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Archive for November, 2013

Don’t Grumble!

Posted by Dirck on 29 November, 2013

To follow yesterday’s bleak murmur (which I think had a little bit of viral infection helping it out– MUCH better now), here’s a little tune to brighten everyone’s day.

I was actually at a wedding where this was the first song played at the reception.  Strangely, the marriage didn’t last.

Today’s pen: Parker 75
Today’s ink: Chelpark Permanent Black

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Paint it Gray

Posted by Dirck on 28 November, 2013

Yesterday’s silence was the result of a collapse of Regular Job’s communications (the IT department has not been making its regularly-scheduled monolith touches).  Amusement!

Today, I find that Seasonal Affective Disorder is putting in an early appearance and it’s using both hands.  I’m declining to do much of an entry today because every start I’ve made quickly transforms into petty complaining.  More than usually petty complaining.  I’m sorry not to be doing my job of distracting my few American readers from going out and shopping, but I don’t have anything I’m willing to inflict on others, even in the wake of what was one of the better job interviews I’ve experienced (no results to report) and a south-facing window seat as a consequence of last week’s move.  There may also be a virus involved.

To make up for my lassitude, here’s a link to something quite worth reading on the topic of the artistic impulse and its value in society.

Today’s pen: Pelikan New Classic
Today’s ink: Diamine Evergreen

Yesterday’s pen: Parker Vacumatic
Tomorrow’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

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Presently Absent

Posted by Dirck on 26 November, 2013

I should have mentioned this yesterday– I’ve got an interview this afternoon for a different position with The Regular Job in a couple of hours.  I am thus a little absent for the purposes of this enterprise.  I am, in fact, considering ahead of time how I might respond to the various questions a job interview poses.

If I’m successful in the interview, there are possible ramifications for this enterprise, but for the moment… I’m otherwise engaged.  I’ll wax philosophical tomorrow.

Today’s lucky pen: Parker 75
Today’s non-confrontational ink: Chelpark Permanent Black

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Life in the Ruins

Posted by Dirck on 25 November, 2013

I joke, of course.  I’m actually less surprised than I was expecting to be to find that the sports fans here limited their celebrations to blocking the city’s central intersections (conveniently near the stadium) and making loud hoots, even though the temperatures were mild enough for actual rioting.  Good job, fellow citizens!

I am slightly late getting at this entry in part due to the aftermath of the game, in that the post office nearest The Regular Job is in the same mall as one of the outlets for the team’s shirts, bathmats and bobbleheads, and of course those who feel themselves insufficiently festooned are anxious to join in the sympathetic magic of dressing like the victors.  A pedestrian in the parking lot is a minor consideration in that circumstance.

The post office was necessary to return the pens of a couple of clients, successfully concluded while the pregame hostilities entertainment was putting the boil to the pot of sporting expectations.  The Vacumatic with the goopy sac has gone back, without complete success in restoring the filler to function; there was some interior damage, and there’s a hesitation in the filler stem as it extends to full length under the influence of its spring.  That one is going home under an “on approval” program; I’m letting the client decide how much the repair costs, because it’s not quite as it was, but I don’t know how far back towards perfect the thing could have been brought.

An art AND a science!  The wonders of using a fountain pen!

The other pen was a Sheaffer Targa sent to me because the owner found it to be scratchy in its writing.  It was a useful exercise, because it actually provides an underpinning of truth for the myth of a pen taking a set from the writer’s habits.  The current writer reported a habitual holding of the pen at the lower end of the range of useful fountain pen angles.  I, who tend to the middle, didn’t find much to object to in a quick swirl of the pen around a piece of paper.  Looking at it with magnification, though– an obvious flattening of the tipping from years of high-angle writing, and a resultant sharp angle on the tipping at a place where a low angle writer would find it digging in unpleasantly.

It’s fixed, through a gentle grinding away of the sharpness.  It’s probably not going to recur any time soon, because that sort of effect calls for either serious, studied effort or years of forceful writing under the same hand.  The myth remains, for the most part, mythic; something with a grain of truth, inflated out of all proportion in the retelling.  It is interesting, though, to occasionally battle a mythical creature.

Especially when one is in no danger of turning to stone or having one’s village eaten.

Today’s semi-legendary pen: Sheaffer 8C
Today’s ink: Jentle blue-black

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A Once-Great City Lies in Ruins….

Posted by Dirck on 21 November, 2013

Actually, I’m a lot more worried about the state of the city come Monday, since the Grand Ultimate Final of Canadian Football is being held here on Sunday, the Home Team are in it, and the fans are barking mad (by North American standards, anyway).  I intend to spend that time huddled in my basement with my family, singing, “It’s just a game, and we don’t care” to the tune of Jimmy Crack Corn, because I figure win or lose there’s apt to be a berserk orgy of destruction.

However, my workspace is in an utter shambles, and the moving of computers is threatened.  I will therefore stick up an appropriate film to both cover yesterday’s absence, today’s uncertainty, and possibly tomorrow’s utter distraction.

I’ll look in tomorrow if I can, and on Monday if one brick still stands atop another by then.

Today’s pen: Pelikan New Classic
Today’s ink: Diamine Evergreen

Yesterday’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Craftsman
Yesterday’s ink: Waterman Washable Blue

Tomorrow’s (probable) pen: Parker Vacumatic
Tomorrow’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

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Commercially Confused

Posted by Dirck on 19 November, 2013

I’ve recently happened upon the Pulp Magazine Project, an interesting effort to bring the experience of early 20th century popular fiction reading to the masses of the early 21st century.  I have, of course, been having a look, and not only because there is frequently a young lady in a diaphanous outfit on the cover (but if that’s the what you’re after, you’ll be heading straight for Ginger Stories).  As an amateur and slightly half-assed historian, I’m at least as interested in the hints about the everyday lives of the readers as I am in the literary content– especially since I’ve already read all of Lovercraft’s works.

Particularly, given my particular pathology interests, I was hoping I might have found a mine of price data for vintage pens of diverse makes.  My reasoning was thus; many of the readers of these things were also writers, or at least had ambitions in that direction, so it would be an eminently sensible place to flog the materials of the writer’s craft– pens, paper, slang dictionaries from which sheltered young men might drag the elements for lines like, “Now, Eliot, I’m what the man in the street would call fairly ‘hard-boiled’, but I’ll confess that what I saw on the walls of that room gave me a bad turn.”

It turns out I’m sort of right.  There’s a surprising number of full page ads for typewriters of various makes.  But of pens… hardly a whisper.  The closest I’ve come so far in my canvassing is a tiny panel promoting the wares of The Britmor Co., which I suspect is more a re-seller of cheap pens than a maker of them, and I’m not particularly concerned to know that you could get one of their pens with a REAL GOLD POINT! for a dollar.

Because it's easier to read a pulp magazine if you've got eyes.

Because it’s easier to read a pulp magazine if you’ve got eyes.

What one does find is the sort of stuff one would expect to find in late night “paid programming” and “infomercials”, and in sidebar ads on websites you shouldn’t be wasting your time with.  Dodgy but conveniently priced prostheses.  Cheap radios you can take apart to learn radio repair.  Pamphlets that guarantee to show you the way to secure a government job which will being financial security.  Booklets full of young ladies in diaphanous outfits, euphemistically described as Artists Reference Poses.  Earn money in your spare time!

In short, what I learned in this short examination of the pulps in their natural state is that targeting the socially-insulated has been going on in a very modern way for rather longer than one would have though.  The media has changed, but the message hasn’t– send us some money you can ill afford to part with, and we’ll fix you.  I’m amazed there’s not a lot of ads for pimple creams.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

oh, a post script– I’m told that my department at The Regular Job is migrating sometime in between tomorrow and a week hence.  I may get a trifle spotty here, since I rely on a computer that’s connected to both internet and power for my entries.

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National Identity

Posted by Dirck on 18 November, 2013

A little discussion on a forum lately got me thinking down what is almost certainly a cognitive blind alley.  That discussion was aimed at identifying a Sheaffer Imperial which had a collection of very odd features relative to what one expects (in as much as one expects something specific from Imperials).  Something that put various minds somewhat at rest (as much as minds considering Sheaffer Imperials can be) was the imprint, which read MADE IN BRAZIL.  Various different plants go their own way occasionally with designs– Argentine Parker 45s with long 61-style clips, Sheaffer TipDip Craftsmans from Canada and Australia with plastic rather than steel caps– so discovering an anomaly comes from a plant outside the maker’s homeland renders it less anomalous.

My mind didn’t rest, though.  MADE IN BRAZIL.  In English.

Why?

I suspect that the question of national identity is one that occurs more to Canadians than to some other peoples, especially those of us who are old enough to clearly remember the last and happily negative referendum Quebec ran regarding separation.  Because we have a little trouble defining what we are other than by plain differentiation (“like Americans with socialized health-care”; “like Australians who don’t have to be so careful about lifting rocks and logs”), I have a notion we notice little things like this a little more quickly.  Say… maybe I’ve hit on a national trait!

In any event, I looked at that impression, which is apparently pretty standard for Brazilian Sheaffers, and I wonder about the motive.  The wondering is made only a little less pressing by the discovery through on-line translation that MADE IN BRAZIL becomes, when swapped into Portugese, MADE IN BRASIL, because it’s not only Sheaffer’s Brazilian offshoot that did it.

Waterman pens all say FRANCE on them, which is fair enough because that’s the same in French… except the ones made in the 1950s said MADE IN FRANCE, and that’s all English.  Pelikan’s pens have said GERMANY on them for a long time, even if my very scanty looking into the matter is correct during the period when the Nationalsozialistische crowd was in charge; caring about export markets during that phase of the country’s history seems pretty unlikely, as general foreign policy was demonstrably “Lernen Sie Deutsch sprechen!”  Pelikan, interestingly enough, conducted some if its turn of the previous century’s advertising using foreign spelling, with British and French ads offering Pelican materials, so they clearly have given the matter some thought over the years.

I don’t have any conclusions to draw here.  It’s not a universal practice– that Parker 45 I mention above is content to say HECHO EN ARGENTINA on it, and Soyuz pens generally appear in Cyrillic only.  It’s mere observation, and a little bit of sharing of bafflement.  If anyone has any suggestions, I’m interested to hear them; speculations, properly labelled, are also welcome.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Snorkel Sovereign
Today’s ink: Pelikan Violet

Odd that some pens AREN’T imprinted in their own language– Pelikans, Brazilian Sheaffers, French Watermans.

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Automatamazing!

Posted by Dirck on 15 November, 2013

Friday Film for this week is a look at a robot from the very beginning of the Age of Steam– like Steampunk, but looking at the other end of the telescope.

A cynic might point out that the lack electrics, a software-reliant output device and an interesting user interface means it still blinkin’ works.

To balance that last sentence with another wonder, I’ll also point out that tomorrow morning is the start of the period of possible visiblity for Comet ISON.  If you’re capable of early rising, look towards where the sun will break the horizon.

Today’s pen: Pelikan New Classic
Today’s ink: Diamine Evergreen

Later: flipping back through old pages, I find a disappointing black window. Here’s another, if slightly less in-depth, look at the same little doo-dad.

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Take a Letter

Posted by Dirck on 14 November, 2013

I was recently reading an article about the various charms inherent to hand-written correspondences, which is probably not a surprising item of news.  I am, despite the testimony of some of my correspondents (one horribly neglected one, especially), a great fan of this form of interchange, and I’ve gone on at some length in previous entries to encourage others.  One thing, pointed out by the article, never really stuck me.

Letters are a secure mode of transmission.

It’s at once obvious and unexpected.  This whole uproar regarding the Snowden revelations (say, there’s a name for a Robert Ludlum novel) is founded on the discovery that secure communications aren’t, really.  Those communications are electronic, of course, which means that the security comes from encryption rather than inaccessibility; Angela Merkel’s cell phone, for example, is yelling at the top of its electric lungs every time she makes a call, and it’s just the fact that it’s screeching gibberish to most receivers that makes it a secure(ish) mode of talking to some one.

Letters, though… they’re discrete.  Folded up in an envelope and exposed to a limited number of people (writer, a small relay of postal workers, reader), it takes a serious effort to get a look at someone’s letter in transit.  The bonanza of data Snowden has revealed is all the bounty of the NSA pursuing what is possible, and while world leaders are rightly up in arms about having their conversations and emails examined by unexpected auditors you don’t find anyone shouting about “And they read the postcard I sent Aunty Gladys!”

If, therefore, you’re going to get up to no good, whether illegal or merely immoral, you’re probably better off sticking to the mails.  A little bit of care in keeping the letter covert between writing and posting, and you’re golden.  It may go astray, but it is unlikely to get into the wrong hands, as people lurking around the letterbox are obvious.  The person on the other end won’t accidentally forward it with a mere button push (“reply to all” takes a long time with mail).  Deleting an item of physical mail is extremely complete, if you’ve got a match, and if you want to keep it, as I’ve pointed out in the past, it’s proof against hard-drive failures, power surges, and EMP effects.  How much better can you hope for?

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Craftsman
Today’s ink: Waterman Washable Blue

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External Gratification

Posted by Dirck on 13 November, 2013

I’ve not got a lot to say today, because I’d rather you were somewhere else.

Specifically, I’d rather you were pondering your own charitable impulses.  I’m sure you’ve heard of the bit of weather the Philippines had over the weekend, and may have even put in a donation already.  Whether you have, or if you’re the sort that has trouble with straight charity, you may still want to look in at the auctions Leigh Reyes is running to drum up more funds which will go straight to the Philippines Red Cross.  Instead of a mere warm feeling, you get a nice pen and something like that warm feeling.

…so go!

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Snorkel Sovereign
Today’s ink: Pelikan Violet

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