The Obama pen: weirdest African souvenir ever?

Obama is big in Africa. There are Obama shops, Obama hotels, Obama t-shirts, even Obama: The Musical. A craze of naming babies Obama hit the continent when he was elected. Even better, the proud parents could fill out the birth certificate with an Obama ballpoint pen.

I came across these in a shop in Harar, Ethiopia. A friend of mine worked for his campaign, so it seemed the perfect gift. The box proudly proclaims the virtues of “Quality+Econmy”, promises “maximum writing pleasure and comfort”, and offers a one-year money-back guarantee. How CAN´T you buy this amazing item?

So why is Obama so big in Africa? There’s more to the craze than the fact that his father is African. Many Africans told me they see him as an inspiration, that no matter where your family is from you can make it big. Some also see his election as a hopeful sign that the U.S. is getting beyond its racist past. There was some serious Obamamania in Africa when he got elected but, like in the U.S., that initial enthusiasm has cooled off somewhat. Now Africans are questioning his policies, asking why he hasn’t created closer ties with Africa and why he’s helped some Muslim nations in their struggle for democracy and not others.

It looks like no president’s honeymoon lasts forever.

[Note for the easily offended: the crack about the birth certificate was a joke. I am not a birther. You can tell because all the words in this post are spelled correctly]


Moleskine notebooks introduces new bags, reading, and writing accessories

Few products (analog, at least) get travelers, writers, and artists as excited as Moleskine. The classic black Moleskine notebooks have been used by Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Oscar Wilde, as well as many a journaler and design-lover. A new collection unveiled this week at Milan’s Salon del Mobile is the stuff of many travelers’ dreams. The Reading, Writing, and Traveling series from Italian designer Giulio Iacchetti includes bags and computer cases, pencils and pens, reading glasses, a rechargeable reading light and an e-reader stand. Each piece is designed for maximum mobility, and to complement each other as well as the original notebook, complete with the signature black elastic band.

The new collection is on view in Milan now and at the ICFF design show in New York in mid-May. See more photos and details on the Moleskine Facebook page and on the design blog core77, along with an interview with the designer.

We can’t wait to get our hands on a Moleskine laptop bag, though we can’t help hoping they branch out to luggage as well. What Moleskine products would you like to see?

Photo courtesy of Moleskine on Flickr.

Test-drive the Olympus E-PL1 through the power of augmented reality

Interested in testing the Olympus E-PL1 without leaving your desk? If you have a computer with a webcam, you can head on over to the Olympus PEN 3D site for the first online augmented reality camera test-drive.

To get the test-drive started, you’ll need a “camera card” – these will be included in the June issue of Wired and the July issue of Popular Photography. Alternatively, you can just download the PDF and print one of your own.

Once you have the paper camera, install the browser plugin and hold it up in front of your webcam – augmented reality will turn the flat paper card it into a 3D model of the E-PL1, and you’ll be able to play around with all the features of this amazing camera.

Once you’ve learned about the features on the camera, you can even enter to win one of five E-PL1 cameras and $5000 cash! One lucky winner will be invited on an all-expenses paid trip to New York, where they’ll get to show their creation on a giant video screen at the US Open! The contest (and rules) can be found here.

Olympus E-P1 Micro Four Thirds digital camera – part 2 – the basics

I just spent the past 2 days playing with the new Olympus E-P1 digital camera. Before I continue, let me quickly describe what kind of photographer I am – 95% of the time, I’ll have my camera set to “auto” and the remaining 5%, it is set to manual by mistake. As a geek, I got in on the whole DSLR craze very early, and got out of the craze after just 2 weeks.

I’ve always found DSLR’s to be too big, too complicated and too overwhelming. So, when I initially read about the new Olympus E-P1 camera, I was very interested, as it appeared to be everything I like in a camera, but still able to offer me the features and quality of a large digital SLR.

Now on the camera itself – anyone who knows a thing or two about photography will know what the Olympus Pen was. The Pen was the first half-frame camera produced in Japan, and one of the smallest to take regular 35mm film. The entire Pen line was a massive success, but the last one was developed way back in 1981. The first Pen hit the market in 1959, which just so happens to be 50 years ago, which is of course the perfect time to relaunch the Pen using current technologies.

The basics

Inside the camera is the same large sensor that you’ll find in a DSLR camera, capable of shooting in 12.3 megapixels. The unit features in-camera image stabilization and an ultrasonic lens cleaning technology called “Super Sonic Wave Filter” – how cool is that?

Having image stabilization inside the camera means lenses won’t need the technology in them, which should keep the price of lenses to a minimum. Some of the highlights built into the camera are:

  • 720p HD video recording
  • Audio recording in PCM Stereo
  • Multiple art shooting modes (pop art, soft focus, pale&light color, light tone, grainy film and pin hole)
  • Interchangeable lenses using the Micro Four Thirds system
  • Stainless steel body available in metal/chrome and white
  • 3″ LCD
  • Digital leveler built in (this is way cooler than it sounds)

Tomorrow I’ll start showing some of the features up close, in the meantime, enjoy some of these photos I took using the camera. I uploaded all the images in their original, unedited format, just click “hi res” in the top to see the full size photo, and remember; I am not a professional photographer by any means, so go easy on me!


Acme Studios’ 4FP 4-Function Pen

Sure, I know what you’re thinking: “Dave, a pen? With a ruler on it? What does this have to do with travel?” Are you kidding me? This has everything to do with travel. Whenever I take off on the road, I always carry my journal and a pen. I can’t leave without them because inspiration can strike at any time.

The Acme Studios 4FP is the Swiss Army Knife of pens. The 4FP, also called the “Stanley,” contains a ball point pen, a highlighter, a mechanical pencil, and a PDA stylus. This has been done before, but this pen happens to be the thinnest 4-function model on the market. Are you a traveling draftsman? Look no further. This wonder also has convenient Metric and Imperial rulers printed on the barrel.

This little beauty seems like it would be perfect to tote around in a carry-on bag if it’s as thin as Acme claims. You could whip it out in a flash to jot down your number for that cute flight attendant. After you realize she doesn’t want it, you could use Stanley to fill out those pesky UK Landing Cards. Though, in my case, I’d need it to scribble autographs for the ladies.

The 4FP is available for US$39 from Acme Studios. Maybe you could add a Moleskine to complete the look of a seasoned traveler with something important to say.

(via Boing Boing)