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Archive for January, 2016

The Revenge of the Heartless Brute

Posted by Dirck on 29 January, 2016

I see that I didn’t mention here having seen the latest Star Wars film about a month ago.  Old news, of course.  I agree with this guy’s take on it, which I will quote:

Star Wars is that friend of yours who you haven’t seen in a while, who was in a long-term relationship where everything was cool for a while and then things just plain went to hell, and the last time you saw them, they’d kind of hit the bottom. Now you’re seeing them again for the first time in years and before they show up you’re humming a little mantra that goes please please please please don’t let this be awkward and weird like it was the last time we saw each other.

And then they show up! And they look great. They sound great. You talk to them and slip into the groove with them, and they catch you up on what’s been going on in their life, including their new relationship with this fab-sounding person who seems to be doing good things for them. And you suddenly realize that for the first time in years your friend actually seems happy. They’re not exactly their old self again — who ever is, after all those years? — but the things you always loved about them are there once more, and you’re so happy to see them happy again that you almost want to cry.

Yep.  And since I viewed the Ewoks, retrospectively, as a sign of the trouble that was to be visited on that galaxy by its increasingly abusive partner, I take some glee in today’s Found Film:

Take that, you little creeps.

Today’s pen, of a more civilized age: Sheaffer Balance Craftsman (whose point came from a Star Wars nicknamed source)
Today’s ink, neither clumsy nor random: Jentle blue-black


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Posted by Dirck on 28 January, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 25 January
  • 27 January
  • 28 January
  • First draft of  “Final Resting Place”.
  • Second draft of  “Final Resting Place”.
  • Second draft proceeds.
  • Seven manuscript pages.
  • 893 words.
  • 1,025 words.
  • 40 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 50 min.

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Eco-Logical? Eco-Nomical!

Posted by Dirck on 26 January, 2016

I was looking through my personal records for last year, and I find that I got only six new pens.  And two of those were unexpected gifts.  Financial constraints make for less fun.

This year, though… actually, it’s looking only slightly better in the overall sense, and as far as pens go I don’t really expect to do much better.  However, a recent windfall let me indulge curiosity if not greed, and I finally got around to ordering myself a TWSBI Eco.  Here it is:

A clear pen from TWSBI? How unexpected!

For those who find themselves under the shadow of TL;DR, let me give the short opinion: good cheap pen.

Now, let me expand; I was pretty taken with the cost/quality proportions of the Pilot Metropolitan, as I went on about at some length shortly after being introduced.  That sense has continued to the present, to the extent that it very nearly crept into my Desert Island Moderns list with pens costing a order of magnitude more.  Cuddle that for context when I say this– the Eco is, at least at the end of a two-week engagement, possibly an even better bargain.

How’s that for praise?  It’s an honest opinion, though.  We hear, in fountain pen circles, people making noise about the “out of box” performance of various pens, usually in the form of complaints about having to do something to make a pen work properly.  My experience may not be typical, but I literally did nothing to this pen ahead of filling it with ink and writing, and there wasn’t a second’s hesitation from the pen despite the lack of initial rinse.  I got, for reasons too inward to mention, an extra-fine point, and it is as smooth as is in the nature of that size of tipping to be.  Looking at it through the powerful loupe I use when checking out the progress of nib reshaping, I found the tines to be in impeccable alignment.  The piston runs smoothly, without play.

…and that’s a big point.  It has a built-in filler.  The Metropolitan, for all its charms, is a cartridge pen; that has the possibility of convenience, sure, if one has easy access to Pilot cartridges, but even then refilling it requires reducing it to a heap of components.  I do prefer a built-in filler, as prejudiced as that may be, and there sits TWSBI’s rather good expression of the twist-piston in a pen which, depending on where you look, costs the same as or only about ten dollars more than the Pilot.  It is, frankly, a little hard to make out how this thing manages to cost about three-fifths as much as the Diamond without looking very closely.

Well, maybe not THAT closely....

This is why I don’t rely on my device for pictures.  It’s like the camera I used for my old site (shudder).

The packaging is an element of it, being somewhat flimsier than the nice little Sleeping Beauty coffins the other pens come in.  I suppose when viewed in multiples of a thousand, that wrench will show a saving over the flat piece of steel that comes with the company’s higher end units, too, but it will certainly work.  Unlike my other favourite cheap pen, this thing comes with a maintenance kit!

In the pen itself, though, there’s only a couple of cost savings, and one of them is dubious.  The big one is that the body of the pen is cast in a single piece– the clear components are in fact clear component.  That’s bound to save a little on labour as far as putting the thing together.  Also, the point and feed are not set in a little collar to become a removable unit, as is the case with TWSBI’s other pens (and a lot of other, grander pens, too; Edison, Anchora…), but as set into the section individually in a very old-school manner.  This saves a little on materials, but depending on whether TWSBI or the manufacturer is the one cramming things into those collars, I don’t know that it won’t run up the time for assembly slightly.

That’s not my look-out, though, and I’m quite willing to suggest that the fountain pen-curious look in this direction as a good entry to the life of the easy-writing scribbler-about-town.  It’s not perfect, of course, and there’s a couple of things that will bear watching.  Every TWSBI model has a certain number of ghouls attending to it, waiting for reports of plastic failure after the problems with the Diamonds (yes, even mine), so those who listen to the meeping and barking will likely be a little nervous.  My own point of concern is the extraneous o-ring on the tail, which helps to secure the cap during writing– it takes a fair shove to engage the cap with it, and o-rings of their nature do not last forever.

The source of nebulous concern can be seen here. Also to be seen, the usually hidden unmentionables of the piston mecanism.

The source of nebulous concern can be seen here, just inboard of the filling knob. Also to be seen, the usually hidden unmentionables of the piston mechanism.

However, I can put aside that sort of worry.  It’s a piston-filling pen that costs less than US$30, and it at least feels as solid as a low-end Pelikan.  I am toying with the idea of using it as the primary first-draft composition pen for my fictional pursuits, giving that elderly Sheaffer cartridge pen a rest after… gosh, is it two years on station?  Possibly less.  In any event, it may be time to set it aside for a while.  It is, after all, a eyedropper in its current duty, and even more of a problem when reloading time comes around that a cartridge pen.

If I find troubles with the Eco, updates will follow.  For now, though, I’m a happy writer.

Today’s pen: Eversharp Skyline
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noire

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Daddy, Meet Dada

Posted by Dirck on 22 January, 2016

I think I’m like many modern parents in my uneasy relationship with Youtube.  It offers innocent if occasionally baffling entertainments to our children, but it doesn’t appear to differentiate one sort of animation from another and that leads to thoughts of doing terrible, terrible things to Seth McFarlane when some of his more profoundly racist and/or sexist stuff appears in the Up Next sidebar.

I’m not quite which direction I lean in on this item, though.  It’s amusing, certainly, and it’s good to have something I can laugh at with my son, but… well, I’m no serious student of art, but (as with pornography), I know Dadaism when I see it.  I’m not sure the kid is really ready for that.

Today’s pen, unless it’s a hat floating above a pine meadow: Sheaffer Sentinel
Today’s ink, squirting ants away from an unprotected human eyeball: Jentle blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 21 January, 2016

If this current story will relax slightly in its powerful grip upon me, I may be able to tell you next week about the new pen I recently got.  Wouldn’t that be a treat?

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 18 January
  • 19 January
  • 20 January
  • 21 January
  • First draft of  “Final Resting Place”.
  • More first draft.
  • This one is really working well, in fact.
  • …until today.  That’s not fair, though– I just got to a bit that needed more thinkin’ and less scratchin’.
  • Eight manuscript pages.
  • Ten pages (dances about, arms in air).
  • Nine pages.
  • Seven pages.
  • 50 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 50 min.
  • 55 min.

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Rough Week

Posted by Dirck on 15 January, 2016

I will admit that I am less affected by the loss of David Bowie than by that of Alan Rickman.  I don’t mean to diminish his larger body of work nor to suggest that his fans are mourning too loud– I just wasn’t a fan of his the way I was a fan of Rickman.  That’s why only one of them is showing up here today.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Sentinel
Today’s ink: Jentle blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 14 January, 2016

For those who take an interest in such things, sometime in the next five to seven hours, I should have “The Golden Oracle” up on the other site.  You had to suffer through the progress reports, you might as well see the ungainly fruits they bear.

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 11 January
  • 12 January
  • 13 January
  • 14 January
  • Second draft of “All the Old Familiar Faces”.
  • More of that.
  • A bit that really put up a fight.
  • All done.
  • 572 words typed.
  • 807 words.
  • 657 words.
  • …for a total of 3,402 words.  The last 300 really didn’t want to lie down in a line.
  • 25 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 40 min.

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Happy Incept Date!

Posted by Dirck on 8 January, 2016

It appears that the Nexus-6 replicant Roy Batty was decanted on this date.  That’s good enough for today’s film entry.

…and here’s the actor saying interesting things about the role.  I hope he wasn’t too disappointed with Prometheus.

It’s good to know that Philip K. Dick approved of the film, despite the distance it wandered from his novel.

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini
Today’s ink: Camel Royal Blue

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Posted by Dirck on 7 January, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 4 January
  • 7 January
  • Morose contemplation of life’s inequities.
  • Second draft of “All the Old Familiar Faces”.
  • About all one should.
  • 975 words typed.
  • Ongoing, but now as a background.
  • 55 min.

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A Glorious Defeat!

Posted by Dirck on 6 January, 2016

A little less than a year ago, I made a public admission here as a way of holding something over my own head– “Lookit me,” I said, “I’m taking up a year-long reading challenge!”

Let’s see how that went, shall we?



Hmm.  It seems that there are some unchecked boxes there.  How could I have let this happen?

Pretty easily, actually.  I didn’t so much let it happen as decide that it would happen.  I realized in August that even with the outrageous cheat of allowing one book to fill several requirements, I would have to work pretty hard to manage “Almost Finished”.  This realization led to a contemplation of the place of reading in my life, and the thinking ran something like this:

  1. Reading is enjoyable;
  2. Working hard under external compulsion is rarely enjoyable;
  3. A≠B;
  4. I’d be an idiot to bash A with hammers until it becomes B-shaped.

At that point, I didn’t give up on the list, but I stopped chasing it.  If something I wanted to read happened to fill a box, then that’s just fine, but I’m not going to squander my precious reading time on things chosen to please an arbitrary list rather than myself.  I’m also not going to put myself off reading by clinging stubbornly to that list, because a writer who’s sick of reading is a writer for not much longer, and I’ve hardly even begun.

An excellent example would be the truncation of my read of The Longer I’m Prime Minister.  A close look at some of the self-serving back-stabbery of our last PM (more than usually egregious, even in a politician), it had sat on my READ THIS shelf for a long time.  I could not summon the heart to open it while he held the nation in his grubby fist, and after the liberation election I discovered I couldn’t stomach having everything I’d thought of the man confirmed and even expanded upon by those in his inner circle.  It’s on the list, but I didn’t finish.  Similarly, I’ve been in the midst of reading Labyrinths for ages; it goes on the list not because I read it but because I am reading it– I have to take it in small doses, lest it overwhelm me with its power.

This year, then, I won’t be doing the same thing, and I’ll be a happier reader for it.  Last year’s effort, for all that the campaign’s objective was not taken, saw no one hurt and a good deal of ground was gained (I did, after all, read books).  If that’s not a triumphal failure, I don’t know what is!

For those who want more detail, I’m sticking a reading list at the bottom of this entry, with links to the Goodreads pages– I think it’s pretty good for someone who doesn’t get more than a non-contiguous half-hour of reading available to him on most days, and it leaves out the manifold repeats of Tintin and Thomas at bed time (although a couple of entries there were used to quell a wakeful lad).  Also, there’s that one criterium above which just has * beside it; a bunch of those books are set in England, a country I have been in only once, briefly and without depth of understanding, and I would very much like to visit it properly.  Before all the interesting bits get washed away by the rain that apparently has forgotten how to stop.


Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

♦    ♦    ♦

Barron, Laird. The Imago Sequence and Other Stories

Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life

de Lint, Charles. The Mystery of Grace

Frye, Northrop. The Educated Imagination (which you should all read NOW)

Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows

Howell, Tom. The Rude Story of English

King, Stephen. Revival

Martin, Andrew. The Lost Luggage Porter
Death on a Branch Line

Ottaviani, Jim. Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology

Pratchett, Terry. Thief of Time

Rankine, John. Moon Odyssey

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Tamaki, Jillian. This One Summer

Tardi, Jacques. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec: Pterror Over Paris / The Eiffel Tower Demon

Washington, Peter (ed.). Ghost Stories

Wells, Barry. The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Wells, Paul. The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006- (that’s not truncated; he was still in office at time of publication)

Willett, Edward. Marseguro

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