An Apology

Apologies can be kind of hard.  This one was a long time in coming.

Since the 1960s, when I discovered Sheaffer school pens (fountain pens that took a 2″ or so cylindrical liquid ink cartridge), I have loved fountain pens.  They just feel like a direct connection between my brain and ink on the page.

In the ’80s, I would visit the FLACS Company in Chicago and drool over Mont Blanc pens, the ne plus ultra of the day  (T finally gave me one as an engagement present–probably just to shut me up).

But there was one modern pen I loved.  But that I hated more than I loved.

I have bought several copies of this pen over the years, all equipped with my preferred extra-fine nib.  And none of them has worked worth a damn.  The pen in question is the LAMY Safari:


Originally sold in a “Safari Green” color (not the color shown here, but more olive drab, with, as I recall, rust-colored trim–but I could be wrong) the Safari was supposed to be this fantastic pen, but for some reason I could never get them to work.

In fact, I made it sort of an article of faith that these were “designed to fail” pens–purely ornamental.

I was wrong.

A week or so ago, I was seduced by the a photo of a yellow Safari.  I had an Amazon gift card that would make it free, so…  I ordered it.  My memory is that the original came in a wood or wood-look box, like a rifle.  This one came in a plastic tube.  It looked good, but would it work?  This was my fourth, and probably final, attempt.

You know what?


It works perfectly well.

I suspect that that’s so because I ordered this one with a fine, rather than extra-fine, nib, but I don’t know.  What I do know is that it’s a fine pen and comfortable writer.  The line is a little wider than I normally like, but it’s acceptable.

And hard to lose.

So, sorry, LAMY, for all the kvetching over the years.  This is a hell of a nice pen, and it cost me about $20.

So.  Revised guidance:  If you want to try a fountain pen, I strongly endorse the LAMY Safari in the fine nib size.

I was wrong.   ‘Scuse me, now–I need to go write something.



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And Now for Something Completely Different…

Photographs!  Here are some photos that I’m really pleased with…  All were taken on a walk from Grand Central Station to Central Park, Sunday, September 15, 2019.  All photos taken with a Fujifilm X10 digital camera.



I am, at heart, a black and white photographer.  Black and white gives you a better picture of a city, I think, than can anything else.  On the other hand, on a gorgeous early Fall day, there is something to be said for color.



Sunday in the Park

Chicago will always be my favorite city, but there is something to New York’s Cental Park that you just won’t find elsewhere.  A perfect day.

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After the Debate…

Listening to last night’s half-debate, I had a little bit of an epiphany:

There are too many people on the stage, talking about too many takes on what seemed to me—maybe not, but it seemed to me—a comparatively limited number of issues.

Consider the number of takes on a health care plan—2?  3? More?

The problem is that there are just too many damn variables.

So why don’t we try something a little different—why don’t we separate people and issues for a while?

I know that sounds strange, but isn’t this even stranger?  That we have different people with different ideas competing at once both for their personal quality and for their ideas?

We could start by caucusing (somehow) on the issues.  Decide—what health plan do Democrats support?  What is the environmental plan?  What, in short, is the Democratic platform?

We could have a series of debates and discussions, unhindered by the fight of the potential candidates for “the nom.”

Start by having the candidates (not their staffs) write position papers.  Brief—maybe one or two pages double-spaced.  Each position paper would be on a single topic:  health care, immigration, foreign policy, gun control.  For each topic, have a single meeting.  Bring in a representative slice of Democrats from across the country, and have the candidates agree from the word “go” that they will support the meeting’s choice, and that they will be open to compromise and discussion.  Spend five or six hours debating and discussing and walk out of the meeting with a plank.

Do this as many times as necessary to address the six or seven top issues.  Then.

From those planks, build a platform.

Once we have a platform, then and only then have a popularity contest.  One or two nights, the candidates argue not about what the policies should be, bur rather how they would implement them.


  1. A common platform, set forth in considerable detail;
  2. A champion of that common platform.

This means that we’re not buying a package, we’re buying a la carte. 

I think this would have some advantages.  What do you think?

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Why I Hate America

2019-07-21 maranatha church backyard georgia

Photo taken through the trees at the back of Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, GA, July 21, 2019.


President Trump says some of my favorite people hate America.  Well, I guess that means I hate America too.  I hate America.  Hate, hate, hate, HATE!

Let me be clear.  I hate America.  I hate America.

Well, mostly their lyrics.

Yes, that America, the one that played throughout the seventies with songs like “Horse with No Name” and “Ventura Highway.”  Oh, and “Muskrat Love.”

For the past few days, T and I have been on a trip through the South.  We are currently in Georgia, recovering from a visit to President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school class.  Which was interesting and exhausting, because you need to arrive at the church where he teaches rather early in the morning–or, better, the afternoon before–if you want to get in.

Anyway, T loves America, and you know, I think I used to.  But we’ve been listerning to a greatest hits CD on the way down here, and I came to a conclusion.  The goddam lyrics make no sense.  Sing “Sandman” to yourself.  WTF is going on in that song?  At least “Horse” has some pretension to a message…but Ventura highway?

‘Cause the free wind is blowin’ through
Your hair
And the days surround your daylight
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air
Really?  Really, Dewey?
The music behind the lyrics is pleasant enough, and in the days of AM radio, it was easy to dismiss lyrics like these because you couldn’t hear them well enough.  Even scratchy LPs made these songs sound OK.  But they’re nonsense.
Worse.  They’re emotional/emotive nonsense.
When I was in high school, I fell in unrequited love with a girl, J, who had long blond hair.  Just after my birthday in my junior year, America dumped “Sister Golden Hair” on the radio.  That song was designed to make the life of a teenager miserable!



So America made that year miserable for me, and I could not escape the song anywhere.  The song is designed to make you long for something/someone, and since I had that someone awfully close to hand…it sucked.
So, yes, that emotional manipulation is one of the reasons I hate America.  But look more closely at the lyrics in their songs, and, I’m pretty sure, you’ll hate America too.


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The Ten Best

One of the problems of advancing technology is the speed at which it advances.  I’ve mentioned in the past the explosion in numbers of models, for example, of cameras, or fountain pens.

But it’s not just that.

The models are refreshed every year.  How old is your iPhone?

It used to be cars; now it’s pens, cameras, guitars, phones, computers–everything is updated about annually.  Change is the constant.

I’m reminded of a science fiction story I read in my youth called “The Olympics,” in which a man, highly trained to repair a particular model of machine, discovers during the Olympic Games (which now involve fixing that particular machine) that although he is well-trained on a particular model, for the purposes of the games, that model has been superseded, and his training is no longer useful.

(I think I read the story when I was around 10; I have clearly misremembered and distorted it–my memory is in fact based on Isaac Asimov’s story Profession.)

Anyway.  It makes me wonder…we live in a world where a four-year-old cell phone is considered practically an antique.  I watched old TV sets pile up on the curb as they were supplanted by flat screens; the first-generations flat screen TVs (and computer monitors) have now, for the most part, been supplanted by the second-generation screens lit by LEDs.  And so on.  The dustbin of history is getting deep.

One of the phenomena that accompanies this process is the “Ten Best” list.  You see it all over the internet.  The “Ten Best” mirrorless digital cameras; the “Ten Best” laptops.

Being who we are (“we” in this case meaning mostly people like me who live in first-world countries with a reasonable level of affluence), we want to own The Best.

But it’s a pointless chase.  While claiming to be authoritative, at the same time, so many “10 Best” lists aren’t dated, a transcendant irony:  These lists are, for the most part, terribly time-bound, for two reasons:

  1.  The 10 best of anything (granting that there can be 10 best for any meaningful vaue of best) will change in the next week or so; and
  2. Someone who has acquired something from a previous “10 best” list, say model 100a, cannot upgrade to a 100b.  They’re stuck at the point in time where they decided to leap.

So here I am, playing a game of “hey you kids, get off my lawn!”

The best tool is the one you have.  The best computer is the one you have.  The best pen, phone, bicycle, camera, car–is the one to hand.

New is sometimes just new.  It doesn’t necessarily mean better.

But there’s no way to publish that list.


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Try Something New

I’ve written about nostalgia and the need to stay with the old here in the past.  Hah,  didn’t realize that would come out quite that way!

Anyway.  For years, my go-to breakfast (and, honestly, all-purpose) cereal has been this stuff:


It’s tasty and nutritious and all that good stuff.  A little hard to find sometimes, but good.  It has some brown sugar and milk powder in it that give it a really nice mouth-feel.  I’ve been eating it off and on (mostly on) since I first encountered packets of it in youth hostels in England in 1983.  They also make a no-sugar-added variety, but I don’t like that one quite as much.

Then, last week, T and I were at IKEA to get some furnishings and I noticed a stack of these boxes:


I thought it might be worth a try.

So this morning, I poured a very small helping into a bowl, added milk, and took a skeptical spoonful.

Downside–you don’t need much.  there are about 30g of carbohydrate in 1/3 cup.

Downside–it looks like birdseed.

Downside–the package is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Upside–it doesn’t taste like birdseed.  It’s really very good.

Who knows?  I may have to try something else new!  But probably not liver.



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They’re selling postcards of the hanging.

On Saturday, T and I took an unusual route to get somewhere, and I noticed this building that looked like it was in the midst of being torn down.  So I went back Sunday morning for some photos.  Welcome to Desolation Row.

A reminder that all things will pass.


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