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Posts Tagged ‘Skrip’

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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The Self-Importance of Being Honest

Posted by Dirck on 24 July, 2013

Yesterday, I was away from my desk helping a co-worker dredge up some physical evidence of The Regular Job’s lack of culpability on a certain matter (there’s a bank that doesn’t believe we gave them the money we think we did; it’s hard to feel any urgency on the issue).  In the course of the search, there were a few specific numbers that needed writing down.  In the pause while I reached up to draw pen from pocket, co-worker held an object towards me, saying, “Here, I’ve got a pen.”

My response: “Oh, no– you’ve got a ballpoint.  I’ve got a pen.”

Fortunately, I said this in a studiedly supercilious tone, so it wasn’t taken amiss, and she said something along the line of “Oh, yes, you use those pens.”

“Can’t make a ballpoint work,” said I, “You gotta press too hard,” and to prove my position I wrote the necessary super secret codes on an unsupported single sheet of paper.  You might manage that with a marker, but never a ballpoint.  So there.

The point of me telling you this is not to trumpet another thrilling victory of the fountain pen over the hated enemy, because even a nut-case such as I can see this for the small potatoes it is.  The point is rather to reinforce to myself about how this is not quite how we act around people (I can’t offer the line from “A Study in Pink” as I do take somewhat more notice of others than even a low-grade sociopath, but I do feel certain fellow-feeling with Dr. Cooper in the area of human interaction), and also to reinforce appropriate behaviour.  Curiously, this little exchange fits both headings.

On the former, while I can offer documentary evidence that Sheaffer avoided using the word “Pen” on their ballpoint products for at least thirty years, and while there’s an old saw about honesty being the best policy, the world abounds in examples of applying small obfuscations as a lubricant to social interaction.  What I was dealing with was not a teachable moment, and the correct response would have been, “No thanks, I’ll use mine.”  Co-worker would have understood “mine” to mean “pen”, I would have known I meant “item of the broad category ‘writing imstrument'”, and the day would have gone along just fine.  What I did was not far removed from blurting out, “Your large facial birthmark is repellent to me in a subjective evaluation.”  Truth.  Not an enhancement to anyone’s life.

However, it is better than the suppressed response.  Had I allowed that to emerge, it being something of an imputation against the co-worker, I probably would be feeling very bad about starting a feud, rather than a little self-directed amusement.  The suppressed response was less truth, and so lacks the marginal shield which truth offers; it was entirely subjective, and with reference to the previous example would have been very like shouting “YOU UGLY!”

The suppressed response?  “No, thanks.  I’ve got a grown-up pen.”  See?  Fight starter.  Even I know it.

Today’s pen: Pelikan MK10
Today’s ink: Skrip blue-black

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Spitting Image

Posted by Dirck on 26 April, 2013

Less a film today than a bit of playing with the properties of the ol’ eyeballs. I speculate, because I’m too lazy to actually go digging for it, that what happens to the images is an artifact of the blind spot on the retina.

I would also imagine that this is going to lead to all sorts of conspiracy theorists making noise about the shape-shifting aliens that run Hollywood.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer (Sailor) Sentinel
Today’s ink: Skrip black

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The Creeping Snail of Inspiration

Posted by Dirck on 15 April, 2013

I’m sure everyone has had this sort of sensation– you have an idea so good, so appropriate to your designs, that you feel like an idiot for not having had it a very long time earlier.  My latest version of this came to me rather late yesterday, in the form of “Say, you know what your site would profit by?” and the simple yet blinding answer both drifting to the surface of the swampy stagnation of my mind.

…and because it is a good idea, and I do feel like an idiot for not having acted on it at least six months before it occurred to me, I’m going to go and apply myself to it now.  Hopefully I’ll be able to brag about it tomorrow.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer (Sailor) Sentinel
Today’s ink: Skrip black

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Another One Gone

Posted by Dirck on 2 April, 2013

There’s been another departure in the pen world, which I’ve just noticed.  I refer not to the terrible loss of pen reviewing power reported yesterday, Stephen Brown’s retirement— that is, of course, just a Poisson d’Avril.  No, the departure is an entirely serious one, and rather than link to it as the evidence is apt to fade from the web, I’ll take a picture.

I should probably have kept the copyright notice at the bottom.

I should probably have kept the copyright notice at the bottom.  I hope he won’t mind, but just to be clear– images and words in the frame above are © 2013 Tyler Dahl

Tyler was someone I was happy to recommend as an alternative to me, and it was while composing such a recommendation that I discovered this upsetting development.  “Do I remember a-right that he handles Sheaffer vac fillers?” I said to myself.  “Let me have a look at his site… oh, bloody hell.”

This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, and as with my previous notice I understand the underlying problem and empathize deeply.  A little change in the household economy (in the broad sense of the word), and I could easily find myself in the same situation.  Currently, the great impediment to my pen work, apart from The Regular Job, is my son’s jolly insistence on parental attendance and the frazzle this can reduce either of us to when the other isn’t available to pitch in.  This is improving with his going to school… but as my wife noted yesterday when I got home, she’s now out of practice for day-long sessions.  The miniscule backlog I can currently boast about (things that arrived last Friday won’t be attended to until this coming weekend!)  is largely down to him being slightly more than commonly rowdy.  What will summer, assuming it eventually turns up, be like?

For the moment, though, I press on.  There was a bit, somewhat connected to the lost weekend, when gloom threatened to engulf me.  The one bit of pennery I thought I had time for, an attempt to extract a filler from a Vacumatic I’ve had about the place for ages, went… poorly.  That got together with the prospect of Winter without end to beat up my reserves of optimist and energy, and I wondered whether it was really worth bothering any more.  Manifest melting, slow though it is, has lifted some of the darkness,  and a successful resolution to cap problem I mentioned a week ago Monday has gotten me back into the right way of thinking.  Pens can be fixed, and I’m capable of fixing them!

Except for those wretched vacuum fillers.  They still perplex and confound me.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Statesman Snorkel
Today’s ink: Skrip Turquoise


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Return of Nemesis

Posted by Dirck on 25 March, 2013

Well, what an odd weekend.  I’m not quite sure how to react to it, frankly, because it’s left such an unfamiliar sensation.

I got stuff accomplished!

Hard to believe, isn’t it?  Despite yet more snow (although not a lot), and a son who bounded out of bed hours before his usual time on Sunday (leading to enjoyable but not super-productive Lego construction), I got very nearly though all the client pens I have in hand.  The two that remain are nearly done, but each presented a confounding point that I couldn’t overcome in the time available.

The interesting one, which has nothing to do with the title, came to me with a point deformity of an unusual sort.  Unlike the problems at either end of this image from my site…

…the slit was rounded; if held sideways, it resembled a sleepy eye.  To address the problem, I had to burnish the point in the specialized anvil for the task, and that took a full tear-down to accomplish.  I was somewhat at a loss to figure out the mechanism of the deformation, but laid it into the portmanteau of Mysteries Lost in Ages Past.  Problem fixed, point and feed re-mated in section, sac reapplied, and (eventually, once the shellac set) tested.  A surprisingly smooth and flexible pen it is!  Sweet!

Cue the problem.  The cap felt funny going back on, and for the first time I had a good look up inside it.  Ah… that’s how the point got deformed!  It’s not that there’s something hiding inside the cap, either.  It’s that there’s nothing hiding up inside the cap.  I’ve previously examined the role of the inner cap, but mainly with an eye to how it seals pens.  There is another role it fills– it is a brake on the cap, keeping it from crushing the point.  Happily, I noticed the problem before undoing my previous labour.  Unfortunately, I have to now fabricate a new one, without the back-pressure it provides, the cap won’t really stay on at a depth that’s safe for the point.

The other pen I was having trouble with was instantly recognizable in its problem.  The point was skewed several degrees to one side, but is was also rather filthy with…  India Ink! Let me reprint something I typed some time ago, and which still reflect my opinion quite clearly:

I should like to press for an international convention in labelling requiring India ink to carry NOT FOR FOUNTAIN PENS warnings in several languages, and arrange to have it come into effect in 1932.  It would have saved a lot of tears over the decades.

This ink had been put in a long time ago, it had been used a lot, and there was a vast concretion of it around the point and feed.  Fortunately, the section in question was one I could with clear conscience put into an ultrasonic cleaner for several cycles.  Unfortunately, this only released the point; the feed remains inseparable.

A few more rounds of the ultrasonic cleaner, and that feed’s channels are clear enough to, I think, return to proper function, but I’d be a lot happier if I could actually scrape the smaller passages out.  Curse you, misused India ink!  Curse your dark heart!

Today’s pen (not clogged): Sheaffer Statesman Snorkel
Today’s ink (non-clogging): Skrip Turquoise

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