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Archive for November, 2012

Revelations 11:30

Posted by Dirck on 30 November, 2012

Between going from the office for lunch and a train across my return path, I’m a little late posting this result to The Big Draw (and also a little late closing the competition, so it’s all fair).  If my lovely assistant Gladys (a one-eyed elderly orangutan, who throws herself into the role by wearing a spangled leotard) will hand me the letter…

…and give me back all my fingers, thank you Gladys, the new owner of Eula M. Edwards’s burgundy Parker “51” Demi is:

This is it! The big moment!

…the notable ailurophile and mysterious presence behind Gourmet Pens!  I’ll be making e-mail contact presently (which, as I mentioned yesterday, is hardly contact at all) to discover where in this great wide world the pen must now travel.  Thanks to all for participating, thanks to all for looking in even without participation, and here’s hoping that I have the resources and wit to do a similar potlatch for my site’s second anniversary.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Targa
Today’s ink: Organics Studios Cobalt


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Analog Digitizing

Posted by Dirck on 29 November, 2012

A recent meditation on the current state of hand-writing (some of which conducted while I reclined in the box of recycling paper in my fever-fugue yesterday) bore some interesting fruit.  One of the points in favour of handwriting, which I go into somewhat last month, is that it puts the reader in almost direct contact with the writer, a brushing of fingertips at one remove, and one of the problems with electronically-moderated communication is that there is insulation preventing such contact.  Even Skype, while one is more or less talking right to the opposite number, is not much different from chatting with a Mi-Go brain-jar.

It was in part the notion of technologies as construed by ages past which knocked my train of thought down a bit of a siding.  What, in the past, was there apart from letters? There were telegrams, of course, which in the absence of very clever composition had all the warmth of a Dalek wearing a clown nose; when the message was REGRET TO INFORM SAM BLOGS KILLED AT FRONT 10/10/18 there was a limit to how clever a compositor wanted to be.  The telegram also had the charm of being rather expensive, since one was paying by the character.

This brought me to a very interesting if short-lived phenomenon.  During the interbellum period, microfilm came into its own.  In this age of terabyte drives, it seems rather quaint, but when all data storage was hitherto done on paper, any sort of compression was seen as a boon.  When the Second World War irrupted the technology was, as most other technology available at the time, pressed into service.  One of the less bellicose ways in which it was used was V-Mail; the name of this service has now been co-opted in some quarters to mean “voice mail’, but in its original incarnation is was a way of shipping mail to the boys at the front without clogging the supply chain with letters.

The way it worked: the letter is written on a specific form, then shrunk down to a mere dot on a strip of film after being read and redacted by military censors who probably had the odd laugh in a working day.  The film, with a mail-bag’s worth of Dear Johns aboard, was shipped to a distribution centre near the action, printed onto a piece of paper (embiggened, if you like), and passed along to the intended chap, whence bucking up occurred.

…or so one assumes.  Given the dire circumstances in which the readers found themselves, contact from home in any format was no doubt very welcome, but one wonders if the distant G.I. while crouching in the shelter of a tree felled by enemy fire would look at the item of V-mail most lately delivered and say , “Gosh, this looks like May’s handwriting, but somehow it doesn’t feel quite right.”  It is, after all, filtered twice through technology, and thus loses that my hand to thine aspect of actual mail.

However, it is a reproduction of the writing itself, rather than the mere impression of words as you are looking at now.  Since I find that I have a readership from which opinion may be solicited, I will attempt to do so now; do you find that you got a better, or at least different, sense of the author of this raving nonsense from having read it as it came from my hand, as one could back on Fountain Pen Day, than from the arrangements of scraped-together pixels that constitute the regular entries?  While not in paper form, the effect is much the same as V-mail; scanning and reconstituting a hand-written page that it may be read at a distance with radically lower shipping costs.  The fact that it’s not a paper reconstitution may be balanced by the fact that it’s in very nearly the original colour and density; V-mail demanded black ink or dark pencil, and the reproductions were rather higher contrast than the originals.  I don’t suggest for a moment the answers will change how I do things here, since I indicated in that previous entry what a trial the other way of doing things is, but I am curious to find what folks think on the topic.

…and I’ll beat you all to it: “Curious?  Downright peculiar!”

Today’s pen: Waterman Crusader
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Walnut

A reminder to all– the big pen draw is less than twenty-four hours away.  If you’re not in, and you want to be, you’d best get on it!

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Posted by Dirck on 28 November, 2012

That’s the noise my head is making when I try to apply myself to writing today.  I’ve got some microbe striving mightily to take control of my frame, and the sounds of the conflict are terribly distracting.  I think I’m going to creep in under my desk and have a nap.  I or the collective consciousness of H2N5 will be back tomorrow.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Targa
Today’s ink: Organics Studios Cobalt

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The Battle of Bendy End

Posted by Dirck on 27 November, 2012

Say, that would make a good title for a ballad of some sort, wouldn’t it?  Never fear, folks; the poetical urge has fled, and will hopefully remain lodged firmly in the collective bosoms of authentic poets and thirteen year old girls, where it rightfully belongs.

To call what I’m about to describe a battle is to grossly overstate the matter, and frankly to horribly cheapen the very notion of “battle.”  There are no scenes of  grand heroism, no moving tableaux of struggle.  There is, in fact, me sitting in front of my computer, about a week ago.

Right next to “amateur poetics” in the spectrum of Tedious Things to Drive Readers from Your Works is “loving descriptions of a session of Warcraft,” so I want to reassure you that we’re not traipsing down that path.  No, far from the (relative) excitement of Warcraft, the scene we glance at is a quick review of the then-current offerings of eBay.  Among them was a not-overpriced example of the Sheaffer PFM.  “Ooh,’ said past me, “I haven’t got one of those.”

True.  The PFM is, for various reasons, one of the prestige pens for vintage collectors, and when they appear tend to go for rather a lot.  As it happens, at the moment I’ve got a pretty plump PayPal account (thanks, various clients and buyers!), so looking at a PFM was not mere wishful thinking.  A closer look at the listing gave me reason to hope.  The inlaid point, that innovation of the PFM, had a pronounced bend in it.  A big, obvious bend, of the sort that puts may people off, as it draws the thought, “I’d have to pay someone a bunch of extra money to fix that, if I were to win the auction.”

Well… that’s not a thought I’m frequently given to, these days.  Fixing bends in inlaid points is, to a certain extent, all in a day’s work for me.  So, I gave a good hard think about how much I would spend on that particular model if it didn’t need the point repair; if, that is to say, it only needed the usual replacement of rubber components, which I also do for myself, but requires some spares… and frankly, if it’s not mint, why pay mint prices?  Still, the amount I put down as my maximum bid was, for the state of the pen, relatively high.

The auction ground down, and this morning I found… I’d lost.  Not only had someone outbid me by five dollars, but someone else outbid that person.  My dreams of wrestling poor Bendy Endy back into function will forever more be just dreams.  This is not a complaint, which one finds rather a lot of on pen fora, about some stupid jerk who outbid me at the last second, because frankly that was all I wanted to bid and having more time to counter-bid wouldn’t change that.  No, I’m just venting off my confusion about why someone would bid that much more than me.  I have these options:

  • someone has no idea that it is, in fact, broken;
  • someone thinks that, in bidding thus and then paying for the repairs, they are still ahead;
  • someone thinks they can fix that, and have deeper pockets than me and the will to reach down into them.

The first would be sad, and lamentably seems likely.  Another regular topic of discussion on the fora is something along the lines of, “Why are these idiots bidding against each other on a Parkette in increments of $50?” and the answer always seems to come down to enthusiasm untempered by any research at all.  The second is possible, perhaps even reasonable given the cosmetic shape of the pen, and it’s the one I hope for, if only because it gives a boost to the craft I’m trying to make more of a living at.  The third….

Here’s where I have a bit of a split in my own head.  I’m very much in favour of DIY, as proven by the fact that I hand out free advice on the subject.  But if too many people decide it’s something they can do for themselves, them my dream of making it a regular and useful component of the household income vanishes in a puff of fairy-dust and talcum powder.

See?  I don’t need my son’s help not to get a good sleep.  I can mess it up for myself!

Today’s pen (got cheap ‘cuz it was broken): Waterman Crusader
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Walnut

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Seasonal Sock Song

Posted by Dirck on 26 November, 2012

Well… not a song, exactly, although if it were to appear in the 1930s, someone would almost certainly try to stick it into a tune; those folks were pretty desperate for entertainment.

There was a challenge uttered over at the FPN to write a poetical ode to thermal socks.  Well, given the rank misery which much of November has offered, I am even more than usually fixated on winter, and I took a few minutes to bang out something rather… well, long.  However, the fixation remains, so I’m replaying it here, with some edits and (hopefully) improvements.  For readers from a country with less ferocious winters; this is the sort of thing that long dark cold parts in a year will make one think is art.

So driven by the bitter gales
are winters multitudinous teeth,
human frame for protection wails
nowhere moreso than far beneath.

Where in Zephyrus’ season
thin nylon stocking may suffice,
no one with trace of reason
wants their toes encased in ice,

And so we turn to wool,
that sovereign natural fibre,
for socks to turn the cool
of dark December’s ire!

Knit them thick of worsted
and of at least knee-length
for their mettle will be tested
by the foe’s unfailing strength!

Within stout boots of craggy grip,
behind insoles thick felted,
though even in some snow may slip,
by body heat it’s melted.

In thermal sock, the foot abounds
with cozy nigh-calenture;
unwelcome ice, in sliding down
joins mere skin-made moisture.

Then wick away, great ovine hair,
unwelcome perspiration
which were it to remain in there
would swift bring desperation!

Of all of human industry
back to the world’s creation
this noble accessory
deserves most approbation,

so praise and don the thermal sock,
until sweet Spring arrives,
in March (or, likely, May) to unlock
this land where grey ice thrives.

Once in a while, I get the urge to be poetical.  This, a highly typical result of giving into that urge, should keep me from it for a good long time.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Targa
Today’s ink: Organics Studios Cobalt

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Field Trip!

Posted by Dirck on 23 November, 2012

Does everyone have the permission slip?  Yes? Good.  Now, then… who wants to go to Heidelberg?  Lamy offers a tour of their production facilities, complete with exactly the sort of soundtrack one expects in an industrial/educational film.  Those of about my age will find nostalgia rising up to slap them on the back of the head like a whimsical zombie.

Off we go!  Play sanitary!

My fellow H.G. Wells fanciers can mull the implications of the appearance of Morlocks at about the four minute mark (they do not look like the ones in the Rod Taylor film).

Today’s pen: Parker 95
Today’s ink: Herbin Pousièrre de Lune

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I Call Shenanigans!

Posted by Dirck on 22 November, 2012

This has been working on my vitals for rather more than a month, and apparently it won’t go away from simply being ignored.

The pen company Delta has recently announced a new “Fusion” point.  To save myself a little typing*, I will merely offer this link to the FP Geeks’ (them again?!) initial article on the topic, which is more or less a reproduction of Delta’s press release.   To sum up, they are putting forth a point made of two separate metals; the part immediately touching the feed is in essence a simple steel point of common shape, such as is mounted on today’s pen, and which has a little gold wafer stuck to the back of it.

This wafer is suggested to somehow concentrate ambient heat (or even perhaps generate it), which will warm the ink passing under the steel component, improving flow in some perceptible degree.

…which, in a very figurative way, gets me up on my feet, shouting “Shenanigans!” and urging one and all to take up their torches and pitchforks in the interest of both honesty in advertising and basic science awareness.

The second, first: I’m not a doctoral physicist, but I like to think I’ve got enough of a grip on the basic aspects of thermodynamics to know the following; a lump of relatively ordinary metal might, through its conductive properties, come to very briskly attain the ambient temperature, but it won’t get any hotter without some extra heat input.  So, whatever combination of steel and gold appears in the new Delta point, however warm your room is, that is the temperature it will be, unless it happens to be in a particularly strong sunbeam and acquires heat through insolation.  That temperature is likely to be rather less than the ink itself, which has a greater thermal mass than the point and is less likely to shed the heat it picked up riding around in your pocket.

Honesty in advertising, then.  The markings on that point are all on the little appliqué gold bit.  They indicate a gold content of 18k.  This, one rather suspects, is the whole point of this point; the use of that number, that magic, avarice-inducing number, on the point of the pen, while radically reducing the amount of gold actually involved.  If one looks at the gold content of the point in toto, it’s probably more like 10%, but because it’s concentrated in that little fixture, Delta marks it as 75% pure gold with a straight face.  An incautious consumer, used to two-tone masking in high-end pens, may not realize they’re being practiced upon.

This thing is on two pens now.  The cheap one is MSRP $265.  Shenanigans!

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini
Today’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

*The season’s bounty appears in the form of a quantity of freezing rain followed by a shin’s depth of snow.  The lunchtime walk was both tiring and very limited as to top speed, so I started here late.

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The Prodigy’s Birthday

Posted by Dirck on 21 November, 2012

No, not my son’s.  He’s lucky enough to have a birthday in the part of the year when the party can include swimming.  The birthday, or rather anniversary, is of the relight of my website.  Just think– only a year ago I stopped doing tedious quasi-meta entries here about my progress there.  That’s definitely something worth celebrating.

I have been doing a bit of assessment of the new, if I may call it thus, site’s performance.  It has definitely produced a lot more incoming business for me than the previous incarnation– which is to say, any at all.  It also seems to be informing a certain number of people, based on incoming links and even occasional congratulatory notes.

I’m going to mark this event with some prodigality.  Another give-away?  Yes, indeed.  It is, in fact, the best give-away to date, very nearly an anniversary potlatch.  Here it is:

All this could be yours!

That’s a Parker “51” Demi, and while I know some folks will be put off by the engraving, it’s very appropriate to a prize draw.  It came to me in a similar way, having been a prize in a draw hosted by FP Geeks in an earlier incarnation; to pass it along seems only appropriate.  It is a pen of proven durability, both specifically and as a model, and it will last out the years quite nicely.  The model number is also, interestingly, connected to the hidden trivia of the site; the number of hits it’s had in the past year is easily divisible by 51 (and that’s as close to a definite number as I’m going to give).  I’m even going to announce this contest on the site itself, and make it a little bit of the  dust billowing from the mills of Twitter, which I’ve not yet quite gotten around to severing my connection to.

There is no skill-testing component to this give away, either.  Leave a comment on this thread, and as long as it’s not profoundly rude you’re in the running to get the nice little pen.  The contest runs until another day of notable births; November 30, which saw the appearance in various years of Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, David Mamet, Billy Idol, Jonathan Swift and Mandy Patinkin.  Yep, that’s a good day to give a birthday present, all right!

Today’s pen: Parker 95
Today’s ink: Herbin Pousièrre de Lune

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Posted by Dirck on 20 November, 2012

I was so excited about the mini-review reviewing the Mini that I forgot to update the plight of Red Leader.  Let me remind you of where we last saw him:

One might say, “Ooh, that’ll leave a mark.”

As I mentioned last week, I had high hopes.  The welds looked solid, and with the removal of the old glue from the section there seemed a good chance they would continue to.  Then, there was the matter of reducing the evidence of the repair.  In that department… well, I’m not absolutely delirious about the results:

One would be correct to say it, too.

Could I have done better?  Probably.  A combination of the client asking for brisk return and the fact that the point of the pen was absent tipping affected how much time I could and was willing to apply to the problem.  Filling in that crack more thoroughly would add time and effort, then fixing the visual damage that filling would cause would treble both.

But, my sad laziness aside, I allow myself a little glow of pride at reuniting the fragments.  It may not be reforging of Narsil, but there is a satisfaction to be had from it.  And, if I can lean on a culture that is not my own for a moment; perfection is in the hands of the Almighty, and for a mortal to attempt it is to draw divine wrath.  So you see, it’s really an exercise in lightning avoidance.

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini (link forthcoming)
Today’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

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A Small Liking

Posted by Dirck on 19 November, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I was lamenting the possible sudden end of this enterprise due to outmoded software.  I mentioned then the possibility of being intercepted while all a-quiver to write “how much I (probably) like the TWSBI Mini!”  Well, whatever else happens, I’m not going to face that frustration:

Hey, there ain’t no ink winder?

Look what arrived on Friday!  It’s the new TWSBI Mini!  And do I like it?  Probably!

Actually, that should be “Mostly!”  I’m an acknowledged fan of the brand, and so it’s probably not a surprise if I start gushing about a pen which is very much like the Diamond which impressed me so much as the company’s more-or-less debut model.  Indeed, in many ways, the Mini is a revision of the Diamond, and addresses some of the issues that have been a constant thorn of the earlier model.  The clip design is basically the same as that one the Diamond 540, the section is reinforced against the cracking that so many have complained about, and then there’s the party piece.

I’ve not actually sat down and counted threads and comments on various fora, but roughly equal in number and loudness  to the complaints about little cracks in the plastic of the Diamond have been those about the poor cap-posting properties.  TWSBI has maintained from the beginning that the Diamond wasn’t designed for posting, but with the Mini they may as well be saying, “OK, you want to stick the cap on the back of the pen?  Sure.  Here you go.  Now quit bugging us.”  If there’s a quibble to be had with their solution, it’s that there’s an o-ring at either end.  That’s there to keep the cap from unscrewing; as one who frequently gives up on posting because I don’t trust the cap to stay put, I’m a fan of it, but I can understand a slight hesitation at the small, exposed softness on an object which is most usually firm in all its parts.

Posting, by the way, is an important thing for this pen.  Let’s compare it to the Diamond, side by side:

Like many small pens, its proportions are such that it doesn’t look so small…

…unless another pen is laid along side.

As you can see, the Mini lives up to its name.  It is almost a throwback in this era of big pens (indeed, it’s very much the same size as a Pelikan 140), and without the cap there to extend the effective in-use length, it is rather too wee for comfort in most hands.  When posted, though, it’s an eminently comfortable pen, and when capped is not apt to bottom out in smaller pockets.

So, yes, I do like it, and am even somewhat in awe of it, in as much as it has the same ink capacity as the Diamond 530.  There is one aspect that I do not like, and which I do not like sufficiently as to make an effort to efface it from my memory.  You do not see here a picture of the back-side of the cap-band, where the model name of the pen is etched.  Way back, when TWSBI first committed to the making of the Mini, they suggested three different fonts in which this name might appear, and asked for comment.  My own comment was, “As long as it’s not that one, I’m happy.  That one is hideous.”  Guess which one they used?  The font in question is a horrid, rounded 1970’s motif.  I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now, and I’m not mucking up my media library with it; if you want to see it, FP Geeks appear to not have the same prejudice as I.  Happily, it’s resting against my hand and thus hidden when I’m using the pen.

One final note– as the first caption above mentions, the version I chose has no ink level indicator, which is rare in modern piston-fillers, and not a requirement of the model (it also comes in an all-clear and a “classic” with a clear barrel and black ends).  Why chose this?  Well, I have previously mentioned that I only pretend to be smart, but that aside I thought an all-black TWSBI after the various transparencies they’ve offered would be an interesting change.  One will notice that many pens I use don’t have an ink window.  It may even help to put the user in touch with the pen’s tides.  In any event, with 1.2ml aboard, I don’t expect it will run out too briskly.

Today’s pen: Parker 95
Today’s ink: Herbin Pousièrre de Lune

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