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Archive for December, 2009

The longest day of the year

Posted by Dirck on 31 December, 2009

Time is a relative substance, isn’t it? It is possible to measure it objectively, and the German subcomponents of my own make up revel in the working of a nice, accurate watch, but our experience of it is highly variable depending on context and mood.

Two minutes can seem an eternity or an instant, depending on whether getting on the roller coaster was your idea or not. The same can be said of five seconds (a lover’s bed or a torturer’s rack), three hours (how do you feel about hobbits?), or a year (sent to jail/doctor’s prognosis).

A day, of course, is subject to this effect as well. “Day” in itself is a very floppy concept. The duration of sunlight where you’re standing? That changes constantly. A twenty-four hour period? Even allowing for the not-quite constant speed of the planet’s rotation, there’s still the question of when do you say it starts? Midnight is the current vogue. I understand noon was the beginning of the naval day in the reign of George III. A work-day is frequently eight hours, sometimes twelve, and I hear for medical students it can be as much as a hundred forty.

Let’s get extremely subjective. Let’s say a day starts and ends with waking and sleeping. Different for each of us, and the length of that period, in keeping with my opening remarks, may seem fleeting or protracted depending on the length and quality of the preceding sleep.

This is not a non-sequitur: Tonight my whole nuclear family is going to a friend’s house for a New Year’s party. A costume party, one is to dress as a literary character. My son reprises his Poe costume from Hallowe’en, my wife goes as one of the women from Poe’s works, and I go as the given name-free father of Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Sounds like fun, yes?

Well… my son decided that today should start at 3:20am. His parents are not entirely in a party mood, and the party isn’t for another seven hours, as of this 1:00pm posting.

Today’s sleepy pen: Parker 45 Flighter
Today’s bleary ink: Lamy blue-black


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It’s the thought that counts

Posted by Dirck on 30 December, 2009

I reverse from my notion of yesterday– the mails may be slower than I think, and I don’t want any surprises undone before they’re sprung.

My wife and I gave what I consider a lamentable pile of gift cards this year (which in our case was an item made of paper, with the words “GIFT CARD” printed on the outside, and stuffed with small bills; the store-bought type tend to have service fees and whatnot that cause them to evaporate if not used promptly). I lament because I like to give the right gift for Christmas/Birthday/Waitangi Day*, the one that says to the receiver that some serious thought went into it. This year was a bit of a bust in that regard because our son’s current activities tend to defeat rational thought, and because some of our various loved ones will not even in the face of desperate entreaties give any useful hints.

On the other hand, we offer lists, with specific items and broad categories of welcome things (“More Sleep” is apparently very hard to package). As a result, and with the added effect of very low expectations (Hoodoo McFiggins should be revelling in his collars!), we are very content each Christmas.

“I’ll bet,” I can hear my purported readers saying, “you got a pen.”

Wrong. And I’m happy for it.

Why? Because it is a great mistake to get something for someone who is interested in that thing. You’re apt to do it wrong. If someone likes, or I should say, is KNOWN to like “Precious Moments” figurines, it seems an obvious thing to go and get them one… until you ponder the multiplicity of the little brutes, and the high likelihood of the recipient already having the one you’re about to buy for them. With an esoteric pursuit, of which pens is only a moderately obscure example, the problems compound. Is this one of the sort of thing they actually like? Are they specific as to colour? Does it matter if the thing is still functional? How can I tell if it is still functional? Even if it’s on the wish list– am I certain the shop clerk knows what a Jemkins butter-thruster with reciprocating whey-gate is, or is he just acting wise to make a sale?

I have a few friends who I’ve briefed on fountain pens, who are very active in looking into unexpected places. One has turned up a couple of startling objects, and in each case has given the loot as a free and delightful gift. Most of my circle, however, have had the sense not to attend when I start frothing at the mouth and rambling about the difference between lever and hatchet fillers. They don’t buy me a pen as a gift. I don’t, except where an inclination (usually towards writing rather than stylophilia) beckons, give them very often. We all remain content.

Today’s pen, a delight to me alone: Lamy 99
Today’s ink, a mystery but to a select few: Herbin’s Vert Empire

*I realize that Waitangi Day is not particularly festive, but to us contra-antipodeal types it has a delightful sound. The last thing I want is to engender Maori wrath.

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The Sincerest Form of… how’s that go?

Posted by Dirck on 29 December, 2009

There was a quantity of loose time yesterday at The Regular Job– a lot of businesses were observing Boxing Day, the actual one falling on Saturday, and many people apparently assumed the same of my employer. I was, therefore, given some non-lunch hour leisure to stroll the safer precincts of the ‘net.

One of the blogs I looked at had a link to pen-fixer ne plus ultra Richard Binder. I clicked on it, as it’s been a while since I was on his site. I discovered that the link went not there… but to his blog. The title of his blog is Sweepings from the Studio, but the title bar at the top of the browser arrested me: “What’s going on at Richard Binder Fountain Pens.”


I will admit that at some point in the past I had looked in on “Sweepings,” although without prompting it was a fact lost to the conscious mind (I mentioned yesterday my trouble with things I haven’t written down). For those crazed fans of myself who might suggest that the learned Mr. Binder might have lifted his sub-title from my own title, I point out that his archive extends back some years before I ever thought to approach this mode of self-promotion. Also, let’s be honest– the path of emulation is going to run in one direction between these two points, and the point I occupy is not labelled GOAL.

At worst, my subconscious threw out a scrap that the aware portion of me mistook for originality (a word which, in connection to the internet, is very nearly a joke in itself). At best, I can take encouragement that the limits of my imagination lie in a similar place to those of such an eminent pen technician.

Confession out of the way, and in expectation of the mails having caught up with the Christmas press, I think tomorrow I’ll relate the heart-warming tale I didn’t want to do more than hint at before the day of jollity. The promised reviews will have to wait a little longer, while I play collect data

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Statesman
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 28 December, 2009

This morning as I was driving to The Regular Job, I thought, “That is an excellent topic for today’s entry!”

I have just spent nearly a half-hour trying to recall what it was, and my writing time wanes. Bah! I can, I think, blame the egg nog, with a contribution from the naughty St. Bernardus, but of course that just distracts from the overlying fallibility of a memory which has been allowed to rely on literacy rather than actual retention.

I will briefly mention, therefore, that Christmas passed as one would wish it. I refrained from making any more gifts of pens to my family, who are as you can imagine well found in that regard. The sole exception to the latter is my son, who is two days short of being 18 months old and thus not a current candidate for a pen. The weather was not as swinish as it might be in late December, which will will count as a win for the good guys. I can only hope everyone else’s was similarly copacetic.

Today’s pen: Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

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Dashing through the snow.

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2009

I must dash. I am writing this not on my Regular Job lunch break, but from the dubious comfort of the underground bunker upon which we lavish the code-name “semi-finished basement,” as I’m off work today. I shouldn’t expect another entry until Monday, as I’m going to try to apply any computer time I have free over this wonderfully long weekend to fixing photos on my website. I was recently embarrassed into learning how to do colour correction through software (having grown up on 110-cassette film cameras, I have trouble remembering that you can fix a picture once it’s taken).

But today, I must dash through the 20cm of snow we got yesterday (yes, the prediction was in error) to make all ready for tomorrow’s dashing from Christmas tree to Kerstboom. Next week may well hold promised reviews. A very merry culturally-appropriate solstice-related festival to all of you who haven’t already held it, and may the Dickensian spirits do no more than look in to see that you’re properly supplied with shortbread.

Today’s casual pen: Lamy Vista
Today’s hectic ink: Lamy Blue

Rondo Says:  Merry Christmas!
Have a very Rondo Christmas

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It’s beginning to look a LOT like Christmas

Posted by Dirck on 23 December, 2009

We are having what we call a winter storm. There is some wind and a quantity of snow falling, or in the words of CBC’s weather-describing service:

Snow and local blowing snow. Amount 10 to 15 cm. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50. Temperature falling to minus 16 this afternoon. Wind chill minus 27.

This doesn’t sound like much, of course, and for those of us used to it, it isn’t. It isn’t even that much to look at:
Saskatchewan winter storm (22 Dec 09, CBC photo)

I understand that something similar is driving England to its knees. I will not suggest for a moment that the people of the sceptered isle are in any way irrobust or unsturdy, and after a moment of astonishment looking at the pictures of the problem and not quite comprehending that there is a problem…

… I rationalize thus– you’re no good at what you’re unfamiliar with. I have a lot of trouble with humidity in the summer.

I thus, in this charitable part of the year, try to renew the way in which I view not only the lamentable winter-driving of the English, but the tentative and fearful way some people of my acquaintance approach the noble fountain pen. They’re not used to it. They don’t have a basis for dealing with it, for want of experience. Given time and kind guidance, they may come to understand and even enjoy it.

Well… fountain pens, at any rate. There’s something deeply, pathologically wrong with someone who enjoys winter.

Today’s pen, gripping well despite road conditions: Lamy 2000
Today’s ink, staying off the highway until crews have cleared it: Pelikan 4001 blue-black

Post Scriptus– the menace of the weather has made me forgetful. I was in at Paper Umbrella earlier in the week, and they were just unpacking a new shipment of Lamy Studio fountain pens. There’s still several shopping hours left to Christmas!

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Though the Frost was Cruel

Posted by Dirck on 22 December, 2009

I have in some previous posts mentioned the unpleasant weather we get in the winter here (even if astronomers hold it to still be autumn). I’m going to offer a little something today to disprove any myths of universal hardiness in Canadians, without taking any unnecessary jabs at those who live in the south-western parts of British Columbia– the fact that they have tulips in March takes care of that for me.

I was putting on my hat to go on my habitual walk, and a co-worker says, “You’re not walking in that? It’s storming out!”

I now copy and paste from the CBC’s weather page:

Feels like: -18°C
Light Snow
Visibility: 3.2 Km
Sunrise: 8:57 AM
Sunset: 4:57 PM
Wind: SE 28 km/h
Humidity: 85%

I mentioned I was wearing a hat, right? It’s not, I grant, the sort of thing that I’d be happy to discover myself in wearing slippers and a bathrobe, but it’s far from the harshest sort of thing we get around here. The co-worker is not alone in her opinion on “bad” weather, either– I suppose the fact that there’s a lateral component to the snow’s movement makes the ancestral plains-dwelling African who lives in all our mitochondria cry out in terror, and some of us are more attuned to that screech.

Sadly, the forecast is for ten degrees colder on Friday, to make the trooping to and fro between my son’s grand-parental houses just that much more fun.

Today’s pen: Esterbrook J (not an Icicle {an in-joke for you Estie fanciers}), mounting a 2048 Flexible-Fine point; less flex than the Osmiroid Copperplace which will fit the same body, but a more reliable feed.
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lis de Thé

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Posted by Dirck on 21 December, 2009

The sound of merry old Sol rebounding off the line of the southern tropic! Which, to the surprise of many Canadians, hip deep in snow or awaiting the regrowth of an improperly guarded ear-lobe, means that winter has now officially begun. I think we need to reconsider these lines of demarkation.

Today is also the beginning of the end for Christmas shopping, which means simple acts such as crossing a street are fraught with peril from madly racing procrastinators, and trying to pay for one’s simple lunch is opposed by horn-elbowed grannies intent on buying specific lottery tickets for each member of their swollen family. The urge to pitch people under buses is not one, I think, which would meet with the approval of Dickens’s spirits and the reformed Mr. Scrooge.

I am going to attempt now to blend the air of crankiness I’ve absorbed with the appropriate sentiment of the season: I will give advice meant kindly, but it will take the form of contrariness. Last friday, on a blog I quite regularly examine, I read the following:

J. Herbin, for instance, makes beautiful inks and sells them in charming bottles with a built-in pen rest, but the little 30ml containers are so shallow that they quickly become very difficult to work with. My overflowing ink box, ink fact, contains abandoned bottles of Herbin Lie de Thé (one of the finest browns in existence) and Poussière de Lune; I love the colours, but getting them out and into my pens, especially the large-nibbed Aurora Talentum, has become impossible.

My response is an instant, “Yes, but…!” There are pens quite well adapted to this difficult excercise. Probably the most readily available are the fully hooded pens, like the one which I use today and which has been very decently made available at a low price by other makers. The hood acts to concentrate the suction of the filler right at the end of the pen, making it fairly easy to draw every little bit of ink from a jar, even one as well equipped to repel boarders as the Herbin line.

The other solution is to apply one of Sheaffer’s Snorkel pens to the problem. The filling probe, so like the industrious mosquito’s, makes short work of shallow ink. One need not lament the dregs of an ink bottle, if one is supplied with an appropriate pen to the task.

It must be near Christmas. I’ve just spoke approvingly of mosquitoes.

Today’s unpested pen: Parker “51”
Today’s lifegiving fluid: Skrip blue-black

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Joy Compounded

Posted by Dirck on 18 December, 2009

The postman brings more seasonal joy to me, this time in the form a pen upon which I have been asked to commit a review. Like the planner previously mentioned, I’ve not had a chance to properly run it around yet, so I don’t yet have a sensible opinion, but I will say that it is an improved version of a Wality pen, and I’m well disposed towards those already, so “review” and “recommendation” might be interchangible words in this context.

Also in the good news front: a client has given me clearance to expand my efforts on a couple of pens that technically just need a re-sac but will profit from more attention, the place I habitually go for lunch on Fridays declared a Christmassy drinks on the house for the regulars (hooray!) and the egg nog I sampled as I put it up in bottles for transport to family gatherings doesn’t appear to have done me any lasting harm… although I did find a note this morning pinned to my pillow saying, “I can’t take this abuse much longer. Love, Your Liver.”

Today’s happy pen: Waterman 52
Today’s delighted ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noir

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Ring and Run

Posted by Dirck on 17 December, 2009

Seasonal festive lunch with Regular Job staff means no time for this effort.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Bleu Nuit

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