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Archive for May, 2017

Olden-Timey Entertainment

Posted by Dirck on 26 May, 2017

Today’s film isn’t, although it comes from the usual repository.  Rather, it’s an audio drama, which in ages past was called a radio play.

It’s also good fun, if rather steeped in pastiche.  If you want to follow it, they’ve got a web-abode of their own.

Today’s pen: Parker 65
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis

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Posted by Dirck on 25 May, 2017

This Week’s Pens Inks How Much Novel Written
  • 12 manuscript pages.†

†Apart from having to spend most of Monday prostrated before an effigy of Victoria, d.g. Reg., Def. Fid., Imp. Ind, as required by Canadian federal law and thus getting no writing done‡, I find that the air up here as I approach 60,000 words is getting damn thin.  I’ve sent a team of Sherpas back to the last supply cache to drag up a few extra cylinders of inspiration, but until they get back I’m moving fairly slowly.

‡In all honesty, I was mowing the lawn and pushing my son on the swings.  While it’s not getting the book finished, both are valid (and in the latter, important) uses of my time, so I thank Her Late Majesty for imposing a day off in the best part of the year upon me.

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The Creeping Future!

Posted by Dirck on 19 May, 2017

A rather long Friday Film today– an interview with William Gibson, who I find fascinating.  And not just because he’s so darned tall.

Today’s pen with an amusingly apt name: Retro 51 Tornado
Today’s ink: Jentle blue-black

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Posted by Dirck on 18 May, 2017

This Week’s Pens Inks How Much Novel Written
  • 21 manuscript pages.

I’m about, according to my own estimates, 70% finished the first draft.  This is not going as quickly as I might have hoped, although it’s not going quite as slowly as I’d feared.  I found another gap in my research today, which I should be able to comfortably fill in during the second-draft process, and this lead me off on another tangent of thought….

Part of me is beginning to yell at the other parts regarding the mechanical approach to the writing I’m following.  “Hand-written first draft?  Fine for a 4,000 word story, but on this scale… what is wrong with you?!”  I don’t think I’m going to listen to it, because as this late stage to shift to the the sort of writing production that most normal people seem to pursue these days, banging away on a keyboard rather like I’m doing right this minute, doesn’t seem possible without jumping right into the second-draft process.  Which would mean leaving the back 30% of the thing in a nebulous form while I re-write what already exists, only picking up the weaving when I travel back to this point… and I don’t know that the narrative would survive this sort of interruption of its gestation.

HOWEVER, for those who are (still, somehow) interested in this process, and for Future Me who will one day be writing another novel (I have vague outlines for at least eight, so I’d best pick up my pace), a couple of thoughts on this hand-written first draft stuff.  On the negative side, it is taking a long time, and it means second draft will also take a long time, since that won’t just be amending stupidities, but will be an entire re-write to transform marks on paper into an electronic format that editors and publishers will actually look at.  Also, as it stands now, my very-literal manuscript is a unique object; no redundancy, no off-site back-up.  This has been a source of some concern for about the past month and a half, as the imp of the perverse keeps painting pictures of fire, flood and brief-case theft.  I find that the difference of scale between a 4,000 word short story and an 80,000 word novel radically alters my ability to look at these potential disasters and greet them with an indifferent shrug.  I might well toss myself into a lake if the current heap of paper were to meet with a bad end.

The benefits of hand-written creation are still present.  I don’t go back and fiddle with specifics, so the flow of the work remains (generally) good.  I might be closer to done now if I had hit the keyboard ab initio, but I might also be only half as far along, having allowed myself to spend a full day getting one paragraph just so because the text is so malleable when it’s electronic.  Hand-writing harnesses the power of laziness in this regard, or perhaps lashes it to the power of cheapskate-ish-ness, because to do that sort of thing now would be a lot of fruitless scribbling and wasted paper.  At this point, though, I think I may have enough practice with rushing ahead on extruding the basic concept of the scenes without giving into the urge to fix things that aren’t quite the right shape that I may be able to conduct the practice in a keyboard-driven environment and thus be able to attack novel-length projects with better efficiency.

I guess we’ll see when I’m done this one.  Which… sigh… won’t be very soon.

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And Now, Sports

Posted by Dirck on 12 May, 2017

A few weeks back in this space, I ran an ad for a TV from back in the old, pre-cable days when that answer to “What’s on TV?” was “Something dull on one channel, and something slightly less dull on the other channel.”  Well, this Found Friday Film pursues an answer to how people entertained themselves before it was possible to even frame the question “What’s on TV?”

Jedi Vikings, kids.  Ponder that with fear and trembling.

Today’s pen: Pelikan P1
Today’s ink: Diamine Marine

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Anti-Nausea Treatment

Posted by Dirck on 11 May, 2017

A bonus entry!

In the progress report, I have today’s pen down as the Parker Challenger, but I am in fact carrying a second pen today.  This is not the only transgression of my usual policies, because that second pen is not mine– it belongs to a client.

I am at least as shocked as everyone else.  But it’s done for a noble cause.

The reason this pen is in my clutches at all is because it has been throwing up in its cap.  That’s not good.  It’s also very unusual behaviour for the model.  The Parker “51”, after all, invented having enormous buffers between ink and outside world, and the only thing I could think of was that the owner wasn’t filling it properly… except in discussion with that person, I got a sense of someone who actually knew what was what in the filling of pens.  Like me, they are a user of collected pens, seeing little point in a pen left sitting on a non-marking velvet pillow in a safe-deposit box.  If it wasn’t pilot error, then… what?

Exterior inspection first.  The “51” is well known as being durable, but it’s not Kryptonian.  Might there be a covert crack in the hood?  Careful, well-lit turns under the loupe said no.  And that meant I had to take it apart and look at it’s guts.

There are, of course, two main sorts of “51”.  There is the initial wave, using a Vacumatic filling mechanism, which was swapped out after seven years of production for the Fotofil press-bar rig, which we call today the Aerometric… and actually, this word is of some importance.  It described a breather tube in the very heart of the filler, so long that it reached to nearly the end of the Pliglass sac (oh, so many neologisms out of Parker!).  This allowed the sac to fill fully by working the bar several times, but to avoid catastrophic leakage during air travel, there was a teeny little hole in the side of the tube, close to the open end of the sac that equalizes pressure inside and outside the tube; that’s what was originally meant by “Aerometric”.  This pen has a Fotofil reservoir, and all the other outward signs of being a post-1948 product.

…so imagine my surprise when I opened the pen and found the stubby little breather tube of a Vacumatic filler peeking out the back of the collector.  There was a 1951 date-code on the point, which is entirely appropriate, but the feed and the associated breather were Vacs.  It seems that at some point before the current owner got this pen, something awful happened to the feed.  Whoever had it at that point cast about for a spare, and had only the older Vac type at hand; the breather tube in question was a new plastic item, not the original celluloid, so modern monkeyshines are indicated.  “Oh, well,” said this imaginary repair-person.  “It all fits; where’s the harm?”

Frankly, I don’t really blame my figment, because it took me a while to figure out how the symptoms developed.  That short breather would prevent a complete fill, and I suspect if it had been a little shorter, nothing would have come of it other than the owner occasionally wondering at how frequently fills were needed.  However, the narrower ink chamber of that style of filler meant that the relatively shallow fill was still enough to cover the inner end of the breather tube, and also gave slightly greater thrust when the air in the reservoir expanded.  If the collector was partially full, as it might be in a freshly-fed pen, that’s enough to overwhelm it, and there’s your cap-full of ink.

What remedy, then?  Ideally, an Aerometric feed and a fresh tube.  But I don’t have a spare feed.  What I do have is about a meter of the very same Teflon tubing Figment used to make the problematically correct Vac-length tube, which fits very nicely in the back of the Vac feed, and so I cut an Aerometric-appropriate length from that.  I also have a pin and the capacity to warm it, allowing me to put a teeny little hole in the tube, close to the open end of the sac.  Theoretically, then, problem solved.

But I’m in the business of practical solutions.  So, we need a field test.  The first aspect of the test was see if the pen filled at all; the Vac tube is of a wider bore than the Aerometric, and there was some chance this would afflict filling.  Trial proved this fear unfounded, and so we move onto phase two of the field trials.  That is me sticking the pen in my shirt pocket, staggering around for a few hours and exposing it to my raging personal furnace (I have a surface temperature approaching 30C!), and then taking the cap off.

Carefully.

Over a disposable sheet of paper.

SUCCESS!

Alas, I lack an aircraft to test against serious changes of external pressure.  My parents live on the fifteenth floor of their building, but I don’t expect the 0.07 psi change will really prove much one way or another, so any visit to them will be purely for the pleasure of their company.

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Posted by Dirck on 11 May, 2017

This Week’s Pens Inks How Much Novel Written
  • 17 manuscript pages (plus two of utterly useless gibberish that ate time pointlessly on Monday); the muse but whispers this week.

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The Search for Non-Terrestrial Intelligence

Posted by Dirck on 5 May, 2017

So…  I decline to do anything more than cringe instinctively away from yesterday’s fresh deformity of the body politic down in the US.  Let’s instead consider vast cool intelligences, perhaps greater than our own, across the gulf of benthic deeps.

I wish SETI all possible luck.  Given the problems of communicating with stuff that grew up in our own neighbourhood, talking to distant strangers offers a serious up-hill climb.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Craftsman TD
Today’s ink: Quink Black

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Posted by Dirck on 4 May, 2017

This Week’s Pens Inks How Much Novel Written
  • 23 manuscript pages

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The Wages of Immortality

Posted by Dirck on 1 May, 2017

I don’t believe I’m being original when I say that we are effectively immortal in the eyes of our pets, so long as we stick to relatively pedestrian companions.  A household Galapagos tortoise or even an African Grey parrot will have a different perspective.  As immortals, we change only slowly while the pet passes from one end of life to the other.  They experience continuity, barring horrible accidents.  We experience grief.

This is Cleopatra Harris, named because we are silly about connecting ancient Egypt and cats, and because her hair was reminiscent of Ron Glass’s in Firefly but Cleopatra Book didn’t have the right flow.  This morning she ceased to be, having passed from a kittenhood of nicotine addiction (not her choice, and not ours; she joined her litter mates at our house after a brief stay with someone else who had a SERIOUSLY rough patch in their life which eventually developed to “I can’t look after this poor cat, please take her”) to a seniority of incontinence and eventual diabetes.

Actually, the incontinence was a long-term thing.  This is the cat who, if you read back through the years when interesting things happened on this blog, I frequently swore at.  Part of the expense of owning her for the past couple of years has been buying puppy training pads in job lots, because she decided litter boxes should occupy half the floor-space of the house, and we had to very nearly carpet the place and largely upholster all our furniture with disposable absorbents… which she mostly didn’t miss.  She is the cat who, if I may be frank, was making a very good case for “let’s not have any more cats in the house” in the head of a guy who has loved cats since age 5.

Over the weekend, it became clear that her life had at last become even more a burden to her than it was to me.  This estimation was made by my wife, who was not as oppressed by the cat-based squalor as I, finding in her heart an adamantine core of affection which the misbehavior could not damage or even discolour (it’s not like the cat was actively trying to kill our son, after all), and her decision was based on that affection.  We thus prepared son for the impending loss as well as we could, gave Cleo one last taste of the great outdoors during which the above picture was taken, and committed the act of medically-assisted euthanasia this morning.  She may not look ill in the picture, but she was essentially nothing but a lot of hair around a collection of extremely sore joints.

And yes, I wept throughout the time in the vet’s office.  She was a filthy destroyer of the fabric of our house, a vast and constant drain on our scant finances, and occasionally bite-y.  But she was also beautiful, extremely willing to let son practice the humane treatment of animals upon her, and (when not actively ruining a carpet) a cuddly, loving beast who sought the affection her infirmities did so much to alienate.  I will not miss the messes, but I will miss the cat, because we all contain multitudes and there was good in her even I can appreciate, and what was bad was bad without intent.

We are, once a thorough cleaning has been undertaken, likely get yet another young cat that we can outlive and mourn.  If classical mythology teaches us anything, it’s that immortals are gluttons for self-inflicted punishment.  It’s the patches of delight between the bouts of grief that keep us going.

Today’s pen: Waterman Carène
Today’s ink: Quink washable blue (vintage)

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