I can stop. Anytime I like.

15 01 2022

Habits come in many forms.

Some are good habits, like automatically washing your hands when you’ve been to the loo or, just as importantly – in the COVID times – as soon as you re-enter your home.

Some are bad habits, like smoking or incessantly tapping on the edge of your desk when you’re working at home (according to the lovely Mrs E.).

Some are fashionably very questionable in the 21st century.

The thing habits have in common (unless they’re the scratchy wool kind) is that they’re automatic subconscious actions or processes and very hard to unlearn. No. 3 offspring educated me to the unsupported “fact” that it’s of the order of 3 months to “unlearn” a habit. He read it on the interwebs, so it must be true.

Smokers are often heard stating some variation of “I’m not addicted – I can stop any time I want.” It’s the sufficiently wanting to that is often the crux of the issue, though even with that firmly in one’s sight, a true habit still takes much breaking and all too often is readily reacquired. The share-holders of Weight Watchers International bank on it in fact. Literally.

So – enter fountain pens. As a school kid somehow earning a local government scholarship to a grammar school (now a private school beyond the reach of many – yay capitalism), I was required to use a fountain pen. A few came and went – either through the natural rigours of teenage schooling, or occasionally from poor manufacture (looking at you Platignum… just sayin’).

As I grew older though, and entered the sixth form, I acquired a “proper” pen – a Parker 45 – and that saw me through the rest of my formal educational years including university. Being subsequently employed in the newly minted dark arts of computer programming (AKA “the 80’s” for those studying modern history) I had less and less need of an analogue writing stick.

I did occasionally reach for a disposable fountain pen – mainly for the chance to use outlandish colours like green or purple. These were still the days of sedentary Blue/Black Quink ink for fountain pens, but the wily Japanese were busily cross pollinating what they’d learnt from gel pens into more exciting alternatives (if not entirely environmentally sound ones) for fountain pens. It was literally decades before I realised one could refill/reuse a “disposable” fountain pen.

Then the years passed, as they always have. Mortgages got signed. Children got born. Continents got moved. Not in the tectonic way (though that happened a bit too), but in the BA flight 85 kind of way. Somewhere along the passage of time my wonderful father-in-law bought me a new fountain pen (Sheaffer Sagaris), which I religiously used every day for work notes.

Recently, COVID entered our vocabulary, and in a lot of tragic cases, our lives.

Working from home happened.

Profound grumpiness occurred.

A chance re-discovery of my old Parker 45 at the back of a drawer also occurred (distractions had been actively sought… even to the extent of tidying rarely visited backwaters of the newly emptied nest). This was pivotal. I now had TWO fountain pens at the same time. Two is a collection. So is more than two, it turned out. That was 18 months ago.

Today I have around 60 fountain pens. Some are relatively expensive ($250 in my case – though for some collectors that counts merely as entry level), but most are not. I do however use all of them, though obviously not all at the same time!

That many pens could consume a lot of ink, you might think. Well… let’s just say I have that covered too.

But of course if you’ve got a lot of pens and a lot of ink to go in the pens, you’d need a lot of paper to write on wouldn’t you? Well… so you’re getting the idea now why this began as a piece on addiction?

But I’m getting better. Honest I am.

I try not to buy pens now just because I like the look of them. I try and leave those for my family to get for birthdays and Christmas. But it’s not perfect. Without meaning to trivialise the situation of any reader struggling with a health-impacting addiction, I am, nevertheless still drawn to the “add to cart” button on many stationery web sites.

I try very hard to limit myself to one new pen a month, and thankfully my tastes are rarely expensive. But all-metal pens (what Parker terms “Flighter”), or all black pens (AKA “stealth”, especially if the nib itself is coated black) are a particular weakness.

In October, I read the often informative “mnmlscholar” blog, and he described a new pen he’d just acquired. This was the Jinhao 9035, a mid-sized pen made of wood. Neither stealth or metal, but… interesting! Jinhao is a Chinese brand, but I have to say that I now own several different models from their stable, and have found the ones I have acquired to be very well made and reliable. I do tend to go for their metal bodied options which may improve the leeway for higher build quality, but I also own no less than four of their 992 model which are clear plastic and just as reliable.

Whilst innocently investigating the 9035 pen on AliExpress, I discovered another new-to-me Jinhao model, the “Stealth” styled Jinhao 95. The pair of them came to a little over $12 shipped to Canada, and the compulsion was strong with me that day…

Well that was back in late October 2021, and much has happened since then. Including ordering one of a new 200 pen limited release of an all-copper Italia from Ensso, which may well be documented in a later blog post.

Source: ENSSO

Hopefully the delivery isn’t impacted by the recent train robberies in California, from whence it is coming!

Fast forward 2½ months, and on Friday the Chinese pens appeared in my post box.

Wooden Jinhao 9035 and “Stealth” Jinhao 95

To ease my (not very prominent) guilt a little then, I thought I’d share my early impressions of these newcomers to my collection. Maybe someone will find it useful, and at the very least it’s keeping me out of Mrs E’s way for a while as I write this.

Firstly the Jinhao 9035…

I opted for the walnut finish (on some sellers’ sites it’s referred to as specifically American walnut), though it does seem to be available in rosewood too. I’m no wood expert and can’t really comment, beyond a general statement that it’s a lovely colour and seems well finished with no scratches, gaping “pores” or other irritations. There’s also no evidence of what must surely have been a mechanical turning process, so kudos to the QA folks at Jinhao. It seems well smoothed, but not obviously varnished. It may have been treated with Danish oil or something, but has no obvious smell, and I fully expect it to “weather” as the grease from my fingers impact the wood over time.

As you may be able to see from the photograph above, the cap has a pretty standard Jinhao steel clip. It has a springiness strong enough to cause the ball end (formed from the plate steel) to scratch the wood underneath slightly. The clip is adorned with the company’s logo of a horse and chariot. I note that it is the right way round when the pen is held in the left hand… something I appreciate!

The lip of the cap is protected by a metallic ring, though the cap threads behind it are plastic and are part of the seal lining within the cap to prevent the nib drying out. This extends up to hide the inside fixing of the clip, which enters through a simple well-formed cut in the wooden cap. The metal lip of the cap provides a neat IKEA-style wood/chrome finish to the pen when the cap is closed and the cap extends around the barrel by a good millimetre or so giving a vaguely mushroom appearance when closed.

The business end of the pen is a standard Jinhao No. 6 steel nib, which is marked with a border pattern, their chariot logo, their brand name and a claim of being 18KGP, or 18 karat gold plated (carats are for diamonds if you were wondering).

I’m no metallurgist, so I’ll leave that one just hanging there, but I will say that I have used several of these nibs on Jinhao X750s and even bought the simple nibs to replace other No 6 nibs on Moonman, Noodler’s and Narwhal pens. I find them slightly springy, wet and generous and suit my writing well. I have yet to struggle with a single Jinhao nib – though I do tend to avoid their lower end Lamy knock-offs and most of their plastic offerings. I find these No 6 nibs particularly reliable and though I’m sure statistically there must be some duds out there, I’ve yet to get one that needed anything special before using it “out of the box”.

Though I inked up the pen with Lamy Turmaline before checking (my bad… too excited) I’m pretty sure the nib isn’t in a screw-out nib unit, and would require pulling from the section housing along with the feed. I’ll try and remember to confirm that once I dismantle it for cleaning.

The section itself is a little shy of 2cm in length and is bookended by chromed rings. It’s very similar in style and feel to the X750 section, but not the same. The metal ring at the barrel end of the section hides the join and merges with the threading on the barrel to engage the cap. The cap closes in 1¾ turns for those who are particular about those things. The metal here engages with the aforementioned plastic cap threads and gives a firm closure and no noticeable play in the cap once closed. The threads are square cut and unobtrusive when gripping the pen for writing. They also form a transition to the step-up of the barrel, which might be seen in the above photograph.

The pen comes provided with a standard Jinhao converter. Again – apologies for inking it up before checking whether the nipple is of the narrow or broader “standard”. Though both will take arbitrary International Standard cartridges, there is a little less forgiveness when using a third party converter. I believe the difference is 2.6 mm or 3.4mm. Not a lot, but enough to cause leaks with some converters. Again – I’ll try to remember to update this post when I dismantle the pen.

The collar by which the section screws to the barrel is metal and seems well made with no sharp edges. It is engraved with the brand JINHAO in capitals and model 9035 in italics. The collar is around 12mm in length and securely holds the converter in place. About 5mm of the collar are threads to engage the barrel and are finer than those holding the cap in place.

The wooden barrel itself is unlined, save for the metal insert which is threaded to receive the section and engage with the cap. It seems roomy and well finished on the inside, with no visible splinters or cracks.

All in all, the example I received seems well finished, with no rough edges or bad joints. This has been my typical experience with Jinhao, and I am amazed they can make them for the price they are sold.

I don’t post my pens, but the inner threads of the cap – even though they’re plastic – would not be kind on the wood of the barrel over time, I suspect. I briefly tried though, and the cap seems to be firmly held by the friction, if that’s your thing.

OK, so to illustrate my assertion that I can indeed stop any time I like, I’ll call that it for this post and talk about the Jinhao 95 in a separate outing to the keyboard. Until next time…





Humans are a terrible species

29 08 2015

Back in 1969 a man set foot on the moon. 1969. I was 5 years old. It was almost 50 years ago!

In 1990 – a full 25 years ago – South Africa, racially fractured almost since its founding by European powers began its own path to reconciliation and healing.

In 1950 India – the world’s largest democracy, let’s not forget- made inter-caste discrimination illegal. 65 years ago. Progress.

Today I was made aware of two international stories that made me shake my head and realise that these successes of humanity are but a veneer on what we really are deep at heart – tribal, ignorant animals scared of anything and more importantly anyONE that is “other”. We’ve become sophisticated over the millennia, but that just makes us so much more subtle (or not, in the first tale I’ll recount) in the way we express our prejudice.

The first story I’ll tell nearly made me choke on my morning tea. In Baghpat – just north of New Delhi in northern India, a man from the Dalit (untouchables) class fell in love with a woman from the higher Jat community. We’re led to believe it was fully reciprocated. She was subsequently married off to a more suitable upper class husband, but a month later in a scene I imagine similar to The Graduate, her “unsuitable” but romantic lover ran off with her anyway.

This is 2015 remember. In a democratic country that 65 years ago made it illegal to discriminate based on caste. You might imagine some indignation. Her parents can’t be too happy for sure. But the actual reaction?… his family were tortured OFFICIALLY by the police and his two sisters sentenced to rape for his “crime”. Yes, you read that right… they weren’t subjected to rape by vindictive relations (the Jat community did in fact ransack their home), no this was a judicial sentence. One sister is 15 FFS! Sentenced by an unelected council to be raped and then paraded naked through the streets!

Thankfully the girls managed to get India’s Supreme Court involved and Amnesty International is now on the ball. But it’s not a slam dunk they’ll escape being subjected to this throw-back to earlier times, punished barbarically for their brother’s “cross-caste” love affair, deemed a crime they must pay for.

Read more about it at Mashable.

Source: Indian sisters sentenced to rape because of their brother’s affair

The second story that came to my attention today is much closer to home. Not geographically – it’s actually in Switzerland. It is however an attitude I come across commonly in and around Vancouver. The BBC reports that the Swiss Blick news agency has reported that the Rigi resort has put on special trains to cater for the vast number of Chinese visitors. The reason? They’re apparently noisy and disturb “other visitors” (i.e. more like “us”). Blick reports “They crowd the corridors while taking pictures from the train, there has been rudeness in packed carriages, and some even report seeing tourists spit on the floor“. There’s also reports of “Rigi seems to be firmly in Chinese hands!” and “Toilets are now cleaned more often, and signs have been put up showing how to use them correctly“. It’s all couched in terms of helping the Chinese visitors, but I can’t help but feel there’s more than a little resentment of “other”. I myself often see elderly members of our local Chinese community spitting in the street and I’ve heard tell that following an elderly Chinese lady into a public toilet can be “an experience”. At root though this is no more than a culture clash, and if we are wanting to welcome the income from foreign visitors we need also to understand that they will bring different perspectives and expectations. Segregation comes in many guises and “adding extra trains for the Chinese to avoid conflict with other visitors” is very different to simply adding more capacity.

A mountain resort in Switzerland is launching special train services for Chinese tourists.

 

Source: Switzerland: Special trains for Chinese tourists – BBC News

 





BC Landscape

16 09 2012

So, I was challenged a few months ago by barbaraelka and kalyrical to post some photos of the wide open spaces of BC.

Now BC is a very diverse province in terms of landscape. The Lower Mainland is pretty urbanised in places. There’s wide open areas of agriculture in the Fraser Valley. Obviously the ski hills around Whistler as well as Big White are different again. Loads of unspoiled first growth as well as second, third etc. growth (i.e. previously logged and now managed) forests. And desert and near-desert in the east of the Province.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my son and heir (in lieu of the missing hair) for a couple of nights camping, when we had a public holiday. Expecting the more popular sites to be totally heaving, we went to one of OUR favourite sites. Being a bit out of phase, our favourite places are  w-a-a-a-a-y  less likely to be busy. Sure enough, we easily got into the Juniper Beach Provincial Campsite, just outside Cache Creek. As well as the usual RV pads, it’s a lovely tent site with a beautifully manicured lawn to pitch on, as well as hot showers to offset the usual pit toilet experience common to BC campsites. So why so easy to get a spot on the long weekend? Easy… trains. Lots of trains. It’s in the Thompson valley, with CPR tracks on one site and CN tracks on the other. Every hour or so (all night too) there’s a freight train on one side or the other. You get used to it, but apparently it’s not to everyone’s taste!

Needless to say – I took a few snaps. The colours were a challenge, as it’s quite an arid area, with lots of washed-out hues. Below are a few of what I think are the better photos. Comments always welcome…