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Archive for May, 2012

Concerned Citizen

Posted by Dirck on 31 May, 2012

The Fountain Pen Network has fallen into something not unlike the Bermuda Triangle, and I’m a little worried.  Most of it is just what little techno-addiction I have manifesting itself; I can walk away from the internet for a week or two without a qualm, but to have that choice made for me is deeply unnerving.  I’m sure that presently the fire will be out (hopefully only in metaphor) and the FPN will be back to inform and amuse.

The other real concern-generator lies in the comments over at the FPGeeks’ thread on this very same topic.  Concern and quivering addiction is expressed, but there is also a dig at the moderators and administrators of FPN.  That board is a generally quite civil place, but it is also full of deeply opinionated folks and sometimes the aforementioned holders of power have to swing in an clamp down; usually when the topic wanders to gun control or religion, but there are also a few instances of people with nothing more constructive to offer than “I think Nardwar Brand Pen Cozies SUUUUUX!” in increasing invective.  The clamping down is seen by some as an abridgement of a right of free speech (see you local constitution for details and whether this applies to you).

The concern-provoking bit of that thread is what is suggests about us inter-nutters.  Thus far, the moderate camp on that comment thread is mainly pointing out that FPN is a salon, not Hyde Park, and the owners of the space have a right to decide when the discussion is too boisterous; generally, founded and reasonably-expressed opinions are OK.  The response, which is not entirely unfounded, is that there are a few topics (politics, religion, the merits of Bay State Blue ink) that are entirely off the table, and that the suspicion is that if one’s opinion is different from the moderators, it won’t get aired at all.

I don’t think that’s the case.  I’ve once said something sufficiently immoderate on FPN to draw moderator attention; it was a private word, it was entirely civil, and on reflection I found the moderator to be entirely right to tap me on the shoulder.  I think its that last bit that the internet’s fora suffer from a want of– reflection.  We all have a right to out own opinion, yes, but the right to expression of that opinion has some contingencies.  The one we forget most often is, even one’s own opinion may be mistaken.

I’ve seen a bumper sticker that sort of distills the problem.  It reads, Haters Gonna Hate.  The implication is this; if I say anything contrary to that bumper-owner’s opinion (“say, maybe 150 is too fast for a school zone”), it is entirely a result of a failure in me.  If I don’t like what they’re doing or saying, I’m a Hater, trapped by my own inability to see their correctness.

This is not a good direction for society to proceed.  No man is an island, no person is necessarily and at all times correct… and even when they are, the way they manifest that correctness might not be quite the thing for polite company.

Now, having no doubt offended many, I am off to reflect on how I might have expressed this better.

Today’s pen: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink: Herbin Pousièrre de Lune


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Defying Expectations

Posted by Dirck on 30 May, 2012

I have recently recieved a Parker VP in the mail.  I’ve yet to take any snaps, so you’ll have to for the moment imagine the Parker 75 with a black body, steel cap, and no trim ring on the front edge of the section.  In this, I’ve found several of my expectations confounded, and in only one case is this a bad thing.

In an overall sense, what I didn’t expect was to lay hands on a Parker VP with as little opposition an I encountered.  It came from a well-known auction site, it was in a group with some other slightly interesting pens, it’s a rather uncommon Parker… and yet I wasn’t outbid!  Who could have seen that coming?

The next and more pleasing tale of the unexpected attached to this pen is connected to the reason why it’s rather uncommon.  It was only made over a couple of years, and the reason for this was the brand-new filler mechanism.  Let me quote from my as-yet-unavailable page about the VP:

Unlike the “51” and 61, which still saw a large element of the pen stuck in the ink, the whole filler dismounted from the back of the section to reveal a long plastic probe {which acted more or less like a converter, and saved point-dunking}….The “Clean Filler”… represents yet another manifestation of the curse which Parker suffered under until the early 1970s regarding new materials, which had been biting them ever since the choice of plastic for the 21.  That long plastic probe was also a rather fragile item, and the hurried, increasingly distracted pen user of the 1960s didn’t have the time to be careful in remounting the filler in the section.  They broke in droves, and with the exception of a brief flirtation with them in 1967 they were abolished with the discontinuation of the VP, which discontinuation they are generally credited with.

When I won the pen, I thought to myself, “Well, we’ll have to see about getting a new filler.”  Upon getting the pen, and gently soaking the section, I found that despite the long fragile probe being stuck into its mounting with old ink, which only just went gummy by the time the soaking proved successful, the filler was intact and functional.  Since modern replacement fillers cost a little more than I paid for the whole pen, this lucky happenstance fills me with as much glee as my son’s recent habit of 2:30am dance recitals will allow.

There is one last unexpected apparition, and this one is not as pleasant as the rest.  Of the materials curse mentioned in that autophagous quote, barrel plastics were more or less sorted out my 1962, and the VP has no reputation for fragility in this direction.  Thus, while I was absolutely ready for a fistful of fragments in the case of the filler, I was equally unready to find a crack in the barrel about the length of my pinky finger’s first joint.

If that’s the trade-off I have to accept for a functional Clean Filler, I’ll take it.  Past experience gives me an expectation of being able to fix a barrel crack like this… oh, wait.  Well, I’ve also learned to keep my expectations very low.  Hopefully that will see me through.

Today’s pen: Parker “51″
Today’s ink: Noodler’s La Couleur Royale

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Who’s on Top?

Posted by Dirck on 29 May, 2012

Here’s something that comes up on the pen fora with some regularity: “I’ve got a {known brand name} pen; what comes next?”

The question is not entirely foolish, since {known brand name} is usually something like a TWSBI Diamond or a Lamy Safari, and on a cost and fitting front there are definitely steps upward.  It is, however, an interesting insight into the need in many of us for not only an established hierarchy but for a path.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I don’t have much brief with the notion of pens which are expensive for the sake of being expensive (and in listening to a certain podcast, I find I’m not entirely alone), but making allowances for that, I will admit that there is a rough hierarchy of pen makers; TWSBI and Mont Blanc do not occupy similar ground.  However, I don’t think it’s quite right to consider the world of the makers as occupying a set of shelves, makers of inexpensive stuff down at the bottom, makers of overpriced pocket jewellery at the top.  Pelikan, after all, makes things in that latter category as well as kids’ school pens.  I think it’s better to think of the makers as lying on a shared spectrum, and their frequency charts overlap.  Pelikan covers the whole visible spectrum, Hero attains yellow-oranges but also has lines of infra-red, Waterman is currently blue-shifting, and Mont Blanc is trying to keep itself somewhere between indigo and x-rays (which explains why I’ve never seen one in person).

So much for hierarchy then.  What of order of succession?  Having put a foot on A, is B destined to follow?  Not at all, no more than one must use an orange crayon after a red.  I always suggest a good but inexpensive pen to start with, but once one has a grip on notion of fountain pen, the next pen can be anything; old or new, cheap or expensive, anything within the boundaries of one’s own tastes and wallet.  The only thing I would seriously urge is a certain amount of contemplation.  Will the $12,000 pen bring joy through writing or merely through showing off (the latter not totally invalid, if you know that’s the reason)?  Are you physically and mentally prepared for a vintage flex pen?  That’s the sort of counter-questions that spring to mind when I hear “what next?”

Today’s pen, the result of considered action: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink, a frivolous whim of the instant: Herbin Pousièrre de Lune

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Posted by Dirck on 28 May, 2012

I had a weekend in which I felt slightly like Winston Smith; no head-mounted rodent containers. and while black may not have become white, but ease and difficulty definitely spent some time trying on one another’s hats.  It was a fun-size existential crisis!

The easy thing which proved unwarrantedly difficult was a sac replacement.  What more straight-forward?  Of all the repair procedures, this is the one that gets proposed most often as “Try This At Home” and with entire justification.  In the case of this pen, though, I am coming around to the notion that a previous repair was done by someone that had a somewhat skewed notion of what constitutes “repair”; being aware of the existence of section sealant, this past repair-performer not only used something to seal the section but also applied something a good deal more grippy than the stuff rightfully known as section sealant actually is.  I seems to be rather more grippy than shellac, too.  I’ve had this pen about the place a couple of weeks, and the cycles of heat (coming increasingly close to the point of disaster) and soaking applied to it have done nothing to convince the section to come forth.  I am, I’m sad to say, soon to throw in the towel, as I’ve only got a couple of tricks left that I’m willing to try with someone else’s pen.

Notice the great nasty dent

The prospective difficult thing which proved easy and to which I applied myself after the frustration described above; the weekend was finished with a triumph, at least.  The time available to me was, I decided, sufficient to get out the most expensive of the recently-purchased tools and see if I could get something to do what it was supposed to.  The tools are those for dismantling the cap of a Parker “51” (and some others) and knocking dents out of them.  As it happens, I’ve got some Parker “51”s in rather horrid shape.  I won’t go into a prolonged description of the effort (All: HOORAH!), but it was almost as if the tools did not only all the work but most of the thinking, and the barest effort produced magnificent results.  And because the current public notion holds that nothing happens unless there’s a picture of it, here’s the standard before and the unexpected after:

Isn’t that a shock?

 The photographs are more flattering than they should be, to be honest.  The surface of the cap is still somewhat irregular, and I would be deeply embarrassed to suggest that someone might pay me to do this for them.  There’s still some practice needed.  However, having made these admissions, I will also reiterate my delerious joy over having gotten such a good result from the first attempt.  The “refrosting” is also a little haphazard when seen close-to, as it’s all done with hand abrasives, but it has done away with almost all the serious evidence of abuse that the cap offered.

I say almost, because evidently at some point in this pen’s life it stood in for the Nostromo in a mite-sized production of Alien; there is a pit in the outer cap which is paralleled by a melted hole in the inner one, the edges of which indicate whatever did the business came from inside and moved outward.  I had thought the stories about Superchrome ink were exaggerated until now….

Today’s pen: An entirely different Parker “51”
Today’s ink: Some non-corrosive Noodler’s La Couleur Royale

edited to add: for those who are looking at that cap and thinking, “What an odd clip,” its a 1948 UK-made Vacumatic.

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Spreading it Around

Posted by Dirck on 25 May, 2012

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m feeling pretty good about life.  I have today managed to pass that on a little.  Not very long ago, my brother was expressing some concern at his son’s first-instar hand-writing, and I said I’d look into some supports.  At the lunch just passed, I handed over a small bundle of Griffix System tools in a bag indicating their value in British Pounds.  He’s pleased, I’m pleased (and moreso because he’s going halfsies on the price), and hopefully his son will be pleased.  Life is not a zero-sum game, as some would have it.

It should be no surprise, of course, that joy would be brought by a small package of foreign contraband:

Today’s pen (possibly appearing in Sons of Anarchy): Waterman Horizon
Today’s inktoxicant: Diamine Black

A couple of post-script items for the possible delight of others:

  1. The Cathedral Village Arts Festival wrap-up street fair is tomorrow.  It may be sunny (!!) and it’s generally crammed with neat stuff to make even a quantity of rain supportable;
  2. An interesting new appearance in a city that seems to have a certain political disinclination to culture— there’s a guitar-maker just put out an almost-literal shingle.  Not right handy to the street fair, but hopefully a rather more permanent fixture.

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Brown Study Abolished

Posted by Dirck on 24 May, 2012

I do not, as a general rule, suggest seeking out illness.  However, when acute illness comes, as it does now and again to all of us, it can be useful from the standpoint of a stoic philosopher (which I am almost as thoroughly as I am a Buddhist, which is to say, not quite up to standard).  The trick to being successfully sick is to revel in the contrast of feeling better afterwards. 

I am, I must say, revelling.  But not so as to upset the neighbours to cause my co-workers to stare.  My step is high, my head is clear, innards without grumble, and there’s a private little song in my metaphoric heart.  As an outward expression of this, there is, to the surprise of none, a choice of pen.

The pen is not today’s nor yesterdays, as elegant or whimsical as they respectively are.  The pen is a premature replacement on my standard use desk pen.  In addition to my own unwilling purgation, I used the long Victoria Day weekend to engage in a willful purging of the desk pens.  The Esterbrook has been sitting full of its red ink for rather more than six months, and I thought that something in the line of maintenance was called for.  The brown Sheaffer TD, while not so long on the desk, was through the ultra-fineness of its point given to drying out while under use and thus probably had enough residue in it to call for a flushing.

When the prospect of being able to return to The Regular Job arose, I considered the logistics of returning desk pens to work.  They don’t like travelling, after all; they’re mean to be emplacements rather than mobile units.  Into this consideration of the Sheaffer and its vast pediment (of which I shall have to take a picture, now) crept the notion of, “Well, it’s come home anyway, why not just do the rotation and save an extra trip?”  Thus, I have a different desk pen once more, and one which lends itself to jollity.  This one:

How can I fail to smile, with this in front of me?

That’s right, it’s the pen shaped like a rocket!  It’s not just the mere appearance of the pen that enhances my revelry, but also the way it writes.  It has a slightly flexible point, so I go from the extremely limited expression of the firm accountancy point of the Sheaffer to something that is slightly madcap.  Not absolutely berserk, mind you, but something like wearing rainbow braces under the vest.

The brown pen had little to do with the brown mood (or, alas, the brown flux), but in removing it I have helped to undo the brown study I was briefly in.  Perhaps this supports yoga as well, in connecting contentment with flexibility.

Today’s delightful pen: Waterman Préface (page almost done… enough for public observation, anyway; check in tomorrow)
Today’s amiable ink: Diamine Royal Blue

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Somewhat Confirmed

Posted by Dirck on 23 May, 2012

This is something I was going to reserve for Friday, but as my cognitive powers are still somewhat at a low ebb, I’m using it now.  BBC’s online magazine posits this question: Why are fountain pen sales rising?  They also include a rather nice portrait of an OMAS point, for the visually inclined.

This is a treat for me, as it supports my contention of a fountain pen renaissance.  With what strength is available to me, I raise a tiny flag at the end of a toothpick and wave it thrice to mark my joy.

Today’s pen, slightly too much to handle in my weakened state: Waterman Horizon
Today’s ink: Diamine Black

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Mostly Dead

Posted by Dirck on 22 May, 2012

…which is, if Miracle Max is to be believed, partly alive.  Yesterday being the unstoppable celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday, I eschewed the notion of engaging in some steampunk shenanigans and went for the most authentically Victorian activity I can think of:  The traditional Eating of Something Imperfectly Preserved, and the subsequent Powerful Prolonged Emesis (with Angry Liver Sensations).  As I couldn’t face the prospect of the drive to work, I stay home.  Three and a half hours after my usual entry, I’m feeling sufficiently perky to poke a keyboard.

…but only just.

Today’s pen, standing by: Waterman Préface (page under construction, all you’ll see is a picture)
Today’s ink, shaking its head and clucking: Diamine Royal Blue

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Posted by Dirck on 18 May, 2012

As it’s Friday, I’m in a brevity mode… again.  Yesterday’s similar action was prompted, as mentioned previously, by a trip to get my glasses fixed, and fixed they are.  The place I took them too, which is where I got them, took about a half-hour (during which I patted about the displays for less child-reactive models, with titanium frames and bullet-proof lenses), and charged me exactly nothing, even though the first thing that was said after bringing up my file was, “Ah… those are out of warranty.”  This was not the first time we’d gotten this sort of open-handed treatment, as my wife has twice gone in to have things replaced or amended on a pair bought elsewhere, and been frustrated in the attempt to pay anything at all for the service.

So, I’m doing exactly what this sort of action is calculated to cause; I’m offering an unpaid endorsement.  One might view it as a cold mechanism of capitalism, but I prefer to see it was an understanding of what a local business should be; a place where the customer is not commodified, and to whom good treatment is offered as much for the fact that they’re appreciated as a fellow person as for the possibility that they’ll spread the word that it’s a store worth looking into.

So, my fellow south Saskatchewan people, if you need a pair of glasses, you might well consider Eyes on Albert.  I don’t guarantee you’ll find glasses to suit, but you’ll likely not put out by the attempt.

Today’s well-defined pen: TWSBI Vac 700
Today’s sharp-edged ink: Diamine Syrah

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King of Bohemia

Posted by Dirck on 17 May, 2012

In keeping with yesterday’s late medieval reference in the comments, I find I’m now roleplaying a notable figure at the Battle of Crécy through an unintended interaction of son and glasses.  I’m off to the opticians, where I will ponder if there’s any connection between Sheaffer Balances and short blog entries.

Toqay’s pemn: Sheaffer Statesman Balance
Today’s blur: Skrip blue-black

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