Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Picks For Filling Your Bracket

We know that Office Supplies Talk is not the first site you'll check for advice on filling out your NCAA tournament bracket this year. Except for picking all four Final Four teams in 2009 (and still losing the office pool to our warehouse manager), my record has been less than outstanding. But although we can't help you decide who will win that crucial Vanderbilt-Richmond game, we can still help you fill out your bracket by answering the most important question: which pen or pencil should you use?

Like many people, I fill out about a dozen brackets while trying to determine which one is worth entering in the office pool. This year, I tested several different writing instruments to find one ideal for picking winners. As the choice between pencil or pen is a personal decision, I tried a good sample of both.

Unfortunately, my pencil test was somewhat flawed as some of my stock are 0.7mm and some are 0.5mm. Some of the slots have very limited space, so 0.5mm is preferred. Other criteria included how well the lead disperses, the eraser erases and your hand holds up. Hand cramping must be avoided to have a deep tournament run. Otherwise you may pick BYU over Florida just because it has fewer letters.

Despite only having a 0.7mm on hand, Pentel's Twist-Erase CLICK impressed me the most. It writes well, features a latex grip for comfort and lead advances with a side click instead of through the eraser. The eraser is sturdy, effective and can be replenished with a twist at the top. Best of all, it is available in a 0.5mm to make sure you can fit "Connecticut" in that little box. Honorable mention goes to the Uni-Ball Kuru Toga, which has strong, fine lead and writes smoothly. As mentioned before, it does have a small eraser with a troublesome cap, so the indecisive should be cautious. It is, however, lighter than the Twist-Erase, so consider it if you fill out several brackets in pencil.

For pens, the important factors were smoothness, legibility in small spaces, lack of smearing, weight and strength of schedule. While I don't normally prefer them in everyday writing, needle point pens became the clear choice for all bracketing needs. The needle point allowed detailed writing in tight spaces with no noticeable smearing. None stood out more than Pilot's Precise V5 RT, which is light and keeps your hand fresh for several brackets. Best of all, it is available with an extra fine point. While a little heavier, Pentel's EnerGel Needle Tip is worth a flier as well.

If you must know who I have winning the actual tournament, mark me down for Kansas.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Zombie Stationary

So, in Germany they have a channel called 13th Street that's owned by the NBCUniversal Conglomerate, and according to their literature they are well known for their crime and horror offerings.  A German design firm designed some award winning stationary for them addressing everything from stapled documents to optical disc holders.  Going off the horror angle rather than the crime angle that 13th Street currently favors they created a series of zombie heads in various states of destruction.  My favorite is the two hole punched paper.  When viewed as an individual piece of paper there are holes in the zombies heads, but when placed in a binder the zombie heads are now pierced.  The official description is: "Invoice: When filing this sheet the zombie-heads get skewered."

They also have an envelop which they describe as: "Envelope: Ripping the envelope open tears out the zombie's eyes."  You can click through to see all of the blood and gore if you so desire.  While this kind of creativity can go a long way toward keeping the young people in your office interested in filing paper work and can get your company some good press, most people prefer the a more professional approach for their businesses.  Just about anybody could be happy with standard white envelopes or if you want to be really fancy you can grab self adhesive envelopes with windows.  The whole forced ripping open of the envelopes only requires more effort as you'll have to track down some envelopes with tear strips that are affordable.

Equally interesting to me as the zombie stationary is the two-hole punched paper.  You can find tons of two-hole paper punches or tons of three-hole punched paper, but I couldn't track down any paper with just two-holes that looked like the zombie stationary.  I found a five-hole punched paper that looks to be compatible with the paper in the above picture, but they all seem to think anything different than three holes and you are working for a hospital or law office.  I couldn't even find a good two ring binder anywhere.  They seem to be readily available if you live in Europe or Australia, but in the good old United States of America we've done an excellent job of standardizing ourselves to paper with three holes and binders with three holes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ultra Slim Large Mouse Pad

I was taking a look at my mouse pad the other day and it is in rough shape.  It's got some odd discoloration from that day we had nachos and the threads are starting to fray.  It's doing a reasonable job of collecting various dog and/or human hair along the rubber sides.  I was looking at some of the fancy mouse pads available to step out of the doldrums of rounded squares-ville mouse pads.  I found the Innovera Ultra Slim Mouse Pad.  It looks like it has the same general properties of your standard mouse, but according to the feature list is so much better than a standard mouse pad.

It features a "Grid Pattern" that is supposed to enhance mouse tracking.  I don't know anything about that, but it sounds reasonable and enhanced mouse tracking is something we all strive for.  It is advertised as credit card thin.  That's cool, it won't look so out of place and bulky on my desk.  It has a non-skid backing made of natural rubber.  That sounds about right to me, because a mouse pad is useless if it slides around and nobody has come up with a reasonably priced rubber alternative yet.  Lastly, it advertises a large surface for more mousing.  As monitors have grown over the years mice either need to get more sensitive or need more room to roam the desk, so larger mouse pads would be great.

Innovera Ultra Slim Additional View

So I checked out the 360 degree view of the mouse pad.  It looked about what I expected but without the large black border in the original product photo.  That's cool because it probably just gives me even more space for mousing.  The fact that it has odd rounded edges did start to bother me when I realized that all computer monitors are rectangular.  But what really killed me was that it measured in at 8.75" x 7".  That seemed just a bit on the small side so I went looking at other standard mouse pads.

Yeah, this mouse pad isn't going to win any beauty contests but it is under a buck and is actually larger than the Ultra Slim.  Measuring in at 9.84" x 7.87" you will get more mousing room for your buck.  Sure it might discolor more easily or come apart a little more easily, but at this price you might as well buy yourself a couple.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Expect to See Duct Tape at Prom

Duct Tape has gone main stream and Duck Brand adhesives dragged it kicking and screaming there.  When I was in High School I was mocked for my liberal usage of the Classic Silver 3M Duct Tape to keep my pair of steel toed boots wearable.  It is quite likely that anybody doing the same thing in a High School today would also be mocked, but according to MTV Style the Duck Tapes Prom Dress Contest was the 13th hottest trend of 2010.  So while you may still be publicly shamed for attempting to use Duct Tape as part of your day-to-day wardrobe you can at least be confident that MTV has got your back when it is time for Prom.

As you can see the people at Duck Brand would prefer you turn your tastes more toward Project Runway and further from Red Green's styling.  Of course these folks aren't going for the straight forward silver tape of old, but taking advantage of the multitude of colors available.  If you are planning on entering the contest this year you probably missed the deadline by the time you are reading this (so go read the official rules).  Fortunately, they have taken to holding this contest annually so you should be able to enter next year or the year after that.  You'll want to mark it down on your calendar.

If you are going to be creating a piece of fashion that you'll only be wearing for a few hours go ahead and buy whatever color tape you want.  That's the important part anyway.  If you are going to be doing something like actual construction or you know, actually taping ducts you need some primo quality tape.  Enter 3M's Performance Plus Duct Tape.  I don't want to spoil the surprise for you so just go ahead and read the product description.

Post-it Notes Now Part of Political Discourse

It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you lean toward, everybody can agree that the most recent goings on at the Wisconsin Capitol are hairy and only going to get worse. After two weeks of protests in and around the Capitol, access to the building has been shut down to the public. So what are a bunch of protesters to do when they can no longer directly access their elected officials? Why, leave a message of course. How would a bunch of peaceful protesters leave messages for those officials when phone calls and emails go unanswered? Why, leave messages on easily removable Post-it notes on the doors of course.

Of course, not everybody inside the building is going to come out and read every message left outside. It is nonetheless a way to leave a non-permanent mark and air their frustrations. Taking a look at the Post-it Notes used, you can easily tell they are all the standard 3x3 square Post-its from the Ultra Color series. Based on a quick guess that the doorways shown are 7 feet tall and 6 feet wide, you would only need 672 Post-it notes to cover one complete doorway. Post-it Ultra Color Notes are available in a 1400-sheet pack, and seeing as how the doors are not completely covered, it's a fair bet that fewer than 1400 notes have been affixed to the doors in the photo taken. If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can grab the original photo and probably count the notes and tell me I'm totally wrong, I dare you.

There is one review of these Post-it Notes noting "Such fun -- adds flair to all projects and messages" and I'm sure that the protesters, and not the Capitol custodians, would agree they they not only add flair to messages, but also buildings. I assume they aren't the Super Sticky Post-It's because they have slightly more adhesive and these protesters are not looking to cause any actual damage to the Capitol.

Now that it has been a few days since the original Tweets with images the bloggers with better cameras have posted images.  From the blog Grinders Island comes a close up high resolution photo of the Post-its and a pulled out high resolution photo of the doors.