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The other day, LJ friend platofish asked if I had a favorite fountain pen, and if I did, why was it my favorite?

To be frank, I had never considered the question before, and my initial reaction was... something akin to a complete loss for words. I simply could not name a pen that was my favorite, which sort of put the kibosh on explaining why.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that there are (at least) two types of comparisons one might make between items that may lead to the declaration of a "favorite." Assuming only two types, there are comparisons that are conducive to the idea of "best" or "favorite", while others... aren't, because "best" and "favorite," in the context of such other comparisons, depend altogether too much on one's mood or some other aspect.

In the first category might be items that can be evaluated with respect to one or more criteria. For example, (off the top of my head) seafood restaurants in one's area. One might love a particular restaurant because, say, that's where one met one's significant other back in the day, or because their fish is always perfectly cooked, or because of some house specialty.

The second category is not so clear cut. Take, for example, stamp collecting. If one were to ask me what my "favorite" stamp was, I would not be able to answer unequivocally, because I have a number of favorites, for various reasons (and let's face it, the old "what would be the one stamp you'd want to have with you if you were marooned on a desert island" ploy just doesn't do it). I enjoy my Penny Black (the first stamp printed) because it represents the start of the modern postal era, with stamped mail. I enjoy this one particular pair of stamps where one is positioned upside-down with respect its neighbor (philatelists call this a tête-bêche pair) because it looks so cool. I enjoy my 50-cent Canadian "Bluenose" stamp because of its elegant design and rich color. I could go on, but it's clear I have no one "favorite" stamp.

I think the same is true for most collectors of whatever, so that unless one possesses something awesomely unique—a book collector owning a genuine Gutenburg Bible, for example—it is quite likely that different items will have different attractions, and perhaps even associated stories that endear said items to their owners.

As far as fountain pens are concerned, if I were to classify myself as a collector, I would say my "specialty" is vintage pens, mostly because there are a lot of affordable vintage pens out there (i.e., $100 or less, as opposed to forking out multiple Ben Franklins for modern collectibles). Then, too, I am fascinated by all of the various techniques that were developed over the years to get ink into the pen (from the venerable "eyedropper," where the user would literally use an eyedropper to fill the body of the pen with ink, to a mad array of hardware involving springs, rubber sacs, levers, pistons, and what have you) and from the pen to paper (e.g., various nibs).

Which is not to say I have anything against modern pens. My first "serious" fountain pen (and a strong contender for "favorite") was a Mont Blanc Meisterstück that commemorated the publication of my first book and reminded me of my favorite professor during my college years (he owned one and marked papers with it). However, I feel it's too ostentatious for daily use, which cools my desire to use it all the time.

Another modern favorite is a gold-plated Mont Blanc that writes like a dream, which I picked up at an outdoor flea market in Switzerland, at a price that was described to me by a fountain pen expert as "the steal of the century." It, too, is a little too fancy to carry around on a day-to-day basis, but I do like to take it out, from time to time, and write in a journal.

Among vintage pens, my favorites are a Conklin "crescent filler" from the early part of the 20th century, an Eversharp (whose model name escapes me, but whose sac I repaired myself), and a Parker 51. I also own a Waterman 12, which has a very flexible nib that would be ideal for performing the kind of penmanship that was taught in school to my mother's generation.

Among modern pens, I really love my Pilot "Vanishing Point" pen, the operation of which resembles that of a ballpoint, i.e., depress the plunger to expose the nib; depress it again to hide the nib, as well my Kaweco AC Sport, which has an aluminum body and is very compact. My current "everyday carry" is a TWSBI Vac Mini, which features a stub nib (which allows easy imitation of calligraphic writing) and is solidly built with a large reservoir.

So I guess the answer to the question is no, I do not have one favorite fountain pen. I have several, for the reasons stated.

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I find it distressing when end clients want the column heading for something involving a price in U.S. dollars to read something like "Foofaraw Price, USD" and insist that the individual numbers in the column be prepended with a dollar sign.

Please, people. One or the other, not both!


* no, I don't actually have a list of 632 previous such pet peeves, Right now, it just feels like such a list should exist!
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I was impelled, a few minutes ago, to comment on a recent post by LJ friend emo-snal and noticed, while tapping out my comment, that there was an additional section displayed between the post and the comments, which displayed three other posts from Kris's LJ that carry the “bellingham wa” tag.

I have no idea whether this is some kind of new default feature, or something you have to configure by hand, or whether it works with cross-posts or only with "native" LJ posts (I'm not sure how one would tell the difference, really, but I digress...).

So, just for laughs, I'm going to tag this post with the first word that comes to mind (chess) and then go over to LJ and see what I can see.


UPDATE #1. Visited my page on LJ, clicked on "Leave a comment" for this post. No additional section was displayed. A possible problem with this "experiment" is that if you're looking at your own post, LJ won't show the additional section.

UPDATE #2. When in doubt, read the manual (or whatever passes for one). I found a post that describes the feature and explains how it is used. Seeing as I have a 4,000 word document breathing down my neck to be edited, this will conclude—for now—this experiment.

UPDATE #3. I lied in that last part of the previous update. It turns out the feature is enabled for my LJ layout, and if I want to use it, I shall have to go to LJ and edit the post. And now, I really must hunker down and get to work. :)
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...I stayed at home. Under the weather. Something I ate, no doubt.

Taking it easy, after a translation and some DTP.

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...or what passes for smoothly on a Tuesday.

Natalie's tenants required some TLC, so between going over there and some associated stopovers, Galina was pretty much out-of-pocket for the whole day. This left me free to, among other things, rummage through papers and take most of the junk out of the closet in my office.

The reality is not as one might imagine. Galina just stopped by to "remind" me that much of the junk that I had dislodged from various boxes now lie on my bed, which means I've got some work ahead of me before I can lay me down to sleep.

No biggie. I'll move the stuff and then resume the quest tomorrow, unless something better comes along.

Natalie and I have been discussing possibilities for the August 21 eclipse.

And mirabile dictu!, Mathew called me this evening to talk to me. I am officially Very Pleasantly Surprised™.

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Or, if one follows ISO 8601, it's 2017W301.

I sent off the strange birth certificate translation, then went with the ladies on what was supposed to be a trip to the Webster house, but ended up being a 75-minute walk around various stores (for exercise, Galina said).

Then it was back to the barn, where I rummaged through some papers and took a nap.

I can do better than this.

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When I first caught sight of a store called Batteries + Bulbs, I filed the location away for later, because I thought the idea of a store that carries a broad range of batteries was pretty nifty, especially considering the weird selection of batteries that various items have coughed up in recent years when I've disassembled them to determine what replacement batteries I needed to buy.

Well, this morning, the local franchise managed for the third time to not have a battery I needed, so frankly, I'm pretty sure it'll not be worth my time to go there ever again. (If I want AA batteries, I can get a better deal at Sam's Club.)

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Over the past couple of months, I've repeatedly run into references to "Blue Apron" during the course of daily life. The name refers to a company that appears to be making a go of sending subscribers the raw materials for meals, delivered on a weekly basis.

A recent combination of (a) the company being mentioned in a comment by by LJ friend adoptedwriter and (b) an introductory $30 off offer I caught on the radio tipped the balance for me, so I signed us up and the first box arrived today. At Galina's urging, I made the "Saffron & Tomato Bucatini Pasta with Summer Squash and Basil."


My first move was to substitute whole wheat spaghetti for the bucatini (I am trying to stay clear of white flour). I then added one more squash (the box contained one zucchini, which just felt wrong). From there, however, I followed the recipe through to the end and served it to Galina, Alla, and myself.

The response from the ladies was quite vehement—they liked it! I liked the result as well.

This one is a keeper!

So far, so good, with Blue Apron.

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...not quite entirely okay, either.

Keeping my thermometer handy.

I went for a haircut and the same woman who gave me a buzz cut some months ago worked on me again, and expressed genuine happiness (I think) that I appeared hale and hearty. There wasn't much to cut, but the experience lifted my spirits.

I'm going to take it easy and look forward to tomorrow morning.

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Paid some bills. Had fun trying to deal with some web sites. Seriously considered buying a laptop that's way too expensive. Did some reading. Did some writing, using both pens and a keyboard.

Not in that order, necessarily.

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Back when Champ and I hung out at his parents' house for extended periods, I could not help but notice that his mom, who bedded down on the family couch in the living room, turned on the television on those nights when she was plagued with insomnia (and there were many of those).

At the time, I suspected the tactic merely encouraged the insomnia, because once the tube went on, Champ's mom was focused on what what being broadcast and kept her eyes open until the test pattern came on, at oh-dark-thirty. Consequently, in my own experience with sleeplessness, I avoid turning on the television or otherwise entertaining myself, lest I lose all hope of falling asleep.

The trouble with my approach is that not doing anything—basically just lying there with eyes closed but experiencing not the least desire to fall asleep—is boring at best and a source of fitful tossing and turning at worst.

At today's follow-up at MD Anderson, I mentioned that, for the past two chemo sessions, the night following chemo ends up being a sleepless night, as I remain alert and awake through most of the night, with the feeling that I had dozed for a few minutes here and there.

My suspicion that this was due to the steroids that are administered as part of the process proved to be correct, but then I received some interesting advice as to the best way to deal with insomnia. It boiled down to this:

(1) Do not watch television or read electronic books. Electronic screens, I was told, tend to encourage wakefulness as a result of their flickering, which is subconsciously perceptible.

(2) Read a paper book, preferably on a less-than-exciting subject (i.e., avoid the latest spy thriller or mystery).

* * *

In other news, yesterday I mentioned something that felt like a cramp in the calf of my left leg. The problem was still there this morning, and crawling out of the rack was something of a limp-fest because of it. Once I worked the muscles for a few minutes by walking around, the pain had subsided to the level of "noticeable" and my gait was almost unaffected.

Any subsequent prolonged period of rest would result in a partial reversal, so for example when I stepped out of the car after a 50-minute drive from the house to the Texas Medical Center, the pain was back, but it again dulled during the walk from the parking garage to the elevators inside the building.

Funny thing, though—after only a couple of hours had elapsed from the end of the chemo session, the pain went away completely and has not returned.

I was about to conclude that this was evidence of a link between that pain and the fresh chemo attacking my cancer, but realized that more than anti-cancer agents were infused into me (I've mentioned this above), so it's possible, I suppose, for there to be a link, say, between the pain going bye-bye and the steroid component of the treatment.

In any event, I am not complaining, but I will keep track of this.

I've started reading Ryan Holiday's Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts. I'm finding it hard to put down. It's pretty far from boring, but if for some reason I can't readily fall asleep tonight, I'll keep turning the pages until Morpheus comes calling.

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It occurred to me yesterday that various orders placed over the past ten days seem to have all shipped at approximately the same time, which is going to make Thursday and Friday pretty busy, package-wise.

In other news, three years ago, I bought a program called USB Secure. I apparently fired it up and entered an access password to the program, which I apparently did not write down anywhere. I asked the publisher how to go about resetting the password, a response dropped into my inbox just after midnight, which suggests the writer is either a night person or lives in Europe, but the instructions therein didn't work, possibly because they assume I registered the product with the publisher, and I'm pretty sure I did no such thing.

In reviewing the program's documentation and the publisher's web site, it would appear to be impossible to register as a user without having gotten "into" the program (using the password, naturally). So, I sent another inquiry. Unfortunately, it would appear that there's nobody home at the company's premises during the day (phone calls go to voice mail) and the "chat" feature on the web site shows "offline" all the time.

If it wasn't for the response to my initial question, I'd grade the company as "F" for customer service.

In other news, I woke up with some kind of problem with the calf muscle in my left leg, which has found me limping around the house (and during my walk). Annoying as buttercups.

At the urging of an acquaintance, I started reading Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. It is not the easiest text to wade through.
Only now is the child finally divested of all that he has been. His origins are become remote as is his destiny and not again in all the world's turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay.
Not all of McCarthy's sentences are that long; in fact, most are quite short and deliver their meaning in the form of verbal rabbit punches.
The passengers are a diffident lot. They cage their eyes and no man asks another what it is that brings him here. He sleeps on the deck, a pilgrim among others. He watches the dim shore rise and fall. Gray seabirds gawking. Flights of pelicans coastwise above the gray swells.
This style is not conducive to running across a lot of commas. By comparison, Astolph de Custine's Letters from Russia is breezy in its exposition.
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I am starting to fall into both a semblance of physical order in my office and a reasonable routine of daily activities.

Both show me just how much I have left to do.

Tonight was our monthly (more or less) pizza night. Good eating!



Jul. 16th, 2017 01:02 pm
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After mounting a few stamps in a Rhodia journal that I had been scribbling in, I appear to have stopped scribbling in it. I have also stopped mounting stamps in it.

So, I ask myself, "Why?"

Off the top of my noggin, I suspect the former is because I don't want to violate a book with mounted stamps with unorganized scribbling, and the latter is because I don't want to end up with a journal that (a) appears ungainly because of stuff that's stuck between the pages, and (b) is worth entirely too much, in terms of catalog value.

Hmmm. Food for thought.

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I did not get a whole lot accomplished today, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

What I did get done took place mostly in the kitchen, where I made two loaves of bread (it's uncanny how fast loaves disappear around here) and dinner, consisting of boiled shrimp with sides of mixed veggies (from the freezer) and quinoa.

For some time, Feht has been compiling a catalog of Russian Imperial Postage Stamps (1857–1919), including major varieties and constant plate flaws. I received a beta copy and have already provided some feedback. My own impression, after examining the book, is that collecting early Russian stamps is a lot more complicated than collecting the corresponding period of French stamps, because various aspects (e.g., perforations and types and thicknesses of paper) of what appear to be the same stamp actually vary between issues (e.g., the fourth definitive issue of 1864 is perforated 12-1/4 x 12-1/2, while the fifth definitive issue of 1865 is perforated 14-1/2 x 15).

For me, it's finding one's way through all such detail that makes stamp collecting such a relaxing pastime.

Tomorrow, however, I think I'll put some stuff up on Etsy and eBay.

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And what else did we do?

Cleaned off the stuff in front of and on the credenza. Cleaned off the stuff on the bridge table.

Accompanied Galina and Alla to do food shopping. Picked up some tempeh, among other things. I was not sure I'd ever eaten it, so I prepared some this evening, heated in a skilled with oil and soy sauce with some kale and a few chopped Kalamata olives. I found it quite satisfying.

If I am to make a fundamental change in my diet in the direction of plant-based sustenance, I will find myself having to learn a whole new set of culinary skills. Last weekend, while tooling around the area, we stopped at a new (to us) place called Snap, which sells prepared, prepackaged food, and they have a pretty substantial stock of vegetarian meals. We picked up a couple to get an idea of what kinds of foods go well with others, in what proportions and cooking methods.

I am looking forward to preparing cauliflower and kale this weekend, along with peppers and olives. I also plan to think of other things to do with tempeh.

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As I have no systematic way of looking for publishable stuff "embedded" in roughly 8800 journal posts over the past 17 years (short of actually going through them, one by one, which would take just over one solid day of eyeball time if one assumes an average review rate of 10 seconds per post), I find myself relying on items that rise to conscious awareness like bones in a stew.

So that my "baker's dozen" collection of fiction stories has now grown out of its stated limit (unless I get rid of an equal number of stories that were already included in the collection).

In other news, enough work came in this morning to prevent me from joining Galina and Alla on a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. Feels just like old times, to some extent.

I also made up for "breaking training" yesterday by taking the dogs for a one-hour walk this morning.

Which reminds me... I need to feed and walk them, like, right now!

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But before the pen club there were a couple of translations, some writing, and a bunch of petty stuff that had to be taken care of.

Among the latter was a trip to the Webster house to repair the locks on the back door (fortunately, it was not a matter of repairing or replacing locks; what I want to know, however, is how did four screws just disappear?) and finding out that the insurance policy on a house we no longer own is being renewed (and we were being billed for it).

The writing is happening more often, and I've revived an interest in the Duke Jacobs story.

The pen club meeting went well. We had a world-class expert on Parker pens hold forth on the subject and pass around some of his collection as he introduced the various pens. A good time, I think, was had by all.

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It wasn't much, but a couple of small jobs came in and were dispatched with aplomb.

I got a late start to the day, and so it was 10 am before stuff started happening around here, and mid-afternoon before I became really aware of just how much of the day had elapsed. (I get that way during long rainstorms... I guess they lull me.)

I got to thinking hard about my tentative chapters of the Duke Jacobs story (one of which appears in my "baker's dozen" collection), and am wondering just what it would take not to simply recast old material into something publishable, but to write some new stuff. There's also the Feather story that needs to be expanded and completed.

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My client informed me, a while back, that the end client for the work we've been doing chose not to participate in a "recompete" for the contract, and so, we should expect a change-of-end-client in September. What worried me, at the time, is that given a bunch of other tepid moves undertaken by the current end client, August may not be much of a month for invoicing.

And of course, in the grand tradition of freelancers, the lack of incoming work since the Fourth has caused me to wonder if July will not also be lukewarm, in terms of billing.

That said, I'm not taking any of this lying down. No sir!
* * *

Alla accompanied me on a trip to the Jardin-del-Mar beach this morning. It was a glorious day and the water was warm. Alla swam, I waded.

As I walked along the beach, I could not help but notice the line of vessels out in the Galveston Bay ship channel, heading toward the Gulf of Mexico. I also could not help wondering what it would be like to be aboard such a vessel and where they might be going.

We took a (big) detour on the way home to visit a store called "Mi Tienda" ("My Store," in Spanish). I had spent some time over the weekend looking for some hibiscus tea for Galina, and the best I could do was a box of teabags at the local health food store, but the bags create only a very weak tea. My previous experience with stores like "La Michoacana" told me that I would almost certainly find hibiscus (jamaica) in a store that catered to the Hispanic community.

Among other things, I brought home some very nice hibiscus.
* * *

I've successfully exercised for three days in a row, now. Today I put in about 70 minutes of moderate exercise.



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