26 March 2011

Seeds are Ready to be Sown

Soooo..... My Dad has lots of gardens.  He has several beds at his house, He has a few annex beds at my oldest sisters house, I think he even has a few plants at My second-oldest sister's Purgatory Ranch.  Now, my second side yard has been tilled, spaded, then tilled again... and tilled a third and fourth time for good measure.

When we bought the house, the previous owners had planted a few tomatoes and had two overgrown Gooseberry bushes.

Sister #2 and Her Husband took the Gooseberries to their land-- there is not enough sugar in the world to entice me to eat as much as those are going to produce.  They came out last night, and helped pull the bushes, and start the spading.  My Little Brother... not the youngest though...  also came.

This morning it rained... it was overcast... it was cold... Dad and I worked.  I made a few more passes with the tiller, and spaded what was left.  Dad spaded and spread his mix of fertilizer, compost, potting soil, etc...

We finished around noon, after working a good part of the morning.  Tomorrow, or Monday, Dad is going to plant onions.  Shortly, we will add tomatoes and peppers.  We have a lot of rabbits, so I think marigolds and poppies will be a requirement.  We will see what happens... Here we go... Feet first into spring...

25 March 2011

Noodler's Ink Rollerball

I did it, I finally gave in.  I bought a refillable rollerball pen.  I bought one of Nathan Tardif's (Noodler's Ink) rollerball pens.  Several things precipitated this decision.  I have always thought it was a neat idea.  I prefer fountain pens over rollerballs, ballpoints, felt tips, etc... but it is not always feasible to stick to higher ground; I am a teacher... I can't always use a fountain pen.  I have looked at the refillable rollerballs for a while, but the cost point always got me.  Finally... the pen was from Noodler's Ink.  I am not saying they are perfect or every product is flawless, but I really believe in what Nathan is doing.  He provides a quality product, at a great price.

I bought my pen from Isellpens.com.  I bought it on sale for $12.88.  You can see all the specs, etc at the Noodler's Webpage.

The one on sale was red, I like it.  It is a simple little gem.  It is not flashy, but if you read any of my other posts... I am not so much into flashy.  It works.  It is not heavy by any means, but it is not so light that it feels flimsy.  To fill it, the cap, and a cap over the filling piston has to come off.

You can see a little bit of the branding on the cap in this picture.  Noodler's Ink is printed on the top of the cap and on the front of the clip.  Aside from that, it has a very clean look.

The first fill of most my new pens is an American Eel Ink.  They are supposed to be really good for piston fill pens, as it lubricates everything.  Who am I to argue... it rings true with my baloney meter.  I did not fill it all the way, in fact I think I filled it about half.  I figure, if I don't like it, and I am not going to put it into the rotation, it is just more in to either be forced to use, or dump.  It fills very easily, there is not that pressure you sometimes feel with piston fills- there are some that you fill you are going to break it just to get it to move.

The pen writes fine on Rhodia paper, and Clairefontaine Triomphe stationary, as you would expect.  I was impressed at how well it wrote on none-fountain pen-friendly papers.  Yes, yes, I know it is a rollerball, but the ability to use all the vibrant colors of inks on various other papers, is really a great perk to me.  First I tried it on a papyrus filled notebook.  I don't use this notebook very often, because the only pen it likes, is a Fisher Space Pen... it doesn't even like Pilot G2 pens.  I am not saying it was perfect, but I was impressed.

My second test was on a coffee shop napkin.  I don't write a lot on coffee shop napkins, but is nice to know I can, particularly with an ink that is prone to be a little feathery.  You can click on any of the pictures and they will enlarge.  There is, of course, a little bleeding, but it works as well as anything else.  If you look below, you can see an enlargement of the napkin.

My overall impression of the pen is good.  I wish it was a little bit longer.  I don't like to post my pen caps when I am writing, but I may end up doing so with this one.  It is just a little shorter and the grip is just a titch skinnier than my usual suspects.

For less than $20 it seems to be a good writing instrument.  I will definitely put it through the paces, and see where it ends up.

24 March 2011

Lamy 2000

The Lamy 2000 seems like a great place to start talking about fountain pens.  If you search for Lamy 2000 on the internet, or its reviews you will hear a lot about Bauhaus design from Gerd Alfred Müller, its black Makrolon body with silver accents, its 14k gold hooded nib, and you might even hear some about form from function.  I want to tell you what a great pen it is.

Yes, I know you are supposed to say both good things and bad things about the object you are reviewing so that people will take you seriously... but seriously it's a great pen.

Now, I will say that you should buy one a size smaller than what you want, I will agree with a lot of the reviews that say they write a little bigger than you would guess by the labeled size.  Below is an example of my writing with the Lamy 2000.  I bought the one with a fine nib... I really feel like it is more of a medium.

See... I said something negative, now read the post and be rest assured that I am not just going to blather on about a great pen.

I bought my Lamy 2000 in Little Rock, AR.  I know that Arkansas is not the place you would think to find a pen shop, but believe you me... ever time I find myself in Little Rock, I make sure I stop at Vanness Pen, Shaver & Gift Shop.  Go in, talk to Mike, and you will be happy you did.  While you are in there you can get your razor fixed, buy a wedding cake topper (we did buy ours there), and get a meat grinder attachment for your mixer.  I had been in there on and off for about six months buying Lamy Safaris, Watermans, Sheaffers, a couple Cross pens... etc... Every time I went in, I oodled at the Lamy 2000.  Finally Mike told me that I wasn't going to be happy until I bought one.  He promised that if I bought it, I wouldn't regret.  He was right.

It is a nice looking pen, in a very non-Montblanc way. It is matte black (there is a small bit of shine on the top of the cap.)  The nob for activating the piston fill system blends in with the body perfectly.  It even took me a few minutes to find it.

The writing is smooooooooth.  I have written with a great number of pens.  This is the smoothest.  Considering that it was designed in 1966, They knew what they were doing.  A lot of people may say that I am exaggerating the smoothness... that may be so, I do love this pen... but I have also noticed that the people who expound on the smoothness factor, are mostly operating the fine and medium models, and that a majority of the "toothiness" crowd are operating the extra fine models.  I am not saying that I am trying to justify my experience of overwhelming smoothness... I am just saying...

My final thought on this pen is this.  In a world hit by a recession (despite whose fault it is) extra cash is a commodity, everything is expensive, and you really have to want something to push yourself over the edge.  I own 9 or 10 pens from Lamy.  I do not think they have the best quality control in the world, but I don't think Parker, Pilot, Sheaffer, Waterman, Cross, or even Montblanc are any better.  I really like Lamy because I know that what ever I get from them, they are going to stand by 100% and make sure I like it and that I use it.  I moved twice over the last 2 years.  During one of those moves, I found the section of my Lamy 2000 snapped.  It had been in its case, and it was moved in a well packed box, but it was broken.  It might have been my fault (or one of my helpers) it might have been weather shifts, it might have be a fault in the pen. At that point, the pen had been in my regular rotation for over 3 years.  I sent it to Lamy with a letter of explanation and cash for return shipment.  2 weeks latter it was back, no questions asked.  I have not had a problem since.  I know that if I DO have a problem, they will take care of it.

If you are on the fence, go buy it.  If you are not in or around Arkansas and can't go to Vanness, I would buy one from GouletPens.com  Mike at Vanness was right, I don't regret it, and it has become one of my favorite pens.

Eccentric? Old Fashioned? Or Something Else...

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
--Lewis Carroll The Walrus and The Carpenter

My wife would never say that I am eccentric, she might say that I am old fashioned, she will ALWAYS say that she knew what she was getting into when she married me.  I still think she has to sometimes just put up with me.

I am a pre-middle aged / post-1st-round college / father / husband /teacher / vagabond.  I am young enough to be idealistic, and old enough to know better.  I started college to get a degree in Physics / Astronomy; did that for a few years, started asking questions that I wanted better answers to... so... moved to a degree in Theology / Philosophy; wasn't sure what to do with the degree, so I ended up with a degree in Political Science.  Inspired by all the twists and turns of bureaucratic democracy... I worked 3 years in landscaping, woodwork, building maintenance, and brushed up on my Polish.  Now, as I work on a Masters in Teaching, I teach.  As of writing, I teach History/Government/Geography (Social Studies) in the morning, and Computer Science in the afternoon... I get it all, the old and the new.

Somewhere between the Politics and the Polish, I married the most wonderful woman in the world.  We have been married for 4 years... and since she has put up with all of the above and we still like each other... she really MUST be the most wonderful woman in the world.  Hannah and I have been through a lot together.  We have two beautiful little girls, a house, and cash flow... we are living the dream.

I have a lot of interest... and sometimes it is hard to keep it all straight... hence this blog.  I have a fascination with fountain pens, sealing wax, paper, amateur radio, wood working, cooking, and the list goes on.  My wife wrote a paper about me years ago for a college class.  I think it illustrates some it well.  I only including a couple sections.  The beginning starts as she is leaving the college where we met and switching to a different college.
… I had known Tom through mutual friends but we were not by any means close. I called out to him saying “goodbye” as I had done with so many other people. Tom stopped dead in his tracks, “Goodbye? You’re leaving? When?” He looked completely stunned.  I responded simply “Now.” I gave him a quick hug and walked off campus. Mama later recalled the conversation and asked me who that young man was. I said, “Oh, he is a friendly acquaintance. We don’t really know each other that well.” Mama looked incredulously at me and said, “umm… Hannah, he looked like someone had dumped a bucket of cold water on him. I think there is more to your acquaintance than you realize.” I brushed Mama off and obliviously went my way.

I began to realize Mama’s point a week later when I received a hand written letter sealed with wax family crest from Tom. His letter, essentially, asked me to be his friend and apologized for not having been better friends while we were on campus. I was excited about the idea of having a pen pal. I told Mama happily that Tom had written me and he wanted to be friends. Mama again looked at me dubiously; she was amazed at how oblivious I could be.  Tom and I started writing almost every day. I would watch as the mail man arrived wondering if there was a letter with a wax seal waiting for me.

Receiving a letter from Tom has always been fascinating.  My first few letters were covered in one, two, and three cent stamps.  After opening, I could often tell if the letter was written in the middle of the afternoon or the middle of the night by whether the seal was a nice round impression on the back of the letter, or a smudge blob of wax.  One letter, a four page letter, was spent explaining the paper he had gotten from an old French paper mill, the hand carved fountain pen his sister had given him, and the Czech family crest that adorned each and every letter… save one… when I received a wax rose.   I would never say Tom was eccentric with his letters… per say.  I have always taken each letter as a glimpse at his personality.  Tom can go on about the “lost art of letter writing,” talk about camping, cast iron skillets, and fireplaces…