Douglas Rushkoff’s ‘Survival of the Richest’ shows how delusional the tech billionaires really are

I could try to tell you what exactly Douglas Rushkoff’s Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires 1 is about via a traditional book review, or I could hope that an inspired rant might give you a better idea. If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m choosing the latter route.

The tech billionaires have one simple goal: to shelter themselves from the world they’ve shaped with their outsized wealth, power, and influence. Undoing all they’ve done in the name of making true positive change via small incremental improvements that risk going unrecognised is beyond them. Simply having the option to escape this world via one avenue or another shows that the tech billionaires already live in a reality far different from the one most of us inhabit.

How many ways can one hope to escape?

Rushkoff starts by describing the struggles of those tech billionaires outfitting their doomsday bunkers for the coming apocalypse2. A lot of thought goes into such preparation. Location, supplies, air filtration. The tech billionaires are also looking into how to motivate their security to protect them when the markets collapse and currency is worthless.

Others hope to one day leave the earth behind. They plan to colonize Mars and start over new, where they’ll stand to gain even more as the early adopters of a fresh society.

But what about those tech billionaires who can’t escape in these ways? What if they have no choice but to stay on this boring earth, and what if everything doesn’t go to absolute hell and they can’t justify running away to their bunkers in Hawaii or New Zealand?

That’s where digital escapes like the Metaverse come into play. Who needs Mars or a doomsday bunker when they can build a digital world to replace the physical. You can always buy digital real estate and rent it out to supplement any losses realised from your real estate in the unplugged world3. Some might call this strategy ‘diversification.’

One foot out the door

Can you be tied to the world around you if your mind is set on escaping? Are you invested in the slightest? If the answer is no, then why do we let these select few build a world we’ll be stuck with when they flee the first chance they get? If you already have one foot out the door because you’re convinced that to stay is hopeless, then at what point is reality a foreign concept? And if you’re so sure that a certain outcome is inevitable, when does everything begin to look like a prophecy? And when do you decide that resistance is futile? You might as well get what you can while you can. Just make sure you get enough to help you get away at a later date.

Perhaps we can’t blame the tech billionaires for looking forward to their own big exit, when their investors expect their own such exit, usually in the form of an IPO or flipping the company at some multiple of their original investment.

Many in tech have long adopted Mark Zuckerberg’s mantra to ‘Move fast and break things.’4 But tech’s secondary mantra appears inspired by Matthew Good5:

We’ll stick to the plan:

The fall of man

The tech billionaires aren’t worried though, because as man falls, they will rise, whether to Mars, the Metaverse, or to the safety of their underground bunkers.

No big deal though. I’m sure they’ll wave bye and give a heartfelt thanks for all we’ve done to enable them to get the hell out of Dodge as they leave us to our fates6.

Jake LaCaze really doesn’t like being so sour about tech. But he’s finding it hard not to be.


  1. Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires on Bookshop.org (Affiliate link) ↩︎

  2. ‘Why is Mark Zuckerberg building a private apocalypse bunker in Hawaii?’ on The Guardian ↩︎

  3. ‘Inside the lucrative business of a metaverse landlord, where monthly rent can hit $60,000 per property’ on Fast Company ↩︎

  4. ‘The problem with “Move fast and break things”—Tech needs a better guiding principle’ on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

  5. ‘The Fall of Man’ by Matthew Good Band on YouTube ↩︎

  6. ‘Jeff Bezos thanks Amazon customers and employees who “paid for all this”’ on CNN ↩︎

E-ink writing tablet ecosystems: MobiScribe Wave vs Kindle Scribe

This post is not a straight-up ‘MobiScribe Wave vs. Kindle Scribe’ kind of post because I can’t compare the devices themselves. As I said in my MobiScribe perspective post 1, I’ve only demoed the Kindle Scribe at my local Best Buy. But, as someone who’s used numerous Kindle e-ink readers over the years, I can speak to the advantages of the MobiScribe Wave over the Kindle ecosystem.

And with that said, let’s get to it.

The limitations of the Kindle ecosystem

With the Kindle Scribe—like any other Kindle e-ink device—you are not buying a device that opens the door to other platforms; you are instead buying into a limited ecosystem.

Out of the box (and hacking solutions aside), you can’t download other apps for reading content outside of purchases made directly from Kindle.

Apple often gets flak for the walled garden aspects of its own ecosystem, especially on iPhone and iPad devices. But to Apple’s credit, at least they do let you download apps outside their ecosystem, though to be fair, those same apps may not be the easiest to use, as is the case with apps that can sync to Apple’s mobile devices only via iCloud. (Obsidian comes to mind2. To sync Obsidian with mobile devices, you have only two options: iCloud and Obsidian Sync. At a cost of $8 per month, Obsidian Sync isn’t a great alternative for everyone.) The point is that Apple’s ecosystem has its issues, but it’s nothing compared to Kindle’s.

In terms of apps and functionality, if you go with the Kindle Scribe, you better be completely satisfied with the Kindle ecosystem because the Kindle e-ink devices are basically gateways only to Amazon content. By default—again assuming you haven’t hacked the device—all your content comes from the Kindle Store. You do have the option to transfer ebooks from your computer, which would most likely require stripping the DRM, unless you got the books already DRM-free. But most normies aren’t going to go that route.

Note: Fortunately, you can still save money on ebooks via the Kindle if your library offers access to the Libby app3.

The flexibility of the MobiScribe ecosystem—or lack thereof

Android tablets, including the MobiScribe Wave, give you plenty options for downloading other apps for reading various written content.

With the Wave, as is the case with other Android tablets, the Kindle Store is simply another option. The device comes with the option to easily download the Kindle app via the MobiStore. But you can also enable Google Play and download other apps, which may save you some money.

As a personal example, I recently figured out how to read current issues of The Economist via the Houston Public Library 4 and the PressReader5 app available from Google Play, saving me over $200 a year. With the Kindle, I can read ebooks and publications only if I can purchase or subscribe to them via the Kindle store. Because The Economist recently cut off access via the Kindle store, I have no option to read the magazine on the Kindle, no matter how much I’m willing to pay.

The Wave also lets me download RSS apps and read-it latter apps so that I can keep up with my digital sources, if I so choose. Kindle devices provide no such option, a limitation which keeps them from being the ultimate reading devices.

Is the Kindle ecosystem all you need?

Perhaps the Kindle Scribe is fine if you plan to use it only as it is often promoted: A device first for reading Kindle books and second for some basic writing capabilities. Even though the MobiScribe Wave is, for me, first and foremost an e-ink writing tablet, I still appreciate the reading options it gives me. Having the option to download and read from an app other than Kindle makes the MobiScribe Wave a more capable reading device.

When I’m ready to upgrade my e-ink writing tablet, I’ll likely look again to MobiScribe (maybe the soon-to-be-released MobiScribe Wave Color Kaleido 36), or one of the many e-ink tablets offered by Boox7.

Jake LaCaze is totally an e-ink stan.


  1. MobiScribe Wave B&W - More perspective than review on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

  2. Sync your notes across devices on Obsidian Help ↩︎

  3. Libby ↩︎

  4. All Texas residents are eligible for a Houston Public Library digital card. Non-Texas residents may purchase a one-year membership. Sign up for a Houston Public Library card. ↩︎

  5. PressReader ↩︎

  6. MobiScribe Wave Color Kaleido 3 ↩︎

  7. Boox devices ↩︎

‘The Song of Signficance’—Singing the praises of Seth Godin’s tireless wisdom

Companies want customers to be passionate about their products and services. And they want employees to give everything to their daily labor. Companies want everyone else around them to be inspired, yet so many companies follow the industrial model in a race to the bottom, doing as little as possible to actually inspire. But inspiration doesn’t just happen. It’s hard to come by. It often takes work.

Seth Godin has long been the voice against corporate conformity. And Godin continues his crusade in The Song of Significance, in which he reminds us that business doesn’t need to be only transactional. Good business goes beyond the simple exchange of cash for goods and services. Good business is an exchange you wouldn’t mind doing again—one you might even look forward to.

Good business inspires, much like art. For many of us, our day jobs—where we spend a great deal of our waking hours—is the best chance we have to be artists.

These points have long been part of Godin’s message. In many ways, the contents of The Song of Significance are nothing new. The book’s central message will be familiar to any fans of Godin’s previous work:

The race to the bottom is hard to win. And winning it rarely leads to positive outcomes.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of our values—that we’re not alone—especially when the rest of the business world seems to go in the other direction.

Throughout the book, Godin reminds us that humans are the entire focus of business:

Humans are not a resource. We are not a tool. Humans are the point.

Godin acknowledges that industrialism isn’t going away. But industrialism isn’t the only option. Workers and customers alike want something different. Something more. Something of significance. Businesses win big when they stop holding workers and customers hostage and instead create something both parties want to be part of:

In a field where skills are valuable and switching jobs is possible, the employees you need the most have options. That’s why creating a culture of fear and compliance is a dead end. Great work creates more value than compliant work.

. . .

A significant organization can please its customers and make a profit as well. But it begins by earning enrollment and then doing the work to make change happen.

Like Godin’s other books (and his blog posts1), The Song of Significance is not a how-to guide. It is instead a call to action. A call to action for us to pick ourselves and do work that matters.

Jake LaCaze is sad to know there are still marketers out there who don't know about Seth Godin.


  1. Seth Godin’s blog ↩︎

MobiScribe Wave B&W - More perspective than review

The MobiScribe Wave isn’t the best e-ink device out there. But it might be all you need.


Over the last few weeks, I’ve fallen in love with the MobiScribe Wave. Because the device is an interesting mix of value and compromises, you should do your research before you buy.

This post is less technical than you’ll find on most other reviews. I hope to instead give practical perspective to inform your buying decision. The MobiScribe Wave is not a premium device in the same class as the Remarkable 2, Kindle Scribe, or Ratta Supernote. But depending on your usage, the Wave may be all you need.

While using the Wave as my main writing and reading device for the last month or so, I’ve become well-acquainted with its limitations. But I still love the device despite its flaws.

Why I bought the MobiScribe Wave

I’d had my eye on an e-ink writing tablet for a while now. But at times I couldn’t help feeling I wanted one only because I wanted a new toy, and that buying such a device would be a waste of money.

Comparable e-ink writing tablets from MobiScribe’s competitors are significantly more expensive than the Wave–some over twice as much, depending on what specs and accessories you get.

Later in this post you’ll find a brief comparisons of the Wave and its competitors; hopefully then you’ll understand why I was reluctant to splurge on a device I wasn’t sure was truly for me. I was tempted to stick with old fashioned pen and paper. But the old ways weren’t working out great on my morning and evening train commutes.

With physical notebooks, I struggle with keeping different types of writing separate in their own notebooks. But it’s often more convenient to carry only one notebook. With the MobiScribe Wave, I can now have the best of both scenarios, at a great price.

With an e-ink notebook, I can switch between reading and writing in a snap, within the same device. And reading my writing partner’s stories on my Wave is way easier than reading them on my tiny phone screen (iPhone SE). Also, on my phone, it’s too easy to find something else to do with so many apps at my fingertips. So, for a while, I was printing my writing partner’s stories out. Making notes on an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper is inconvenient at the best of times on the train, but even more so on those days where it’s standing room only.

Having everything I need on one device cuts down on the number of items I carry in my laptop bag. Each book, notebook, pen, pencil, eraser, etc., adds weight and bulk. Maybe I’d feel differently if I got to call my own shots and could work when and where I wanted. But I instead sold my soul to The Man, so the MobiScribe Wave is a great device for me.

I resisted the urge to buy an e-ink writing tablet for a while. But when Cal Newport kept singing the praises of his Remarkable 2 on the Deep Questions Podcast1, I could no longer resist. And a certain YouTube video from Voja of My Deep Guide2 convinced me the Wave was worth taking a chance on.

What you get

Below is what you receive when you buy the MobiScribe Wave:

  • The MobiScribe Wave e-ink notebook.
  • MobiScribe’s standard Stylus.
  • Cover for the device.
  • USB-C cable for charging and file transfer (wall plug not included).

The primary device

The primary device feels solid.

The back has indentions on the side which make it easy to hold.

I wasn’t sure I’d like having a recessed screen, especially because I’d gotten used to a flush screen on my Kindle Oasis (before my wife decided she wanted to start reading again and basically stole my Oasis, thereby justifying my purchase of the Wave). But I’m happy to report the recessed screen hasn’t been an issue. In fact, I’ve forgotten it’s even an aspect of the device.

64GB of storage is very generous at this price point. More expensive devices come with much less storage.

The front light is one of those features that most e-reader fans likely take for granted. But, when you consider that no versions of the Remarkable 2 include a front light, you realize what a luxury it is.

Stylus

The stylus is fine.

From what I’ve read online, the stylus doesn’t give as much feedback as the Remarkable 2’s stylus, which may be an issue for some users. The good news is that the Wave is compatiable with most styluses that use Wacom EMR technology, so you can switch out for a better stylus if you like.

Having an eraser on the end of the stylus is nice. But I can’t help wanting to rub when I erase–like you’d expect to do with a pencil eraser–and I’m pretty sure that’s how I scratched my screen. The scratches aren’t bad and I don’t find them distracting. But it’s disappointing that I’m already seeing cosmetic wear and tear after only a month of ownership.

I replaced the nib after three weeks of usage. I haven’t had the device long enough to know if this will be the average lifespan for my nibs. Also, your mileage may vary.

After owning the Wave for a month, I bought the Staedtler Noris Jumbo stylus3, which is much better at a great price (~$35). The stock stylus had stopped working as expected. For some reason, it would only erase, no matter what tool was selected. My research prior to buying the Wave did not lead me to believe it’s common for the stock stylus to crap out so quickly. So I can’t say you should factor the cost of another stylus into the budget/risk factor. I appear to have just run into a bit of bad luck.

Case

The case is simple, light, and functional.

The front cover folds around with no hitches, making the device is easy to hold with one hand. The pen loop ensures you never lose your stylus. Cutouts along the top and bottom edges give access to the charging port and buttons for power and the front light.

But how well does it protect the Wave? I haven’t dropped it yet, so I can’t really say. But the device isn’t as fragile as an iPad, which uses a glasses screen, so I imagine the case works just fine.

The MobiScribe Wave vs. similar devices

The complete package of the MobiScribe Wave can be tough to gauge. For $230, you get a complete bundle including the MobiScribe Wave, case, stylus, and USB-C cable.

Now, let’s glance at how the MobiScribe Wave compares to its peers in terms of price and value:

  • $450 for the cheapest bundle (device, stylus, cover) from Remarkable
  • $275 for a refurbished Remarkable (device only); $299 for new (device only)
  • Nearly $400 for a comparable Kindle Scribe bundle (with only 16GB of storage)
  • ~$550 for a similar bundle for the Supernote Ratta A5X (a comparable device to the Remarkable 2 and Kindle Scribe)
  • ~$420 for a similar bundle for the Supernote Ratta A6X (comparable in size to the MobiScribe Wave

Please note: The prices listed here are normal MSRP and do not account for potential sales. Also, you may save money if you don’t buy a full bundle.

The Wave comes with 64GB of storage. The Kindle Scribe bundles start at 16GB. The Remarkable 2 has only 8GB of storage, with no expansion options.

The Wave includes a front light, which is not available on any of the Remarkable 2 devices at any price point.

None of the Wave’s competitors claim to offer waterproof devices. (Is the Wave really waterproof? No idea, as I don’t plan on testing that feature any time soon.)

The Wave lets you download other apps via the Google Play Store. This feature helps to make the Wave a more nearly complete reading device by making it easier to check in on your RSS feeds and saved articles. As far as I know, the Remarkable 2 doesn’t let you download any extra apps. And Kindle wants to limit you to their store and ecosystem. With the Wave, you can read ebooks via apps including Kindle, Kobo, Libby, and Hoopla to name a few. If you care about other apps and doing things beyond reading and writing, then a full-fledged e-ink tablet from Onyx’s Boox line may be more up your alley. But keep in mind the Boox devices are much more expensive than the MobiScribe Wave (and most of the other devices mentioned in this post).

Initial setup

After connecting to WiFi, I downloaded the tolino app for ebooks and the Adobe PDF app. You can download these apps from the MobiStore app–no account required.

Then I transferred my ebooks via USB-C and I was ready to go. (NOTE: If you’re using a Mac, you’ll have to download the Android File Transfer app. Sometimes I have to connect the device multiple times before the app works. I don’t know if this issue is unique to the Wave, or if it’s typical with most Android devices and Macs.

UPDATE: Since the original post, I have since transferred books via USB-C on Fedora Onyx, which was a much smoother experience, so Linux users may have better luck.)

I’ve also enabled the Google Play Store on the device and have downloaded apps including Firefox and wallabag.

How I’ve been using the MobiScribe Wave

As a writing device

Since I got the Wave, I’ve used it for every version of writing I can think of:

  • Journal entries.
  • Short stories.
  • Blog posts.
  • Doodles.
  • Meeting notes.

I’ve yet to find a reason to go back to physical notebooks and pens.

E-reader

When it comes to reading, the Wave feels like a Kindle on steroids.

As you would expect, I can read ebooks on it. Most of the ebooks I read tend to be EPUB files. But I do read PDFs on the device as well. Being able to directly markup both EPUB and PDF files with my stylus makes it feel as if I’m reading an old fashioned printed work, but with the benefits of technology.

As I’ve already mentioned, downloading a couple extra apps on the Wave lets me keep up with my favorite blogs. With Firefox, I can access miniflux (my RSS service provider) and with wallabag, I can catch up on my read-it-later articles.

Who the MobiScribe Wave is for

The Wave might be a great option for you if you’re:

  • Cost conscious, whether generally or because you’re not sure if you’ll like this type of device and so don’t want to spend too much.
  • Someone who’s never used a premium alternative such as the Remarkable 2 or Kindle Scribe. (I haven’t used any Remarkable or Scribe tablets aside from demoing them in the store, but in general, it’s hard to take a step down if you’ve had something perceived as being in a higher product class.)
  • Someone who commutes or travels and you’re tired of carrying multiple books, notebooks, pens, etc.

Who the MobiScribe Wave is NOT for

You may want to pass on the Wave if you’re:

  • Someone who expects a premium experience or has already gotten used to a premium device.
  • Someone who doesn’t understand the value of e-ink and may be better served by an iPad or similar full-feature tablet.

Pros

Below are some features that make the MobiScribe Wave a great value purchase:

  • Cost - For $230, you get a writing tablet, stylus, cover, 64 GB storage, and more.
  • Great writing experience.
  • Access to apps like Kindle and Libby that extend your reading options.
  • Unlimited paper (and the flexibility of deleting, copying, inserting, and rearranging pages however you want or need).

I’ve already covered why I think the Wave is a great value at $230.

I usually prefer more feedback when writing. The Wave doesn’t give as much feedback as I get from certain fountain pens, but the writing experience is much better than writing on an iPad without a paperlike screen protector, which feels far too slick.

Being able to download extra apps extends the usefulness of the device, but I don’t think you have to worry about it becoming as distracting as a smart phone or backlit full-color tablet.

And knowing you can rearrange your writing later gives lets you focus on getting your words down now.

Cons

  • Battery life.
  • Laggy at times.
  • Pen doesn’t attach magentically, so the cover is pretty much required. (On the plus side, the cover is light and thin.)
  • Glitchy (sometimes opens previous notebook or PDF rather than the file I most recently chose).

The battery is by far the device’s greatest disappointment. With heavy usage, the battery lasts over a day. But I’m not sure it can make two days. We’ve come to expect e-ink devices to last weeks between charges, so the shorter battery life feels like a major step back. If you plan on taking the MobiScribe Wave on a multiple-day trip in the wilderness, you might want to take a power bank with you–maybe one that can be recharged by the sun.

The Wave does lag sometimes. This usually results in me pushing a certain button twice and messing up what I was trying to do. In a perfect world, a device would never lag. But such a device will cost you much more than $230.

Sometimes I try to load a notebook or PDF, but a previously opened file pops up rather than the one I selected. Yes, it’s annoying when it happens. But it can be fixed by closing out the app and then opening the desired file again. I’ve never seen this bug repeat twice in a row. Hopefully the developers can fix it in the future.

A note (concern) about customer service

I mentioned earlier that the stock stylus stopped working as expected about a month after purchase.

Before I bought the replacement stylus, I emailed MobiScribe support to see if they had any troubleshooting tips for me. As of the time of this post, I have not received a response after a day and a half. Now that I know the stock stylus is the root of the problem, I’ve followed up to see how I can make a warranty claim. I’ll try to update this post with a more complete picture of the customer service experience when/if this issue is resolved.

UPDATE: MobiScribe customer service got in touch with me. After a little back-and-forth via email and sharing a video of the problem, MobiScribe sent me a replacement stylus free of charge. Thank you to MobiScribe for the handling of this issue.

Jake LaCaze is constantly in search for the simple ways in which technology can improve our lives.


  1. Cal Newport’s Deep Questions Podcast ↩︎

  2. In-depth video review of the MobiScribe Wave from Voja of My Deep Guide on YouTube ↩︎

  3. Staedtler Noris Jumbo stylus on Amazon ↩︎

diodrio A5 zipper journal cover review

In November of last year I wanted a convenient way to carry my jounral, pens, and Kindle together. These items easily fit into my backpack I use for my day job. But sometimes I don’t want to carry my laptop and chargers and everything else I usually carry to and from the office.

I wanted something that would make it easy to keep my writerly items together so I could easily remove them from my backpack in one motion.

So I took advantage of a Black Friday deal and bought the diodrio A5 zipper journal cover.

diodrio A5 zipper journal cover as featured on Amazon diodrio A5 zipper journal cover—Image courtsey of product listing on Amazon

This cover isn’t a necessity. But it packs a lot of convenience for what I paid for it: less than $11.

🗒️ Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the product or any of the companies mentioned in this review. I bought this product with my own money and wrote this review by choice.

diodrio A5 zipper journal cover specifications

Below are some highlights featured on the Amazon product listing:

  • Dimensions: 6.9" x 9.8"
  • Can hold A5 notebook or notepad
  • Zipper to keep contents secure
  • 2 front pouches to hold pens or other items
  • Inside features:
    • 3 card slots
    • 1 mesh pocket
  • Water resistant cover
    (I have not tested this feature and have no plans to do so.)
  • List price: $22.99
  • Price I paid: $10.99

🗒️ Note: This item was listed at $11.99 on January 29, 2023. So it may be on sale, depending on when you’re reading this review.

Use and experience

This cover works as expected. And at a great price.

The cover has plenty space to hold a thick A5 journal. Mine is holding an A5 journal from SAKAEtp, with 368 pages of 68gsm Tomoe River paper. Whether the cover can hold your journal of choice will also depend on what else you hold inside the cover.

The inside of my cover holds a journal and my Kindle Oasis.

And my front pocket holds a few pens and a mechanical pencil.

One of the front pockets can hold an iPhone 7 without a case. (Do what you will with that information.)

Because the cover can hold an A5 notebook or notepad, you can use one of the slots for extra storage. Maybe for a few sticky notes.

diodrio A5 zipper journal cover inside notebook and notepad pockets Photo courtesy of Amazon product listing

The product listing boasts that the cover includes a strap for easy carrying. But it adds little to no value for me. I prefer to hold and carry the cover like a large hardcover book.

Is the diodrio A5 zipper journal cover worth it?

For the price I paid—$10.99 plus tax—the answer is YES.

Is it worth the list price of $22.99? That question is harder to answer because I didn’t pay full price.

But I’m again leaning toward yes.

This cover includes a lot of storage options in a neat, tiny package.

I can’t yet speak to the cover’s long-term durability. But it’s held up well in my first couple months of use. I haven’t tried to destroy the cover. But I also haven’t been the gentlest with it due to its low price.

This cheap cover has scratched itches I’ve had for more expensive covers such as the zip folios from Galen Leather for $119.

There are certainly nicer (and more expensive) covers out there. But it’s hard to imagine many more practical than the diodrio A5 zipper journal cover on sale.

The Pilot Kakuno over Metropolitan for a starter fountain pen

The Pilot Metropolitan tops most lists of starter fountain pens.

The Metropolitan is a good pen. But it’s not even the best starter fountain pen within its own brand. That honor belongs to the Pilot Kakuno. That’s like naming a college football team #1 in the country when they didn’t even win their conference. I mean, it happens—but it doesn’t feel right.

Clear body Pilot Kakuno fountain pen
Image of Pilot Kakuno fountain pen courtsey of JetPens

Pilot Kakuno and Pilot Metropolitan specifications side by side

Specification Pilot Kakuno Pilot Metropolitan
Weight 0.40 oz / 11 grams 0.96 oz / 27 grams
Length - Capped 13.1 cm / 5.2 inches 13.8 cm / 5.4 inches
Length - Posted 15.9 cm / 6.3 inches 15.3 cm / 6.0 inches
Body material Plastic Metal
Closure type Snap Snap
Nib options Extra fine, fine, medium Extra fine, fine, medium, italic
Price ~$12.50 ~$25

🗒️ Note: The specifications for these pens were copied or adapted from JetPens and Goulet Pens.

Pilot Kakuno cons

The Pilot Kakuno has some features (or lack of) that may make it less desirable than the Metropolitan:

  • Lack of clip on cap
    (But the cap includes a small tab to prevent rolling on surfaces.)
  • Plastic body and lighter weight compared to the Metropolitan
  • Smiley face on the nib
    (Or this may be a feature, depending on your tastes. I’m not a fan.)

The smiley face nib on the Pilot Kakuno
The smiley face on the Pilot Kakuno—Photo courtsey of JetPens

The Pilot Metropolitan is not worth double the price of the Kakuno

You can argue the Metropolitan is a better pen than the Kakuno. For one, the Metropolitan includes a clip on its cap, which the Kakuno lacks. And some users prefer the metal body and heavier weight of the Metropolitan. (I myself am not bothered by the plastic body of the Kakuno. And I love how light it is in comparison to the Metropolitan.)

But the Metropolitan is not worth nearly twice the price of the Kakuno as a starter pen for the masses.

The nib is what makes Pilot pens so great. And with the Kakuno, you get the Pilot nib so many pen hobbyists know and love, at around half the price of the Metropolitan.

Both the Kakuno and the Metropolitan come with ink cartridges. So both requiring buying a converter if you prefer converters over cartridges.

The Metropolitan may be a better pen for some people. But the Kakuno is the better choice for broad recommendations—like any list about the top starter fountain pens.

The Cult of We and the dangers of FOMO and hubris

If you had to sum up in only a few sentences the WeWork debacle to someone unfamiliar with the situation, how would you do so? The following quote from The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell would be my candidate.

But prior to the prospectus becoming public, bankers and other advisers had continued to shower [Adam] Neumann with praise–giving him criticism too infrequently and too meekly. These advisers either ignored or danced around the company’s obvious warts and red flags.

Now, at the eleventh hour, they finally spoke up. But the IPO was already on life support.

If you have any interest in investing time reading about business train wrecks rather than investing your money into them, then pick up a copy of The Cult of We. Throughout the book, I often found myself shaking my head in disbelief, amazed at how many smart and successful people overlooked what should have been obvious red flags, such as CEO Adam Neumann’s selling too many shares too soon, Neumann’s constant power grabs, a private company buying a $63 million private jet even though it was hemorrhaging cash despite having had plenty time to find a path to profitability–the list goes on.

WeWork’s business model was simple. They leased up office buildings, prettied the spaces up to attract Millennials, and subleased the space at a premium. Their plan was hardly unique, as Regus had done the same a couple decades earlier. No matter how you cut it, WeWork was a real estate company. Yet many viewed it as a tech company, which justified the crazy valuations it had received before its IPO. WeWork would not have been valued so high if it were seen as a real estate company, since real estate companies are unable to scale as well as tech companies. It was the era of the visionary founder, and if the founder said WeWork was a tech company, then it must be a tech company.

Neumann and Masayoshi Son, the head of SoftBank, had convinced themselves that WeWork was a $10 trillion company, basically because they dared to dream so. The authors point out that, in 2018, the entire value of the U.S. stock market was $30 trillion. (Take a moment to let that sink in.)

Neumann and Son laid out a plan to reach the ambitious valuation while never acknowledging all the obstacles they would face. Neumann believed he could change the world in myriad ways: from how people work and live to how they educate their children.

Neumann and his wife Rebeka had convinced themselves they were environmentalists despite riding freely on the aforementioned private jet and even taking an abundance of WeWork’s unused couches to landfills. Rebeka had described the family as minimalists despite having at one time owned at least eight homes.

In summary, the delusions ran far and wide.

The story was a reminder of a crucial life lesson: Don’t be afraid to question the herd; just because the herd buys into the same narrative doesn’t mean they’re right. And you’re not wrong to question the herd.

The story also reminded me of similar moments I’ve experienced in thirteen years as a petroleum landman.

The first such moment came early in my career, when I was working in Dallas-Fort Worth’s Barnett Shale play. In the shadow of the Great Recession, the natural gas play was a bright spot and a boost to the local economy. Everyone involved in the industry was in high spirits, some even claiming the boom times could last 20 years. I remember raising an eyebrow at that declaration. I couldn’t make a convincing case for why the boom wouldn’t last 20 years, other than a feeling in my gut that such good times are unlikely to last so long. Within 13 months, my employer had closed its Fort Worth office and most of the former occupants were looking for jobs, as natural gas crashed from all-time highs and is only now, over a decade later, showing signs of significant recovery.

The second such moment came when I moved to West Texas in 2012. The Permian Basin is no stranger to boom-and-bust cycles, so the narrative wasn’t exactly the same as the Barnett Shale in 2008-2009. Instead, the collective wisdom was: This boom is different, whatever that meant. While the Permian Basin does not appear to be at risk of going the way of the Barnett, the area has still seen fluctuations in the near-decade since. The cycle of booms and busts is more frequent than in past decades, but the cycle still exists.

The Cult of We is not just a business book or a biography of a company that went from rising star to laughing stock in the blink of an eye. The book is also a warning: Never underestimate someone’s ability to be out of touch with reality.