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Posts Tagged ‘Dollar Pen’

Contrivance

Posted by Dirck on 9 January, 2012

After that bunch of posh, moneyed nonsense the past couple of days, let me rehumblify myself.  In one of Patrick O’Brian’s novels, Captain Aubrey ponders the losses that attend coming into money (as capturing some enemy shipping could bring to an early 19th century naval officer).  I don’t have the book at hand, so I will mis-quote, but the piles of money would see “the loss of the small contrivances” one has to undertake to make an underfunded living at least bearable.

Let me lay out some of the small contrivances of the past little while.  First to come to mind is bread.  During the cold months, I enjoy making bread, as it not only fills the house with the delightful smells and warmth of baking, but allows me to devour piping hot, fresh bread into which I know there has been put only a bare and unavoidable amount of mysterious chemicals.  With the addition of a ravenous son to the house, a loaf never goes stale before it simply goes.

The household finances are at a point where I no longer have to engage in my own soap-making, which is just as well, since a tiny, rampant human and a vessel full of lye in the same house would be a source of unspeakable panic.  To be honest, soap was never beyond our means, but the point of these efforts in my life has always been more about relieving pressure on the bank balance than filling an otherwise impossible need.  Some time ago, I mentioned my splurging on shoes, and the long-term economy they would hopefully provide.  My own “small contrivances” are generally manifestations of the same sort of approach; an apparently large expenditure that amortizes well.

A prime example of this is my enormous bottle of vanilla tincture.  Vanilla is a constant in my baking (bread aside), and in the stores, there are but two options; expensive delicious extract or affordable flavourless brown fluid.  Well, I went out and made my own; a bottle of rum, a couple of vanilla beans, and some patience, and I have three-quarters of a liter of delicious yet inexpensive cooking fluid.  Inexpensive per tablespoon (the natural measurement of vanilla), as I admit a pretty substantial initial outlay.

This inexpensive yet excellent vanilla is the foundation for home-made ice cream which has a similar approach to being inexpensive.  I spend about as much as I would on one of the little 500ml tubs of Häagen-Dazs, and end up with about thrice that volume of something as free of additives as the previously-mentioned bread and which at a minimum tastes as good as the “super-premium” stuff.

Am I bragging?  A little.  My point, though, is that there are benefits to saving money that go beyond merely having more money about the place.  There’s less processing, a greater sense of involvement in the final product, and an enhanced sense of self-sufficiency (possibly illusory, but present all the same).

There is, I’m happy to relate, a fountain pen connection in all this.  Fountain pens are another of these odd items that cost a lot (relatively) to get but end up as a bargain, and which serve to give the same sense of satisfaction through closer connection (you have to keep filling it) and simplification (you can, if you’re not a looney like me, pass through life with but one pen).  A certain amount of the self-righteousness found in fountain pen folks comes from the same place as that found in people with a thriving vegetable garden.

I sometimes wonder whether non-obligatory simplicity might not be worth the denial.  I still, I’ll admit, look upon those who chop of their internet connections and have a bit of a quiver (a strangely similar one to that which I get from looking at the obligatory texters), but there is also the curiousity connected to “a little feels sort of good, I wonder what a lot is like?”  Does the fact that it’s entirely voluntary make it less satisfying?  Possibly not; I’m not dabbling in pens to avoid starvation, and they still bring satisfaction.

The other item of pondering is the point at which these contrivances are lost in the face of wealth.  We see on television a sad subset of the “reality celebrity” who are apparently driven only by the cost of their lifestyle, and become screechy if faced with paying too little for their amusements.  How might the discovery of a neglected dollar in a jacket pocket affect that sort of wreck of humanity?  Even short of that extreme, though, how wealthy does one have to be to lose the joy in composing a meal out of what remains in a pantry that is one day too long past the last shopping trip?  As with the previous point, I find curiousity urges me to find out the answer….

Today’s pen, a fine example of enjoyment in getting-by: Dollar 717i

Today’s bargain ink: Wancher Matcha

Post-scriptus:  My knowledge of the use of umlauts is as imperfect as my memory of the Germany 101 class in which I first learned about them, back before Die Mauer was toppled, but I really can’t see how a human is going to manage to say “Häagen” without either ignoring the accent mark or achieving a serious injury.

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(Yet Another) Top Ten List

Posted by Dirck on 28 March, 2011

Recently, my attention was directed to an article in The Independent, a “news” source in England, which purported to lay out the ten best fountain pens.  No sign of criteria regarding either “best” nor indeed “fountain” (a couple of the inclusions could only be considered fountain pens by the greatest extension of the term to include any pen with an internal source of ink, as opposed to brushes and dip pens), although a couple of them are known to be pretty good pens (hint– they’re German and don’t cost a mint).  This put a bit of a bug in my ear about doing up something similar, and since if I arrange it properly it gives me a week of posts without raking my brain for topics, I am presenting my own list here.

These are not the best pens I know of nor even that I own.  They are what I would call the best bets for someone who has been looking at pens from afar but hasn’t made the jump for fear of expense (like The Independent’s Caran d’Ache Perles, a mere £2,950) or unreliability (various, numerous pop-culture references over the past 70 years).  I’ve restricted myself to pens I actually own, too, and unlike that “journalistic” “article”, I have all the names right.  The are also in no particular order beyond alphabetic, although you will find that the quality tends upwards towards the end.  When I have yet to work up my own review, I offer the work of the talented collective at the Fountain Pen Network.

Are we all sitting comforably?  Then I’ll begin:

Ten Pens You Can (probably) Afford And Might Not Hate

1:  The Dollar 717i.  I have the Demonstrator version of this pen, which is technically a different model but the difference lies only in the see-through-ness.

Why you’ll like it:  It writes well, and it’s cheap as can be.  I paid $10 for mine, shipping included, and that’s high-average.  It’s got a built-in filler of good capacity.

Why you won’t like it: It has a pretty unsophisticated feed, and this can lead to it acting rather like an eyedropper when the ambient air temperature is cooler than the human hand (it’s from a part of the world where that’s not often an issue).  Keep an eye out for dribbles.  The plastic is also rather low-grade and doesn’t give the impression of lasting for many years.

2: The Hero 616.  I could probably stuff this list with various Heros, and I should probably be suggesting a different one entirely, but I’m intent on offering the lowest-price options I can.

Why you’ll like it:  Slip-on cap, which is very convenient, and it’s one of the cheapest pens you can find– I paid just over $10 for a package containing ten pens.  Including shipping.  Once again, a built-in filler.

Why you won’t like it:  Not every pen in the package works particularly well.  This isn’t a big deal for me, as I can take ’em apart and fiddle with ’em, but not everyone can or is willing to do so.  The filler is a bit of a joke, too, and the “press-bar” cage is best done away with.  Not a huge capacity for ink, even when you do get rid of the useless cage.

Tomorrow– a complete change of continent and a dramatic change in both prices and durability.

Today’s pen:  Waterman Press-O-Matic Taperite Thingummy (I have yet to actually identify it after a year and a half, and I’m sick of letting that fact keep me from using it).
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Walnut

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