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Archive for August, 2013

Terms of Endearment

Posted by Dirck on 30 August, 2013

A friend pointed this out to me, and I thought it was whimsical enough for the Friday Film, even if it does go horribly wrong at the “pen” point–

Frankly, wouldn’t füllerfederhalter have been just as comically intimidating as kugelscrieber?

Today’s pen: Parker 65 (yep, I really quite like this pen)
Today’s ink: Quink black (even with this ink in it)


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Gabble Immemorial

Posted by Dirck on 29 August, 2013

I am a fan of handwriting.  If I were a little more energetic, I might even aspire to being a champion of it, but I think “booster” is are far as I rise, and I decline the pompoms which frequently attend the office.  At various points in the past on this very enterprise, I’ve had little contemplations of the future of the skill, sometimes dark, sometimes tinted with optimism.  Recently I ran across another article on which repeats the “keep that, it’s more important than you think” line regarding handwriting, and I think anyone with an interest in handwriting, cognition, or retention of studied material should give it a look.

Because I got almost no sleep last night (different food, possibly a different poison, much the same result), I’m not going to comment at length on the article, but in light of my recent admission of density and a frequent failure to recall whether I’ve previously touched on a topic in this blog, I find the central message of “handwritten = retained” very interesting.  Neither my site nor this thing see any non-keyboard composition, and even when I’m not in a state where shoe-tying is a feat of supreme dexterity I have a certain amount of trouble remembering what I’ve written.  I won’t, from embarrassment, be specific about how long it took me to turn up those self-directed links in the previous paragraph.

A member of a pre-literate culture would of course respond, “Of course you can’t remember things.  You’ve written them down.”  On the whole, though, I think I’ll stick with literacy in its diverse forms than toss it all in hopes of being able to recite The Iliad one day.

Today’s tool of memory enhancement: Sheaffer Imperial IV (which I had to look up the Roman numeral of)
Today’s ink, taking important notes like “buy more butter”: Herbin Poussière de Lune

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Hassan Chop!

Posted by Dirck on 28 August, 2013

Of the various little items of personality I’ve let past the filters of mistrust-of-internet, the influence upon me of Warner Brothers cartoons of the post-war golden age is certainly prominent.  One of the things I enjoy about these cartoons is the re-writing of Daffy Duck from a mere ball of anarchic chaos into a venal, grasping, cowardly backstabber; this because the former frequently vexes the undeserving while the latter generally pays a heavy and hilarious price for exercising his weaknesses.

So it was, when I read this announcement by Organics Studio offering free inks and a pen to people posting reviews of their work, I said inwardly, “Oh, I’m gonna do that, on account of I am greedy.”  Since pre-existing reviews aren’t to be counted, I will now revisit my sadly small experience with their inks.  Because I want to avoid heavy and hilarious come-uppances, I will also mention that I’m doing this because I actually like what I have seen of their product and want them to thrive, and given the likely outpouring I don’t really expect to be pushing a comedic wheelbarrow loaded with ink into my hidden cave of wonders.

The paper:  H&P 32lb laser paper, because all the other kids say it’s good.  Frankly, it’s no Clairefontaine.

The pen (for the samples):

…because it’s easy to clean

A European version of the Pilot Plumix; where it’s from and thus its cartridge standard is neither here nor there, as I was using it dip-wise.

Let’s begin:

This is what I think of when I think "cobalt blue"...

This is what I think of when I think “cobalt blue”…

...but this suggests that I'm being a little provincial.

…but this suggests that I’m being a little provincial.

On my site’s profile of this ink, I ponder the colour as being a little too much on the purple side for the name.  It appears I may have to retract that, as a look about the net shows my expectations were imperfect… as ever.  I do, this internal debate aside, like the colour; it is in the same line as Herbin’s Poussière de Lune in being a covertly non-standard hue which one can enjoy the small thrill of using neither blue nor black ink without the big boss leaning out of his office to yell, top hat on a column of steam and monocle askew.  {Edit: After writing this, I troubled myself to look in at the company’s website, where I find they’ve reformulated the Cobalt since I got mine; anything I say about the precise colour is probably imprecise}

It’s also quite well behaved in the areas of feathering and bleedthrough, and it’s not so saturated that it loses out on shading.  It’s also not a notable trial to clean out of a pen.  Whether it’s radioactive or not I cannot comment; probably not, and just as well.

Other pens I’ve had this stuff in: Parker “51” Vacumatic (and if I’m not complaining about cleaning it out of that, you can bet there’s no complaint forthcoming), Sheaffer Targa.  No explosions, clogs, or failure of in-flight systems occurred.


I don’t complain about expectations in my previous examination of this ink, although I discover in preparing for this writing that though it might not look just like the ionic solution (no picture, but described as bright blue) but it definitely gets something of the manganese right.  I also describe it as a modern blue-black which does a rather better job than a lot of the major manufacturers at being that colour.  Months later, with no evident fading in the sample, I stand by that statement.  It’s still much the same colour as it was when it hit the paper, and the careful archiving of the sample sheet on an unprotected shelf in a frequently-humid kitchen suggests it’s going to stay that way a good long time.

It's a little hard to see here, but that lower-right sample is THE SAME colour as the ink; click to go to the giant source.

It’s a little hard to see here, but that lower-right sample is THE SAME colour as the ink; click to go to the giant source.

My problem with this ink it its apparent affinity for linen.  I’m pretty good about not dribbling on myself (at least, from pens), and yet I keep finding this ink escaping from containment.  It may not be linen in general, but a specific shirt whose wearing happened to coincide with this ink’s outings, but either way it’s a bit of a pain.  In keeping with the findings in the previous paragraph, is it a remarkably colour-fast ink; when it gets onto linen, Amodex and straight ammonia have both proved unable to entirely shift it, no matter how briskly applied.  So, good for important documents, but not good for shirts.  It is otherwise as well behaved as the Cobalt, and the only reason I haven’t pursued getting more is that I’m ankle-deep in blue-blacks and can’t convince even my own crazy brain that another is a good idea until I’ve run out of something.

Other pens I’ve had this stuff in:  Sheaffer 300, Waterman Prefacé.  No issues bar that shirt thing.

In general, I’ve heard no ill about this company’s inks, and I’m looking forward to eventually trying more out.  If there happens to be a vast great heap of them, with a shiny pen perched fetchingly atop, all the better!

Today’s pen: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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What’s That First Step?

Posted by Dirck on 27 August, 2013

Standing at the front of the well-attended auditorium, I take a deep breath and say the nearly-ritual opening line.  “Hello, everyone.  I have a thinking problem.”  Polite supportive applause from those who know how it is.

Like Ray Milland, my problem came to light over a weekend.  Last weekend, in fact.  Unlike Ray Milland’s case, the problem was not underlined by an inability to pawn a typewriter for the price of one more ounce of sweet, sweet hooch, although there was a keyboard involved.  I got an e-mail from a very nice person.

This very nice person is a pen enthusiast living along the west coast of North America– there are a few of them out that way, I understand– and we’ve brushed past each other in one forum or another for some time.  This communication was via the anti-spam doodad on my site, and concerned the site.  I had, to my eternal shame, mis-identified a pen.  Because this person is a nice person, the message was not simply “Hey, that’s not a TRZ.”  The explanation of how she could tell it wasn’t a TRZ was included, in which it was revealed to have been a collaborative effort with another pen enthusiast living somewhat further south along that same coast.  A persuasive explanation, indeed, and one I could not answer.

The thinking problem?  An utter lack of citation, which I adopted as a conscious policy.   I decided at the start of my relight that I wasn’t going to litter the site with cites, you see, as some of the information I was importing from the site’s original site was thoroughly uncited and I had no vision of how to go back and fill in the blanks.  Too much effort, no formal peer review, no publisher to please apart from my own index finger.  No citation.  So, when some of the more flawed material on that page had a light shone on it, I couldn’t even say, “But that guy over there said!”

I’m a bad scholar.  But, I’m not a bad scholar with dug-in heels.  The page in question no longer erroneously speaks of the Sheaffer TRZ, but more correctly describes its successor, the Fashion.  I find that the old data, which I have squirrelled away in a private location against the day when I actually have a TRZ in hand and can with a clear conscience say somewhat unsupported stuff about it once again, has eluded the nets of the ‘Nets.  The Wayback Machine’s last visit to my door was long before I threw up the wrong material, so in as much as some of it is right, none of it is (I think) in the public eye any longer.  One aspect of vanity laments, while another dances a little jig of relieved celebration.

I want to mention another note I received on the same day.  Another nice person, a pen enthusiast from Australia– there are a few of them out that way, I understand– had a tentative identification to offer for one of my mystery pens.  While I had to decline it (this pen’s name is legion, and I was moved to update the page with a little more on that topic as well as filling in the dimensions), the exchange offered the interesting possibility, even likelihood,  that the nice person in question is the very same nice person who saved me from that white Pelikan a week earlier.  If that isn’t an award-winningly globe-spanning example of “small world, ain’t it?” I don’t know what is.

Today’s pen: Parker 65
Today’s ink: Quink Black

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Contrary Materials

Posted by Dirck on 26 August, 2013

Last week, there was a thread on one of the fountain pen fora in which someone sought direction in the mysteries of de-croggling a couple of Waterman Phileases which had both done a high dive onto a firm plane.  He got that direction from several readers, including but not primarily me, and as of last report had one of them back on its nibs.  Part of the initial complaint was a lamentation that a couple of point-fixers he’d contacted had declined to have anything to do with the effort.

Not because the described damage seemed too extensive for a good outcome.

Because the points were steel.

Coincidentally, I was, when I stuck my oar in on the forum thread, about to embark on a similar repair on a Sheaffer Prelude (which is the nucleus for a page on my site that is slowly crystalizing), which is also steel pointed.  I didn’t join the chorus of oh-how-could-theys which attended the thread, but the thought was present.  A few days later… well, I can see the why they’d decline a little more clearly, although I’m not striking the possibility of steel point repairs from my own list of services.

I think most of us know from a functional standpoint the main attributes of gold and steel.  Steel is rather less decorative, and gold is a bit of a bust as a steak knife.  Gold is still the winner at corrosion resistance.  Steel is far more readily available, and good thing; imagine how much a building would cost if the girders were going at $1,000 an ounce.  Both can be good in the role of pen points, especially with some of the more corrosion-resistant formulations of steel that have come about since… oh, let’s say 1950.  From an initial fabrication standpoint, the difficulties of either material are about equal, and the difference in cost between a pen with one point or the other is (mainly) the cost of the material rather than its powers.

However, the reworking of either is an other matter.  Steel doesn’t bend as willingly as gold; it’s a less ductile material.  Once bent, it is more likely to resent being bent back to where it was.  Gold, particularly in the alloyed forms found down the end of pens, and steel are both subject to stress fracturing, but it’s a lot easier to talk nice to gold and jolly it along.  A steel point will present attempts to return it so shape with a need to cry, “Good enough!” when a gold one will arrive at near-perfection.

I speak of cold-working, of course.  If one is set up for de- and re-tempering, the matter takes one a different complexion… but so would the cost of the repair.  A lot of point-repair dances along the edge of economic viability.  Retipping costs a lot, and many people will prowl for a donor pen of similar cost rather than pursue that service.  Removing kinks from a steel point is as much if not more work than from gold, and one can more reasonably suggest the finding of a new one most of the time with a sense of having saved the seeker money.  The Phileas is a little different at the moment, since there’s a bit of a spike in costs (people know they’re good above their on-paper appearance, and the market is bubbling) and no other pen’s point is an exact match in decor, so I understand the preference for repair, but I also understand the preference on the other side to avoid sullen looks when saying, “it will cost X to fix” when X is rather more than the strict value of the part.

That Prelude is, by the way, working.  As it used to?  Probably not, since there’s still a little deformity of the slit (I use the word “microscopic” advisedly; 10X is enough to see it, but only just) that I’m not getting rid of without angering the spirits of metal fatigue.  There’s some naked-eye sense of wrongness in it, too, some wobbles in the reflections.  But it works, it’s not unpresentable, and I don’t think I’ve done myself or the client a serious injury with the charge attached to the work.  We’ll see if future sullen looks change my opinion on addressing repairs on steel.

Speaking of which, I spent roughly an hour and a half applying a variety of increasingly sullen looks and other tools to that Vacumatic I made such a production over at the start of the month.  I have never seen a Vacumatic diaphragm which has become so integrated into the fabric of the barrel it was mounted in.  I stopped when I heard someone say, “Damn it, I know I’ve got a rat-tail file somewhere in this joint!” and there was no one else in the room.  Work-hardened rubber introduced some fatigue cracks to my serenity, and the sulfurous material dramatically reduced my clarity of purpose.   Good thing it’s not a rush job.

Today’s pen: Pelikan P488
Today’s ink: Kaweco blue-black

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Let Me Count the Ways

Posted by Dirck on 23 August, 2013

The usual Friday effort celebrates a return to the usual at home; the stink has been defeated, and everyone is back under one roof, so here’s a film the whole family can enjoy.

Liam Neeson + Count von Count = essentially infinite goodness.  But don’t let your kids make you keep playing it.

Today’s pen: Pilot Metropolitan
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Nuit

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Separation Anxiety

Posted by Dirck on 22 August, 2013

I’m a little distracted today, and I think I’ll fill in the time by explaining the distraction.  Warning: A rather dirty trick follows immediately.

My wife and I are separated, and she’s take the son with her.  None of us are pleased with this state of affairs.

Aren’t you glad I warned you?  That sounds like terrible news, and even with the warning I wager many people are right now thinking, “Oh, no!  How could this terrible thing happen?”

I blame the city’s works department for it.  They are the ones who paved the street in front of our house.

I… probably should have added a warning about that non sequitur as well, eh?  Enough shenanigans, then– I’ll explain properly.  That paving was done Tuesday morning.  Tuesday evening, two-thirds of the human compliment of our domestic arrangement were wheezing in various degrees from the wafting volatile organic compounds of the new tarmacadam, with a progression on the complaint which suggested that my wife would wheeze her last if she tried to sleep on the problem.  Providentially, my parents have just left on a vacation and their house is a mere two minutes away by auto, so the wheezers were transferred to the relative comfort of fully breathable air.  I remained at home to feed the cats and to prevent them getting at the matches.

My parents’ house also has an air conditioner, which would frequently be an added comfort at this time of year.  This past weekend was, generally speaking, sweltery.  Tuesday saw an odd dip in temperature, though, which persisted through yesterday, and so the air conditioner was moot.  Cool air resulted in a paradoxical extension of discomfort, as the fresh pavement did not cook off as it might usually when exposed to summer’s mighty effects.  Bringing everyone home in the evening turned into a mere flying visit to grab fresh clothes and a few toys; while I only detected the smell of a neighbour’s barbecue, my wife said even before stepping out of the car, “I taste road.”

We’ll try again tonight, as the heat came back on today.  As I said, none of us are quite enjoying this; even the cats are showing signs of worry (possibly because they know that I have access to the matches).  The to-and-fro, the difficulty of preparing meals in an unfamiliar kitchen (a large part of my current state orbits the question of tonight’s supper), the terrible sensation of discovering that thing you didn’t think you’d need is actually constantly required, the alteration in what was an excellent cuddle schedule (my son appears intent on taking up cuddling as a profession), all of it adds its individual grains to the pan of do-not-like.  Since there’s no telling just how long it will take for the source of the trouble to exhaust itself, not only is this an open-ended misery, it raises the ugly spectre of eventually rooting for the arrival of winter and its power to prevent hydrocarbons from getting airborne through reduced Brownian motion and layers of ice.

There are a couple of small advantages to this otherwise uncongenial separation.  The primary is, of course, the ongoing existence of my wife and son; they may be way over there, but “over there” isn’t a euphemism like “gone west” and it’s something I think we all view as a positive.  More selfishly… I’ve had the best night’s sleep since late June of 2008 out of it.

Today’s pen: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Pipped at the Post

Posted by Dirck on 21 August, 2013

Yesterday saw some unusual drama, as I was saved from a terrible inconvenience by the action of a sniper.  Not a lot of drama, as it was an eBay sniper.  I had, in that uncomfortable period on Friday between becoming distorted in my reasoning and noticing that I was out of true, not only left some regrettable comments on various blogs but had a look in at the infamous auction site, spotted something, and put a bid in on it.  When I was recovered, I realized how far I was wandering.

A Pelikan M100 in living monotone.

A Pelikan M100 in living monotone.

Subjectivity, of course; some will find it beautiful.  I can’t image what possessed me.  Striking, sure and I don’t have a sub-Souverän Pelikan of this shape… but not for me.  I was therefore concerned to find that the penny-more-than-starting bid I’d placed remained the only bid, with five minutes left to run.  This would put me on the hook for $40, which is not vast sum, but when paying it out for something one doesn’t strictly want, it becomes an unwelcome fine for negligent behaviour– I should have know I wasn’t in my right wits, and kept a better watch on me.

At five seconds, I suddenly became the losing of two bidders, and celebration broke out, no doubt, at either end of the balance beam.  Someone, or more likely something given instructions by someone, had sniped me, and I couldn’t be happier.  I only wish they’d have acted sooner so I could get on with my day.

I have to admit that the whole notion of auction sniping eludes me.  One hears constant lamentation around the fora about people stealing pens in this manner, and I’m glad to find I’m not the only one that responds to the complaints with a confused, “No, they outbid you.”  I don’t quite understand the effort at ducking in at the last minute, but I also don’t quite understand Las Vegas or professional sports, and I suspect the competitive aspect of the bidding shares some cognitive architecture with those items.

The way I approach this sort of thing, when not raving with brain fever, is to consider the pictures and description of a given pen, work out to my own satisfaction what a decent price should be, and stick that amount in.  If I’m not willing to pay more than $X, it doesn’t matter a great deal if I do that four seconds or four days before the end of the bidding; if someone thinks $X+n is OK, then I won’t win.  The closest I get to these snipers is I may leave off putting in my bid until the morning before bids close; if I find a swarm of people hard at work elevating the price and it’s already $3X or even $X³, then I don’t need to bother.

I think what gets up people’s noses is the fact that however much the winner was willing to pay, eBay just pops the amount up by a set increment.  I bid $X, I find the winning bid is $X+1, and I rant at my own foolishness of not having bid that extra dollar and the injustice of not having time to do so, little thinking that the winner may well have decided to go as high as $X+175.  This is why I (rather than the fictional pronoun in the preceding sentence) am happy to shrug and walk away, content in the knowledge that $X was just right, and $X+n is foolish overspending.

I may not be getting some sedentary variation of the runner’s high out of my eBay activity, but the resulting calm is probably much healthier for my arteries.

Today’s pen, of which someone in the world may be thinking “If only I’d bid a little higher!”: Pelikan P488
Today’s ink: Kaweco blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 20 August, 2013

Looking back over the years (!) of entries, I find this to be the anniversary of a glaring oversight which I will now attempt to put right.

There's a kid with a clear sense of how much fun his future offers.

There’s a kid with a clear sense of how much fun his future offers.

Today is the birthday of, if the dubious citations of the internet are to be trusted, the kid in this picture: the eminent weird fiction author and recurrent racist Howard Phillips Lovecraft!

My regard for the writing of this chap is pretty open, and so profound that I can bring myself to overlook some of his socio-political views (an effort helped by some of his other socio-political views).  Often verbose, sometimes stilted, and far too given to Fainting Protagonist Syndrome, the underlying notions in his stories about what constitutes horror, at least in its entertaining arms-length form, are brilliant.  So brilliant in fact that I’m not going to cheapen the effect by trying to illuminate the matter in the short time I have available to me for these writings.

Instead, I’m going to suggest that you sing a round of “Happy Birthday” in a gargling, strangled voice, then treat yourself to a very elegant reading of “The Call of Cthulhu“, one of his best works and most frequently suggested as representative of his approach.  Then, if you’ve got time and are unconvinced, you can listen to a discussion of why people like me trot out the word “brilliant” in connection with a fellow who never got rich on his writing.

If you want to make me the most jealous guy in North America, you’ll follow that up with a visit to the big Lovecraft convention this weekend.  I’ll sit here safely distant from the thriving subaquaous terrors of the Atlantic (as well as the slumbering awfulness of the Pacific’s floor), not at all wishing I were there, learning new ways to revel.

That's right-- you go ahead and smile.  You're loved by millions.

That’s right– you go ahead and smile. You’re the idol of millions, many of whom are not confined to a secret garret by their nervous families.

Today’s pen: Waterman 52 (it’s known he used Watermans, and this is a popular model; I can claim kinship almost as straight-facedly as August Derleth did)
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noire (good for writing dark if slightly purple things, and it creeps….)

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Sudden Disabilities

Posted by Dirck on 19 August, 2013

I’ll only touch briefly upon what happened to pre-empt me on Friday, as the details are no fun.  The night before, I had picked up a meal at a painfully understaffed fast-food establishment.  My wife declined to finish her burger after the second bite, on the grounds that it “tastes funny.”  I said that my chicken had not shared that attribute, although it was less firm than usual upon reflection.  Friday saw me leave the house feeling what I took to be only slightly stiff, as one will after an awkward sleep, but I became more unwell as the day went on.  I was able to leave a couple of comments about the interwebz in which I mistook “snark” for “clever” before the sudden realization that the best phrase to describe myself was a cylinder of highly-compressed… well, we’ll leave it at that.

This made the next day a bit of a trial, as while I was no longer directly affected by Salmonella enterica or its affiliated organisms I was pretty tired out.  My wife had one of her craft sales in a nearby town, and I was faced with lad-wrangling in an unfamiliar setting.  The town lies on the face of a vast glacial runnel that constitutes one of the few serious land-forms in the region, a valley without benefit of mountains.  Much going up and down while my son sought enjoyment and diversion.

As any parent of a young child will relate, part of the wrangling duty on a long excursion will inevitably include a stop in at a washroom.  In the course of helping my son dealing with the mysteries of trouser-elevation, my pen leapt from my pocket.  I’d taken the faithful Lamy Vista with an eye towards the perils of flouncing about an unfamiliar town, so it was up to the stresses of a small plummet, and it didn’t produce much in the way of stress in me… except for the way in which its tumble launched the pen proper from its cap.  The cap hardly moved from where it had fallen, but the pen shot along the floor, going into the next stall.

And stopping just a little to the far side of the foot of the fellow occupying that stall.

“Oh, blast,” said I, hoping to prompt that chap to nudge the pen towards me, as in this context a questing hand often brings offence.

“Hang on,” the chap said, in the tone of one who recognizes the conundrum and wished to reassure that he’s not going to make the event even more uncomfortable.  Presently, a hand descended into view.  It very nearly made contact before it stopped, hesitated, and withdrew with fingers curled in a bit, almost as if the pen had suddenly hissed at its approach.

The delay was only a few moments, and then the hand took up the pen and moved it to where I could get it without seriously groping about under the partition.  The hand was holding the pen way down by the tail, though, as far from the point as was possible.

I have a notion that the chap has no idea what sort of thing he was handling, and was at pains to avoid the dangerous-looking bit.  Oh, dear.

I don’t blame him.  While I make much of the current renaissance the fountain pen is enjoying, clearly it’s still not a commonplace object which everyone is familiar with.  The Vista is a pretty aggressive-looking object too; if one doesn’t have “writing instrument” in their head when regarding it, being concerned about where the trigger might be is only sensible.

Clearly an advertising campaign is it order, reassuring the general public.  We don’t want people going lame in the face of a Lamy.

Today’s pen: Parker 65 (which was with me on Friday as well, but didn’t get much of a run)
Today’s ink: Quink Black

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