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Archive for January, 2013

Intolerable Conditions (nearly)

Posted by Dirck on 31 January, 2013

I mentioned a few entries back about “expectedly craptacular” weather, did I not?  -33 when I left the house this morning.

Too cold, it seems, for the furnace at The Regular Job.  There’s some poor bastard creeping about on the roof this very minute, putting it right, and since it’s not yet cold enough to keep vegetables fresh in here, we’re not being given a day off (resentment mingles with pride at Canadian hardiness).  While it’s possible to do one’s duties in these temperatures, it’s no fun to try typing (or, as I initially put down, “trypinh”) original thoughts.  I’m just going to go and look at original thoughts of others and sit on my hands a lot over the lunch break.  Jack Frost willing, I will be around tomorrow, Friday though it be.

Today’s pen: Kaweco Sport 
Today’s ink: Kaweco blue-black (the moment it stops flowing, I’m outta here)


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Obligatory Scribbling

Posted by Dirck on 30 January, 2013

I’ve never attempted to write a novel in a month, even though a month is specifically marked for making such an effort.  I know the boundaries of my freedom and abilities, and while I suppose I could probably bang out the requisite stack of words, the effort would introduce far too much friction into the mechanism of the house and all for a stack of words I’d likely find arranged in a displeasing manner anyway (sour grapes, that last bit).

The lads over at Fountain Pen Geeks have undertaken to foist upon the world another month of writing, and I am trying to develop excuses to not join in.  There is, of a sudden, International Correspondence Writing Month looming up over the horizon, and a splendid and daunting prospect it is!  Sit down and write (without resorting to computer or, I suspect, typewriter) a letter each day of the coming month and then rise up and mail it, or even hand it directly to the intended reader; what an excellent way to distract oneself from the worst month the northern hemisphere has to offer.  In passing, I think the novel-writing month was out of tune; clotting up the a month when the weather is just starting to go bad with an indoor activity and distracting from what would be a comfortable lead-time of pre-Yule planning?  Madness.  January would be better; a resolution one might stick to, a reason not to go outside in some rather ugly weather, and in all likelihood starting the effort with a Hemingwayesque hang-over all make much more sense.

All the same, I’m not sure I have the grit to involve myself with InCoWriMo.  I’m barely keeping up with the correspondents/correspondence I have now; committing myself to that sort of output, even though it seems a postcard with “Hope all is well” scrawled on the back is sufficient for a day, seems as likely to disrupt the domestic harmony just as much as NaNiWriMo’s 2,000 words a day.

I do owe a couple of letters, though, and perhaps I’ll informally apply myself to the endeavour.  No resolutions, no oaths, but a simple “let’s see how I get on.”  I’ll be happy to get letters during this event, of course, so I certainly urge those who feel they can devote the time to make at least as much of an attempt as I’m at.  Write a family member a note.  Send something scathing to the politician in your life.  It all counts, and you’ll probably feel better for it.  It may even become habit forming.

Today’s pen: Waterman Master
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Short, Dark, and (Reasonably) Handsome

Posted by Dirck on 29 January, 2013

Those who fought their way through to the end of yesterday’s odd entry (cabin fever, folks; don’t underestimate it!) will have noticed that I am now publicly admitting to the Kaweco Sport I was given in the Yule-proximate time just past.  I thought, since someone has had their breath bated since the beginning of the month, I’d utter a couple of less formal thoughts as an appendix to what I’ve got on my site.  Let’s have the little fellow in front of us, though– I’d hate to be accused of talking behind his back:

To the uninitiated, it hardly suggests “pen” at all.

For a start, I think this is one of the best combinations of unconventional looks and appealing configuration I’ve run across.  I could look at that all day long… or rather at the actual item, since the flattening effect of photography somewhat reduces the appeal.

I’m also quite pleased with the portability aspect of it.  I’ll probably be able to resist the urge to pitch it into a trouser pocket to be beaten about by keys and change, but it’s one of the few pens I’ve got that will lie in the pockets of the waistcoat I’m wearing today.  I’ve got a couple of smaller ring-tops, but they’re vintage and I dare not leave them untethered, which means they tend to not lie flat.  This waistcoat is of excellent material, but the pockets are painfully shallow; if my tiny metal Wahl peeks up out of them, there’s little hope for other pens, and yet the Sport snuggles down in them and stays put.

I’m also happy enough with the performance.  It’s not an big-deal expensive pen, so I’m not expecting a lot out of it, and as I’ve said time and again it’s the low expectations that get fulfilled to admiration.  When it was delivered, there were expressions of regret that it was a medium, but I have to say that this is a very restrained medium point for a modern pen.  It’s almost Japanese in its interpretation, perhaps even vintagesque.  The sole worry I have is slight dryness, and this might be an artifact of the Kaweco brand ink I’ve used thus far in it.  It’s not such a problem that I’ve been moved to attack it with the tools of remediation.

The last thought I have to offer at the moment (I only have so many each day, after all), is connected with the looks once again.  I do not show any pictures of the pen sans cap.  I don’t recall ever having seen such a picture, and I don’t intend to address this lack any time soon.  The Kaweco Sport without its cap is rather like a hermit crab without a shell; not very useful, a little nervous, and funny-looking to the point of grotesquery.  Few people will think to use it without the cap posted in any event, so there’s little danger of espying it in it’s undraped state.

Today’s pen: Kaweco Sport (with its shame firmly covered)
Today’s ink: Kaweco blue-black (no profile page for these inks yet, so it’s just a visual sample)

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Slippery Shoulder

Posted by Dirck on 28 January, 2013

Last week, while far from The Worst Week Ever (even if I limit the application of that to my own experience), was not a lot of fun.  There was the unexpected heap of misery which lay in ambush at The Regular Job, and its constant and numerous reinforcements.  There was the entirely expected craptacularity of the weather, in which one was pleased to find that the high for the day would be -20°.  There was the sore arm, stemming from item one on this list.  There was Mysterious Leg Pain, which I’m seeing my doctor about this coming  Friday, and which went from vague annoyance in the middle of one thigh to serious impediment when mounting stairs to the point of earning status as a proper noun.  All these external items gave my depressive aspect a nudge into greater activity, so my mood was lowered over the course of the week to something that was still well short of clinical, but was certainly deeply mopey.  “You know,” said the interior voice of gloom, “not only does the weather and the job suck, but you suck too for putting up with it.  And you’re going to get fat if that leg keeps you from walking.  Fountain pens are a fad.  Oh, also– how much of your writing have you submitted for publication?”

The last of there was something I could sort of do something positive about, in the shape of looking into the ways of people who can put down author in the OCCUPATION box of income tax forms.  There is a certain element of self-flagellation in that pastime, since the inner voice can in turns declare how much less capable I am than that person, while that one who’s rolling in royalties is manifestly less capable, and so forth.  Good fun.  It’s also a fairly inconclusive activity, for although one might glom onto one or two small tips or encouragements, the only appearances of CLICK HERE TO GET PUBLISHED RIGHT NOW!! have a uniform approach to remuneration which favours the author even less than the traditional paradigm in which the work is submitted, ignored, rejected, polished, resubmitted, rinse, repeat until publication.  However, there was one thing that caught my eye in passing that interested me greatly.

One of the writers whose bloggery I looked at mentioned in passing that she’d been taken with an urge to write an updating of a novel of the 19th century.  While she also said that she’d dropped the idea as the themes were too dated to bear dragging out of the 19th century, the very notion that such a thing was open to contemplation and admission gave me a little boost.  It wasn’t a completely unfamiliar concept, of course, although it’s one I’m more familiar with in films– Invaders From Mars is frequently set up against The Wizard of Oz for comparison, for example.  There’s also one of my favourite authors from my teen years, who got a lot of mileage out of framing historical events in a science fiction setting, and he was not shy about mentioning it in the very stories.  Still, seeing that it’s not a thoroughly discredited practice was a balm to my troubled spirit.

It is, however, a balm with a certain amount of icy/hot in it, to  be kept away from sensitive areas.  Some of the projects I’ve set aside in my efforts at writing have been shelved after reading, for the first time, something by a well-known author who unbeknownst to me has already hit upon many of the same conceits I was so proud of inventing.  This isn’t connected to the dreaded Campbellian limit to the number of possible plots, but more specific details of mechanic or even mcguffin.  I sometimes feel like a macaque who, very proud of inventing the art of potato-washing, finds that it’s been done for ages on the next island.  It stings to find out one is doing that sort of thing without knowing it; I have serious reservations about consciously pursuing it, even where the author one is chasing is long dead.

Something else that gives pause is a fear of gimping up one’s ability to imagine a world.  I have often been tempted to write a response or a quasi-sequel to something I’ve really enjoyed, but even though it’s not unknown, I worry about waking up one day and discovering that someone else’s world is the only one I can picture stories in.

The final worry is the real terror, though.  While standing on the shoulders of giants is a long-recognized way of improving one’s outlook, there is a certain concern that one will discover that one is not only a dwarf, but a dwarf who rather sucks at the activity at hand.  The view may be great, but it seems to me that there’s a risk of a terrible fall, too.

Very little of which has to do with the usual matter of these entries, so I’ll mention that while in the throes of this somewhat teenage-ish angst over writing that I’m not devoting enough time or energy to in any event, I did get a load of fresh pages mounted on my site.  A couple of them include dwarves which do not suck at all.

Today’s pen: Waterman Master (say, that’s a new page, too!)

Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Shooting the Moon

Posted by Dirck on 25 January, 2013

Well, I’m feeling better… but it’s Friday, so I’m going to persist with the slacking.  This is something I stumbled against recently, and had thought to save it for an anniversary posting in the summer.  However, I’ve got the link right in hand, it’s rather neatly reasoned, and there’s a splendid waxing moon lurking a few hours below the horizon urging me on to lunacy, so here’s a nice refutation of conspiracy theories one can really get behind:

I said to a friend who came across this about the same time that it’s rather more useful than my own reply to such foolishness: If the moon landing transmissions hadn’t been coming from the moon, the Soviets were quite capable of triangulation and would have blabbed.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Statesman TM
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire


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I’m sure it will grow back eventually….

Posted by Dirck on 24 January, 2013

Yesterday’s arm pain waxeth large.  I’m going to go out and stick the offending limb in a snowbank.  To the disappointed several who will look in here for amusement, this BBC article might fill the gap.

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

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Dame Irony’s Armlock

Posted by Dirck on 23 January, 2013

Handwriting day!  HOORAH!

The Augean-style heaps of workaday horror I was whining about on Monday have been perpetually reinforced through a seasonal freak in the usual pace of The Regular Job.  This has had two results which have bearing on the day:

  1. I have seen many, many different examples of modern handwriting.  The average is lamentable in its scrawliness, and none but my own has shown any sign of fountain pennery.
  2. The amount of keyboard use over the past two and a bit days has made the act of writing by hand (even with a fountain pen!) somewhat onerous for me.  And don’t get me started on what typing this entry is doing to me, small though it is.

So, those who are uncrippled today; enjoy both writing and the power of doing so, and spare a thought for those of us who are, for reasons of injury, age or flawed education, unable to.

Today’s pen (not doin’ much): Sheaffer Statesman TM
Today’s ink (not goin’ too far): Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Posted by Dirck on 22 January, 2013

Part of my week off which didn’t involve household excavation was devoted to getting some more pages underway for my site.  While I fell slightly short of having something I could throw up (so to speak), I did find some extremely unexpected stuff while ferreting after the history of Kaweco.  That history is quite interestingly convoluted (multiple bankruptcies, name changes, and similar), and the current holder of the name is remarkably willing to admit to most of it.  They also offer a vast trove of antique advertising materials to the seeker, and it is in that trove that I found befuddlement.

Shortly before the First World War, the company offered from adverts on a theme of Kaweco Appell! which we might bring into English as “Kaweco roll-call!”  The first one I want to refer to is the less baffling one:


“You there on the right! You’ve ideas above your station!” And thus was created the sort of revolutionary that so troubled Germany in the period between the wars.

There’s nothing so disturbing about a pen-company roll-call which includes a bunch of office workers of diverse sizes and ages.  The fountain pen is a natural tool to be found in a bureaucrat’s hand, and the only real head-scratcher to be offered by this delightful image is why Kaweco chose not to indicate how diverse their pens were.  That poor little chap I’ve made fun of could have found something more suitable in the 1911 catalogue.

Now, for something that really knocks one’s notions of how to advertise pens askew, have a gander at this oddity, in which uniformity of pen length is just about the only thing that makes sense:


Welcome the the Campus Martius, lads. First lesson for the new century– close order penmanship! We don’t want any friendly-splatter incidents, so mind your spacing!

Um…. Er….  What?  Is the God of War himself come to underline the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword?  If so, then is the lesson meant to be taking place in the aftermath of the Siege of the Legations?  Perhaps the notion is that all soldiers are united in their love of the more scholarly pursuits in the new and peaceful century… or at least soldiers of sufficiently modern world powers (hajimemashite, you there on the end, and good job jumping on the steam’n’iron bandwagon!).  If so, the chap in the foreground might was to spend a little time with a mirror, moderating his blood-curdling snarl.  A darker possibility is the underlying message that if you really want to kill lots of people, you have to get a grip on the written work of warfare.  I really don’t have any insights to offer on the matter.  I just thought I might draw others into my state of confusion, so as to not be so lonely.

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

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Just Another (Big) Day

Posted by Dirck on 21 January, 2013

Well, the week off is over, and the wonderful glow of accomplishment around the home is replaced with the return to The Regular Job and its spiritual equivalent of a spike-covered log swinging out of the ceiling into one’s face in the form of a heap of things any of the co-workers could have attended to (as I have for them) but was left to heap up for a week.  Good thing it wasn’t two weeks, eh?

But enough complaining– let’s get down to complaining!  I don’t have as much time to write today as I’d like, thanks to someone at the post office having a vastly complex transaction to conduct and apparently about three-fifths the necessary materials; it wasn’t a money-order, it wasn’t a parcel to be sent, but it sure took a lot of talking, hand-waving, and handing over of twenty dollar bills.  So, with very limited time, let me refer to something I noticed recently, so you can notice it too.

My favourite store in this city points out that Wednesday is National Handwriting Day.  I will add to the pointing out that the nation referred to by “National” is the US, so I can’t agitate for us to have a day off or cake in the board room, nor can I insist on chaining down a number of co-workers and insisting upon their learning how to apply a pen to paper with some dexterity.  As with Fountain Pen Day, I’ll be observing the event through doing exactly what I do each and every day– writing by hand as well as I’m able.  But, as Scrooge on Christmases subsequent to his ghostly visitations, there will be a touch more savour to the inherent joy of acting every day as many people do only when reminded by a note on the calendar.

I will also, as I do most days, keep an eye out for the handwritten efforts of others, to appreciate the effort if (in most cases) not the artistic achievement.  We’re told that beauty lies about us at all times.  Some of it is the result of human achievement, and some of that is a mere note or grocery list, discarded by the writer.  Keep an eye out for it, and you may also get a smile of no expense and, to the vast majority, of mysterious genesis.

You’ll get extra bonus points if mysteriously-generated smiles make others nervous.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Statesman TM (at long blinkin’ last)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Oh, Boy!

Posted by Dirck on 15 January, 2013

Just a quick note from the dust-choked and industry-stinky Palace of Contemplation (now with 20% more floor!); I’ve had a very gratifying delivery of a veritable swarm of ink samples, largesse sent by Madame Weebles which got here so briskly the inks apparently didn’t have time to freeze.  When I’m done plying my mop, I’ll have a lot of extra material for my Inks pages.

Well, I hear the spiders forming up for a counter-charge.  I’d best get back to work.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 100
Today’s ink: Skrip blue-black

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