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Archive for January, 2010

Action Pen-ding

Posted by Dirck on 29 January, 2010

Another short entry through the nature of my Fridays, and I’ll just note that an influx of parts renders me able to get going on some repairs that have been left hanging for want. Now all I need is for my son to not go too mad this weekend so I’ll have time to get at them.

The title reminds me– I should start putting away some money to afford the tools to take dents out of metal caps.

Today’s pen: Waterman Phileas
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune


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Posted by Dirck on 28 January, 2010

In a recent installment, the Penquod’s owner-aboard noted that he has fulfilled a longstanding ambition and bought a proper hat, and was subsequently worried that his might undo his longstanding pursuit of anonymous background-blending. An appendix to today’s episode shows some foundation to his worries.

I want to put his mind at rest. Adopting a hat is a long-standing part of becoming invisible– even H.G. Wells knew it:

He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose;

The thing is that most people when presented with something outside their common experience will choose to ignore it. The same sort of unconscious yet willful blindness that leads folks to step across a body, supporting the maneuver on the head of a kneeling paramedic, renders most people insensible of things like nice hats.

There are some folks who will be able to penetrate this cloak. As The Inkanthropist discovers, the majority of these are simpletons who overcome the problem by simple dint of having no subconscious– all their resources are at the top of consciousness, working madly to keep them from wandering off piers or eating light bulbs. There are a very few other observant souls who actually attend to what is in front of them and have the wit to comprehend it, although they’re generally too shy if not fictional to pass along a comment.

The same effect prevents people from noticing fountain pens, I’m sure. Yesterday, for the first time in an age, someone commented on the pen I was using– the lady at a customer service desk in a store where I was returning something. I’m pretty sure that the fact that most of the pen is of modern design allowed her to step around the usual veil which seems to descend every time I’m waving a pen around in public. Had it been the pen of either of the previous two days, each much more striking but also much more obviously anachronistic, I have no doubt I wouldn’t have heard the admiring coo.

I’m sure this will persist until, if the current apparent trend for a return to hattedness continues, there’s noting noteworthy about having a decent lid while walking out. Invisibility becomes flock-anonymity once again.

Today’s hard-to-spot pen: Waterman Citation
Today’s sneaky ink: Noodler’s Van Gogh Starry Night (it is sneaky, too– you’d hardly believe it was a blue ink rather than a black one)

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Posted by Dirck on 27 January, 2010

A sign of how very exciting my life is– my entire lunch hour has been devoted to an unnecessarily epic struggle to get a new filter for the vacuum. Since the alternatives include running from alien-directed meteors (unlikely) and natural disasters one can’t just put on better boots to deal with (quite possible), I’ll not complain too much.

Today’s exhillarating pen: Waterman Hémisphère
Today’s dazzling ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Shovelling out

Posted by Dirck on 26 January, 2010

This past weekend we saw Winter return in its accustomed shape– rather cold and unpleasant. Rather than the usual too much cold issue we face here, we found ourselves with an uncommon too much snow complaint. Generally, until late February, it’s too cold for enough moisture to stay in the air to allow snow to develop, but the preceeding fine weather produced roughly 30cm (archaic measures: a foot, one sixth-fathom) of snow. The accompanying winds meant that this was not entirely even in its distribution– by my house there are drifts of chest-height and voids where it’s no more than mid-shin.

The sidewalk, which law demands we shovel, was sadly hip-deep. My shovel-moving parts are quite sore.

In deference to the English who faced… somewhat less snow with much less experience of it, I apologize for any imputations. Much of the city, and the province, was brought to a standstill by Monday morning. I myself took two full minutes longer than usual driving the 8km to The Regular Job (and then 10 minutes of nervous circling trying to find a way into the parking lot), and about half my co-workers never managed it. I can only hope this means that Europe is struggling along under the kind of winter it’s used to as well.

Along with this tedious weather report (although I imagine some Australians are enjoying even the concept of cold weather about now), I bring word on the durability of my experimental Quink redemption. A week and more on the paper, left exposed to common indoor light, and it’s stayed essentially the colour its immediate ancestor was. Those anxious to try it for themselves may rest assured that they’re not ruining a bottle of ink. Not any more than Parker has done to it, at least.

Today’s pen: Waterman Champion
Today’s ink: Skrip blue-black

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Exercising Literacy

Posted by Dirck on 25 January, 2010

Last week I mentioned properly exercising the spine of a book. This is something I mean to put into my website, but since I’m moving quite glacially in the book side of the site, I’m going to cover it here.

When a book is new, it should in theory have just come from a series of clamps and presses all aimed at making it the densest object it can be. Exercising it returns some of the lost flexibility to the spine, giving it some direction in its future opening. It’s also not a bad idea to treat in a similar manner books which have stood on a tightly-packed shelf for some years.

The first step is to take the closed book and set it so that the spine rests on a table top– as if you’re about to let it drop open to a random page. Don’t, however, just let it drop open. Carefully lower only the covers to the table while holding all the pages upright, which gives you something shaped like an inverted T with a rather thick stem.

Now, in very small doses of five or ten pages at a time, let sections of the text down onto the covers. Run a hand along the valley, where the section you just released meets the still-upright portion of the book, to smooth it down so it lies in a relaxed manner. You want to alternate sides when doing this, working incrementally towards the middle of the book. The last smoothing gesture along the valley should occur at just about the centre of the book, and when done should leave you with a book sitting happily flat and open on the table you’ve been working on.

None of this applies to paperbacks, of course– this will do just as much damage to the glue that holds the papers together as regular reading on those sad creatures. The closer to a traditional flexible binding your book has, the more good this will do it. The very cheaply-bound modern hardcover will hardly profit by it at all, since they’re essentially disguised paperbacks. The slightly-less-cheaply-bound ones, which have the pages arranged in signatures which are gouged and glues, take a little more good from exercise, and books with authentic sewn bindings (of which there are still some on the market) will positively revel in it. This applies also to journals, of course, and if you find yourself with one of those odd objects from Paperblanks with the visible stitching it’s also applicable.

This is one of the areas in which e-books really can’t compete. You may through a Kindle or Nook come into contact with the notions of a writer, but you lose this potential of ritual and communion with the medium through which those notions come to you. Gently massage a book, and in addition to the tactile rewards you can explain to the onlooker that it helps the book last. Do the same to an ebook reader, and you’re just a weirdo.

Today’s pen: Waterman Thorobred (I think I shall have a Waterman Week as counterpoint to last week’s theme)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lis de Thé

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Posted by Dirck on 22 January, 2010

Good things about going for lunch with my father include tasty food and he frequently pays for it.

Bad things include frequent episodes of poor time management in the kitchen at our favourite joint, and me having no time for this exercise.

The marginally interesting thing I wanted to post will wait until Monday.

Today’s harried pen: Parker Duofold (strange late Canadian variant. Not only a Parker Week, but very nearly an all-Duofold week)
Today’s rushing ink: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist.

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Weakly planner’s weekly planner.

Posted by Dirck on 21 January, 2010

Somewhat ahead of Christmas, I was looking at the Quo Vadis blog, when an offer was made to send out free planners of various sorts for comment. The acquisitive part of me cried out, “Free stuff! Grab it!” and contrary to my usual policy of ignoring that particular internal voice, I acted upon it. On 14 December, I found in the mail (and subsequently mentioned here) a Quo Vadis Business weekly planner. The time since then has been punctuated with me looking at it, pondering it, and calling myself a lazy lump. It’s long since time for the review.

I come at writing a review of a planner much as I would to flying an airplane—it’s something I know the theory of, and have even seen done, but I’ve no real experience in it. There are a couple of connected fields that I do feel qualified to comment in, and that will form the meat here.

First, I come at it from the direction of the fountain pen looney fancier. Is it a good bet for a person who uses a sensible writing instrument? To answer this, I attacked it with a variety of pens and several inks. Two of my most penetrating inks went into two rather damp and flexible pens. When exposed to Herbin’s Lis de Thé and Terre de Feu, the paper in this planner conducted itself quite well, with never a sign of feathering or bleed-through. There is some showing through on the far side of the page, but no more than is evident from the teal and grey print. The paper is thin, which is useful as far as keeping thickness of the book managable, and there’s a limit to its opacity. If you’re extremely intolerant of seeing a hint of what’s on the next page, you may not like this planner.

Another very minor issue stemming from the thinness of the paper is drying time. Where the ink went on thickest took rather an age to dry, I assume because there was no depth of paper to absorb it. This is good on the bleed-through front, but sub-optimal in the direction of just dashing down a quick note—however, in mitigation, I will mention that I was using wet, flexible pens when this showed as an issue. At full flex, I was leaving absolute puddles on the page. More restrained and modernly stiff pens with non-exotic inks (including Herbin) dry briskly, and once down I note with some glee are rather less likely to smear or transfer than is ball-point goo. The paper reacted well to the points of all pens attempted upon it, too– no hint of scratching, even with an elderly pen almost innocent of tipping.

My other angle of attack is that of a book-binder. In short, I like it. It’s composed of sewn signatures in a hollow-back format—not my favorite, but reasonably durable, and given to lying flat once the spine has been properly exercised. The pattern of the stitching in the middle of each signature is suggestive of being sewn on tapes, although a non-destructive peeling away of the covers gives me to think that there aren’t tapes in there. I’m not sure what exactly is in there, as there’s a thickish paper spine reinforcement that comes up under the end-papers. Tapes or not, it’s a sturdy construction.

The boards are a medium-weight cardboard with a very convincing leatherlike material fitted on as the cover. It’s not entirely inflexible, but it’s stiff enough to act as a support for palm-top writing… for a fountain pen, at least. The backboard is fitted with a bellows-style pocket for flinging mementos into—mine currently holds the card of the all-giving Karen of Exaclair, through whose largesse I have the item under consideration. There is also on the outside of the back an elastic cord, as is becoming de rigeur for pocket-books like this. Once again, there is an air of sturdiness to this book that pleases me– it doesn’t come across as anyone said “Hey, it has to last a year at most, right?” I should very much like to get a notebook of a similar sort.

As far as the content layout goes… well, it’s a weekly planner, all right. I have no real basis for comment, so I’ll just say it looks like you could plan your week quite nicely in it. The 10cm X 15cm size is good for sliding into a suit-jacket’s inner pocket, but I suspect people with lots of planning to do (a wedding, a prospectus, and plot to destroy the moon, all in the same month!) might find the week spread over two pages a little confining. For people like me, for whom weekly planning involves taking the garbage out once, it’s fine. For mariners and werewolves, the phases of the moon are indicated, and some of the more idiosyncratic regional holidays are also mentioned.

Today’s Pen, planned ahead: Parker Duofold Senior
Today’s Ink, spur of the moment: Lamy blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 20 January, 2010

It’s funny. Yesterday just before noon, I had what was very nearly enlightenment– the cobwebs of sleep deprivation granted to me by my dear son lifted, and the whole world was invested with colour and clarity. A muddle some weeks or even months long ended. Yesterday just after clearing away the dishes, I felt the leading symptoms of a cold.

That would be “funny” in the “not actually” sense of the word.

I thus truncate my efforts today to go in search of patent medicines which reduce the symptoms of a low-grade rhinovirus (and I will wave a tiny, unpaid Buckley’s flag in that connection).

Today’s pen: Parker 88
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 black

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Seasonal Joy

Posted by Dirck on 19 January, 2010

It’s about a month late, but that means the surprise should be safe from ruination, and frankly, who can’t do with a heartwarming tale in this grim, grey month (he said, studiously ignoring the cloudless blue sky just out the window)?

Cast your minds back a month and more, then, to the not-quite-middle of December, when everyone is thinking to themselves, “Man, I’d better get cooking on the Christmas presents!” I got an email from a fellow in the US, which contained a request to purchase a Parker Challenger which I had up on my for sale wall (it’s still there, but I’ve at least put a ‘sold’ label on it). He also sent me a bit of a story, which I will now embellish somewhat.

His father had told him stories of the Second World War, during which he served aboard a ship in the Pacific. From 1943 until the war’s end, he was in harm’s way in varing degrees, and he would relate these thrilling tales in letters to his wife, so far as censorship would allow (actually, she may at that time have been his wife-to-be; I didn’t press for details). The pen he used throughout this period was a Parker Challenger, grey rather than green but in other respects the same at the one I had up for sale.

The war ended, years pass, the marriage bears its fruit, and one day the offspring of the returned sailor and his gal stumbles into the den. Finding the very same pen which survived tempest, tropical heat, and the emnity of Imperial Japan, he proceeds to stab the desk-top with it, proving that small children are in fact a more powerful force for destruction than Nations and Nature combined.

Many more years pass, and a discussion of wartime pens on the Fountain Pen Network reminds the sailor’s son of the pen his childhood enthusiasm did to death. Thus, my story achieves circularity with him contacting me.

I sent the pen directly to his father. I seem to recall inserting a Merry Christmas greeting on the son’s behalf. It probably got there in the week between Christmas and New Year.

I frequently regret selling pens, but in this case… I still regret it, as it was a jolly nice pen, but the regret is small and more than balanced by being able to put myself in the place of sailor and son in this exchange. It’s a nice thing to have had connection to.

Today’s pen: Parker Duofold “Geometric” (I may make this an all-Parker week….)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

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“Tubes of Coloured Liquids…”

Posted by Dirck on 18 January, 2010

“…that must mean SCIENCE!” according to various of the B-Masters. It does indeed, as I devoted a little of the time available between other tasks this weekend to seeing whether there’s any remediation available for the modern Quink.

The news is good. I won’t bore you… any more than I usually do… by going into the details, beyond mentioning that from a 1ml insulin syringe gives fourteen drops from a 0.1ml volume of fluid, and this is important if one is trying to scale up from drops of one ink into a 0.1ml sample of another.

The results were interesting, and I need to thank one of the constant commenters here for reminding me that red was worth looking at as a prophylaxis for the problem in hand.

I attacked the problem with insertions of Quink Black initially, because I’m stubborn, and found that as one passed a 1:1 mixture with the blue-black, one essentially got a black with a strange greenish tinge to it. Interesting, but not quite what I’m after. This is not the same effect as one gets from a green-black ink, of which the Mont Blanc Racing Green is a fine example, but more like you’d expect from dissolving a penny in the black ink– cupric oxide gone awry.

I then turned to true mad science, mixing not just colours but also brands of ink, an act frowned upon by The Creator… or, in this case, creators, being Parker and Sheaffer. I did this not just because I wanted to wring my hands and laugh unwholesomely (which I try to get in at least once a week regardless of what I’m up to), but simply because the only straight red I have is Skrip. Results here were more positive, at least in a short-term examination. With much smaller infusions of red, the Quink produced much less teal on the page, leaning away from the green end of things, and appears to be sticking with it.

I will now lose great piles of mad scientist points by sharing my formula with the world:

  • 1 full bottle of Quink blue-black (more or less; the 57ml is down by at least 0.2ml from the test phase, plus a little from the previous checking to see if it had the same problems as the bottle it replaced– context available here);
  • 1ml of Skrip red;
  • 0.1ml of Quink black, for extra body.

This seems to result in a colour not far from that which unamended Quink previously managed. I shouldn’t rush out and try it for yourself, though. One day is hardly long enough a test period to declare success (I note that Victor Frankenstein concluded his experiment before he even got the initial notes written up, and look where that landed him!). A week from now, I’ll give a more conclusive declaration.

Today’s pen: Parker “51”
Today’s ink: Quink washable blue (1950s vintage)

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