What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Posts Tagged ‘Mabie-Todd’

New Format!

Posted by Dirck on 10 November, 2016

The exclamation point makes it exciting!

For those who are actually enjoying these progress reports, I have another version of telling the whole world my business over at the writing establishment; a gauge showing how the work to date relates to completeness, which updates every day that I get anything written.  It’s about as silly as what I’m doing here, I admit, but it helps to keep me motivated, and since it’s there, you might as well know about it.

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

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Posted by Dirck on 3 November, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 31 October
  • 1 November
  • 2 November
  • 3 November
  • Second draft of “Discoveries in the Wake of the Last Crusade.”
  • More second draft.
  • Done, done and done (yes, there are three endings), AND some third draft polishing of “Rearranging Deckchairs.”
  • First draft of Impossible Bodies (eeee!).
  • 626 words typed
  • 715 words
  • A total of 2,777 words on the one, and some minor corrections on the other.
  • Eight manuscript pages.
  • 45 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 45 min.
  • 55 min.

You’ll note the use of italics rather than inverted commas on the title of the new project. The long haul has begun!

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A Name was Dropped

Posted by Dirck on 28 October, 2016

Yes, last week I mentioned M.R. James, whose works for some reason I tend to associate more with Hallowe’en than Christmas.  Some quirky of my personality, I suppose.  In any event, here’s another.  It strays somewhat from the original text, which sets up some disappointed expectations, but this is balanced by a bunch of rather good British actors doing their quiet and effective thing for about an hour.

Today’s quiet British pen: Mabie, Todd & Co Blackbird
Today’s gently suggestive ink: Herbin Lie de Thé

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Pure Fabrication

Posted by Dirck on 27 April, 2015

The close observer of past entries may have noticed a bit of an anomaly lately.  While Bleu Pervenche remained the ink in use, the pen changed.  This may have nurtured curiosity in that close observer’s heart, and I can now clarify the events.  I did indeed have a moment of frivolity in my choice of pen and ink when I brought the Stylist out of storage on the 10th, although I only admitted to it for the ink.  This frivolity was repaid shortly after the entry for that day, when I found my fingers festively blued… but the source of the ink was the joint of the pen.

That’s not good.

Over the weekend, I moved the ink from a modern converter which wasn’t seating excellently into a cartridge, cleaned up the pen, gave it a couple of hours of lying on its side… and found that the ink was getting out into the barrel.  The cartridge went into the Agio and I had to put on my thinking cap.

My history with Sheaffer cartridge pens betrayed my slightly in this.  There is not a lot of dismantling to do with the old school pens nor NoNonsenses, both of which were companions of my youth.  I was thus slightly blind to the anatomy of the Stylist, but when presented with a leak, there must be a source, so rather than relying on the wisdom of the ancients (that’s me!) I actually looked inside the section.

There I found a suggestive slot on either side of the steel fang that entered the unsuspecting new cartridge.  Suggestive indeed, because is suggests that with the right tool, one could unscrew… something.  Well, unscrewing something is what inquisitive apes like to do!  There was, however, the issue of that rather important fang in the middle of the thing.  Here we meet the title of the piece, because I had to take a piece of brass tube left over from a previous bit of cleverness and make a tool to the purpose by grinding away bits of the end  until left with to protrusions.  The tube goes over the fang, the protrusions engage the groove, and I get to plumb the mysteries of the Stylist.

Anatomy Stylist2

They’re not THAT mysterious.


There’s more buffering in there than I had given it credit for.  The source of the problem was that seal mounted towards the inward end of what I will call the feed because “collector” is a part of a different pen and I think properly has to be separate from the bit that conducts ink from reservoir to point; this thing appears to be all one piece, because the threads are at the far end from the slot.  The seal is similar to ones found in Imperials and Targas, and in those situations I find it isn’t quite eternally reliable either.  I think it’s made of nylon.  My remedy, thus far functional, was to try reviving it with some silicone grease, although if that starts to fail I think the best alternative is to pack some wax into the seam between the walls of the section and the feed rather than take it apart and try to mount some kind of o-ring.

The tool I am not showing because it is extremely ugly.  It is functionally similar to the Conway-Stewart cap tool or the Visofil nut tool made by The Pen Practice, but without any of the evident skill of construction found there.  I’m shy about my limitations.  If I were to make another, by the way, I’d probably find a tube closer to the outer diameter of a Sheaffer cartridge, to get better leverage.

While I had the thing apart, I made an interesting discovery about the contact between the point unit and the feed.  There’s less of it than I thought:

Quite a gap, eh?  You can see the dodgy seal better in this one, too.

Quite a gap, eh? You can see the dodgy seal better in this one, too, just short of the right end of the feed.

The stem at the back of the point unit is bottomed out in its cup on the feed.  I don’t know if that’s some clever use of dead space to insulate the feed and add buffering space, or if it’s an idiotic leaving of places for ink to dry and cause trouble.  It saves the need to line up the little vent hole in the lower part of the unit with the air-return on the feed, and I guess that’s what the reason for it is, but it troubles me.

While fabricating things this week-end, I also ran up a tool to ease the dismantling of Snorkels, as I’ve a sick one in hand from a client.  It’s a stick with a slot in it, and a hole drilled in it.  That one I just forgot to get a picture of, which is a shame because it’s damn useful.  Maybe later.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Stylist
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Pervenche


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Posted by Dirck on 20 November, 2014

Man, that’s quite a word, eh?  Classy, but absolutely dripping with menace.

…well, I guess it would be dripping, if it hadn’t all run out.  Still a wonderful word.

In the very early days of my activity here, I confessed to a youthful indiscretion involving the destruction and loss (not necessarily in that order) of a couple of authentically old pens glommed from an antique store.  I was then more given to early adoption of technology, but I was also interested in the ways of days gone past.  In addition to those pens, I also looked into…

Straight razors.  Scary!

I actually bought one, too.  After a couple of attempts to sharpen it without access to any appropriate stropping surfaces, I had a couple of goes at shaving with it.

Very tentative goes.  I’d first heard of Sweeney Todd when I was about seven, and the lesson stuck.  My youthful beard was somewhat reduced, but between the unstropped blade, the unwillingness to open a vein, and absolutely no sense of which angle to hold the thing at, the results were disappointing.  Not “head almost entirely separated from shoulders” disappointing, for which I am grateful, but the straight razor went into a drawer.  I’m sure my parents breathed a sigh of relief.

More recently, some correspondents have been talking about their entry into the Magical World of Wet Shaving.  Being in the bearded camp, my shaving has long been limited to a small band of neck (because “neck-beard” has troublesome connotations), and I have flitted between disposables and an elderly electric razor.  Moved to curiosity by these other chaps, though, I had a look at the site most of them get their stuff from.

I’m moved to give it a try, as I find that neither the blades nor the holder that constitute a safety razor are very expensive.  They’re more expensive, as a unit, than disposables, but there’s less wasted plastic involved.  The elderly electric razor remains on call, and the cost per use at this point is essentially nil, but it also doesn’t do a lot more to remove hair than that straight razor did, and appears to work mainly by generating enough heat to shrivel the beard it touches.

And now I’ve had a chance to try it.  My discoveries over the first couple of uses have been good and bad.  On the good side, it does a cracking good job of knocking down the beard, and there’s a lot less fouling of the blade than the disposables suffered which means I use less water in the process.  And it remains below 600° at all times, which puts it ahead of the electric.

On the down side… well, something in the difference of blade presentation between the safety razor and disposables means a habit I’ve been in of not applying anything to the skin but a little water is no longer viable.  The initial discovery of this was accompanied by a certain amount of yelling, and followed by a great deal of clean-up of the sort that Lady MacBeth would be familiar with.

Prosecution Exhibit A

Prosecution Exhibit A

So, now I have spent the money to get some rather well-smelling shaving soap and a proper brush to apply it (a nail-brush didn’t cut the mustard).  I now have a smooth neck without constant threat of beheading, without blistering, without adding unnecessarily to landfills, and without constant soaking of my collars in cold water to keep the stains from setting.

All thanks to a technology that slightly pre-dates fountain pens.  I’m pleased, and not very surprised.  Which is good– getting surprised by a razor usually ends poorly.

Today’s pen: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink: Diamine Sargasso Sea

…and because it’s Thursday, there’s a progress report, too:

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 17 November
  • 18 November
  • 19 November
  • First draft, “The Dutch Walk”
  • The same
  • Ditto
  • 9 manuscript pages
  • 7 manuscript pages
  • 12 manuscript pages
  • 45 min.
  • 35 min.
  • 55 min.

Posted in General Blather, Progress Report | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Posted by Dirck on 13 November, 2014

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 11 November
  • 12 November
  • 13 November
  • Quiet reflection, including a little about the corner I’ve painted myself into in “And Then the Screaming Started.”
  • Some bleak staring at the comments on “The Healing Power of Crystals” and then research for settings in “The Dutch Walk.”
  • First draft of “The Dutch Walk”; painting into corners and difficult comments will not be allowed to become writers’ block.
  • Nothing external
  • Much the same (boo!)
  • 10 manuscript pages
  • All day
  • 45 min.
  • 55 min.

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Posted by Dirck on 6 November, 2014

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 3 November
  • 4 November
  • 5 November
  • 6 November
  • Second draft, “The Third Act”
  • First Draft, “And then the Screaming Started.”
  • Ditto
  • Yet again
  • 1,022 words, for a finished total of 3,012
  • Ten manuscript pages
  • Also ditto
  • Eleven manuscript pages
  • 40 min.
  • 45 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 45 min.

While I’ve been beavering away at my writing, I’ve been somewhat negligent regarding the approach of Fountain Pen Day… which is tomorrow!  As I’ve commented previously, like the reformed Scrooge’s take on Christmas, I hold Fountain Pen Day in my heart all the year around; I hope you do to, but even so, let’s all be a little more fountain-pennie than usual tomorrow and spread the good cheer.

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Crass Commerciality

Posted by Dirck on 18 September, 2013

Roll up, roll up!  Kindly ignore the “Ad-Free” sign to the left, as this entry is in essence one big fat ad, although it’s one of my own making.  This is the first of what may grow to as many as three installments in my current attempt to spread the love of pens while and at the same time reducing the indebtedness that counts as being middle class these days.

What’s in it for you?  Well, until this coming Tuesday, these items are only available to readers here, and there’s a $10 discount on shipping (which I’ll go into below).  Come the 24th, these things go onto Etsy, and a slightly wider slice of humanity gets a run at them.  If there’s any left.  To get at them, go to the official spam-guardian of my site and send me a message that way; first come, first grab, as is ever the way.

Now, if we’re all sitting comfortably, let’s start the show.  Most of the pictures below will grow if clicked upon.

Sheaffer Balance Miss Universe, Golden Pearl:

and isn’t she a beauty?

Ambered, but only to the actual colour of amber.  Yes, there is a little staining in there too.

Ambered, but only to the actual colour of amber. Yes, there is a little staining in there too.

The full disclosure shot-- there is a plating failure on the clip, but the base appears to be silver.

The full disclosure shot– there is plating failure on the clip.

Sheaffer 0339wsMiss Universe is the ladies’ version of the Craftsman, so it’s a slender as well as a short pen.  User-grade, and pretty much everything I have is, with a silicon sac installed so the colour will remain as it currently is – $45

Sheaffer Balance Junior, Marine Green CLAIMED:

Not the utter clarity it would have had new, but the green fits with the general scheme.

Not the utter clarity it would have had new, but the green fits with the general scheme.

Sheaffer 0316cbr

A spot of brassing on the clip, but NOT a crack– that’s a cat hair (hopefully not included)

Sheaffer 0316ws

Sheaffer Junior, which is the same size as Miss Universe but with lesser trim and a more easily-damaged point.  In this case, the frequently questionable nickel (I think) plating pretty firmly in place, bar that one dot on the end of the clip.  If I were charging for the amount of effort it took to get the section out to replace the sac (which is now silicone), only Trumps and Buffets need apply, but since I’m not silly that way… – $45

Sheaffer Vigilant:

There is a cap, I promise.

There is a cap, I promise.

See? And it’s a jim-dandy!

The two-tone masking isn't perfect...

The two-tone masking isn’t perfect…

...and there's nothing to be done for this strange alignment failure of the blind cap.

…and there’s nothing to be done for this strange alignment failure of the blind cap.

Sheaffer 225wsOne of my early survivors of the surgery to restore vacuum filling, this Vigilant is, apart from the pre-operative oddity with its blind cap, a rather nice example of the military-clip Balance.  The cap hardware shows no brassing, the flow is good, and the filler with its new piston rubber and o-ring based replacement for the packing takes in an unreasonable amount of ink. – $65

Parker 45, Made in Argentina:

Steel point.  Don't let me tell you it isn't.

Steel point. Don’t let me tell you it isn’t.

A double-jewel 45? How odd!

Parker 0429wsArgentine Parker 45, which apart from some variations in trim is the same as anywhere else’s Parker 45.  Those differences are the treatment of the tail and a clip as one would usually find on a 61.  With a date-code of U, it could be from 1989 or 1999; either way, thay chalk-mark has been there quite a while.  Will you be the one to rub it off? – $32

Waterman Harmonie:

You'd never think it once had a dreadful disalignment, would you?

You’d never think it once had a dreadful dis-alignment, would you?

Waterman 0388def

There is, however, a break in the finish under the clip’s foot.

Waterman 0458wsThis Waterman Harmonie is one of my shelter-rescues; taken in from the hard streets of eBay with a crippling tine deformity, it is now able to go into the world a functional pen.  In setting the point right, I also had the feed out, and I’ve used it exactly once since then – $40

Mabie, Todd & Co. Swallow:

Capped, to show the interesting posting fixture

Capped, to show the interesting posting fixture

Good ol' IPG.  At least it's a decent one.

Good ol’ IPG. At least it’s a decent one.

M-T 0312ws

Swallow it is, although the claim to MabieToddship is a little tenuous, as it’s from the slightly mysterious modern re-animation of the company’s name.  While it’s a good writer and has a roller-clip that’s easy on the pocket, I find that it’s just too darned heavy for me to use with any real delight.  I admit that my disinclination to heaviness is not universal, and hope this otherwise nice pen finds a place it will be appreciated – $35

Parker 21, Mk. II CLAIMED:

Parker 0283dis

The sac is darkened…

...and there's a little scuff under the foot of the clip.

…and there’s a little scuff under the foot of the clip.

Parker 0283wsUnlike many Parker “21”s, this one is not cracked.  That’s always a bit of an open question, of course, so I don’t use this one for fear of amending that status.  If you are less fretful than I, you can revel in the pleasant writing powers of this pen, and I’ve priced it to reflect the potential for it not lasting too long – $15

Sheaffer Award CLAIMED:

Sheaffer 0439

Capped to show the slightly horrid but very effective late-model cap station on the tail.

The well-known and time-tested Sheaffer steel point, plus a squishy grip.

The well-known and time-tested Sheaffer steel point, plus a squishy grip.

Sheaffer 0439ws

The Sheaffer Award is an odd duck to me; I like it, and I’m only selling one of the two I have, but I would never hold it up as a paragon of beauty.  I would hold it up as a reliable pen, and with this finish a reasonably sturdy one as well – $20

Sheaffer Viewpoint CLAIMED:

Sheaffer Vwpt

Sheaffer ViewwsBI came into this Viewpoint as part of a lot of pens, and it’s definitely surplus to needs; I’ve got a full set of No Nonsense calligraphy points and my wife only uses the fine italic points for her writing while this thing mounts a bold.  I’m very unsure of its origin– the point suggests late Chinese manufacture, but the feed is the No Nonsense style rather than the much smaller type I’m used to seeing on Viewpoints of any age – $8

And How’s THIS for a bargain?

The industrious person who takes the “21”, the Award and the Viewpoint as a clump will get three pens for $37!  I must be slightly unbalanced!

On Shipping:

Remembering that I’m taking $10 off; these are the UNDISCOUNTED prices– inside Canada, Expresspost is $15, which is insured and tracked.  To the US, Tracked Packet (which has $100 insurance built in) is $17;  if you’re buying a whole lotta pens and want more insurance, we’d have to take a step up to Expedited Parcel which is $22 plus $2 for every hundred in insurance above $100.  Outside of Canada, we start to run into problems; untracked Small Packet Air are (using the UK as an example, but it’s not much more to Australia) $10, but you’re taking the risk on your own head because all I can produce is a receipt saying I paid for SOMETHING to be sent SOMEWHERE.  To get tracking and insurance, there’s International Parcel-Surface for $40 or Tracked Packet for $47, with the same $2 increments for extra insurance; more certain, but certainly expensive.

Also, because I’m dribbling this out in installments, I won’t insist on immediate payment.  If you want something here, and have some notion you might like something in a subsequent dose (I expect to have two more entries like this), I will hold for you until all is revealed.  However, that request to hold should be understood as a binding commitment, so don’t ask me to hold something you maybe possibly want unless something better appears.

And that’s it for today.

Today’s not-currently-for-sale pen: Hero 100
Today’s ink: Herbin Lis de Thé

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Hassan Chop!

Posted by Dirck on 28 August, 2013

Of the various little items of personality I’ve let past the filters of mistrust-of-internet, the influence upon me of Warner Brothers cartoons of the post-war golden age is certainly prominent.  One of the things I enjoy about these cartoons is the re-writing of Daffy Duck from a mere ball of anarchic chaos into a venal, grasping, cowardly backstabber; this because the former frequently vexes the undeserving while the latter generally pays a heavy and hilarious price for exercising his weaknesses.

So it was, when I read this announcement by Organics Studio offering free inks and a pen to people posting reviews of their work, I said inwardly, “Oh, I’m gonna do that, on account of I am greedy.”  Since pre-existing reviews aren’t to be counted, I will now revisit my sadly small experience with their inks.  Because I want to avoid heavy and hilarious come-uppances, I will also mention that I’m doing this because I actually like what I have seen of their product and want them to thrive, and given the likely outpouring I don’t really expect to be pushing a comedic wheelbarrow loaded with ink into my hidden cave of wonders.

The paper:  H&P 32lb laser paper, because all the other kids say it’s good.  Frankly, it’s no Clairefontaine.

The pen (for the samples):

…because it’s easy to clean

A European version of the Pilot Plumix; where it’s from and thus its cartridge standard is neither here nor there, as I was using it dip-wise.

Let’s begin:

This is what I think of when I think "cobalt blue"...

This is what I think of when I think “cobalt blue”…

...but this suggests that I'm being a little provincial.

…but this suggests that I’m being a little provincial.

On my site’s profile of this ink, I ponder the colour as being a little too much on the purple side for the name.  It appears I may have to retract that, as a look about the net shows my expectations were imperfect… as ever.  I do, this internal debate aside, like the colour; it is in the same line as Herbin’s Poussière de Lune in being a covertly non-standard hue which one can enjoy the small thrill of using neither blue nor black ink without the big boss leaning out of his office to yell, top hat on a column of steam and monocle askew.  {Edit: After writing this, I troubled myself to look in at the company’s website, where I find they’ve reformulated the Cobalt since I got mine; anything I say about the precise colour is probably imprecise}

It’s also quite well behaved in the areas of feathering and bleedthrough, and it’s not so saturated that it loses out on shading.  It’s also not a notable trial to clean out of a pen.  Whether it’s radioactive or not I cannot comment; probably not, and just as well.

Other pens I’ve had this stuff in: Parker “51” Vacumatic (and if I’m not complaining about cleaning it out of that, you can bet there’s no complaint forthcoming), Sheaffer Targa.  No explosions, clogs, or failure of in-flight systems occurred.


I don’t complain about expectations in my previous examination of this ink, although I discover in preparing for this writing that though it might not look just like the ionic solution (no picture, but described as bright blue) but it definitely gets something of the manganese right.  I also describe it as a modern blue-black which does a rather better job than a lot of the major manufacturers at being that colour.  Months later, with no evident fading in the sample, I stand by that statement.  It’s still much the same colour as it was when it hit the paper, and the careful archiving of the sample sheet on an unprotected shelf in a frequently-humid kitchen suggests it’s going to stay that way a good long time.

It's a little hard to see here, but that lower-right sample is THE SAME colour as the ink; click to go to the giant source.

It’s a little hard to see here, but that lower-right sample is THE SAME colour as the ink; click to go to the giant source.

My problem with this ink it its apparent affinity for linen.  I’m pretty good about not dribbling on myself (at least, from pens), and yet I keep finding this ink escaping from containment.  It may not be linen in general, but a specific shirt whose wearing happened to coincide with this ink’s outings, but either way it’s a bit of a pain.  In keeping with the findings in the previous paragraph, is it a remarkably colour-fast ink; when it gets onto linen, Amodex and straight ammonia have both proved unable to entirely shift it, no matter how briskly applied.  So, good for important documents, but not good for shirts.  It is otherwise as well behaved as the Cobalt, and the only reason I haven’t pursued getting more is that I’m ankle-deep in blue-blacks and can’t convince even my own crazy brain that another is a good idea until I’ve run out of something.

Other pens I’ve had this stuff in:  Sheaffer 300, Waterman Prefacé.  No issues bar that shirt thing.

In general, I’ve heard no ill about this company’s inks, and I’m looking forward to eventually trying more out.  If there happens to be a vast great heap of them, with a shiny pen perched fetchingly atop, all the better!

Today’s pen: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Separation Anxiety

Posted by Dirck on 22 August, 2013

I’m a little distracted today, and I think I’ll fill in the time by explaining the distraction.  Warning: A rather dirty trick follows immediately.

My wife and I are separated, and she’s take the son with her.  None of us are pleased with this state of affairs.

Aren’t you glad I warned you?  That sounds like terrible news, and even with the warning I wager many people are right now thinking, “Oh, no!  How could this terrible thing happen?”

I blame the city’s works department for it.  They are the ones who paved the street in front of our house.

I… probably should have added a warning about that non sequitur as well, eh?  Enough shenanigans, then– I’ll explain properly.  That paving was done Tuesday morning.  Tuesday evening, two-thirds of the human compliment of our domestic arrangement were wheezing in various degrees from the wafting volatile organic compounds of the new tarmacadam, with a progression on the complaint which suggested that my wife would wheeze her last if she tried to sleep on the problem.  Providentially, my parents have just left on a vacation and their house is a mere two minutes away by auto, so the wheezers were transferred to the relative comfort of fully breathable air.  I remained at home to feed the cats and to prevent them getting at the matches.

My parents’ house also has an air conditioner, which would frequently be an added comfort at this time of year.  This past weekend was, generally speaking, sweltery.  Tuesday saw an odd dip in temperature, though, which persisted through yesterday, and so the air conditioner was moot.  Cool air resulted in a paradoxical extension of discomfort, as the fresh pavement did not cook off as it might usually when exposed to summer’s mighty effects.  Bringing everyone home in the evening turned into a mere flying visit to grab fresh clothes and a few toys; while I only detected the smell of a neighbour’s barbecue, my wife said even before stepping out of the car, “I taste road.”

We’ll try again tonight, as the heat came back on today.  As I said, none of us are quite enjoying this; even the cats are showing signs of worry (possibly because they know that I have access to the matches).  The to-and-fro, the difficulty of preparing meals in an unfamiliar kitchen (a large part of my current state orbits the question of tonight’s supper), the terrible sensation of discovering that thing you didn’t think you’d need is actually constantly required, the alteration in what was an excellent cuddle schedule (my son appears intent on taking up cuddling as a profession), all of it adds its individual grains to the pan of do-not-like.  Since there’s no telling just how long it will take for the source of the trouble to exhaust itself, not only is this an open-ended misery, it raises the ugly spectre of eventually rooting for the arrival of winter and its power to prevent hydrocarbons from getting airborne through reduced Brownian motion and layers of ice.

There are a couple of small advantages to this otherwise uncongenial separation.  The primary is, of course, the ongoing existence of my wife and son; they may be way over there, but “over there” isn’t a euphemism like “gone west” and it’s something I think we all view as a positive.  More selfishly… I’ve had the best night’s sleep since late June of 2008 out of it.

Today’s pen: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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