Friday, January 31, 2014

We Need More Field Trips, a Prelude

Moss Beach, California

I had the chance to get away from the office yesterday and help chaperone my son's high school biology class to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, just a little south of San Francisco. Despite the mild threats of rain that never came through, we had a fine day out, sliding around on the rocks, checking out various sea critters exposed at the low tide, and likely sending a poor red octopus into therapy by the collective and excited shouting of about 50 boys all pointing and bellowing "OCTOPUS!"

I tried my hand at a little journaling to pass the time on the rides down and back and may transcribe the notes here soon. A bouncing bus full of chattering teenagers may not be the ideal environment to Think Deep Thoughts, but now I have a new appreciation for the kinds of life that hangs along our coast, and how they've adapted to the battering tides.

I also have a deeper appreciation for high school teachers and the battering they get each day at work. As wonderful as it was to get out from the desk and into the fresh air, there's something to be said for the quiet and relative calm of my day job. I imagine Mssrs. Adney and Polt are leaning back in their chairs now, noddling sagely. My salt-sprayed hat is off to you gentlemen. I have to admit that I got a little unhinged on the ride home, sitting on a too-small schoolbus seat, staring at the miles of brake lights between me and home.

I wouldn't have traded the day for anything, though. We need more field trips in our lives.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Daily doubts

(Warning: pen geekery ahead)

20140127 pencast

I did turn up a Pilot Knight that I'd forgotten about, and realize that a Parker Latitude has gone missing. Hmmm. Also, various Sheaffer calligraphy pens dating from the time when my ambitions outweighed my skills or patience, an all-too-frequent happenstance these days. I realize that I've tended towards pens that use the "standard" (international-end) cartridges, since I have a couple of converters around that fit and will let me use bottled ink. The pens that have their own proprietary systems -- Parker, Pilot, Sheaffer -- tend to get kicked into the back of the drawer once their supplied cartridge goes dry.

So, I know for certain that I'll be getting some blunt-tipped syringes to allow me to refill old cartridges, and/or pick up brand-specific converters to let me press these orphans into use. But that's the only amount of certainty I have right now. At the moment, I'm waffling mightily among the Lamy 2000 and the Namiki Vanishing Point, though the VP may win between these two, based purely on the descriptions of feel. The other one in the running is a Pelikan M200 or 205, because oooooh, piston-fill and oooooh, swappable nibs and so on. You can't beat the ease of refilling a piston-fill pen, with no mucking around with cartridges or converters or syringes or any of that.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Forget-me-not at the home store

One of those pre-printed, antique-style home decor items. This appears to be nearly identical to this source, and perhaps it will become standard piece of clip art like this old Olympia that I've since seen on rubber stamps for sale at the craft store. Has anyone in the 'sphere started amassing a collection of old advertising art like this?

The assembly is certainly a fiction, since the text underneath the typewriter appears to be copy from a gardening catalog advertising Forget-me-nots.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Daily Carry?

20140122 pencast

Much as I love the character that my current dailies have -- brassing and so on -- there's no mistake that they were made cheaply as part of a gift set, the writing-instrument equivalent of giving someone a duck-shaped wickerwork basket full of decorative soaps*. I'm leaning towards the Safari for its range of colors and its low cost: I won't feel too bad about letting one knock around in my bag or tossing it in my jacket pocket. But I'm not set on the idea by far.

Speak up, pen-nuts. I know there's a few in our number. At worst, I can blow everything on Noodler's ink.

* This is the standard baseline in our household for comparing gifts given unthinkingly to another person. "Sure, it's bad, but is it soap-in-a-duck bad?"

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Personal Touch

20140113 pencast pt1

20140113 pencast pt2

20140113 pencast pt3

We're trying various things at home, including having my daughter type her Christmas thank-you notes on the same Smith-Corona she used on last year's Typewriter Day. That seems to be a big help, since she can focus less on forming the letters and the mechanics of holding the pen properly, and can pause to check spelling before she commits the letters to the page. We'll see if it becomes part of our homeschool toolkit. We also picked up a Pelikan "Pelikano Junior" pen for her to try with her handwriting time. It has a grip that subtly enforces the triangle grasp.

It's interesting to me that we're combining "old school" tools in her schooling, along with modern options like handwriting-practice apps and a Franklin speller. Very holistic-Californian, no?

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Closer Look

The slow-motion collection diaspora continues, as the Silver-Reed travel machine is rehomed to Cynthia, one of the attendees of the recent Bay Area type-in, and keeper of the super-sparkly Smith Corona...

Type-In at California Typewriter in Berkeley CA Dec 27 2013

Here's the Silver-Reed, back in the day:

Silver-Reed 750 "Fast Spacer"

The adoption process resulted in me pulling out the travel machines in advance, as well as the three portables I still have around. In the end, only the Silver-Reed walked out the door, but I'm always pleased to pass on a machine to a new home, especially locally, since it takes out the stress of shipping.

While I had the machines out, I remembered that the Signature 100 travel machine (yet another Japanese-made model) was ribbon advance issues. Specifically, the advance wasn't -- the plastic cogs that lie underneath the ribbon spools were not advancing, though there were some suspiciously flappy-looking springs in their vicinity that may simply have come detached. It's a condition I first noticed during NaNoWriMo "auditions" back in 2012.

Here's the 100:

Signature 100 Typewriter

After I said good-bye to Cynthia and before I packed up the machines, I vowed to give the 100 a closer look. Some fiddling around with a magnifying lens and a dental pick, a little squinting, and the luck of finding a similar spring hookup nearby meant that this annoying issue was fixable in all of ten minutes. I'm not sure how permanent my "repair" may be; it may turn out that I need to bend a hook into the end of the springs to hold them in place better. But now suddenly I'm blessed with a new/old machine, back off the "injury" pile and into the "worth a second look" stack.

Space is tight in Bay Area domiciles, a fact that Cynthia and I both bemoaned. Tighter still if you have a tendency to accumulate machinery (or phones, kitchen appliances, etc.). A travel-size machine is pretty small, considering. No thicker than a dictionary, really. (This is called justification.) Maybe... maybe it's worth a second look around the house, too, to see if there's somewhere this machine could be stowed?

Thursday, January 2, 2014


I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I try to avoid making them in general, since I don't stick to them anyway, and life is sufficiently complex enough without lofty goals. That said, I'm going to try very, very hard to get a finished novel out the door and into the wild, thus doubling my personal output.

It's going to happen.


At least, I'm making an effort to re-read November's draft, and it's not as entirely horrible as I feared. This could just be the leftover cookies talking, mingled with the residual buzz from the Berkeley Type-In. But I'm going to try to make this happen. You heard it here first.

Beta readers will be wanted, when the time comes.

(sent from the sofa, via Bluetooth keyboard and tablet)