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Posts Tagged ‘Patrick O’Brian’

Combining Interests

Posted by Dirck on 19 January, 2018

Escapism this week.  The interests combining here are adventure films, people reviewing films, history, and the work of Patrick O’Brian.  That’s pretty good for one little video.

Man, I need to watch that thing again.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Taranis
Today’s ink: Skrip Blue


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Fiction, Reality, and the South Seas.

Posted by Dirck on 23 September, 2016

Official autumn is upon us, and cold rain is bucketing down today.  If one can’t scuffle off to a tropical paradise on short notice, why not hunker down with a good movie?  I can’t offer a full-length anything, reliably, but here’s a fine review of a film that confirms all my biases– it’s one of my favourites!

If you, as I, enjoy well-founded historical dramas, I suggest looking at that fellow’s whole channel.  He’s amended my ideas somewhat about Saving Private Ryan.

Today’s historically correct pen: Waterman Citation
Today’s forgivably anachronistic ink: Jentle blue-black

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In Like a…

Posted by Dirck on 28 February, 2014

…lion?  To quite Patrick O’Brian, lions ain’t in it, mate.  We are told that the overnight low upcoming will touch -40 (F or C, as you wish) and adding in the wind-chill will put is in shouting distance of the sensation of -60.  “March comes in like a nation of frost giants riding angry chimerae crammed with liquid nitrogen” may not be traditional nor poetic, but it comes closer to the sense of it.

I was, therefore, going to mount a campaign of sympathetic magic and lift from Youtube some version of Vivaldi’s “Spring”.  There are a couple of problems with that, though.  The goofy objection is I don’t want to jeopardize the return to (nearly) seasonal temperatures we’re promised for next week, as shouting “knock it off” frequently just causes heels to be dug in.  The also-goofy objection is that I don’t really like that particular concerto.  So, here’s something that will at least get some blood moving, and it’s cellos so it’s high-class art.

Have a good weekend, everyone.  Try not to break off any major body parts.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

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Moral Ascendancy

Posted by Dirck on 11 February, 2013

I’m a little distracted at the moment thanks to something that I’m going to wait until tomorrow to address; it’s a disturbing development in the world of pens, and I want to get my self a little more grounded before going into a rant of the topic.

So, today, I will mention something that I did last week.  Along with The Pen, which I have managed to leave at home today, I ordered some quite inexpensive Chinese pens to give away.  Not, I hasten to mention, here, but to people I share physical space with now and again and who I think need a chance to try to wonderful fountain pen lifestyle.  After I’d shown The Pen to my wife, I also showed her the other pens, and explained the intention behind them.  One of the candidate-receivers is a good friend to both of us, and my wife was… slightly nonplussed by the notion of giving this person a fountain pen.

“You remember how she reacted the last time you forced her to use one?”

Yes, but that was a Lamy Safari that needed a realignment.  Who likes an ill-tempered pen?

“She’s left handed.  That’s why she doesn’t like fountain pens in general.”

She’s an underwriter, and thus a perfect candidate for sinister fountain pennery.  However, I do admit that her angle of attack is rather steep, and that makes for an unhappy fountain pen.  But, he said with a flourish, look at the way this pen works….

“This pen” was a Hero 001, and I’ll import a picture from my page about it:

The tines so nice they’ve cut them twice.

It’s one of these very clever pens that doesn’t really care about angle of attack.  It is also relatively indifferent to pressure, which is great for a newcomer to real pens.  What could go wrong?

That last line got the appropriate wry look from my wife, and I pointed out the extremely low cost of the item and the fact that if our friend didn’t like it then it would eventually find a good home elsewhere.  I then staggered into my Cavern of Consultation to apply loupe, abrasives and experience to the tipping of the item in question so it would be of optimal delight when put to the test.

A few days later, and a literal squeal of delight was the result of the test.  Friend went home with a pen she has apparently fallen in love with and about a 15ml of Violette Pensée to see her through to buying her own bottle.  I made a smug face at my wife.

Coincidentally, that same night I read a bit of The Nutmeg of Consolation, in which Dr. Maturin, the true central character of Patrick O’Brian’s marvellous series, contemplates the failure of his bank and the shift this may bring about in his relationship with his wife.  Marriages are, in his view, frequently a lifelong striving for moral dominance that can drain the joy from the relationship (an example he brings up is a relative who has secretly used her dress funds to hire monks to pray for her husband; he doesn’t know, so can’t mount a response, and she thus “wins” the moment one of them dies).

There I was, the feel of smugness still on my face, having scored this point over my wife.  Concern.  We are not, I think I’ve mentioned in the past, a point-counting sort of couple.  If there’s any sporting analogies to be applied, we are profoundly on the same team.  Had I unthinkingly fired the first shot in a foolish civil war?  Would we descend into a chaos of expansive gifts and pointed kindnesses, from which neither can take any happiness?

Reflecting further, I think not.  Maturin is hardly an infallible role model; at very least, he abuses any psychoactive substance the early 19th century has to offer and cleans his instruments mainly by accident.  That one moment of smug superiority was bound to the glee of a friend who has had little enough in the past while (her mother’s cancer surgery went well enough, her apartment on which the rent won’t go up to authentically usurious amounts until May is only slowly filling with water, and the chap that jilted her had the grace to do so in a merely semi-public place), which tends to mask the offense.  Neither of us has conducted him or herself any differently since the incident.

I think I’m OK.  But I’m starting to get some pretty serious short-circuits on the topic of what to do about Valentine’s day; too much looks both guilty and like an attempt to increase the “gap”.  Too little and I’m another of these complacent husbands who neglects his wife.  Tricky stuff, these human relationships.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Craftsman (which is every bit as nice as last weeks Pelikan.  Totally.  What do you mean, “protests too much”?)
Today’s ink: Skrip semi-vintage blue-black

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The Non-Yellow Admiral

Posted by Dirck on 16 August, 2012

An author I frequently turn to, Patrick O’Brian, explains admirals of various colours in the hierarchy of the Royal Navy in the early 19th century.  In addition to the red, white and blue admirals, there is a yellow admiral, an unhappy fellow whose promotion to the top rank is obligatory, but to whom is no squadron is given to command.  A very sad fellow, according to O’Brian, for there he sits on the shore, pining for the chance to order ships into danger.

I wonder what he’d have made of a green Admiral?

Yesterday I got yet another conundrum-bearing Sheaffer into my hands, although less replete with them than the one I’m using today; a nice Admiral from the Balance line.  As I’ve yet to take a picture of it, I can for the moment offer only this picture of the model…

…but you’ll have to imagine that it is this colour:

It’s actually my first Balance Admiral, as my previous contact with the model has been through the property of clients.  The conundrum aspect of the thing lies in the fact that the body is imperfect; it’s something that will never quite be right again, and I’m almost completely indifferent to it; in fact, I’m somewhat pleased.

The imperfection is a flat spot on barrel, where someone has effaced a personalization.  Some time ago, I mentioned that some people are very distressed by seeing a name on the side of a pen, and it seems a previous owner of this one was either a thief of mid-range pens or this sort of objector.  The work has been done relatively well, though, so apart from being flat, the damage is hardly visible, and it’s really more of a tactile issue.  This lack of influence on the looks and function of the pen is the foundation of my indifference.

The happiness is twofold.  The person selling it was honest about the state of the barrel, and so there was not that momentary mood-plummet that frequently comes along with spotting an unexpected blemish on a newly-gotten pen.  This honesty also brings about the other head of happiness, as the admitted deficiency led the honest fellow to attach a quite low price to the thing.  Leaving aside for the moment my labour and the cost of a new sac (it’s a lever filler), I got a jolly nice pen for under $15.  That includes shipping, in case you were not quite (marine) green (striated) with envy.

Between the price and the blemish, I get a gift of some freedom of action; a more expensive, intact example might incline me to leave it at home.  Not so this fellow.  Whatever the RN’s take on a green admiral, I can assure you that this one is not going to languish ashore; once the refit is complete, it’s away on my oceans of ink to fire off some broadsides.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer S Range (say, don’t British submarines have an “S” in their numbers?)
Today’s ink: Skrip King’s Gold (which is even better than the King’s shilling)

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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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Parts is Parts

Posted by Dirck on 4 May, 2011

I can’t actually remember the item of long-dead North American pop-culture from which my title is drawn?  I assume an ad of some kind, and if that’s the case I’m pretty pleased that my memory doesn’t retain the product.

I was tinkering with a Parker Vacumatic this past weekend, and found that the filler was rather messed up.  “Well, I’m going to need to get another Vacumatic filler unit,” said I… and then fell to pondering the increasing prevalence of replace as opposed to repair.

I once again hold forth on a bygone day I was not actually present for, but leaving aside my lack of direct experience, I think it’s safe to say that the Industrial Revolution has incrementally undone our collective sense of both maintenance and repair.  If something breaks, we are more inclined to look for a new one rather than a way to recreate it.  My own response to the Vacumatic issue is to start plowing through my parts bin to see if I can find an undamaged example.  There are some people who have the skill to fabricate the part in question, but this is an extremely unusual thing to to.  Most who offer pen repair tend to rather have will to find replacement parts and the patience to put them in place– the fabricators are few, far between, and pretty expensive (rightly so).   We try, though, to work in parts rather than components, the difference being a part is usually a single material while a component is set of parts that don’t really work in isolation and which are sometimes impossible to come at.  A lever-filling pen’s filler is made of parts (lever, the pin or ring it hangs from, the pressure bar), while the Vacumatic filler has a single component (threaded collar, shaft, spring and cup, all glued together and sometimes open to dismantling).

Pre-Industrial Revolution, people would not generally discard things, but rather found someone with the skills actually re-fabricate the item.  The best example I can think of is in the early parts of the film Master and Commander; right at the beginning of the show, HMS Surprise gets horribly torn up an enemy warship, and before the half-way mark she is restored to her original shape (including the figurehead and the decorative posts of the railing).  This was more possible before the Revolution, because pretty much everything was technically hand-made.  It’s beaten up?  Get the man who built it to put it right!  Note, too, that a 28-gun frigate has a vast complexity of components, but the repairs are almost all at the part level because those components are reducible– a gun’s carriage is shattered, so some wood is shaped to the purpose, rather than hauling out of the hold a crate labelled “Carriage for 18 pound cannon (rope and cannon not included)”, and the component gun is back in business.

As we enter the 21st century, we have an awful lot of stuff that is absolutely immune to repair.  An iPod is the smallest component of an iPod– if it breaks, you fling it and get a new one.  TVs are much the same, and while it’s technically possible to replace some internal parts of a DVD player the economics of getting the part and paying the labour to have it installed militate towards just buying a new one.  I have no cure for this, but it makes me sort of sad.  We’ve moved from knowing how things are made (or at least, knowing the guy who knows) to more or less praying to the magic juju of the distant factory to send us useful items.  We’re a cargo cult with a complicated supply chain.

…apparently I’m still a little down.  I’ll see what I can do about repairing my mood, because replacing my mood generator is not an option I wish to pursue.

Today’s pen, an amalgamation of 17 distinct parts (or 6 components): Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Éclat de Saphir

post scriptus– Who says synchronicity is just  a rather good album?  Not long after writing the above, I am shown the site of Surgu, a material aimed at letting people back into repair and fabrication in a very low-grade way.   I’ve not tried it, I can’t endorse it, but I am entirely behind its spirit.

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On the quarterdeck of HMS Ravens March, A.D. 1807

Posted by Dirck on 26 January, 2011

I have once or twice referred to my admiration for the nautical yarns of Patrick O’Brian.  I have come to realize in the long wait for the latest dawn that having a toddler in the house is very similar to serving in the Royal Navy in the early 19th century.  Observe:

  • there is almost no time in a day not filled with duties for those who are attentive to their position;
  • infrequently, the regular course of duties can reduce you to stark terror (in the modern example, consider the phrase, “How did he manage to climb up on that?”);
  • four hours of sleep starts to become the norm;
  • many unexpected diseases arise;
  • one becomes somewhat less nice about fresh food, clean clothes, and the smell of human filth (no, no– it’s the diaper pail);
  • the noise sometimes emitted by your charges is apt to make you deaf;
  • time loses some of its meaning;
  • despite the hardship, one becomes very attached to the way of living.

Since I’m not quite clear on the pacing of the nautical day, I may be incorrect in saying that I got to sleep almost the whole Middle Watch last night.  Pass the rum and never fret the weevils in the biscuit!

Today’s pen, a touchstone of modernity: Lamy 2000
Today’s ink, from the far side of the world:  Wancher Matcha (green)

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Posted by Dirck on 12 March, 2010

My usual dashed-off Friday note, and I want to pose a question to the diverse smart people of the internet, some of whom I know occasionally stick their heads in here.

I have what I pretend is a decent breadth of reading (we’ll not mention depth, thanks). In some items which are either from or about the early 19th century, the Napoleonic period if I may, I find an odd thing. One sibling addressing another regarding their shared paternal person, will say, “My father did thus; my mother will be late to dinner,” as if there was no family connection between them whatever. Why is this?

I speculate a little, and have two baseless possibilities. It may be some kind of proto-Victorian concern for bringing up the delicate subject of procreation– bad enough to use the word for a parent, but to make even a tangential implication to sharing one and thus hint at the whole unspeakable business of birth? Have a footman fetch salts, I feel a swoon coming on!

I discount this somewhat, as “proto-Victorian” isn’t really a thing, and the whole Victorian penchant for keeping a lid on things didn’t really get its feet under it until Albert’s death. My other speculation, equally groundless and likely to be wrong, is that the notion of a collective parent was so strongly conntected with the Christian deity that it seemed pretentious to apply “our father” to any tangible, mortal creature.

The comment line is open. Feel free to speculate right back at me.

My pen: Sheaffer 2440
Our ink, which art in bottles (yes, I know the verb’s not right): Pelikan 4001 blue-black.

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16 Tons, Loaded.

Posted by Dirck on 13 October, 2009

The vague musical reference of the title should not lead the reader into the belief that I had a bad weekend, although it was labour filled. By dint of the extra day away from The Regular Job, I was able to finally catch up on the home chores that the previously reported hospital extravaganza delayed, and got stuck into my own business, as it were.

After yesterday’s vestigal effort here, I had a couple of choices before me. Chip away at the ever-growing mountain that my website has become (there’s but four faces on Rushmore, and people make a big deal? Poo!) or attend to what threatens to become a backlog of clients’ pens. The latter is less visible but more pressing, so that’s what got my day.

The day advanced quite nicely, too. I installed a “fountainbel” cartridge in a Sheaffer Vigilant which I’d thought I had resurrected the original seal in some time ago– a happy delay with another of the client’s pens made sure the failure happened on my workbench rather than in her pocket– and I’m very happy with the result. All the moreso because it’s reversible. My next use of that sort of thing will be with the more permanent application to a later model pen, but given the instant results I’m actually sort of looking forward to mutilating a pen for science.

The only sour note was a very gooey sac in a very bad place. I borrow a phrase from Partick O’Brian’s Dr. Maturin when I say I could wish to the devil the man who thought of crimping the end of a sac protector in a Sheaffer snorkel filler. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s a great annoyance. If you don’t repair your own pens– this is the reason you’re paying someone else to do it, trust me.

Moving from my own developments to my son’s: I had mentioned earlier his own interest in other people’s pens, and this took on a new aspect on Friday. He lifted from my pocket the Wearever I wore that day, and apparently mistaking it for one of his old playmates (the Parker “51”) tried to pull the cap off. It being a screw-cap, and he not being much mightier than the standard child of his age, I didn’t do any more than smile indulgently (as opposed to the hoot of terror I give when he’s got the “51” or when any adult gets hands on one of my screw-caps). Thwarted, he gazed at the pen for a moment… and then unscrewed the cap. Hoot! A hoot of terror with a large tint of admiration, though– I’m very pleased with both his motor control and his cognitive effort.

Two final notes on the day: A totally gratuitous plug for a pen shop I will likely never visit, but one of my fellows on the FPN wrote a delightful word-picture of it–

Lot G-8
Bangunan Pak Peng
76 Jalan Petaling
5000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 00 603 2078 7987
Fax: 00 603 2078 7987
Email: leespen@pd.jaring.my

…and there is a much better review of Gojira no Gyakushu by an actual scientist than the mere mention of it I made myself, which I encourage the interested to peer at.

Today’s pen: Guider Vishal (having not updated the site, I think I’ll be back into relatively posh pens tomorrow)
Today’s ink: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist.

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