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Archive for July, 2012

The Sound of One Hand…

Posted by Dirck on 31 July, 2012

…pacing.  I use “hand” in the nautical manner, of course; the hand in question being also the master of the vessel.  Me.

Last week I mentioned in passing the downturn in our foundling cat’s health.  On the way into work today, I dropped him off at the vet for the medical-grade konking-out which will allow a close examination of his head’s interior spaces.  The Wheel of Uncertainty is clicking away now, waiting for the indicator to show ABSCESS, TUMOR or SPIN AGAIN.  Sam is a sort of inverted Schrödinger’s Cat; we won’t know if he’s to live or die until he’s opened.

The result of listening to that damn clickety wheel churning around in my uninsulated imagination is that I really can’t think of much else to write about here, and I think I’ve written about as much as I can stand.  This bothers me, as I haven’t been particularly productive lately, and I know that I’m not going to be around for making the effort on either Thursday or Friday, but there’s little to be done about it.  I’ll update the world on Sam’s fate tomorrow, hopefully as an aside to a slightly more interesting topic.

Today’s pen, doing its best to distract me: Merlin 33
Today’s ink: Diamine Rustic Brown,  which on reflection is a little too hemoglobinish for current comfort.  What was I thinking?


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Just Desserts?

Posted by Dirck on 30 July, 2012

I am sometimes a little unsure of my parenting skills, as I hope most people who take the job seriously are.  Those who approach the task in absolute certainty are almost certainly rearing an unhappy child, and quite probably a monster.  However, my actions on the weekend just past may be somewhat contrary to proper disciplining of a youngster, and I hope not to reap a whirlwind out of it.

I was tapping out the final touches on the huge pile of new content on my site (eight pages!) on Sunday morning, I heard my wife call out; my son’s name, followed by, “Dear god!  What have you done?”  To those who are currently anticipating or merely considering taking up parenthood, I will say that this sort of sound coming from a distant part of the house is exactly the sort of thing that gets one stubbing toes and damaging ligaments in the desperate hurry to discover the cause; the current parent will know exactly what I mean.  In the event, I was up out of my writing pit and in the doorway of our bedroom in such short order that the tableau I saw there can hardly have changed from what raised the alarm.

My son, sitting among the pillows at the head of the bed, smiling at the sudden excess of parental attention.  Near his right side, the box of a pen, some of the contents spread in small arc.  Some, but not all, for in right hand was the section of the pen, and in the left, a cartridge.  His fingers were dark, shining blue.

I am rather proud of my reaction at this point.  Dark, shining blue equals ink, but definitely not any human bodily fluid I know, so my internal alarm quieted as “The boy is safe” was sounded to all stations.  His wholeness ranks above that of pens, it seems, even to my subconscious, and that is definitely as it should be.  Assessment of the actual damage followed, and it was less extensive than it might have been.  By some miracle, the ink was only on the lad, leaving the bedding untouched.  He had not smashed any components of the pen, having worked out long since that if they resist a tug, they unscrew.  The major problem, as yet unaddressed, is that he had used the point of the pen to poke a hole into the base of a cartridge, and the point is now somewhat bent.  Recoverable, I believe, but bent.

The pen was my Brause 3000, which if you look down that link you will see was an almost unused example of a rather uncommon (if also inexpensive) breed.  If it had been a little less complete an example, it wouldn’t have had the cartridges floating about in the box  I am a little sad at the injury inflicted on it, but it could have been much worse.  The cabinet he was poking around in is the one in which I keep all pens that have their original boxes, so there’s some pretty expensive items in there.  I should have been more upset to find he’d done something similar to a near-mint Sheaffer Sentinel of 1948, or the hard-to-get (at the price I’d paid) Waterman Carène.  So, no harm to him, not much harm to the pen… I found I could speak to him mildly.

Step one, a short lecture about not messing with Daddy’s stuff.  He looked attentive, and responded with “Sorry” and “Yes” at the appropriate prompts.  A new place to rest this aspect of my hoard is still a necessity, of course, but I accept that he is well-intended.  The rather vigourous hand-washing his mother delivered will stand as the corporal punishment aspect of the disciplining.

Step two is the one that I suspect might be a mis-step.  The end of the lecture brought me to this: “No one should touch these pens but Daddy.”


“Do you want a pen of your own?”


Oh, ho!  “If I give you your very own pen, you will never touch any of Daddy’s?”


And so, what we might call the carrot of the affair became his introduction to the final stage of the Griffix line, his name ceremoniously inserted into the little window it contains, he instructed in the proper method for charging it, and offered and assenting to the promise that I wouldn’t use his pen if he didn’t use mine.  The parental hearts swell at the end of the process, when he carefully draws a big happy face on top sheet of the pile of paper he was offered to use.

Carrot.  An alternative means of expressing the desire which prompted the unwelcome behaviour, perhaps.  Either one is fine.  The fear, of course, is that the lesson he takes from the affair is, “If I wreck some stuff, I get other stuff which is cool and unquestionably mine.”  That would be a problem, since, mighty brute that he is, it’s well within his power to drag the TV into the kitchen and make an attempt at beating the refrigerator to death with it.

There is also this; how might I resist the urge to use his pen?  That’s a treaty I will almost inevitably break, and then what consequences?

Today’s pen, pondering if it’s living during the Peace of Amiens: Waterman Stalwart
Today’s ink: Waterman blue (vintage stuff, from a full bottle recently found by my friend of remarkable garage-sale powers)

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Posted by Dirck on 27 July, 2012

Spirits up, blood pressure down. Yesterday picked up immensely when I returned home to the happy antics of my son and all the moreso as he was pursuing his interest in Warner Brothers cartoons.  On the off chance that anyone looking in here needs a lift, and doesn’t mind the slightly racist notions of the late 1940s, here’s something to brighten the day:

Today’s pen: Parker Challenger
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noire

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Blood Pressure

Posted by Dirck on 26 July, 2012

The source of my father-in-law’s kidney ailment is an untreated hypertensive condition.  A fate I’d like to avoid, to be sure, and so it is with vast dismay that I pass though mere existence today.  We’ve all had them; all efforts go astray, all inanimate objects turn kamikaze, all conversation is perplexing at best and enraging as a general rule.  I’m extremely glad it’s not a pen-fixin’ day, and that today’s pen is both robust and not very dear.  It’s a balance, I suppose, to yesterday’s advancement in the writing I mentioned as the cause for a stub entry, but that doesn’t relieve the clenched-heart sensation of a repeatedly-renewed and maladaptive fight-or-flight response.

Running will likely just see me under a bus.  There’s nothing appropriate to grapple, and inappropriate grappling leads to cops and yet more stress.

Rather than expand on this complaint, I think I’ll find some part of the internet that plays quiet classical music for free and hide under my desk.  It probably won’t collapse on me.

Today’s anxious pen: Lamy Safari
Today’s rather jittery ink: Herbin Perle Noire

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Otherwise Occupied

Posted by Dirck on 25 July, 2012

I was formulating one of my usual digressions when a thought occurred to me; I’ve got some other writing that needs work.  I’ve got four or five new maker’s pages to put a ribbon on for my site, plus profiles for the newly-catalogued pens that make this expansion possible.  Given the recent recurrence of Fullweekenditis (a side effect of Too Many Irons Syndrome), I should probably devote a lunch-hour or two to this.

So, while I’m off doing that, you might enjoy a cartoon that indicates I’m not the only one who’s seeing acromegaly in modern pens.

Today’s pen: Parker Challenger
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noire

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Unwanted Refinement

Posted by Dirck on 24 July, 2012

I gave into a very foolish impulse yesterday.  I had a look at eBay.  This is frequently a prelude to looking at a huge list of not very large bids and thinking, “Oh, I hope I don’t win on most of those” (the same effect comes, I hear, from a not very large list of huge bids).  However, it appears the only urge I was open to was the investigative one; the investing one was out round the back with the brandy, I guess.  I should be happy that I have not got myself into a monetary bind, and I am, but there was an obverse to the coin that showed itself, and the happiness is tinged with concern.

To some extend, the exercise was one of seeing how well I could spot makes and models from the frequently dreadful pictures (I’ve taken enough of them to know them when I see them).  This is even more of a challenge when looking at “Grandpa’s desk drawer had all these!” lots; a great jumble of pens, pencils, and other similarly-shaped objects.  Given the nature of my site, I don’t think it’s bragging when I say that I’m not too bad at this sort of spotting.  Had I been in a buying frame, I certainly would have known it was a Parker “21” rather than a “51” and felt a clever chap for knowing it was already over-bid.  However, this cleverness appears to be somewhat alloyed to a cynicism I hadn’t felt creeping up on me.

Looking into one of those Grandpa’s Drawers photos, after about a minute of doing it that I was actively cocking a snook at the lower-tier pens.  I willingly concede that I don’t have much love in my heart for a lot of the post-1950 Wearever lineup, but I had never thought to find myself snorting derisively and even, indeed, sneering at Remingtons, Eclipses, and similar decent if lowly pens.  If this sort of thing keeps up, I might find myself chuckling at the notion of Esterbrooks with the wrong sort of intent.

I suppose it is to be expected that several years of playing with some of the better pens history has to offer will result in a somewhat jaded outlook.  While those lesser pens are as nice as their nature allows, there are some limits on them.  A pen with actual tipping cannot fail but be nicer to write with than one with a set of folded “butterfly” nibs.  A good solid Permanite or Radite barrel gives a better sense of security than an extremely thin mystery material.  If I’ve got the nice ones, why not treat myself?

Well… in part because I might forget that there are some charms to the deadly cheap pens.  I might not recommend Wearevers as a group, but I should continue to commend the Supreme for the amount of performance that it shakes out of a 29¢ price tag.  I might not altogether enjoy the way a very cheap pen writes, but I should remain open to the merely skin-deep beauty of many depression era pens, since looks were frequently all they could offer and they went quite over the top on them.  I should, in short, remember where I came from and not give into the urge to be a snob.  That’s a narrowing of mind, and I’m of the opinion that that’s not a healthy activity.

As an aside; if the first sentence in the third paragraph doesn’t draw some Google hits for people looking for an entirely different sort of online experience, I’ll be very surprised.

Today’s relatively lowly pen: Lamy Safari
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noire

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Look! Over There!

Posted by Dirck on 23 July, 2012

I was feeling a little unproductive when this lunch hour descended; the weekend was full of worries about my wife’s father (who, if you’ve got plenty to spare, can apparently do with a new kidney), the foundling cat’s relapse into mysterious snot production (abscess or tumor to be decided next week), and whether I would succumb to the unknown airborne allergen or an overdose of antihistamine. The last item is at least off the table today, but since I didn’t have anything profound in my waiting room, I decided to fill the time making a new permanent page. Look upwards, and you’ll see “Those Who Stand and Wait“, where I mention the pens I don’t mention every day. It’s not much, but it kept me off the streets for a half-hour.

Today’s pen: Parker Challenger
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noire

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How I Measure Up

Posted by Dirck on 20 July, 2012

Rather than a film, I’m doing an unpaid plug today.  Some time ago I made a some noise about an online shirt-maker, and as a result of having made that noise did some more investigation.  I am, as befits someone who is somewhat older than the notion of the internet, occasionally a little innocent about this medium’s contents, but I’m aware of this innocence and thus was unsurprised to find other computer-driven shirt-engines in the world.

The plug; I quite like the output of iTailor.com, at least in the shirt department.  I have yet to work up the courage to trust my money for a data-made pair of trousers, but given the current satisfaction level I am getting closer to the leap.  The cost is comparable with my other provider (the shirts cost less each, but there’s no free shipping), there’s fewer variables in the measurements, and they’re extremely honest about shipping times, but the cloth seems slightly superior and… there’s a pen pocket!  A little cozy, one pen across, inside the pocket-proper, and it’s deep enough to admit even the Brobdingnagian Vac 700 (which makes me slightly sheepish about the stance I took in the comments on this thread).  It’s also a sort of fun exercise to build a shirt, which is why I offer the plug as a Friday treat.  You don’t have to buy anything to play around.

Today’s pen (securely stowed it it’s own little pocket): Pilot Vanishing Point
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Bleu Myosotis

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Posted by Dirck on 19 July, 2012

Why is it that I get treble the usual number of visitors on days I post nothing?  There’s some kind of life-lesson somehow bound up in this, I’m sure.

A question I’m better able to answer is this; why was I not here yesterday?  Able, but I find as I open the page to begin, a little hesitant, as it’s both aside from the point of the blog and lifts the skirts on the family’s life for a non-comedic purpose.  However, since the lingering effects are putting me off the discussion of pens, deportment and similar curmudgeonry, I might as well press on.

The scheduled reason for not appearing yesterday is a neeting with some Trained Professionals on the matter of my son.  He is, we were told in the culmination of several months of intermittent observation, not autistic, a statement backed up with reference to the DSM-IV and some other more obscure psychological assessment tools.  He is, however, the possessor of Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified; this, and even more so its festive acronym PDD-NOS, is best synopsized as the very thing my wife and I in our simple layman’s way have explained as him being not demonstrably autistic but having a couple of little weaknesses in his onward development that would suggest autism if not for some other contradictory behaviours.  Well… semi-layman’s way.  I do have a BA in psych, after all, even if it is old enough to vote and never really used.

In any event, it is nice to have an official designation which carries with the comforting message that it’s nothing we’ve done wrong, apart from recklessly lashing our genetic material together.  It is interesting that this news was delivered in an extremely hesistant, as if we might fly into a rage at the suggestion that there’s something wrong with our son (despite the months of previous collaborative effort), or perhaps at the proposition that whatever it it, it’s not autism.  Given the oddities of human behaviour I’ve observed, I suppose they may well have experienced both sorts of incoherency.  They seemed, in fact, at a bit of a loss to handle people who thanked them for their care and were anxious for suggestions as to what to do next.

It’s far from the end of the world, and things look fairly positive.  That’s what kept me from looking in yesterday.  However, as similar past events indicate, I usually put my nose in and mention that I’m not here.  There was another matter at hand, and the distraction it provided led to my slight incivility.  In this, I’ll be less specific, and merely say that my wife’s father is not well, possibly through his own actions (which may or may not have a conscious genesis), and this is causing some disruption in the usual flow of the lives of his family and their hangers-on (that’s me!).

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Junior
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Inner Glow

Posted by Dirck on 17 July, 2012

The past weekend was apparently a good one for my more spiritual portions.  This makes sense, as unspeakable heat alternating with torrential rain are the standard in India, which is a powerful incubator of philosophy, and that’s what the end of last week here offered.

Because of the rain, my usual lawn-mowing time found crouching before the television, trying to find something like entertainment.  What I settled on somewhat surprised me, because it falls into the hated category of “reality programming”.  However, unlike the most hideous expressions of the breed which engage in a cannibalistic enterprise of making those who are famous only for being famous more famous by rendering them infamous, the show I got caught up in offers us people who are… famous?… well-regarded, perhaps, because they are actually good at something.

The show is American Restoration, which profiles the efforts of a business dedicated to returning consumer items of a bygone day to their original function, in an only slightly edited format (a good exercise in media savviness, by the way, is to count the number of camera angles in any given scene).  I imagine the reason the show is on at all is that the fellows working there could be described as a “motley band of characters” who get into potentially comic interpersonal friction, but the thing I found engrossing was the work itself.  A ride-on train of the late 1940s was resurrected to function, an old soft drink cooler retrofitted, and a slot machine eviscerated and re-rove.

I don’t think I need explain that I like the notion of that sort of thing, but it was not just the fact of these restorations that draws my approval.  There is is also the satisfaction that shines from each of the chaps involved as they beat entropy out of the objects in question.  There was at one point a loving explanation of the need, in the face of one component’s utter dissolution, to fabricate a new one, and of the breathless anticipation contained in the moment when old and new are mingled– will it fit?  Will it fit seamlessly?

This is a sensation I know well.  I mentioned a few days ago my limits in being able to fabricate new parts, but I’m not completely incapable, and when the need arises it is attended by the fine, semi-numinous sensations that come of believing one is able create coupled to the small undertone of uncertainty that it might not work as expected, and the exultation of victory when that undertone is at last extinguished.  Those whose entire response to a malfunctioning item is a shrug and a wondering of where to buy a new one rob themselves of this rewarding internal experience.  Sometimes, of course, that undertone becomes a crescendo, and the repair fails, but even in that there remains the warm glow of having tried.

Today’s pen (forgiven at last): Sheaffer Junior
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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