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Archive for November, 2009

Brief Notes

Posted by Dirck on 30 November, 2009

I took the family out shopping this past weekend, and I want to offer a plug for a newly opened local toy store: Zippity Zoom Toys at 4649 Rae Street. They haven’t got a website as such, just a facebook page, but they’ve got some very high quality stuff and not the best location ever, so if you are within the sound of Wascana Park’s migrant goose population, I urge you to have a look in.

Last week my brother made a cutting yet honest remark about the look of my regular site. Over the next couple of months, I’m going to get a proper grip on some newer web-authouring software and apply myself to a facelift– I say this publicly so that the power of Shame will come into play, both against me and in my favour, all at once.

Truncated lunch break (fun reasons!), so truncated entry.

Today’s pen: Waterman Phileas
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green


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Seduction, early stages.

Posted by Dirck on 27 November, 2009

I have previously mentioned a co-worker who I drew into mannenhitsu-do, and who has since tried to press the lifestyle on others. She has left The Regular Job (for grad school, which I resent only because I’m alive with envy). Her place has been filled with a new person, who has apparently been hitherto innocent of fountain pens.

Yesterday I pressed my loaner pen upon her, because the way she holds a ballpoint to produce lines actually makes my hand hurt to watch– pen pressed against the ball of the thumb with first two fingers, thumb locked around them, the second knuckle of the middle finger jutting forward like the prow of a ship. A US Coast Guard ship, given how white it goes.

She noticed the difference in feel, even with the extremely low-grade fountain pen. I didn’t press the issue at day’s end, simply retrieved the pen to return it to its accustomed spot on my desk (a spot chosen to distract the idle pen borrower from my desk set, which I’d prefer not to have trot away).

When I was not at my desk this morning, she used it to leave a message she had taken for me. We may consider this the establishment of a beachhead. Soon, I will idly refill a pen in open view, which I’m sure will drive her wild with curiosity. Another innocent being led into the way of knowledge by a cynical and worldly villain….

Today’s come-hither pen: Sheaffer 5-30
Today’s intoxicating ink: Herbin’s Terre de Feu

Post Scriptus: This very clever turn of phrase appeared in yesterday’s Ink Quest, and I wish to reproduce it as well as link to it, I’m so admiring of it (emphasis added):

…while the common ballpoint pen requires the hand to press down firmly upon the paper, a real nib needs barely to touch the page to make its mark. Ink fact, most people are, because of the terrible hegemony of the biro, so used to writing with brute force that they would probably, if given an ordinary fountain pen from, say, the 1920s, damage or even break the nib within seconds. In our rush to embrace disposable writing instruments, we have disposed of the gentle embrace.

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Posted by Dirck on 26 November, 2009

I have been interested in fountain pens for most of my life, having started on them in the fourth grade– the very moment pens were entertained as a regular writing instrument, I settled upon the fountain pen. This interest has waxed and waned, but never entirely vanished.

During my high school days, there was a brief period of increase which co-incided with the morbid apocalyptic sensibility of the day (Ronald Reagan making ill-timed jokes, the Soviet Union still solvent and Road Warrior in the theatres– the expectations for ongoing civilization were very low). One of my responses to the latter issue was to investigate antique shops, as a sort of grasping at a less fraught past, and one of these investigations fed the former. I came away with two black rubber pens, at some kind of bargain price.

I say black rubber now, of course. At the time, I took it for olden-timey plastic. I had no conception of a filler, my entire experience to that point being cartridges. The internet in any civilian formulation was at about a decade away (and there wouldn’t have been much available on DARPAnet), so there was not much to guide me but my own experience.

I wished to insert, therefore, a cartridge in my newly-bought pens. An attempt to unscrew the section… fruitless. Perhaps this lever on the side is a lock of some sort. A lift, a crunch, and the certain sensation of something that is supposed to resist giving way. I went more carefully at the second pen, with the same result. Dashed, I flung the pens into a drawer.

Years pass, I discover the true interior nature of pens made before myself, sources of parts, techniques of repair. I return to the drawer these pens went into, the drawer still residing in my old room at my parents house while I have lived in other cities and other countries, and throw it open to finally repair these interesting old pens, which I think were quite early Sheaffers and which I have convinced myself merely need resacking.

Gone. And now memories fail. Did I dispose of them in shame at having “wasted” my money on them? Did my mother fling them in an effort to reduce the amount of childhood detritus in the house (very unlikely, given some of the more invasive lumps of yesteryear still lurking in that very cabinet)? Were they moved at some point, still packed away safely in some box in another part of that or my own house?

Nothing comes to me, and so I’m left to regrets for youthful enthusiasm and ignorance. One of the defining sensations of humanity, of course, but I needn’t be happy about it,

Today’s pen, for my sins: Parker 25
Today’s ink of redemption: Noodler’s Van Gogh Starry Night (same cartridge as the IM last week– thus I repair my wasteful ways)

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Injection Site.

Posted by Dirck on 25 November, 2009

…or, “What I did with my lunch hour yesterday that made my arms sore.”

I think I’ve mentioned previously that I’m a fan of low-horsepower socialism. The province I live in is one of the more socialist places in North America, is in fact where the notion of government-run healthcare came from, and yesterday’s innoculation experience is apt to confirm just about any preconception you care to name regarding that kind of a system.

The clinic was set up in a disused school (my wife’s high school, coincidentally enough). As one passed within, one received a form on which to print name and government health number, with a place to check which essentially declared you were aware you were having needles shoved into your arm and might not feel entirely well later, and whether there was some reason you might not want the shot (egg allergy is a big one).

Passing along the hallway, there was a room designated as pre-screening, where the poor misfits who couldn’t fill in the form properly got help, then another room with a sign saying “Screening.”  The use of this word is not what context leads to believe, so I’ll return to it. Past the screening room, the school’s gymnasium had a dozen vaccination stations set up, and a half-dozen nurses occupying them (the other six were, I expect, off for lunch), and a few beds for fainty types. March over, hand the nurse the form, get the jab, two if you feel like you want the standard seasonal flu shot as well, and away to a waiting room where you’re asked not to go anywhere for fifteen minutes in case you discover you are in fact allergic to eggs.

The cost to me– the gas it took to get to the clinic (about eight blocks from work), the ink it took to fill in my form, and about forty minutes because the place was a little busy. Plus a slightly higher tax burden than someone in a more laissez-faire part of the world. I am entirely happy with that. As a bonus, my wife had taken my son for his second shot (infants get two spaced half-doses) so I got a mid-day cuddle. Because the vaccine was entirely in government control, I could no go in any sooner than yesterday, because I’m generally healthy and not of an age where H1N1 is as threatening as it is to some. My wife got hers early for health reasons, my son because he’s an infant. I’m a little less OK with that, since I was in a bit of a fidget over contagion the past couple of weeks, but I understand the need to keep the clinic from being swamped with robust pushy people while the chronically ill and otherwise susceptible are pushed aside by them.

The one thing that really struck me as odd is the thing that would get the strongly right-wing sort shouting, “See?! I told you it would be like that!” The screening room was nothing to do with deciding who should get the shots. The screening room had a fifteen foot screen at one end, with seven ranks of chairs set up facing it, each rank twelve seats across– a theatre. This was a flow control. Each rank would in turn be taken in for shots, so those who had got there first were known and given correct precedence. The weird thing was what was being screened– a loop of a woman explaining what we were there for, what was about to happen, what the side effects might be, and why it was a good thing to get vaccinations in general. It was Orwellian, to be honest, but a very low-grade and not particularly threatening form of Orwellian.

Of course, I’m on side. The rightist might well flee such indoctination. He might also, as a result, catch a nasty flu. Carrots and sticks, I suppose.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Statesman touchdown
Today’s ink: Pelikan blue-black

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An Iron in Each Flank.

Posted by Dirck on 24 November, 2009

Spent the whole of lunch getting my H1N1 and standard flu shots. I’ll describe the process tomorrow, as it was despite expectations slightly interesting.

Todays Pen of Wellness: Eversharp Skyline
Today’s Ink of Health: Noodler’s Tulipe Noir

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Making up for lost calories.

Posted by Dirck on 23 November, 2009

I’m going to step away from pens for a moment. I was driven to make Sunday dinner due to a brief spell of illness on my mother’s part, and to use a phrase seldom heard in this part of the world, I really pushed out the boat.

Roast beef, at the precise point of rareness that is ruddy but not bloody (for which I can thank a briefly malfunctioning oven, curse it as I might at the time) and requiring slightly more chewing than butter (for which I thank our local butcher, who apparently has a pipeline to some other dimension where beef is never tough). Baby potatoes, boiled to doneness and tossed in butter. Carrots thrown into the same pan as finished the potatoes, not glazed but sweet on their inherent sugars. The ribbon on this particular gift of food was the Yorkshire pudding, lofty, golden, at once crunchy and soft.

I led a deprived childhood, as Yorkshire pudding is a recent event in my life. I don’t know if I might have refused it at some young age, thinking that pudding must necessarily have come from a box labelled JELLO, but the first encounter I can recall with it was not ten years ago, and it has been a very irregular part of my diet. This month, though, I’ve had it three times, once in a restaurant and twice by my own hand– because you should try an unfamiliar recipe out before calling it Sunday dinner, just like you should figure out the fixing of pens on your own collection before digging at someone else’s.

I had mentioned this to my mother, and my sense of deprivation. She cited a certain concern with the technique of making, which I can understand; pouring batter into a base of hot oil is intimidating, and the whole affair is honestly a lot of effort… but the end result is so very worth the chase. If you think you have any business dealing with a 400F stove, I urge you to give it a try– there’s a fine recipe here, although I worked from the recent update of The Joy of Cooking.

I will concede that after cramming down this meal with immoderate gusto, I fully understood how one of the more popular sports in Victorian England was Gouty Foot Supporting. I recommend it, but perhaps not too frequently.

Today’s pen: Waterman 12
Today’s ink: Lamy blue

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Click, Click, Click! Clonk?

Posted by Dirck on 20 November, 2009

Today’s pen worries me. I’m used to pens that have many decades of service under their belts, but this object, not yet two years old, I have worries about. It is keeping my worries under its cap.

The older pens, which trouble me less, generally keep their caps in place with a screw-thread. Very old pens or somewhat newer ones are apt to have a slip cap. These new-fangled pens, though, have a click-cap. Pull the cap off with a deal of effort and a click. Press it back into place and hear a satisfying and positive click. What could be more certain?

Pause a moment and consider what is making the click. That’s the sound of a bit of somewhat flexible plastic up inside the cap banging back into more or less the original shape after being deformed out of the way of some inflexible interface on the front end of the pen. This is a problem, of course, because after a certain number of repetitions, that flexible item will stop going back into shape. Plastic only stays flexible for so long. Friction and abrasion are seldom far apart. One day, pushing that cap back on will produce a brief silence, and then a quantity of cursing. That day is probably a decade or two away, but it will be an effective end to the useful life of a pen whose other components are still raring to go.

The irony of this worry for the future is that yesterday’s pen was also a click-cap, and a jolly early example of the form– from the first half of the 1950s at the newest, and more likely the latter 1940s. It still clicks into place with gusto, so why won’t today’s keep going for a half-century or more? Well, every little bit of the working mechanism in yesterday’s cap was made of metal, which is somewhat more durable, and it’s also a lucky example. I’ve got a cap in my parts bin in which the inner clutch of a Waterman click-cap of that same pattern is a sadly bent and flattened thing. Irretrievable.

Beware the click of the cap, click-cap users. Each click is the sound of your pen’s clock, marking its road to ultimate doom!

…say, where is the “portentous thunder/menacing lightning” app on WordPress?

Today’s fated pen: Parker IM
Today’s more or less permanent ink: Noodler’s Van Gogh Starry Night

P.S.– careful observers of my usual pattern will note that this entry is very late. My wife got her H1N1 jabs yesterday. I was called halfway through today’s composition to come home and look after our son while she enjoyed being one of the rare few who feel pronounced side effects from the vaccine.

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Other business

Posted by Dirck on 19 November, 2009

I’ve got a couple of letters I really must write, and this is about the only time I can see free for attacking them. Perhaps tomorrow.

Today’s flying pen: Waterman Crusader
Today’s gushing ink: Lamy blue-black

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Does Size Matter?

Posted by Dirck on 18 November, 2009

Enough foolishness, there at the back. I will happily tell your parents what kind of dirty minds you’ve got.

This is a result of yesterday’s revelation regarding my spatial awareness. Does the size of a pen really have that much bearing on its function? My answer, after thinking about it firmly overnight, is– sort of. A bit.

When one is speaking of external dimensions, there are certain points where the size of your hand and the size of the pen will not overlap. If someone had “average” hands (and how we propose to measure that I will not guess), almost any pen should work for. Smallest hands and biggest pens do not mesh, nor vice versa. I’m slightly at the large end of the human hand spectrum, having rather delicate hands for my hulking frame, and so I find most pens work well enough but for the very smallest. I can accomodate myself to them, but yesterday’s pen is about as small I use with any regularity (my 52 1/2 V languishes, the 5-30SR gets used only because of its width, and the Compact II may find itself on the selling floor soon). I can see how those with notably large or small hands might wish to avoid an extremity of pen.

I honestly don’t understand people who declare a preference for an extremely heavy pen. The reason given is frequently that the weight of the pen slows them down and thus improves their writing. This strikes me as a short term solution, since if you can’t pick your hand up as you start page three of The Great Novel, it’s rather moot whether your writing was legible the previous two pages. I suppose that I should mention here that if faced with a longer or shorter pen to work with, I’d tend to choose the shorter, because the balance point is likely to be nearer the business end. A pen may weight very little, but if you’re working to keep the tip in contact with the paper, you’re still working.

The other place where size becomes a question is the width of the point. Some will write only with a bold pen. I’ve been a life-long seeker of fine pens, but I find that I’m starting to appreciate the ink-displaying potentials of medium points; there’s a lot more shading possible when the lines aren’t thin to the limit of human vision. The same urge to prove that I am actually using a fountain pen to future readers of my scribbles that drives me from black ink should drive me toward fatter points.

What keeps me in Fineland is my capacity to make a cursive e look like an i without any assistance from a broad pen. I am considering seeking out a some fine italic points….

Today’s middling large, fine-pointed pen: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Posted by Dirck on 17 November, 2009

I got a couple of pens in the mail yesterday, more loot from my eBay dredging activities. Unlike a lot of things I get from that source, these had reasonable pictures and a decent description. And yet, when I opened the package, I was surprised.

I am, in fact, almost always surprised when I come into contact with a pen for the first time, but moreso when it’s one I’ve fooled myself into thinking I knew from pictures. Somewhere between world and conscious mind, perhaps lurking in the optic chiasm or in the folds of the visual cortex, I appear to have a Pen Exaggerator. That initial meeting always contains a note of, “Huh… I’d thought that was larger.”

It’s a foolish thing, increasingly so as my experience broadens further. This is not to say that some pens aren’t actually large– things like the oversize Balance, the high-number Watermans, even the Senior Duofold, are relative colossi… but only relative. Amongst other pens, they tower, but they will all fit with more or less comfort into the average adult human hand. The Exaggerator, despite all reason, informs me that a pen seen in a picture must be about the size of my shoe.

I think in part the problem lies outside my head. Books and sites with decent photography (e.g.– not mine) tend to have very clear close-ups of the pens under consideration, showing clearly legible impressions which in life are miniscule. I’d lay the blame there entirely, except I’ve held enough pens, frequently while squinting through a loupe, that I shouldn’t be prey to this illusion.

Happily, it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of pens once the initial shock has worn off.

Today’s sub-normal pen: Parker Moderne
Today’s ink, making a big impression: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

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