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Posts Tagged ‘Skrip’

Posted by Dirck on 17 August, 2017

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

Say, that doesn’t seem like a very productive week, does it? Well… let me counter that impression with a couple of pictures.  The first is slightly misleading.

Why is this misleading?  Because it implies a mathematical precision exists in the growth of what is, really, an organic structure.  We don’t look at a basketball player and say, “That person is 114.3% tall,” right? So, on to the other, more completely accurate picture:

Yep. END.  The story has run its course, the protagonist slumping off to face the rest of his life in the wake of the harrowing events laid out on the preceding 802 pages†, and I get to have a beer to reinforce myself at the prospect of the second draft (which I was already dreading as part of an entry in May).  It may only be 97.9% of the projected length, but for someone who hasn’t a lot of novel-ing experience, and who a couple of times thought the plot was gurgling out of him much too briskly, I’m fairly proud to have landed that close to the target.

I’m trying to decide now whether I give myself a bit of a break and work on a short story or two, or if I should just get onto the smoothing of this roughly-gouged bit of word-granite into something that actually looks like a viable novel.  I believe that I’ll decide this at leisure, over the course of the weekend.  Under the influence of large beer and strong drink.  You know, like those writers you see in movies.


†You see the format of all those pages, of course.  If my estimates are near correct, that’s just shy of 300 pages of legible, typed material.  I ain’t no Stephen King, nor any George R.R. Martin (yet)‡.


‡This parenthetical barnacle may be considered a sign of raging hubris.  I’m sure I’ll get over it as the magnitude of the work ahead of me becomes apparent and notes from my helpful readers begin to appear.

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Posted by Dirck on 10 August, 2017

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

A short week, we having celebrated “OK You Can Have A Long Weekend In August” Day on Monday.  That last entry was actually run out at home, making it one of perhaps a half-dozen generated there.  I expect I’ll be doing some work on the novel tomorrow, rather than my usual lunch out, to satisfy my own sense of devotion to the work.  Here, have a look at how things stand:

I am, as it happens, right in the middle of the climax.  This is fantastic, from a standpoint of the climax landing just about exactly where I’d hoped it would, but it is also amazingly frustrating because I have all the words surging about in my head right now, and if I could actually convince the whole world to ignore my existence for… I’ll say a solid five hour block of time, I could get it all out in a single session rather than stuttering along for a few pages before Mr. Slate yanks the pteranodon’s tail to announce the end of lunch.  And I can’t just say to the family “I’m not actually here” in the evenings, because my wife has a role in a stage production of A Turn of the Screw and rehearsals are every damn  night this week– the son wants a companion and the wife can’t drive.  I got duties.

But enough lamenting.  The end is nigh!  Hoorah!

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Posted by Dirck on 3 August, 2017

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

If you hear a slight humming noise, it may well be me in my excitement at being so close to finished the first draft. The climax is not quite underway, but the fuse on it is burning and about to enter the touch-hole.

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A Dark Secret, Revealed

Posted by Dirck on 28 July, 2017

This week’s film comes with an insight into my hidden corners.  I suspect some will be shocked.

I sort of like hurdy gurdy music.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when there’s a handsome young woman playing it.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

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Posted by Dirck on 20 July, 2017

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

Yes, that is a crappy output. Not only did I not manage to get the binder open once during the vacation, I returned to find a more than usually tall pile of Regular Job awaiting my return (more than is usual for post-vacation, that is), and I forgot about a first-aid re-certification course that ate the whole of this week’s Wednesday.

On the up side, the course reminded me of all sorts of quotidian, mundane horrors to leaven my writing with.  Brr.

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Day’s Achievements

Posted by Dirck on 16 January, 2014

Just to avoid complete dismissal of this aspect of my media empire, and to somewhat keep myself honest, why don’t I keep a record of how I’m getting on with the writing?  It also gives me an excuse to note the day’s pens.

WHAT:  Typing and re-editing a first draft of a short story “Eyeing the Neighbour” (working title).

HOW MUCH: 610 words.

HOW LONG: about 40 min.

DONE?: Oh, no.

It’s not much more boring than my usual content.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Targa 1000S
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

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Seasonal Pelf

Posted by Dirck on 7 January, 2014

Well, here we are back, and in a slightly less quivering state than yesterday.  I hope all readers still have their parts firmly attached and the proper colour.

The solstice festival just past (which my family, heathens all, is pleased to call Christmas in keeping with local usage) was one of the best in years when viewed from a front of familial contentment.  Apart from our usual forebearance from knife fights, which is really more of a Groundhog Day activity (in which we declare anyone who says “Happy Groundhog Day” to be Julius Caesar and chase him with knives), we seem to have finally worked out the proper approach to scheduling the visits to the various grandparental estates.  My brother’s son has reached the age of reason, and is thus a little less given to rages of cupidity, while my son’s light dusting of developmental disorders appears to bear the silver lining of making him less anxious about getting ALL THE THINGS than many of his age.

In fact, if I may brag for a moment, he took it upon himself at both the stops of our Christmas tour to act as the hander-out of presents, in which he was careful to make a rotation rather than just diving for his own name.  The brag extends to his powers of reading cursive, which was used on many of the labels, and also a variant Blackhand that my wife indulged in on a couple of them.

The only downside to the who affair, since the weather was freakishly warm on the 25th, was all the delicious food.  I was never quite button-poppin’ stuffed at any time, but I also was never anything short of full from noon of the 24th until sometime in the late afternoon of the 27th.  It’s to the point that I’m actually thinking of doing something radical about my diet (a word I take to mean “the sorts of food routinely eaten” rather than an acute adjustment to the intake).  A grumbling liver is an uneasy bedfellow.

Oddly, I got a pen… on Christmas rather than for it.  During the very narrow interval between lunch and dinner, my mother told me she’d found a pen in a drawer and though I might take it away with me if it interested.  It was presented, and I clutched onto it in the best traditions of Daffy Duck– a Slim Targa!  Not only that, but it had a functional converter stuck in its belly, an item not easily come by.  I expressed my astonishment and my mystification; I certainly had no memory of the thing, and while that’s not entirely unprecedented I do know that my first brush with any sort of converter was an Osmiroid, and that it and a Waterman were the extent of my converter contact until the turn of the century.

My father eventually claimed it, although happy to hand it along.  He wasn’t very clear about when he’d picked it up, but he at least could remember having done so.  I was so happy to have an example of that odd sub-breed that I didn’t even raise the subject of the point.  It was very carefully bent downwards.  Sigh.  It was at least not kinked, and so was easily put right– I didn’t even have to extract the feed to get it working, which rendered it a Merry Christmas Gift indeed.

Today’s pen: That very Targa 1000S of which I speak
Today’s ink: Skrip Black

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The Feast of Feasting

Posted by Dirck on 23 December, 2013

As the sun huddles by the horizon with its shoulders up by its ears, asking all above 45ºN “What is wrong with you people?” and leaning upon its parihelia for support, we prepare for the long creep back to easily-endured weather by cramming unnecessary calories in us.  Those south of 45ºN with the exception of Antarctic explorers suffer under the compulsion of the calendar and the spread of European traditions, I’m sure, but for we of the north it’s very nearly worth the long-term artery damage.  In keeping with that spirit (and don’t I make it sound glamorous?) I’m offering a couple of recipes that I spent the weekend working on.

To keep pens in the mix– a client dropped off a sage green Snorkel Sentinel off while I was preparing for the rolling out of some dough.  Because I’d spent the day working valiantly to lovingly poison all my friends and family, the dropping-off found me as yet in my pyjamas.  Mild embarrassment all-round.

Now, on to the recipes.  The first is a little out of date, being more attached to Sinterklaasje than Kirstmis in the paternal homeland, but since the whole of December is more or less Christmas/Saint Nick-flavoured in Canada it lies easily enough on a platter beside my maternal grandmother’s shortbread:

Speculaas (being a Dutch spice cookie)

  • 1 cup Butter, softened (the recipe I base myself on suggests unsalted; I find the saltiness balances the sugars better)
  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla
  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 1.25 cups Brown Sugar (Demerara for preference)
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 3.5 cups Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2.5 tablespoons Spice Blend (all ingredients ground or powdered):
    • 8 parts cinnamon
    • 2 parts nutmeg
    • 2 parts cloves
    • 1 part white pepper
    • 1 part ground ginger
    • 1 part cardamon
  1. Combine spices well ahead of cookie-making; I used a tablespoon as my measure, and keep the resulting quantity of mix in a marmalade jar.
  2. Start at least eight hours before you want to eat cookies; instruction 7 is not a frivolous one.
  3. Cream butter, sugars and vanilla until light coloured and relatively fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and blend well.
  5. Combine flour, soda, salt and spice in a separate bowl.
  6. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet while mixing.  Keep going until dough begins to pull away from the bowl.
  7. Divide dough in half (or thirds; this is for ease in step 9), wrap in cling film and leave to sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  8. Heat oven to 350F/175C.
  9. Roll dough to 2.5 to 5 mm thickness.
  10. Apply speculaas molds, cookie cutters, or just render into decent cookie sizes with a pizza cutter, and arrange on a pan lined with parchment.
  11. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes.  Thick and brief cooking produce a relatively soft cookie, thin and long make more of a sweet cracker.

Also inspired by the Netherlands, the other recipe I want to inflict upon you is much more a work in progress.  I’m trying, like a daft mad fool, to recreate the results produced by Smits Ambachtelijke Chocolaterie at Wilhelminastraat 50, Breda; if you can get there by foot, car, or bus, you might as well go and get a superior product.  The trial nature of the recipe leads to furious annotation.

Slagroomtruffels (cream truffles)

  • 200 g fine Sugar (Berry Sugar for Canadian readers; I think in the UK you’d want extra finer or even caster)
  • 500 ml whipping Cream (about 30% milk fat)
  • 2 tablespoons Vanilla 1
  • pinch of Salt
  • 180 g Butter2
  • 1 kg dark chocolate
  • Cocoa powder (used for dusting, but you end up going through about a half-cup)
  • Loads of plates
  1. Combine cream and salt in a pot and carefully bring to a boil (medium heat or less), then remove from heat.
  2. Add vanilla and sugar, stirring until sugar is entirely dissolved.
  3. Leave butter standing in a bowl, and cream syrup off heat; both must come to room temperature.
  4. Whip butter until well aerated and pale.
  5. Slowly add syrup, mixing constantly.
  6. Mix like mad; you’re trying to go well past the consistency of whipped cream, into something more closely resembling butter.3
  7. Cover a plate or baking tin with parchment, and make blots of filling slightly less than a tablespoon’s size; one can use a piping bag or a spoon, depending on available tools and preference for neat or more naturally truffle-ish appearance.  Put blots in freezer for about an hour.
  8. Melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat; chocolate melts at just below room temperature, and if it gets too hot it congeals, so don’t try to rush it.  The blots don’t mind being in the freezer for longer than an hour.
  9. Transfer blots ten at a time to a chilled plate; drop one at a time into chocolate, using a fork to retrieve them and place them on a different chilled plate covered by a piece of parchment.  When all ten are done, put them in refrigerator for a couple of minutes to set.
  10. Put some cocoa powder in a bowl, and three or four at a time toss the chocolates in a bowl to coat; this both gives the appearance of a natural truffle and keeps them from sticking as seriously to each other or fingers.
  11. Store in refrigerator.

“Vanilla” in this case being the tincture resulting from leaving four slit vanilla beans in a 750ml bottle of Appleton Estate V/X rum for six months– it’s cheaper in the long run than buying commercial extract, and feels vaguely illicit which adds to the fun of cooking.  The recipe I was working from suggests a single slit bean left to simmer in the cream for 20 minutes.  This may reduce the cream as well as flavour it, and I intend to try it some time when I’ve spare cash for another bean and lots of time.

The recipe was silent on salted or unsalted butter.  I used the former, as cheaper and also as a counterweight to all that sugar.  I’m seriously thinking of increasing butter and reducing cream for a firmer filling, as the results of the above are rather loose.

The loose filling “problem” again; I may have stopped too early, but I became alarmed at the appearance of whey in the bowl.

That’s it for this year.  I’m off to lapse into a combined hyperglycemic/alcoholic coma for the next couple of weeks, and I hope you’re all free to do the same.

Today’s pen: Parker 75 Insignia (festive!)
Today’s ink: Skrip Turquoise (ditto!)

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The Calamari Defence

Posted by Dirck on 3 December, 2013

Yet another Ludlum novel title!  Although, on reflection, it might be more in line with the sort of thing we get from John Grisham (at whose mere mention I’m trying to develop a lowbrow pen-related joke whose punchline is “The Pelikan briefs”).

I mentioned in yesterday’s harried visit that I’d gotten Philip Hensher’s The Missing Ink.  I have made the mistake of bringing it to work, to serve as the entertainment and brain re-inflation components of my breaks.  This is a mistake, because it limits my reading to roughly thirty minutes in two installments, less time devoted to attending to bodily processes.  Since I refuse to read at top speed if I’m reading for fun (as opposed to the ferocious pace I’d got at for classes, back in the sepia-coloured university days), this means it takes me rather a while to advance.  I am, therefore, only just begun in the reading of it.

The early stages of the book reveal a few things, some of which trigger memories and some of which arouse troubled feelings.  The latter are mainly, but not entirely, connected to as apparent assumption that handwriting is doomed, doomed, doomed, and has not more than the duration of the current generations of humanity to see its practice die out.  I don’t agree, of course, but I don’t think that the assumption is much more than a motivator to get the book written so I won’t hold it against him.

The memories come about as a result of Hensher’s own recollections of his days learning to master the writing task.  From what he says of fountain pens, it’s clear he never encountered in his youth anything other than cartridge filling; this is not a big deal, since I was only vaguely aware of any other filling method during the whole of my twenties and thirties, and certainly spent my developmental years in an innocent ignorance.  He does describe very nicely the various sensations of the action of installing a cartridge (on p.11 of the hardcover edition), culminating in a certain amount of flicking to get ink to inhabit the feed sufficiently to start flowing and only stopping when there’s a spatter of ink on the desk or floor.

Usually smell is activator of strong memory, the olfactory bulb and the hippocampus leaning upon one another as they do, but in this case there is no smell associated with the Skrip cartridges that filled my childhood pens.  The spatter, though… that evokes a memory or two.  I did not prime my pens that way, though, after the first time; teacher’s displeasure was something I took to heart.  I would squeeze the cartridge a little, or dismount it and poke the point in to take up a charge, reversing the usual path of capillary action.  The spatter was reserved for dire need.

I think we all remember school as a mixed bag– some friend, some foes, and once in a while a fiend amongst the classmates.  For those latter, who were generally a destructive lot, I had a viable threat– leave my stuff alone, or go home mottled.  I didn’t have to follow through very often, either; word got around that I was perfectly willing to do it, the range was long and the results invariably parent-upsetting.  For some reason, nothing ever came back to me of those incidents, which suggests that either the parents in question took all their ire out on their offspring, or the teachers knew just how the situation developed and decided that justice was served.

The last time I used a pen in anger was about a week into high school.  New setting, new people, the youngest of the school feeling small, threatened and anxious to avoid being marked out as prey.  Someone thought the oddly quiet guy with the weird pen would be a handy way of marking himself out as predator rather than prey, and offered to steal my pen.  In the brief hand-to-hand struggle that ensued, he withdrew with a veritable mark of Zorro across his t-shirt; he’d gripped my wrist, but my hand was free to flick.  He ended up with about half a cartridge down his front.

I’ve mixed emotions about that last incident.  Pride in having stood up for myself, but by that age the capacities for empathy and foresight had started to develop; I had concern about the fallout for both the spotted chap and potential escalation.  Nothing specific came of it, so I assume I was using something more or less washable that day.

I’m going to finish up with a quick return to the book and the troubled feelings it produces.  Hensher is apparently a very oral person, describing just after the cartridge insertion the habit of sucking on a pen, fountain or otherwise, which has ceased to write in an effort to put ink in a useful place.  Icky, but not as bad as a sentence halfway down the next page:

If I borrow a ballpoint from one of [his creative writing students], within half an hour it is apt to creep towards my mouth, and by the end of the seminar it is often not in a returnable condition.

He’s a pen-chewer!  I hope he doesn’t bring this up too often in the course of the book.  There’s only so much horror I can take.

Today’s untoothed pen: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s unlaunched ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

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First Principles

Posted by Dirck on 1 November, 2013

Merry Fountain Pen Day!  I hope you’re all enjoying the day in an appropriate manner.  I’m being slightly inappropriate, stealing a few minutes from The Regular Job to be inflate my usual Friday output, because I want to mention some of my reactions to today’s pen… because it’s my first.

Not, THE first, which as I’ve mentioned previously is long since lost to the careless actions of a much younger me, but it’s of the same mold.  It has been rather a while since I used one of these, and I was curious, at the end of a cycle of relatively snooty, upper-shelf pens, how I’d react to this old chap.

It’s… a little scratchy, and I won’t whitewash that with the euphemistic “toothy”.  However, this is mainly because it’s one that has seen a lot of use– it’s starting to get a foot on its tipping.  In fact, if I’d not lost and/or abused into uselessness that pen from the long-ago days of elementary school, it would probably be in much the same state as this one, so the illusion of it being that initial pen is strong.

It’s also quite wet, which makes me wonder how I avoided making unconscionable messes of all my school work, especially considering the school-provided notebooks were made of paper not much different from the horrid brown paper towels in the school washrooms.  No wonder, though, at the rate of cartridge use; good thing they were much less expensive then than now, with inflation figured in.

It is ergonomically undistinguished… but by comparison to the Bic sticks all the other kids were using, it at least has the a little shaping on the section to inform the fingers that they’ve got a place in the operation.  In this, it’s essentially the same as a Pelikan Souverän to a willing mind.

No, it’s really not as good as the big kids I’ve been using lately.  But for something that cost as much as five of the cheap Bics it shared shelf space with on the stationery shelf at the old neighbourhood drugstore, it’s a damn good pen.  I’m glad I’ve still got it… er… one.

Now, because it is Friday and Fountain Pen Day, a couple of short features.  The first is a quick examination of the charms of the fountain pen, and the second is an explanation of how it’s not, as of right now, too late to get in on a big Fountain Pen Day contest.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer cartridge pen, third generation
Today’s ink: Skrip blue-black

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