Ansel’s Wisdom

1 07 2020

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams – The Tetons and Snake River (1942). Source: wikipedia





Turning Japanese, I Really Think So…

27 06 2020

Big day today.

All the pen connoisseurs rave about the large Japanese brands – Sailor, Platinum, Pilot…

Personally, I tend to find them a bit boring and conservative on the whole, but I take nothing away from their level of quality or engineering technique. They just didn’t seem to be for me. And they don’t come cheap either, so laying out large quantities of my only theoretically disposable income on something I don’t absolutely adore seems, well, unwise.

But today things changed.

Today I spent bigly and bought a Japanese fountain pen. And I love it.

I spent over a thousand in fact! To be exact – 1,090. OK that’s in Yen, but in Canadian money it came to $27.89 with taxes. I bought a MUJI aluminium fountain pen with a fine nib, and it is significantly better than I might have expected for that price.

MUJI_pen

Image Source: MUJI.com

It is a thing of singularly straightforward, uncluttered yet smart design. It’s a simple cylinder of brushed aluminium with a steel clip. The section is machined with a fine hatching to give a nice grip, and despite the light metal construction I actually found it sat comfortably in my hand.

The cap is unusual in that it clips positively over both the nib and when posted not over the body, but into cleverly recessed grooves. This means that when the cap is closed or when using the pen posted, there is no interruption to the smooth cylindrical design. This looks like an engineering tool as much as a modern functional pen.

It came supplied with a single standard international cartridge. Black. I’m not a big fan of cartridges so on opening the low impact packaging I immediately tried to fit a standard ink converter instead. Neither of the two “standard” converters I own fit well though. I read in several places that this pen is a little fussy and that Schmidt K2 and K5 were good options but that a Pelikan converter was the most snug fit. One is now on order from Cult Pens, but in the meantime I’ll make do with the standard cartridge.

I hedged my bets and paid 50c at the local Save-On-Foods pharmacy for a syringe and needle so I can refill the cartridge with some more interesting colours while I’m waiting for the Royal Mail and Canada Post to get around to delivering the converter.

So what else can I tell you? Well, the business end is almost certainly a Schmidt #5 iridium point steel nib. Except for the omission of the word “Schmidt”, the markings are identical to the FH241 nib unit pictured below.

Schmidt_FH241

Schmidt FH241 nib unit. Image Source: JetPens

It writes very smoothly and being German as opposed to Japanese it really is a Fine and not one of those Asian fine Fines. I was also pleasantly surprised to find it had a bit of flex to it. I’m not a big flex user, but it was nice to know it was there if I felt the desire to invoke it.

Early days yet, but I think I’m going to like my new pen very much indeed.

 

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Some flex available in this straightforward nib.





New Writing Stuff!

22 06 2020

So yesterday I continued my perpetual hunt for a reasonably priced case for my growing collection of fountain pens. As with most “niche” things, the prices asked for them typically far outweigh the value to me. Yesterday’s hunt took us to DeSerres in Burnaby. They had some interesting stuff, but it felt a bit lacklustre to be honest. The staff were very helpful though, and were only too pleased to open up sealed packages to let me examine the interior of the few cases they were stocking.

On the way out, Mrs E spotted the notebooks and though I briefly had a Rhodia notebook in my hand, I was ultimately drawn to a Fabriano EcoQua dot notebook. Actually, it’s more of a pad with tear-off pages, but they’re printed double-sided with a dot pattern and are A5, 85g/m². It was a mere CA$5, and though I had no high expectation at that price, I must say I am downright impressed so far!

No feathering or bleed through with a selection of inks and nibs, and I’m lovin’ it! At least as good a fountain pen writing experience as my recently acquired (at much more expense) Clairefontaine notebook.

EcoQua dotted notebook

Image Source: DeSerres

Basking in this new acquisition, I was further rewarded today by a long awaited package from Goulet Pens in the States. This was some LAMY Turmaline 2020 special edition ink (to match a pen I previously bought for Mrs E.) and a red Clairefontaine notebook… which I’m ever so slightly regretting now.

A quick dip in the LAMY ink with the end of a plastic chopstick to do a swab test and I was at first disappointed that it seemed the same as the LAMY Amazonite she already has. As it dried though, there’s definitely a brighter, slightly more green tint to it. Now I love it, and I’m hoping she doesn’t notice how quickly it’ll seem to evaporate…

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Recent writing acquisitions – note brightness difference between Turmaline and Amazonite swabs





Love it or hate it

18 06 2020

I saw a typically clever Marmite ad online the other day. If you’re not familiar with Marmite, all I can suggest is you study particle physics instead. It’ll be easier to explain. The rest of us will just quietly continue…

It was making reference to the fact that the source material (spent brewer’s yeast) was currently in short supply and the larger size jars were temporarily unavailable.

Marmite Ad: Image Source… heaven

It reminded me that many things are quite polarising, especially in the arts. Indeed, as I type this I’m listening to “Too much  too young” by the Specials as Mrs E looks on with undisguised distate.

The works of Roger Waters fall into this category, I found. Ex of Pink Floyd, and no doubt drawing his old age pension, he’s still producing music and touring. I’d bought tickets for my son and I to see him in Vancouver this autumn. COVID put an end to that, so we’ll see how outrageous Ticketmaster behaves when it comes to rescheduling/refunds.

Many people find his music repetitive or dirge-like, but personally I love the imagery of his lyrics. Admittedly they can be a bit self-indulgent sometimes, but I still love the imagery.

Take the lines from “4.50 AM (Go Fishing)” on “Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking”:

You adopted a fox cub
Whose mother was somebody’s coat

There’s mention of Eeyore and Pooh in the song too! Classic word-weaving.

Anyway, Spotify served up one of his later pieces from “Amused to Death”. It’s not what you’d call a light spirited album but again, I find the word pictures very evocative. Given the times we live in, I thought the lyrics for “Too much rope” particularly relevant.

Muslim or Christian, Mullah or Pope
Preacher or poet who was it wrote
Give any one species too much rope
And they’ll fuck it up

Love it. Hate it. Just don’t waste it!





To Lend or not to Lend? Living a Dilemma

14 06 2020

So I’d like to consider myself a generous person. In fact, since I’m the only one who does my considering, I will consider myself so.

Like many fathers I frequently extend very generous terms of lending (especially when investing in education) from the local branch of  Bank of Dad – often with negligible chance of repayment in my lifetime. I lend books (I have more than is sensible) and various electronic adapters and assorted gizmos to select friends and colleagues.

But I have a dilemma.

Occasionally one of these items fails to be returned in a timely or (in my opinion) a sufficiently grateful manner. Now that bugs me. And I struggle.

I was always taught that if I ever borrow anything (i) make damned sure I return it ASAP and with profuse thanks, (ii) make sure it is at least as clean and tidy as when I borrowed it – preferably better – and (iii) if it was a sufficiently valuable/large item, offer a card or some small gift as a special thank-you for the loan. In this way, you stand a way better chance of having a future loan extended.

I confess I do tend to judge people by how quickly and in what condition they return things I’ve lent them. And I’m a bit OCD to boot, to the extent that Outlook pops up each week with a current list of who still has what. I have to say – some of those items are recorded in Sanskrit and I don’t realistically expect to see them again.

And the dilemma is that I don’t wish to appear anything like as anal as I actually am, and ask for their return. The most egregious case was when I lent my prized pushbike (won from Tim Hortons’ Roll The Rim in our first year in Canada) to some local Syrian refugees until they got on their feet – no pun intended – so that the husband could get to and from job interviews, and generally be more mobile. After a year I decided I should really get back on my bike – literally – and asked for its return. I struggled to learn they’d given it away.

I did manage to suck it up though – ultimately it felt like a truly mean, first world complaint to be annoyed that a family ripped away from everything and everyone they loved had misunderstood that the bike was a loan and not a gift (there were several actual gifts such as a microwave and other basics to help them re-establish a life).

So where am I going with all this juvenile angst?

Well, my youngest offspring went away for the weekend to celebrate his twenty-second birthday. (I couldn’t resist pointing out that it seemed like a short birthday, and most people had a whole day. He just looked blankly at me and refused to acknowledge the prime example of a dad joke.) He took a few friends camping (despite the rain that had been forecast) and asked if he could borrow various items of my backpacking/camping equipment. At least he asked, I suppose.

On the one hand – I would like to help and support him. He is after all my son and heir. On the other… I hate going to use my stuff and finding bits of it missing, broken, rusty, mouldy or otherwise not exactly as I left it. There is, shall we say, a history of such events. Indeed (I eventually relented and said yes), when he came to locate the water container on Friday, he discovered the tap was cracked and leaked terribly. Now I know for certain that (i) it was fine last time I used it and (ii) if I had been aware there was damage, it would have been fixed or replaced “ready for next time”. Who knows? Next time might be a “grab and dash” as an earthquake rocks the Lower Mainland! Suffice it to say, its previous use had not been mine.

So here I sit, struggling to “just let it go” while I type my blog and wait for the tent’s flysheet to dry on the lawn (where I personally spread it out to make sure it’s not put away wet) and try not to look at the pile of dirty dishes dripping on the kitchen floor, or think of the hand axe lying in a pool of water on the garage floor.

My gut tells me not to lend him things, and I often do refuse for a day or so, but ultimately, why do we have “stuff” if not to use it? By lending things I try to demonstrate good citizenship, and just hope one day he’ll grow up… and hopefully not be as manically posessive as his dad!

Aidan

Petulance: A genetic trait, it appears

 





Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

10 06 2020

“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”

“Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.”

835759c71474f2c724a3c21fe819cc311

Image Source: The Interwebs! (If you know the origin, please let me know so I can appropriately acknowldege the owner).





The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

8 06 2020

A radio series; a trilogy in four parts, then five; a TV series and a film.

How many, I wonder spotted the TV version of Marvin in the film adaptation… standing in the queue in the Vogon office.

“The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

 

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

 

I wonder what Adams would have made of 2020! More bizarre than anything he could imagine. And that is definitely saying something.

I think he might have wanted to edit H2G2. After all the entry for Earth currently reads: Harmless.





6th of June 1944 – D Day

6 06 2020

In 1944, the 6th of June marked the beginning of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the allies to push back the fascist occupation of Europe. According to Wikipedia, Fascism took inspiration from sources as ancient as the Spartans for their focus on racial purity. The countries allied against fascism in that one operation alone numbered upwards of 15 – ironically including Greece.

By May 1944, around 1.5 million American troops had arrived in Britain in preparation for the invasion – to fight, and in many cases give their lives, for freedom and equality on foreign soil. Some of those American soldiers were black.

They fought in a segregated army.

Let that sink in.

Again, from Wikipedia:

“At the onset of World War II, the [US] Army remained segregated, and with the notable exceptions of units like the 92nd Infantry Division, very few African American soldiers were permitted to serve in Frontline Combat units. … However, many of these soldiers did see combat in Europe and the Pacific, particularly those in artillery batteries. Among the units going ashore at Normandy in 1944, was the 320th Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion which did see action on D-Day. Another unit that saw considerable action in Europe was the 761st Tank Battalion, which fought with George S. Patton‘s Third Army in 1944 and 1945.”

The war was won. Fascism failed. (That time.) Having played their role in defeating a system that dehumanised and routed out “the other”, those men returned to a country that itself considered them second class citizens, despite having sent them to war to fight against that very concept.

D Day was 76 years ago.

America subsequently revoked the laws that embodied segregation, but only after prolonged campaigning and protest – some of it violent. But there’s much more to a society than what’s written in its statute book. People need to embody the change and call out those that don’t. Especially those in positions of power and influence.

And don’t think for one second that racism and many other -isms are not alive and well in even the most liberal of countries. This is not solely an American problem.

“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

– Edward Everett Hale

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

– George Orwell





Snail’s Pace

4 06 2020

Sometimes I can be a bit slow.

The world around us is full of information, and we can dip our metaphorical toe in it occasionally or even take the full bore fire-hose drink if we’re in the mood. I consider myself something of a fledgling polymath – I’m smart enough to know I know precious little about lots of things. So I try to learn a little about something at every opportunity. Makes me a terrible bore conversationally but good to have on your team for Trivial Pursuit.

Today though, I caught up to an old story in the science world. That of Jeremy the “lefty” snail. Now, those who know me or have dipped into these crazed pages before may know that I’m left-handed and am naturally interested in the science behind all things of a “sinister” nature.

About 10% of humans are left-handed, but that’s actually less interesting than the fact that we still LOOK the same. The vast majority of all animals are essentially symetrical about the centre. Some animals like lobsters display their left/right handedness by having a significantly more developed claw on one side or the other, and others have asymmetrical innard (including us).

Snails though are almost all “right-handed” as defined by which side of their shell the swirl develops. You might expect a 50/50 split or something more like the 10% of left-handed humans if it were genetic. In fact, it turns out to by physically difficult for non-similarly shelled snails to get it on. The shells just get in the way. It can be done though. Lust is a powerful force…

Jeremy (allegedly named after UK left-winger Jeremy Corbin) the snail is quite literally a one in a million, and had his shell coiled on the left.

Imagine the chances! Jeremy first of all existed! Already 1 in 1,000,000.

Then someone had to spot him in their compost heap. How many snails did you spot today?

Then that person had to be savvy enough to recognise that Jeremy’s shell was unusual.

And then, that person had to be aware of the research being done in Nottingham University by Associate Professor and Reader in Evolutionary Genetics, Dr Angus Davison into body asymmetry.

Well – it happened. The good doctor received Jeremy in the post (I guess it would have taken Jeremy too long to get there under his own steam) and immediately advertised for other lefty snail to breed Jeremy with. Unlike left-handedness in humans it wasn’t actually clear that left-swirling snail shells were hereditary. Indeed, 1:1,000,000 seems a little low if that were the case.

twoleftiesma1

Image Source: phys.org

Another couple of lefty snails were duly identified (now people knew what they were looking for) and sent from abroad. After a little coaxing and three-way orgies (snails are hermaphrodite, and these were European snails), offspring were produced. All of them were righties. As were all their offspring too.

Jeremy has since unfortunately died. Slithered off his mortal coil, you might say. But the research showed that at least some lefty snails get their otherness not from genetics but from random events in the early stages of cell division.

Since then, a snail farmer has tried his own experiments and successfully “bred true” lefty snails, which seems to indicate that other lefty snails get there otherness indeed through genetics.

There is a “pop science” 15 minute documentary on Jeremy and his contribution to science on YouTube by Stegosaurus Industries:

 





As I do, not as I say

1 06 2020

So today, a parcel arrived. It was a pen and some ink from Knights Writing Company in Toronto. I may tell you more about the pen and ink at some point. Or I may not. I can be like that.

The point though, is what came with the items I’d ordered. The packaging was biodegradeable corn-starch “peanuts”. A good ethical choice. There was a very professional business card and a book mark. Good impression makers, but neither here nor there. And there was a pre-printed letter.

The letter explained about the company’s ethos, the non-toxic biodegradable packaging and a polite request to add a review to their web site. Again – professional but neither here nor there. Bearing in mind that this is an online pen, ink and stationary company though, the thing that really caught my eye was the one liner hand written at the bottom of the pre-printed page. It simply said thanks for the order, but (i) it was hand written and (ii) it had a note to tell me what ink it had been written in. Now, personally I didn’t much care for the particular choice, and I’m sure my one-liner was one of many written that day. But, the point was that it underlined that the store doesn’t just sell pens and ink, they use them. And they know which ones they’re using. That, my dear reader, was excellent marketing. It wasn’t “in yer face”, but it spoke volumes about the business owners and their real values.