pencils enough to preserve them through the ages. Occasionally you can find a proper box of vintage pencils with functioning erasers.

That being said I think the pencils coming out today are actually just as nice or better than most of pencils from back in the day. Sure there are fewer manufactures today and they are harder to buy, but the leads and clay mixtures have been perfected and the lumber today is not only harvested in sustainable way but incense-cedar and basswood are just better than the older woods used in the past.

My dad recently replaced our old monopoly game we knew the pieces were different but there was something else off. I had no idea that cards and the money were a different size and shape. Enlightened.

>99 wildbill: Yes, and I find that wildly depressing.

Edited: Apr 21, 2015, 7:04am

Carl CP-80 Sharpener

This is a crank sharpener like much like the Classroom Friendly Sharpener. It produces Pencil points are very long points with a flat tip. From my eye the point may have a bit sharper point that many prefer. It also has an automatic feeder mechanism allows you to free up a hand and stops the sharpener from chewing up your pencil too much.

The many differences from the Classroom Friendly sharpener are that the body is smaller and made of all plastic rather than metal, however, the crank and burr parts are still metal. The gripping teeth of the automatic feeder mechanism are rubberized so that they don't leave any marks on the pencil itself. The result is a sharpener that is much cheaper but just as good as Classroom Friendly Sharpener that doesn't leave marks behind.

This is my new favorite sharpener of the moment.

I really want to find a point selector that doesn't cost $ 200 - $ 300 range.

Mar 30, 2014, 8:56pm

I was thinking of you all last week when I was visiting a friend's antique store and noticed one of the sharpeners similar to that in post 61. I mentioned I knew a few people VERY interested in pencils and sharpeners on LT and she said she sells a LOT of those sharpeners.

Mar 31, 2014, 10:36am

>102 mkboylan: That warms the heart. It's funny though I don't own a single wall mounted sharpener like that. I have several vintage (just kinda old) desktop sharpeners.

Mar 31, 2014, 11:35am

The CP-80 sharpener is pretty. I'd really like to get an old wall-mounted sharpener like there used to be in every school classroom, but I don't have a place to put it where it would be convenient and not weird.

And I thought the real slam came at the end of the review: "I’d grab a pen before I’d write with on of these monstrosities."

May 12, 2014, 2:55am

Hey Stretch! Been chuckling my way through your thread. You are going to think I am a pencil heretic because I have hordes of those cheap plastic mechanical pencils with eraser tips. There is a mechanical pencil on every level surface in my house where I think I might need to jot something down. And I cannot read without a pencil in hand. Sharpening is such a nuisance. That's why I resorted to . . . well, you know. Not that I don't appreciate the beauty of a hexagonal wooden pencil, and the fragrance of wood mixed with graphite! Ah . . . ! You may not realize this, but mechanical pencil leads are odorless. Oh well.

Delightful thread!

Edited: Jun 2, 2014, 9:13pm

I've been seriously negligent with keeping up with threads here at Club Read. For that matter I have been seriously negligent with reading much of anything in the past two months. Work has taken over completely at this point but I hope to get back to my “hobbies” soon.

>104 RidgewayGirl: The harshest criticism I have for the Mirado, is that I didn't even bother using a Mirado to draft its review. Paper deserves better.

>105 Poquette: There are some fine mechanical specimens out there or so I’ve been told, and I’m a supporter of all those who embrace outmoded technology. I’ll just have to try harder to make you a convert.

Jun 2, 2014, 2:44pm

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Joe Hill is without a doubt one of the best Dark Fiction authors. And 20th Century Ghosts is really a showcase for just how much talent Hill has as a writer. I wouldn’t call this collection of short stories Horror per se, the stories are much too bizarre for that label. I would characterize this more abstractly as a short story collection from a macabre and twisted imagination that makes Stephen King’s work down right normal. With Hill perfectly ordinary events and people are twisted to elicit a reaction. Very few supernatural elements are used to set up the moment of shock. Hill isn’t the first author to try this in the Horror genre but he has quickly mastered the technique. He has a way of twisting the mundane into the surreal without going too far with the premise to make it an outlandish parody.

My one knock on the collection of stories, and it’s a pretty big knock, is that the endings are so flat. Really great writing is rendered dull by some of the most predictable and uninspired closings I’ve ever read in the horror genre. It’s really too bad because Joe Hill can do so much better.

My advice is to buy the Kindle singles with the highest ratings to get a taste of the very best Joe Hill has to offer. It’ll be less expensive than buying the collection.

Source: USA
Date Published: 2002
Pages: 336
Rating: ★★½

Edited: Apr 14, 2016, 11:52am

General’s Cedar Pointe #333

Wood: Incense-Cedar
Core: HB (#2) graphite
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Unfinished, rough sanded cedar
Ferrule: Black painted aluminium
Eraser: Soft dyed black rubber, non-smudge
Markings: “General’s Cedar Pointe #333” and grade in black imprint
Origins: U.S.A

A Cedar Pointe #333 is the epitome of a minimalist design. From the unfinished, rough sanded barrel, the simple non-gloss black imprint, topped by a thinly painted black ferrule and black eraser it couldn’t be any more basic. The austere approach to this pencil really highlights the natural grain of the incense-cedar. But because this pencil is unfinished and not protected by a sealant of any kind it will take on a weathered patina from the users own skin oils as it ages. It’s a pretty bold design choice since the naturally occurring patina can make the pencil appear dirty. I think it makes the pencil unique, but not everyone is going to like the greyish-black coloration the cedar takes on as time passes. Another bold choice is the use of the flat black paint of the imprint and a matching ferrule, which just compliments the unfinished cedar perfectly. Really this is a textbook example of letting a simple tool do what it does best and not reinventing the wheel.

That being said the fit and finish, like most of General’s product lines could use some tightening. For the most part the Cedar Pointe is very soft and warm to hold, but the rough sanding can leave some rough spots along the length of the barrel. It’s not a splintery roughness, just a coarse bumpy feeling. Also, there are a few wood chips occasionally around the ferrule. These aren’t major flaws, but they are noticeable.

The core is much darker than a typical HB pencil, but not as dark as some of the other pencils on the market within a similar price range. It’s also a bit scratchy. Not as scratchy as a Ticonderoga, just a little more feedback than any of the good pencils reviewed thus far.

The eraser, a soft dyed black rubber does more that an adequate job of removing the lines that this pencil leave. There isn’t much else that makes this eraser special. It simply gets the job done.

As far as, sharpening goes it’s almost the perfect experience. The cedar in the pencil is incredibly straight, but what’s really special about this pencil is the Aroma. Without a sealant the cedar fragrance is unhindered and can be enjoyed even without sharpening.

The Cedar Pointe #333 is a very unique pencil because of its raw simplicity. It harkens back to a time of pencil making when the raw materials was all that was needed to get the job done. General’s no nonsense approach has created something special. Sure, it’s not perfect, but to me that only adds to individual nature of the each and every pencil. Next to a General’s Layout, the Cedar Pointe is one of the best in General’s lineup.

Edited: Apr 10, 2016, 12:51pm

Staedtler Norica 132 46 HB

top and bottom

Wood: Basswood
Core: HB (#2) graphite
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Light blue or black lacquer, with silver foil
Ferrule: Simple unadorned aluminium
Eraser: Latex free plastic, non-smudge
Markings: Staedtler Trojan logo with “norica”, a model number, and the grade marked all on one side
Origins: Thailand

The Staedtler brand is hard to nail down. They are the makers of the highly desirable Mars Lumograph and the European staple, the “Noris”. Yet in the U.S. the brand is all but impossible to find. Staples office supplies carries the Norica (Staedtler’s apparent discount pencil) as well as a couple of the more oddball models. But it is absurdly difficult to find the more famous and universal Noris or Traditional branded pencils in the states for something that approaches a reasonable price. Instead the only thing they have to offer us Yankees is an absolute gem of a pencil from their bargain bin.

A funny thing about the Norica, is that it isn’t even listed among the Staedtler brands on any of the official websites. Staedtler considers this to be discount pencil to compete with other name brand pencils for your back to school money. And yet everything about this pencil is top notch.

the Norica is a Basswood pencil. Basswood slats are a cheaper alternative to the more typical incense-cedar slats of more “premium” pencils. Basswood makes incredibly strong and durable pencils. The main difference between the cedar and the basswood is in the texture of the wood’s grain. Basswood’s grain is denser and more compact, lending to an almost non-distinct clean white wood pattern when sharpened. Cedar’s grain is much more dramatic with its distinct patterns and lines. Basswood’s aroma is more like freshly cut lumber or plywood, which is its primary use in North America. Covering this discount wood is a particularly luxurious thick greyish-blue or black lacquer. It’s so smooth and thick,I find it hard to believe that they would spend that kind of time and care for a discount pencil. There are some premium pencils coating isn’t this well done. Capping this incredibly beautiful pencil is a simple unadorned aluminum ferrule with a white plastic eraser. Somehow the minimalist approach to the ferrule and eraser is a perfect match with the lacquer and the humble wood.

Another aspect that is unfathomable about this so called discount pencil is the buttery smooth and dark line the lead makes as it marks the page. This core has no business belonging in a discount brand. It is easily as dark as any 2B lead out there and yet the ware is minimal. I just can’t get over how good this core is considering the price point. The only way I can compare this to for the uninitiated that this reminds me of a gel pen in regards to its smoothness and darkness.

I can’t really tell what the eraser is made from for sure. Its definitely a latex free plastic but its certainly not a Staedtler Mars. The eraser is more than capable of taking the very dark lines from the page. One of the unique features/failure? is that the eraser is loose in the ferrule which makes it adjustable and extending its life. Not entirely sure this is suppose to happen but many of the British made pencils include an adjustable eraser.

Like incense-cedar, Basswood’s grain is extremely straight. So sharpening is just as effortless. The differences between the woods, outside of their appearance, is so miniscule that sharpening characteristics are not worth mentioning.

It’s insane to consider the Norica anything close to a discount pencil. I’ve had these puppies only a month and it has already climbed the ranks to become a regular in the rotation. Staedtlers maybe hard to find in the States, but the Norica is worth the hunt.

Edited: Apr 10, 2016, 12:52pm

Palomino Prospector

Wood: Basswood
Shape: Hexagonal with pointed edges
Finish: Clear varnish or lime green lacquer
Ferrule: Gold painted ferrule
Eraser: White plastic, non-smudge
Markings: Palomino’s horse logo and “Palomino Prospector” with a 2 and a prominent U.S.A stamp in a gold foil imprint
Origin: U.S.A

The Palomino brand is a bit confusing. It’s an offshoot of Cal Cedar, which is the leading manufacturer of cedar pencil slats. Nearly all cedar pencils and a good number of the basswood pencils are made from Cal Cedar slats. Cal Cedar initially started the Palomino brand to showcase a premium pencil made from their cedar slats. The goals have the Palomino has since changed. Today Palomino has become a viable brand in the woodcase pencil were most companies are shrinking their product lines; Palomino is growing and diversifying.

One example of that diversification is the Prospector. Made from Basswood rather than cedar, it is marketed as a bargin bin pencil meant to compete with the Ticonderoga’s of the world. Just because it is manufactured with less expensive materials doesn’t make the pencil any less inferior to any of the other Palomino pencils. In a lot of ways the Prospector could be considered at the very least a pencil that belongs to be grouped with the more upscale mid-tier brands.

The Prospector comes in two distinct finishes. A sort of lime green finish that I prefer and a natural finish of clear varnish. The varnish makes this pencil very shiny but does a nice job of showing what little texture a Basswood pencil has to offer. Both finishes use a gold stamp foil for the imprinting, that is appropriate with both finishes. It seems that the lime green lacquered pencil costs a bit more, but for my money I think they are the prettier of the two.

Something to be really excited about coming from this bargain basement pencil is its super dark core. The leads darkness is very similar to the Forest Choice in that it writes a more like an unwaxed lead. There’s a bit of scratch with this lead. The core alone makes this pencil far superior to most of the discount pencils on the market.

While there are many great things about the Prospector that set it way above the competition, there are a few flaws. The first being the hard plastic eraser. It does a so-so job, but leaves behind quite a bit of ghosting behind. The second and more glaring flaw is the incredibly well defined edges. You can really feel the hexagonal sides while writing. This probably isn’t much of a problem for most, but for me and for how I grip a pencil, writing for long durations is all but impossible. Most pencils have slightly rounded edges that lessen the harshness of the hexagonal shape. Due to its price and material its not an economically feasible option this pencil’s edges to be rounded during the sanding process. The result for me at least is a lot of cramping and long breaks.

All that being said, this is still an excellent pencil for such a low price.

Edited: Jun 3, 2014, 2:26am

The pencil in post 108 is incredibly, aesthetically pleasing, and I feel like I'd see it on a table in this Japanese home. I feel like the Staedtler in 109 is a staple in French schools. At least, I know I've seen many lying around my grandfather and cousins' houses.

Jun 3, 2014, 7:22am

Your posts make me wish I used pencils!

Jun 3, 2014, 8:02am

I love reading your pencil reviews, but I have a general question. I think I often chose ink when writing, especially if I'm writing in a journal, my kids' baby books, etc. because I have the impression that ink is more permanent than pencil. Is that true? Will writing in pencil stand the test of time as long as ink? It's not like I'm using archival paper or anything, so in that case is it about the same?

Thanks for any thoughts!

Edited: Jun 3, 2014, 1:50pm

>111 lilisin: That Japanese home is beautiful and the Cedar Pointe is a perfect match. Japanese pencils have become my favorites over the last year. They have their own unique aesthetic but they wouldn’t fit with that house at all.

That’s interesting to note that the Norica is so popular in France. There is so little information about the Norica out there it’s hard to piece together where it fits in with Staedtlers other pencils. Britain at one time was very enthusiastic about the Norica but they are more Noris users today. I would have bet the farm that the Mars Lumograph (which is similarly bue) would have been more popular, considering Europes aversion to the eraser tip.

>112 rebeccanyc: Sometimes I think I go a bit far with these reviews.

>113 japaul22: The permanence of pencils and ink is a bit of circular argument and requires more explanation than I could probably provide.

Inherently pencils are erasable. With the exception of indelible pencils there is always the off chance that someone might erase what was once written. Ink is not an erasable medium thus it’s seen as the more permanent of the two. This really has nothing to do with either of the two’s durability over time. The color pigmentation in most inks will fade and it is said that ink never truly drys on a page (most paper will continue to soak up the ink over its lifetime). Inks may also leach color or into other pages (cheap paperbacks from the 50’s and 60’s exhibit the strange yellowing of the paper that light has penetrated). The pencils advantage here is that graphite, clay, and wax are pretty much set in stone materials and will never fade. Once the paper fibers have taken hold of the sheets of graphite they never give them up unless you the thin layer of fibers that have trapped pencils line with an eraser or a few hundred brushes with a dirty hand. Some smearing may occur from rough handling or dirty hands but this is more cosmetic and doesn’t usually affect the readability. I’ve have notes and writing from back in grade school (not exactly the longest of times) that were kept loosely in a box on some of the worst paper imaginable and the pencil lines are still just as dark as the day I put them there. The teachers pen corrections however have faded and are hard to read. Another advantage of pencil over a pen is that water has no real effect on the lines themselves. The paper may fall apart but the graphite should hold strong where the paper is undamaged. Ink on the other will more than likely run and smudge unless you go with the no blot inks.

So the paradox is that pencils are archival safe but erasable, where pens are permanent but will one day be lost without careful preservation. As long as the paper lasts and the reader doesn’t roughly handle the pages writing or carry or read with an eraser in theory a pencil mark will outlast the page it is written on.

What it really comes down to though is how comfortable you are with it. It’s hard to get over the idea that pencils can be a permanent because it is so easy take off. One thing you should consider though if going the pencil route, it is important to find a pencil that doesn’t smear on the page easily. Some paper is just a pain to write on with either pen or pencil.

*Pencil/charcoal artist use a fixative spray to prevent smudging of their works and there are some sprays out there that make it impossible to erase as well. These sprays do have some drying times of upwards of 30 minutes but it will make anything written or drawn truly archival safe.

Jun 3, 2014, 11:09am

Cool - re the durability of ink vs pencil lead.

Jun 3, 2014, 1:31pm

>114 stretch: Thank you so much for the detailed answer! It makes sense and I'd never known or thought about some of the points you raised. Maybe I will switch to pencil.

Jun 3, 2014, 1:41pm

Thanks for your dissertation on ink v. pencil. Very useful to me for a variety of reasons!

Edited: Jun 3, 2014, 1:51pm

114 -
Ah, yes, you are correct. It should be the Mars Lumograph and not the Norica due to the eraser issue, but definitely still the Staedtler brand!

And your pencil reviews are as perfectly verbose as they should be, no more, no less. Particularly since working as a substitute teacher these past few months I've been remarking which pencils never seem to sharpen while others easily glide through the sharpener. It makes me laugh each time as I think about your wonderful reviews. It also boggles my mind how high school students can make it to 3pm and still not have a writing utensil, constantly asking me if I have a pencil (which forces me to look through the teacher's things as I never lend my own utensils). Then I have to practically run them down in the halls to return the damn thing, that is, if they haven't already lost it by then.

Interesting note about pencil vs ink, as well. Back in olden times when priests would write with fountain ink (this probably isn't even the proper term) I know they used to use a powder to set the ink and help it dry. I'm guessing that has helped keep those inks in the pristine condition we still find them now.

I know in 5th grade I got my hands on a Number 3 lead pencil and used it to wreak havoc on my classmates' papers. They never could erase the marks!

Jun 8, 2014, 2:38pm

Thanks for more interesting pencil reviews and a terrific answer re: ink vs pencil! I'd tended to think of their "permanence" in terms of modifiable/not-modifiable (as in writing checks or documentation) vs actual durability.

Jun 8, 2014, 5:05pm

Today I spent 15 dollars on pencils and erasers and guess who I blame?!

I went in to pick something for a friend and couldn't resist checking out the graphite section. Small selection, but I found Staedtler's Norica and, hmmm, Wopex? Oddly heavy, it's compressed wood "product", not block--the Pringles of pencils, I guess. Probably anathema to connoisseurs.

And then I saw splendid black erasers and shiny red carpenter's pencil and... what IS it about stationery?

Jun 8, 2014, 6:18pm

Thanks everyone.

>118 lilisin: Showing up to school without a writing utensil?! That ought to be finable offense.

>120 LolaWalser: I do truly apologize for that.

The Wopex is more like a Jackson Pollack in the pencil world. It's sort of the ultimate sustainable pencil of the world. So called plastic pencils (compressed wood dust) have been around since the 80's but the Wopex takes it to another level. They are oddly heavy for a old pencil and feel odd in the hand, almost cold. They're also a pain in the ass to sharpen. The challenge to sharpen them is actually a draw not a determent. They are a wonderful to look at and think about on a meta level but they're odd and I still have figured out if I hate them or if they're the next step in pencil evolution. The Wopex isn't even the oddest in Staedtler's product line of extreme wood saving pencils. They have pencil made entirely of graphite; no wood, it's back to days of scottish herders using chuncks of graphite from a root ball.

Are the erasers Staedtler as well?

My hypothesis as to why stationary is so well loved, is that is a collective nostalgia. People are always reaching back for a time when things may or may not have been better.

For me anyway when things are written down by hand it signaled that this was important enough for someone take the time to find paper and pen and time write this down in their unique style. And today with computers and fonts that all look the same that feeling is lost. It may not be true but a typed, electronic signature, and email lacks the human touch. Rationally I know this is not true. People don't spend more or less time than they did in the past and things are not any less personal. If anything we communicate more than we ever did in the past, but I just don't have the same respect for an email or text that I do for off the cuff note written in passing ten years ago.

Jun 8, 2014, 6:26pm

>101 stretch: - I told my wife this sharpener would make a great Father's Day gift. She got a kick out of that.

Jun 8, 2014, 6:38pm

>122 dchaikin: Ha, ha. That's going to make my day.

Jun 8, 2014, 6:38pm

People are always reaching back for a time when things may or may not have been better.

Schooldays! Days of shiny hope! I wrote notes by hand (usually in pencil, because much was diagramming, sketching) well into my uni days, but starting grad school I had a laptop (I never became a good typist, though).

Yes, the erasers are Staedtler... "rasoplast".

Hey, I found two bits of pencil with incomplete info but wondered whether you might know them. Don't know country of origin.

Swan STABILO micro 3000 HB

Toison d'or 1900 HB

The second one appears French but I think some Toison d'or stuff is/was made in the Czech Republic.

By the way, have you considered making a list of your pencil reviews for easy overview?

You were right about the Norica, beautiful easy flow. The Wopex is harder, paler and hmmm, somehow odd. But they're virtuous, being so green, so I'll keep them.

Edited: Jun 8, 2014, 7:37pm

>124 LolaWalser: The Rasoplast is an awesome stand alone eraser. Staedtler if nothing else know their erasers.

The Swan Stabilo pencils were manufactured by the Schawn-Stabilo company. Primarily out of Germany. But if it is marked with the word Swan it was probably made in the States. I've never heard of a micro 3000, but the 2870 was made the States so it's likely that the pencil is from Jeresy. Schawn-Stabilo is still in the pen and pencil making business in Germany. Mostly highlighters from the company's wiki.

The second pencil, the Toison d'or 1900 HB, is not French despite the name, it is manufactured by Koh-I-Noor out of the Czech Republic, originally Austria. Used to be a world famous company. Patented the first graphite and clay formula and true first yellow pencil. Before the Second World War they were the best of the best pencils in the world. After they war they became state owned and everything went to hell. Today they have wide range of mostly art pencils, from reputation alone they're not exactly at the top of the game in that world. They always had a tendency to use foreign names with their pencils to co-op some of the prestigious.

The only French made pencils come from Conte and Calepino. The French never had a graphite mine in their country to call their own so they graduated to the world stage in pencil making.

Jun 8, 2014, 8:05pm

Wow! There's a book on pencils in this thread!

Edited: Jun 8, 2014, 9:25pm

In France Stabilo is synonym for highlighter. We even made it a verb, stabiloter, to highlight. Probably not in the dictionary though.

Every time I read this thread I feel nostalgic for pencils. But I'm still using my iPad to write and draw.

Jun 9, 2014, 6:14am

I brought home a selection of pencils for the kids. My daughter was uninterested, but my son was so excited. He chose a Mars Lumograph after much deliberation, saying it looked like an art pencil. He said the Wopex pencils are what his teacher uses. I like the rubberized coating on those.

Jul 17, 2014, 10:33am

>128 RidgewayGirl: Wopex and Tirconderogas now come in a host of kid friendly bright neon rainbow colors.

I keep disappearing, no excuse really, but now that the World Cup is over I might get back to some reading and LT, yay!

Jul 17, 2014, 10:50am

John Dies at the End by David Wong

I’m not sure where I come down on this book. It was more miss than hit for me. Not really horror and not really that comical as a whole, there really wasn’t much of a pay off. Not that I feel cheated. I actually quite enjoyed the ridiculousness of the plot and the writing was very good. Parts felt dragged out and not a lot was left unsaid, plus there was very little suspense to drive the story forward. I would put this book in the not great but not that bad category.

Source: USA
Date Published: 2010
Pages: 480
Rating: ★★½

Jul 17, 2014, 6:35pm

>130 stretch: I suspect that might be the kind of book that one not only has to have the right sense of humor for, but also be in exactly the right mood for. Personally I enjoyed it thoroughly, although even while reading it I was never entirely sure I ought to.

Jul 17, 2014, 9:47pm

>131 bragan: You're absolutely right about having to be in the right mood for that kind of book. Honestly, I think when I started the book I was grasping for a kickstarter of a book to reengage with all my other books sitting on the currently reading but making no progress pile. I should've saved this for another time perhaps. There were some really funny moments between Dave and John. David Wong is very good and I'll continue to look for his stuff, next time I'm going to make sure I'm in the right frame of mind though. I might skip the second in the series, I'm stupidly terrified of spiders even literally descriptions are enough to creep me out.

Jul 17, 2014, 10:11pm

>132 stretch: The spiders in that one aren't exactly spiders, really. But they are utterly horrifying. And I say that as someone who likes spiders.

Edited: Apr 21, 2015, 6:15am

Mitsu-Bishi 9850 HB

Technical Stuff

Wood: Incense-Cedar, Calcedar
Core: HB graphite; Japanese Rule of Thumb: everything is one grade softer
Shape: Hexagonal with rounded edges
Finish: Burgundy lacquer
Ferrule: Pewter colored Aluminium
Eraser: Super soft white plastic with rounded edges; non-smudge
Markings: “Mitsu-Bishi” logo 9850 *HB* with Mitsubishi Pencil Co. Ltd., on the flip side “Smooth Writing Pencil for Office Use” *HB*, Finally a *HB* and a painted barcode are on the third side. All in a silver foil imprint
Origin: Japan

The somewhat busy looking Mitsu-bishi 9850 has quickly climbed the ranks to become one of my absolute favorites. I’m new to the Japanese pencil world, but from just a preliminary dip, it seems to me that everything they make is of premium quality. You’d expect drawing pencils like the Hi-Uni to have exceptional craftsmanship, but for Mitsu-Bishi even their “Office” pencils are made with the utmost care and attention to detail that easily pushes these pencils into the same premier category.

First and foremost, the 9850 is an expensive pencil. At $1.00 (USD) per unit, they no longer qualify as a simple writing tool. However, this pencil can live up to the expectations that comes with that kind of price tag. In fact, it has become the standard benchmark by which all other pencils are measured.

The look and feel of the 9850 is simply splendid. A combination of perfectly rounded edges and a thick, smooth burgundy lacquer make this pencil a pleasure to hold. The color of the lacquer really makes the cedar grain pop. With the combination of the silver foil imprint and the pewter colored ferrule it is a truly beautiful pencil. I wasn’t sold at first on the slightly gold ferrule. The contrast of ferrule and the silver foil was distracting. However, I have come to appreciate the mix as a whole when considering the overall picture; its what ties the whole pencil together, The one drawback in the looks department, is the thinly painted barcode and serial number near the business end of the pencil. The stark white paint is totally out of sync with the rest of the pencil. this is one area where quality takes a backseat to expediency. It’s pretty common for pencils in Japan to be stamped with a barcode to be sold individually. This seems to be becoming something of a trend throughout the pencil world. I love the idea of being able to build a custom pencil toolbox, but the barcodes are too cheaply done and prone to uneven wear patterns. I hope manufactures come up with a better alternative if this is an important aspect to keep them in business.

A premium pencil has to be judged on its performance, the look and feel of the thing aren’t going to the caring the workload, the core is what separates a pencil from the chaffe. And the 9850’s core is as buttery smooth and dark as some of the legendary pencils from the past. For an HB the darkness of the line is unbelievable, especially when compared to its American and European counterparts. (A good general rule of thumb: European pencils are half a grade or one grade higher, and Japanese pencils are one grade lower than the typical American HB/#2 core) What’s remarkable about this core in particular is just how long it can hold a point. You’d typically expect a dark core like this to lose its point pretty quickly, but the 9850 lasts longer than some of the highest waxed pencils on the market. the core is simply fantastic. With a core as dark as the 9850 the erasing of its line would be expected from the run of the mill eraser. And sadly, the 9850’s eraser does struggle at times with ghosting. I can’t really fault the eraser, there is only so much you can do with a built-in. With a little more tweaking with to the abrasiveness and I think this eraser would be just as exceptional as the core. On any other pencil the eraser with its rounded off edges would be an upgrade.

No tool is perfect, but this is as close to pencil perfection as it gets in modern manufacturing. From the barrel to the core the 9850 more than lives up to its premium price.

Edited: Jul 24, 2014, 11:59am

The Civil War: A Narrative – Fort Sumter to Perryville Vol. 1 by Shelby Foote

This is the first volume of Foote’s seminal trilogy of the Civil War. Foote was not a historian by training; he was merely a writer with a passion for the conflict that split this nation apart. As a consequence of his background the Civil War is a historical narrative of the events that shaped the war rather than a definitive the historical analysis. Foote set out to describe the history in a readable and informative format; he left the interpretations to the PhDs. So the story of the civil war is unbroken by footnotes or citations. That doesn’t make the information or the history any less accurate (Foote’s work is often cited/footnoted in many, many historical/scholarly works). What makes these books so remarkable is just how readable they are considering the breath of information Foote covers. Individual movements and battles are obviously covered, but Foote also includes a narrative of the political maneuvering that a profound effect on how and why the war was fought. It’s not a perfect work: information is outdated, Foote has a clear confederate bias, and sometimes some the ugliness (slavery, treatment of prisoners and the portrayal of the leaders on both sides of the conflict is uneven) is glossed over. The Civil War is one of those topics were no one is free from bias. It seems especially hard for southern to objectively look back on their history and ancestors, and not try to justify or cleanup some of the ugliness of the past. This is really no different than the white washing of Japanese interment got on the west coast for so many years.

I’ve read the trilogy in its entirety more than once, and I can say I have learned and explored something new with every rereading. Its flaws are pretty serious and it is hard to square Foote’s unsavory ideas on slavery and root causes with the outstanding quality of these narratives.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 1958
Pages: 810
Rating: ★★★★★

Jul 25, 2014, 1:02pm

I've been meaning to read Shelby Foote's Civil War ever since seeing him in Ken Burns' marvelous series on PBS. How long ago was that!!! Anyway, enjoyed your review and thanks for the reminder.

Jul 27, 2014, 3:04pm

Hi Stretch - Interesting review of The Civil War: A Narrative – Fort Sumter to Perryville Vol. 1. I enjoyed catching up with your thread again. I'll definitely keep an eye out for the Mitsubishis in the future.

Jul 29, 2014, 3:23pm

>47 stretch: - I just checked back above, as I was thinking about your pencil reviews today while sharpening the two I have in my car, and the two I have clipped in my weatherwriter (rainproof clipboard) - that is an indispensable daily tool in my line...and I got to wondering whether or not you'd reviewed the Staedtler Noris HB ("122") yet - I'm not sure if this is the same as the "Staedtler Full HB" you have listed at number 20? Or if this is one of the pencils you're planning on reviewing in the future?

I don't choose the pencils I get at work, as I don't have the ability to order my own stationery, but the Noris 122 is what I get given. It's a decent pencil, with a reasonable eraser, but I just wish they came more plain like the Forest Choices you reviewed up top in your thread. I'm always putting the pencil in my mouth when I'm shuffling papers around out in the woods or wherever, and over time of course the coloured striped lacquer starts to chip off, which is a little unsightly and spoils any aesthetics the instrument might have had when it was new and pristine out of the box...

As the picture shows, they're made in Germany (Nuremberg). Ironically, the eraserless version (Noris 121 - which I have a spare box of in my desk drawer - but don't like using in the field for obvious reasons) is made in Wales, in a small industrial unit in a small town called Pontyclun which is about 3 miles away from where I live in south Wales!

I did though find myself in the front office the other day checking the stationery supplier's catalogue for sharpeners...LOOK what your thread is doing to us!!

Jul 30, 2014, 9:59am

>138 Polaris-: I don't yet have a Staedtler Noris "122" yet. It's one of the gaps that I need to fill. Sadly the eraser tipped Noris or traditional are extremely hard to come by here in the States for a reasonable price (something under $24 for a dozen). We can get the capped pencils in some fancy art stores, but I prefer pencils with erasers. The Forest Choice is a nice pencil for field work but I actually prefer General's Cedar Pointe, the harder eraser lasts a bit longer. The weatherwriter looks interesting. I've just used a plastic bag our sample media come in, but that usually fails about half way through the day, and I end up recording notes into a tape recorder. I dread having to listen to my own voice. How do you like the weatherwriter?

The full HB is an odd duck for a pencil. It has no wood, it's just a length of painted graphite. It's strange to use and sharpen. Hopefully by the time I review it, I'll have some proper Staedtler's from overseas to review as well.

Jul 30, 2014, 1:28pm

>139 stretch: Well, the weatherwriter is an excellent tool, but they are expensive. I only got a replacment for my battered A3 (the A4 I found to be impractical mostly - just too small to be comfy. The A3 allows you to place 2 A4 sheets side by side comfortably.) last year, after about 9 years worth of use from the previous one. Over here the A3 costs about £50!! For a clipboard with a pop-up see-through hood!! But, they do allow you to take notes, sketches, maps, whatever you want to write in the rain or snow. Being a cheapskate I naturally waited until I re-entered the world of salaried employment in 2013 before requesting my department order me a new one.

In heavy rain they are flawed - not because they're not water tight, they are, at least untill they are worn... - but because one's sleeve is invariably wet, and when writing across the page the wet sleeve turns the paper's edges mushy after an hour or two. At least, that is my experience as a left-hander. Maybe it's different for the other 90%?

They do suffer wear and tear though: in particular the velcro closure strip along the flap that seals over the bottom edge of the spring-loaded pop-up see through cover - it will eventually fray off the board it is industrially glued to. However, I carried on using my old one LONG after the closure had gone. In fact, I've misremembered: They used to have 2 popper snaps, but they would wear out around the rim of the snap. I then jerry-rigged my own version with velcro strips, which worked for a while. The newer models come with a velcro strip closure - which is better, but as I said already will eventually become unstuck. So yeah - I carried on using mine without a closure as I would wrap a long string carry strap around the whole thing until closed tight - and secure the wrapped string bundle under one of the external clips. (The external clips that I normally don't otherwise use. There are 2 internal clips, and 2 external.) It comes out of the box with 2 metal extension thingys that are supposed to open the internal clips from the outside without having to open the hood up. But I removed them as they are frankly pointless and just get in the way and get caught on belts/trees/car seats and the like.

The other wear-out point is at the middle of the front edge of the pop-up lid/cover/hood. This is because it invariably becomes the point I most often push the lid back down from. The seal of the see-through plastic around the wire dowelling type lid frame does gradually come loose - rendering the thing not 100% water tight. but, it will keep most of the rain off your paper most of the time. The wet sleeve situation I mentioned is more of an issue for me personally, and I don't see a solution to that short of chopping off my left arm and learning to write with a pencil in my mouth.

I use my weatherwriter every day without fail, whether it's raining or not. I just keep my most current field notes, maps, "Service Requests" and all sorts in it. Spare pencils of course...

I'm gonna keep an eagle eye out for the Cedar Pointe.

Jul 31, 2014, 9:54am

>140 Polaris-: Wow thanks for the detailed overview of the weatherwriter! It's a bit pricing for sure, nothing I would buy myself but this would boost our productivity on those adverse weather days we so frequently have here. It certainly better than our emergency rigged clipboards of plastic sheeting and rubber bands.

Aug 5, 2014, 3:39pm

Wonderful explanation of the relative permanences of ink and pencil. I suspect that answers for me something I've always wondered about; Why do artists sign their prints with pencil, not ink? Amazing what you can learn on LT.

Aug 5, 2014, 4:25pm

>142 SassyLassy: I've never noticed artist signing mostly in pencil before. It is amazing what can be learned with the collective knowledge of LT.

Aug 6, 2014, 12:30pm

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

So much has already been said about Life After Life both here and LT, that I don’t think I have much original material to add. It’s really not that original of a concept. Going back in time, sometimes repeatedly is a staple of the alternative history genre. The exception here is just how well written and layered the events are here. For a non-linear timeline to be put together in such a way to form a complete story is utterly brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this book even if the last couple of sequences were confusing.

Origin: UK
Date Published: 2014
Pages: 560
Rating: ★★★★

Edited: Apr 10, 2016, 12:54pm

Palomino Golden Bear

Wood: Incense Cedar
Core: A strong HB
Shape: Hexagonal - slightly sharp edges
Finish: Thin orange or blue paint
Ferrule: Brass with a single strip of orange paint
Eraser: A soft rubber blue eraser for the orange pencils and an orange eraser for the blue pencils
Markings: Gold Foil. USA in an oval, Palomino horse logo, “GOLDEN BEAR”, and 2
Origin: USA

Palomino has strived to create a line up that hits every price point and spans every need. They have everything from the premium priced Blackwing 602 to the bargain basement Palomino Prospector. The Golden Bear (this was once a Calcedar branded pencil hence the name) fits in the line up just slightly above the Prospector, classify it as an upgraded school pencil. I’d say it is definitely a step up from the typical school pencil, but I think for a similar price there are some really great choices that outperform the Golden Bear.

The first really sets it apart from other school pencils is the Golden Bear’s color scheme. The pencil comes in two finishes: orange or blue. With either color choice the ferrule is brass with a single orange strip. The soft rubber eraser is the inverse color of the barrel (i.e. a blue eraser with the orange pencil and orange eraser with the blue pencil). Like the ferrule the markings on the pencil are the same for either color choice and are set off in a gold foil imprint. The design is bold and Palomino has done a good job separating itself from the competition. To my knowledge there has never been a pencil design quite like the Golden Bear. The paint is thin, but smooth. Some of the wood grain is visible beneath the orange painted pencils, the blue covers the would better so it’s harder to pick out the grain. I really like that the woodgrain bleeds through, it creates a very interesting marbling effect adding yet another design factor to what should otherwise be a dull utilitarian pencil.

The construction of the Golden Bear is top notch. Cores are perfectly centered, the ferrules are tight, and the paint from top to bottom is consistent. The fit and finish is certainly within the high standards I’ve come to expect from the Palomino brand. And because the wood used with this pencil comes from the same cedar slats used in all of Palomino’s cedar pencils, sharpening is breeze with any sharpener.

One area I don’t care for is this pencil’s core. It really isn’t a bad, there’s no problem with the consistence of the line or its smoothness. In fact it’s very similar to the Dixon Ticonderoga, if not a shade or two darker. However, it is no where near as dark as the Prospector. It’s disappointing that the Golden Bear’s line is merely a gray when the cheaper Prospector leaves such a dark bold line. If they switch out the cores one day, I have no trouble seeing the Golden Bear easily blowing away the competition.

The coloration of the eraser is at first gimmicky. This, however, is only appearance deep. The soft rubber is more than adequate for erasing anything written by its lead.

With its unique design and bold styling choices the Golden Bear is a great option for the price conscious back to school buyers. There really is a lot to love about these pencils, I just wish the lead was as dark as its cheaper cousin.

Edited: Dec 23, 2014, 6:40pm

I'm so far behind with this years reviews it's ridiculous. Work consumed so much of my time this year that my reading fell off a cliff. I hope next year to get back on track. The saddest part of the year is the lack of Japanese reads this year. This will also change.

Reading Stats for 2014

Total Number of Books = 20 Pace = 1.67
Fiction = 7
Non-Fiction = 7
Other = 6
Total Number of Pages = 7,057 Average = 353
TBR Status = -1.1 % increase (90 books last year)

Author Demographics:
Male = 14
Female = 2
Mixed = 1
New to Me = 13
More than 1 book: Joe Hill (2)

Country of Origin:
U.S. = 15
Canada = 2
UK = 2

Publication Year:
2010+ = 6
2000-2009 = 4
1990-1999 = 2
1980-1989 = 2
Pre-1980 = 1

5 = 2
4.5 = 1
4 = 5
3.5 = 3
3 = 3
2.5 = 6

Average = 3.45
40.0 % Rated 4 stars or higher
30.0 % Rated between 3 & 4 stars
30.0 % Rated below 3 stars

Favorites of 2014:

1st Quarter:
(nf) Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
(nf) Reporting Vietnam: Part One 1959-1969
(f) When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka
(gn) Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega by Joe Hill

2nd Quarter:
(ss) The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin

3rd Quarter:
(nf) The Civil War: A Narrative -- Fort Sumter to Perryville Vol. 1 by Shelby Foote
(f) Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

4th Quarter:
(f) Those Who Wish Me Dead by Micheal Kortya
(gn) Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle
(f) My Sister Chaos by Lara Fergus
(nf) In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians by Jake Page

Bold = Best of the year

Edited: Jan 1, 2015, 7:07pm

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle

In this graphic memoir Delisle chronicles what it’s like to live and work in East Jerusalem for a year, while his wife works for an NGO. What should have been a pretty straightforward travelogue became an illuminating if somewhat one-sided perspective of the everyday lives of Palestinians living on the fringe of Israel. The indignities, long waits, constant tension, and really the boredom that comes with living within East Jerusalem are well detailed with Delisle’s subtly simple black and white line drawings. Delisle clearly feels for the plight of the Palestinians. And while I can sympathize with Delisle’s views, the lack of an Israeli perspective, outside the settlements, strips away any nuance and begs the question how can Israelis reconcile the conditions of the Arab neighbors are forced to endure. I’m not saying his viewpoint is wrong necessarily but unlike his other memoirs Israel proper is a free and open country where a whole host of views and perspectives can be expressed. It would have been nice to get a counterpoint or two along with the stories of the Palestinians.

Origin: Canada
Date Published: 2012
Pages: 320
Rating: ★★★½

Edited: Dec 31, 2014, 10:38am

The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes

The Ways of White Folks took me an inordinate amount of time to actually finish. I have no explanation for this other than my undying hatred for the southern speak that authors try to mimic. That style of writing puts me to sleep and I struggle to read more than a handful of pages at a time. Aside from that Hughes was a masterful writer. Each story in this collection is perfectly crafted. They can be quite funny and sorrowful all at the same time. And Hughes unflinching look at race relations during that time period is not only powerful but is sadly still very relevant today.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 1934
Pages: 272
Rating: ★★★★

Loved the stories but hated the dialogue parts. Otherwise the Ways of White Folks would have easily made my best of the year list.

Dec 31, 2014, 11:01am

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt

I had high hopes for the Sisters Brothers after reading the first few pages, but those expectations were set a bit too high. The story of two assassin bothers charged with killing the enemy of their formidable boss, set in the heady days of the California Gold Rush sounded like a perfect setup for a gritty, dark humored western.

What had started out with such promise ended up being a pretty disappointing flop. Neither of the brothers are even remotely likeable. And the constant introspection of the narrating brother was depressing in a way I’m sure was not intended by DeWitt. With only a rambling storyline the ending was actually satisfying. And by that I mean I was satisfied that the words had finally stopped. It seems to me that both DeWitt and I got bored of the story at about the same time and delving into the inner motivations of a weak minded killer seemed like a way out. Unfortunately that mind provide to be pretty dull. I can’t figure out how exactly this was longlisted(?) for a Booker Prize.

Origin: Canada
Date Published: 2011
Pages: 336
Rating: ★★

Dec 31, 2014, 12:09pm

Hi stretch - and Seasons' Greetings to you. I appreciate your last three reviews as I have the first two on my wishlist and the last was a favourite of mine a couple of years ago when I listened to the audiobook.

I'm surprised you were bored by the story, as I recall being thoroughly entertained by DeWitt's story. I also found the two brothers quite likeable after a fashion - in that they're a pair of greedy murdering callous-yet-lovable-roguish assassins sort of a way... Horses for courses I suppose.

Thanks for the comments on Delisle's book two. I'll admit, you've made me less inclined to buy/borrow this book in the near future - unless I come across a decent used copy.

Langston Hughes remains a writer that I really want to explore more of in the coming years.

Happy New Year to you and here's to good reading in 2015!

Dec 31, 2014, 12:35pm

Happy New Year, Polaris!

I equate my dislike with the narrator brother with my dislike of Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces. I know I'm suppose to like him but really I can't find much there. I did appreciate the fact that the brothers stuck to their own self serving code of conduct. I even kind of like the hopeless romantic side of the younger brother (I can't for the life of me remember their names). But thinking on it The Sisters Brothers would make a perfect audiobook. It did seem like one scene after another.

My dislike for The Sisters Brothers like my dislike for A Confederacy of Dunces is a minority opinion.

I really liked Hughes work, I'm not much of a poetry fan so his short stories were a perfect way to enjoy his writing. The dialogue bit is a trap a lot of authors seem to fall into when trying to make their characters fill like they're from the American south.

And Delisle's book is worth reading. But it's approach feels to simple and it's like he is trying to draw you to a simple conclusion. Nothing about Israel in my estimation is so straightforward and simple.

Dec 31, 2014, 4:01pm

>151 stretch: - Nothing about Israel in my estimation is so straightforward and simple.

Ain't that the truth!

Dec 31, 2014, 10:48pm

I was disappointed in The Sisters Brothers, too, but mainly because it felt, to me, like it was all style and no heart.

Jan 1, 2015, 12:57am

I was ridiculous far behind, but now caught just in time for the new year (US CST).

I thought Delisle's take was unique and uniquely unbiased, or, at least, less so than about everyone else - so my sense was very different from your take. While Israeli and Arab takes are always biased, US authors are also simply incapable of avoiding bias, the issue is too hot here. But Delisle is not Jewish or Muslim, Israeli, Arab or American and he had no take with Arabs or Jews. He wasn't even involved in the NGO, only the spouse. So, I guess, I find it interesting you found him biased.

Paul - I recommend Delise's Jerusalem.

Jan 1, 2015, 10:46am

>153 RidgewayGirl: Yeah I can definitely see that.

>154 dchaikin: By biased I don't mean a political agenda. Delisle certainly has no axe to grind here. I think of it as a location bias. It's been a while but it seemed to me that Delisle mostly dealt with the Arabs and has not much interaction with the Jewish population of the city. Yes there is the occasional sketch of the heavily armed Jewish person jogging, and the Jews within the nearby settlement but to me these are just small glimpses along the fringes of a complex community. I guess I didn't get a real sense of how the Jews within Jerusalem view the plight of the Arabs. I don't understand how reasonable people can see the lack of services, massive walls, and shortages suffered by the neighbors and can justify that? Fear is obviously powerful motive and politics are messy but I guess I would have liked a politically unbiased sketch of their community as well. And get a better understanding of them as well without the spin from our media. This is big ask from a graphical memoir.

And by no means do I think anyone should skip this book. I think there should be more books like this.

Jan 1, 2015, 12:10pm

>148 stretch: I really enjoyed The Ways of White Folks when I read it more than 10 years ago. If you're interested in Langston Hughes, you might also want to read his two-part autobiography, The Big Sea and I Wonder As I Wander, as well as some of his poetry.

Jan 1, 2015, 6:17pm

Ok, apologies up front, i'll post one more bit and then pack away my soap box.

I see the word "bias" and take that to mean he misrepresented something, although not necessarily intentionally. I don't think that is at all the case. Delisle spent most of his time in east Jerusalem, the Palestinian part. To me that is a perspective, and not a bias.

Ok, i've locked that bloody thing up and i'll go toss the key. We supposed to have fun here. And i love following your thread and thoughts.

Jan 1, 2015, 7:07pm

>157 dchaikin: No worries. Differing opinions makes this fun. Perhaps, "bias" is too negative, so I've changed it to the less harsh "one-sided perspective." Hopefully that will clear up any future confusion.

Jan 2, 2015, 7:03am

>154 dchaikin: Dan I still would like to get this one, I just think that I'm veering away in general from a lot of recent publications that cover the contemporary issues. I know what's wrong out there, and I know how I'd like to resolve things, and then I remember what it is like actually living in that part of the world and accept that what I'd like to see happen there, and what will happen there are two very different things.... I'm very depressed about Israel on the whole - especially since the summer - and try to stick at the moment to matters relating to food and music...

I do still want to read Delisle's Jerusalem though.

Jan 3, 2015, 9:44am

Paul - understand. You still might like Jerusalem, just because the perspective is different.