Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blue-Blacks: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Ponders A New Obssession

Lately, Dr. Inkenstein has been, well, let's say highly INTERESTED in blue-black inks.  After all, they are our favorite colors, if you include those inks that lean teal, like Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku and Chesterfield Teal.

So based on various online reviews and scans, I tested a bunch of new inks (all except the Everflo, which is not at all new and has been on my ink hutch for years, and is not a true blue-black but it's here for comparison purposes).

Part of the 'fun'of testing inks is finding a perfect ink/pen combo.  The Nemos write dry.  The Hero and Lamys write wet.  The dip pen dips.  So many different factors, including paper!

The paper here was, uhh, an Office Depot composition notebook with Brazilian paper.  The scan looks different from the photo.  The differences are interesting.  The ink colors in real life are also different.  On to the particulars.

 Brand(s):  Everflo, Diamine, OrGaNicS Studios (sample courtesty of a pen pal), Private Reserve

Color(s): True Blue, Eau De Nil, BlakWa, Ebony Blue

Intensity:  Ebony Blue the highest and most saturated; the Diamine and OS less saturated.  Everflo was tough to place.  It's semi-saturated, and not a real BB, but whatever.  ;p

Flow:  All except the OS had decent flow, that is, until the PR EB had been in the pen for a couple of weeks, and then it needed multiple water-dips to start.  It also began smearing badly.  FPG had a discussion on similar problems with intensely saturated inks; it appears that it's just part of the breed.  Dilute or suffer.

The reluctant nature of the OS was not due to the pen (A Hero Summer Colors), because with its provided cart of Hero ink, that pen is an absolute gusher.  I believe the Diamine would have good flow but the Nemo pens are dry writers.

Shading:  None whatever in the Everflo.  All others had varying good degrees of shading, and the PR had SHEEN!

Summary:  While OS and Diamine Eau De Nil look almost identical on paper, in the scans and photos they look quite different, with the OS Blakwa appearing far more green.  Possibly the BlakWa shades a bit better than Eau De Nil.

What follows is the scan AND the photo of the four inks.

We have further blue-blacks to test: Noodler's Blue-Black, a sample of Chesterfield Night Sapphire, which I like a lot, and the cart that arrived with the Hero Summer Colors.  Until next year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Story of Ruth: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Paints Horses

Way back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and no one ever thought of the word 'collectible,' Dr. inkenstein owned some Breyer horse models.  Of course, they all vanished somewhere along the way, perhaps to the singularity in which also resides the collection of original Superman comic books.

More recently, I have been thinking about attaining Breyer models for the express purpose of re-painting them.  Maybe with some fantasy colors, blue-black, orange, with contrasting mane and tail.   Oh, not new Breyer models.  But maybe just a few worn and dinged-up numbers gathered at yard sales or fleabay.

Three years of searching yielded nothing that appealed to Dr. inkenstein's sense of True Cheapskatery.  And then one day this spring, we chanced upon a garage sale with Breyer horses.  Lots of them.  In all sizes.  Selling for the sort of pittance that sets my heart leaping.

I bought a bunch of them.  And there were still plenty left over for the next seeker.

My first painting project was inspired by the 1950s Biblical film, The Story of Ruth.  There was a horse in it.  A near-black horse with a Technicolor orange mane and tail.  And, as I fell asleep before the entire film unfolded, I was unable to tell if this was a natural horse color or a Hollywood Dye Job Horse Color.  But it really doesn't matter, because there are liver chestnut horses that come in those colors.  In real life.

One of the garage sale Breyers was a Stablemate flaxen chestnut (though an ebay figure was listed as sorrel)  which gave a good base for the liver makeover.  it was just a nice little flaxen chestnut with three stockings and a blaze.

Oversized pics.  But see? 

Out came the ancient Atelier acrylic paints: burnt umber, burnt sienna, cadmium orange, black, and a floating medium.  The first thin coat of burnt umber went on using a soft filbert brush, leaving mane and tail as they were for the moment.    After three coats I modified the mane and tail color with some burnt sienna and a touch of the cadmium orange on a liner brush.

Dr. Inkenstein's advice is: for a first horse-painting project, get something that you don't need to look at in a magnifying glass.   

This is the finished horsie.  I'm thinking of calling him Ruth.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Disclaimer: Kenshin does not own the Yuu Yuu Hakusho characters (they are the property of Togashi Yoshihiro et al), and does not make any money from said characters.
What Kenshin does own, however, are all the original charactersin this work. Any attempt to "borrow" these characters will be met with the katana, or worse.
Idiot Beloved takes place shortly after the Dark Tournament; Firebird Sweet follows. As reference, I use a combination of the subtitled YYH anime, the American manga, plus some of the CD dramas.
Want to know why Hiei refers to Kaitou as a 'playmate?' Read The Book of Cat With Moon. Who are the Kawasaki sisters? Maya's Tale has the answer.
The Imprint of Snow takes place after the close of Cat/Moon and revisits not only Yojigen Mansion, but Kaitou Yuu's second career as a popular novelist.
Title: The Imprint of Snow
Author: JaganshiKenshin
Genre: General
Rating: K+/PG-13
Summary: Christmas Eve would be a bad time to destroy Tokyo, so Kaitou Yuu drags Hiei out for a walk.
A/N: As always, thanks for reading this, and for your reviews!
An elusive snowflake heralds a message for Hiei.
The Imprint of Snow
Tokyo, Christmas Eve. Wanting to snow, but unable.
From Hiei's perch on the guard rail of the roof, the city lights were diamonds, rubies and emeralds, scattered on a velvet backdrop by an extravagant, unseen jeweler.
Pity if it should be wiped out.
A lone snowflake escaped its prison of lead-colored sky and zig-zagged down, gemlike in the reflected light.
Hiei extended a hand to catch it, but a breeze snatched it away.
He was melancholy, and fearful, but not alone.  Behind him, Kaitou Yuu said, "C-come down from there. You're making me n-nervous."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Maya's Tale: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Posts The Latest YYH Fic

Disclaimer: Kenshin does not own the Yuu Yuu Hakusho characters (they are the property of Togashi Yoshihiro et al), and does not make any money from said characters.
What Kenshin does own, however, are all the original characters in this work. Any attempt to "borrow" these characters will be met with the katana, or worse.
Idiot Beloved takes place shortly after the Dark Tournament; Firebird Sweet directly follows that timeline. For reference, I use a combination of the subtitled YYH anime and the American manga, plus some of the CD dramas.
Have you ever wondered what happened to Kitajima Maya, who appeared in the YYH manga extra and CD drama, "Two Shots?" Here is her story.
The action takes place right after the long story arc of The Book of Cat With Moon.
Title: Maya's Tale (C1: Prologue)
Author: JaganshiKenshin
Genre: Action/Adventure, General
Rating: K+/PG-13
Summary: On a lonely street in a derelict neighborhood, two sisters huddle in fear of a mysterious man.
A/N: As always, thank you for reading this, and I appreciate your reviews!
Maya's Tale (1: Prologue)
Though elderly, the Kawasaki sisters were neither cowards nor fools.
"Come away from the window, Ruth," called Olivia. "It's past midnight."
"He's out again," murmured Ruth.
"Oh, dear. Well, all the more reason to come away." Nevertheless, Olivia joined her sister to peer out the parlor's long lace curtains.
Their mother had been British; their father Japanese. Being of an industrious nature, dealing in antiquities, both parents had left their daughters not only a business and a tidy inheritance, but a Victorian house in a then-fashionable neighborhood.
In its heyday some 50 years ago, the street had been alive with the bustle of familiies: mothers pushing their little ones in strollers, students peddling off to school, fathers returning home from work.
Today, over half the houses were unoccupied.
The parlor was illuminated by a single brass lamp on the drum table in the far corner. It cast a warm, dim circle of light on the wing chair next to it, and was only meant to read by. But when Olivia glanced out the window, she fought the urge to turn it off altogether.
A street lamp bathed the sidewalk with furtive, icy light. Across the street, a rambling single-story house crouched like a sleeping beast, lightless and ominous.
"I can't see him."
"The streetlight," said Ruth. "He's behind it."
Having enjoyed the benefit of a pleasant, peaceful, family, both sisters were eager to re-create this in their own lives. It was not to be.
Younger than Ruth by some three years, Olivia had married three times, and each time the marriage had ended without the comfort of children, until she realized the fault lay with her.
Ruth had remained single. Both sister's generous mothering instincts were poured out onto every living soul lucky enough to cross their paths.
"There," whispered Ruth. "He just stepped out. Can he see us, do you think?"
"The way you carry on, you'd think he could hear us."
Sometimes, Olivia and Ruth spoke of selling the house, moving to a high-rise in a busier section of town.
But in the first place, the market being what it was, the street being what it was, who would buy?
In the second, this was their home. They were too stubborn to leave.
Ruth pointed. "He's got that camera, again."
Olivia lowered her voice to a whisper as well. "He gives me the shakes."
Strolling down the street was a tall man, of European descent, dressed in a long, fur-collared overcoat, as though for a Russian winter, with gloves red as blood and a fur hat, for all that it was April.
Judging by the loose skin of his jowls, he was in his 60s, and no one could say whether the neat moustache and goatee were an attempt to disguise or to emphasize that age.
The overall effect would be considered charming, or even comical, if not for his sinister aura.
"I can hear his footsteps," fretted Ruth. "I swear it."
Though not as susceptible to flights of fancy as dear Ruth, Olivia thought she could hear them, too: slow, measured, tolling out like a bell, doom, doom.
As if he knows, as if he is putting on a display.
"It's so cold," sighed Ruth.
"And getting dark so early."
"As though spring is afraid to come."
"Just like it was fifty years ago."
They looked at one another then, a hard measuring look. Had the time come to open the Vault?
What does he do with that camera?" fretted Ruth.
"Perhaps he photographs the moon," said Olivia, seeking to reassure her sister. "Or the clouds. Or houses."
"Don't say that, Olivia. Don't even think it!"
He stopped then, swiveling his head toward the house.
Olivia's mouth went dry. "That sweet little girl," she whispered. "You don't suppose-"
Ruth made no reply, but in the cold, dimly-lit parlor, she clutched at her sister's hand.
(To be continued: Early-morning television fare: alien abductions, Bigfoot, and ghosts)

The whole story is


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Then and Now: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Re-Views The World's Worst Pen

Of course, the Zebra V-301 isn't REALLY the world's worst fountain pen.  No, that honor belongs to a completely nameless, cheap plastic, turquoise fountain pen Dr. Inkenstein owned briefly back in the, well, another decade.

Owned it, that is, until it savagely leaked all over Dr. Inkenstein's then-pristine fingers.

But people on one fountain pen forum or another (and you know who you are!) have time and again enthusiastically voted the poor Zebra V-pen the dubious honor of World's Worst.

Dr. Inkenstein did not feel that way when first encountering the Z-pen.  Look, I'll prove it:


Now, once the little blue fountain pen got writing (and we freely admit this took multiple dips and a couple pages of writing), it did not quit until drained of its ink.  And Dr. Inkenstein would carelessly leave the pen neglected for days, even weeks, on end, uncap it, and it wrote every time.

The same still holds true.  The V-pen still needs multiple dips to coax it into writing (this time, in black, because Dr. Inkenstein wanted a Daily Sketch Pen That I Would Not Care About Losing).  And may I say that I would indeed not Mind Losing This, in case it should accidentally slip from my grasp and oh, get stepped on or something.

I think.  Maybe.

The nature of the V-pen's hard starting capabilities may be linked to its unusual feed, which is said to be more like that of a felt-tip.

Excuses, excuses.

This newer model has, if anything, a more annoying, more slippery section.  And the test sample below reads green not black, because the pen did not write black for pages and pages.

So in honor of all those fountain pen forum-goers, I post this Zebra Redux.   I now dislike the pen almost as much as you do!
But you know...yesterday Dr. Inkenstein had a Horrible Ink-ccident involving a black cart from a brand which Will Not Be Named and a pen that Will Not Be Named Either, and needed to write in black, and because my beloved red Safari Black Ink Workhorse with its wonderful F-nib and Lamy Black ink was getting a well-deserved bath----Dr. Inkenstein ended up grabbing the V-pen.

It's sort of growing on me.  Go figure.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Farewell, Mr. Groovy: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Takes A Breather

Disclaimer: Kenshin does not own the Yuu Yuu Hakusho characters (they are the property of Togashi Yoshihiro et al), and does not make any money from said characters.

What Kenshin does own, however, are all the original characters in this work. Any attempt to "borrow" these characters will be met with the katana, or worse.

The events in Idiot Beloved take place shortly after the Dark Tournament; Firebird Sweet directly follows that timeline. For reference, I use a combination of the subtitled YYH anime and the American manga, plus some of the CD dramas.

The mysterious Agency is first introduced in Operation Rosary. Farewell,Mr. Groovy occurs during the long timeline of The Book of Cat With Moon-just after Trade Secret and just before we are about to meet Kitajima Maya in Maya's Tale. Is it a murder mystery? A character study? Both? Neither? All we know is that it was inspired by a license plate, and an offhand comment from our favorite reader.

Title: Farewell, Mr. Groovy (C1:In The Belly of the Whale)
Author: JaganshiKenshin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Humor
Rating: K+/PG-13
Summary: Hiei is called to the Agency's Tokyo office-again. But this time, there are no horses, no monsters, no exploding multidimensional contraptions, only an unusual request.
A/N: As always, I appreciate your reviews!

Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside?

Farewell, Mr. Groovy (1: In The Belly of the Whale)

Mr. Groovy was dead. Of that, Hiei was certain.

What was unclear: "What's this got to do with me?"

Hiei sat opposite Narita Shun, the vast expanse of Shun's executive-issue desk between them.

"Nothing," conceded N.

In the big window just over N's shoulder, worms of rain crawled mindlessly. Maybe the Tokyo Bureau chief spent his days staring out that window. Just not today.

Ceaseless, relentless rain may have been on tap this October morning, but N had turned his back on it. Hiei forced himself to look away as well. "Didn't that guy kill himself? And he's been dead, what, a month now? Why's this even of interest? Was Mr. Groovy suspected of espionage?"

"No." N swiveled his chair to glance at the rain, then back at Hiei. "And you're right. It has nothing to do with you. Which is precisely why I don't expect you to take the case."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Provisionally Speaking: In Which Count Sockula Continues To Heel

Question: What’s both top-down and toe-up and easy all over?

Answer: The Provisional Cast-on.
Count Sockula did not invent the Provisional Cast-On. Whoever did that was a genius.
However, CS is calling this the Providential Cast-On, because this is what we hit upon in restlessly, feverishly, frantically searching for a method so we could GET TO THE HEEL RIGHT AWAY.
Studying toes and heels has been one of CS’s primary Sock Goals. And last time, two new Frontiers were explored: an afterthought Garter Stitch Heel (it worked!) and a conventional, short-row, wrapped heel. Which did NOT work, but that was Operator Error.
This time, however, the short-row heel worked. Beautifully. Thanks to Knit Purl Hunter’s excellent blog and video ‘lessons.’ (Last time CS forgot to slip the first stitch on the second half of the heel). KPH likes to use a counter to keep track of stitches. CS uses markers. Whichever way you like.
Wow. Short-row heels. Cooool. Not at all scary.
So you cast on your total number of sock stitches, which means you make a crochet chain with a thickish, smooth yarn in a standout color (CS used white). Then pick up loops in the back of each crochet stitch with your sock yarn and knitting needles. Lots of sock books teach how to do a provisional cast-on. Blogs, too.
Then you blithely commence to knit the sock as if toe-up. Work the heel and finish off the cuff as if working a regular toe-up sock. The only difference is that you are starting in the middle, right before the heel. You can knit as many or as few rows before you work the heel as you want; for this test pair CS probably knitted an inch of fabric before starting in on the heel.
Once the cuff is finished, you pick up the stitches from the provisional cast-on (by turning over the crocheted chain and picking up stitches in the little bumps on the back of the chain) - simply work the rest of the sock as if top-down: knitting toward the toe. Use your favorite method for completing the toe. Sometimes CS likes the star toe. Sometimes not.
Now if you don’t like the heel, you don’t have much to frog. If you do, finish the cuff and then pick up the foot stitches and finish the sock! Socks seem to go faster for the Count this way. That’s the beauty of the Count Sockula Providential Cast-on Method. There. I’ve named it.
Then, for the second sock, the Count tried to work a Japanese Pick heel, loving all things Japanese. But again, Operator Error crept in. As in, there were gaping holes because CS foolishly tried to follow two different sets of instructions. When CS gave up this dualism and went to the simplest set of instructions, the holes stopped appearing and all was right with the world. We left that heel as was, and completed the sock anyway. No one will ever know, unless they examine CS’s feet, and If You Can See That, You’re Too Close.
Maybe this Count Sockula Providential Cast-on method won’t work if you are knitting a sock with a complicated pattern and maybe it will.
Yarn: Moda Dea Sassy Stripes, ‘Vintage,’ which would not be one of my favorite colorways, because it looks faded, except that the black keeps it from looking elegantly faded, if you know what CS means. But the ball of yarn was sitting in a carrier all ready to tackle.
Needles: Size 4. Different ones, short woodens for the pick-up and toes, Clover bamboos at some point, Prym circs for the rest.
It was a learning experience. I would size down at least one needle to # 3 for the heel next time. I stole, ahh, borrowed, two instep stitches for each end of the heel needle to make the heel deep enough. CS might even want to size the needles down to 3 altogether next time and laboriously cast on more stitches than the mere 40 this test sock was worked on.  Here is one sock with the heel and cuff (just a simple K1, P1 rib) completed, and the second just started.  Just a couple of unassuming little socklets:

If, like Count Sockula, you are a can’t-wait-to-get-to-the-heel type, give this method a try.

Monday, July 1, 2013

As The Heel Turns: In Which Count Sockula Rides Again

Count Sockula is seeing daylight for the first time in, well, forever and a half.  Not seeing daylight, exactly, because as we all know CS is a creature of the night, muahahaaa.

But the author of this blog tends to run hot and cold.  One week,, it's just too much to drag out the fountain pens and ink.  Another, sock-knitting seems like rolling boulders uphill.

But recently I had BURNING IDEAS about heels.  As in wanting to re-attempt a certain heel Which Shall Remain Forevermore Nameless---and wanting to attempt my first short-row heel with wraps.  (Which, face it---is scary!!!)

It should be noted that the Count's go-to heels are the Garter Stitch (a la Knitpurl Hunter) and Afterthought.

The Heel That Shall Remain Nameless took for EVER to knit.   And.  It.  Came. Out. Phail.

(Oh, right.  The fountain pens.  Just a reminder that Dr. inkenstein waits in the wings.)

Both pair were done on size 7 needles and Red Heart scraps because this had to be fast.  The blue pair were done from the toe up.

Sock pair One.  Nameless Heel Attempt That Phailed.

Nameless Heel was awful.  As awful as the first couple times it was attempted.  The worst heel ever.  Just an ugly little bump, and I even stole stitches from the instep so it wouldn't be just an ugly little bump but a real heel.

And the socks were TOO SHORT.  That was a first. 

So I tinked it back RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A PARTY.  And just tossed in an Afterthought Heel!  How's that for socksmanship?  

The other sock in the pair got an Afterthought in the first place.  As it should have.

Sock Rescue One.  Success. 

Now onto the second pair.  This was bee-in-bonnet time.  The Count wanted to see if an Afterthought could be done with Garter Stitch.  And it can!  As you can see here.

Sock Pair Two, each sock with different heel type:

GS Afterthought on the left.  Short-row wrap on right. 

But you know, it's SOOO much trouble to knit.  The whole.  Sock.  When you are just really burning to try that heel. 

So I did a provisional cast-on.   Muahahaaaaa!   And it worked.  Knitted a few rounds, then dove right into the heel.  So basically the heel of each sock was worked as if toe-up.  And then, the provisional cast-on was removed, stitches picked up, and the foot and toe worked as if top-down.

Simple!  Kinda sorta. 

OK, got into a little trouble with the short-row in that I forgot to slip the first stitch and then had to get myself out of it using a double-wrap technique.  But it's a sock.  It worked.  It fits.

Unlike Certain Heels We Could Mention!

Got a heel type you want to try but don't want to wait forever to get to the good part?  Attempt a provisional cast-on.  If you like how the heel comes out, go ahead and work the rest of the foot.

Maybe this Tragic Tail of Sock Phail will help you in some way.  In any case if you ever have a Heel Idea burning a hole in your pocket, try a provisional cast-on.

Coming soon:  Dr. Inkenstein returns with Three Jolly Sailormen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Superheroes! In Which Dr. inkenstein Handles The Dark Knight

Super Heroes! 

Really, Dr. Inkenstein got this idea from friend Susan, and we thank her for it.

If you were a superhero, what fountain pen would you use?  (or even BE, as a weird alter ego)?
Because of course superheroes use fountain pens.

What, you never named your fountain pens?   This trio of Superheroes just happen to be my heaviest, costliest, most 'significant' pens.  Ones you've even heard of.  Coincidence?  I think not!

Well....ladies first:
Wonder Woman had no trouble picking out this one. The Waterman Carene matches her favorite nail color, tomato red, and its inlaid nib has the elegance of a freshly-manicured fingernail.  

This sleek, well-balanced pen has no trouble fitting into any magic belt, and its cartridge/converter versalitity makes it the perfect choice for the heroine on the go.

The ink?  Why, Noodler's Black Swan In English Roses, thank you for asking.

Take the Batman Pen: a Sailor 1911 M, given to Dr. Inkenstein by children’s book author Steve Light.  Many thanks!

Like The Dark Knight, this Sailor is all silver and black and stealth.

The ink is none other than Everflo True Blue, which apparently only the likes of Batman can tame.

Now for the Superman Pen, in brushed gold, just right for those long days journaling in the Fortress of Solitude. Dr. Inkenstein’s second ‘real’ (ie: costing more than twenty bucks) fountain pen, the Sheaffer Legacy was ordered with a bold and suave B nib, and is heavy enough that only Superman can comfortably wield it. 

Writes with Skrip King's Gold, naturally.


And as for the nemesis.... The monstrous Model "Tageschlicht X-530."

This is the biggest pen Dr. inkenstein owns.  It is one of the biggest pens we have ever seen.

This weighty silver torpedo features a glittering clip jewel capable of blinding an unsuspecting foe, and a mirror finish that defies radar, sonar and even Superman's x-ray vision.  

With a bevy of unknown and arcane powers, it uses a black ink, Chesterfield Obsidian, to confound its foes.   Its code name is... Bairasu, after the giant flying squid-lookin' Daikaijuu, or Japanese monster.

Not to worry, though.  With the likes of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman on its tail, this nemesis will not achieve world domination.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Trade Secret: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Posts a YYH Fic

Disclaimer: Kenshin does not own the Yuu Yuu Hakusho characters or The Batman (they are the property of Togashi Yoshihiro and Bob Kane/DC), and does not make any money from said characters.

What Kenshin does own, however, are all the original characters
in this work, such as Father Brian and 'N.' Any attempt to "borrow" these characters will be met with the katana, or worse.

The events in Idiot Beloved take place shortly after the Dark Tournament; Firebird Sweet directly follows that timeline. For reference, I use a combination of the subtitled YYH anime and the American manga, plus some of the CD dramas.

This particular tale takes place about a year after the events in Are You Loathsome Tonight...and the 'Batman' we see here is a combination of 'Batman: The Animated Series' and one or two other sources, including the earliest Detective Comics.

Title: Trade Secret: Prologue
Author: JaganshiKenshin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Humor
Rating: K+/PG-13
Summary: When an old friend asks Hiei to take an assignment at odds with his secret dread, Hiei balks at the fence.

A/N: Thanks for reading this, and I appreciate your reviews!

Dark Knight-meet Flying Shadow

Trade Secret (a Yuu Yuu Hakusho/Batman crossover: Prologue)

"No," said Hiei.

Ah, well, thought Father Brian McCormick. It's to be expected.

The carpet was soft and deep, and pale, milky light streamed in from the tall bank of windows opposite Father Brian's chair. But sure and these Agency offices are just the thing of a glorious September morn, he mused.

A pity it is that we are all four of us gathered under such unhappy circumstances.

Mr. Narita Shun (whom everyone called 'N') and Father Brian comprised two of the quartet. Hiei, the third. And though Father Brian knew full well the reason for Hiei's refusal, he kept his mouth shut.

Not so N.

A distinguished, portly gentleman, and head of the Agency's Tokyo branch, N was trying to persuade Hiei. Alas, thought Father Brian. The lad won't persuade. No, you need a different tactic with that one. Maybe pleading.

Just now, N assumed an expression of long-suffering, because Hiei was saying to him, "Is this a matter of national security?"

"It is not," admitted N.

"Has it caused Godzilla to rampage through the streets?"

"It has not."

Hiei folded his arms. "Then which of the two syllables making up 'N-O' has escaped your understanding?"

Seated at his black lacquer desk, N tried to stare Hiei down. Father Brian knew this also was an exercise in futility.

Yoshikawa Industries was the name on this suite of offices, situated in a Shibuya district hi-rise. That was merely a front. The firm dealt not in electronics, but espionage.

Sometimes, the Agency had a hand in wrangling the inevitable youkai who decided a life of crime in the human world was their calling. The existence of such creatures was not generally known, even to some of the agents. But it was known to Hiei.

N pinched the bridge of his nose, while Hiei glowered at all and sundry, including Father Brian.

To the untrained eye, here was a good-looking lad in his middle twenties, with bristling black hair, keen crimson gaze, and a build for swift combat.

Except that Hiei wasn't exactly human.

For one, humans didn't come equipped with a third eye, for all that Hiei's Jagan was an implant and hidden behind his white headband.

On permanent duty in Tokyo by way of Boston, Father Brian had watched Hiei grow over these last few years from a sullen loner with a sense of honor, to a sullen loner with a sense of honor and a bulging caseload.

Give the boy credit. He griped, but always got his man. And there is far more to the heart, human or youkai, than presents itself on the surface.

No doubt Hiei's interior life was as surprising and varied as anyone else's, while the house of his spirit contained a nobility that he himself would vehemently deny.

Ah, the dear little pissant.

Father Brian shifted his attention to the fourth person in the office: a tall man, caped and costumed, a mystery wrapped in an enigma, apparently absorbed in studying the view of Tokyo.

Hiei turned an almost comically-wounded gaze on Father Brian. "Aren't you always telling me I have the right to refuse any of your so-called assignments?"

Father Brian played his trump card. "Ah, sure an' I got nothin' t' do with this one, lad."

"Then why are you here?" Hiei demanded.

"Me? I just wanted to meet The Batman." Father Brian waved a hand. And in between the time that he turned toward the Caped Crusader and the time he turned back, Hiei had gone.

Disappeared. Vanished. Exited in an eyeblink.

Not so much as a doorknob had clicked, not a curtain had stirred. Father Brian chuckled, shaking his head in fond exasperation. The lad could move like greased lightning itself when so inclined.

N sighed. The Batman grumbled in disgust.

But Father Brian settled deeper into the easy chair. "Oh, he'll be back," Father Brian assured them. "Count on it."

(To be continued: What sort of job could be hellish enough to make Hiei bolt?)

Read the rest here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Green! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Tests Color and Shape

Spring has sprung (or so the calendar says!  the Actual Real Life Weather has other ideas), and so has Dr. Inkenstein's ink supply.

 It's that time of year when you want to move from the dark, brooding browns and burgundies of winter toward something lighter and brighter.

One day I found myself staring at three new, untested green inks. So I grabbed some pens for dipping and went to work.

Of all the dippers, a cheap little Wing Sung 285 (or maybe 235, it's hard to read...) proved the best and most pleasant to use, writing up to a half a page on a single dip. 

Thin paper beware.  These inks, tested on Clairefontaine's nice little Twin Book, do not show through, but will show through on Bagasse paper, except for Noodler's Zhivago.

 Despite not being light and bright at all,  Zhivago happens to be Dr. Inkenstein's favorite of the new greens, with its blackety-greenish undertones that show especially well when the ink is diluted.  I have been using the ink in a Nemosine Singularity (see previous review) for sketching.  It adds an intriguing glimpse of now-you-see-it, now-you-don't color in an ink that otherwise reads as black.

Many of you know Dr. Inkenstein as the Chief Engineer on the Cheap, Cheerful Pen Express.  So when I discovered this little oddity while surfing fleabay, I snapped it up.

The Papermate DJ uses standard international cartridges (and came with a free one from the dealer).  It comes in a few different colors, and this one was sold as green, labeled blue, and definitely looks a green that leans just slightly toward blue.  The Skrip Green in was IT for this pen.  A perfect pen/ink combo, owing entirely to laziness and luck.

At first, Dr. Inkenstein came away with green fingers and thought this little fountain pen leaked.  Later on, it was discovered to be Operator Error.  This has turned out to be a nice, wet, smooth writer that is yes, obviously cheap, but very comfy to hold and write with.

It has rubber-ish trim rings, and the translucent black cap does post (though not all that securely), and has the extra added advantage of two little 'relief''  hearts displayed on the clip if you are into cute.  I am.

I don't know if this is NOS or just new, but I had never seen the like, and jumped on it.  I'm sure if you searched for 'Papermate DJ Fountain Pen' you'd find it.  I think if you're a fan of inexpensive and cheerful writers this will be right up your alley.

One of these days: Superhero Pens.  Really.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Finding Nemo: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Explores Singularities

Submitted for your approval:  The Nemosine Singularity presents itself in triplicate.  Muahaha.  Left to right: Ivory, Granite, Black.

Available from xfountainpens, this re-tooled Chinese number offers splendid possibilities.

Admittedly, the Nemo nibs are nails.  Across the board.  No spring, no flex.  But sometimes, you just need a nail.

Dr. Inkenstein already owned a Nemosine Singularity in Granite (read: shiny gray), with a small cursive italic nib.  Actually the nibs themselves are huge.  The point is the smaller of the offered cursive italics. 

And this brings up another good point about the Nemo: all nib (point) sizes are available at no extra cost.  And there are quite a few.  Two cursive italics, and Fine, and Extra Fine, and Medium.

Nemo also fits Dr. Inkenstein's personal quirks.  It's a large-ish, fattish fountain pen but lightweight.  Another good thing about these x-pens is that they usually come with free shipping above a certain dollar amount, and this time, they came with about eight free ink cartridges of assorted blue and black to get you started writing.  But they also come with a free converter, if you wanted to use bottled ink.  In either case, they allow you to dive right in.

With Dr. Inkenstein being on a fine-nib kick, it seemed important to order two new Nemos: an Ivory with an F nib, and a black with EF.  They also come in blue and red and a few other finishes with silvertone trim.

And they are fifteen dollars each.  Come on, now.  Fifteen bucks!

As usual, they were tested under worst-case conditions.  I did not flush the nib or section, but yanked the pens out of the box (yes, they come with a light card box and instructions, great for first-timers) and heedlessly made them guzzle Noodler's inks: Black Swan in Australian Roses for the ivory F (yes, Dr. Inkenstein is indeed a ledge-walker) and Zhivago for the black EF.

And they wrote far better than they dipped.  Dipped, they were somewhat scratchy.  Filled, they were smooth nails, producing a fine, firm line. 

In short, these make great ink testers.  Or beginner pens.  Or starter pens.  Or just I-Want-One-In-Every-Color-And-Nib pens. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

From Lemon To Love: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Goes on Safari

Once upon a time, early in Dr. Inkenstein's Pen Collecting and Using Life, there was a yellow Lamy Safari with black clip and black medium nib.

But it never wrote all that well.  Scratchy.  Stingy.

Crash of thunder.  Flash of lightning.  Ooo, scary!

Dr. Inkenstein gave the Safari away and never looked at another one until, for some unknown reason, a Charcoal Safari with 1.1 italic nib found its way here.

Still don't recall why I bought it.  But I inked it up.  Hey.  It wasn't bad.' It had GOOD ink flow!  Wasn't scratchy or nothin'!

Then I began reading all sorts of Safari and AlStar-related posts on the Fountain Pen Network.

And then, I discovered the Nexx.  And all was lost.  Or found, depending on your perspective.  I started buying Lamys again.  They are sturdy, inexpensive, come in a variety of nibs, and best of all, COLORS galore.  Each year Lamy puts out a Limited Edition color.  And they are collectible' (translated to English: wayyy expensive on fleabay).

The Pink Nexx, F nib:

The Coral Nexx (M), and the Pearl (color looks like Champagne, really) AlStar (B):

Lamy family, top to bottom (Coral Nexx, Pink Nexx, Pearl AlStar, Yellow Safari, Apple Green LE Safari, Aqua LE Safari, Ocean AlStar, Blue Safari, LE Pink Safari, Red Safari, Charcoal Safari.  Unable to make it to the photo shoot was my blue Lamy ABC):

The really sad part of this tale is that the original 'lemon' was probably fixable.  And that the yellow with black nib/clip combo is now selling for hundreds of dollars on fleabay.

One of these days Dr. Inkenstein will actually return with the Superhero Pens post.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Knockaround! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Writes Blue-Black

Sometimes, you can’t manage a Big, Important Involved Post, like Superhero Pens, but you want to post something because you got some new inks to test.
Also sometimes, you just want a knockaround ink, you know? An ink that doesn’t come in a ‘collectible’ bottle, an ink that doesn’t cost a fortune, an ink that is easy to open and isn’t overfilled and doesn’t tip too easily and you don’t have to approach with fear, awe, and trembling.
You inks out there know who you are.
To this end, Dr. Inkenstein sent for a bottle of New Formula Skrip Blue-Black ink, as opposed to the vintage formula that came in the inkwell bottle and was impossible for me to open. This came to about ten bucks…could have found it for less money in Real Life, but was impatient. Will never again order from this particular vendor; the tiny box was un-padded and bulging, but the ink miraculously arrived intact. And NO. The dealer was not isellpens, Jetpens or Goulet Pens. Rest assured of that.
Also ordered a bottle of Hero Blue-Black ink from fleabay. At about five bucks shipped, this is the Bargain of the Bunch.
Why is Diamine Denim included? Because it’s in a Knockaround Pen, one of my trusty and well-loved Platinum Preppys. And because I had a test bottle of Denim on hand, bigger than a sample, far less than a full bottle. We hates these small bottles. Hard to squeeze a nib into, all too easy to tip over. Diamine isn’t exactly Knockaround Ink, but the full-sized bottles are at least stable, easy to open, and difficult to tip.
I dip-tested the Skrip and the Hero inks using different pens, shown here on a Clairefontaine Grid Pad and shot with a very bad digital camera of sorts with no close-up feature:

Then I further disgraced myself by dip-testing all the inks with a horrible, no-name glass pen. This pen would make a professional calligrapher write like a cross-eyed monkey tanked up on espresso, so it had no difficulty whatsoever in making Dr. Inkenstein’s southpaw scribble resemble blue worms on a plate.

I also tried diluting each ink with first a water-dip, then a cotton swab smear. The Diamine Denim seems to have the least green undertones of the three tested inks, and may be the ‘truest’ blue of the bunch. But I kind of favor the Hero ink at this point, for a combination of price, bottle, and just because.
As for each ink’s shading properties, it’s too early to tell, and besides, it’s snowing. And there’s a loose chicken in my yard.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy New Year: In Which Count Sockula Goes Giant

Greetings, my fellow fiber fashioners. 

Long time no yarn.   A combo of perfectionism and a thing called Sandy has kept the Count from blogging.  But now Count Sockula returns, after a fashion.

With something of a caveman thing.

Count Sockula has been studying The Art of Black-Belt Tightwaddery and Cheapskate-ism.  Not to mention De-Clutterfying!  Come on, tell me that's not scary.

I've been doing a lof of 'sloshing.' That is to say, moving things from one location to another, and sometimes the result is Temporarily Mess-tacular. 

 So, as a result, Count Sockula had some yarn culled for giveaway: a smallish bag full of random balls and scraps, and even an already-started project.

One day I was de-clutter-inating the all-purpose room and felt the need for background entertainment.  So I put in an Annie's Attic crochet video.  The setting was so beautiful (a grand old Victorian house) and the basket-intensive storage so appealing that I reclaimed the poor sad abandoned project and yarn, and grabbed a Q-hook.  This is something resembling a plastic broomstick.  The only larger commercially-available hook is the mighty and terrifying S-hook.

Count Sockula hastily retrieved the abandoned project and studied it.  There were already about a dozen rounds executed in Bernat Mosaic yarn (the Psychedelic colorway, which is a rainbow of muted jewel tones).  

The nearly-abandoned square was already about a foot in diameter and done in one of my favorite patterns.  I call it The Guatemalan Square.  There is no reason for the name.

ThenGuatemalan Square is worked  from the center out, like a granny square, but instead of double crochet clusters and chain  spaces, you work a single crochet, chain one.  For the corners, sc, ch2, sc.  (Sometimes I chain 3 instead.  Doesn't really matter all that much. ) Work corners in corners and the sc-ch 1 in the ch-1 spaces of the previous round.

And that's all.  Mindless crafty fun.  Just keep going until you run out of yarn or get sick of it.

I kept adding in balls and scraps of this and that, trying to harmonize with the dusty-rainbow colors of the original.

It's a lapghan.  It's a shawl.  Stop!  You're both right...

Also a shapghan?  A scrapghan... or a scrawl?

A product of black-belt tightwaddism.  Warm, soft, drapey.  Works up like lightning.

Quick.  They don't call it the Q-hook fer nothin.

Coming some day:  Superhero Fountain Pens!  Until next time.  Muahaha.