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Archive for March, 2011

Shamrockin’ Out!

Posted by Dirck on 17 March, 2011

Like last year, I am succumbing to the subtle urgings of the North American mass-mind and dressing for the day.  Moreso than last year, indeed, for even my shirt is green, in the loden direction.  I am, however, so subtly green (apart from some concealed braces which are as green as the heart of man might desire) that I was accosted by a co-worker saying, “So, you forgot it was St. Patrick’s Day, too?”

While on my lunch perambulation, I kept an eye out on passers-by, and I noticed that I was in a definite minority in observing the tradition.  Perhaps the past year of mad attention to the local sports team’s centennary, with the focus this has put on green garb, has burnt people out on the verdant line of dress.  This is a bit of a shame, because while I’m not a big fan of the mock Irishness that today had historically brought out in Canada and the U.S., the Saint himself is worth remembering because of the pivotal role the Irish Catholicism he founded played in the preservation of literacy in Europe.  Way to go, kidnapped Britano-Roman proselytizer!  I wonder if other parts of the continent are similarly low-key with the green today– Chicago is apparently keeping its end up, if nowhere else.

On the other hand, a quick glimpse of some current culture in Ireland suggests that there is not a predominance of green there, either.  The flat tweed cap I’ve chosen over the usual work-day fedora is probably to closest to looking authentically Irish I’ve managed.  A “witty” person might point out that thanks to the foul cold/flu of the past few days, I can claim a very red nose as is the norm in the universally alcoholic Irish… however, since broad racial stereotypes are slightly less pleasing in my world than team sports, I think it best to decline that inclusion in the day’s costume.  Since that same broad stereotype includes quick resort to violence and implacable vendettas, one wonders at how the funny-men of the world have survived.

I’ve not much else to offer today, other than an observation that if your beer is green, you’re drinking the wrong beer– at very least, adding dye to an Irish red will give a merely dark beer.  For my part, I believe I’ll have a very small ounce of some whiskey or other when the day ends, not in particular homage to the day or the Irish nation, but because it’s a fine way to relax the fibres.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer J5-30SR (while over-represented in the use chart, it really is the best pen for the day and the waistcoat)
Today’s ink: Wancher Matcha (which lies in the very thin overlap in the Venn diagrams of ‘bright’ and ‘mossy’)

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Down, Procrustes!

Posted by Dirck on 16 March, 2011

I’ve just come from looking at the Fountain Pen Network, where there is yet another discussion developing on the matter of explaining to friends, family and on-lookers the “why” of the fountain pen.   Why do you use that?  Why spend so much on a pen?  Why put so much effort into refilling?  And so on.

I actually have a page already addressing this issue, but there is a less practical response I want to suggest.  To some inquirers, you should say, “How is my choice of writing implement any of your business?”

I don’t mean that people who are genuinely curious should be put off with a sharp answer, but I think most of us can tell when those sorts of questions are founded in actual inquiry and when they carry the implication that you’re an idiot for thinking it’s a good idea to engage in the behaviour under examination.  To the latter class of people, you’re certainly free to be curt.

You might also pick upon some foible of theirs.  Have they any piercing at all?  A tattoo, perhaps?  Hair in a colour other than that which nature offered them?  Brightly coloured shoe-laces?  A purse in the shape of a nesting hen?  Well, in response to “why the pen”, ask why they have chosen their own particular means of self-expression.  What you have to do is pitch your voice in such a way that as to indicate that you don’t see the difference between your pen and their rhinestone-encrusted D&G glasses (although you are allowed to privately and in your innermost heart lament their decision to be an unpaid billboard).

I am surprised, given the current interest in individuality in western society, that people will still point and laugh at someone who is aside from the median.  Some people wear a fedora, some people have their head tinted a vivid blue– it’s not doing anyone else harm, so why try to make them feel shame over that choice?  Being the person you wish to be, so long as that person isn’t a cannibal, is a good thing and should lead to more happiness.  Life should feel more like art than an effort to match a specification. 

As an aside, the kids who make their hair mad colours get a certain respect from me, since I can just take my hat off in a moment, while they’re commited to looking like that.

Today’s device of self-expression: Mabie-Todd Swallow
Today’s ink in a non-standard colour: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

p.s.– for those of you who managed to avoid a certain branch of the humanities while in school, this link might illuminate the title of today’s entry.

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Ides’ll Speculation

Posted by Dirck on 15 March, 2011

The Ides of March, eh? I was contemplating, yesterday morning, whether I should reserve the Mabie-Todd for today, but then a couple of points against the notion came to me.  First, while a pen with an imperial purple barrel does suggest itself in connection with the day, I recall that imperial purple things are reputed to not do well going in to work on the ides.  Second and related, it occurs to me that the old soothsayers did some foretelling based upon the flight of swallows, and the last thing I want to do is fling yesterday’s pen aloft to give a moldy old prognosticator a leg up on the day.

I should mention that I’m half-mad with fever in connection with the virus I mentioned yesterday.  While frequently half-mad, this seems slightly less coherent than usual.

Rather than go and lie down, I’ll go on to mention some interesting hits on my website revealed to my via Google Analytics.  Least creditable to me, I have a momentary anglophonic snerk at the discovery that I had had several views from Morón, because we English-speaking folk are somewhat blind to accent marks.  A little looking into the matter shows that it is a part of Buenos Aires, and Argentina being a nation of long-standing culture (figuring large in the works of one of my favourite authors, no less), I am ashamed of my initial reaction.  It is not, I believe, the southernmost hit I’ve had, but it is quite remote.

The hit from Wasila, Alaska is likewise not the most northerly location to look in at my little storefront, but coming the same week as the Morón visit gives me a totally unfounded sense of commanding an enterprise which spans the globe(!).

The final location shown to me was Fukuoka, Japan, where I passed just about the happiest days 1995 had to offer me, visiting over Christmas from my digs in Korea.  The visit was with a cousin, who I think is still there (Fukuoka, that is, he’s definitely still in Japan), and if he is I shall say, “Hello, Cousin,” in a slightly disembodied manner, having lost all contact information very early in 1996 and being too lazy and/or forgetful to inquire along the chain of relatives to re-establish communications.  This same grapevine indicates the late events in Japan have so far done him no harm, hoorah.

Right.  That’s exactly enough fever-driven rambling for one day.

Today’s in-no-way-Roman pen:  Parker Challenger
Today’s ink:  Quink Washable Blue (vintage, about 1950)

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Do It Yourself (but past tense and reflexive person)

Posted by Dirck on 14 March, 2011

I’m a little off my game today, as my son has invented a new virus which he was quite anxious to share.  Before ague, palsy and other forms of physical distress struck me over the past weekend, I managed to accomplish two things.  The lesser of the two was to collect a pair of shoes from a place which actually repairs shoes.  For less than $20, I have a pair of shoes which was shedding its soles returned to service.  The place where this miracle was accomplished is Clark’s Luggage and Shoe Repair, which is the nicest establishment in a rather grim neighbourhood (it would be a pretty nice establishment in a non-grim neighbourhood, too).  Folks in the general area of Regina with decent shoes in need of revitalization should overcome location worries and look in.  In the near future, I’ll be taking in a once-nice portmanteau I’ve got.

The greater accomplishment was to overturn a repressive regime.  You see, for more than a decade and in two separate houses, my wife and I have been in the grip of an old imported terror– a bathroom sink with separate taps for hot and cold water.

I understand that in England this is quite standard, since the means of heating water there is, or at least was for much of the previous two centuries, such that there is a vast difference in pressure between hot and cold water outlets.  I don’t quite recall whether trying to bring the two streams out through a single pipe results in scalding or freezing, but you don’t get something that’s pleasant to wash your hands in.  Since Canada was following England’s lead in a lot of things, one frequently finds this set-up in older houses.  It’s nearly ceremonial, of course, since most houses have a central water heater that emits at the same pressure as the cold feeds– a mere observance of the old ways without any utility nor understanding of the reasons behind it.

I like The Old Ways where they make sense.  Where they are the mere equivalent of vestigial tails, I can do without them, especially where they cause me discomfort.  When the hot tap began to leak recently, I was therefore moved to do something about the situation.  This tap had been leaking when we moved in, and at that time all I could afford to do was buy some new washers.  This time… I had a little wiggle room on the credit cards.  The result:

Down with the despotic duo!

The end of an era of repression and alternately chilled or scorched hands!  The heads of the regime cast down in disgrace!

Actually, I’m hanging onto the old taps for a garage sale over the summer.  Something that astonishes me is how well these new fixtures sort with the early-’50s porcelain.  We have apparently resumed some kind of cycle in this line of style.

The real victory here, though… when the water supply was resumed, nothing leaked!  I prove once again that I am marginally competent in home repair, and thus will not see myself as a contestant on Canada’s Worst Handyman.

Today’s pen: Mabie-Todd Swallow
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

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Earth-Shaking News

Posted by Dirck on 11 March, 2011

I don’t frequently comment on specific news events, but the earthquake which just struck Japan will not leave my imagination.  This footage of the tsunami not merely going inland, but apparently never going to stop, reduced me to tears (although not in sufficient quantity, as I still feel the odd physical pressure in my head which an over-abundance of emotion brings).

Becuase I’m not directly affected though, beyond a Dickensian “mankind should be my business” way, I am able to also detach slightly.  I wonder, in this somewhat heartless and academic consideration, whether the daikaiju films, those of Godzilla, Gamera, and less famous hangers-on, have not been to some degree a prolonged exercise in desensitization.  This picture is a case in point:

Taken from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709791

I have seen just about this exact thing previously, in the 1995 restart of the Gamera franchise.  When I saw it this morning, and the progression of the fire in later live coverage, the shock of it was overlaid with a strange and somewhat tranquillizing surprise that Gamera wasn’t standing in the inferno, consuming the released energy.  Silly, of course, but I still wonder if the same sensation doesn’t affect those who are fleeing from the scene, ideally in such a way that panic is kept to an minimum.

Foolishness aside, this is for those of us not embroiled in it a useful and concrete example of “Things could be worse.”  Am I trapped in the rubble of my shattered house while a wall of flaming wreckage borne by recreant sea-water races towards me?  No?  Well, then I’m doing relatively well.  I do hope that Japan’s relatively high degree of preparation for tectonic shenanigans will allow a lot of people in actual danger from the aforementioned to also have answered in the negative.

I shall have to be careful not to crush my wife and son with hugs when I get home.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Imperial IV
Today’s ink:  Pelikan 4001 violet

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The Roof Needs Work

Posted by Dirck on 10 March, 2011

Given a time-wasting mis-chance on my lunchtime walk, I don’t have quite the time to compose anything sensible today (as opposed to any other entry?).  I am thus going to pursue a notion that’s been rattling around in my head for a while– I’m going to start working on a suggested reading list to tack onto the tabs along the top of the page.

The location of the tabs gives today’s title.  My literal roof is (hopefully) fine.

Today’s pen: Waterman Dauntless
Today’s ink: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist

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Doin’ it by the Numbers

Posted by Dirck on 9 March, 2011

Before I get underway properly– the weather today is not something to complain about!  All I can really get upset about in that regard is that the uncommon amount of snow combined with the sun’s angle makes snow-blindness a real and present menace.  But I’m not shivering, so I don’t care.

On, then, with the excitement promised yesterday.  An age ago, somewhere in the back pages of this enterprise (I can’t find it through the search function, and I don’t expect you to look for it, so please take my word for it), I threatened to do something to slightly rationalize my pen choices.  This was back when I was using a different pen each day, and it was something that would have enhanced my life immensely… but of course things that enhance your life immensely never arrive in time.  The something I was going to do was to set up a spread-sheet, to establish objectively which pens have been used and which are wanting for use.


…there is it.  This is the surprising head of the list, as arranged in descending order of use.  Surprising, because I really didn’t think I used the Lamy 2000 that much (by the way, the full week of using that pen was only counted as one instance), and that Parkers had gotten that much more use than Sheaffers.  I repeat here the notion I mentioned previously that memory is a fallible instrument and not to be entirely relied upon.

Which is why I persisted in this little exercise.  There’s a couple of things that I have avoided using because “Oh, I just used that” which appear on the list once.  There are some weekend uses that didn’t get catalogued, which are probably throwing off my perception, but if my well-loved readers didn’t see it get used, it was in a certain sense not used at all.  I will mention that my various Vacumatics all got used with the same frequency, so in that particular subset I am at least democratic and regular.

This week’s choices were not driven by the new list, and not all future choices will be.  I’ve got some cartridge-based Wearevers that I’m not going to be stampeded into using just because the spread-sheet insists it’s their turn.  However, there are some interesting objects you may look forward to seeing that have yet to appear here… and how I’ve missed them I can’t tell.

Today’s relatively low-frequency pen: Sheaffer Imperial IV
Today’s ink:  Pelikan 4001 violet

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Paging Dr. Quincy

Posted by Dirck on 8 March, 2011

Oh, wait, that’s the wrong kind of pathologist.  I’m away to take my son in to a speech pathologist today, and thus have no time for either wit nor complaint about the weather.  I’ll make up for it tomorrow with an exciting achievement (please remember that “exciting” is in the context of previous entries; you need not lay in smelling salts).

Today’s pen: Waterman Stalwart (edit from next year: this was previously misreported as a Dauntless)
Today’s ink: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist

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Lifetime Experience

Posted by Dirck on 7 March, 2011

As we enjoy another January 7th here on the wind-swept prairies, and await the sound of renewed glaciers as they thunder down from the north to wipe all sign of human achievement from the face of the continent, I though it might be fun to look back at a time when the general popular assumption was that the wiping away would be by fire rather than ice.

Gosh, he is in a mood today, isn’t he, folks?

Over the weekend, I got an e-mail directing my attention to an interesting item of Sheaffer ephemera on the Rhodia Drive site– for the purposes of my current noodling, I reproduce the image accompanying a little imagination-excursion to the 1964 New York World’s Fair:

This reminded me that I had another advert in the same line, which I picked up on a strange whim.  The page has little to identify the source, but the size of the page suggests a slightly smaller magazine, as Popular Science and/or Mechanics were in the days of yore.  Have a look:

There is at least one more ad in this series, showing a ring which acts as one’s portal to using a credit card. That can be seen over at Pen Hero on the page about early Imperials, and I decline to reproduce it here as he’s taken the trouble to apply a citation to the bottom of it.

What this puts me in mind of is not the durability of today’s pen, nor of the item I’ve got with the appropriate “Lifetime” clip (both of which, of course, will be ground a powder as they join the terminal morraine of the next glacier), but rather of the interesting degree of prescience that Sheaffer’s ad-men brought to the question of consumer goods in the early 21st century.

Imagine for a moment that you were, as the lead male in The Time Traveler’s Wife, launched backward to the early 1960s carrying nothing but perhaps the pigments of any tattoos you might have.  You find that your stranding lasts long enough to allow the finding of some trousers and perhaps a shirt, and you tell the donor of some of the wonders of your own time.  Huge flat-screen TVs would be pretty astonishing, although somewhat pedestrian by the time Star Trek and Fahrenheit 451 got into general release (both from 1966, apparently the year of the large monitor), but then you start to get into the smaller items.  Consider that you are just telling, not showing, and what you describe can only be visualized through the filter of your auditor’s current context.

The “visual phone” is pretty clearly an iPhone, clunky physical switches notwithstanding.  That watch is not quite the same shape as any of the three which are available on the Thinkgeek site, but that hardly signifies.  The credit-card ring is a little harder to find an exact modern homologue for… but is it somewhat suggestive of the RFID technology.

Interestingly forward-looking.  And yet, they still went ahead with the Stylist.  Go figure.

Today’s pen (even in the 21st century):  Sheaffer Imperial IV
Today’s ink:  Pelikan 4001 violet

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Briefly (does not mean “In Knickers”)

Posted by Dirck on 4 March, 2011

A short Friday post, in which I complain about things.  Again.  For a very slight change, the complaint today is about a couple of new oddities in written English that need to be stamped on before the entirely descriptive dictionaries (the Oxford and Webster’s Big Buk Ov Speling Miztayks being the most popular) set them down as valid options.  I’m sure my awareness of these two little nasties is just a statistical anomaly like the one that prompted last Thursday’s diatribe, but is seems that they’re everywhere I look.

Now, class, sit up straight, and attend to the chalk-board:  Weary and wearily mean respectively “tired or exhausted” and “in a manner of one who is weary”.  If what you meant by either of these is “cautious” or “cautiously,” you will find that the word you want to found yourself upon is wary.  Offering someone advice to “Go into that situation wearily” is probably the near-opposite of what you mean to say, as tired people tend to be inattentive.

Next, if you are shaking your fist at an authority figure (which I’m sure some of your are doing right now), you may be said to be acting defiantly.  If, however, you are reassuring someone that you will appear at their birthday party, I rather hope you meant to use definitely.  “I will defiantly be there at 3:00” only makes sense if you’re expected at 6:30.

The former may fall under the same inattention to written language as the they’re/their/there and your/you’re conundrums.  The latter is probably a combination of inattentive typing along with falling prey to the urge to spell it “definately”.  I am hardly one to be pointing at poor spelling in online forums, since a lot of the entries in my pen collection look like they were done after I’d had a new set of hands installed.  However, the number of people performing these particular typos is startling, and include some folks who I consider more than merely adequately literate.

How about this– I promise to pay more arrention to my tpying, and you all do the saym.  We’ll all look like we’re nearly smart that way, and fewer people will feel (sic).

Today’s pen, not so given to typing errors:  Parker 65
Today’s ink:  Skrip blue-black

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