June 22nd, 2005

bear by san

(no subject)

Day Nine: My coughing was keeping the cats awake, and the boy's snoring and the dog's running dreams were keeping me awake, so I decided I might as well take a shower and do something more productive than lying in bed gagging on my postnasal drip.

Other than that, honestly, I feel fine.

So, seeing as I'm up three and a half hours ahead of schedule and already showered and dressed, I probably have some time to neep a little while the tea water boils, don't you think? And seeing as how I promised a couple of people a post about fountain pens, here it goes.

I come by the fountain pen thing genetically. My mother's been using fountain pens all my life, and I started with them in high school. And they are, unmistakably, a superior creature. I spend hours every day writing--long-hand and keyboard--and at one point I did nearly all of my fiction writing and poetry longhand. Back in the dim mists of history, lo, when I didn't even own a word processor.

I also have grip strength and fine control deficits in my hands--in part because of the time I spend on a keyboard, in part from lingering damage from a car accident about five years ago (I got broadsided at a stop sign, and was fortunate to walk away with mostly nothing but soft tissue damage, but I have never quite regained my grip strength), in part because of a bad fall in 1993 that screwed up my left shoulder pretty good (separated shoulder that wasn't diagnosed until I had the spinal X-rays after that car accident--we did mention I have a high pain tolerance? I, um, didn't notice, and my GP chalked the pain I developed a couple of years later as bursitis from a desk-job), and in part because of other things. I'm fortunate not to have developed any serious RSI (yet), which considering I've been a reporter, a typesetter, a fiction writer, a documentation geek, and a news summarist, and most of my relationships are carried on largely by email because I loathe telephones, is pretty amazing.

None of which explains why I like fountain pens so much. But they're all contributing factors.

jdparadise asked if I understood why somebody would spend $2,000.00 for a pen. And, frankly, I don't. But I do understand why somebody would spend $100.00 for a pen. The same reason you'd spend $100.00 for a good kitchen knife: because it makes a difference. Because cooking with a good knife or writing with a good pen is not a matter of conspicuous consumption (which is not to say that you can't be ostentatious with your knives or pens, because of course you can, and every time I see a high-end ball point I flinch, because dud, you spent how much money on a pen that writes like crap for why?) but is about work carried out with balanced tools that are aesthetically satisfying.

I spend a lot of time with a pen in my hand. I may as well enjoy the experience.

I'm generally not interested in ostentatious fountain pens anyway. The ones encrusted with whatever, or signed by whomever, or limited edition this, or platinum-plated that. (Though there's a silver filigreed Cross, I think it is, that I've seen in catalogues recently that's a thing of complete beauty, but what would I do with the damned thing? Stick it in my jeans pocket to get banged up on my keys? Not likely.) What I do like is a good, heavy, preferably metal-barreled pen with a comfortable girth (not these great big wonking things, but not a skinny little pen either) and a flexible nib with good ink flow and regulation and a crisp, dark line.

What I like about fountain pens is the textural variation of the line and the kinetics of using one--the glide of the nib across the paper, the responsiveness of the ink flow, the attention to pressure. They feel good to write with, and the writing they leave on the page is beautiful. I like a good, hard-working pen that can stand up to a little abuse. (See above, stuffed in pockets.)

Of all the fountain pens I've owned (and I did used to tend to lose them, though I have thankfully grown out of that mostly--now that I don't work in a big office or cart them around a college campus) the ones I've liked best have been Crosses, Watermans, or Mont Blancs. I've never owned but have gotten to use a Pelikan once or twice, and as I mentioned to docdad2 in comments recently, I currently am coveting their M215 model, which is a not-terribly-expensive pen that has all the qualities I admire in a fountain pen. As I was saying to hernewshoes, I may buy myself one when the check comes in (Actually, they're going for pretty reasonable prices on ebay right now from somebody in Germany). *g* (I have a one-fountain-pen-per-novel-sale deal worked out with myself. What the hell: it's a concrete reward, and suitably symbolic. And I don't get Christmas bonuses in this business. Which means I could theoretically buy that, and the Levenger Titan, and still owe myself two pens...)

Anyway, on to the neep, since handworn asked what I use.

I inherit a lot of slightly damaged pens from my mom, and the ones I can repair, I get to keep. And I buy most of my pens secondhand, or discontinued. So this doesn't represent quite the financial outlay it might seem--and amortized over twenty-five years or so, it's not all that bad. (God, am I really that old?)

I've never had a Waterman I didn't like. Anybody looking for a First Fountain Pen (gateway drug!) could do a lot worse than a Waterman Phileas. They're inexpensive, attractive, comfortable in the hand, write beautifully... and, unfortunately, do not have the most durable nibs or bodies around. One good whack on something at the wrong angle, and it's all over. (Please note, my definition of "a good whack" includes activities up to and including using the pen for self-defense. Yes, I have done this. They're a very nice size for it, and most mean people will leave you alone if you whack them in the sternum with a blunt object.)

But man, nice pen for the price, though I do not have one currently. And I cannot fault Waterman's customer service.

I really like the Waterman Laureat, too. I'm on my... third one, I think, and it's my favorite of my current pens. They're just about indestructible, but they will get stolen off your desk like nobody's business.

I have a Waterman Silk, too, which was one of the pens I bought myself when I sold the trilogy. It writes beautifully, and it's a lovely size and just an all-around beautiful pen. (I wish I'd gotten the fuchsia one rather than the green, but I didn't know about the Scardown cover colors yet when I bought it. *g*) They've been discontinued, I think, and I bet I know why: the first one I bought came with a hairline crack alongside the nib that bled ink all over my hands, and the replacement (no questions asked--see "customer service" comment above: they also replaced a Laureat I had many years ago when the lacquer bubbled off) developed a similar crack within a couple of months. Being too lazy to call up and complain a second time, I patched it with a dab of Superglue. (Owning fountain pens is also good for your mechanical abilities.) It's worked fine ever since, but I could also complain that the barrel is the wrong shape for most standard converters, or long-standard cartridges. It takes a Mont Blanc cartridge fine, though.

And did I mention how beautifully it writes?

I had a Waterman of some sort--a black skinny metal barreled pen--that saw me all the way through college before I killed it. It was sort of a zombie pen: it spent a lot of time clipped into notebooks and tossed in backpacks, and bits kept dropping off. I think I still have the corpse around somewhere. Probably next to the undead Mont Blanc. (see below.)

I've had three Cross pens too (the first one was a gift from netcurmudgeon, a green Townshend, I think, and I still wish I new what happened to it. It seems to have vanished when I was moving. Oh, I mourn that pen.) and loved them all. The one I have now is a brown lacquer ATX, I think the model is called? The new one, that doesn't look like a Cross. It's a brass barreled pen with a steel nib, beautiful ink flow, and the one I tend to carry around in my pocket everywhere despite the fact that Cross cartridges are a pain in the butt to find in Vegas (fountain pens hate this climate; they dry out regularly), and that it has a tendency to leak when filled with a converter. (fountain pens also have personalities.)

If I ever needed, Walter-Mitty-like, to replace a piston in a lifesaving piece of a equipment such as a respirator, this is the fountain pen for the job.

I've had...two Mont Blancs that worked (one a graduation gift that I lost when I was tossed off a Morgan gelding one fine September day; I also popped my hip out, but it was the pen that hurt) and one that's in a drawer around here somewhere that I've never been able to fix. If I find it, maybe I'll send it to them and see if they can save it, because it's beyond my means. (It looks like the nib got slammed in a door. Sometimes they can be wiggled back into functionality when they get bent--I had a secondhand Waterman that had, no kidding, plier marks on the nib and which wrote just fine--but this one was beyond my means.) Both the pens that worked were the skinnier version of the Meisterstuck (forgive my lack of umlauts), and I do not like the fat ones, frankly. I have big hands for a girl, but they're still girl hands, and a pen that's three quarters of an inch thick or whatever they are is uncomfortable.

Mont Blancs cost a fortune, though, and I'm frankly not sure they're enough nicer than Watermans to justify the difference in price. They're nice, all right. But not that nice. Although sometimes you can find them cheap, secondhand.

I have two Parkers right now, and like neither one of them as well as I'd like to like them, to paraphrase my birthday hobbit. One is a pen I bought new because I loved the green and copper mottled body, but that's given me nothing but fuss, though it seems to be perhaps finally breaking in a year later--though the nib still scratches and I'm threatening to give it to truepenny if it doesn't learn to behave--and the other one is a hand me down that's lovely and writes beautifully for about a page before drying up and having to be capped and whacked against the notebook to get the ink flowing again. There's an obstruction inside the nib somewhere that I can't seem to get rid of, though I've taken it apart and soaked it in everything from white vinegar to soapy water to jewelry cleaner. (That biodegradable stuff that smells like bananas works really great on fountain pen nibs.)

I also have a Sheaffer (I've never liked Sheaffers, except for one I had in high school ages ago) that was a hand-me-down. It's a nice enough pen, but meh. I hate their cartridges. And the pens use too much ink, too fast, and it feathers like mad on even slightly absorbent paper. And I have a banged-up plastic "Diplomat" (never heard of them; some company in Germany?) with a cracked cap that writes okay, but I hate the way it feels in my hand. Also, a beautiful old Empire that was a gift from tanaise, that might someday write again, if I get the corrosion off the nib and get the stuff inside that rattles when you shake it out, and replace the bladder.

So no, I really don't need more pens. But I will probably keep collecting them. (Is nine seven a collection?)

Anyway, that's what I use. And as for why I use them--well, if I'm going to use a tool three hours a day, it should be a tool I like (I still do a lot of note-taking and even bits of drafts in longhand) and that gives me pleasure to handle. And it makes infinitely more sense to me to buy a good tool than a tool that kind of sucks and isn't nice to use. (Like a ten cent Bic. I mean, have you tried to write with those things? Uniball roller balls are okay, though--they're real ink pens, if cheap, and they write like real ink pens. Ball point ink is the evil.)

And oo. That looks like lightning. I think I'll post this now.


In other news, I found it really interesting that everybody who commented on the "justice" links commented on the Mississippi civil rights murder trial, and not the boy scout recovered alive in Utah after a critical case of adolescent dumbass.

Kids. To the parents out there, I salute you, each and every one, and I have to say it's amazing you get any of them to adulthood, considering how hard they try to thwart you. Go team preservation of the species. Rah.
bear by san

BPAL: Fallen

The BPAL imp order came. I figure I'll work through them one a day, in order not to overwhelm my senses.

Today's, in honor of the seemingly endless climax of Whiskey & Water (which is only going to get longer, because I'm not sure exactly how much writing I'll get done during SFRA) I'm wearing:


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No cats could be located for comment.
  • Current Music
    Booth & the Bad Angel - Dance Of The Bad Angels
bear by san

(no subject)

Progress notes for 22 June 2005:

Whiskey & Water

New Words: 3410
Total Words: 146,148 / 162,250
Notecards burninated/added/remaining: 0 / 0 / 6
Pages: 649

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
162,250 / 170,000

*sneaks a little bit more room, because the carnage is progressing at great word count--but not in a stately fashion; there's just a lot of carnage*
Reason for stopping: Merlin the Magician just knifed somebody.
Mammalian Assistance: Signy was very snuggly earlier, and Paladin had to be on my feet.
Stimulants: Tea!
Exercise: None
Mail: nomail
Today's words Word don't know: cotehardie, gules
Tyop du jour: no more than the flick of her wrists raising her him
Darling du jour: n/a
Books in progress, but not at all quickly: Kristine Smith, Code of Conduct; Richard Overy, Russia's War: A History of the Soviet War Effort, 1941-1945
Interesting research tidbits of the day: n/a
Other writing-related work: n/a
  • Current Music
    Pat Green - Threadbare Gypsy Soul
bear by san

BPAL: Moscow

Well, I came home from work with greasy hair, the price for showering at 3 am, and decided that since I had showered I could try another BPAL imp. Having tried a dark woody oil, I figured I'd try a light floral this time.

A brief survey of the options lit me on:

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Minority Opinions:

Boy: "I guess that's nice."

Dogs: Signy thinks it's something to lick. Paladin thinks if I am going to be putting body parts in his face, they should be used to pet him.

Cats: Marlowe snubbed me.

So there. Moscow does smell like roses. *sticks tongue out at specficrider.

kelliem also tested this one today.
  • Current Music
    Leonard Cohen - In My Secret Life