Review of the YSmart TIPEN

YSmart introduced a new pen on Kickstarter earlier in 2019 (and it is now available to purchase on Indiegogo. Since I have not met a pen that I did not like, especially one made out of virtually indestructible, go anywhere metal, I bought into the program. My pens arrived this week and here is my review.

First, this pen is tiny. I mean really, really small. For comparison, in the image above, we have the YSmart TIPEN resting against the ruler, end to end it is barely 2 inches long. For scale, above we have the Fisher Bullet Space Pen, a basic black marker, and a standard, freshly sharpened number 2 pencil. However, uncapped, the pen is even smaller.

Unlike the Bullet pen, which will take its cap on the back, and gives you an extra inch or so, the TIPEN cap will not fit on the back, leaving the pen at 2 inches. For those of us with long fingers, this becomes a bit of a problem when writing, especially if you are used to resting the pen against your finger.

This also impacts the quality of your writing, especially over time. You will not be writing long epistles with the TIPEN, but it is useful to have around for quick notes and shopping lists.

The ink is similar in feel to the Fisher refill, which is why I chose it for comparison. It is not a ballpoint ink per se, nor is it a gel ink (my preferred ink in non-fountain pens). It writes smoothly and with no skip once started. YSmart claims additionally that the nib is unbreakable and suitable for opening packages, paint cans, and non-writing functions.

For an EDC pen, it would not be my first choice. Despite its slightly larger size, I would select the Bullet pen, or its brother, the Trekker pen with a key chain ring attachment, but for an emergency pen, the TIPEN is a good choice. You can put it on your key ring and forget about it until you need it.

Fountain for Scriptwriting

I recently discovered fountain, a markdown syntax specifically designed for script writing. i have done a couple of experiments with it, both quite successful. The real test though is how well it imports into Celtx, my script writing software of choice. And I must say it works pretty well. i had to make a couple of minor corrections with parentheticals. I made a couple of errors when I composed the base document, but that was easily remedied and when I corrected the base document, it imported cleanly.

I have been an avid user of Celtx for years. The product is solid and has a robust user community. Their updates are well thought out and their Studio application/eco-system that supports more than just writing scrips is great for those on a budget. The only negative is that it is web based (with some features available for iOS). In most cases this is not a big show stopper, unless, like me, you are disconnected when you do your primary writing. The iOS apps do allow for off-line editing, but what about when I am using my Linux desktop?

Celtx no longer supports their desktop client (and I never could get it to run on Linux properly), so for these situations, the fountain format is a great find. It has a robust ecosystem around it and is also good for those who are just starting out and looking for an entry into script writing.

Experienced script writers will like a number of power features that allow you to go from treatment to script in the same document, depending on how you post-process it. And because it is an open standard, it allows you to store and reprocess scripts over time. A major plus as the software landscape is always changing.

Another nice feature is the ability to embed script segments into a blog with a nice WordPress plug in. As you can see, it is quite a nice little feature, and no additional work on my part than wrapping the text.


The door crashes open and BILL TURNER crashes into the room, blood pouring from two gun shot wounds. He is holding his abdomen as he staggers and falls to his knees. ALICE GEORGE is sitting on the couch.



Who are you! What are you doing here?


Currently bleeding. Call 9-1-1!

Bill falls to the floor.

If you are not already familiar with it, I encourage you to look into it and see if it fits your needs. I am more than happy with what it provides.

Camp Nanowrimo

CNW_Participant_FacebookIt is April, and at least in Washington, DC, that thing called climate change is in full affect. And by full, I mean temperatures are below normal and we are likely to go from winter into full summer with no spring. It feels like November, so, why not write? It is time for Camp Nanowrimo, or as the old guard used to call it Script Frenzy. And while you can write a script, that month dedicated to just writing scripts has expanded. Again, the goal is 50,000 words in 30 days, or about 1,667 words a day. As today is April 4, and I have yet to come up with much of an idea about what I want to write, this may end faster than it began, but it may also prove out to be successful. I have been known to turn and burn on a book, or script in fifteen days. So all hope is not yet lost.

But, if you have ever wanted to write that great insert your nation here novel, this is your chance. Anyone can do it. So, what are you waiting for? 1,700 words takes as little as an hour a day to crank out. All you have to do is start.

Master Class for Painting Miniatures with Meg

Primed and ready to start painting. This was the happy moment.

Primed and ready to start painting. This was the happy moment.

Did I take leave of my senses? Perhaps I have just been spending too many hours hunched over a keyboard. I know it was not a decision made during a drunken bender.  Whatever the reason, something possessed me to sign up for a 2 day master class in painting miniatures.  Yes, miniatures.  Lead figures.  Those things geeks, nerds, dweebs, play with, for hours.  Rolling dice, pretending they are what the miniature is. Those things. Did I mention that being a good painter is actually a pretty decent way to make a little extra money?  If you are a very good painter and can teach, well, you are in a different class.  Such was the opportunity I had.  And I took it.  Along with fifteen other like minded, slightly odd individuals.  We got along famously.

David's finished cape.

David's finished cape.

I will admit it has been a few years since I had even handled a lead figure...sorry, miniature. More than twenty years, since I stopped playing Dungeons and Dragons on a regular basis. But if you are not in the crowd, you might think that those sorts of things have fallen out of favour.  You would be wrong.  Dead wrong. The miniature business is a multimillion dollar business.  Or perhaps I should say the gaming business. We are not talking here about the games played on a screen, but those games that require two or more people to gather in one location, set up their armies, and battle each other to the death.  Think chess, with very expensive chess pieces, lovingly cared for, and in multiple dimensions and you have a good idea of the fanaticism that these people play with. And having witnessed some of the battles, I have to admit that the minds behind those stoney faces are vibrant.

My eyes are OK but not as good as Meg's.

My eyes are OK but not as good as Meg's.

But this was a class in how to paint them. To make your miniatures even more intimidating, and lifelike when they took the field of battle. Giving you just that little bit of an edge. And besides, they look cool when they are painted.  Our instructor was the award winning painter, Meg Maples.  Now I have known Meg and her family for years. Who knew there was such a passion in such a diminutive package?  She put us all to shame. And that was before she taught us how to do eyes.  That brought us all to tears.  And with a number 2 brush to boot!  Forget what you know. Forget the techniques you think you have mastered. If you have not been subjected to 16 hours of at Meg's hands, you are likely doing it wrong. And even if you thought you were a good painter, a quick review of how to do hair will leave you questioning your skills and seeking professional help for the nervous tick that you just developed in your painting hand. And did I mention that P3 paints do not have a fresh, minty aftertaste?  You will discover this, as your tongue takes on interesting colour palette while you do two brush blending using a number 2 and a number 3 brush.  And did I mention there is more than one colour of black? Who knew?  And the most useful tint is actually blue?

Meg's finished cape and check out that hair!

Meg's finished cape and check out that hair!

Our mission, paint a viking warrior.  A female viking warrior.  After cleaning, sanding, filing, and unbending, we were ready to start priming it. Yes, there are certain techniques to priming a figure correctly.  One of the first things we learned was not to prime near cars, in a heavy wind. (And to the owner of the grey economy car, sorry about can hardly see it unless you know where to look....really). Two brush blending brings out the shimmer in the cloak and the pink of her body.  And eyes.  Oh how we cursed doing eyes!  And that was the first day. We might have done some other things, but really, my brain refuses to recall all of it. It basically gave up after eyes..  Day two was hair, fur, and metallics.  All useful, all important, all frustrating as heck!  And all put to shame by Meg's deft strokes with a brush.  It was witchcraft.  We are all convinced of this. And if we had not seen her actually do it, we would have said she had another miniature tucked away and pulled it out to show us "the finished results."

Check out those eyes!

Check out those eyes!

In the end, I have a figure that I certainly am proud of, but one that will not be winning any major awards. I have a new appreciation for the skill that goes into painting miniatures and I stand in awe of those with both the patience and the ability.  I will get better, if and when I have time to practice, which I plan to do. As a complete beginner, I enjoyed Meg's teaching style. And those that had more experience seemed to blossom under her tutelage. Which is why I would take this class again.  Once I get a a few more practice models under my belt.  Ones with eyes...and not just helmets.

Unable to make the class? Here are a few pictures. And here are the finished Viking Chicks.

Thanks Meg!