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Archive for August, 2009


Posted by Dirck on 31 August, 2009

The house guest is installed. Despite promises of not having to help, as she’d hired movers, I have many trips of stairs added to my personal odometer, inhaled dust of diverse and unknown sorts, and had to devote the entire weekend to the operation.

Also, while my tools remain accessible, space to use them is elusive. I can’t actually reach my ink stores, either. I am too crabby to put a humourous spin on the day’s entry. Perhaps I’ll be amusing tomorrow.

Today’s pen: Parker “51” aerometric
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Blue Nuit
(If this combo sounds familiar, it is the very same set up as a week ago Friday– the pen wasn’t empty, and it was where I could get at it without hurting myself)


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Good works

Posted by Dirck on 28 August, 2009

I’m not sure that this isn’t an extension of the soft-heartedness (or is it head) that brought me to my current living arrangement, but today I’m giving away pens.

This is not, I’m sorry to say, one of those things where I encourage people to comment on my blog by offering a small prize. “Sorry to say” because of the possiblility of having raised, however briefly, expectations of free stuff in what is turning out to be a score or so of readers, and also because it reveals a flaw in my personality in the direction of miserliness.

No, the pens I’m giving away are already spoken for. One, a Hero 616, is a very low grade parting gift for a co-worker who returns to full time school next week, and who has been spoken of previously as the focus of another co-worker’s efforts to draw her into Mannenhitsu-do. It cost me very little, and it will drive her to go buy some ink eventually, an act almost certain to land her near some better pens.

My other donation is a box of five pens, on their way to Wales to be experimented upon by one who is interested in learning the art of repair, which is definitely a wing of Mannenhitsu-do. The only one that there’s any real hope for is the inherently hopeless Wearever Pennant (a proper lever-filling model, at least). The rest are all the sort of thing that a beginner need not fear rendering beyond repair while learning, because they’re already there.

I am slightly abashed in this so-called good work, alas. I’ve asked the recipient to cover postage. I expect Marley’s ghost to be hanging off the end of my bed tonight.

A final aside, as I take one more shameful snipe at Sanford– thanks to the efforts of the crew of the Penquod, we may have found what has become of the colour that used to reside in Parker ink– it’s being stuffed into pencils.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Compact II (it goes well with the waistcoat I’m wearing today, but it’s so darned short!)
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noir

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Got to pick a pocket…

Posted by Dirck on 27 August, 2009

My son is in danger. At any moment, Fagin (ideally played by Alec Guinness) is apt to appear and spirit him away to his true calling of pick-pocket.

His most astonishing feat thus far is abstracting my mother’s watch from her wrist, while he distracted her with a toy held in his other hand. She didn’t notice it was gone until he began waving it over his head in triumph. That’s quite the feat for a chap still shy of 14 months.

The problem for me in this, apart from a disinclination to be a background figure in a Dickens-inspired musical, is that I am very frequently holding the wee footpad on my right side, giving him easy access to my pen pocket. Thus far he’s been mostly attracted to newer and studier pens, but it won’t be long before he’s worked out relative values.

He disguises it as a game, of course– pen out of pocket, pen into pocket, just a happy repetitive infant’s play, lalalala. Apart from perfecting his dunking, though, I have more grave concerns. Last night, as he was “returning” my pen, he took a good grip on it and pressed it firmly into the space between a couple of ribs. The look on his face was that of one who has some valuable data from an experiment which needs contemplation. Just how much force to penetrate? Might a more slender pen do a better job?

I need to convince him that even if he manages to get away with it, the inheritance isn’t yet worth the effort.

Today’s pen: Lamy 2000 (big blunt ends… although it might serve as a bludgeon)
Today’s ink: Lamy blue-black.

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Hard Times

Posted by Dirck on 26 August, 2009

I understand that the world economy is not doing so well. The local, the provincial economy is apparently just starting to feel this, having been until now relatively resistant to such things (I maintain it’s more a matter of it having been in the hole for so long that when the rest of the world dropped, we were dazzled by the sudden appearance of the sun, but I do not have an Economist’s feathered head-dress and bone-rattle).

Personally, I will not complain for a moment. Despite the presence of the third member of our happy tribe, The Regular Job is now bringing in as much money as I’ve ever made, and we appear to be able to pay our bills on time for the foreseeable future. The province remains sufficiently socialist that all health matters are non-threatening (my wife has asthma, so we have to pay almost $20 a month for her various prescriptions), and one might almost sense a note of optimism in my contemplations of the upcoming decade.

I should know better, of course.

We have a friend, who despite working three jobs could easily be described as poverty-striken. Because the local economy is “strong” (shake rattle, rustle head-dress, invoke the great juju Adam Smith), there is a bit of a housing shortage here, which means landlords are fairly free to charge what they like for apartments. She found herself facing rent on a one bedroom apartment very nearly double what we’re paying on our two bedroom mortgage, when an acquaintance of hers suggested this: Acquaintance is moving to another city to take a master’s degree, but does not wish to sell her house– why does our friend not move in, scrape up a couple of room mates, and pay far less in rent by way of covering the mortgage on this place?

Our friend was very pleased at this prospect. For diverse reasons, though, only one potential room mate had been found as of ten days ago (there are now, alas, teeming masses of “Can I Be Your Room Mate?” notices about), and the acquaintance began to turn savage– a deadline was announced, unexpected damage deposits mooted, and similar nearly-reasonable but unexpected hurdles of slowly increasing impossibility.

Our friend had, of course, given notice on her apartment, which was instantly assigned to some other desperate person. As of the end of this month, she has no roof to sling her stuff under.

Last week, my wife had a fit of compassion. “I’m sure we can fit you into the basement for a month or so, while you find somewhere else.” Our basement is in such a state that it might be the annex of Fibber McGee’s closet. Our friend has a cat, which may not get on with our six (yes, it’s a lot of cats already– fits of compassion by both of us are not uncommon). We all have personality tics which might not wear so well with perpetual exposure. It seems, at very least, a good way to damage a friendship.

Happily, after laying the position out to her landlord, a place is found for her– slightly smaller, for the same rent, but a place. It’s available on 15 September, so at worst we all have to put up with each other for a couple of weeks.

What might this have to do with pens? Well, the re-laying of the hold in the next couple of days and its occupation by a guest might well interfere with my access to both tools and computer. This aimless gazette will go on regardless, but actually doing anything may take a hit. My irrational aspect believes this to be the outcome of thinking to myself, “This is the weekend I master the fountainbel Triumph Point Removal Tool!” The lesson, kids, is never believe you know what you’re doing in the future.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Valiant chubby touchdown version
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Off topic.

Posted by Dirck on 25 August, 2009

I don’t seem to have any serious pen-theme topics in mind today, nor much in the way of whimsy. Rather than just sit quietly, which is abhorrent in the modern world, I will yammer.

Recently I’ve had a chance to watch a recent DVD release of the second film to feature Godzilla. There are few pens visible, although in his big cameo, the first film’s Dr. Yamane (Shimura Takeshi, a class act indeed) does a lot of gesturing with something that might be a pen, or a letter opener, or some item of mid-century Japanese desk litter I’m unequipped to recognize… but this is not my point. My point is a recommendation of it, with caveats. Caveat the first is that the dubbed version (Gigantis the Fire Monster) is rather hard to take if you haven’t trained up for it– it’s the sort of thing people make fun of Japanese monster movie over.

Caveat second is that the subtitled original, Gojira no Gyakushu (“Godzilla’s Counterattack”, more freely titled as “Godzilla Raids Again”), is nothing like as good as the original, in which I speak of Gojira rather than Godzilla King of the Monsters. Nothing against Raymond Burr, mind you, but there’s some pretty cool subtexts that slide out of the version he’s in. The sequel has the flaws of sequels, but it’s not as bad as some people say. Of course, those people were mainly talking about Gigantis.

Further off track, I should remedy an oversight through a plug. I bought a Panama hat over the summer, and despite the nasty things Stephen Fry says about them I’m very pleased with mine. I didn’t spend a mint on it, either, and for the combination of customer service, price, and willingness to accommodate an unfashionably large skull, it’s hard to do better than the folks at The Panama Hat Company of St. Augustine. It takes a little perseverance for those living outside the US, as they’re not yet set up for online international orders, but it’s absolutely worth the small effort required.

…and that finishes the lunch break.

Today’s idle pen: Sheaffer Statesman snorkel
Today’s inactive ink: Skrip blue

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There’s GOLD in them thar thangs!

Posted by Dirck on 24 August, 2009

I’m sure I’m not unique as an inhabitant of North America in my lamentable habit of watching television. I was allowing this very habit some rein this weekend, when I saw an ad for one of these depression-driven gold-buying firms, in which they offer untold riches to anyone willing to cram a pile of auriferous jewellry and household goods into a mailing pouch and sent it along to them.

I won’t suggest that there’s a scam attached to this, although I rather suspect that the people who were waving around fist-fulls of hundred dollar bills must have had access to a collection that would make Mr. T blush. A quick glance at a couple of sites (which I’m not linking to, thank you) reveals that they’re paying about US$540 per ounce of 14K gold while the current market price of gold is around $940. Fair enough. There’s non-gold in 14K, which is why it’s not 24K, and they have to process it and render it and such like, so there’s costs involved.

Why am I looking at 14K gold, specifically? Well, that’s the most popular grade for points in fountain pens. This is where my worry comes in. We appear to be bouncing along the bottom of the current global economic catastrophe, possibly gaining some ground, and a lot of people are still worried about having money to keep a roof over their head (especially when, in many cases, that roof cost a LOT more than it’s worth now). A place to live does, even I will grant, take precedence over a pile of old pens. Why not pack them off to one of these recyclers and take the cheque?

Because you will be screwing yourself on the exchange, that’s why. With the seriously vintage pens, pre-1940 or so, the point is worth several times its weight in gold. It’s a precision-finished object, of which none are being made (a vintage point is not at all like a modern one, any more than a samurai sword is like the blade from a riding mower), and here’s the most important thing: it weighs almost nothing.

Newer pens, even new ones, are still more valuable as a complete object than the worth of that tiny fragment of gold they carry at the top. A recent discussion of this on the Fountain Pen Network came around to, if memory serves, a conclusion that if you can get more than $12 for a pen, you’re getting more than the actual value of the gold, never mind what a scrap buyer will offer.

So, if you are sitting there in front of an empty refrigerator and a full pen case, get on over to eBay, the FPN or Pentrace.net and sign up. Flog that pen as a pen. You’ll get more for it, and a valuable object will be saved from aimless destruction.

Today’s artifact: X-Pen Atlantic
Today’s ink: Bruynzeel black (yes, the same cartridge from all that time in the past. Today’s it’s last day, however much is left in it)

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Recovery and the new mine field.

Posted by Dirck on 21 August, 2009

Wow. I don’t know what I had, but you don’t want any. Nothing exploded, no limbs dropped off, but when I have a day off from The Regular Job and I don’t try to work on some pens, you know I’m in a sad state indeed.

I was not in a deep enough coma to entirely ignore the day’s news, and I hear that the first wedge has been driven in the armour of incivility in the internet– some person made hurtful comments about some model, and is being made to face the potential of consequences.

Good, say I, but with a quiver in my heart. This medium sees a lot of language float past that would shame a drunken sailor in previous ages, and putting a cork in the flow of aimless obsenity is not an entirely bad thing. We are, however, given to extremity– if it proves to now be trouble-provoking to say negative things here, it may happen that debate and opinion dry up entirely.

I offer as an example my previous lamentations about Quink (which I will, I hope as much as anyone, drop soon). I present my opinion about the current quality of a product, in what I believe is a reasonable and non-nasty way. With this change in the wind, though, might the vast corporation responsible for the item view it as easier to cry “Libel!” than to even consider returning to the previous formulation of the product? I am, after all, just one man, with a business so small it can hardly be said to exist. I’d squish easy.

Well, I’m not going to conduct myself any differently for the moment. There is a difference, after all, between hurling epithets and making fair comment. I just hope judges in the near future can tell the difference.

Today’s pen: Parker “51” aerometric
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Nuit (which, happily, remains blue)

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Posted by Dirck on 20 August, 2009

I’m too sick to work a keybord.

See? Off to the bath tub.

Today’s pen: Life-brand ear-probe thermometer
Today’s ink: You really don’t want to know

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Posted by Dirck on 19 August, 2009

I spoke to soon, yesterday. An other twenty-four hours has left my Quink tests even more washed-out looking. I’m going to start experimenting with some amendments (I’ve got plenty of the stuff to play with) suggested by FPN ink manipulators.

I still praise the people who were made to deal with me. I’m sure that they’re put in an impossible position, given what are no doubt the corporate orders to them (“KEEP THOSE SIMPLETONS HAPPY AND BUYING!!”) and the orders given to the production end (“MAKE IT CHEAPER!!!”). One suspects that the order-givers view ink as a very low priority indeed.

On that note, I’m going to pick up yesterday’s pen to draft a letter long overdue.

Today’s pen: Wing Sung 612
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lis de Thé

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Posted by Dirck on 18 August, 2009

In a previous post, I wonked publicly about a bottle of Quink blue-black which I had recently bought. In a somewhat more recent post I indicated that there was action underway by Newell/Rubbermaid. Guess what arrived in the mail yesterday?

I got a large package with three bottles of the self-same ink in it– one replacement, one by way of apology, and one in lieu of the money spent sending them the offending bottle (which works about about right, given current ink prices).

But, what of the quality? Those to whom the unhappy ink was returned declared befuddlement at the way it was acting, so one would assume the replacements are not inclined to fade, and are generally the same colour as I’m used to.

I’ve only opened one bottle. I’m of mixed opinion, and I’ll try to be entirely fair. There is not the odd and rapid descent into something rather paler and greener, and that’s a very good thing. It is still somewhat paler than I’d hoped… but reflection suggests that I may be unfairly comparing a fresh bottle of ink to one which has been opened at regular intervals over the past year or so, with evaporation concentrating the colour. That colour seems a little more blue in the old one, all the same.

To which I’m sure some will cry, “Fussbudget!” and rightly so. I will conclude thus: I’m not quite back to wholeheartedly suggesting Quink blue-black as a good combination of colour, permanence, availability and cost, but my reservations are very slight and still open to modification. I do entirely congratulate the Canadian wing of the Newell/Rubbermaid Office Products Group for having a consumer relations department that reacts quite briskly and gives every appearance of care and concern about the product– if you have any issues about one of their products, don’t hesitate to contact them.

Today’s pen: Parker 21 Super
Today’s ink: The latest Quink, for a real-world test run.

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