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Archive for the ‘General Blather’ Category

Down with Gatekeeping

Posted by Dirck on 18 May, 2018

A little change for this week’s film– something academic! A rather good speech, this, on the confluence of reading and writing, and why mocking someone for not having read a given thing is a terrible thing to do:

While listening, I cast my mind back to my own Why I Read moment, and I can’t really discover the lightbulb moment.  The house was always crammed with books, including once got for the infant me, and there was little other entertainment available at the time (you think daytime TV is rough now? Oh, no). If pressed, I might point to an installment in the Hardy Boys series given to me by my grandmother on a sick day; I remember being faintly pleased with having got through it in an afternoon.

Was that grade 1? I believe so.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Pelikan Violet

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The Original Release Date was the 25th

Posted by Dirck on 4 May, 2018

But apparently that doesn’t stop people from making today into a Star Wars event.  So why should I resist despite my strong grip on history?

Good fun.

Today’s pen: Pelikan P1 (has never even attempted the Kessel run)
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire (Strikes Back)

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Another Delivery Story

Posted by Dirck on 3 May, 2018

But first, the usual business of a Thursday:

Day What How Much Pen Ink
  • 30 April
  • 1 May
  • 2 May
  • 3 May
  • First draft of “Stuckman’s Miracle Men.”
  • Second draft of same.
  • 3 manuscripts pages.
  • 2,386 typed words.

Now, let’s see what I got in the mail two days after The Wettest Pelikan:

Does that say “Lamy” under all that tape?

Say, that is exciting!  After eventually figuring out where the flap of the box was through the very thorough layers of tape, I slowly got to the core, the meaty filling.

Why… it is a Lamy!  The box didn’t lie!  Aside: this sort of pen tube might have made a difference to that Pelikan’s packaging.

Yes, indeed, a not-at-all-shiny new Lamy 2000!  Oh, boy!

“Um… don’t you already have one on those?”

Yes. I do.  Or rather, I did.  A very strange fate overtook that pen.  The threads which extend off the front of the barrel to hold the section (picture here, if you need it) broke.  A crack had opened up, following the cut of the threads, which allowed seepage out of the holes the cap-holding ears.  I didn’t realize this was the cause of the problem until I had opened the pen several times to stare at the washer in a state of confusion and then tighten the section back in place… which finally snapped the terminal third of the threads right off.

I claim to repair fountain pens.  But I also, frequently, claim to understand my own limitations.  Seamlessly reuniting broken pieces of machined Makrolon™ is outside my skill-set.  So I sent the pen off to Lamy (which I was able to through their local retailers, since I’m lucky enough to have one of those in my city).  After a rather long wait, I got the expected message back from Lamy’s Canadian distributors:

  • This is not fixable;
  • This is not under warranty.

I had a look in my records last night.  I got my original 2000 in 2011 and thus it is certainly out of warranty, so I have no problem with that… although I do find myself wondering about the genesis of the original crack.  The 2000 has a reputation for durability.  The location of the break is such that I’d think it would only develop if I left the section slightly undone and then really leaned on it sideways.  All academic, though.

Also in the message from Lamy was an offer to get a replacement at… I want to say probably less than wholesale cost, although I don’t know that.  Cheap, in any event. Not trivially cheap, alas, so I had to ponder it a couple of days.  A cheap Lamy 2000 is still not a purchase I have the resources to make with an untroubled spirit.

In the end, the fact that the original was bought as a somewhat self-directed anniversary gift shoved me into buying the replacement.  I am sadly given to romantic foolishness.  Also, I sold a story, remember, and there was some residue left from that to cushion the expense.  Payment was sent to them and pen was sent to me.  Then, it was only a matter of cleaning it so I can put it into rotation in time for the upcoming anniversary, seven years later.

“Wait… clean it?”

Ah, yes.  As I mentioned in the terrible tale of Tuesday, there’s always some in ink ’em.

About half full, in fact. It’s kindly intended, I’m sure, but… well, there’s a lot of crannies inside this thing’s cap.  Aside: Like our new tea towel?  The camera sure does!

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Horror Stories, Fun and Otherwise

Posted by Dirck on 1 May, 2018

I start with fun, although I promise the “otherwise” isn’t too terrible. The fun horror is something I announced already on my fiction front, but I should shout it here as well– Pseudopod, the eminent horror podcast, has published my story Free Balloons for All Good Children, both as a text and in audio form.  I’m delighted with the results, and I want to share as widely as possible.

Now, for those who have either resisted the urge to scramble over to Pseudopod for the good stuff, or are now returning from that enjoyment, let me tell you a story of true domestic horror. On the strength of being paid for a story (see previous), I treated myself to a glance at eBay.

This is not the horror.  But you’re right to be shocked.

The outcome of this fall into weakness was the purchase of a Pelikan P1 with a rolled gold cap and the Continental Tires logo stamped on the barrel.  I’m not a particular fan of that company, but for a that pen at a price I can afford, I am willing to be indifferent to the presence of its mark.  The transaction concluded with a tracking number being sent me that had little use other than to prove that it had been handed to Deutschepost and should eventually arrive.  No later, it was suggested, than the 26th of April.

It did not.

It arrived yesterday:

The box, as found on my doorstep (with redactions because of Internet).

You are probably saying to yourself right now, “Gosh, that box seems a little irregular in its outline.”  You would be correct.  I took this picture before opening, because I thought I might need to talk to Canada Post about compensation.  Not the seller, I hasten to mention; that good soul did as much as a reasonable person might to prepare the pen for the trip.  They even spelled my name right, which is almost unheard of.  I am an unreasonable person when it comes to pens, and I might have done a little more, although I’m not sure how effective even my own packing habits would have been in the face of whatever happened to this poor parcel. Because I think it would be fair to say, perhaps even accurate to say, that it had been through the wringer.

I don’t think this is what they mean by “ordering some flat-pak”.

My heart sank a little, looking at this.  As I carefully cut through the tape and began excavating the contents of what had once been a box, I discovered that the deeper I got, the damper things were.  Moist, even.  On the way home to find this object, I heard on the news that there were floods underway in the eastern part of the country, and that lies between me and Germany. Perhaps I should consider myself lucky that this small item was not swept away from human sight by mighty nature.

In fact, I do, because in the clammy embrace of an appropriate quantity of newspaper, I found this.

Damp, but then pelicans are waterfowl, aren’t they? All that wet is on the outside of the bag, seeping out of the newspaper meant as padding.

There you go. Not all the horror stories I produce lack a happy ending. The pen is now dried off, cleaned out (because there’s always some ink left in ’em), added to my page for the model, and in standby to enter the rotation. Sometimes luck does indeed smile in my direction.

Happy May Day, everyone.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Pelikan Violet

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Chortling to the Oldies

Posted by Dirck on 27 April, 2018

There was a bumper crop of NEWS this week, and this prompts me to retreat into comedy which is at least two decades old to be topical.

The past is a different country, isn’t it?

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Pelikan Violet

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Back from the Future, Part II

Posted by Dirck on 20 April, 2018

A little while back, I offered a hair-raising trip through a pedestrian-filled San Francisco of yesteryear.  Let’s have a look at the other coast now.

That some pretty good foley work.  For some reason, I was particularly startled by the horse-drawn vehicles coming off the ferry– Reason says “Well, of course,” but Expectation was completely dumbfounded.

Today’s pen: Waterman Super Master
Today’s ink: Waterman Florida Blue

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Oh, Damn It.

Posted by Dirck on 17 April, 2018

The question frequently comes up on forums– “Will the security people at the airport get bent out of shape about the fountain pens I carry?”  The answer has, hitherto, been a resounding no, because (a) no one who doesn’t use them ever notices a fountain pen, and (b) they are less suited to poking a hole in a person than a ballpoint, with the pokey bit being also very bendy.

And then this nonsense happens:

Picture of several Air China planes at a terminal, under headline AIR CHINA PLANE DIVERTS AFTER FOUNTAIN PEN HOSTAGE DRAMA

Shown in picture: Absolutely no fountain pens. Not one. Because they’re boringly innocuous.

Now, if you read the whole story, you’ll find that nobody was hurt, and that one could as probably make the headline read YET ANOTHER ENTITLED GUY IN AIRLINE FIRST CLASS FALLS TO STRESS, but then we lose the exoticism of pointing to a fountain pen as a deadly weapon (which did not actually do anyone any harm).  Why couldn’t he have used a plastic airline fork, or his tie?  At least it didn’t happen with a US carrier or in US airspace, so it may not enter the script of modern security theatre.

Of course… I probably shouldn’t be making noise about it, should I?

Today’s entirely harmless pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s non-toxic ink: Diamine Oxford Blue

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A Little Jaunt on a Sailboat

Posted by Dirck on 13 April, 2018

Today’s film is just what I say– a romantic little getaway in a canvas-powered craft.

By “romantic,” I mean “none for me, thanks.”  Just try to picture the mindset of people who would get into one of those things without any clear sense of in which precise direction or how far away the next land was.  Nuts.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Diamine Oxford Blue

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Upping Their Game

Posted by Dirck on 10 April, 2018

I have been distracted lately, by both my (over-documented) artistic endeavours and the collapse of my site… in addition to all the other current events stuff people spend much of the day screeching about.  The distraction momentarily cleared recently, and I find that the world as I knew it has changed and one of the bedrock foundations of my understanding has become alarmingly wobbly.

I am shaken to discover that Wing Sung can no longer be discounted with, “Oh, they make the cheapest pens you can imagine.”  At least, not completely.

Two pens of recent development bring this home.  First, there’s this thing:

No, it’s not a TWSBI Diamond.

All right, I guess it is a cheap pen.  In fact, the main expense in getting a Wing Sung 3008 is the cost of postage, and even that seems to be available at a cut rate; some people are getting them for three dollars.  I do go into some detail in my profile of this pen regarding the evident cheapness of the materials, but for all that, it has a functional piston filler and it costs less than a Pilot Varsity.  If it lasts through three fills, it’s well worth the price, and mine is in the middle of its second with no sign of impending failure.

“Well, fine, but that’s just one pen, and it’s still a cheap, rickety piece of plastic.”

True.  But then there’s this other, even more recent development–

Yes, it’s a familiar shape. And yet… it’s not quite what you expect.

A lot of Wing Sung pens can be called a Parker “51” knock-off, but I’m inclined to call the 601 a loving recreation, right down to the Vacumatic filler.  The only things it lacks which the Parker had is a gold point and a network of factory-supplied service centres backing it up.  It also costs more than the 1947 Parker which it closely emulates– about $16.00 rather than $12.50.  However, when you start factoring in seventy years of inflation…

Also, the Wing Sung is very slightly bigger than the Parker. That’s not just perspective at work.

One might say that the Chinese pen is in some ways an improvement upon its predecessor.  There’s an ink window (although, in some body colours, it’s absent– baffling!), and the mechanism is made to be removed with a simple crescent wrench rather than an exotic and specialized tool.

Note also; you can’t just stuff one mechanism in another body. Even if they’re compatible diameters (which I don’t know), a Parker blind cap would have nothing to cling to.

They have even started to improve upon the mechanism itself– I have a variant creeping its way here on the proverbial slow boat from China which sees the diaphragm replaced with the sort of piston-head found in the 3008, which should reduce the rate of filler failure and incidence of serious maintenance.  Since there is not a network of service centres and… well, I don’t know if the (relatively) readily available Parker diaphragms fit the Wing Sung mechanism, a more durable filler seems like a splendid idea.

And all for the cost of burgers and shakes for yourself and a companion.  In Wing Sung terms, sixteen dollars is a massively expensive pen, but on the broad spectrum of genus Fountain Pen it is very cheap indeed.  It’s right in the same neighbourhood as the Pilot Metropolitan, which is my personal go-to as a recommendation when someone expresses an interest in trying a fountain pen but doesn’t want to spend a load of money.  The only disadvantage the Wing Sung has in shoving the Met out of that default position is that it’s not available in so many outlets… at least in North America.  Balancing that is the fact that it has a built-in filler and a huge ink capacity compared to the Metropolitan’s converter, so I’m a little torn.  If the notional someone is expressing interest in vintage Parkers, and has no experience with a hooded point, then I have a pen for them, all right.

What these two new objects from Wing Sung indicate, and I’m not the only one saying this, is a willingness to explore outside the “cheap pen with a press-bar filler” territory they’ve staked out for a long time.  This is excellent news for we fans of fountain pens, and not just because it gives us a couple of new toys to play with at a price most can afford.  If Wing Sung is getting experimental, perhaps their augurers see the continued revivification of the market for this kind of instrument.  That is a thought I will cuddle to my bosom.

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini (and looking somewhat nervous of this new competition, too)
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

 

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Shiny New Things

Posted by Dirck on 6 April, 2018

Not really part of my brief, but I find this all VERY hopeful for the future because it’s mostly “in production in 2019” rather that “perhaps sometime in the next decade but one.”

I just hope I’ll be able to afford the VW van when it makes its appearance… in a couple of years.

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

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