The Sound of Silence? The Look of Blank Pages?

These pages haven’t been updated in nigh on three years. That’s pretty sad. I love writing. I love reading about writing. So what happened that put this blog on mute?

Met someone new (we are still together! Yay!) and our attention was focused elsewhere. I’ve been super busy with work. Other hobbies taking up time. There are probably as many possible excuses as there are stars in the sky (or trite cliches in the English language…) Regardless, the results are the same; a boring, zero-relevance blog taking up a tiny amount of server space that I pay a bit of cash for once a year for no purpose.

Time to change that! For one thing, this place looks dull as hell. Time to find a decent Word Press template and get this blog looking snazzy again (wait… did it ever look snazzy?) Oh, yeah, and start writing again.

I’m still a lover of pens, and paper, and ink, and all that fun stuff! And I know there are people out there who love those things, too. So look forward to an updated page soon.

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Goulet Pen Company

At the bottom of most of my product reviews, you see an affiliate link to Amazon.com. In general, however, this is not where I originally purchased the item I am reviewing. It’s there simply as a quick link to the product for people who may want to order it like, RIGHT NOW.

As I’ve noted in other blog entries, I support shopping locally. Fairbanks, Alaska, where I live, has a great store in If Only…, where I will often grab pens, inks and paper. It is my favorite local store.

But sometimes I want something that they may not have in stock. In those cases I tend to order from the Goulet Pen Company. I swear, if they had an affiliate program, I’d replace that Amazon link in an instant! I absolutely love this company.

Located in Ashland, Virginia (a few miles north of Richmond), the company is primarily an online retailer. I’m not even sure if you can shop at the Ashland location. Their inventory includes pens from many manufacturers, as well as paper, inks and other writing accessories. Overall, they have a great and varied selection.

Customer service and shipping are top notch. I’ve placed three orders from the company so far and each has arrived meticulously packed (you can see some photos below). A personal note is written on each packing slip using one of the inks they have for sale, which they identify. Only rarely have I seen this level of detail and care from a company. Each package also contains a bookmark with the company information, a small card and, for the sweet tooth, a Tootsie pop. What more could you ask for!

So, while I do encourage people to shop locally first, if you can’t find something you are looking for, or if you are interested in a more varied selection, check out Goulet Pen Company.

Goulet Pens Package

A typical package, well padded!

Goulet Pens Wrapped Package

Oooooh, bubblewrap. My inner child is soooo tempted.

Goulet Pens Wrapped Package

Final layer of this onion. A tight plastic wrap prevents things from moving around.

 

 

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Diamine Red Dragon

It seems that I am on an ink kick. Most of my reviews, so far, have been about pens. Given the URL of this site, that makes sense, but I have always wanted to do more than just talk about pens. Ink is at the very heart of writing.

Diamine is a British company that has been around since the mid-19th century. They manufacture inks for a number of different purposes, of which pen ink is only one of several. You can also find them in industrial printing and stamp pads. They have a pretty wide spectrum of colors.

Diamine Red Dragon

Overview

Originally, I was going to pick up another Noodler’s Ink in red, but decided it might be more fun to try another company. Diamine has a number of different reds, but I liked the darkness of Red Dragon and ordered a bottle. For this review, I inked up one of my Lamy Joys with a 1.1mm nib.

Diamine Red Dragon SampleIt is, indeed, a dark ink. It’s nearly black in areas that receive a lot of ink. Shading is excellent. Click the image above for a better view. This is another fairly “wet” ink, at least at this line width, still showing some smudging after 15-20 seconds. With a fine nib, there seems to be less shading and the color is noticeably brighter, though still a fairly dark red.

One note: When loaded into a pen with a fine nib, I have noticed that if I have the pen uncapped and I’m not writing for a few minutes, it can dry in the nib. I have to do some quick doodles to get it flowing again. I did not notice this at all with the 1.1mm Lamy Joy.

Final Word

This is another ink that I have fallen in love with. The color is beautiful. I’ve found myself journaling with this ink loaded into a .3mm nib pen (the free pen that came with the Noodler’s Apache Sunset.) The journal has a cream colored paper that doesn’t seem to affect the overall tone of the ink. If you are looking for a dark red ink, this one is a winner.

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Noodler’s Apache Sunset

I was first turned on to Noodler’s Ink by a post at the Something Awful forums. I know, that seems like a weird place to get information on ink. However, in the Ask/Tell forum, there is an excellent thread on fountain pens with many experienced pen users. It has been quite informative.

Noodler's Apache Sunset

Now, there are a lot of opinions about the guy who makes these inks, and I’m going to shy away from those here. This is a review of the ink, not the man behind it. Suffice it to say, he creates inks that have a permanence to them. There are numerous “bulletproof” inks in the Noodler’s line that are essentially “removal proof”, meaning you can’t remove the ink through any conventional means. You’d destroy the paper before the ink went away.

This is not one of those inks. But I have no true need of absolute permanence. If you’re curious about which inks are, there is an Ink Properties chart on the Noodler’s website.

Overview

I picked up this ink a simple reason; I love the color. It is actually quite dynamic, ranging from a bright yellow to a darker red depending on the amount of ink put down. In practice, a wetter pen will put down a darker line, but even my fine point Lamy Al-Star showed shading in the letters. It really does remind me of a sunset. A friend of mine also suggested fire, which I can see, as well.

This is a pretty “wet” ink. It can take some time to dry, depending upon the paper you use. In a small Clairefontaine notebook I carry around, it took 20 seconds before the ink stopped smearing. The pen was a TWSBI Diamond 580 M nib.

Noodler's Apache Sunset Writing Sample

Final Word

I love this ink and would definitely recommend it. The color is beautiful and dynamic. Shading is excellent. I have now tried it in my Lamy Al-Star, Lamy Joy and TWSBI Diamond without any issues.

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Writing And Essential Tremor

My full time job is writing the code behind websites. As a web developer, one of my favorite things to do is look at how people are finding the pages I create. This extends beyond work to the blogs I run. Key words are important, and seeing what words people search for helps a developer cater sites to specific needs.

In looking at the key words that people finding this site are using, I was surprised to see “essential tremor” pop up enough to be in the top five searches. I have only mentioned it in a couple of posts. I figure it might be a good idea to make a post specific to this topic and how it affects me, specifically, in connection with my fascination with writing.

Let’s start with some background.

What is Essential Tremor?

Wikipedia has an excellent article on essential tremor. At its core, essential tremor is a neuro-muscular disorder which results in the rhythmic shaking of the extremities, particularly during voluntary movement or times of stress. It is one of the most common movement disorders and it’s estimated that 4% of the population age 40 or older have it, though that number may be under-reported as many people who have it may not realize it or attribute it to other things.

No one seems to quite be sure what causes it. Some studies have linked genetic regions to the disorder, but there are others who suggest environmental toxins could be at work.

My Background

I suspect I first began noticing signs of essential tremor during puberty, though I mostly attributed it to caffeine. Caffeine is considered a “trigger” that can worsen the symptoms. Any stimulant can have that affect, but caffeine was my particular vice.

Essential tremor is often degenerative, so over time it gradually got worse. As I got older, I noticed it more frequently, for example, when I was hungry – low blood sugar being a trigger, or during times of (*ahem*) intimacy – physical exertion and strong emotions, more triggers. Eventually, I figured it was time to figure out what the heck was wrong. After a series of movement based tests, I was diagnosed with essential tremor.

So, let’s bring this back to writing

Essential tremor can kill your handwriting. I have always had bad handwriting, even before the onset of essential tremor. I was a pretty lazy learner as a kid, doing only what was necessary and little more. I suppose it didn’t help that I had vision problems and didn’t get glasses until the third or fourth grade (I honestly can’t remember! I know that first pair of glasses where big, thick plastic things with the Pink Panther on the side, but not quite when I got them.) By then, my handwriting was already a disaster.

Now, take that horrible handwriting and begin putting at first imperceptible wobbles in it. Make those wobbles bigger as time goes on. Yeah, you get handwriting that only the writer can read.

A decade ago this month, I started working on improving my handwriting thus sparking an interest in pens leading inevitably to this site. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it a bit… But let’s see where I was then and where I am now.

Handwriting Comparison

I’d say that is an improvement. Back then, to compensate for the tremor, I wrote very quickly. The lettering looks rushed and generally illegible. Below you will find my tips to improving your handwriting if you have essential tremor (or, hey, even if you don’t.)

Roger’s 5 Tips For Improving Your Writing

  1. BUY THIS BOOK! This link is NOT an affiliate link. I gain nothing by recommending it. When I decided to start working on my handwriting, this is the book I picked up. It guides you through italic lettering, a concise, legible letter face. There are many exercises as well as trivia that keeps everything interesting. Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay are handwriting experts who have put out several excellent books. They know their stuff. Your handwriting will be better by the end of the book whether you work with italic or another writing style simply by following their excellent advice.
  2. Slow Down. I used to write fast in the hopes it would overcome the tremor. But writing fast is a poor trade-off. Sure, you get fewer jiggles but you simply can’t write well fast. Everything looks rushed and sloppy. This may not be a problem if you are dashing off notes that only you will read, but it’s a poor choice for letter writing or anything, really, that you want to have longevity.
  3. Use a Wet Pen. A wet pen is one that puts down a lot of ink. Generally, this means using a fountain pen or gel pen, as ball-points tend to have a thicker consistency. A wet pen helps to smooth out lettering as the ink is absorbed by the paper. Some papers don’t take to a wet pen very well, feathering the ink which can make your writing illegible. Test combinations to see what works best for you. A wet pen also helps with point number two, as you will write more slowly as the ink dries.
  4. Write In Comfort. Stress and physical discomfort can make essential tremor worse. This will show up in your writing. Find a comfortable place to write away from distractions. I tend to curl up on my couch or sit at a desk specifically for writing, depending on my mood. Music can be handy if you are in a noisy environment.
  5. Write Frequently. Nothing helps improve your writing like practice. If you don’t already, take up daily journaling. You may not feel like you have something important to say everyday, but don’t worry. No one is telling you that you have to be verbose. Just write something. I have plenty of dull journal entries. The important thing here is simply practicing.

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Filed under Essential Tremor, General Ideas, Handwriting