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 24, 2014

iam1

12 DALLAS NEIGHBORHOODS, RANKED BY THEIR FOOD AND DRINK

Bishop Arts District, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Bishop Arts District, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)



Lee Harvey's

Lee Harvey’s

The Finest Dive Bars in Dallas, Mapped For Your Drinking Pleasure

Oh, man – a list of Dallas Dive Bars… and a map! I feel a bike ride coming on – planning the route in my brain.


Sheaffer Triumph Nib

Sheaffer Triumph Nib

When Buying Fountain Pens, Splurging (a Little) Is Totally Worth It

pfm


10 American Authors’ Homes Worth Visiting

Cool list… including one I think I’ll check out next week in New Orleans. Still, my favorite isn’t on the list – I love Robert E. Howard’s modest home in Cross Plains, Texas.


New outdoor concert venue debuts in downtown Dallas Friday


15 Tiny Texas Towns That Are Totally Worth The Trip


Review: “Fortress,” an Homage to Brooklyn Gone By, Opens at The Public

Lee and I saw this musical when it premiered here in Dallas at the Wyly. It’s fun to watch it work its way toward Broadway.



8 TIMES PHYSICS BROKE

What I learned this week, November 23, 2012

My dream is to some day write something that shows up on this list:

The 40 most gruesome deaths in literature

Blood Meridian is my “favorite” – if that’s the right word.

The fates of The Kid and Judge Holden are irrevocably intertwined. Although Holden slaughters The Kid (by now The Man) in an outhouse, we’re spared the repugnant details. We’re not spared the reactions of those that spy the hideous scene. The Man’s death was not a quick, nor was it a pretty affair.


This man is my hero.

When I watch that video, it’s amazing how many of the things that make Dallas livable are a direct product of this guy’s work.

One thing I thought interesting is that, as an example of what Dallas has that is bad – he showed a photo of the High Five interchange. What he didn’t know/mention is that underneath that giant monstrosity is a really nice bicycle trail. When they built the High Five, they thought seriously about providing alternative transport and added a way to cross both 635 and 75 – two of the frustrating barriers to alternative transport in our area.

It’s also a pretty darn impressive route to ride – along a little urban creek with almost a billion dollars worth of five layers of roadway stretching upwards hundreds of feet overhead.

The problem was that the cities on either side didn’t provide the support to build access to the High Five trail for years after it was built. Now it’s connected, but not as well as it should be.


20 Small Things In Life That Are Absolutely Delightful


IT’S TIME TO REFLECT WELL ON DALLAS:

A CALL TO ACTION

Over the past 14 months, as this issue became known and stories about the damage Museum Tower is doing to its neighbors have appeared locally and nationally, many of you have asked us what you can do to encourage a positive resolution. If you live in the city of Dallas, I would ask you to make your Dallas city council representative aware of your opinion, whether by letter, email, or telephone. If you live outside of the city and care about Dallas’ cultural institutions voicing your support and opinion to our elected officials is also welcome. The leadership of Museum Tower needs to recognize their responsibility to our community, and your council representatives can play an important role in resolving this matter.

I’d like to reaffirm that we at the Nasher are advocates for the development of the Arts District and support the goal of Museum Tower to add residencies to this neighborhood. Ray Nasher has given our community an incredible gift by building an unparalleled museum in the heart of the Dallas Arts District and making his extraordinary collection accessible to all. The Nasher is an invaluable educational, cultural and economic resource for the people of Dallas and visitors from around the world and we need your support and your voices to ensure its future contributions to the region.

With thanks, as ever, for your interest and support,|
Sincerely,
Jeremy Strick
Director
Nasher Sculpture Center

If you would like to share your thoughts please contact support@nashersculpturecenter.org

The deadly solar rays burning down from the Museum Tower onto the Klyde Warren Park. The tower builders say this is not a problem, but take my word for it, it was nasty.

This bright shadow on the wall of the Nasher sculpture garden is not cast by the sun, but by the reflection off the Museum Tower.


Why are fountain pen sales rising?

Why? Because they are cool, that’s why.

You might expect that email and the ballpoint pen had killed the fountain pen. But sales are rising, so is the fountain pen a curious example of an old-fashioned object surviving the winds of change?

For many people, fountain pens bring back memories of school days full of inky fingers, smudged exercise books and piles of pink blotting paper.

But for others, a fat Montblanc or a silver-plated Parker is a treasured item. Prominently displayed, they are associated with long, sinuous lines of cursive script.

…..

Sharon Hughes, a buyer for John Lewis, says people relish returning to solid, traditional objects to make sense of a difficult and complex world.

“They are an old-fashioned thing but people like the personal touch. It is nice for things to be handwritten and not having everything via email,” she says.

According to Eva Pauli, from German manufacturer Lamy, the digitisation of everyday life has led to a change in writing by hand.

“Writing is becoming more and more exclusive and personal. This will probably be the reason that some people speak of a comeback of the fountain pen,” she says.

Sheaffer Pens

Sheaffer Pens


Portland’s cargo bike love and expertise spreads to Texas


Fake

You all know (or should know) that I have a weakness for and love of fountain pens. I am primarily a “user” rather than a “collector” – but still appreciate an aged and well-done writing instrument, as long as it has a nib.

I was looking at Amazon.com for some stuff and, off in the corner, I saw an ad that caught my eye. Usually I ignore web ads, but this one seemed aimed right at me.

It looked like The Parker Pen company, the venerable company that over the years has produced such legendary and wonderful fountain pens such as the Vacumatic and the Parker “51” has come up with a new pen – maybe some sort of advanced nib, or a revolutionary filling system. I was stoked.

So I clicked through the ad to the Parker Ingenuity, one of their “5th ink technology” pens. Something didn’t quite look right. So I did some digging and research and it didn’t take long for me to figure it out.

This wasn’t a fountain pen at all. It’s like a felt pen, with a metal hood stamped around it to make it look like a fountain pen.The actual writing surface is replaced with a new refill. It even has non-functional ribs to look like the ridges on a fountain pen feed. A typical model costs a little bit under two hundred dollars. It is obviously aimed at people that want to look like they carry a fountain pen – they want the cachet – but that don’t want inky fingers.

I know that you are going to get ink on your hands or worse when you carry a fountain pen. A pen with a nib is considered a “controlled leak” and I’ve learned to wipe off the pen and clean the inside of the cap when a pen has been lugged around where it can get a shock and shake ink out into the cap. Flying is a real problem – the reduced air pressure can cause a pen to spew ink (I carry an empty pen, an airtight case, and extra cartridges).

So I fully understand someone that wants to carry, for example, a rollerball – sometimes I think of it myself – though I say no… it seems unclean somehow. What bugs me is that they make it look like a fountain pen. A triangle with a slit in it is not a nib – a good nib is a wonderful piece of design, engineering, and manufacture. It is a delicate mechanism of steel, gold, and iridium designed to deliver a carefully controlled stream of ink in a smooth flow to a piece of paper.

A felt pen is useful and deserving of its existence – but don’t try to hide it behind a stamped piece of sheetmetal.

Oh, one other point – I am not a fan of pens that have metal sections – the part right in back of the nib, the place where your fingers grip. I don’t like the feel of cold chrome. Warm plastic, rubber, or ebonite is a better writing grip.

Now that I’ve ranted a bit… if anyone actually wanted to buy me one of those… well, that would be different.

It would be a gift.

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.