30 05 2020

Big day today!

Today, I learnt to write.

Well, OK, strictly speaking I’ve been putting words on paper for 50 years or so, but yesterday I watched a few YouTube videos by a young lady called Elisa Anne. She’s one of several people who kindly post “how to” tips on the beautiful art of calligraphy. Elisa Anne though, is a leftie! That meant I could actually relate to what she was doing way more than anything else I’ve seen.

The single biggest thing though was that her handwriting was “normal”… it looked just like a right handed person’s “fancy writing”. My entire life I’d been led to believe that writing created by the 90%+ of “normal” people slanted to the right and that we lefties naturally slanted out writing leftwards.


Noodler’s Ink – Socrates in a Parker Vector M-nib (cheap Hilroy pad)

It’s how I’ve always written; it’s how my leftie dad has always written; it’s comfortable, and it gives me a reason to be “special”.

My few feeble attempts at calligraphy over the years have all failed (to be polite! More precisely “crashed and burned”) because I’ve always tried to adapt the many beautiful swirling scripts we’re all familiar with into my “left handed writing”.

Elisa Anne though showed quite gracefully that a left-handed person could write “right handedly” perfectly easily… and in the specific case of dip-pens, with an actual advantage! (To do with the line angle and wrist position).

How could this be?! Had I ever even tried?

Well – no – but, well, squirrel!

So today, I did what has been unthinkable for the last half-century.

I tried to be “normal”. I tried to write like everybody else. (“Normal” might take a bit longer, on reflection).

Now, I won’t claim it feels entirely natural yet. 50+ years is a LOT of muscle memory, and it’s only been a day. But it wasn’t difficult either! I’ll need to explicitly remember to do it for a little while (and remember not to do it for my legal signature), but I’m pretty confident that I can get used to this, and then eventually take the next step to “fancy writing” again with some of my dip pens and paraphernalia!


Noodler’s Ink – Socrates in a Parker Vector M-nib (cheap Hilroy pad).

With no effort at all, the swirls and loops become much more elegant I think (well I am trying to justify the change, so just go along with this, OK?) I’m sure some hand-writing expert would tell me I’m unsettled, or bipartisan (sic) or something. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini…

Anyway, Thank-you Elisa Anne – calligraphy is once more within my sights!

116, revisited

27 05 2020

As I mentioned a while back, I recently bought some new inks. Being the man-child I am, I instantly inked up every writing instrument in sight. Only in a calmer moment did I realise I was now in danger of gunking them all up with the slowly drying, unused ink. So, in the interrim time I’ve been steadily using up each pen in turn. As well as deeply satisfying, using each fountain pen/ink combination in turn for an extended period has helped me compare their different properties (no doubt more on this in due course.)

Most recently, I’ve been working with a Parker 25 inked up with Noodler’s Ink “Pushkin”. In an idle moment I wrote out Bill Wobbledagger’s Sonnet 116.


Parker 25 – Medium nib Noodler’s Ink – Pushkin (sort of teal)

I posted sonnet 116 about 5 years ago here just in case it got lost from the myriad other sources you could appreciate it from!


Imagine Ink

25 05 2020

Some idle scribbling, while I was playing with a pen this evening….

Writing – the capture of thought into a permanent state so it can be considered, adjusted, rejected, embraced… or lost.

So if writing is the crystallisation of thought, what of pen and ink? The pen is the tool to create the writing, guided by the hand of its master or mistress to record their message to the future. It is the conduit through which the thought reaches the page. And the ink is the very thought itself.

It is a great metaphor. It begins in the pen’s reservoir. A body of fluid shaped only by its container. But under the influence of the writer and using the properties of the pen, the ink can transform from a shapeless fluid into firm, fixed words on a page.

They can be edited, erased, extended as indeed the ideas they represent can also be modified. They can be accepted, appreciated, rejected or ignored. But now the ink has life. It is no longer merely a fluid trapped in a pen. It represents human thought.

For better or worse.


J. Herbin rose-scented red ink. Osmiroid 65 with italic medium oblique nib


Couldn’t Resist…

21 05 2020

Combines two of my favourite passions: language usage and… dad jokes!

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You can find more – sometimes quite deep. Often not! – with “Language Nerds” on Instagram.

The Battle of the Dad Puns

19 05 2020

Such a beautiful place. The season was adding its own, well, seasoning, but the draftsmen were already drawing the battle lines.

The football players were itching to kick things off and the consultants were all ready for beginning their charge. The waiters were shouting orders and the philosophers were already taking the high ground.

The gardeners were digging in for the coming attack, the stone-masons were chipping in where they could and the musicians were in full swing. The bankers began to make steady advances and the artists were making a good impression. The photographers were bringing in the big Canons and the fish fanciers were arriving with their tanks.

Meanwhile, the dentists were in the drill hall and the tattooists were practicing with small arms.

The writers? The writers were in retreat.

History is eternal, why not ink?

15 05 2020

A couple of days ago I was on the hunt for some new ink. I couldn’t find anyone with stock of the specific inks I was after, namely Lamy’s special edition Turmaline:

Image Source:

and J. Herbin’s special edition Caroube de Chypre:

Emeraude de Chivor Ink by Herbin

Image Source:

At least not one that wouldn’t charge more than the ink in postage to get it me. I have it on back-order from a shop in Toronto, but they weren’t too hopeful they’d be able to get it.

In my meanderings through the backwaters of the interwebs I re-read an old blog posting I’d made, referring to a visit to Victoria’s Island Blue Art Store. I have to say, their bricks and mortar emporium is a man-child’s man of letters’ wonderland with all manner of geeky stationary and accoutrements. On the infrequent trips I take to Victoria I now always try and make time to visit and am careful not to drool. At least not more than usual.

In the current travel restricted times though, I thought I’d try their mail order option and order some inks. I didn’t see an overly large challenge in meeting their $50 minimum to qualify for free shipping, given the almost limitless range of goodies they sell. Indeed, the hardest part was choosing! They have such a lot of options that I spent several hours going to and fro with my selection, reading reviews of the various manufacturers and generally doing a passable impression of a porcine/mud interaction. The “catalogue” option on the website is pretty basic, but the product images are clear, and specifically with the inks, they’ve gone out of the way to show representative results. (Examples below with links to the site.) If I could make one suggestion it might be to allow cross-vendor searches by colour group, but it’s a minor point.

Eventually I settled on an ink manufacturer I’d never used before, but read well of. Though from the USA (not normally high on my list), Noodler’s were generally well-regarded, and though the inks themselves seemed rich and colourful, the playfulness of the company was the cincher.

In the end I selected three inks. Firstly, the slightly more expensive Socrates with its rich purple.


Image source: Island Blue

Next I wanted something completely new to me, so I opted for an orange ink. I thought perhaps it might brighten my mood when I use it. Or confound my work colleagues when I use it in my notebook (if we ever get back to sharing workspaces again…) So I finally settled on Apache Sunset.

Image source: Island Blue

Finally, while I haven’t totally given up on the shimmering Turmaline from Lamy, I wanted a turquoise/teal option. I have a couple of teal inks already, and to be honest they’re a bit disappointing – more like the Quink blue/black I used for many years at high school rather than the Tiffany shade I was after. (We’re looking at you J. Herbin…)

I eventually settled on Navajo Turquoise – loved the colour, loved the label with Monument Valley on it.

Image source: Island Blue

Admittedly not very turquoise, but seemed a very light tone. So – done. Filled out the straightforward ordering details, hit OK and sat back for the postman to come.

Within moments I had the usual order confirmation, and all was well with the world. Next day, I received a very polite email apologising that the turquoise ink was out of stock and that it was unclear when it would be available. I was asked if I’d like to make a substitution, so selected instead the much greener Pushkin. OK – teal, it’s teal. Maybe.


Image source: Island Blue

A very quick reply that Pushkin was indeed available and an offer to let me know if and when Apache Turquoise made a reappearance, and we were back on track. The next day I got an automated email saying my order was on the way, and this very morning (right on schedule as per the tracking information) the nice lady from Canada Post dropped it on my doorstep, rang the bell and ran away. Such are the times we live in. I’d like to think it’s COVID related and not my increasingly dishevelled appearance.

The package was very well padded, and I must mention that it was all shredded card, butcher’s paper, etc. No plastics. Great job.

I have yet to use the inks in earnest. (Earnest didn’t seem too keen when I asked his views on the matter), but I have to give top marks to Island Blue for their quality of customer interaction.

As for the inks themselves… more to come as I use them. First impressions are favourable though. Lovely labels on nice straightforward glass bottles. The Socrates ink is supposedly more longlasting/archival and alongside the painting of Socrates it says “History is eternal why not ink?”. As with the others it declares itself “Made in the USA”. Socrates however goes one further and adds “For the UK”. Hmm… interesting marketing decision.

Apache Sunset declares only that as well as being made in the USA it is “Always pH neutral”. Good to know. No acidic attacks on my pens’ innards to worry about then. As for Pushkin. It’s all in Cyrillic! I’d thought this was a witticism, but have since learnt it’s actually for the for Russian market. Google translate taught me that (unsurprisingly) the dominant “пушкин” reads as “Pushkin” and “Чернила нудлера” is “Noodler’s Ink”.

Weed Killer Update

15 05 2020

So we’re two days in after I sprayed some bothersome path weeds with a home brew weed killer recipe I found online. I have to say, I didn’t spray in IDEAL conditions as it was a little damp and you’re supposed to spray on a sunny day. Hey – it’s BC… we take what we get!

The results are indeterminate so far. Definite signs of distress with some weeds, while others seem to be oblivious to the attack.

It’s a sunnier day today, I’ll give them another dose.


  • Vinegar (old rice vinegar in my case)
  • Borax
  • Washing-up liquid (to give a little tackiness on the leaves)

Photograph me a rainbow…

13 05 2020

I’ve been spending some down time enjoying my hobby of photography recently. I often tend towards abstract, graphic images – frequently in monochrome. For a change then, I thought I’d peruse my photo archives using Google’s awesomely powerful search engine for specific dominant colours. Innevitably, many of the best examples are floral.

Richard – Red

Of – Orange

York – Yellow

Gave – Green

Battle – Blue

In – Indigo

Vain – Violet

Naturally Destructive

13 05 2020

By and large, I’m a great fan of nature. There are exceptions of course. Not a big supporter of one or two viruses of recent fame and could happily survive in a universe where domestic cats had never evolved. But otherwise – fully paid-up member of the compost bin owners’ society and trying to do my bit for the green revolution.

I have reasonably firm views on GMOs. (Though as a rational person I like to think I’m always open to persuasion). I accept that humans have artificially guided evolution for thousands of years with the selective breeding of dogs, horses, pretty much all domesticated food animals and crops… and garden flowers. Not to mention ourselves through cultural preferences and transient arbitrary ideas of “beauty”.

The key for me though is that each intermediate state from “found in nature” to “final product” was deemed by Mother Nature to be viable and fit to breed the next generation. It might have been a human-guided process, but Mother Nature implicitly gave it her rubber stamp of approval: “fit to breed”.

Technically speaking any human-bred plant or animal is a GMO as it’s genetics were artificially chosen not by the influence of its natural environment but by human hand (though arguably this is increasingly “the environment” in which most things now exist). Selected for better muscle tone, brighter colours, headier scent, etc.

The modern idea of a GMO though includes the much more insidious toolset of directly adjusting genes within an organism – no breeding required. Just a test tube and a lot of PhDs. Though this might be presented as “short-cutting” the process of having to breed and select from all the intermediate stages, it also removed Mother Nature (who unfortunately isn’t a real scientific agency setting the rules) and her veto from the entire process. No longer do we have even the limited checks and balances of “nature” testing whether an intermediate result is “fit to breed”.

Mules are a great example. They were useful beasts of burden, but nature’s given a big thumbs-down to their ability to breed, effectively causing an evolutionary cul-de-sac (or “bag’s bottom” as we say in English). Any dodgy unforeseen side-effects of creating a mule are prevented from being passed to any future generation.

Modern GMOs can go even further though and take genes from a completely different part of the “tree of life” and insert them in an organism that has had no shared relation for the last billion years or so!

Image Source: Wikipedia

I was horrified a few weeks ago to discover that glow-in-the-dark fish are now commonplace in Canadian pet shops. A 2003 article in NATURE was already ringing alarm bells about the risks of “transgenic” release into the wild.

The GloFish® web site states:

“The fluorescent color in GloFish is produced by an inherited fluorescent protein gene that is passed from generation to generation and creates the beautiful fluorescence that can be seen when looking at the fish. The fluorescent protein genes are derived from naturally occurring genes found in marine organisms.”

Image source: GloFish®

Now please don’t me wrong – I have nothing against GloFish®. They found a marketing niche and exploited a loophole in US regulations to sell a legal product. What bothers me philosophically is that there is no “natural” way this fluorescent protein could get from the unidentified marine organisms (which I assume are not fish, otherwise why not say so?) into the tropical fish. Even with the kinkiest fish sex you can imagine. (No – please don’t.)

Once there though, having side-stepped nature’s checks and balances, the gene now gets a free ride and is passed on with the “legitimate” genes to future generations, and potentially into the wild if accidentally released. These other genes were tested as a package at each and every step for viability by nature/evolution for millennia. This direct gene modification is NOT the same as breeding bigger cows or coloured carrots (actually the orange ones are not the natural colour. The others are – blame William of Orange for that). Nature is not configured to stop the unforeseen consequences of genes artificially introduced this way, in the same way as it is to stop mules breeding. It can’t make an intermediate step sterile (or in this case downright non-viable) if it was never even invoked.

Have these people never read Atwood’s Oryx and Crake?!

Now, I realise that this rather gaudy example is just an edge case and more mundane things like the invention of glasses to allow myopics such as myself to function – and live long enough to breed without walking off a cliff – are just as valid an example of humans meddling in what genes get passed on, but at least for the moment we’re not allowing direct gene manipulation for “better” humans. Come the apocalypse (and the end of opticians) nature will undoubtedly have the last laugh. Nature, I’m sure, was the scientific advisor to the awesome film Gattaca.

I sense I’m treading close to eugenics here, so choose to stop with the thought that ALL humans are bad for the Earth, but I’m confident that she’ll figure out how to get rid of us in the end. Even if it’s only to palm us off on her estranged brother Mars.


Image Source: @astrid_kalt

Believe it or not, before I put finger to keyboard this post was supposed to be about “natural weed killer”. Such is the random nature of human thought. I enjoy gardening, but sometimes the tap roots on more persistent weeds make them harder to get rid of reliably.

I discovered a recipe for home-made weedkiller made from common household substances, so am giving it a try. The added bonus was that one ingredient is vinegar, which Mrs E hates with a vengence. This was a convenient way of removing relatively large quantities of rice vinegar from ancient experiments in sushi-making from the cupboard in one go.

I’ll try and remember to post pictures of this particular human’s hypocritical negative impact on nature as represented by the weeds in my back garden.

If you love art film and Vienna…

13 05 2020

Some of you may know my third born lives in Vienna these days. I’ve visited a couple of times and find it a lovely city. Fernando Livschitz, a director from Argentina re-imagines the Austrian capital in his film “Vienna is like…”.

More of his work can be found here.