What's up at Ravens March.

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Archive for February, 2014

In Like a…

Posted by Dirck on 28 February, 2014

…lion?  To quite Patrick O’Brian, lions ain’t in it, mate.  We are told that the overnight low upcoming will touch -40 (F or C, as you wish) and adding in the wind-chill will put is in shouting distance of the sensation of -60.  “March comes in like a nation of frost giants riding angry chimerae crammed with liquid nitrogen” may not be traditional nor poetic, but it comes closer to the sense of it.

I was, therefore, going to mount a campaign of sympathetic magic and lift from Youtube some version of Vivaldi’s “Spring”.  There are a couple of problems with that, though.  The goofy objection is I don’t want to jeopardize the return to (nearly) seasonal temperatures we’re promised for next week, as shouting “knock it off” frequently just causes heels to be dug in.  The also-goofy objection is that I don’t really like that particular concerto.  So, here’s something that will at least get some blood moving, and it’s cellos so it’s high-class art.

Have a good weekend, everyone.  Try not to break off any major body parts.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

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Posted by Dirck on 27 February, 2014

WHAT:  First draft of short stories “E.Z. Notes” (working title) and “Ring and Run” (which may actually stick).

HOW MUCH: Two and a half pages altogether.

HOW LONG: About 30 min. ( I had to walk to a nearby store to buy some materials for doing A Clever Thing with a pen).

DONE?: Yes with the first, in a very sketchy way; second draft on that one is going to call for a chisel, a blowtorch, and a little divine intervention.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Diamine Steel Blue

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Return of One More Thing

Posted by Dirck on 26 February, 2014

A lunch meeting takes all creativity away for today (which is better than utter exhaustion doing it), so I offer a very brief look back at a past entry.  I mention in August of 2011 the purchase of two pair of relatively good shoes, and in it I mention the likelihood of venom going forth against the makers if they don’t last.

Well, the local fellow who repairs shoes leaves me with reason to grumble.  Of the two pair, both of which I had to take in for attention, one was easily put right and the sole rubber received some praise; just a matter to replacing some de-laminating heels.  The other, though, was beyond redemption; the materials and method of construction render it impossible to re-unite the soles and the uppers.

That pair failed me in Spring of last year.  A year and a half does not a proper shoe’s life-time make, especially when it’s not the only shoe being worn.  Venom is therefore shaken upon the name on Nunn Bush.

I guess I’ll have to start saving up for some correctly made shoes.

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

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Position Available: Sandman

Posted by Dirck on 25 February, 2014

My son had a tummy ache last night.  This shouldn’t be a big deal, but it meant that I got roughly three hours of sleep last night, which brings the total since the weekend to… hmm… eleven?  Something like that; the aftermath of the Great Illness sees regular coughing, which interrupts sleep magnificently.

Which is why there’s nothing about progress today.  A subject from too stupid a predicate to know.  The careful visitor may notice some very small and purely mechanical improvements in my site.  That’s today’s big thing.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green (I had a spasm on Sunday and switched inks)

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Posted by Dirck on 24 February, 2014

WHAT:  First draft of short story “E.Z. Notes” (working title).

HOW MUCH: Three pages of manuscript, of which two survive a moment of shuddering realization of utter tripe.

HOW LONG: About 40 min.

DONE?: No, although I really should just wrap it the hell up.  The urge to put in curlicues just makes the tripe-detector start honking.

Tday’s pen: Parker 45
Today’s ink: Private Reserve Supershow Blue

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Meditation Aid

Posted by Dirck on 21 February, 2014

For this week’s Stolen From YouTube entry, I have a little something that should appeal to both the vintage pen enthusiast and those seeking to quell the monkey-mind.  What the thumbnail shows is what you get– a chap writing a list with a Vacumatic, and that act is the entirety of the sound-track.

Not for everyone, but on a bleak February day, it’s a huge improvement to looking out the window.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Diamine Steel Blue

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Posted by Dirck on 20 February, 2014

WHAT:  First draft of short story “E.Z. Notes” (working title).

HOW MUCH:  Three pages of manuscript.

HOW LONG: About 30 min.; I may be my lunch break, but the social situation here is such that I can’t just screech, “BUGGER OFF!  WRITING!” to a garrulous co-worker who usually doesn’t appear at this time.

DONE?: Only the ground-work.

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

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Back to work

Posted by Dirck on 19 February, 2014

WHAT:  First draft of short story “Old 237” (working title), then first draft of short story “E.Z. Notes” (working title).

HOW MUCH: Five pages of manuscript, 3½ being the new project.

HOW LONG: About 40 min.; the new project has rather been yelling at me to get on paper.

DONE?: Some translating of “Old 237” still wants doing, but otherwise it’s ready for the next stage.

Tday’s pen: Parker 45
Today’s ink: Private Reserve Supershow Blue

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Transmission Troubles

Posted by Dirck on 18 February, 2014

or: There was transmission, and I found it troubling.

The utter silence here over the past few days was not voluntary.  Yesterday is waved away as a regular interruption in honour of “Yes There’s A Holiday Between New Year And Easter Day” (eight years of slightly reducing the incidence of suicide through the combined influences of seasonal misery and workplace stress!).  The rest, though, was a biological process.  I caught… something.  Something respiratory.  Let me examine its phases:

  1. Hey, I’ve caught a cold.
  2. Well, that wasn’t so bad.
  3. Wait, I’m coughing again.
  4. Even shallow coughing prevents sleep, if persistent enough.
  5. Say, that’s right… people die of things like this
  6. I’m not better, but I’m not as bad as I’ve been; a timid “hoorah”.
  7. Thank {insert diety} that’s over.
  8. Gah!  Ear ache!

I’m basing the last stage on the experience of wife and son– I’m hoping I can slide under its radar by not reveling openly in a return to relatively good health.  The last stage seems to last no more than an hour or two, but I’d still rather give it a miss.

There was rather a damper put in Valentine’s Day, of course, in addition to my departure from updates of any sort here.  The writing also suffered; I came near to finishing the one I’ve been working on, but some of the later paragraphs are in a late 15th century Court Hand with cuneiform augmentations.  It may be brilliant, but I’ll need Sir Philip Lugalzagesi of Ur-on-Trent to translate it for me.

I did manage to tremble my way down to the Pen Cave yesterday to see to the resacking of a couple of client Duofolds.  Basic stuff, no heavy lifting, and only just within my powers as they were.  I’m much better today, but I cringe at how much worse I was the previous Thursday.

What really unnerves me out of all of this it the fact that I got vaccinated in the fall.  I’m not going to amend my stance on jabs, even in the wake of this apparent failure.  Rather, I’m going to be a while pondering how bad it might have been if our various immune systems hadn’t had a recent taste of something similar.

I wonder if I’ll be up to summoning Sir Philip’s spirit tomorrow?  I would like to get that story wrapped up– the dancing fever lights suggested a couple of other ideas I’d like to get cracking on.

Today’s pen (also source of comfort and moral support): Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown (as close to an inherently happy ink as I regularly fly)

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Metropolitan v. Plaisir: Reach for the Not-Quite-Bottom

Posted by Dirck on 11 February, 2014

Since I find myself home sick, the natural consequence of looking after sickies last week, I’m going to write a more in-depth than (currently) usual entry with an eye to giving a decent showing on Tuesday… when this will be posted.  Oh, time shifting, the modern vice!

I also find myself with a couple of recent purchases of pens of extremely modest cost, sops to the stylophilic monkey on my back while I await The Regular Job noticing that the local cost of living is going up a lot faster than the national average, or at least a certain gauntness overtaking the whole work force.  Japan seems to have a thriving low-end fountain pen market, delving so far into territory usually occupied by ball-points, gel pens and markers that one finds disposable fountain pens there.  This produces a certain amount of interesting action in the abyssal deeps just above the sea-floor of disposability,  not unlike the synergistic striving on once saw between Wearever, Esterbrook, and some of the major North American makers’ less luminous offerings.

This striving is in essence an effort to offer a pen that’s cheap, but not so obviously cheap that it’s embarrassing.  The two pens we’re looking at are part of this contest for the next-to-last pen dollar (or yen) a buyer has throw out.  Johnny Voiceover, will you introduce the two kids for us?

Coming to us from the Tokyo-based Pilot company, here’s the little performer that’s taking the world by storm! MR, Cocoon, or Metropolitan, it’s the pen so nice they named it thrice!

Also from Tokyo, this funky little chap hails from the Platinum works, home of pens both cheap and costly; ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure, the Plaisir!

Both our plucky hopefuls are metal-bodied pens designed to fill from cartridges.  They’re of much the same size, but the Platinum is substantially lighter– its cladding is aluminum rather than brass– so those who equate heaviness with value will find it wanting at first.  In fact, the Metropolitan tends to take more points for its design than the Plaisir, with a more conventional section, lack of a silly cap band, and a rather smoother profile when capped.

Taking the caps off and getting ready to write, the contest begins to even out.  Both pens are reliant on proprietary cartridges (unless you come from a market where the MR appears, in which case it accepts international cartridges).  The Platinum cartridge holds about half-again as much as the Pilot, and the feed seems to charge rather more briskly in the Plaisir than in the Metropolitan.  Having the cap off, one also runs up against the Metropolitan’s handling disadvantage– the smooth capped look calls for that step at the joint of which I have previously ranted about.  Some people object to this sort of thing even more strongly than I (for me, it’s not a terrible problem with this Pilot) so for a quantity of users, the shape of that pen will rule it right out.  These objectors will probably be balanced by those who abominate a transparent section, which I will admit does look a little squalid when some of the vanes are loaded with ink

Both pens use what is for their makers a pretty generic steel point.  However, Pilot with its disposable Varsity has an even-lower end steel point than that which appears in its popular market pens– appearing also in the Petit 1, it’s little more than a clever stamping, and while it’s good enough, it looks catastrophically cheap.  The Metropolitan thus gets a somewhat classier point, one might even say a “real” one.  The Plaisir, meanwhile, is only a one step up from Platinum’s lowest rung, the Preppy (the corporate US site actually views the Plaisir as a modified Preppy), and they share what one might also describe as a clever stamping of a point.  It’s slightly better in its finish than the bottom-end Pilot point, comparing well with that found in many Lamy models, but it is still a rather stiffer item than the Metropolitan offers.  Neither has a lot of give to it, but the Metropolitan definitely offers a smoother ride.

You are probably getting the idea that I’m coming down in favour of the Metropolitan at this point, and you’re probably right, but I think I should point out that the contest was slightly fixed –oddities of pricing.  In the Japanese market, the Cocoon sells for ¥3,150, and that seems a fair price point for it (using a very shorthand 100 Yen = 1 dollar exchange); it’s a nice pen, it comes with a converter, and it looks like it should last.  The Plaisir, on the other hand, is offered for ¥1,000, and that is a definite bargain even if there isn’t an included converter– it may be five times the cost of a Preppy, but it’s got a substantial advantage in the looks department.

However, the experience for the North American buyer is different.  Both these pens go for somewhere between $15 and $20, and when one finds both at a given outlet, it’s likely to be the Metropolitan that costs less by a dollar or two.  Either Pilot is up to some lost-leader shenanigans of some sort, or Platinum is engaging in a bit of foot-shooting, because the difference comes right at the companys’ MSRPs– $18.75 for the Metropolitan, $22 for the Plaisir.  Perhaps Pilot has developed teleportation technology, and they’re saving a bundle on shipping costs.

The conclusion, then, is that the pen that’s enjoying an artificial edge is the better one.  Hardly surprising.  If one is in Japan, I’d definitely suggest the Plaisir as a better value, in that the Cocoon is not (quite) three times better a pen, but in the North American context there’s little to suggest it other than the power of sitting quietly for long periods.  One might, in fact, be well advised to snap up a Metropolitan before Pilot comes to its senses.

Today’s pen: Parker 50 Falcon
Today’s ink: Diamine Ochre

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