Blossoms already going

The blooms already are falling off. Spring seems early this year.

Tree in Spring

Tree in Spring

Awaiting the spring blooming

This tree is only weeks away.


Spotlight Search under Mac OSX 10.10 (Yosemite)

Apple has moved to go content not chrome with the release of OSX Yosemite. I find the Spotlight search to be less visible than before.


On Yosemite, the Spotlight search box jumps into the middle of the page, with very little outlining and the light words “Spotlight Search”. On the previous versions of OSX, the Spotlight search has appeared on the top bar highlighted. I prefer the older version after nearly five months with Yosemite. I have a Mac that I maintain that still has Mavericks.

The only autograph I own – John Wooden, UCLA Head Coach (emeritus)

In the 1980’s when UCLA basketball was really not so great, John Wooden was still a fixture in Pauley Pavilion for just about every home game. He sat on the North courtside, directly across from the UCLA bench.  As Thomas Bonk wrote in the LA Times the evening after the 1987 Notre Dame Game,

There was strength on both sides of the line of scrimmage Saturday. A priest sat on the Notre Dame bench, and John Wooden sat opposite the UCLA bench. No edge there.



In 1986, we were only a dozen years past the last UCLA National Championship from 1975, and UCLA was reduced to merely struggling to be competitive in the conference and hoping to be invited to the NCAA tournament. As a freshman that season, the team really was mediocre, but won at home, and I thought it was the greatest.  At some point I worked up the courage to approach the great man, since I was told he was very kind to UCLA student. I got one of the handiest pieces of paper and a pen, and introduced myself. I gushed over what he had accomplished, but he was very modest. He honored my request for an autograph. It is still the only one I own.


UCLA would go on to have better luck when I was a sophomore, winning a number of great games, including that ’87 Notre Dame game. Two games from that season are named in the Bruin 100 – The Greatest Games in the History of UCLA Basketball. I would have picked neither, the Louisville game, and the Wyoming game. I was at both. The two I would have picked were the Notre Dame game, and the defeat of #1 ranked North Carolina.

All through the North Carolina game, the student section was screaming, the whole place was screaming, from beginning to end. I had never before and never again seen such energy in Pauley Pavilion.  It began with the opening Frisbee chant, in which he climbed atop the newly installed courtside press tables and shouted, “IS THIS A PRESS TABLE!?! (YES THAT’S A PRESS TABLE!) WE’RE MAD AS HELL, AND WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!” At the final horn, UCLA had stunned North Carolina. This was the same Dean Smith led UNC Tarheel team that would finish #1 in the ACC, 32-4 and #1 seed in the East NCAA regionals. Dean was great, but he just was not John Wooden.

But that Notre Dame win was something else. I finally got to see the student section “Digger is a wimp” sign in action. What a hype! The Bruins fought back from 18 points down to the Fighting Irish. Reggie Miller may have scored 42 against Never Nervous Pervis Ellison and Louisville, but the clutchest of clutch shots I have ever seen score is the one he hit  against Notre Dame that day.  The Daily Bruin said Reggie put the shot up from Lot 8, but I think he could have made that shot from Lot 32, at the corner of Wilshire and Gayley. The crowd went bananas. The Band played Sons of Westwood and no one could hear themselves over the music and screaming. The building was easily in excess of 100 decibels. Digger Phelps set up David Rivers to take the ball up court. But, Rivers smacked straight into Bruin David Immel and got called for the charge. Coach Digger Phelps jumped straight into the air, curled his legs up underneath himself, and came straight back down in the manliest toddler-who-needs-a-nap-I-won’t-go tirade I ever have seen.  I still cannot see Digger on TV without remembering him make that high, straight leap. I also remember that it took John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins to build an 88 game winning streak to make Digger a great coach.
UCLA Beats the Irish, Reheats the Rivalry on Late Surge, 63-59  – January 25, 1987, Los Angeles Times
UCLA’s 89-84 Victory Stuns North Carolina – December 02, 1986, Los Angeles Times

Two more project motivational posters

These have made the wall of fame now for our project.

The final feature that breaks the team’s back could be that one that just must be added!



Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys!




Drawing Pencils part II

This is a continuation of my previous post about Drawing pencils. As I mention in my previous article, There are no poor or bad pencils in any of the bunch. All would work for drawing. But I have gained an appreciation for certain brands.

I will continue with some sets I have tried, but have found I do not prefer.

Dixon Ticonderoga

The Dixon Ticonderoga is the American School Pencil. (That it gets its yellow color from the Koh-i-noor pencils is another story.) Nearly all American school pencils are a shade of yellow to yellow orange. The Ticonderoga is the top level wood-cased pencil available from Dixon. They have the Oriole and plain Dixon pencil as well. The Ticonderoga comes in 5 grades, 2H (#4), H (#3), F (#2.5), HB (#2), and B (#1). Presumably, a 2B would be a #0 pencil, but it is not available.

Strangely, the HB is about as dark as it gets, the B is abou the same. Both are a darker grade than the Faber Castell 9000 HB. One could get a lot of range with the five Ticonderoga pencils if they supplemented them with another brand dark 4 – 6B pencil. Dixon was in the drawing pencil business with the El Dorado line. But, in the 21st century they are no longer offering that.

The grade appears on only one side of the Ticonderoga. And any grade but HB is difficult to find. I had to special order them. I did find some B pencils in a stationary shop in downtown San Francisco. But there are lots of other, better pencil choices from stores in San Francisco.

Ticonderoga DixonTiconderoga Dixon Scale 37


Cretacolor 160

The Cretecolor 160 are nice pencils. Their predecessor, Cretacolor 150 pencils, are very similar to the Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth 1500 pencils. It would make sense, since the Cretacolor factory is the Austrian version of Koh-i-noor factory. The pencils currently branded Koh-i-noor  are made in the Bohemian (Czech Republic) factory. During the communist era, the Czech factory was taken over by the government. It has since been privatized again, and produces a number of pencils. The Austrian pencil company changed their branding from Koh-i-noor to Cretacolor to avoid confusion. The 150 yellow pencils were then changed to the 160 pencils that are maroon with grey trim.

The Cretacolor pencils now are some of the classiest, with different color end cap lacquers for the different grades, and grades stamped on all faces. This is probably the nicest exterior of any drawing pencil brand out there today. They tend to be expensive however, and also, go dark grades very quickly. There is not much distinction at all in the B grades. The H grades are great.

Cretacolor 160 AustriaCretacolor 150 160 scale 29


Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth 1500

I had to special order these to try. They come from the Koh-i-noor factory in the Czech Republic. They are not readily available in the US.  This is mostly because the Koh-i-noor Toison D’Or 1900 pencils are in the American Market. I will cover the 1900 pencils in a later article. The 1500 and 1900 scale the same and have basically the same quality. The Cretacolor 150 pencils mentioned in the Cretacolor 160 section above look exactly like these Koh-i-Noor 1500 pencils.

A historical note, these Koh-i-Noor pencils were among the first color lacquered pencils exhibited in the world, and are ultimately the reason that American school pencils are yellow. Graphite was from the East (Siberia for some time), so Oriental themes were used for marketing of pencils. Other brands like the Mongol and Mikado (Mirado) also were introduced because of the Koh-i-noor.

The Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth 150 pencils are only stamped on one face. It was fun to get them and try them out. I still like to get the set out from time to time.

Koh-i-noor Hardtmth1500Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth 1500 Scale 25


Faber Castell 9000

These German pencils are the successors to the Faber Castell Siberian Graphite Polygrade pencils, some of the first readily available graphite pencils in different grades.

These set the standard, as far as I am concerned, about how light or dark pencils should be. The Faber Castell 9000 HB is lighter than many other HB #2 pencils you may use in your life. I believe that pencil manufacturers realize that people prefer slightly darker and softer leads for writing pencils, and have adjusted their formulas accordingly.

So when I say that the grades for a certain brand of pencil go darker in grade, it is because I am comparing with this brand.

One could not go wrong using the Faber Castell 9000 pencils. They are the highest quality. They are readily available at most art stores, in single pencils.

I do not prefer them because their grade stamps are hard to read. Probably only for this reason, I am not favoring the Faber Castell 9000.

Faber Castell 9000 pencil setFaber Castell 9000 Scale 20



Caran D’Ache Grafwood pencils

The Caran D’Ache Grafwood, as well as their Technalo line are some of the most expensive drawing pencils on the market. The Swiss made Grafwood pencils are slightly bigger in girth than any other. This is nice for my bigger hands. But once again, they only have the grade printed on one face. They do make up for it slightly by having each lacquered in a different shade of gray. Unfortunately, It is not so easy to tell the difference between each grade and its neighbor. If they were not so expensive, they might still be in the running for ones I like to use.


Caran D'ache PencilsCaran dAche Grafwood Scale

Royal Langnickel

I purchased these at a discount store. Sometimes sets can be found at art stores. They have nothing really to distinguish them, but they are not poor quality. They will do the job.

Royal Langnickel

Royal Langnickel Scale 10

Other notable pencils tried Part II


These are available in some places, including Amazon. They were once more common in retail markets, including Canada , I understand. There was a set at a girl scout camp that I tried. They are one of the few round drawing pencils to be found. There are not particularly great. But, like the Caran D’ache pencils, the barrels are colored in variable grey depending upon the softness, which can help the artist easily choose the desired grade.

General’s Semi Hex

I covered these in the General’s Kimberly section in Part I. They come in lots of grades, but they are not of the highest quality. The Semi hex set the shape for pencils we know today. Other options are round, which tend to roll away easier, and less commonly triangular pencils, for people who prefer that grip.

General’s drawing pencils

These are different from the General’s Kimberly and Semi Hex. They are round and come in a set of HB, 3B, 4B, 5B pencils. They draw nicely too.

Derwent Graphic and Derwent Sketching pencils

These are available in single pencils at Michael’s Stores, which is one of the largest art supply chains in the United States. They have a history which stretches back to the first graphite mines in the Cumberland region of the UK.  I like the thicker Derwent sketching pencils which come in softer B grades. They are thicker, with thicker leads. They are only marked with the grade on one side. But, I had some bad luck with the 6B pencils which broke leads much too easily. That can happen if you are not careful with just about any soft pencil. But I consider myself a careful sharpener, and I found this to be too frustrating to maintain an exposed point. You should not have to fight with your tools.

End of Part II

Drawing Pencils part I

I have tried many different brands of drawing pencils and thought I would offer some insight on what I like about them. There are many different brands of graded graphite drawing pencils available today, probably 30 or more.

The best place to start, if you are interested in the history of graphite pencils, is this book:

thePencilbyPetroskiThe Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, By Henry Petroski

There are several features of wood cased pencils I have identified that make a difference in choosing a favorite

  • Easy to obtain individual pencils: I need to be able to replace just one that has worn down. Some pencils are only available in sets. I have big hands. At shorter than four inches, a pencil is difficult for me to use. I have tried pencil extenders and will only use one if I have to. I need to be able to buy just one.
  • High-Quality wood case: The best pencils use the best California incense cedar slats. These sharpen nicely.
  • High-Quality graphite: The cores don’t break, which can happen on the softest leads of most brands, there is grade separation with the different formulas.
  • High-Quality finish: Nice lacquer, stamping and end cap. I have found that I prefer one specific feature, and that is an end cap stamped with the grade on all the faces.


This first of four articles starts off with some pencils I have tried, and would no longer purchase. I have made test patterns of all of these pencils to show how much grade separation there is, and also to demonstrate how the graphite/clay ratios are different between manufacturers. The process to make a pencil is followed closely by all the manufacturers. Clay and Graphite are mixed in certain ratios to obtain harder and lighter to softer and blacker leads. The pencil lead is basically a ceramic craft. It is baked in an oven. After that, the pencil lead is sandwiched between two pieces of wood, called slats. The slat is trimmed to form the pencil.

I would like to say there are no bad pencils among any of those available today. Any graded pencil will work for drawing, and many artists have their own personal preference. Probably, artists tend to stick with the brand their teacher used, or the first brand they ever bought, because they are familiar. Certainly I have seen artists produce fabulous graphite drawings with any random stub of a pencil.

General Pencil Company Kimberly

These are there very first graded drawing pencils that I ever purchased. The General Pencils are made in America. They have everything going for them, high-quality, good differentials between grades, ready availability, and reasonable price. I have found that I cannot read the grade number on the pencil easily. General stamps the grade on multiple sides, which helps. These also have a distinctive brass ferrule end cap. These would be my pencil of choice if they added the one final feature of a grade stamp in white on all six faces. I have also tried the General’s Semi Hex pencils. The grades are nearly the same, they just seem to be the lower quality cases, with more warped pencils, no ferrule, and a poorer quality lacquer.  I might even venture to guess that all General’s drawing pencils begin as Kimberly pencils, and the ones that fail inspection become Semi-Hex.  It is interesting to know that “Semi-Hex” is something that now all modern hexagonal pencils are: having rounding edges.

General KimberlyGenerals Kimberly Graphite Scale 33

Prismacolor Turquoise

Although they may no longer be made in America, just about everything else I said about the General Kimberly pencils could be said about the Prismacolor Turquoise pencils. They have a long history beginning with the Eagle pencil company. They have been used by artists and engineers in the U.S. for many years. As I stated with the Kimberly pencils, these could be my pencil of choice if they added the one final feature of a grade stamp in white on all six faces. They are the only other current brand I found that has a metal cap ferrule besides the General Kimberly pencils.

Prismacolor Turquoise pencils Prismacolor Turquoise Scale 36

Prismacolor Scholar / Design 3800

These also have a long history, beginning with the Venus drawing pencils with their distinctive green crackle finish. They moved on to Sanford and ultimately lost the Venus name and the green crackle. These are the cheaper entry level Prismacolor offerings. They can be found in blister packs in many retail stores. I have found some Sanford and Prismacolor ones that were warped. But, they draw and write acceptably. They are no frills, but hold up well. Sometimes old Venus pencils can be found on eBay, and these have erasers. The current Scholar pencils have plain unfinished ends. If you prefer to sharpen both ends of a pencil for convenience, these are a better choice then some of the higher end pencils.

Venus Prismacolor Scholar design drawing venusVenus Sanford Design Scholar 3800 Scale 35


Eberhard Faber Microtomic

Anyone who is into pencils would know of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602. That pencil has its origins in the Van Dyke Microtomic pencil, later just labeled Microtomic. These were available in two styles, with a small metal cap ferrule, or with a distinctive wide eraser ferrule often associated with the Blackwing 602. This ferrule eraser is one of the key features of the Blackwing. I have read that the Microtomic 2B or 3B is the equivalent to the Blackwing. If that is the case, then the Blackwing 602 is not as dark and soft as people would like to remember. I cannot see paying $20 to get a Blackwing from eBay at this point, although I have bid on a few stub pencils. These Microtomic pencils are good quality. The ferrule actually changes the balance. They are top heavy when new. When I draw, I am not sure I need the eraser on the end. I do when I write though. Sadly, these are no longer produced, and ones with Blackwing ferrules command a premium on eBay now. The Microtomic versions are more reasonable, but the market has figured out their halo relationship with the Blackwing, so they are starting to command higher prices for the soft grades with the large erasers. The HB Microtomic is much lighter and harder than any of the Palomino Blackwing models currently available.

Eberhard Faber Microtomic set1Eberhard Faber Microtomic Scale 34

California Cedar Palomino

I ordered a set of these when I purchased my first Blackwing pencils. They are good quality, but did not have the grade stamp on all faces that I like. I have seen that the newer versions in 2014 do have more grade stamps and a black end cap. These are not available to purchase one at a time. They also go dark very fast, meaning that even the H (Hard) grades are comparatively soft and black. The 2H, their lightest pencil, is about the same darkness as some HB #2 school pencils. Cal Cedar has set the HB formula to be quite soft and black, remarkably close to what is believed the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 formula. When the time came to release their version of the Blackwing, the Palomino Blackwing seems to have gone the same grade as the Palomino 2B. Then California Cedar reeled in back and released the Blackwing 602, which is very similar to their HB. I have spent time comparing back and forth. It almost seems as if there might be different formulas, but here is what I think:

  • Palomino Blackwing ->  Palomino 2B
  • Palomino Blackwing Pearl -> Palomino B
  • Palomino Blackwing 602 -> Palomino HB


The first Palomino Blackwing is not quite as black and soft as their 4B, it seems to me. I would not be surprised if they had a different formulation. In which case, you could use the Blackwing pencils to fill in the gaps between HB and 4B in their drawing pencil range.

Cal Cedar Palomino drawing2California Cedar Palomini Scale 22

I very much like the Palomino pencils for writing, and will continue to order them from, but they are not my preferred drawing pencils. I will use the Blackwings from time to time to fill in dark areas, and maybe will always mix it up since they are so nice.

Staedtler Tradition 110

The Bleistift website (Bleistift is the German word for pencil) has more on the subject of the Staedtler Tradition. When I was in the UK, the Staedtler Tradition was the ubiquitous pencil. This is the pencil that waiters used to take food orders.

There is also more on the German Staedtler sibling named the Noris at Bleistift, and Noris at

The Staedtler Mars Lumograph, which I will more to say about later, is the premium drawing graphite pencil. The Tradition is not offered in as many grades as the Mars Lumograph. It is a nice pencil, but not easily found in the United States.

The set I have states that it was Made in Germany. I purchased it at a stationary store in London for 8 pounds and 50 pence, roughly $14 US at the time. The exact same set, except with Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils can be purchased through Blick at a slightly lower list of $13.25 on line. There are other offers on Amazon for less money for a full set of 12 Mars Lumugraph pencils in mixed grades. The Tradition 100 set also can be purchased on Amazon in the US for less. I have seen the Norica and Rally HB grades on Amazon and at Office Depot.


Staedtler TraditionStaedtler Tradition Scale 38



Fabriano Notebook

This Fabriano EcoQua is supposed to be a feel-good notebook. The description shows that it is 100% “Elemental chlorine free”.

The 8×6 notebooks list for $3.99 from art retailers.



I was attracted by the dot layout. The dots form a writing guideline and are just visible enough to show where to write, but not interfering with the reading back of notes.

It takes Pencil or Pen well.


Two problems , as I mention in a previous post (Fellow Notebook Aficionado at Build Conference),

1.) The binding does not lay flat, making it difficult to write. If you want the binding to lay flat, you have to tear out the pages.

2.) The pages tear easily from the binding, which is not great if you want to preserve your notes in that same book.

The best way to look at this notebook is individual note sheets, which is how I use it today. I keep it in my desk for when I want to make a note or list to carry with me.

Our new project mantra

Calm Down!

Honest Abe, from the Whitest Kids You Know


And the real Honest Abe


Eccolo World Traveler Flexi Journal

I have been using this journal at work.

It is a brown faux leather 8×10 with 256 lined ivory pages. It is manufactured by Eccolo,  and distributed by Eccolo LTD, Brooklyn, NY. It is sized nominally 20 x 25 centimeters / 8 x 10 inches on the outside and 19 x 24.5 centimeters / 7 ½ x 9 ½ inches on the inside.

I got it at office Depot for $13.99 plus tax. That is pricey, considering one could buy a common, 100 page, composition book for 99 cents plus tax. Why would you select this notebook?

Eccolo book1


Looks would suggest that it is higher quality than a lab notebook or composition book.

The writing surface is a little more matte compared to a composition book. The pages are less bright shiny white, more of an eggshell or ivory. It is more pleasant to write on than the school paper.

I prefer the binding to lay flat, like a spiral notebook when taking notes. I dislike fighting with the binding to keep the book open or flat. I will not buy another one of these.

I used some different writing instruments to show what they look like. The paper works well for pencil writing, which is what I do most.

Eccolo book2

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