Saturday, December 15, 2012

Elementary, My Dear Hiei: In Which We Pause To Post Fanfics

A haunted mansion is the setting, and a frightened family discovers two mysterious strangers at their doorstep on a dark and stormy night.




Excerpt:

Behind every shadow lurks danger

Elementary, My Dear Hiei (C1: The Curse of the Haunted Manor)
by
Kenshin
It was a dark and stormy night when the beleaguered Puffington clan discovered two trespassers.

The rain did not so much fall as gush like clear blood from a lightning-clawed sky. Crashes of thunder rattled the windows of the mansion house, wringing from the un-nerved occupants startled cries.....




"Why not call the coppers on them?" inquired Smarmy. "We've every right. They're trespassing on our land after all."


"But Smarmy dear," Pudge reminded him. "The phone is dead."


This was true; Pudge feared they might be reduced to communicating with the outside world by post.


As one, their gazes fell upon the mysterious envelope lying on the side table.


"Shall we open the letter?"


They had feared to do so before, but now it seemed urgent. Dumpling lifted the letter, and handed it to Merope.


Mopey passed it wordlessly to her brother, who fobbed it off on Smarmy, who handed it like a hot potato to Pudge.


Pudge took it in her shaking hands. There was a heavy red wax seal, and then the thick cream-colored paper crackled as she withdrew the missive, hand-written in a bold black script.


With all that had occurred, Pudge's courage failed. "Oh, I can't! You read it, Dumpy dear."


Taking the letter, Dumpling cleared his throat and read:

'Expect us for dinner tonight at 8 PM.

- Monsieurs Hero and Delamont.'


They all looked at one another in complete puzzlement.


"Who...?" wondered Smarmy.


"Eight o'clock," said Twitchy, "Why that's right about-"


The doorbell rang.


"Don't let them in," whispered Mope. "I'm afraid."


"They're here!" Eyes wide with panic, Twitchy clutched at his shirt. "What shall we do?"


"Stiff upper lip," said Dumpy, "and pray the ghosts don't put in an appearance."

Read the rest here!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Invasion of the X-pens! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Has Good A Excuse

 
All I wanted was the Vanilla, I swear.  Now look what happened!


So Dr. Inkenstein had heard a lot about xfountainpens and thought they seemed interesting, with some nice (read: cheap) prices, and handsome models, but had balked at the actual  jump.


Not long ago, on a whim, I searched Amazon for fountain pens.  Among the motley Safaris and Invictas I saw a Vanilla 'Kurve' for under $14.  Prime, too! It appeared to be a fat pen, with a satin- finish and gold trim.  Sure.  Why not.


But by the time I went to get it the next day, it was gone.  *waaaaaaa*


However, on the same page (you know, where Amazon frantically tries to get you to buy whatever they have a lot of in their inventory) there were listed five of those very same pens, Vanilla included, for $40! 
 
 
Can't beat that, I thought.  And a mini-bottle of ink!  Thrown in, just like that. 


The 'brand' name is Bulow, the model  X450, which I hear is a retooled Jinhao or something. 
 
 
Whatever tool they're using, it was right for the job.  Of course, Dr. inkenstein prefers  'X-pens.'  I may end up naming them: Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Rogue.  Just because.


These pens look reeeeeel goooood. The finish is shiny, deep and intense in color, except for the Vanilla and the Gold (which appear more soft and pearlized).  They are fat in girth and substantial in weight, but not too heavy, even for me.


I dip- tested one  ('Scintillia,' looking like burgundy leopardskin) in J Herbin Cafe des Isles.  Let it be known that Dr. Inkenstein hates animal prints.  Yes, it's just a quirk, but a big one, and it's mine, all mine. 


What do you know. The Scintillia finish grew on me.  Because the pen writes soooo smoooooth.  A nice wet 'M.'   I've owned pens costing ten times the price that didn't write half as willingly.  And yes, I've named her 'Rogue.'


I am in serious danger of buying more from xfountainpens.  Each pen comes with a nice-looking converter, and they also offer different nib sizes (for an added price) on many models. 
 

Here also among many Kurve friends is the Nemosine Singularity, a different model pen, smaller and lighter-weight, with a threaded cap, a flat top and the smaller of their cursive italic nibs (for which you do NOT have to cough up more bucks--all the Nemo nibs come at no extra charge).  The Nemo comes in a few different finishes as well.  In a shiny gray skin, this Nemo's superpowers are stealth and smoothitude.

 
X-pens also sells ink under the Chesterfield brand, and while you can buy bottles in two different sizes, and buy samples as well, you get three free sample bottles with each purchase over a certain amount.
 
Of their inks, Dr. Inkenstein has tried:
 
Siam: A deep cherry-burgundy
Fire Opal: Softer, more pinkish burgundy
Sodalite: Standard blue-black with a hint of denim
Teal: Really a blue-black with green undertones
Smoky Topaz: Wonderful copper-brown
Mahogany: A true sepia, one of Dr. I's fave brown inks


Time alone will tell whether these pens will have converter problems (as other x-pen users have noted) or finish problems.  Or even if they may mutate into other species altogether!


But come on!  Five fountain pens!  Ink!  Forty bucks!  The cheapskate in Dr. Inkenstein has a happy, and so does the pen-lover.



 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Four pens: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Scribbles Notes


Long time no blog: plenty of ideas and pens and inks in the hopper, though.

Today Dr. Inkenstein scribbles with four new fountain pens and two new inks.  And could not be happier.

The first, a Hero, is utterly gorgeous, copper colored with a raised fleur-de-lys design and pewter-looking clip.  For some odd reason the shape reminds me of an ST. Dupont build.  The nib is said to be flexible.  If Todd still has these, he's got better pix than I can take.  Please have a look at this pen's gorgeousness.



The second may well be my fave of the batch: a shiny gray Nemosine Singularity from xfountainpens (and much more on them in a later post).  It's a substantial, smooth, well-steering model with a rounded stubbish calligraphy nib that, on a single dip in Noodler's Rome Burning,  laid down at least three slinky paragraphs.  

 Dr. I also wonders why so many people dislike RB ink.  It's nearly a dead ringer for Pelikan Khaki, which I love and which is 'out of print.'

Pen Number Three is a monster.  Seriously.  It could star in its own movie: Pen Nine From Outer Space.  Heavy, mirror-finish, fat silver torpedo.  Another from xfountainpens.  

 These are probably rebranded Jinhaos, and the M nib here is smooth enough.  I just. Didn't. Expect. Such.  Huge.  Shininess.

Last,  an amazing piece of work  is the Duke 'Chinese calligraphy' nib, and just one more in my growing fude collections (see Nose In The Air for further examples).  It, too, is massive, heavy, and comes in a presentation box with ink and a cart AND a booklet.  In Chinese.  Which Dr.Inkenstein cannot read.  

Its nib is somewhat different from most of my fude, being bent at a more severe angle and having two nib slits.   Another one from isellpens; pics on that website.

These will be reviewed in more detail at a later date.   For now please enjoy the random scribbles.




Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Fought The Stub And The Stub Won: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Files And Files Again

Following up on the fude post, Dr. Inkenstein now relates the horriffic tale of the….. (crack of thunder, claw of lightning) HERO THAT STUBBED ITSELF.    

It all began with the thought:  “Hey, this Hero 616, of which I have many, might make an interesting fude.” 


So without further study, we grabbed the pen and a pair of jewelry pliers and attempted to snag the teeny little hooded nib and force it to turn up at the end.  Just like a real fude. Without even heating it first!    


But rather than bending to Dr. Inkenstein’s will, the end of the nib promptly snapped off.  


Here, the normal 616 nib, on the burgundy model, compared to the snub-nose green:




  “Well,” we thought.  “Maybe it will still write.”    And so it did.  Like a carpenter’s wood chisel.    

We cried.     TT__TT

But then, out came the girlie-manicure tools, which we have seen (with our very own eyes!) nibmeisters use.  Ones with professional names you would all recognize.  And we don’t just mean the manicure tools.    


We filed.   We tested.  The nib still behaved like a chisel.  It still tore out big chunks of paper.    


Dr. Inkenstein:  You dare defy your creator?    

Hero:  Hey.  YOU’RE the one who broke me in the first place.    


We filed some more.   And again.   And again.       And what do you know.   It wrote.   Like a fountain pen.


So now, we give you: the results!   In living color!  





We invite you to invest in some manicure tools and see whether you can’t rescue a mangled nib for your own scientific uses. 

 It’ll be fun.   Dr. Inkenstein says so.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Are You Loathsome Tonight? In Which We Post a YYH Fic

Hiei, Halloween, and professional wrestling make a dangerous combo, but toss in a stalking killer, some frightening food, and things go downhill fast.

A/N: This Halloween tale was late in arriving--or early, depending when you read it. In The Cowboy Trilogy it was fun, hijacking the titles of classic westerns and using them as chapter titles. Here I get to play with classic song titles.

Excerpt:

Then there was the case of the Psychotic Leprechaun, which Hiei had prosecuted with Urameshi Yuusuke. Who would have thought a creature one foot tall, and resembling a monkey rather than that cartoon guy with the pot of gold, could be so strong? Hiei had been forced to wield his Black Dragon. After its deployment, Hiei had fallen into a trance so deep that Urameshi, unable to rouse him, had covered him with a few sheets of newspaper and left him in the middle of the street.
Hiei had awakened in a garbage dump. Not his finest moment.

Focus on tonight. So it's Halloween. What of it?




The story in full here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Nose In The Air: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Does Fude

There is something about a fountain pen with its nose turned up. And not just the fact that it looks like someone dropped it by accident head-first on a granite floor.
 
No, fude (or, as some of you know them, ‘Chinese calligraphy pens’) actually come that way. On purpose. This is because the snub nose gives you great variation of line, if you happen to be lucky enough not to be a southpaw hooker.
 
Even then, a fountain pen with a fude nib will make your handwriting look a bit less as though scribbled by a monkey with the espresso jitters.
 
Fude. Naturally, Dr. Inkenstein is crazy about them. And has been collecting them for a while.
 
In my little fude family are three or four Sailor ‘bamboo’ stick-type pens, each with its nose turned up at a slightly differing angle. And another Sailor, the Profit Special Script, which resembles a 1911 in shape, only cheaper. This one’s an everyday writer in my rotation, currently loaded with Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogan ink, which, for those of you without a Japanese dictionary on hand, means ‘gray.’

Even if it looks blue here!


 
There is also the very spiffy-looking golden-brown Bookworm and the jaunty marine-y Jinhao, among others. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. All have their noses in the air to varying degrees.

My selective group shot, L to r;
 
Jinhao, Bookworm, Sailor Profit, GLM:




 
But we are focusing this time on the newest of the lot, the Guanleming 193. Which was, like the other Guanlemings in my collection (previously reviewed here in Some Like It Cheap), a mere five dollars.
 
 
I wasn’t thrilled with the GLM 193 when I first inked it up. Maybe it was just the wrong ink.
 
From that previous review, Some Like It Cheap:


 
When it was empty of green, I loaded my GLM with a mix of mostly Waterman Havana Brown and a drop or two of Levenger's Shiraz. Because you can't be Dr. Inkenstein without a science experiment or two.
 
The more I use, the more I like.
 



This little wonder has become one of my all-time favorites.   Like other GLM pens, you can get it while it's still available at isellpens.
 
 
With the nib at a high angle, fude write almost like a normal fountain pen with a little flex and flair tossed in. At a lower angle, they’re almost like paintbrushes. With the nib held upside-down, they produce a hairline.
 
In short, they are the Swiss Army Knife of fountain pens. And for only five bucks (the GLM 193) you can dip your beak into the Turned-Up Nose Brigade.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Spy vs. Accountant! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Compares The Inner Pen-sonality

Bond. James Bond.
 
I don’t understand the characterization of the Hero 007 as cheap and flimsy. Maybe the price is low, but right off the bat, the spy pen wrote with a buttery feel and excellent flow.
 
Whereas the Accountant (Guanleming 978), while deceptively elegant in appearance, wrote reluctantly, dry-er, somewhat scratchier, though it got easier as it went along. And, befitting an accountant’s pen, it’s a little bit particular about the paper with which it associates. Unknown yellow lined pad, begone. Office Max comp book, we can live with it. We just don’t love it. Staples bagassee, now that’s more like it.

Spy Pen, Accountant Pen:




 
This particular accountant probably works for James Bond. Hence, the fancy-dress. Someone’s got to do the books.
 
 
Here we have the case of two pens whose personalities contrast their looks. The Spy Pen looks like it belongs to an accountant. Which makes sense. You don’t want a neon sign flashing, "Hey! I’m a secret agent! Everybody watch out!"
 
 
No, you want to do your work undercover! So it’s fitting that the spy and the accountant swapped clothes. After all, if you’re an accountant, people aren’t shooting at you and aiming giant lasers at your personal areas. At least, not most of the time.
 
Sleek and silver and black. James Bond in a tux, watching out of the corner of his eye.
 
Silver and gold with patent-leather black section. M’s most trusted bookkeeper.
 

Behold the two tests and judge for yourself.
 
James Bond:



 

Accountant:



 
 
The 007 James Bond pen (donated to me by a kind member of FPN) is available from various ebay sellers.
 
 
The GLM is available from isellpens, who also has much better pictures than I am able to take. He probably uses a spy camera.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Method not Pattern: In Which Count Sockula Drops Back And Punts

Gather round the fire, my children, while I recount the horrrrifyyyinnng tale of….
 
Oh, skip it.
 
Do you like to experiment with different kinds of sock heels and toes? Me, too. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even have to think when knitting the double-wrap garter stitch heel, my fave. If I were to attempt a conventional flap heel I would HAVE TO LOOK AT A PATTERN.
 
The horror.
 
For patterns are to Count Sockula as sunlight is to a vampire. Once you know basic sock construction, and have played with different cuffs, heels and toes, you can just make it up as you go along.
 
Be that as it may, I will do anything to avoid having to pick up wraps, but if you don’t do something, you create the dreaded and ugly GAP. One pickless-upless method is the aforementioned garter stitch heel. You wrap twice, pick up no times.
 
Another such is the Japanese Pick method. The ‘pick’ here doesn’t mean picking up a wrap. There are no wraps. You pick up an extra stitch to close the gap, then knit it together with another stitch.
 
Do you have trouble with the Japanese Pick Heel?
 
No? So it’s just me, then. Figures.
 
Count Sockula recently attempted a JPH without looking up any reference at all, only a vague memory to guide me. Naturally. The heel just kept going and going and going, and finally I had enough and just finished it off any old how. It didn’t look good, but it was finished.
 
Then I did what I should have in the first place and LOOKED IT ALL UP. Doing so, I saw a very nice picture of an extremely colorful sock with a JPH and what appeared to be thousands of teeny gold safety pins hanging off every edge of the heel.
 
That’s a lot of pins.
 
The theory is, you use the pins to pick up an extra loop of yarn, which you then knit together with a loop already on your needles to close the gap. Then I read you can do the JPH without safety pins and just snag an extra loop with your knitting needle. Like you would any other make-a-stitch thingie.
 
I also found out you’re supposed to slip the first stitch. Which I forgot.
 
All this just to avoid wraps and pickups!
 
Then, since these were top-downs, I ended with a star toe. I just decreased evenly all around (the work was on four needles, knit with a fifth) and then cinched the remaining stitches off. It came out looking much better than the heel. So there.
 
Sock: Sort of anklet-y thingie
Yarn: Red Heart scraps
Stitches: 32
Needles: Big pink plastic comfort-y things in size 8
Cuff: Messed up. Started with 3x3 rib, switched to 1X1, then 2x2. Don’t even know what I ended up with.
Method: Top-down, trying two different heels and star toe.





Thursday, May 10, 2012

Some Like It Cheap: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Goes Black and Gold

One thing Dr. Inkenstein loves about the hobby of fountain pens is that there’s a level for anyone and everyone. Whether you collect vintage, Montblanc, Sheaffer, or are perfectly content with a jar full of Pilot Petit 1 fountain pens in every color, nothing stands in your way.
 
Dr. Inkenstein happens to love cheap fountain pens like the Hero 616, Baoer Sonnet or Skywalker, but often hears of them referred to as ‘knock-offs.’
 
They are not. Nowhere do these pens pretend to be Parkers, or Sheaffers, or Montblancs. They do not carry the logos of those brands and make no attempt to deceive the buyer. They are rather homages.


 

 
While the Baoer reviewed here is a Sheaffer homage, the others… aren’t. What they are: black-bodied, with gold-tone trim and nibs, they convey an air of understated elegance, even at this cheerful price point.


However, due to blogspot's unworkable new 'interface,' it took about two hours to post what I could previously manage in a mere fifteen minutes.  Blogspot's 'functions,' once easily used, no longer function at all. 
  
 
Baoer Sonnett 

 
This neatly understated gold/black pen has a needle-fine nib, yet the ink flow and nib are both smooth, and I really enjoyed both the look and feel; it’s fun to write with. For a fountain pen that costs around nine bucks, you can’t do much better. The heaviest and most ‘impressive’ of the three pens, the Baoer is an astounding value, and while it comes with a converter, it also takes standard international cartrtidges.
 
 
Guanleming 956
 
 
 
 
This model is supposed to exhibit some flex, and it does, but not much. As with any flex nib, its operation takes getting used to. A featherweight carrying through with our gold and black motif, the GLM 956 has a tapered cap which appeals to Dr. Inkenstein. The fill system is a removable pump-type from which (unlike the Hero 616) the metal tube cannot be removed. This Guanleming is among the five-dollar deal available from isellpens.
 
 
 
 
Kaweco Sport 

 

 
 
The last of the black-and-golds, this mini-pen is the only one that didn’t come from isellpens. It’s widely available, and I got the medium nib. Dr. Inkenstein has heard complaints about the Sport’s scratchiness, but this one is a wet, juicy writer, at least when using my custom blue ink.
 
Ever since a tragic ink-cident (the cap of Dr. Inkenstein’s fountain pen fell off and rolled under the desk as we were grilling, ahh, interviewing a victim, ahh, subject for a local paper), we have not been sanguine about allowing fountain pens to leave the home base. If any pen could change that, the cute little Kaweco Sport might. It’s MADE for travel, a true pocket pen that is a mere five-ish inches posted, and four-something capped. The only non-Chinese pen in the bunch (it’s German), also most expensive of the trio by far, yet is still considered an inexpensive pen.



 
So there you have it: black and gold. Elegance on the cheap.   
 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Coffee! (or koohii): In Which Dr. Inkenstein diverts, somewhat.






Left to right,  Back row: Mad Science Maker
Middle row: Stainless steel Bialetti, small Chemex, small percolator
Front row: Cute li’l Moka pot, plain carafe, plunger pot
 
 
This is by no means a complete coffeemaking monograph, but Dr. Inkenstein’s usual flippant, easygoing round-up.
 
My interest in koohiimaking began in my aunt’s mini-kitchen, one of those teeny apartment affairs that could actually be hidden behind a screen when not in use. She always brewed and served Brown Gold, and it was the first coffee Dr. Inkenstein ever sampled that actually tasted as good as it smelled.
Then later on, my mom gave me a decorating magazine (which I still have), featuring the home of a coffee enthusiast who collected all sorts of pots and makers. The visual of all those TOYS set me on fire to collect and experience coffeemakers, from the simplest ceramic filter-cone that makes one cup at a time, to the most arcane steam-powered unit available.
 
We are not quite there yet.
 
 
At one point or another, Dr. Inkenstein owned many types of coffeemakers, from those aluminum stove-top moka pots, to numerous percolators, to some once-popular single-cup model that wasn’t a K-cup, to an aluminum drip maker that you had to turn upside down to make work, and a six-cup stainless-steel moka pot from Bialetti. Alas, Dr. I gave them all away under the delusion that they were ‘too difficult to clean.’
 
 
Dr. Inkenstein also used to own a blue enamel Turkish Ibrik, which could not be said in any way, shape or form to be hard to clean, but gave that away too.
 
Live and learn, and acquire new coffeemakers. (I think I still have a Brazilian coffee sock, strictly as a curiosity.)
 
We started our quest by NOT giving away the large old Chemex and the mad-scientist pot (on which, more below). Next we located a couple of moka-types ON SALE. For HALF OFF. And one had a cute orange plastic handle. How could we resist??? And we got a smaller Chemex, and replaced the big Bialetti. But you KNOW that’s not all there is to report.
 
We also began researching the art of the brew, and were dismayed, but not all that surprised, to learn we had given away just about all our coffeemaking books, too. Which led to some innerwebs research. We discovered that coffee elitists sneer in undisguised, contemptuous horror at the humble percolator, whether stove-top or plug-in.
 
We, on the other hand, do not.
 
We used to have a plug-in type, but now own two stove-top percolators, in different sizes, and are on the hunt for some of those Corning masterpieces we (yes, you guessed it!) gave away. So while we awaited delivery of the replacement coffeemakers, Dr. Inkenstein experimented, and came up with this quick coffeemaking roster:
 
 
Comatose Coffee: When you are too asleep to manage anything else, Mr. Coffee to the rescue. Insert filter, insert coffee and water (which you can even set up the night before), flip switch. Presto. Ur coffee, we has its.
 
Kewl Koohii: Yes. We use a percolator. It requires some fiddling with measuring, timing, and so on, but when you want coffee with BODY, this is it. My children, do not fear the percolator!
 
 
Continental Coffee: The ubiquitous moka pot, often called a stove-top espresso maker, is a two-story affair made of aluminum or stainless steel, with the amount of water and grounds pre-determined. Comes in all sorts of sizes, from one to six cups (a ‘cup’ here being two and a half ounces) or even larger, and some expensive models have these cute ceramic tops with designs on them and everything. Put water and grounds in pot, screw together, place on stove top to boil, water forces through grounds and ends up in the top. Even more body than the perc brew, so THERE.
 
 
Plunger Pot: A glass cylinder into which you insert coffee grounds and boiling water together, stare at your watch, then press down on the plunger, trapping the grounds beneath the built-in strainer. Some body, not as much as perc or moka.
 
 
It’s Science! Coffee, Part One: Chemex. It’s laboratory glassware, so you KNOW Dr. Inkenstein loves this. Basically a filter drip method in which you put the filter paper in the cone, add coffee, boil water separately, and run the water through. Produces a clear, almost bodiless brew. One might even be able to use it for ink! (Had to drag that in somewhere, being a fond user of J Herbin’s CafĂ© des Isles ink).
 
 
It’s Science! Coffee, Part Two: Vaccum maker. This is the true Mad-Scientist pot, one so complicated and science-y that it requires a dark and stormy night, appropriate spooky music, and lightning bolts. And as the magic of vacuum sucks the coffee into the correct glass bulb, people will gather round to watch.
 
 
Bare Cupboards Coffee: Use a drip filter cone (such as Melitta) with appropriate grounds/liner and set it on a heavy glass carafe. Pour in boiling water as usual.
 
Kamikaze Koohii: No carafes or filter cones? Out of brew machines? Stuck with nothin’ but a pot? Dump koohii and water in the pot, boil, let grounds settle, pour carefully into cups, or be a wimp and pour through a strainer.
 
 
And because we are basically a blue-collar Mad Scientist, we never did and probably never will acquire a Nespresso (though we were sore tempted!) or any other device that costs more than fitty smackers.
 
So many makers! Coffee to suit any mood or budget! Be not ashamed of the method you like.
 
I should probably rename this blog The Cheapskate Chronicles, or, My Blue-Collar Life. We shall soon return to our regular posting.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Three Pens, Fifteen Dollars: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Reviews Guanleming

Guanleming is a brand of Chinese fountain pen that Dr. Inkenstein ever heard of. Luckily, a post on FPN about new stock at Isellpens revealed that there are at least three models, at FIVE DOLLARS EACH.
 
Sold! And here they are, in a sadly-murky snapshot:





The only one that I loaded was the Demonstrator ( with J Herbin Eclat de Saphir ink); the rest were dip-tested (my own mix called ‘Navy Green.’). Paper was a Rhodia grid pad, which is wonderful to write on, and Dr. Inkenstein loves a grid layout, but it looks a little funny in scans, so my apologies… will probably switch future reviews to paper with NO lines.   The handwritten scans appear above the review for each pen.
 

For such low-priced pens, they feel and perform beyond expectations. Each has a different look/nib, but they're all bulb-fillers, with the typical metal tube covering the bulb. They’ll hold more ink than a standard international cart, but not as much as a piston-filler. Not all the caps post, but the pressure-fit is pretty good.





The Demonstrator (2001) above: Advertised as ‘The Baystate Blue Pen,’ this little lightweight number would indeed be a good pen to dedicate to that tricky color. In fact, at this price, you could buy several just as ink testers, but the pen’s better than just that, with a smooth, responsive hooded nib that gives some character to your writing. I’d classify it as a ‘fine.’ It’s comfortable to hold, and the gold clip just looks cool. Dr. Inkenstein is having a lot of fun with this.


 

 
The 978 ‘Accountant’ pen, above, has my favorite look of the trio: brushed silver finish, gold trim contrasting with the shiny black bullet of a section also ringed with gold. This is a heavier pen than the demonstrator, with a comfortable grip. The clip is elaborately fashioned, with grooves and steps and an incised symbol, ending in a ball. The hooded nib writes a fine, firm line well enough that I wish I could fill it, but I’m a little afraid I put a hole in the bulb by twisting too hard when I removed the metal tube. One day, maybe, when Dr. Inkenstein is in the mood for inky fingers….
 

 
The 193 above is a fude, sometimes known as a Chinese calligraphy nib. The end of the nib turns up, allowing for a great variety of line. Held at a low angle, the pen writes like a B; upside down, it writes a hairline, and with a little practice you can get just about everything in between. It sports a brown and black finish, a black section which gives it a semi-hooded appearance (unusual in fude), and a gold Parker-type arrow clip. Though the nib is on the rough side compared to some other fude, for collectors (such as Dr. Inkenstein!) this little lightweight example of the genre is a good addition. The cap does not post on this model, but balance and esthetics are okay without it.
 

The pictures on the Isellpens web site are much, much better than mine, so go have a look.

Here they are, in Specials.

 
A couple of other pens (a Baoer, another Guanleming) arrived in that order. Look for those reviews coming soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Landscape With Blur: In Which We Post Another YYH Fanfic

Not my usual fare, but featuring a much-underappreciated character from Yuu Yuu Hakusho.  Kuwabara Kazuma happens to be one of my favorites, and this story places him in a journey of the heart.

The illo was done on vellum, probably with watercolor and/or colored pencil (too long ago to recall).

This particular tale takes place just before Yuusuke tracks down Hiei, Gouki, and Kurama to retrieve the objects they've stolen from Reikai.

Here follows an excerpt:


Title: Landscape With Blur
Author: JaganshiKenshin
Genre: General
Rating: K+/PG-13
Summary: Kuwabara Kazuma awakens in an unfamiliar house, facing the battle of his life.

He wasn't sure he had it in him, but Kuwabara the man always gave his best.

Landscape With Blur
by
Kenshin

The persistent jeet-jeet of cicadas awakened him.

It was hot. For a few moments, Kuwabara Kazuma did not remember where he was. Then his gaze traveled past the end of his futon, where he had propped a hand-lettered card that displayed the comfortable, familiar motto, like a miniature inspirational poster:

Sleep, Eat, Fight Urameshi.

He'd slept; still needed to eat, but as for the fight-

For once, it had nothing to do with Urameshi Yuusuke....

...Kazuma's mouth felt dry. This was not going to be a fight in the sense that he would have to clock someone. This battle would take place in a much more painful realm.



Read the rest of the tale here:

Landscape With Blur

Friday, February 3, 2012

Shadows! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Never Even Mentions Ink

Recently (thanks to both QVC and the Temptalia blog), Dr. Inkenstein has re-discovered eye shadow. With this happy pastime, I began performing a number of Science Experiments that did not in the least involve ink, fountain pens, or even sock yarn. I wanted to compare and contrast (mostly) drug-store brands, with one exception, and I wanted to know about color payout, and other extremely technical things, which basically just means: which shadow brands are good, and which are Return To Sender?
 
Of course my findings are completely subjective. But useful.
 
First we purchased a LOT of shadow compacts. Everything from big palettes holding a full dozen colors from the Dollar Tree, to the Deluxe Model found at Ulta: a compact from Bare Minerals costing more than Dr. Inkenstein cares to say.

Bare Minerals, and two of the other 'test cases:'

 
And that compact (Bare Minerals READY Eyeshadow 4.0, The Elements), not surprisingly, turned out the best in all categories but two---if you count price.
 
There are four neutral-ish shadows in this particular palette, each with excellent color payout in spite of a very disappointing applicator (at least you get two of them!), and there is a big mirror in which you can actually see your entire face, should you decide to apply on the fly.
 
However, there were also many surprises along the way.
 
Keeping in mind that I did not test every single shadow combo…
 
Guided by what I read on Temptalia and QVC, I grabbed shadow trios and quads from Revlon, Wet ‘n’ Wild, Elf, and L’Oreal. All the colors LOOKED great in the box, but application was a different story.
 
The Wet ‘n’ Wild Color Icons cost under $5, come with three shadows, a mini-brush, and single-ended applicator. The brush sheds hairs, the applicator is adequate. No mirror, but an illustrated guide on the back and embossed names (Eyelid, Crease, Browbone) so you know what color goes where. Color payout is excellent, for any shadow at any price. I got a blue set (On Cloud Nine) and pink-y neutrals (Walking on Eggshells).

Here are the blues:



 

 
Next I compared the W&W to a couple of similar color quads from L’Oreal (Studio Secrets), costing about eight bucks: Blues (the colors of which should be obvious), and Desert Sunrise for a comparison of the neutrals. These also have no mirror, but like the W&W have a guide for which color goes where, plus embossed numbers in case you forget. The quad has one double-ended applicator which is markedly better quality than even the Bare Minerals applicator. But color payout was stubborn compared to W & W.
 
Even worse was the Revlon quad, costing about the same as the L’Oreal: Colorstay Delighful (more neutrals… do you sense a theme?). The product is well-named. The shadow ‘stays’ in the compact; application is like trying to scrape color off a brick.
 
 
The Revlon palette was the clear loser of the bunch. One-dollar L.A. eye palettes ( with nine and 12 shadows each!) had softer, more liftable color. I actually ended up liking the brand; you get a lot of colors to play with in a small and neat size, and their double-ended applicators aren’t all that bad.
 
In fact, another one-dollar product scored higher than Revlon: the mini-shadow quad from ELF. I got Butternut (yes, you guessed it! Another neutral!) and Ivy (greens and bronze). IF you don’t mind the horrendous double-ended applicator that wants to fall apart, and the glittery finish, we have what Consumer Reports would term a Best Buy. The color payout is excellent for the price, the palette comes with a teeny slice of mirror, and it’s so cheap you can afford to experiment with, uhm. Color. Yes.

Which is pretty much what this blog is all about.
 
Elves and others:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My mistakes! In Which Count Sockula Talks Heels and a Toe

Gather around the fireside, my children, and listen to a sad tale of many mistakes, that you may learn from them, and not do what Count Sockula did.

Or do the mistakes anyway.  ;p

This effort was dubbed the Easter Sock, partly because I started it before Easter, partly because of its candy colors.  I might have called it the Hurricane Irene sock, since it was finished during that two-day power outage.


As I recall, it was done toe-up, in Caron Simply Soft, on 32 stitches with size 7 needles (first Bryspun double-points, then those plastic Comfort needles, finally with Prym circulars.  Yes, I switched needles.  A lot.).



I also wanted to try a closed-toe cast-on, and I think this is my favorite kind.  I dubbed it the Easter Toe, but it's also called the Bosnian, and couldn't be simpler: cast on 8, 10, or 12 stitches according to the weight of your yarn, and just knit a square, either in stockinette or garter stitch (garter used here).  Then pick up stitches all around the square until you have four needles with 8, 10, or 12 stitches each.  And start knitting your sock.  Increase as needed.  Adjust stitches on needles if you want the toe to lie square, or not, if you want it to lie as a diamond.


This was also my first attempt at a garter stitch heel, and I messed up the first one completely (though you might not even be able to tell from the photo).  This was because I was trying to do pick-method, rather than real garter stitch method.  I've learned better since, and my favorite GS tutorial is right here.


You can use this heel with either toe-up or cuff-down sockage.


This sock was taken up and put down more times than I care to remember.  It's also been my most challenging yarn - a splitty and completely ugly colorway in cotton from Araucania.  But it was a bargain!   And I'm stubborn.


This had the Easter Toe, and garter heel (one of which I messed up for a different reason, having lost count).  I used 40 stitches on #4 needles, pretty much Comfort all the way, though at one point I was doing Magic Loop with a lonnnnng Bryspun. 





I don't think you can see the heel mess-up here, either. 


But then we come to the Mystery Sock, which also took a vewy long time to complete.  





I bought a skein of this at a LYS from a bargain bin (yes, that again), but without a ball band.  Don't know the maker, don't know the fiber, don't know nothin' apart from ooooo!  Colors prettyyyy!!!!  This was probably wool, judging by the burn test, and a joy to knit, as opposed to the evil cotton sock.  It was done on 40 stitches and some ancient plastic circs in size 5.  But only having one ball of the stuff, I used an afterthought heel (and that link displays the best aftertought tutorial ever).   For the second sock I threw caution to the winds and did the old garter stitch heel.  It worked.


Ehh.  Jury's out on the afterthought.  It's good if you're not sure of enough yarn, or if you deliberately want a contrast color.  It's got its own problems, like all that picking out of stitches from the waste yarn, and having to Kitchener the heel.  Basically, it's a standard cuff-down toe, only knit as a heel.  Come to think of it, you can use some heel types for toes, and vice-versa.


Thus proving the world of socks is both upside down and backward.   More heels and toes to come.  And plenty more mistakes.