syo-ro

“I take pride in using fountain pens. They represent craftsmanship and a love of writing. Biros, on the other hand, represent the throwaway culture of modern society, which exists on microwave ready-meals and instant coffee.”
Fennel Hudson, A Writer’s Year – Fennel’s Journal – No. 3

 

Pilot iroshizuku syo-ro ink (pine tree dew or gray turquoise)

People give me Amazon Gift Cards for Christmas and my birthday – which is a good thing because I can’t hope for anyone to understand my odd and ridiculous tastes. The final box I ordered for my birthday arrived – taking over a month, probably because it was shipped from Japan.

It was a bottle of Pilot brand iroshizuku ink, in the syo-ro color, which is described as pine tree dew or gray turquoise.

It’s a fairly expensive ink, but that’s the idea of a gift card anyway – buy something you really like, but would be too dear for you to buy for yourself.

I wanted a new go-to color of ink and pored over the iroshizuku color charts to try and find the one I like the best – a sisyphean task. I wanted a dark color with subtle shading.

You see, once you start writing with fountain pens, you realize the quality of the writing experience depends on three primary variables. Everybody talks about the pen – people pay big money for fine pens. But the paper you write on is equally important. Some pens do better with some papers. And finally there is the ink.

Not only the color, but the qualities of the ink. Some ink works better in some pens, and the relationship with the ink and the paper is very complex.

Now I had my ink after its long journey on a slow boat. I love the bottle. Its a heavy, curved piece of glass art, with a cool little well at the bottom, to help get the last drops out.

After a little thought, I cleaned out my favorite Parker “51” and loaded it up. The ink and pen go together perfectly. It is a sweet luxury.

Parker “51” loaded with iroshizuki syo-ro ink

What I learned this week, November, 15, 2017

10 Obscure Punctuation Marks

My favorite may be The ElRey Mark – This little two-headed exclamation point should be used when you’re cheery, but not over-the-top excited.

7elrey

I like these a lot better than emojis.


Here’s how the Northaven and White Rock Creek trails might connect

If you don’t bicycle in Dallas – you don’t realize how cool this would be. It would connect two parts of the city that are separated by an effectively unpassable barrier.

White Rock Creek Trail

Northaven Trail

White Rock Creek

The southern terminus of the Cottonwood Creek trail, where it connects with the White Rock Creek Trail. The DART train is crossing White Rock Creek over the trail. This is about where the Northaven Trail could connect – tying a lot of city together.(click to enlarge)


TOP 5 REASONS TO USE A FOUNTAIN PEN

Sheaffer Pens

Sheaffer Pens


What The Hell: Southwest To Expand Live Music On Flights


From Sichuan to Schnitzel, These Are the 8 Spiciest Dishes in Dallas


Complete Streets Come to Life in Dallas

Morning Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza.


The air became hard, it developed edges, surfaces, and corners, like space was filled with huge stiff balloons, slippery pyramids, gigantic prickly crystals, and he had to push his way through it all

From But Does It Float
Works by Aldous Massey
Title: Roadside Picnic

What I learned this week, October 26, 2012

13 Reasons You Should Start Biking To Work

The ponds at Huffhines.

My Commute Home from Work

Since I wrote this blog entry, the weather has cooled off a bit and now I’m able to ride both to and from work. I shoot for about two to three times a week. Now, though, it’s getting dark sooner and pretty soon it’ll be dark when I leave for work and dark when I come home. I have put lights on my bike but I’ll have to think hard about fighting rush hour traffic pre-dawn and post sunset.


Alice Munro is about to have a new book of short stories come out. I’ve always said I think she is the unquestioned master of the form. Her writing is beyond language.

You can read one of the stories, “To Reach Japan” – Here.


This clip is a few years old; I remember the good old days when this is the biggest problem we had to worry about.


Kindle

Call Me Ishmael

My 6,128 Favorite Books

Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder.


TEXAS Tells UN Poll Watchers: Don’t Even Try It


Sheaffer Inlaid Nib

Sheaffer Inlaid Nib

Notes about Notes
Fountain Pens

A surprising number of very technical people have recently re-embraced the fountain pen for everyday writing. They’re drawn to fountain pens not from nostalgia or from a desire for expensive jewelry, but because they enjoy the way the pen feels in their hand — or the way their writing looks on the page.

Sheaffer Triumph Nib

Sheaffer Triumph Nib

Sheaffer Dolphin Nib

Sheaffer Dolphin Nib


It’s nice to see an Oak Cliff Restaurant, Smoke, get this sort of attention. Nice burger too.

Best Bacon Burgers in the US – Dallas – Smoke


 ONN’s Presidential Debate Gives Average Americans Totally Unsupervised Airtime




The Rise of the DFW Brew

Estate Sale – An Orgy of Greed, Voyeurism, and Necrophilia

Candy and I have picked up a new activity/obsession – going to estate sales. I’ve always had a strange enjoyment in poking around garage sales or maybe stopping by a thrift store on my way to somewhere important, but now I’m mainlining it.

I still keep an episode of Hoarders on my DVR and watch it before going to make sure I don’t buy too much stuff. Actually, I’m not that interested in buying anything – it’s the going that’s important. You see, a true estate sale, where the owner of the house and contents is recently deceased, is a summary of a person’s entire life translated into the language of junk. You can walk through the house looking at the piles of dishes, mounds of mementos and knickknacks, and especially, stacks of books – and read the life of the owner. There, spread out on tables with little pieces of tape bearing prices is the history, values, and taste of humans beings – a life… decades of hopes and dreams, successes and failures, prizes and gifts, laid bare for hundreds of casual shoppers to see.

An estate sale is an officially sanctioned orgy of greed, voyeurism, and necrophilia, disguised as bargain hunting.

Today, you don’t have to go cruising around the hood looking for “Estate Sale” signs taped to telephone poles or stapled to stop signs. You don’t have to get out your reading glasses to squint at the classifieds. The Internet will bring you the cornucopia of an estate sale buffet right to your cathode ray tube. There are sites that list the upcoming sales, complete with glorious descriptions and often pages of photographs. There are instant messages to your smartphone, email list servers, and even Twitter accounts all poised to keep you informed about homes full of old crap for sale. So I can sit there with a website, a handful of emails, and Googlemaps and plot out a route to cruise the most interesting looking sales.

One of the unfortunate things that happened was that I hit a gusher on one of the first sales I attended. It’s sort of like getting a big win on a trip to Vegas – you keep thinking this will happen every time. You get a feeling about a person from seeing their possessions and this was a person with too much in common with me. Right off the bat, in the living room, I found a Sheaffer Snorkle Fountain Pen Desk pen on a table… twelve dollars. I scooped it up and carried it around until I bought it. Then, back in the home office room, I found bottles of ink, piles of blank journals, and a stack of calligraphy instruction books. These were priced a bit higher than I wanted to pay.

I told Candy, “This guy had a lot of ink and stuff, I’m surprised he doesn’t have more pens.” She answered, “Didn’t you see the case of pens up at the front.”

Sure enough, the mother lode. There were a handful of European school pens, some Pelikan Piston fillers, a Namiki/Pilot Vanishing Point, a Lamy 2000, and a big, beautiful Montblanc. I picked them up and looked them over – great pens. Unfortunately, the prices were a bit too rich for me so I put them all back.

The Woman running the sale said, “You know, tomorrow at noon, the prices will be cut in half.”

So that gave me a day to think about it. At 12:05, I showed up again and went straight for the case. All the pens were still there. The Montblanc was a great bargain – but that pen is for show and not the sort of thing I’m into. That left the Lamy 2000 and the Vanishing Point. It was a tough choice, I’ve always wanted a Vanishing Point, but I bought the Lamy.

The woman said, “Tomorrow, at four, for the last hour, the prices go to twenty five percent.”

So you know where I was at 4:05 the next day. The pens were all gone. That’s not a surprise – they were a bit overpriced at first, but at fifty percent they were, if not a steal, at least a good value – so they all sold. The place was getting empty – everyone was hauling out everything that wasn’t nailed down. I ventured back into the office room and discovered all the ink and paper were still there. So I scooped up four bottles of Waterman ink, six boxes of various cartridges, some blank writing journals, a metal tin of sketching pencils and accessories and a Lamy leather pen case for ten dollars.

Oh, I love the Lamy 2000. I’m working on my macro photography, I’ll see if I can put some pictures of it up here soon.

Finally, I’d like to talk about a house Candy and I visited this last weekend. It was in a nice area of North Dallas – an established upper-crust area of winding streets and big trees. It was built out in about 1974 – which is actually pretty old for Dallas standards. The house was amazing – not so much for its size, but for its unique floorplan and astonishing flair. The place had over a thousand square feet of “porches.” Every bedroom had its own little private outdoor garden – now all overgrown and rundown, but with echoes of elegance and luxury still clinging from the salad days. The kitchen was piled with setting after setting of beautiful china, crystal, and servingware – there must have been a long series of elegant dinner parties. The whole house was set up for entertaining – thick shag carpets or hand-cut stone tiles. The living room held a monstrous pipe organ – the largest and most elaborate I’ve ever seen outside a church.

The master bedroom was the size of a generous living room and painted a bright lavender. A huge headboard covered in gold leaf leaped from the bed, growing across the wall like the crown of a golden tree. Across the rest of the walls, gilt angels peered from behind gold clouds. The attached bathroom was done in deep dark purple with a gigantic tub rising on a carpeted column in the middle of the room. In every room were piles of statuary, mostly of nude women, and on the walls were hundreds of pieces of art – oddly mixed from obviously valuable originals to tacky 1970-s era hippie posters, framed and under glass.

The house was too big to show in one setting. It will be open again next weekend, with the furnishings on the outside and in the garage for sale. I’ll probably go back for another dose.

I seldom wish I was wealthy, but I’d love to drop a half-million or so for that house, then spend another couple hundred grand bringing it back to its former elegance – while updating it into the proper century.

Such dreams.

We did buy something from amid all that faded opulence… a two dollar microwave omelet pan for Lee to take back to school with him.

The Idea Pomodoro

For a while now I have been working on using the Pomodoro Technique to improve the amount of work I can get done in a period of time, help control stress, and reduce procrastination.

The basic idea of the Pomodoro Technique is to break a workday up into set units of time using a simple kitchen timer or equivalent:

1. Choose a task to be accomplished

2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)

3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper

4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)

5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

The real benefit of the technique comes when you get in the habit of examining the Pomodoros and see what you were able to accomplish. You can set up a feedback loop where you see what you are getting done, improve your implementation of the technique, apply the improvement, and then see how it works.

I have a way to go before I am a master of the technique. The most vexing difficulty is managing interruptions. But I’ll keep experimenting and plugging away.

What I want to talk about today is the idea of a Specialty Pomodoro. This is a Pomodoro sized and timed chunk of time… 25 minutes, that are set up and used for a specific purpose, rather than simply trying to peel stuff of off the daily todo list.

There might, for example, be a Brainstorm Pomodoro, where a problem has presented itself and you sit there for one Pomodoro and pump out and write down as many possible or harebrained solutions as you can, with no self-editing until the timer has dinged. There might be a Writing Pomodoro – obviously used to pump out text. Or maybe a Plot Point Pomodoro where possible plot points are generated, or a Character Pomodoro… or a Character Name Pomodoro, or a Setting Pomodoro – the list can grow very quickly.

I have come up with a concept of what I call an Idea Pomodoro – which is where I sit down with a Staples Bagasse Composition Book, start the timer going, and simply write down what I want to do, as quickly and with as little thought as possible, until I get the ding.

The purpose of this is to clear my head. There is that feeling of too many ideas bouncing around, too many plans, too little time. This helps clear everything out so I can get back to work. Once an idea is in the book, it is safe, I won’t lose it, it won’t float off to be stolen and used by somebody else. Of course, I have always carried 3×5 cards or a notebook to record sudden ideas, and that’s a good thing (they can be transferred into the Pomodoro) but I found it wasn’t enough. Doing this for a full, intense, Pomodoro feels like a spring cleaning in my brain.

Pomodoro

An Idea Pomodoro - timer, pen, composition book.

My Pomodoro timer is a metal kitchen timer – it feels more substantial and accurate that the tomoto-shaped ones so many people use. I do recommend using the physical timer rather than a computer program – the ticking of the timer seems important and having a real object in the place of a string of bits adds a certain gravitas. The paper in the composition book is thin and you can see the ink on the back side through the paper. Sometimes I use both sides, sometimes I don’t. It doesn’t seem to be important one way or the other. That’s a Pilot Prera fountain pen in the picture.

I like to use the composition book instead of a lined form because I can keep going as long as I need, keeping the limit being time, rather than space. I do find that I can easily fill four or five pages of stuff. Also, I can keep my “book of ideas” with me – all in one place, so I can look at them later and evaluate, act, or discard as need be.

I do use a little code for a hierarchy. Big, top-level ideas are marked with a tick “-“. Smaller, sub-ideas under the big one are marked with an “o”. If I have to go to a third level, I use a hand-drawn asterisk… which doesn’t happen very often.

Later, after my five-minute break or even days later, I can look over the ideas and start building projects or to-do lists. Of course, a lot of the ideas are too ambitious, or too much work, or just plain stupid – and have to be discarded. But that’s cool; I have written it down and can come back to it in the future if the situation changes.

How often do I do an Idea Pomodoro? As often as I need to. It is a spring cleaning of my brain so I do one whenever things begin to feel cluttered. When I find myself jumping from idea to idea and having trouble settling down I know it’s time to carve out the half-hour (including the five minute break) and dump the excess brain dust bunnies out onto a piece of paper.

Does this seem anal – too much work, too much navel gazing? Much ado about nothing? It really isn’t. Once you’ve set everything up it works smoothly and without very much attention. You do get like Pavlov’s dog – the ticking of the timer becomes associated with doing the work.

Speaking of which… there’s the ding. Time for me to take a little break.

Talk to ya later.

Setting up my secretary

This has been a terribly frustrating weekend. I had a lot I wanted to do… too much I had to get done – but I have been spinning my wheels. First of all, I feel exhausted. A lot of that is because of the unending heat, I’m sure.

But mostly I feel energized by accomplishment and that has been in short supply. Too much time working on repairs and not enough getting things fixed. Candy’s laptop is hosed (yes, it is a Vista machine and yes, it sucks) and that is causing me all kind of headaches. I can handle one problem, usually, but when multiple screwups come screaming down at once it all coalesces into a hopeless shitstorm of helplessness… you get the idea.

There is only one little thing that makes me smile this weekend. I have been successful in getting my secretary set up like I want it and that is good.

I bought a secretary for my office room a little over a month ago and I’ve been working on setting it up as a writing station. It was good for using my pens and doing some note-taking and hadwriting, but I kept wanting to type up work and would have to leave the secretary and walk over to my laptop – back and forth. I needed computer access – without taking up much space and without taking away digital capability from anywhere else.

So I dug out Candy’s old Dell Latitude D600. It’s what? About seven years old now? That’s ancient in computer terms. We bought it off of eBay back in the day. It’s way too weak sauce to run Windows anymore, but I have Linux on it, and it chugs along, doing what I need to do. I drilled a hole in the back of the secretary for the power cord and it sits folded up, back in the shelving unit, out of the way, until I need to pop it out and open it up.

Since I want to use it for writing, I did some thinking about software. Maybe I’m finally turning into an old fart – but I still miss typing into a console-based word processor (I still think Wordperfect 5.1 – the old white-text-on-blue was the best environment for pure writing). There are plenty of console-based text editors for Linux, but no full-featured word processor.

I found through LifeHacker and a book from the library, Ubuntu Kung Fu, (don’t know what I found first) that I could install a little dos emulator and then run a free version of Microsoft Word for Dos from Microsoft, full screen, no problemo.

If nothing else, the idea of getting something free from Microsoft…. So I did the work, and there it is. Old-school. But it is pretty cool, really. It prints, it saves… no distracting Internet – but it even has text-based mouse support (that little square cursor jumping across the page). Easy on the eyes, no tiny delay while you are typing, no onscreen fonts, formatting… nothing, nothing between my fingers and the pure words.

My secretary setup

My secretary setup

Here’s my setup – you can see the old laptop up and running Microsoft Word for DOS. To the left, I have a stack of Moleskines (notes and such). Above that is a cubby with a bottle of Noodlers Black ink (for the desk pen), a box of 3×5 cards (hidden back in the shadow) and a few spare fountain pens (A white Pilot Prera and some Sheaffer Snorkels). On the right are the current writing books I’m working through and a Staples Bagasse composition book with a desk pen set on top. That’s an Esterbrook desk pen in the Eight-Ball base (bought the pen and base separately at Canton – put a new bladder and lever into the pen). These are common pens from back in the day, but they write really well and have interchangeable nibs. I’m using a 9314M medium stub nib in there right now.

Pen Porn

We all have our addictions. I don’t think you can get away from them. I don’t think you want to get away from all of them.

Addictions are what make life worth living. Giving in to them is the spice that makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning (unless, of course, you are addicted to sleeping late). The trick is to choose your addictions.

There are addictions that are always bad. You see these on Intervention. Crack, for example… I think I can say that this is an addiction that is always bad. So don’t give in to your inner crackhead, channel him somewhere else.

Then there are addictions that might not be always bad, but are inappropriate, overly embarrassing, or catastrophic for you, personally. If I became addicted to anything overly expensive – say fast cars, supermodels, or gambling – I would be in big trouble.

So being the useless geek that I am, I tend toward useless, geeky addictions. One of the most obvious ones I’ve picked up lately is a rather silly obsession with fountain pens. I’ll talk more about that later, but today we will simply take a look at today’s single fix – and table the larger questions for another day.

Over that Internet thing… from that online commerce site that sort of rhymes with flea spray… I bought a cheap macro lens adapter for my camera. I did this for the sad purpose of being able to wallow in my stupid addiction in one more ridiculous performance method – I want to take pictures of pens.

Pen Porn.

And we’ll leave it at that. Judge if you must, it makes no difference to me. It is an addiction.

It came in the mail – an unmarked, brown paper package. I eagerly unwrapped my simple purchase, stuck it on the front of the lens, and put together a quick assemblage of tripod, desk lamps, and a cut up cylinder of translucent plastic (an old cover for a stack of blank DVDs) as a light tent.

I have a lot to learn about macro photography. I have a book. I’ll get better at it. But, of course, it is porn, so quality isn’t all that important, is it?

Today, let’s take a look at three different kinds of Sheaffer Nibs.

The nib is not only the most important part of a fountain pen, to a great extent, the nib is the fountain pen. It is the critical piece of hardware that conveys the ink from the pen body and deposits it onto the paper. Most people are familiar with a nib as a curved, triangular piece of metal with a narrow slit in the middle. Look close, and you will see a little rounded tip on the end that moves over the paper.

And that’s about it. Over the long decades, however, there have been many nib innovations and variations. I’ll take some pictures later of my Parker 51’s (if this raises the hair on the back of your neck, God help you… it does mine) but today we’ll look at three examples in the history of the Sheaffer nib.

First, we have the conical Triumph Nib. This is probably my favorite nib of all time. It is as stiff as a nail, but is very smooth and reliable, and it looks cool.

Sheaffer Triumph Nib

Sheaffer Triumph Nib

This is a Sheaffer two tone, touchdown filling pen, probably from around 1950 or so. I bought this one from a grubby pile of crap under the trees at Canton, rebuilt it, and now it writes like a champ.

The Triumph Nib ruled Sheaffer’s top of the line pens until the end of the 1950’s and the emergence of the Pen For Men (I do not have a Pen For Men, or PFM, it is really the only pen I really lust after. They were not very popular when they came out and are therefore rare, collectible, and expensive today. I simply can’t afford one) and its Inlaid Nib. The Inlaid nib dominated the Sheaffer line from 1959 to the present.

Sheaffer Inlaid Nib

Sheaffer Inlaid Nib

This is a humble example of an Inlaid Nib. It is from a small Imperial from about 1965 – 1970. It is a bit different because it has a “V” shaped triangular cut-out, rather than the longer diamond shaped one. It is a small, cartridge filling pen, nothing fancy, but it writes really well. I have some orange-colored translucent ink in it, you can see a bit of ink on the nib.

Finally, we have an oddball. This is a Sheaffer “Dolphin” nib. You can see the odd hump that gives it its name. The Dolphin is simply a cheap imitation of the more tony inlaid nib. It is a design that is supposed to look like an inlaid nib, but is really an ordinary nib with a bit of plastic and metal stuck on top of it to make it look better.

Sheaffer Dolphin Nib

Sheaffer Dolphin Nib

It may be cheap, but it works fine, this pen, again, is a very smooth and reliable writer. It is a cartridge fill. Candy gave me a touchdown filling Dolphin nib desk pen from an antique store in Granbury for Father’s Day – it is waiting for me to restore it – maybe this weekend. I love touchdown filling pens.

Sheaffer Pens

Sheaffer Pens

What is a touchdown filling pen? You’ll have to wait. More porn to come.