True Offline Apps

True offline apps allow the user to work without an Internet connection. They have a substantial cache of all the data that the user needs to operate. They allow a queue mechanism to store data entry until a network connection is available. Twitter and Facebook are often held up as “offline” apps. But unless an app does offline first with a sync mechanism, it is not offline.

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Singapore for Americans

Singapore is a great way to get toes dipped into Asia for Americans. It is a very long flight, but once you arrive, it can be very comforting.

English Everywhere
Since Singapore was established as a British trading post, the common language spoken and in signage has been English. This makes it quite easy to navigate. All the stores and museums have English Language signs, even in Chinatown and Little India.

Retail is still alive and well , where in the US stores are closing. Toys R Us is one example of a store still open and popular, probably because it was not encumbered by leveraged buy out debt!

Singaporeans don’t like to sweat, so they take the bus, they do not walk much. We found that to be the case even for students going from class building to another building. Mass transit is plentiful. You probably would not need to rent a car in Singapore.

The Heat
It does get very warm. Those who come from the U.S. rarely experience the type of heat and humidity that is an everyday thing in Singapore. Those from the upper Midwest may experience maybe one day a summer that comes close to Singapore weather. Drink plenty of liquids!

Even The “National Drink”, the Singapore Sling

Cats with no tails
For reasons known to the Singapore SPCA, Cats in Singapore belong to the bobtailed cat family.  They originated from the Japanese Bobtail cat which interbred with the local feral cats.  They are born without tails.

X-Acto and Boston Automatic Pencil Sharpeners

I have worn out more manual pencil sharpener blades than I can count. I still use manual sharpeners for my colored pencils. But for graphite, I use these two:

Boston Model 19 pencil Sharpener

The Boston Model 19 Electric Pencil sharpener. The Boston Model 19 has survived the move over the years to two new office buildings and has outlasted the original employee who requisitioned it. It still does service for one person, me, in an office of 3,000.

X-Acto Model 41 Pencil Sharpener

The X-Acto Model 41 Electric Pencil Sharpener. The X-Acto is my home model. Both have auto- stop. The “auto” is questionable, because one can force on if desired. I apologize in advance if I offend sensibilities here, but if one is serious about using pencils, these are heaven sent. They both create points as long and as sharp as the KUM Long Point sharpener makes. A worn out KUM is the enemy of soft pencils. I stopped fretting over the electricity usage when I realized I was using just as much to turn on the spot light to clean out jammed hand sharpeners over the trash bin.

When Visual Studio and Visual Studio for MacOS are truly merged…

The file close context command will be unified.

On Visual Studio, right click on a file tab, “Close All But This.”

On Visual Studio for MacOS, also known as Xamarin Studio, select a file tab, and the context menu is “Close Others.”

Just realigning that bit tells me that Microsoft is serious about merging the tool.

Who told you that you could draw?

You will endure a certain amount of criticism as you practice your art.

He is going to show me how to do it.

Hahn/Cock by artist Katharina Fritsch at the Walker Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis

When I traveled to London in 2014, I walked through Trafalgar square. I had not been there since 1998. On the “Fourth Plinth” there was a statue of a blue chicken.

More about the Fourth Plinth

The statue is actually Hahn/Cock, a sculpture of a giant blue cockerel by the German artist Katharina Fritsch.

Note that the Grand Hotel looks pretty good in the photo above. It has been cleaned up.  It looked quite scuzzy in 1998. The pigeons were rampant as well. There was a Greenpeace protest going on that day in May. The protesters were dressed as Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Now I heard that Hahn/Cock was going to be moved to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, home of the famous Cherry on a Spoon, Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry. However, the article suggests that the Minneapolis Hahn/Cock is “a second in an edition of two by the artist”. The Original is at the National Gallery in Washington. I am going to use that phrase from now on, when I really mean “a copy.”

PLOY 3M Bookshelf Game Cover Design

There are many other articles about the 3M bookshelf games on the internet. I wanted focus on one specific game. And really it is not so much about the game, but what a win in package design. Whoever was in charge of the cover designs for the 3M Bookshelf Games hit a home run with me with the Ploy game.

Ploy Front Cover

Ploy Game front cover

Let’s start with the front cover. The background is a cloudy space/future city scape, like the Jetsons. In the foreground is the board game itself, being played by someone who looks suspiciously like a Star Trek Vulcan, but without pointed ears. His shirt is what we will all be wearing in the future, mid-sleeve mock neck shirt with a racy W motif. It’s what all the future space marines will be wearing when not on duty. His hairstyle is 60’s Beatles bowl cut with long sideburns. It appears that in the future, even military men will have regulation Beatles hair. They might have taken some cues from some 60’s Sci Fi movies.

Ploy Back Cover

Ploy Game Back Cover


That back cover is even better. The setting has fascinated me for years. The building seems like it is a quite real futuristic looking building. And the setting is topped off by the bright yellow chair. This is a Swan Chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958 for the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

The building itself I recognized when I went to work in downtown Minneapolis. I would eventually work in the building, which I knew as the ReliaStar Building. Its address is 20 Washington Avenue, but it really fronts, or should I say, overlays what was once Nicollet Avenue. This piece of Nicollet, between Washington and the eventual meeting with Hennepin Avenue, was also the location of the first Minneapolis City Hall. Today the building is known as Voya Financial, the spinoff of ING US, which bought ReliaStar. The building was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the World Trade Center Twin Towers.

This building is the anchor of the Mid 60’s urban renewal of the Minneapolis Gateway district. It appears on the cover of Architecture MN in November 2015.

It was fun to put this all together.

Faber Polygrades commemorative set

Faber-Castell released a commemorative set of twelve “Polygrades” graphite pencils in the range of HHHHH to BBBBB now known as 5H to 5B.

This was to celebrate the anniversary of Lothar von Faber’s 200th birthday,

They were shipped unsharpened, but I had to try them out.

I got a little work in with the BB.

Here is a comparison with the Tombow Mono 100, Mitsubishi Hi-Uni, Staedtler Mars Unigraph, The Faber-Castell 9000, and the Utrecht/Blick pencils. As I have stated in earlier articles, I have found the Staedtler and Blick pencils to be the best every day pencils. And the Mitsubishi pencils to be the best “too nice to use” pencils.

As you can see, the Polygrade anniversary set is graded much like its modern-day descendant in the Faber Castell 9000 series.

There are nice pictures at Pencil Talk of an original set. As you can see the original laquer was brown, not black.

A. W. Faber’s Polygrade Lead Pencils

Choosing high-quality colored pencils for your school kids

One of the problems with colored pencil as an art medium is that the first exposure is usually in grade school with low-quality pencils. School kids have to be equipped with colored pencils for their Social Studies classes, so they can color in their maps. The Crayola brand are better than many at $3 or less. But, get your kids some decent ones, even if it means you are spending $10.

Here are six brands that I’ve picked up thinking they would be better than average. I’ve been using the Utrecht and Blick store brands for many years. I think these are the best for my type of usage, and they hold up well. I recommend them to start if you don’t want to read the rest of this article. But I thought I would check some other types that you might be tempted to buy.

From left to right they are:

1.) Dixon Ticonderoga erasable checking pencils

2.) SOHO Austrian colored pencils, developed by Cretacolor

3.) Stabilo GreenColors

4.) Cretacolor Artist’s Studio colored pencils

5.) Alpino colored pencils from Spain

6.) Pentel Japanese colored pencils

All of the brands are reputable. However, it turns out that they do not all lay down color well. And that’s the problem time after time with poor quality pencils. Kids get better results with crayons, and certainly with markers. It would be pretty easy to ignore colored pencils after being exposed to even the cheapest of markers.


After testing I could tell you I would rate them like this:

6.) Dixon colored erasable pencils: These are the worst. They might actually be the second worst colored pencils I’ve ever used. And by the way, they don’t erase any better than any other brand. Presumably these would be the choice of teachers because of the brand, and that teachers are doing lots of grading and checking. Teachers, I would say you should get yourself a set of Col-erase Carmine red pencils and use those for checking for the rest of your career.

5.) Alpino Los colores de tu vida: I did not have high expectations for these. They are not well known in the US. I had to search for them in stores in Spain. Even in Spain, artist stores stock the German Faber Polychromos. You really have to press hard to get a good color. It’s hardly worth it.

4.) Stabilo Greencolors: Maybe you feel good inside when you buy them. But that’s all lost when you use them. They are no worse than some no name brands. But, don’t waste your money. You are not really making that much of an difference on the environment with 12 woodcase pencils any way you choose.

3.) Pentel Arts colored pencils: Probably this was the most disappointing, as I had high hopes for this brand. But you still have to work hard to get a good color laydown.  At $3 a box online, if you are going to bargain shop, these are the best three dollars a dozen your money can buy.

2.) Brevillier’s Cretacolor artist studio coloring pencils: These are readily available on Amazon or at Hobby Lobby for $12-13. They give a nice coverage. But these are not the best value for your money.

1.) SOHO Professional Colored Pencils. These are the brand carried at Jerry’s Artrama. They can be had on line for $10 + shipping. Get these, or the Dick Blick colored pencil set, also comparably priced at $10. These are some of the best quality , yet easy to use colored pencils available today.

As you can see, I also included the Faber-Castell Polychromos for color comparison.

Once you start getting into the higher end ones, like the Faber and Prismacolor brands, they get hard to sharpen and break easily. It takes a steady light hand to use those brands.

Here’s a look at erasing your colored pencil work with high-quality erasers:

And Finally some blending, including some other brands. By the way, the Ticonderoga ones look REALLY BAD in this exercise. Prismacolor pencils are your one of your best blending bets.

As a postscript, I also tried the Staedtler 12 color basic set. I found it at Marshall’s.

This one can be skipped as well.

Raspberry Pi Array


The Raspberry Pi Zero is not a very large computer at all. The case for the Zero was $1 more than the board itself!

Right now I have two Raspberry Pi 2 computers and a Raspberry pi 0.

On The Zero I have the sdltrs TRS-80 emulator running.

There were a number of issues I had to go through and packages to update to make the app for Raspian OS.  (And of course, now that I have done it, all my shell history has cleared before I could add it to my notes.) On the screen is the Great Wave game written long ago by friend Troy Lyndon.

On the Windows PC, I run this emulator from Matthew Reed. He has done  a great job.

The whole array is watched from the RealVNC VNC Viewer.

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