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Posts Tagged ‘Terry Pratchett’

A Glorious Defeat!

Posted by Dirck on 6 January, 2016

A little less than a year ago, I made a public admission here as a way of holding something over my own head– “Lookit me,” I said, “I’m taking up a year-long reading challenge!”

Let’s see how that went, shall we?



Hmm.  It seems that there are some unchecked boxes there.  How could I have let this happen?

Pretty easily, actually.  I didn’t so much let it happen as decide that it would happen.  I realized in August that even with the outrageous cheat of allowing one book to fill several requirements, I would have to work pretty hard to manage “Almost Finished”.  This realization led to a contemplation of the place of reading in my life, and the thinking ran something like this:

  1. Reading is enjoyable;
  2. Working hard under external compulsion is rarely enjoyable;
  3. A≠B;
  4. I’d be an idiot to bash A with hammers until it becomes B-shaped.

At that point, I didn’t give up on the list, but I stopped chasing it.  If something I wanted to read happened to fill a box, then that’s just fine, but I’m not going to squander my precious reading time on things chosen to please an arbitrary list rather than myself.  I’m also not going to put myself off reading by clinging stubbornly to that list, because a writer who’s sick of reading is a writer for not much longer, and I’ve hardly even begun.

An excellent example would be the truncation of my read of The Longer I’m Prime Minister.  A close look at some of the self-serving back-stabbery of our last PM (more than usually egregious, even in a politician), it had sat on my READ THIS shelf for a long time.  I could not summon the heart to open it while he held the nation in his grubby fist, and after the liberation election I discovered I couldn’t stomach having everything I’d thought of the man confirmed and even expanded upon by those in his inner circle.  It’s on the list, but I didn’t finish.  Similarly, I’ve been in the midst of reading Labyrinths for ages; it goes on the list not because I read it but because I am reading it– I have to take it in small doses, lest it overwhelm me with its power.

This year, then, I won’t be doing the same thing, and I’ll be a happier reader for it.  Last year’s effort, for all that the campaign’s objective was not taken, saw no one hurt and a good deal of ground was gained (I did, after all, read books).  If that’s not a triumphal failure, I don’t know what is!

For those who want more detail, I’m sticking a reading list at the bottom of this entry, with links to the Goodreads pages– I think it’s pretty good for someone who doesn’t get more than a non-contiguous half-hour of reading available to him on most days, and it leaves out the manifold repeats of Tintin and Thomas at bed time (although a couple of entries there were used to quell a wakeful lad).  Also, there’s that one criterium above which just has * beside it; a bunch of those books are set in England, a country I have been in only once, briefly and without depth of understanding, and I would very much like to visit it properly.  Before all the interesting bits get washed away by the rain that apparently has forgotten how to stop.


Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

♦    ♦    ♦

Barron, Laird. The Imago Sequence and Other Stories

Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life

de Lint, Charles. The Mystery of Grace

Frye, Northrop. The Educated Imagination (which you should all read NOW)

Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows

Howell, Tom. The Rude Story of English

King, Stephen. Revival

Martin, Andrew. The Lost Luggage Porter
Death on a Branch Line

Ottaviani, Jim. Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology

Pratchett, Terry. Thief of Time

Rankine, John. Moon Odyssey

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Tamaki, Jillian. This One Summer

Tardi, Jacques. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec: Pterror Over Paris / The Eiffel Tower Demon

Washington, Peter (ed.). Ghost Stories

Wells, Barry. The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Wells, Paul. The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006- (that’s not truncated; he was still in office at time of publication)

Willett, Edward. Marseguro


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Morporkia’s Fork at Half-mast.

Posted by Dirck on 13 March, 2015

I had something else in mind for today, but the news yesterday of the passing of one of the greats of modern English literature demands attention.  Do not, by the way, think that I’m following my usual course of humourous hyperbole when I say that.  Terry Pratchett may have written comedy, but he wrote comedy to cut diamonds and redirect the drift of continents.  If you haven’t read any of his stuff, you really should.  Try Good Omens or Night Watch if you want to get to the good stuff right away.  “Good stuff” being relative, of course.

Today’s main film is of Sir Terry himself, and it seems appropriate now all the mysteries are at last made clear to him.  I suspect that, like many of his characters, he will have found that revelation was a little different than he’d expected, but I’m in no hurry to find out for myself.

Those with more moral fibre than I might want to look at this somewhat more on-point and rather longer film.  You might need some hankies.

Now, just to lighten the mood, here’s a tribute to the great municipal animal of Ankh-Morpork:

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini
Today’s ink: Diamine Denim

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Merry {Expletive} Christmas!

Posted by Dirck on 11 December, 2013

Let me quote myself from yesterday’s tiny appearance:

I am all in favour of anything that that puts money in the pockets of Canada Post….

Now let me qualify that– “…apart from massive reductions of service and staff, and rate increases should be kept to a dull roar.”  When I speak of Canada Post, I speak of the people that comprise it rather than the corporate entity.  That entity is apparently a bit of an Anti-Claus, as we have in the news today Canada Post’s announcement of how they mean to address what is described as a perilous collision of cost rises and reduction of traffic.  The announcement itself is here, but let me show the the plan:


Very jolly. I especially enjoy the increase in postage, which is about a 25% rise over the current price; I hear on the radio that single stamps may be going to a full dollar.  This, in my untutored opinion, is not the sort of thing that is going to encourage people to return to traditional mail as a means of communication, the dropping away of which has been cited as one of the causes of Canada Post’s current difficulties.  I would, from my place of gross ignorance, view a massive increase in the price of stamps as effective a treatment for declining amounts of letter-mail as suggesting a daily dozen cigars for miner’s lung.  I am, as I say, not schooled in business, so I’m probably missing something.

Similarly, “Please write often so I have more reason to stagger out in a raging blizzard to check the communal mail box” doesn’t sound like an effective strategy.  I’m one of the strangely pampered one-third that gets home delivery, so I’ll admit there is a tone of personal laziness in any complaints I make about this innovation, but I’ve always thought it was a terrible idea since the “Superbox” was introduced for newly-developed neighbourhoods a couple of decades ago.  Apart from the inconvenience, there is also this– that much centralized other-people’s-stuff is bound to be attractive to both vandals and enterprising thieves.  As someone who regularly has the property of others coming to me in the mail, sometimes quite valuable (commercially and moreso sentimentally), I find that’s rather a concern.  We may also consider the position of Muriel Dodderington, retired lace tatter and part-time allegorical figure, who maintains contact with what remains of her friends and family non-electronically, and who finds walking a block or two on wind-polished ice something of a challenge; mail delivery is a social good.

I’m also quick to look sideways at any cost-cutting measure that looks at the staff as something of an accumulation of barnacles.  “Canada Post has a much higher cost structure than its competitors” seems to me to mean that unlike the private haulage companies (U Pay Sucker and FedExtortion are how I refrequently refer to them) they charge somewhat less for the act of moving your stuff while paying the workers enough to keep them from taking out their frustrations on said stuff.  If we heard that there were going to be some substantial voluntary cuts to the ranks of the management, this might sit a little better.  “Attrition” sounds well enough, of course, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s really so many Posties on the cusp of retirement that it won’t simply develop into yet another enhancement to the numbers of unemployed people.

I shall write a letter to my MP on the matter, which by law is to be carried without charge by Canada Post, to complain about this once I’ve had a little more time to formulate my arguments.  I don’t expect it will bear much fruit, my MP being something of a throw-pillow upon which the Prime Minister props his feet occasionally (and under whose regime “A Mare Usque Ad Mare” is being replaced by “Anything For A Buck” as national motto), but it’s about all I can do other than read Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal again and wish for a von Lipwig to take over here.

Today’s pen: Waterman Phileas
Today’s ink: Diamine Steel Blue

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Posted by Dirck on 7 February, 2013

Detective work was promised, and detective work it is!

Let me establish the mystery first.  On my page for the Waterman Ligne 60, I say the following:

I’m afraid I have very little to say about this model beyond, “Hey, look!  I’ve got one!”…

Production Run: Um… the 1960s?

Cost When New: No data available.

…among other things.  I frequently refer to the difficulties of pinning down information about Waterman pens, so when this bobbed past me I grabbed it like a shot–

Vintage advertising!  Primary source material!  GOOOOOLD!  (click to download a really big PDF of the thing)

Vintage advertising! Primary source material! GOOOOOLD! (click to download a really big PDF of the thing)

I’m not quite as distrustful as Sam Vimes on the matter of clues, or at least not in this context.  I’ve joked in fora that Waterman and Sheaffer have both mounted a decades-long conspiracy to vex we latter-day seekers of hard information, but I don’t actually believe that– clues found won’t, I’m content, have been manufactured to mislead.  So, I’m happy to find this.  Without any digging whatever, I have established that the name of the model is, in fact, “Ligne 60” which was something that I had slight misgivings about.  I can also, with a little digging after an email I got not long ago, sort out the exchange rate and thus the cost when new… but there’s a catch, chronologically speaking.

Working out the exchange rate also calls for a sense of when, and just looking at that ad doesn’t offer any real help.  There is no handy “Vol. X, Issue 11, 1963” at head or foot.  There is also nothing of that sort on the verso which is a page of fairly verbose ads, all in French.  One from Digestif Rennie offering soulagement rapide for maux d’estomac (which I wouldn’t mind giving a shot on days that my abdominal migraine is acting up), another offering relief from malaises de la cinquantaine (most of which, if I’m understanding correctly, I’m quite pleased to be free of), and a large pictorial thing from Chocolat Cémoi of Grenoble posing the question “Avez-vous un ‘hobby’?” and helpfully explaining that last word as a terme anglo-saxon.  Fun to ponder, but not helpful.

Joining these, however, is a cross-word puzzle, and here I find my key to the information trove that is the internet.  Le Mots Croisés de <> is pretty definitive on the matter of which publication I’m dealing with, and Probleme N° 578 is probably connected to the issue.  A quick look at Paris-Match’s own site gives me the date for that issue as 7 May 1960.  Even better, I found while paddling around that the first issue came out on 25 March 1949, and for a weekly N° 578 would have appeared 11.11 years later– which is close enough to early May for me not to trouble taking off my shoes for more careful calculation.

All of which means I’ll have to slightly update my Ligne 60 page pretty promptly.  That’s a great excuse for not getting the Pelikan Souverän page done, and it also allows me to keep out of the way of Chief Inspector Dreyfuss, who seems strangely upset at me for some reason….


Today’s pen: Stipula Passaporto
Today’s ink: De Atramentis Elderberry

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The Ongoing Distraction

Posted by Dirck on 11 April, 2012

I’ve but a moment today, because I am at last finalizing the new vehicle purchase I’ve been on about since February.  I find that I can get a bit of a bargain through the car-selling wing of The Regular Job’s diverse aspects, but it has necessarily been a slow process.  Yesterday, the people needed and the vehicle were all in the same city, and one would have thought that would finish the matter.  However, the fellow representing the car-selling branch said this:

You should just take it home overnight, drive it around, make sure it’s what you really want.

Isn’t that a rare development?  Free use of a rather expensive pile of carefully machined parts!  That statement came very near the end of the lunch hour otherwise taken up with discussing the matter, and thus the rather short and arcane entry.  Terry Pratchett fans will have gotten all the references, of course, and while I will leave Borrowing to terrifyingly powerful and (hopefully) fictional witches, I do have the necessary powers to borrow a vehicle.

Although… that degree of responsibility makes me nervous.  “Nah, I’m not buying this one.  Someone set fire to it last night.”  In any event, this whole affair should be squared away in the next day or so, and I’ll be able to concentrate on the important things in life; pellet cups and sac nipples.

Today’s pen: Parker 75 Insignia (hey, I got my page written in less than a week!)
Today’s ink: Quink black

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Beware the Idler of March

Posted by Dirck on 15 March, 2012

Did I say something yesterday about divulging a dark secret of Parker pens?  I did.  Well, about that….

I have absolutely not been threatened by a carload of burly men wearing Sanford livery.  Not even a little bit.  In point of fact, it is mere laziness that puts off this “revelation.”  You see, I absolutely must include some pictures with that projected item, and taking pictures takes a little bit of effort.  As I had no effort in me last night, I have no pictures.  Monday should see us well supplied in startling, candid shots of some modern Parker pens in the altogether.

Given that as a foundation, I am contemplating the notion of laziness.  Recently I was reading Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures, in which the protagonist is described as a very lazy man.  He is so opposed to making an effort that he has made a point of staying in the peak of muscular physical condition.  This is not a contradiction; it takes more effort to make it through a day if one is out of shape, and that’s not an effort he feels like giving.

This contemplation feeds into a little discussion of the relative merits of diverse kinds of writing instrument on the Fountain Pen Network; someone questions the notion that ONLY fountain pens can write with no more pressure on the paper than their own weight provides.  I accept that there are other pens that can do this trick, but when ball-points are suggested as an option, I balk.  They might make some sort of a mark, but I’m jigged if I can get anything useful out of them, and I’m unwilling to give them that much effort.

So, where does laziness lie?  This declaration of mine that I do not feel like working hard enough to get legible marks our of a ball-point can be seen as indolence of a chronic sort, but is it bought through the acute efforts of maintenance that fountain pens call for: refilling, flushing, training of the hand to not overdo pressure.  A one who prefers the biro might well say, “That sounds like a lot of effort.  All I have to do is uncap the pen.”  Which one of us is the lazy one in this?  I suppose the answer might change depending on whether I agree with Victor Tugelbend on the nature of laziness, and whether I want to claim it or not.

As part of the discussion I mention, I did a side-by-side comparison of Smoothest Pen in the Universe™ with yesterday’s pen, since I happened to have both of them right there handy.  Banging a sheet of paper into a scanner is easier than getting the camera on a tripod and *sigh* switching on the lights on either side of the light tent.  Yep, that’s a lazy guy.  I was able to support the weight of my own arms long enough to get the image up where it can be seen, and you may consider it a companion to the results shown in my first public experiment.  Both samples were written with my common lack of effort when writing, within seconds of each other, and on the same sheet of paper; as you can see, however smooth it might be, it’s still not very forthcoming with the ink:

It’s a lazy pen indeed that wants me to do the work… but that’s just my opinion.  And I don’t know how much effort I’d put into defending it.  Is it nap time yet?

Today’s pen: Parker 180
Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku

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Labour-ious Humour

Posted by Dirck on 5 September, 2011

A merry Labour Day to all.  I am lounging about in pyjamas, engaged in The Great Work of the new website, but in checking the statistics on the current one, I find I have had in the past little while a visitor from Bad Homburg.  I know enough German to be disappointed in myself for chuckling at the intersection of a foreign place name and my own liking for both hats and Terry Pratchett books.  I thought I’d share the laugh and court some censure on this non-working day.

Today’s pen: TWSBI 540 (yes, again)
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 blue-black (still 87% full)

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