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Archive for December, 2010

Resolution has Other Meanings

Posted by Dirck on 31 December, 2010

The thing escaping resolution at the moment is a Waterman Stalwart (probably), which is apparently gently leaking on its owner.  I say apparently, because I find myself on the other end of that unhappy phenomenon we all know, in which the day we’re going to take the car in to have a mechanic look, it refuses to present symptoms.

“But honestly, it was going grunk-chugga-hiss when I dropped it off,” you cry, and the honest mechanic shrugs.  The dishonest one hands you a bill for Veeblfletzer Reharmonizing and shop supplies.

It’s not doing it for me, and I’ll probably try a new sac just ‘cuz and see what reports that produces.  Happily, the owner is local so there’s no to-and-fro in the mails.

Today’s baffled pen:  Parker 51 Vac (UK)
Today’s uncommunicative ink:  Diamine Rustic Brown


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What did I say about resolutions?

Posted by Dirck on 30 December, 2010

Did I not repudiate them?  Perhaps not, but I certainly suggested that I don’t believe that they are generally worth the amount of air that goes into their pronunciation.  As I mentioned previously, the resolution and in particular the New Years’s resolution tends to have a whiff of the old cilice about it, and we humans are so given to self-indulgence where the possibility exists that self-denial is tantamount to self-deception.

However, I’m actually going to utter another resolution here.  Unlike the previous one (which is sticking so far), this is not a matter of self-denial, but rather a behaviour I intend to adopt.

Amongst my correspondents is a circular exchange of journals.  The other members of this circle are, by pure accident, all men.  Their example is moving me to undo a weakness of mine, because in the latest volume to arrive… pretty much all of them have used unrepentantly purple inks.

Yes.  As much as I frequently fill up with Poussière de Lune, I don’t really use purples.  Poussière de Lune is a very muted colour, coming across to a casual glance as sort of generically dark.  Purples proper I have a mental block towards, which I burlesque slightly in a previous entry.  For reasons that have no proper foundation, I withdraw from it as a feminine colour.

This is stupid on many fronts.  As I mention down that last link, historically purple inks are a perfectly acceptable alternative for a chap.  I am living in the mode of a historical chap, wearing a fedora and a tie-clasp, so why to I shy away from a mere colour?  Stupid!

I have the example of these other fellows, who seem able to approach various purples and violets without a qualm.  Am I to cower where my peers march along untroubled?  Stupid!

I am not particularly concerned with matters of gender identity.  Check this out:

I’m obscurely pleased at this evidence of online androgyny– it supports my leveling notions regarding the essentially human nature of both sexes.  Certainly, in person, the 185cm tall person with a beard and a size 52 jacket  is unlikely to be mistaken for a girl, so it’s not like I’ve been forever struggling to assert my masculinity.  It’s not something I’m concerned about in others (the only reason I worry whether at length my son will prove straight or gay is the tough row the latter still have to hoe even in this relatively enlightened time), and it’s not something I generally worry about in myself.  So, again, why the ink issue?  Stupid!

Therefore, I am resolved to do away with this unbecoming behaviour.  If anything is unmanly, it’s letting irrational fears drive one’s behaviour.  I am setting down a welcome mat to purple inks.  Let the chips fall where they may!

(Utter silence follows)

Today’s quite burly pen:  Soyuz thingy (EDIT: I previously apologized for having not page on my site for this pen; now I do)
Today’s perfectly gender-neutral ink:  Herbin’s Violet Penseé

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What I Learned on My Vacation

Posted by Dirck on 29 December, 2010

Primarily, I learned that I can not tolerate toffee-coated peanuts the way I once could.  Frankly, I hope that’s the lesson, and my fear for my various filter-organs has prompted me to make an appointment with a doctor. 

Thanks to the aforementioned, I did not accomplish as much with my days off as I had hoped.  The main failure was to finish any item of correspondence that I owe, which means I’ll be labouring mightily in evenings and early mornings the next few days.  I did get a little work done on client pens, too, although they were such straightforward items I managed to not learn one thing while so engaged.  The wickedness and contrariety of the sections of Taperite-era Watermans was reinforced, but that’s something I already knew.

The best lesson of the past hiatus has nothing to do with pens or raging migraines/liver failure.  At least below a certain age, there is no disappointment in a malfunctioning toy, so long as Daddy is willing to make funny noises and wave the thing around in a relatively convincing manner.  I may have gotten a lot of nice gifts from the rest of my family, but my son gave me giggles– ephemeral, intangible, and worth more than riches that would make a greedy banking executive blush.

Today’s reflective pen: Parker 51 (I haven’t yet got a picture of the somewhat abused English-made vacumatic in a ruddy-brown that’s not quite the same as the Burgundy nor the Cordovan Brown of US pens, but lies between them)
Today’s slightly maudlin ink:  Diamine Rustic Brown (which, if I’d set out to match the pen body to the ink, I could hardly have done better)

p.s.  After writing the preceding nonsense, I finally catch up with my bloggery and find this item of Nemo’s.  I am, as ever, inarticulate when the need for condolence arises, trapped between feeling too familiar and too casual.

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Keep the X in Xmas

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2010

I am likely to get up the nose of a portion of humanity with this post.  I never hope to cause offence, and hopefully this will be read in both the spirit of the day and in that which it was intended.

For a while now, we’ve been hearing of “Keep the Christ in Christmas,” and I won’t say that I don’t sympathize, even though (as mentioned before) I’m not of the faith that cares about that particular figure.  I do, however, have a couple of observations.

I will not hazard a guess at how long the accepted pronunciation of this festival has been “Krissmiss”, and I don’t think a small subset of observers, however vocal, is apt to get it changed back to a recognizable “Christ’s Mass” any time soon.  This is just based on the urge of the English speaker to drop and slur– if Chomondoley sounds like “Chumley”, I’d expect “Krissmiss” to hang on pretty tightly.

The other observation, rather drawn out, has to do with the underlying fallacy of the date itself.   A little effort with the New Testament and some more secular records gives a more likely birthday for the chap in question as mid-autumn (and about six or seven years earlier than the calendar’s numbers indicate).  Unless we suggest that both shepherds and sheep of the time were unspeakably sturdy creatures, it’s unavoidable that Christmas is the insertion of a Christian label onto the popular solstice festival.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.  Frankly, setting fire to things and eating far too much is a perfectly sensible response to the winter solstice.  The problem is that those who chant “Keep Christ in Christmas” seem to be very grabby about this grim old astronomical event.  Folks, just because we’ve stuck a name on the calenday doesn’t mean we own the day… and I speak here for the Dickensians in the world, some of whom are also Christians.

Christmas, in my understanding, is about sharing and the fostering of understanding and goodwill to all.  So, for those who are anxious to keep Christ in Christmas, remember that this was done somewhat at the expense of those who were keeping Saturn in Saturnalia (who, to judge by many reports, weren’t big on sharing with the Christians themselves, so it’s probably just deserts).  Remember also that in the northern hemisphere the sun is unhappily low all the day long in a lot of different nations, and while you’re keeping the day in your way, it is right and proper that some are (or were, depending on how sun-specific they are) keeping Amaterasu in Tohji-taisai, Mithra in Yalda, and a graceful mouse-riding elephant-headed fellow in Pancha Ganapati.  There may even be some keeping hogs for Hogswatch and a few remaining festive through Festivus.

 It’s crappy and cold out, relative to what the equinoxes offer, so let’s get together and have fun in varying degrees of cultural correctness.  I promise to be very impressed with the faithfulness of those who drag themselves off to midnight mass tonight, and for the rest… well, as long as you’re keeping the you in yuletide conviviality, where’s the harm?

All this was brought on by one of those damn internet mind-viruses that will not be still after they’re seen–

Today’s Merry pens:  the ones that have been with me all week (sharing one pocket, never a sign of diverse upbringing)
Today’s Jolly inks: ibid.

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Done for another year.

Posted by Dirck on 23 December, 2010

The Christmas shopping, that is.  My wife is rather hard to buy for, primarily because when shopping is possible she is more frequently right there with me.  This lunch hour has cured that, and helped to deal with some of the extra calories the season entails.  Shortbread, egg nog, diverse chocolates, and I’m now fascinated at the prospect of Buttered Beer, which Harry Potter connections aside evidently gives one licence to simply drink melted butter.

I will also note that today’s short entry is apt to be rather more satisfying than what appears Monday and Tuesday of next week.  I have days off The Regular Job, and as usual, if I don’t need to distract myself from the siren call of eBay with a stream of consciousness exercise I tend not to worry about this enterprise.  Home, even if not post-Christmas, is well supplied with distractions.

Today’s pen to fill in the To line: Eversharp Skyline Presentation Demi
Today’s ink which doesn’t half take its time drying: Mont Blanc Racing Green

p.s.– that egg nog recipe I’ve linked to is good, but you might replace the some of bourbon in it with a similar volume of rum.  Dark rum.  Flavour is important.

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How to have an argument

Posted by Dirck on 22 December, 2010

In this season of peace, it’s worth contemplating the sort of peace that comes from more than mere unwillingness to leave the house because it’s too cold to be out stirring up trouble.  Peace that comes from a studied approach to a situation in which conflict might easily arise.

A little while ago, someone on the Fountain Pen Network sought insight as to why his Waterman 12 was damp in the front part.  My opinion suspected seepage at the joint.  Others suggested that the cap vent might be plugged, and thus a vacuum was drawing ink out of the feed.

“That is a slip-cap pen,” said I with my Mr. Expert voice in place, “and with so conical a section and an utter absence of threads, it does not need, want, nor have vents in the cap.”

“Are you sure?” asked another person to whom the Mr. Expert voice comes very easily indeed.  “I’m not strong on Watermans of that age, but I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of venting.”

Here we have the classic field of internet warfare.  Two people who know enough to feel they know a lot, with opposed notions.  An opening salvo of “No, I’m right”s, then, before we break out the big ad hominem attacks which somehow demand heredity, geography or willingness to type with the caps-lock on equates to higher knowledge?

No.  An argument, you see, in its noblest form, is a conversation which aims at the truth.  Those engaged in it must at all times be prepared to say, “Ah, there, that point dashes all of mine to the ground.  You are indisputably correct.”  I have known people, and I’m sure you have too, who would stick to their opening position regardless of photos, physical evidence, and the angry, green-glowing spirit of L. Edson Waterman flinging ink-wells at their heads.  While you may argue with people like that, you will seldom have a satisfactory argument.

Happily, most of the pen fanciers I know understand the utility of a proper argument.  It is not a war, it is a fencing bout.  After a little bit of academic chit-chat about why vents exist and the absolute need for them in screw-cap pens, I admitted that I was not entirely certain of the absence of cap-vents, and would check the pen as soon as I could be by it and examine it, with a report to follow.

Well, you know what?  There is a vent.  Right at the top.  I am slightly embarrassed to be in the wrong for as long as I was, but there’s a couple of lessons learned.  The very specific one about the presence of a single vent hole on the top of a Waterman 12’s cap (unlikely place, and fallible memory had confabulated it with an unused ring-mount on another Waterman pen) is one that will almost certainly stick precisely because I chewed it over in a reasonable argument, and made a public admission of my own error.  The more important lesson, one which I appear to be very slow in fully internalizing, is that memory is not entirely reliable– that’s why we write stuff down.

As a side note– my wife and I, so far as arguments can be said to happen at all between us, follow this path.  We may not the sort of couple that will ever get on television, but the piles of contentment we’ve got shoved into every spare corner of the house quite make up for the lack of fame.

Today’s conciliating pen: Pilot 78G
Today’s merry ink:  Noodler’s Tulipe Noir

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Office Solstice Lunar Eclipse Lunch

Posted by Dirck on 21 December, 2010

Well, the first and last words are correct, and the second near the mark.  Back to work!

Today’s rather festive pen: Eversharp Skyline Presentation Demi
Today’s oddly sombre ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green

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Whatever do you suppose that is?

Posted by Dirck on 20 December, 2010

I am going to quote from a previous entry, so you need not click on the link:

[I worked on] a couple of Parker Challengers, a full-size in grey and a slender in red, taken right apart, cleared of old ink and sacs, and mostly put back together.  “Mostly”, because the section of the big one would profit greatly from a good long soak before the feed and point are put back in, and so it was left for another day.

How does two weeks of soaking strike you?  I’ve run into some pretty odd things down the inside of pens, some of which I can identify only as “smelly” or “sticky,” but I don’t think I recall one that was so… inverted as the grey Challenger.  Let me give you some details.

The section was held in very firmly by an unidentifiable (I’m not privy to a mass spectrometer, OK?) grey substance that had become very firm indeed since it was put in place, but which went tan and soft as the long soak went on.  “Soft” being a relative term, as it still took a lot of scraping to get loose.  White glue, perhaps?  White glue as it was known to the 1940s?  A kind of leaded grout long since banned from the market?  The kami alone know.  The mysterious nature of this stuff is not too troubling, though, as I’m by now used to the notion of the home repairman grabbing whatever goop comes to hand.  The same material was used to secure the sac in place, and here is where the mystery lies.

The correct stuff to apply a sac with is shellac, a substance well-known to wood-workers for centuries.  One fishes for “whatever is at hand” if the right thing isn’t there.  So… why was the inside of the section coated with shellac?  Slightly loosened by soaking and cycles in the ultrasonic cleaner, scales of shellac have fallen from the inner wall, and I can’t work out the how nor the why of it.  The closest I can come is that the Home Repair Guy (c.1947) had heard that shellac was somehow involved in this process, and managed to get some up the inside of the section… while at the same time avoiding the point and feed entirely.  He did not, happily, just fill the pen with it as the final step in the repair, so the feed wasn’t clogged up solid.  It’s a little upsetting, thinking of the needless careful effort spent on such a fruitless and counterproductive undertaking– counterproductive, as it quite reduced both clarity and transparency of the ink window.

It’s a good thing I have a high tolerance for insoluable mystery.  The truth behind this pen will almost certainly never be known.  I’ll take comfort from the magnificently flexible point my own efforts have rendered useable once again.

Well, not yet.  The pen wasn’t out in front of me when I was deciding this week’s festive pens.  I’d put it aside to let the new shellac dry.

Today’s somewhat festive pen: Pilot 78G
Today’s more or less merry ink:  Noodler’s Tulipe Noir

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Up, The Shop!

Posted by Dirck on 17 December, 2010

Foreshortened Friday entry, merely mentioning my appreciation of yesterday’s fruit-bearing destination.  For those in the Regina area who find an appliance has gone off on them, I quite recommend Eagle Appliance Sales, regardless of their somewhat last-generation web presence.  A perfectly good self-cleaning oven for just over half of what I worried I’d have to pay for a scrub-it-yourself model?  Suits me!

Oh, for those who will upbraid me for the extra energy use of a self-cleaning oven; I was pondering this, and I believe that having a radiant object like this crouching slightly off-centre of the house on a Seriously Cold day such as we see here through much of the winter will allow the furnace to run that much less, and there’s no way I’m having such a thing running in the summer.  There’s a balance.

Today’s pen: Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lis de Thé

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Down the Shops

Posted by Dirck on 16 December, 2010

This lunch break, I am off doing something about the current lack of cooking facilities in the house, so I am just dashing off this quick and slightly rhetorical note:

Soap bubbles are, traditionally, the examplar of the notion of “ephemeral”.  How, then, do I find several of them clinging to the walls this morning, like a tribe of glass snails?  Bubbles which were blown last night as a pre-bedtime indulgence for my son!

Perhaps entropy is taking the winter off?  Perhaps it’s all tired out from molesting the various appliances and fittings in the house?

It’s a slightly creepy phenomenon.  However, as it’s not threatening, it’s welcome in my house. 

Today’s pen:  Sheaffer Sentinel
Today’s ink:  Diamine China Blue

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