Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Gain a pen. Lost a pen.


As an artistic person, pen matters. As such, a few days ago, when I saw a retro-style Stylist and Pen from Kirkland in a new store that I discover (which by the way, have clock made from bike chain and a corner dedicated to knitting – love!), I was sold. I handed over 5 bucks for the pen, and 2 bucks for a knitting magazine with an adorable pattern that I like, then hop on my bike and went on my merry way.

Here is some photo of the pen, which  by the way, was supposed to be refill with a Cross 8513 cartridge and not a Kirkland brand:

Kirkland Retro Pen + Stylist
Before I went, I took some photo of the store:Serendipity A-Frame Sign

Serendipity Interior

The store is call Serendipty, and it is over at 19th and Valencia Street.
Isn’t this beautiful? A corner of yarns in San Francisco! I thought I can only see similar scene in Imagknit, the SF yarn shop that every knitter heard of if they live in SF, since it was suppose to the only yarn shop in the city.
Fast forward to later afternoon, I opened my backpack to check out my new pen collection, only to discover my fountain pen, Sheaffer VFM, has gone missing.
I want to comfort myself by saying it is destined that I found a new pen the day I lost my old pen, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the pen I lost was a fountain pen triple the price of my new ballpoint pen.
Insert depressing signs.
I guess I can comfort myself by saying that I can try another fountain pen. To be honest, the cap on VFM is quite irritating. It doesn’t cap onto the end of the pen, so everything I write, I have to find a place to safely place my cap. I can’t count the number of times it roll off and drop onto a ground with very, very audible click (the cap is metal). I will have to make sure my next pen don’t do that.
Meanwhile, a day later I saw this guy on Dwell’s email:

Kaweco’s Classic Sport Fountain Pen

Quite cute in design, but it’s acrylic. I want metal. I want a solid weight.
Which by the way, leads me to my review of my new Kirkland pen, and one of the reason why I adore:
It have a good, heavy weight that makes writing in good hand-writing a pleasure.
At first glance, I thought it was made of light-weight plastic, but the pen construction is actually very sturdy and solid. For a ballpoint pen, the ink flow is good. Adding in the stylist, it is combination of retro, modern, and craftsmanship. It makes me feel awesome about writing in class. The fact that I flip it over immediately to change something on my tablet or laptop is definitely a great bonus.

Which begs the question – what fountain pen should I get. I want something other than Sheaffer this time around. Still want a metal barrel and some weight, but a better cap this time. I don’t need a calligraphy nib this time since I got a Viewpoint, but it wouldn’t hurt if it does. Choices, choices… well, I guess I will visit Sunset Stationary this Friday. Maybe I can brainstorm with the staff. Sunset Stationary is this cute little stationary store in… well, Sunset district. I have been going to it since high school. The staff is always friendly and knowledgeable, and they have some cute stuff. Speaking of which, I need a new journal and maybe some stamp for my new scrapbook (I got tired of the random magazine cutout and postal stamps that I have stacked up together. I have purchase a scrapbook and plan to make something out of that stack, eventually). I also need to renew my DeYoung membership. Hmm… sounds like it is going to be a busy Friday.


Sushi, Sand, Surprise, & Seminar: the IESVE Event Day Adventure

On August 22, I caught wind about a free training events to learn about a sustainability plugin for Sketchup. I was sitting at one of my favorite spot – SLO Donut Co –  in San Luis Obispo when I got an email from from one of my green build email subscription (I believe it was

I wasn’t back in San Francisco, but I know I will be, and I know I wanted to really explore all the different events in the city. September was a busy month for architecture thought, with the annual Architecture & City Festival hosted by AIA.

IES (Integrated Environmental Solutions) though, caught my eyes. It was a new program to me. Naturally, when I realize it was a new sustainiability plugin for SketchUp, my curiousity spike. I signed up for the free seminar.

Now, back then I thought the month of September would a slow month where I would have nothing to do because I wouldn’t have a job yet. If you have been keeping up with my blog, you would be laughing now.

Naturally, fate decided that it would an unusual day on September 13. It was, however, a day of pleasant surprises. The day before, I learned that my cousin from Oakland is now interning in San Francisco just a few blocks from the seminar’s place. And so, we decided to have lunch together on the 13th. After we both returned home, we decided over email to meet at Sawaii Sushi. Excited about the seminar and lunch, I joined the events page for the IESVE seminar on Facebook and posted to my friends that I will be there. The next morning before I left home, to my pleasant surprise, I noticed that my best friend posted on Facebook that we should meet up. Even more happy, I decided that I will send a reply as soon as I get back home. And so, the day begins.


‘Sushi with… cream cheese?’

Ah, got to love San Francisco. It was the first thing – other than the cute store icon – that caught my attention when I first found Sawaii Sushi. Philadelphia Sushi sounds absolutely strange and unhealthy (salmon, avocado, and cream cheese), but there have to a reason that they put it as a store special on the board display on the street.


Before you ask, no, I did not ate cream cheese sushi that day. I was hungry, and according my cousin, a 6 piece roll isn’t very much. I ended up ordering a bento set with salmon and California roll. We went over to Crocker Galleria to eat because it has a beautiful atmosphere and a farmer’s market going on. Though the store interior wasn’t too bad.

Sawaii Sushi was a small store with cleanly white design and good lighting. Light enters through the full-glass front entrance and the side-window at the chief’s workplace/bar area, then bounced back by the smooth white interior. White table and wood (or was it bamboo?) chair lined up at the right side neatly. The wall are mostly white, and a few small Asian arts are hung on the wall. Despite the size of the room and its placement at a financial district, the place felt open and airy. I suppose the white color and the spare amount of furnitures help. I can get drink or ready-made food from a fridge box and display case. Visitors can grab small cups of water, too, which is a nice touch. The lady there was very patient and nice – I wanted to wait for my cousin before I order, and so I had step in and outside the store for a few moment.

The food was good. It came with miso, rice, and salad. I am not a big fan of salad, but I am satisfied with what they gave. The sauce wasn’t overly strong, oily, or salty – a frequent complaint I have with salad (“I am trying to eat the vegetables, not a bottle of sauce!”). It was just a light touch of sweet saucing with bite-size leaves. Miso was just soup with little squares of tofu and seaweed. Salmon was more toward the dry size – but it’s not exactly dry. I like the sweet sauce that go with it. For about $7, it was very well-done.


After my cousin and I finished our lunch, we walked together to her office since my seminar doesn’t start for another hour. She ended up introducing me to a small local bakery store, Batter Bakery. The store is rather… unique in its presentation. Should definitely go back and sketch out the store. It is this little circular glass booth. Though small, it have place for 3 people. Little baskets and bags of pastries sits on displays of different height. The glass “walls” enclose the booth but also becomes attractive display for the store. Sitting at the corner of California Street, it was very noticeable.

Listening to the recommendation of the store-owner, I tried out their store-special, Sand Angel. Sand Angel is a sand-brown cookie with white powder. It have a light touch of ginger-cookie flavor and cinnamon to it. It was a delicious, well-flavored, mildly-sweet cookie with a light crusty surface and moist inside. It was soft, but also firm and not crumbly. Very nice.


I walked around for a while before I started walking back to the Crocker Galleria. To my surprise, I realized I had 2 missed calls – from my friend who posted on my Facebook!

I called back, and learn that she’s in the Galleria now! Turned out that she decided the seminar would offer a new perspective (she is in graphic design and digital marketing), and she meant for us to meet up at the seminar when she posted to me on Facebook! I hurried over to Galleria to found her.

The seminar was hosted in CompoClay. The products there was pretty cool. Here’s their description on Facebook:

CompoClay refers to the revolutionary, patent-pending, award-winning material which holds the unique properties of being green, safe, durable, and versatile for design.
CompoClay is MAS-Certified Green being Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emissions free; classified as a Class 0 non-combustible material per British Standards; and possesses outstanding weathering resistance per ASTM tests standards performed by SGS.
CompoClay serves as an environmentally sound alternative to existing counterparts made of gypsum, softwoods, rigid polyurethane foam, and resins which are proven to have negative consequences in regards to greenness, safety, and durability, within their product life cycle.
There were varies potteries, sculptures, and moldings in the store. While the material contains clay, it is no simple clay. They are all made of material composed of sustainable and nonhazardous contents. Yet, the product there looked as well-made and detail as regular clay. If I had not stepped into the store, I may not have realized their products were any different from other sculptures or moldings.
When I entered into the seminar area, I was immediately greeted by Erin, who was the coordinator of the events. After my registration, she had send in another welcome note, confirmation letter, and a reminder. Like I imagined, she was very friendly. The room was much more cozier than I thought. There were couches and snacks. There were 8 attendants from what I observed, and everyone can see everyone. Those were all important elements – those who read Twitter may recall that I mentioned how the seminar turned into a most fascinating discussion later, but I will go into that.
Integrated Environmental Solutions creates a VE (Virtual Environment) software for performance analysis in digital modelings. It works with not SketchUp, but also Revit and ArchiCad. The tools takes varies factors, ratings, and codes into account, including geographic, climate data, EPC, LEED, and ASHRAE. It will even do credit assessment for LEED. Even though LEED 2012 haven’t came up yet, the company is already looking into it. From what I observed, the graphics and data was easy-to-read and navigate. I immediately thought about how useful it would had been if I know about it when my class group was working on the program for the USGBC Natural Talents Competition.
There are total of 4 levels of VE program – VE-Ware, VE-Toolkits, Ve-Gaia, and VE-Pro. Each level gets more and more detail and in-depth with their analysis. For those whom are interested, I highly recommend going to their website and watching their YouTube video. Their software have too much features to explain it in one blog post. Of course, I am sure actually using the software would also offer a different perspective.
It would appears that at least half of the attendants have already been using the software. At the end, an interesting discussion started about the development in BIM and Sustainability Analysis software, as well as the importance of client-education. Since I am a recent graduate, it was fascinating to hear the experiences and thoughts of people whom are working in the industry, whom saw the wave of sustainable design and digital drafting & modeling program affect both professionals and clients. To those of us new in this generation, we grow up in the age of computer revolution and green culture. We have education in sustainability at young age, and we are used to Adobe and Apple coming up with new products on a yearly base. Everything, every digital advancement seems to be just around the corner. For those who’s been there though, they can see that it took years for those advancements to happen. Things have history – the history of building professionals went from drafting to computer graphics, from graphics to 2d drafting, from 2d drafting to modeling, from modeling to BIM, and now from BIM to performance analysis tools. Along with those revolution, the role of architects and clients both changed. With the advancement of digital performance analysis, I wonder how the jobs and roles of architects will change in line of history.

Book Review: LEED materials: A Resource Guide to Green Building by Ari Meisel

As I was browsing through Barnes and Nobles a few days ago, I noticed a new book – LEED materials: A Resource Guide to Green Building by Ari Meise. It’s a pretty nice book on LEED credit and modern green product, up to date with the version 3 of LEED rating system. It is informative but easy to read and well organized.

Each page consist of product’s LEED credit point, supply company information, use of product, as well as how the product qualified as green and LEED credit-worth.

It lists products in: Site Construction, Wood & Plastic, Thermal & Moisture Protection, Doors & Windows, Finishes, Furnishing, Special Construction, Mechanical, and Electrical. Among them, Thermal & Moisture and Finishes seems to have the thickest chapter. The thinnest chapter is Doors & Windows and Furnishing.

Those two chapters has only 4 products each, including Bencore Starlight, ClearShade IGU, ControlLite, Translucent Polycarbonate Multo-Wall Panel Systems, Environment Furniture Inc, RD Legs, Reestore, and Reinbarnation.

It is suitable for both current employees and students, as it talks both about the product characteristics and possible company(ies) that supply them. In the cases that the product is the company (such as say, a chair design), the page would still include the reason why the product is green in the first page. However, the information is brief, so it is easy to browse through the page and know the basics. The links lets reader look into more information. The book is good for ideas and inspiration and will do well in the bookshelf of anyone interested in LEED or Green Build.

SF Coffeehouse Review: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

I get nervous when I first visits store, this was no exception. However, I always sees this place whenever I was in downtown, and I heard some good things about it, so I was really tempted to try the coffee there (That, and it was freaking cold and I was kind of hungry – nice, hot coffee and cake, please!)

The price of drinks was not very surprising. Very Starbuck-like price.

I was a bit set back by the pastry price though. The Marble Loaf was $2.50. The coffeehouse I visited yesterday was 1.90. I stepped out of the CB, went to Starbuck, stared at their store, then walked like a bee for about ten seconds before I entered CB again (“Just try it once! Just once!”)

I was glad I did!

I mean, the price still sucks, but the loaf was so good!!! The coffee was much better than Starbuck, too! (Which is surprising. I heard people talk about how coffee differences in each stores, but it usually wasn’t that different!)

But let’s get back to the beginning.

I entered the store. The lighting was ok. It was a bit too dim for actual reading – but you could always go to the window. There was also outdoor reading. The place was quiet, with no music. Most visitor… All the visitors seemed to be nice, quiet adults (around young to middle age adult). Some are chatting, some are reading, and a few are on their laptops.

First Impression over, I staggered into the Line

The line was not too long, because the service was pretty up to speed. At the line, I got to see all the pastries, which looked pretty cute and contained some really unique ones (like lemon tarts and a really cute chocolate bit-size cake – french style?). The cashier smiled at our greeting. I gave my order, and he got it to me quick and correct – usually people lost me at the pastry part and ask me again.

Got the Coffee And Cake!!!

I forgot to ask room for cream, so he filled it pretty high up, which I admire. The interior design was good and led me right to the counter for milk and sugar. Customers passed by the beaning area on the way, where there was another separate worker for selling beans.

The counter was wide and deep, and there was no bumping into each other moments. Huge curtain glass windows sent in lights right in, so it felt open too (Sorry, can’t help but jolt in some design comments! ;P What do you expect from an architect major!?). The sugar packs were self-make (cute!). They offered different milks for the customer to choose (I, like always, happily went for the high-fat half & half.) The chocolate poweder is a happy surprise. The container is well-maintain and well-design. The opening is small. When you shake it, the powder won’t fly out of your coffee cups and into your noise, thus choking you to death. I shaked 2 times, just like how I added 2 packs of sugar.

Oh~ The Tasting~~~ *Rubs hand*

I was worried that the coffee would taste bitter or something bad if I don’t have enough milk. To my surprise, it tasted awesome! It was strong enough, but there was not a trance of the ugly bitterness I taste sometimes. It was smooth and leave my mouth without an annoying aftertaste.

I ate a bit of the Marble Loaf. Marble Loaf is basically a coffeehouse-style sweet loaf mix with chocolate loaf at top. No wonder it was $2.50! I can taste the egg’s favor immediately. I can taste the separate favor instead of the un-distingushied overly-sweet taste I thought was normal in coffeehouses. This is a Marble Loaf, true to it’s name and intention. You can taste the egg of bread, it’s crust at the bottom, and the chocolate part at top. As I can eat, I can taste all 3 favors, and I feel it come together. I really didn’t expect it, so I was really surprise. It was the last piece left too, so I am really happy I got it. It was a bit dryer than the Martha and Brother ones I usually gets, but I actually like it. Now Martha and Brother’s loaf feels too mushy and non-distinguish sweet to me >-< Darn it CB, I can’t go to downtown often!!!

Where art thou, my dear chair?

There were a selection of couch and tables with chairs. I picked a table with chair because I want to write. It felt pretty good to sit in, even though the chair and table was metal. There was just right amount of spacing between people, and writing feel very comfortable to do with the right amount of quiet privacy. I could glance up and notice the contrast form by the busy street of San Francisco downtown vs the quietness of a nice coffeehouse.


I have to say, this is probably one of the best coffeehouse experience I have so far! Taste, service, and design wise. Although my wallet wasn’t too happy (Four something for a regular coffee and a loaf…)

Too bad this is not available at my college… *dog ears flatten with glossy eyes* But then, it is probably better that I don’t get spoil by their stuff too much… *sighs*