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Archive for August, 2011

Be Prepared

Posted by Dirck on 31 August, 2011

A short moment of smugness before I press on with the Great Work on my web-site.  This morning we were promised rain, so I left the house with my long coat and an umbrella.  Heading out for lunch, I found the temperature was such that the coat would be a trial, so I ditched it and kept the umbrella bunched up in one hand.

On the return trip, I walked in a serene and stately pace through a fine gentle rain while the unprepared scrabble to and fro for cover, a quaint figure in an unspotted hat.

Back to work, then.  OH! I almost forgot; I also have the vague pleasure of finding in my stats that someone came to this site out of a search for “archaic skills”.

Today’s pen: TWSBI 540
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 blue-black (which the previous day’s writing has barely made a perceptible reduction in)

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What Kind of a Man are You?

Posted by Dirck on 30 August, 2011

…or woman.  The question I’ll briefly pursue is not really gender based.

I was stewing about the choice of pen for today, and it struck me that I have used a lot of Parkers lately, especially if one includes the Parker-inspired objects of China Week recently past.  Am I, I briefly wondered, a Parker man?

I don’t know about outside North America, but people here get very tribal about their automobile.  Someone in the Ford camp has trouble speaking to a Chrysler owner civilly, or a GM owner goes to the effort of applying to his vehicle a decal of an unlicenced cartoon figure befouling the trademarks of others.  I have some knowledge that, in ages past at least, this sort of thing went on about pens.  I can imagine the ostracism that would fall upon someone seen writing with a Sheaffer in Janesville, Wisconsin….

Reflecting on this, I think I have the Parker thing is a bit of a subconscious attention-grab.  That arrow-shaped clip announces to the casual observer that there’s something more than the common pen (as currently understood) down the pocket.  From a function standpoint, I’m still a generalist.

But I expect a week or two of going perfectly stupid at pen-choosing time, denying any possibility of Parker just so the others don’t feel bad.

Today’s pen: Parker Falcon 50 (but it looks so neat!)
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noir

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Another Gem

Posted by Dirck on 29 August, 2011

I mentioned that I have the new TWSBI Diamond 540 in hand, and that I would offer some comments today.  My initial impression is as favourable as was that at the 530, and in fact I’m going to be a bit of a lazy-bones and merely say, everything I had to say about the previous pen applies to this one, apart from the then-open question of the piston seal.

Which begs the question: why bother with this one?  I don’t know that this is something I can answer adequately.  I accept my own abnormality in the area of pens, and if you are a fellow sufferer you’ll likely get one in any event.  If you’re a little closer to sane, and you’ve got a 530, you can probably resist a 540.  If you’re merely considering a TWSBI and don’t yet have one, the 530 is no longer in production, so there’s no real choice.  The difference between them is one of evolution, which a very close look at these pictures will reveal:

The 530...

...and the 540. Can you spot the differences?

As the sharp-eyed will already have noticed, the difference lies in the filler mechanism.  In the 540, the fixed portion is shorter and the piston’s travel is longer.  This translates into a slightly larger ink capacity– 1.5ml, by my measurement, which is more than any current cartridge pen can match.

More subtle differences lie in the seal at the bottom of the cap, making it a little easier to remove, and there is something apparently much better in the construction of the clip.  Nothing to stir the imagination, really.  An entirely invisible difference is a somewhat more complex distribution network, which makes the pen a little more readily available (the initial 1000 was sold out when I received mine, but they’re already restocked),  but has added a little to the cost of the thing.  It’s now $50US through TWSBI’s store-front, which is still good value for money.

I am very anxious to see the release of the vacuum-filling pen.

Today’s pen: TWSBI 540, on its first run into the world
Today’s ink: a vast ocean of Pelikan 4001 blue-black

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News, Brief

Posted by Dirck on 26 August, 2011

The new phone book TWSBI is here!

…and by here, I mean there, at home, where I’m not.  Look forward to a report on Monday.

Today’s pen, used while out at lunch: Waterman Crusader Taperite
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Violet Pensée

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Addictions, Managable and Dangerous

Posted by Dirck on 25 August, 2011

Yesterday, my watch stopped running.  It’s an undistinguished item, not bottom-rung in value but it certainly wouldn’t get badly hurt if it slipped off the ladder, and yet I paid enough for it that I feel it’s worth getting a new battery installed.  Like pens, I do not believe in disposeable watches.

There is a jewellery shop which does this sort of work convenient to my usual lunch march, and I have just returned from there.  I am going to have to go back in the near future to retrieve it.  This may be a problem.

Others have commented on a high correlation of pen fancying and watch fascination.  It’s probably something to do with appreciation of craftsmanship on a very fine scale.  This is something I have noted in myself, and I have to date suppressed it.  The situation was not improved by the presence of a small card saying “20% off” between a pair of really pretty Bulova self-winding mechanical… but I’m on the way to digression.

The problem with allowing this interest in watches to get any real traction is that watches are expensive.  The casual reader may say, “This from a guy who thinks a $50 pen is a good deal?” and that is a fair comment, but there’s an order of magnitude in difference, especially when one cannot perform one’s own repairs.

The path of consideration I really don’t want to wander down is the one flanked by the knowledge that I took up pen repair to feed that particular back-clinging monkey and the awareness that the local environs are not exactly swarming with watch repair shops.  That’s a bad line of thought, not the least reason for which is the awareness of how angry I sometimes get at Snorkels and expanding that to the repacking of an unspooled main-springs.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Admiral
Today’s ink: Camel royal blue

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Style and Stylus

Posted by Dirck on 24 August, 2011

I was letting my imagination wander a little this morning, constructing in the air the pen and book shop to be opened the moment vast piles of money appear in my life, and part of the exercise was inventing a name.  I kept trying various goofy clever puns and clenches involving “Stylo(something)”, and the same objection came up for each of them: an endless parade of slightly vacant young women wondering, in a slightly confrontational manner, why a sort with style in the name doesn’t carry handbags and dark glasses.

Which led, as unfettered though so often does, in a different direction entirely.  Is there an etymological connection between “stylus” and “style”, and thus between pens and over-priced fashion accessories? 

…and as I write that, I realize that in a certain part of the pen market the connection is obvious.  That aside, I had a quick look about these Inter-Webs and found that the two words do both arise from a latin root which can mean “stake”, “writing implement” and “mode of written expression,” the last of which nicely covers another use of “style.”

Funnily enough, the “y”  in style is a late amendment, imported to make the word seem more classical, more of a recent Greek import than an evolution of Latin via mediæval French.  There is thus also a connection between pens, clothes, and turn-stiles, and someone whose son didn’t rouse him at 3:30am could probably make a very clever joke out that or possibly tying oneself the the stake of fashion.  I’m not that guy, today.  The fact that style in the sense of dress and stylus as a regular usage in English appear in the early 1800s suggested the vaguely Jane Austen-ish title for this entry, which gives a sense of how well I’m functioning today.

Today’s stylish stylus: Waterman Crusader Taperite
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Violet Pensée

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Brought Low

Posted by Dirck on 23 August, 2011

I managed yesterday to jolly myself out of despondency over recent events which will affect the Canadian political scene.  Today, I find they occupy my imagination to the exclusion of much else.  For those of you who want to look in at a poorly contrived eulogy to a fine politicial, that’s what I’m about today.  Those whose interests lie pen-ward, I’ll try to get myself back in shape tomorrow.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Admiral
Today’s ink: Camel royal blue

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Progress Report

Posted by Dirck on 22 August, 2011

Without any hard data, I shall make a precise-sounding guess: the new website is above 65% finished.  The final great hurdle, the decision whether to host images on-site or to abuse something like Photobucket, was passed this weekend with an examination of the actual storage available on the family server.  I’m pretty sure I can keep my demands below 10% of the space available, and there are not ten of us using it.

This means I am indeed inserting images into the already-written pages, and does away with a stupid mental block I’d faced myself with.  I speculate a completion before the end of September, and as I’m not in either government nor construction, I am actually confident about the new site appearing in public before pumpkins get carved, so long as I keep slugging away on it rather than this.  The problem with that approach is, of course, that by the time the new site is actually available I’ll have reduced anyone who might be interested to a bored torpor.

Today’s pen, not yet appearing on the new site: Waterman Crusader Taperite
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Violet Pensée

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There IS such a thing as “Too Skinny”.

Posted by Dirck on 19 August, 2011

Yesterday morning I was cleaning out the Parker 180 which appeared here last on August 4, having finally written down the cartridge enough (one of my beefs about cartridge pens, even the ones you refill yourself; commitment to a colour for a seeming eternity).  I was being a little over-studious in this task, as the first couple of hours of a day I’m not a cognitive giant–  My wife accuses me of being a morning person for my habit of rising slightly before 6:00, but this is merely to let my synapses build up the necessary forward inertia to function by the time function is demanded.  So, as pen-cleaning time began to turn into getting ready to leave the house time, I very carefully interleaved the tasks, so as not to leave any of the pen-cleaning apparatus on the play-table that has become the dominant feature of our living room.

Vessels of clean and dirty water to the kitchen.  Waistcoat and tie out of the back room.  Empty cartridge and syringes to their hiding places.  Tie around neck and Windsor-knotted.  Pen up from the very convenient wooden rail-bed (if I ever take my pens on the road, I’ll be hard pressed to find a better means of displaying them than Ikea, Thomas, and Plan City wooden railway sections) and into shirt pocket.  Socks!  I’ll definitely want socks.  And so forth.

Nine hours later, I return home, deposit a couple of bags of groceries into appropriate places, undo my waistcoat… and find the Parker 180 still in the shirt pocket.  I had neglected to put it in the kitchen pen repository* when I collected yesterday’s active pen from it.  I had also, thanks to it’s incredible slimness, never noticed that I had a second pen about me all the live-long day.  That’s a darn slender pen.

Today’s pen: Long Life hard rubber button-filling oddity
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Bleu Myosotis

* This is a “mail organizer”, an open-topped box with a drawer in the bottom offering seven stalls meant to hold pens.  The upper area may or may not be useful for mail, but is does hold a surprising number of ink bottles.  It may have to be retired for a while, though, as my son is starting to wonder that possible uses the contents could be put to.

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One More Thing….

Posted by Dirck on 18 August, 2011

…to quote Uncle from the occasionally engaging Jackie Chan Adventures.  I want to record one more of the ubiquitous Made In China purchases I’ve made recently; two pair of rather good shoes.

They are not the REALLY good shoes I wish for, as those require larger lumps of money than I can spend at once on anything that doesn’t have large glass windows as part of it, but they are rather good.  I got them because a local store which sells Rather Good clothing and whatnot was having a sale, and my current array of shoes are either falling apart from wear or don’t quite fit comfortably (despite my best efforts at pollyanna-ing).  The former condition stems from several years wear and initial cheapness, while the latter is a result of buying them in a thrift shop (which is only a step above, or possibly sideways from, stealing them off a corpse).

The small savings of the sale moved me to think of the false economy of spending very little on a quasi-disposeable shoe, as I’ve been doing for much of my adult life thanks to economic straits.  I can just barely afford to spend five times what I usually do on shoes, in the hope that they will last at least five times as long.

…and that’s why I’m making a point of writing about it here; a searchable version of a diary makes the “when the hell did I buy these things?!” question a lot easier to answer.  Look forward to a great expression of venom against a specific shoe-maker if either pair needs more than a simple re-soling in the next decade.

Today’s pen: Hero 100
Today’s ink: Sailor Jentle blue-black

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