Thursday, March 26, 2020

Social Distancing Pt 5

If you're still in need of some ideas to keep yourself busy, here's a few for today.

We'll start with a few educational ideas, how about memorizing the periodic table of elements? I knew it back in chemistry class in high school but have long forgotten it. Here's a cool video to help you out. You can also use this hilarious (somewhat outdated) video of the Animaniacs helping you learn the countries of the world. This was one of my favorites growing up, and it still lifts my spirits when I see it.

If you're like me, you've got a closet, spare room, attic, or garage that has some random boxes of stuff in it that you've never fully unpacked. Maybe in those boxes is an old video game console. I recently found my old Super Nintendo in one such box, it's been in my garage for over a decade, in the heat of the Arizona summer. I was amazed that it fired right up and in no time I was playing through old favorites like Super Mario World and Final Fantasy III. Maybe you've got an Atari 2600 up in the attic or even better a Neo Geo. Whatever it is, pairing down the boxes just sitting somewhere might be something you can do to clear up space or find some old mementos. It's spring, so spring cleaning couldn't hurt.

Finally if you've got some extra people in your house that you're cooped up with, hold a paper airplane contest. Here's a great website to get started on building and scoring ideas. For some video tutorials on building awesome planes check out YouTube. Record the contest and post it to your social media, tag us if you post it to Facebook or Instagram, we'd love to see what you come up with! And don't forget to have some fun while you're at it!

Struggling to find things to do while you're stuck at home? 

We've got you covered. Here's a quick list of a few things that might spark an interest and keep your brain fresh.

Want to learn a new skill and at the same time stock up on supplies that you might be low on? If you've been hand washing at the rate the CDC is telling us to then you might be in need of some soap. Never fear, you can make some AWESOME soap from the comfort of your kitchen. It's going to require some supplies, but a lot of places are still shipping. If you grab them now, then you could be cranking out some homemade soap by next week. Here are a couple of webpages that walk through the different soap making processes and another that lists a fairly easy recipe.

Need a visual pick-me-up? Something cute and cuddly. If you're like me, you have an affinity to fluffy puppies. And while many shelters have stopped allowing adoptions, you can still look at cute puppies from the safety of your home. Then when this all passes maybe you'll have gotten to a point where you are able to adopt a puppy or a rescue dog! One more dog finding it's forever home would be a silver lining and hopefully provide some much needed companionship in a world that can be lonely at times.

Lastly if you're in need of some streaming entertainment, then I'll list three of my (Paul) favorite shows (one from Amazon Prime, one from Netflix, and one from Hulu). They're not necessarily new shows, some have been out for a while, but these are some of my go-to binge-worthy with high re-watchability shows. Kim's Convenience (Netflix) is a superb Canadian sitcom. It's filled with laughs and the usual family drama this time viewed through the lens of a Korean-Canadian family. The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) is quite possibly the best alternate history television show ever made. Drawn from Phillip K. Dick's (Bladerunner) source material, it features an amazing cast, great writing, and a plot full of twists and turns and multi-dimensional travel. Justified (Hulu) is a modern day gunslinger tale following a U.S. Deputy Marshal in the backwoods of Kentucky. Another stellar cast with some of the best performances of those actors careers, the story pulls from Elmore Leonard's source material and is jam packed with action, drama, and suspense.

Break Out the Paper...

It's time to learn some origami. I have a confession to make, the only origami I know is the throwing stars I used to make in junior high school. And I'd be hard pressed to remember all the folds without watching a video. But you can easily learn some origami folds with the help of The websites a wealth of information on basic folds, video tutorials, and other instructions. If you want to jump into folding cranes, dinosaurs, or a tiny box, these videos should help you out.

If you're like me, you're terrible about keeping your email inbox clean. I won't tell the exact count of emails in my inboxes (yes plural, and yes I have more than five). But all total they probably have more than 20,000 emails. Plus there's a lot of duplicates between email addresses. I plan to do a deep clean of my email inboxes during this "down" time. But it has to be strategic, by unsubscribing from lists I no longer read, deleting old or redundant email addresses altogether, and tagging the emails I do keep for quicker access. You too can clean up the clutter in your digital life, hopefully it won't take as long as it's going to take me.

Are you a person that reads the Wikipedia or IMDB entries of movies or TV shows while you're watching them? Don't care about spoilers? Do you in fact LOVE spoiling movies for unsuspecting people as you walk out of a theater? If that's you, then I've got the place for you. It's a "spoilers" version of IMDB, Spoiled It, is the place for all your spoiler needs. And they're always looking for new "spoil-ers". Sign up and start spoiling all of those movies your watching while you stay at home.

Paul's Binge List

Here are today's three digital binge-worthy shows that I've enjoyed, some multiple times. One from each major streaming service (Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix). Hopefully these help you pass some time and keep your sanity. 

I don't watch many animated Television shows, but one of my favorites is Bob's Burgers (Hulu). A stellar voice cast, hilarious writing, and just an all-around great sitcom style animated show makes me laugh so hard I can't watch too much of it in one sitting. The Americans (Amazon) is a cold-war era spy show that centers around two Russian agents that have embedded themselves into American life. The show was so good that when I watched the last episode I was actually sad it ended, amazing cast and writing that is incredibly binge-worthy. I'ma sucker for period pieces, whether they're based on true events or pure fiction, one of my favorites is Netflix's Peaky Blinders. Set in the England between World War I and World War II, it follows a group of gangsters (the Peaky Blinders) in their rise to power and they're push for legitimacy. The cast is great, but Cillian Murphy puts in one of the best acting performances in this role I've ever seen.

Friday, March 20, 2020

First Friday of Social Distancing - So You're Social Distancing Pt. 4

It's Friday, Friday, Friday

and we're all trying to keep from going stir-crazy. With that in mind, I've dug into my bag of introvert tricks and pulled out some more things to help stave off boredom, depression, and loneliness in this time of social-distancing. The hope is to give you some ideas that you can look into for free or relatively cheap; and that you can access remotely or still get delivered. In a perfect world you'd be able to access some of these things that need to be purchased from small, local businesses; and if that's still the case where you are located PLEASE support your local businesses. If you're corner comic shop is still open, start comic book collecting. If the Thai restaurant you love just expanded their delivery zone and now reaches your doorstep, order some Shrimp Pad Thai (extra spicy for me). If you know an artist or author that has a Patreon or was forced to cancel a show or book tour, send them a note on Instagram or Facebook and ask if they've got anything you can purchase. Every little bit helps, hopefully the ideas we're sharing here can help a bit too.

For today we'll start with the idea of finding and listening to podcasts. I rarely listen to podcasts, but when I do, I have several that I really love. If you don't know where to find them, click the just below the image of headphones for a really good, up-to-date article on places to find podcasts. That's step one. The next step is wading through the genres and different types of podcasts out there, and there are millions of them. Most of them are free, though there are ads embedded in them, but that's a small price to pay for some great entertainment, education, or edutainment. Here are some of my (Paul) favorite podcasts.

Freakanomics Radio - an educational look into bizarre economics stories that are jam packed with amazing stories.

This American Life - Short story vignettes of life in America, often touching or humorous Ira Glass is an amazing story teller that truly brings these mostly, everyday life stories literally to life.

Radiolab - Combining the random, weird, and wonderful into a sometimes-frenetic retelling of tales, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich craft some of the best "radio" out there.

Lore - The scariest stories are the ones that are real and Lore does just that by sharing historical horrors of people, creatures, and places. It was so good, Amazon Prime made it into a mini-series.

Welcome to Night Vale - Stealing from the old radio serials from before the time of television, WtNV broadcasts news, weather, announcements, and other spooky goings-on in a small desert town.

(My current personal favorite) The Shrink Next Door - A true crime podcast about a wealthy man who's life is turned upside down when his psychologist becomes his business partner and starts living in his house in the Hamptons.

Bonus Ideas

If you're not in the mood to start a journey into podcasts, here are a few other ideas.

Learn a new language. With the help of free sites/apps like DuoLingo and LanguageZen you could be speaking another language in no-time. For most of the world, being multilingual is a must, but Americans often don't see the benefit of learning other languages. Open your mind and fire up your learning receptors. Take a trip through Italian or German and plan a trip for when we beat this and life is a bit more normal. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, and usable knowledge (another language) is even more wonderful. Spend some time learning a new language of your choice.

Dust off that old guitar you bought in high school and then never played. Pick up your flute, bring in the drum set from the garage, or pull out that Casio keyboard you never could break. Youtube is JAM-PACKED with music tutorials. If you're lucky enough to still get deliveries from online companies (most of us are) order an inexpensive instrument and make some music. If you're REALLY adventurous, sign up for a Tik Tok account and post daily updates of your journey learning to play your new instrument!

Lastly, teach yourself calligraphy or hand lettering. Much like the above suggestion, YouTube has a wealth of tutorials on this topic. Whether it's hand lettering ideas, Italic calligraphy 1 & 2, or modern calligraphy there are tons of places to start. You can also find free printable worksheets in a variety of styles simply by using Google.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

So You're Social Distancing Pt. 3

Have you binge watched too much Netflix yet?

In the 21st century it's can get real easy to eat up the hours of a day wrapped in a warm blanket, your doggo by your side, a big bowl of popcorn, and your favorite streaming service just chugging through episode after episode. It's a great way to get through a day or two, but eventually we all need a break from the television. Giving your brain a chance to engage some different areas is important to your mental and emotional health.

I'll make a pretty bold statement, I'm (Paul) a pretty nerdy guy. I'm a bit of a bookworm. I love movies, TV shows, and video games too, but my first type of entertainment love is a good book. Luckily I married someone that shares my love of reading, and we passed that love along to our daughter. If memory serves we've got ten floor to ceiling bookshelves in our 1,700 square foot house, and they're all full. We have plans to renovate the house to turn our entire 500 square foot addition into a library.

For today, I'm giving you some social distancing tips based around my love of reading. Here's how I would start.

Much of this will be easier if you have an e-reader, smart phone, laptop or tablet because I'll be mostly sharing some of my favorite e-books, some places to find free or cheap e-books, and ideas about what to do when you've finished reading a book.

First, I recommend signing up for a Goodreads account. I was really late to the game where it comes to Goodreads, and I kind of kick myself for it. It's a great tool that lets people rate, review, and track books they've read; build a "virtual library" of books they want to read, interact with a huge population of like-minded book lovers, and even interact with authors. I'd start my journey here if I had to do it all over again.

Second, Amazon is probably the next best place to start. If you already have an e-reader you can still find a wealth of discounted e-books on Amazon. Plus they've got just about ANYTHING you could be looking for. Honestly it can be pretty darn intimidating. That being said if you don't have an e-reader, the Kindle is relatively inexpensive, functions great, and will probably get to you pretty quick. If you're looking for some of my favorite books, I'm tossing Kindle edition links down a little further in this email.

For those of you that are thrifty or simply want the option to get some free books and not wade into the dense labyrinth of Amazon; I've got some great places for you to look. OpenLibrary is pretty much an online e-book library that let's you virtually "borrow" up to five books at a time. It does require you sign up for a membership, but I haven't had to pay any fees. Many of the books are image scans, that allow you to simply use any device to read the book. You can securely download versions if you want to read the book offline. BookBub is a way for authors to get their e-books to readers quick and usually a little cheaper than other sellers. They have a pretty big repository of free or discounted e-books along with standard print books that can be purchased. Again you'll have to sign up for a membership but it's free. One great thing about BookBub is they often have HUGE authors selling their e-books at heavily discounted prices. OpenCulture doesn't just have books, it also has a wealth of educational resources. It's geared heavily towards education so many of the e-books are classics that you might need for high school or college classes, but if you love classic literature this is a place you should check out. It's an older site so it looks a bit clunky, but it does the job. It pulls much of it's e-book catalog from Gutenberg so you can simply use Gutenberg, but some of it is direct download.

Lastly, I'd say circle back around to Goodreads once you've loaded up on some free or discounted e-books and start posting reviews. In no time, you'll be interacting with other readers, and you can engage in some socializing while social distancing. All based on your shared love of books.

Some of Paul's Favorite Books

I won't overwhelm you with a ton of books. For the most part these are Amazon links to some of my favorite authors or books that are currently on sale or free. After the links I'll put up a list of authors that I love if you want to simply to a search for those authors and see if they pique your interest. In no particular order here's my list:

I'm not a huge horror fan, but I have been lucky enough to hang out with a lot of horror authors and they're pretty great people. One horror book I have read that I absolutely LOVE is The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling. It's an amazing blend of rock and roll (I'm also a music lover) and cosmic horror that I quite literally read in a single sitting; I just couldn't put it down. It's probably one of my top five books of all time. It's just that good. Todd also edited Greetings From Moon Hill by Anthony Rapino which I haven't finished but is also a really good collection of horror short stories.

I'm much more at home with a Science Fiction or Fantasy book in my hands. I love a good space journey especially if it mixes blasters, swords, space piracy, and a general feel of a fast paced action movie. Simon R. Green's Deathstalker books are all of that an then some. Sure there's some Star Wars like elements, but there you can find homages to black and white pirate movies and high fantasy in the Deathstalker series. You're going to want to start with book one, Deathstalker, it's only $5.99 on Kindle which might seem like a lot but this is a 400+ page book so you're getting your money's worth.

If you've ever wanted to see what it would look like if Ocean's Eleven and Game of Thrones had a baby, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is the book you're looking for. Not only that the two sequels ratchet up the swashbuckling and heisting to otherworldly levels. $3.99 on Kindle for a 700+ page novel of awesomeness? Heck YES!

In the mood for some fantasy-trope spoofing Fantasy? Something that combines humor and wit with razor sharp writing? You need any and all books by Sir Terry Pratchett. Sadly, he's no longer with us, but he left us over 20 books in his famed Discworld setting. Adventures that range from city guards, to bumbling wizards, dry-witted witches, conniving reporters, and so much more; the Discworld books are some of my absolute favorites. Two that are heavily discounted on Amazon right now are The Color of Magic (the first Discworld book) and Wee Free Men, I highly recommend both.

I love Noir and Mystery almost as much as I love Fantasy. In 2000, Jim Butcher did the amazing and he combined those three together when he released Storm Front, a supernatural, noir-ish fantasy about wizard/detective Harry Dresden who runs a detective agency in Chicago and helps out the Chicago P.D. with supernatural crimes. I know it sounds cheesy. But the series has fast become one of my favorites and as time has gone on the characters have become more nuanced and multi-faceted. The entire series is a must read in my opinion. You can grab the first for $2.99, less than a penny a page.

Other authors I love include but are not limited to: Lee Child, Preston & Child, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Greg Iles, Dan Brown, Steve Berry, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, David Anthony Durham, Steven Brust, Melanie Rawn, C.S. Friedman, Robert Jordan, Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brett, Joe Abercrombie, Janny Wurts, Fred Saberhagen, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman and many others.

So You're Social Distancing Pt. 2

So you're social distancing...

and you need ideas to keep your mind occupied. Not to worry, here are some things Karas employees love to do when we aren't designing and making pens.

Coloring books for adults were a HUGE fad a couple of years back, but those didn't go away. If anything there's more of them now then there were before. Even better, you can find printable pages online with a quick google search. Here and here are a few pages that we like. If you do end up coloring some pages, shoot a photo of your in-process or completed page, post it on social media and tag us. We'd love to see what you're working on.

Word search and crossword puzzles are something you can use your Karas writing instrument to complete. Again, the internet is a treasure trove of free, printable options for these types of games. Click on of the links above to be taken to some of the best options we've been able to find.

Send out some old-timey "snail mail". You know the kind that you need a pen for. There's the tendency to write emails or send texts in today's busy world. But I'd wager someone receiving a handwritten letter during this time, might be a pick-me-up. Wipe down the outside of the envelope with Clorox wipe and write a note on the back of the envelope telling the recipient you've taken all precautions necessary. While there is an entire month dedicated to letter writing, that doesn't mean you can't start now. Heck, if you send a letter to us, we'll send you back something cool in return. It could be a sticker pack, some random old goodies from Paul's desk, or legacy parts and pieces that we have lying around the shop. If you send us a nice handwritten letter (Karas Korrespondence, 126 S. Country Club Drive, Mesa, AZ 85210), we'll get something back in the mail to you.

It's perfectly acceptable to write inside our "Write Outside"

notebooks. It's also perfectly acceptable to be inside, when you're writing inside you're "Write Outside" notebook.

These pocket notebooks are 3.875" x 5.5", feature a full-bleed printed cover, and 48 page, 60#, uncoated blank interior. The custom artwork features our official Camp Karas mascot, the Mogollon Monster along with a color scheme inspired by 80s camping equipment. Available as singles, so you can use these little guys to take notes on the run without worrying about using them up and not getting more. Support your local pen manufacturer and grab a few, you won't regret it.

Created by our designer, Gee, this graphic and themes speak to our love of spending time outdoors and the adventures found there. This notebook is part of our Camp Karas Summer Release, which features several custom colorway pens, special vinyl stickers, and a set of patches inspired by boyscout badges (coming soon). The goal is to get people back outside and into the wonder that is found in the parks and outdoor areas in their respective parts of the world. Go outside and write your story!

So You're Social Distancing Pt. 1.

We've been sending out ideas and tips and tricks to keep your mind sharp during the Covid-19 pandemic. In an effort to make sure we're reaching all of our followers, we're going to be cross posting those newsletters here for the foreseeable future. Here's Part 1.

Proper Surface Care
With all of the reports on cleanliness and routines around daily life, we wanted to pass on the routines we suggest for cleaning your pens. Whether you're social-distancing, still working in food service or delivery, or a first responder or medical professional we want you to know how to properly care for your Karas writing instrument.
90% of our pens are made out of metal, predominantly aluminum, brass, and copper with some hardware made from stainless steel. In the case of our metal pens there are a variety of ways you can clean and disinfect your pen. Most household cleaners are perfectly safe to clean our aluminum pens. If you're using something strong like bleach or Lysol, we advise wiping off any residue with a microfiber cloth. Alternatively, using soap and water is also perfectly acceptable. We do suggest removing the refill and spring, cleaning the outside major components, then thoroughly drying the pen before reassembling the pen. Using these steps should keep your pen germ and dirt free.
While brass and copper are antimicrobial, they do still need to have their surfaces cleaned. Our personal preference on cleaning raw brass and copper is to steer clear of ammonia, and rely on an isopropyl alcohol solution of at least 70% alcohol. Wiping the outside of individual parts with a cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol then allowing the parts to air dry before reassembling the pen is quick and easy. This can cause some small oxidation, but that's easily wiped away with a jeweler's cloth or sunshine cloth (do not use the jeweler's cloth or sunshine cloth before using alcohol as it can pull off germs into the fabric of the cloth). You can use soap and water with copper and brass but you must ensure the parts are completely dry before reassembling the pen to prevent any potential corrosion or heavy oxidation of threads and internal areas.
Our non-metal pens (acrylic, Delrin, cellulose, etc) need to be handled carefully around many types of chemical cleaners. We suggest sticking to warm water and soap for these types of pens. Disassembling them to main components (cap with clip and finial, grip, barrel with finial) then cleaning thoroughly. If you have an ultrasonic cleaner you can also use warm water and soap (do not use heat if your cleaner has a heat setting) and run a 90 second cleaning pass. Rinse the parts in water before drying them completely. We suggest using a clean microfiber cloth to dry your non-metal pens as this type of cloth should not cause any scratches to the surface of your pen.
Hopefully this is helpful advise on caring and cleaning your Karas Pen Co writing instrument. We realize you may be using this a lot more frequently during this time, and keeping everything clean and in working order is a must.

Yes it's only March, but if you're looking for ideas to keep yourself busy there's a lot of great writing and creating ideas that can help keep your mind engaged in something other than worrying. The official NAPOWRIMO prompts won't be posted until April, but you can get a jump on things and pull prompts from years past to get your poetry juices flowing. And if poetry isn't your jam, maybe start some daily journalling, crack open a new sketchbook, or start storyboarding your plot for NANOWRIMO a little early. Whatever it is, we'd love to see what you're writing, drawing, or creating during this time. If you have Facebook or Instagram, tag Karas Pen Co in your posts, we'll randomly be reposting these creativity based posts over the next several months. You can follow our social media accounts below, and watch all the goings on from the safety of your home.