damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2015-09-24 07:02 pm

Baby's First Fountain Pen

Yesterday I was asked independently by two friends to recommend fountain pens to newbies, and this morning a third mentioned it and nudged me into making a post after I showed her The Atlantic's "How the Ballpoint Killed Cursive."*

The article does a good job answering the question of "why fountain pens?" I initially got into fountain pens for the colors and the temptation of yet more stationery, but that only got me in the door. What turned me into an exclusive fountain pen user was how much less pressure I needed to write, and how much easier it makes writing in cursive, or writing for long periods of time. I never liked ballpoints to begin with, finding the ink waxy, chunky, the points scratchy, and I was always hunting for a better pen. If you're not a fountain pen person and want to know what I do recommend, I like rollerballs and gel pens, notably the Uni-ball Vision Needle and the Uni-ball Signo. If you are curious about fountain pens, this post is for you.

As a lefthanded overwriter, I thought hand pain was par for the course, but in the course of using a fountain pen I learned two things. 1) It's all the pressure I used to make my chicken scratch, and 2) apparently everyone taught to write after the 1950s has been taught to finger write, which strains the hand. Yes, while researching left-handed writing solutions I learned that we're all writing wrong, and it's largely thanks to the mechanics of ballpoint pens.

Which isn't to say that fountain pens will cure all your ills; it's just why I like 'em and why I recommend 'em.

On to the bit everybody wants to know. What do I buy?

There are many "best fountain pens for beginners" posts floating around out there, and they all look a little something like this:

Pilot Varsity: $3
Platinum Preppy: $3
Pilot Kakuno: $13
Pilot Metropolitan: $15
Pelikan Junior: $16
Platinum Plaisir: $20
Pelikan Pelikano: $20
Kaweco Sport: $24
Lamy Safari: $28

Almost any "top five beginner fountain pen" list will be mostly made up of these pens. There are other pens in the same price range - various Jinhaos, some Sailors - which will occasionally make an appearance, but for the most part, these are it. Partly it's because these make up the bulk of "less expensive" pens.

To me, a nearly $30 pen is not a beginner's pen, but I'm a Millennial and many of my peers don't have that kind of money to spend on a lark. So if you're looking for the quick and dirty, here are my actual recommendations for a beginner:

Pilot Varsity: $3
Platinum Preppy: $3
Pilot Kakuno: $13

Pilot Metropolitan: $15
Pelikan Junior: $16
Platinum Plaisir: $20
Pelikan Pelikano: $20
Kaweco Sport: $24
Lamy Safari: $28

My usual spiel goes a little like this: how much are you looking to spend? Because you should really try the Platinum Preppy. It has a fantastic nib, is one of the most non-fiddly pens I have, and the seal on the cap means I'm not even sure it's capable of drying out. I once had a cartridge in there for 6 months.

If you're able to spend the $20, go for the Plaisir. The Platinum Plaisir has the exact same innards as the Preppy, but an aluminum body rather than a plastic one, making up for what appears to be the Preppy's only flaw: the plastic cap is prone to cracking. If you want to get a converter, you may as well get the Plaisir and a converter because anything over $25 gets you free shipping from JetPens.

BTW: a converter is a refillable ink reservoir that goes in your pen. A cartridge is not refillable (without tinkering) and nearly all pens come with one so you can start writing right away.

But mostly: get a Preppy. And tape the cap.

I will add some love for the Pilot Kakuno. I've just started playing with it, and it writes like silk. It is a children's pen, so it has a molded grip which may be a turn off for some, but it doesn't stop me as an hook-writing southpaw. I can't say much else about it, so I won't recommend it as enthusiastically as I do the Platinums, but so far, it is nice.

The Pilot Varsity shows up on the beginner lists because it's the easiest of easy. It's basically a regular disposable pen with a nib on top. There's no cartridges, no nothing, to mess around with. It writes exactly like those colorful pens we all used back in middle school. Personally, I find the grip rather uncomfortable compared to the Preppy and I don't think popping on a cartridge is all that taxing for a beginner. Honestly, you're going to have to learn some pen maintenance anyway so may as well start with the Preppy because who cares if you ruin it.

I love the Safari (I have two, I am a sucker for limited edition colors) but at $28 I think it's out of most first timers' price range. It is, however, worth every penny.

The reason I don't recommend the Jinhaos is because they're knock-offs. Not bad knock-offs, mind you, they are excellent pens for the price, but they're not as good as some other pens and most people recommend swapping the nib for something like the Goulet #6, which sounds like gibberish to most people.

The Sailor Clear Candy was actually my first non-Preppy fountain pen and I had a bit of trouble with it because of the barrel grip and the way I hold pens. I like them now, but I probably wouldn't recommend them to a beginner. Also, at $18, you're probably better served by grabbing something else. Also also: I hate screw-caps.

And finally: how do you write with a fountain pen?

Pretty much like any other pen. Fiddle around with it in your hand until you find the angle at which it puts ink on paper. Continue as normal. Same for choosing nibs. I recommend getting a fine or medium depending on how thick you like your pen to write (medium is closer to the standard 0.7 mm pen).

Congrats on buying a pen virtually no one in the office will steal because they all find it too intimidating!

Next up: Pen Maintenance, or in the alternative, When Did I Touch the Nib and How Did That Ink Get There.

*How the Ballpoint Killed Cursive.

damselfish: (leaping stoat)
2015-09-15 05:16 pm

Sailor Clear Candy Conversion

I’ve seen a couple mentions of converting a Sailor Clear Candy to an eyedropper pen, but I haven’t seen anyone actually do it. So here is my contribution to the world of fountain pens: I have converted a Clear Candy to an eyedropper.

I already have another and I really do like this pen from among the under $20 selection. At $16.50, it’s just inexpensive enough where I have no qualms potentially butchering one.

The cap at the bottom of the barrel means that the pen isn’t watertight, and I’ve heard people mention superglue as a potential means of sealing it. I just so happened to have aquarium silicone, which is meant to seal water in/out and adhere to things, so I used that. It went pretty well except I smeared a bit inside the barrel, where it will be forever. Oops.

A little bit of silicone grease on the threads and I’d made the seal and tada! Eyedropper conversion. If you use an o-ring you can’t screw the cap back on, and I don’t see any leakage problems anyway.

If you’ll notice, the ink does seem to dribble out the nib if you turn the pen upside down (I did for about 5 minutes to get it to start based on my experience with some Noodler’s eyedroppers). I’m not sure if this is a Clear Candy thing or if it’s part of being an eyedropper, as my other Sailor is opaque. There’s no further dribbling from the nib and after a week of use this has been a very well-behaved pen overall.

A+ would recommend converting if you’re the sort that likes eyedropper pens.

the pen in question )

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2015-06-24 08:08 pm

Announcing: Baron Coquí von Poopyfloor

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post some pictures, but here’s my green cheek conure, Coquí!

Even before I got the bird, people asked me what I intended to name it, but I’m one of those people who believe that names reveal themselves. I was originally thinking “Uffizi” or “Chickadee” because I am of the firm opinion that a bird’s name should be fun to say.

Then the bird came home and began… croaking. Soft little frog sounds. I couldn’t call her Froggie, but then I remembered that my grandmother loves the little coquís. Even though my bird is much quieter than a coquí frog, Coquí she is!

I went through a whole host of name possibilities with my sister, and she said “those all sound like nicknames.” “I can’t name the bird Sir Birdington of Avianhamshire!” “Why not?”

I admit, she made a compelling point. My bird should be landed and properly titled.

Coquí still makes those little frog sounds, but she’s been adding more to her repertoire: a buzzing fart noise, a wide assortment of grumbles, and tiny “skree!” cries, especially when she’s getting rough. I haven’t heard a lot of the sounds I hear from green cheeks on youtube, but that may come with time. Or not, she lives in a relatively quiet house and gets the most response to her croaks (because they’re so cute). She’s still a baby, so every day is some new behavior.

Which… often causes me to wig out. I did a lot–possibly too much–research on parrots before I decided to get one, so I’m often on the lookout for behavior that needs to be nipped in the bud. “Is this aggressive, or is she playing?” is something I ask myself at least daily, because green cheeks have three settings:

1) Cuddly
2) Hungry

All these settings may exist simultaneously. I have learned that FIGHT ME means “play with me!” because she’s a bit of a rough and tumble bird. I learned that none of her behaviors are aggressive but she is occasionally giving me a bit of sass. I have seen advice that says never ever ever let a bird engage in any sort of aggressive behavior because it will grow up thinking it’s dominant,* but this is just the bird trying to entice me to play (according to the vet). This lesson was driven home because after a little too much strutting around the keyboard, she’d start regurgitating.

“No way, bird, you’re 3 months old, you are not trying to mate with me.” So I called the vet to find out what could possibly be happening. That could be head bobbing, maybe she’s hungry, bring her in to get weighed! I spent the day fretting that I was starving my bird, and when I went to the vet the diagnosis was in: birds are weird, and she likes me lots. Diagnosis proven because a few days later, the head bobbing resulted in successfully bringing food up from her crop.

Remember this post with the adorable baby green cheeks?

“Does my bird like me that much?” I wondered.
Coquí: *barf * I saved u dis cheerio. I earned it for being good at step ups.

Thank you, Baron Coquí. For being cute, less so for the chewed up cheerios.

*There’s a lot out there about parrots and dominance theory, which seems to be mostly bullshit.

**For those interested in a few more pictures, I have them on the tumblr post here.

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2015-06-02 09:16 pm

(no subject)

Unforeseen Consequence of Having a Bird, Exhibit 238:

Having a bird that likes to spend hours on your shoulders and the back of your neck means you get really great at squats because you don't want to bend over to pick stuff up off the floor for fear of disturbing it.

My legs are gonna be so awesome, y'all.
damselfish: (leaping stoat)
2015-03-06 10:06 am

(no subject)

I really should update more, but I get trapped in that place of thinking that I have nothing worthwhile to say and that there's little in my real life that I should talk about (because either I try to keep real life separate or because I worry it's boring). Or, mostly, I write blog posts and work and then forget to post them when I get home. OOPS. Unless you really want The Pen Story.

But I have news.

I GOT A NEW JOB! I got a damn good job, from what it looks like, in a rather unexpected (but unsurprising) field. My experience in medicine has garnered more interest from employers than anything else I've done--regardless of what those employers actually do. Nearly everyone's asked if I can read medical records. "I do that all day." "Oh good, so you're not squeamish?" "...Hmmm, I want to tell you the turkey-tumor story but instead I'll tell you that I've done a lot of eye cases, that's pretty squidgy, if not as hilarious as the turkey-tumor." Growing up with doctors will warp your sense of what makes other people squeamish.

It also means I have to move. I've applied to jobs all over, got really excited for some of the ones out west. I'd love to move to Utah and be able to go hiking through the mountains every weekend. Well, turned out the job is a couple counties north of where I am now--still in Florida, so all the trouble of moving but none of the new, exciting possibilities of somewhere different. Except the town looks very cute and beachy, and very "Florida" in a way that Miami isn't, so I am super excited about moving. Sad to be leaving my condo of perfect perfection, but happy about a new place that looks like it may be a little more my speed.


damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2015-01-18 12:45 pm

(no subject)

Do I need to write Wild West Succubus Vigilante stuff?

Probably, if this conversation with the irreplaceable Lora is anything to go by:

Lora: Rachel Manija Brown’s LJ cracks me up. her meme question is “most ridiculous plot twists” —
“There are bizarre premises (“I will break every bone in my body because then they’ll grow back stronger and I WILL BE INVINCIBLE”), the sheer weight of ridiculousness in a single book (the bone-breaking book also featured the near-death of the hero’s milk-allergic brother when the hero’s cheating girlfriend ate pizza, then kissed the brother), the sudden intrusion of absurdity into a previously non-bizarre book (two-thirds sensitive exploration of sketchy power dynamics, one third EVIL BALL OF MASKED S&M SMALL PRESS POETS), and unwanted intrusions by the author’s peculiar id (of course the most desirable whores have hooves.) Not to mention Terry Goodkind's infamous evil chicken. How to choose?”

me: ....I... want to know more about the hooved whores
what kind of whores are they?
demon whores?
human whores who just happen to be hooved? Cloven or single-toed?





but I'm sure the answer is not as exciting as the cursed-to-be-a-succubus-cowgirl-who-turns-vigilante I am now imagining

Lora: ahahahah omg that’s an amazing premise

me: and the title! The Best Whores Have Hooves! shit writes itself!

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2015-01-02 01:57 pm

The New Years Post

I am not into New Years Resolutions--I frequently resolve or challenge myself to do something all throughout the year, with limited success, and New Years is the time when resolutions fail. But I've got a big one I wanted to share:

I'm on Goodreads again! Are you on Goodreads? Come on down and friend me! Also recommend some books to me, because I decided to try the "read X many books" challenge. I picked 36, so three books a month, which seems do-able. I have no clue how many books I read in a year. Sometimes I'll read a book in two days, other times I'm slogging through them for weeks. I used to be voracious and stopped reading in law school, and I've been trying to rebuild the habit ever since.

I'm also trying to read in more genres for that whole... be a better well-rounded human being. Thing.

other resolutions, sort of )

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-12-04 08:50 am

Fun With Fountain Pens, For a Given Value of Fun

I've been playing with fountain pens lately* and have gotten around to inks. Namely, the cleaning and refilling thereof.

I've mostly been using the Platinum Preppy because they're as cheap and disposable as they come with fountain pens... and really, really good. More comfortable than the other fountain pens I've picked up and the cartridge ink, at least, is thus far the only fountain pen ink I've tried that doesn't bleed through the page. Which will defeat the point in having fountain pens if I'm stuck with the plain cartridges anyway and can't use the pretty bottled inks because they all ooze through the paper.

I digress.

So I bought another Preppy plus a converter to mess around with.

I don't know if I'm just incompetent or if the open barrel sucks up ink when you stick the pen into the bottle, but I got ink everywhere last night and this morning my hands are still covered in green splotches from a blue-black ink. There are nifty tie-dyed-looking paper towels on my desk where I tried blotting everything up. Good thing my desk is glass and nonabsorbent, unlike my skin and my carpet....

*They're fun, and making me think more seriously about practicing my handwriting. I'd like to say "and helping me learn to hold a pen properly" but much like typing properly, that's a lost cause. I learned to do these things long before school deemed me ready for it so I spent years in "penmanship" classes trying to break me of being a hook-handed writer. Without offering me any other appropriate left-handed writing techniques. No wonder I never took to it.

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-10-15 08:06 pm

Well That Went Exactly Where I Didn't Want It To

Consider Phlebas and Player of Games are a couple of the books recommended to get into Iain M. Banks’s Culture books, and what luck, they’re the only ones my library has!

I read a comment saying that Consider Phlebas is hard to get into until the very end when you see all the threads start coming together, but I was having a rollicking good time, happy to go wherever the story was taking me. Until about 100 pages out and started worrying if the questions I wanted answered, would get answered.

30 pages from the end I realized, nope. I was not going to get that story. I was not going to find out the whys and wherefores I was really itching to unravel.

I know, don’t critique the story you wish you’d read, and the story told definitely told me enough to get Banks’s point across. The problem is: the story told was FUCKING SOUL-DESTROYING.

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-09-29 02:43 pm

Natural Gardening, Feh

Bee-safe gardening is difficult.

It's important, but it's also difficult. Depending on how you feel about finding bug damage in your garden.

Most of the natural techniques don't work on a balcony. I can't release predators because my garden is a 12x4 foot plot and all the predators would leave. I can't mix things up too much because the balcony is too small and every "mix" invites a different kind of pest anyway. Use plants resistant to bugs? I'd love to know what miracle plant you recommend, O Gardening Advice Givers, that resist snails, thrips, aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and caterpillars, to name but a few of the beasties I have found feasting upon my garden.

I don't mind overall, except they do have a habit of damaging my plants in catastrophic ways. The ants that punch a few holes in the leaves? Carry on, ye artists of the negative space media. The snails that chew through the stems and fell my mums? There's amdro in their future.

Of course, amdro is harmless to the good critters. But what about aphids and mites and other small pests that can't be gotten by physical means?

My old standby used to be Bayer--this is the stuff everyone will recommend, and I used it most recently to deal with spider mites in the roses. It'll handle pretty much anything feeding on the plants, which is handy because picking the mites off one by one is impossible (especially when you don't want to touch them. I actually threw one of the mini-roses away because I found pinkie nail sized mealybugs on it and could not deal). Except I found out that this stuff is bad for bees. Pretty much anything that poisons sap-suckers will kill pollinators.

I should've known it was too good to be true even before the neocotinoid business became well-known.

"Sam, you're, like, 100 feet up! Your balcony garden doesn't have to worry about bees."

As a matter of fact I regularly find butterflies and bees in my garden! And given that I'm one of the few balconies in my building with a serious garden of flowering plants, I feel responsible for making sure these critters pull through. If you point out that I mostly have fall flowering plants: this is south Florida. The mums will bloom spring to winter and the roses have bloomed through everything but the heat of summer. Since March, something has been flowering on my balcony.

Insecticidal soaps and neem oil work on lots of things, but neem oil can't be used when it's too hot. Hooray, it's not too hot, though! Just in time because there are giant mealybugs in my other mini-rose.

...And there are also ladybug larva.

I can't spray the mealybugs without killing them.

If you want to know how many pests I have in my garden, I'll tell you I've found ladybug larva for a long time and the pests are still winning.

That is how I picked mealybugs off a rosebush with tweezers, and cried.

They go squish in a satisfying and viscerally nauseating way.

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-09-20 09:53 pm

My Other Best Friend is a Submarine

Knowing my interest in sentient vehicles and the relationships people have with them, and also my love of the ocean, someone recommended I read Katya's World.

Aside from going in expecting more sentient submarines than what I got (I was promised "it has the spaceship human merge thing" which it definitely did have), I'd say it wasn't a bad book, but not so massively good that it left me a husk of despair over my own failings. And it certainly was chock full of submarines which delighted me endlessly because submarine battles are far more interesting than space battles. I feel like they're a very well-kept secret, out of reach of the SFF crowd. The rules are strange, the atmosphere is tense, and nobody ever writes it despite the hard SF crowd bleating on and on about realism and science, which will boring up almost any space battle. Meanwhile, real submarine battles are all kinds of fantastic and even more alien than most space battles I've read.

But I went in expecting more about the human-spaceship merge thing, even though I wasn't promised a book about people and their living submarine buddies. I wanted it and to be fair, those moments shone. Those few pages of body horror were perfect.

Even before I'd finished the book I sat curling my toes, singing with tension. I want more! I need more about the horrors of merging with a machine! Except not in an instance where you're subsumed by the machine because that's not merging, dammit, the living machine can't just pick you up, suck you dry, and continue on its merry way!

This was an itch Space Noir will not scratch, for all its non-consensual mental hijinks, because it's still ultimately about two people who have alien sensibilities thrust upon them. Also, more spaceship romance than I think works for the concept. So the niggling need to do something passed.

I woke up intending to write some arctic fantasy, inspired by the waterworld thing, but before I knew it, I was 3,000 words deep in a world full of living submarines and the strange people mentally linked to them. A world where humans don't bond with these machine-beasts, until (obviously) one easily exasperated teenager does in the midst of it trying to kill her. It's okay, xe got better after that.

Xe calls xirself Trinket.

Trinket must be kept a secret from the government.

So of course Trinket goes around on gaming forums calling xirself Shiny_Trinket.

"You can't be on the internet!"
"Obviously I can."
"You're a living submarine YOU CANNOT BE ON THE INTERNET."
"Then why did God give me a wireless connection."
"Not to play Guardians of Eterna! That is *my* game!"
"It's my favorite game too."
"Find another game!"
"You're just mad I'm better at it than you are."
~Later, looking up scores~
"Slap me thrice, xe's right. D:"

I think I wrote less "horrible mind-meld with a biological artificial intelligence" and more "Socorro 2: set on a water world and starring teenagers."

...So if you wanted more Socorro, uhm... yeah? Watch this space.

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-09-10 05:37 pm

Apostrophes in Conlangs

Serious question for fantasy and science fiction readers: are apostrophes ever acceptable in a constructed language ("conlang")?

I've known pretty much from the get-go that they're verboten and a sign of a try hard, but I was jarred recently when I read a conversation on io9 about how authors shouldn't use apostrophes because it's stupid and meaningless and just use English letters already. I went from having no real opinion on conlangs with apostrophes in them to reading them as necessary in certain contexts.

Mostly because I've been reading about cultures, and fiction set in those cultures, where the languages have apostrophes and I became quickly accustomed to this integral part of the word. e.g., Hawai'i sounds worlds apart from Hawaii. It's another syllable longer. It's two sounds longer.

The 'okina is a perfectly natural part of a word to my eyes, and it has no readily understood English corollary.

The English language isn't necessarily limited in its phonemes, but it (like most languages) lacks the potential for the wide variety of sounds humans can make (English has between 40 and 50 phonemes, a few languages can have as many as 100 or more). I think about this constantly when I wonder "how would I pronounce this? How would the reader pronounce this?" 90% of the time I don't care, I want what looks pretty on the page. That other 10%, though....

My writing often takes me into languages I can't transcribe and sometimes it's nice to just slap down a fake language instead of attempting to describe whale song (why did I write a book about whales!?), and I am occasionally stymied by how I want this conlang to sound. I am an anthropologist, but not a linguist, and come to conlangs as a fantasy reader, so I'm further stymied by the way my eyes glaze over when I attempt to read about linguistics.

Usually I get away with this because I have a penchant for ugly-pretty words that make perfect phonetic sense to me (there is only one way to pronounce "Njaht"!) and I understand they don't make sense to other people but they're at least consistent on the page.

Sometimes I need, absolutely, to let the reader know that this word is very much unlike that word and I've grown accustomed to certain tools that English simply doesn't have. Sometimes it's sounds I transcribe and admit some readers likely can't pronounce ("ryu" is one letter/phoneme in Japanese and it's devilishly hard to say if you haven't studied the language, as I learned when I went to Japan with not one but two guys named Ryu.) I find myself occasionally itching for an apostrophe, to neatly slot them into a linguistic system that I guess I could use another letter for--tare instead of a're--but it doesn't have the same pleasingness to it, that pause, the emptiness between the voiced sounds (also it draws more attention to the pronunciation, more people would read that as "ah-rey" vs. "are"). Another letter feels far more ambiguous than a well-deployed glottal stop for pronunciation.

I know some translations use hyphens to denote glottal stops or similar pauses, but my western eyes don't like to see those as single words. Hyphens are two words! Even if we actually use hyphens for the same purpose, visually they don't look like a single word. Quick, is "uh-oh" one word or two?

Obviously it's fantasy and an author can do whatever they want, but what do you think? Is it a silly blanket rule, or is it something that turns you off as a reader right away?

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-09-05 04:42 pm

(no subject)

I know that editing is the hardest part of writing, and that all writers trip over the details or process, that getting the kernel of "I have this idea what about these dumb kids saving the world" into an actually formed journey is the hard part, but seriously.

Damn the details.

I want a machine that I can tell my plot to and it'll spit back the solution. Like book math. Solve for X where X equals "how do I get to the finale from these dummies farting around on an island."

Like an editor, but a pre-editor. Before the editing starts.
damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-08-27 09:34 pm

Aquarium Free To Good Home, Possibly Haunted

Yesterday I was productive and settled in to play some Guild Wars 2. But first! A bath. At which point I took a spectacular fall and slammed my knee into the handle of a drawer while thinking "please God don't let my head go through the glass shower door."

My head didn't and I felt the knee injury as a distant sensation of something that should hurt, but didn't. I looked. There was a gray dent in my knee cap in the shape of the handle.

That... wasn't good. Nothing appeared broken and I could stand up with no pain and no matter how I prodded this injury I couldn't feel a thing. After wigging out and getting advice while a blue-gray knot swelled up, I got myself situated on the couch and marveled at how different injuries can be. It wasn't painful, but neither was that time I nearly broke my neck. It also wasn't a funny story like that time I nearly broke my neck.

I looked at my aquarium from an angle I don't usually.

And saw a dead cory.

A weary fury assailed me. I'd found a dead cory yesterday for reasons unknown and this death was equally unexplained. Then, as I watched, the beautiful male molly swam erratically. I heaved myself off the couch, again (as I'd been answering roughly 500 phone calls and wandering around the living room as someone else thought of something I should try for my knee) and fished out the dead and the dying.

And found another dead cory floating behind the sprayer bar. Also two more guppies are missing, lord knows where their carcasses are. Probably eaten by the angelfish.

Despite being told to keep my knee elevated I did a big water change which involves lugging around a bunch of 5 gallon buckets and tested all my water because what the hell is going on. No. Everything was where it should be. No ammonia, no discernible nitrites and low nitrates.

I said I'd give this aquarium the old college try one last time with an all new setup. I did. I failed. I yield. I'm done. I don't know what in the world besides a heavy copper load in the water that will kill cories but not angelfish.

The only guess I have is that my canister filter is pumping evil humors into the water: the tank was fine when I ran two 55 gallon HOB filters. It was even fine again when I had to remove the canister for a while and run a single 55 gallon HOB despite that being way too little for the big tank. But when I run the canister, death prevails. This is certainly coincidence and strange hindsight because I don't understand how the canister could do that.

That's it. My aquarium is haunted. That's my only explanation.

If anybody wants it, I've got a free 75 gallon aquarium, black pine stand and canopy, 55 gallon Aqueon Emperor, Penn Plax Cascade 1000, plants I don't feel like re-using in the small tanks, and any fish that are still alive as of your pickup.
damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-08-21 01:46 pm

The Words You Can't Spell

Anybody have the words they can't spell?

Maybe you know how it's spelled, you just can't type it out.

I'm finally getting around to writing up a retelling of "Prince Lindworm" I mentioned back in December, where I wondered how you get two sons from eating a red rose that'll give you a son and a white rose that'll give you a daughter. Sure, I can see getting a monster out of the mix, but this magical math is not adding up for me.

Turns out, I cannot for the life of me type "shepherdess." It's always sehpherdness.

This is a problem in a story where I decided nobody should have a name and the main character is "the shepherdess."

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-08-12 07:22 am

(no subject)

My giant jet-intake fan started squeaking last week, so I've had to use a smaller, less deafening fan along with a noise machine app on my phone to sleep.

Which means that now there's nighttime construction going on next door. Bulldozers at 3:30 to wake me up.

Happy birthday to meeeeeee.

damselfish: (martin!)
2014-08-07 09:37 pm

This Post is About Pens

I recently reblogged "My Fav Porn Site" which was a link to jetpens.

I wasn't joking.

I've lost a bunch of my good pens, and was finally spurred to action when trying to take notes at my desk and the pens here are all skipping--including my 7 Year Pen. Ha! I know pens have no concept of time but it hasn't even been two years, pen! Half the time I can't get any ink on the page anymore with it. I am generally displeased with ballpoints because they seem to be 40% ink and 60% weird waxy stuff that means you can't write over the blank patches.

I either need a cat to blame for the loss of pens, or adopt a black hole. It's always the good pens, too. I'm drowning in a sea of freebies from law school emblazoned with brands that mean nothing anymore, but rarely do I find my trusty gel pens and rollerballs. I've resorted to using a felt tipped creature for my note taking. It offers a strange, feathery resistance. Writing with it is what petting an alien must be like.

I needed more pens, but no local store stocks my beloved 0.5 mm rollerballs. Sure, I can find the 0.7 mm versions, but I could drown small cities in that much ink and certainly swallow up the defining loops that differentiate an "ing" from an "ly."

I resorted to jetpens, who last put into my hands an awesome power: 0.38 mm point Signos. Dare I use it? I was Icarus, flying too close to the sun, wielding the might of my minuscule scrawl. I'm still not sure if I love them or fear them.

I've used all sorts of pens, and I've found that quality has relatively little to do with cost--if anything, good, more expensive pens tend to thwart me. I think if you charge $20 or more for a pen, you should have it tested by lefties with a funny grip. If you want to know what pen works, ask a left-handed person, especially if they hold their pen oddly.* I've noticed that most pen bloggers are also left-handed, many of whom also have strange coping techniques. I'm working on a better grip which occasionally feels pointless, because honestly, I don't use pens that much, for all that I'm stationary obsessed. I don't write for other people's benefit because I worry my cursive is too small and my printed text feels childish. I know other writers write first drafts long-form and I used to primarily write this way when I was in school, but I prefer to type. Transcribing what I've written often does lead to a round of editing (which is a bonus other writers rely on) but I can write so much more when I'm typing. Last time I wrote by hand it took me several hours to get out 1,000 words, which I can do in an hour at the computer.

Sometimes this is good, sometimes bad: there's few feelings quite like having a scene in your head and trying to follow the chain of events to the conclusion before it leaves you ("okay, you're having an argument and six lines in, character X has a witty rejoinder. ...Uhm, how did that line go that led to that rejoinder, again?") But I also think I write too much and meander around and would really like to become a more concise writer again. Did writing long form help?

If I want to write long form shouldn't I actually put the time in to learn to write properly?


So thanks, jetpens, for stocking cheapo fountain pens for me to try and make a terrible mistake with.

*If you're interested, the overall consensus is the Uni-ball Jetstream. Which, coincidentally, is one of my favorites, but I prefer the Signo Micro. It's also the overall best pen for everybody, apparently.

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-07-25 10:39 am

Fish or Bookshelves?

I am at a crossroads of fish and books.

My 75 gallon has given me a lot of trouble over the years--failure to manage live plants, long battles with algae, and most notably, a murder mystery to baffle even Nancy Drew.

Something was wrong with the water. I knew that, because the last angelfish standing (swimming) was severely stunted. But, curiously, the water parameters all turned out fine no matter how many tests I threw at it except for an overall hardness that rocked the charts. Not just that, but the fish didn't die in the order they should have: if it's a disease or poor water quality, the most delicate die first, if it's a bully, the weeniest die first. There was no rhyme or reason. Once a month, like clockwork, one fish would die. Maybe it was a ram (delicate, invites bullying), maybe it was a cory (hardy, ignored by tankmates). For the past half year it settled into equilibrium with one angelfish and three cories. In a vast 75 gallon.

The angelfish died last week, which leaves me with a question.

Take the tank apart, put the cories into the 20 gallon with one of my bettas, and put up book shelves? I do need book shelves, I'm running out of space for books and knick-knacks.

Or... try again with very different kinds of fish and plastic plants? I know that my ability to care for fish is fine, given that the only aquarium that's ever given me trouble has been the 75 gallon, which is why I am not quite ready to throw in the towel yet.

For a while I'd been thinking about trying Malawi cichlids since they thrive in hard water, but a cichlid tank would be pretty expensive to start out. If I try again it'll probably be mostly livebearers. With plastic plants.

I'm doing good with live plants in my betta tanks, but that's because I can actually reach the bottom to do maintenance. ...And they survive with the ambient sunlight in my living room orz so much light so much algae. But in the 75? Eff live plants. Eff them.

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-07-11 05:23 pm

I have a car? I have a car!

Yesterday, I bought my paddleboard.

Today, on the 6 month, 6 day anniversary of the crash, I have finally gotten my car back!* I've forgotten what it's like to drive. I've forgotten all the places I dreamed about driving to after becoming inured to the home-bound monotony of being a pedestrian in a driving town.

This means I should celebrate by taking a road trip!

Got somewhere scenic you like in Florida? Lemme know!

*Yeah, the car shop had my car for 5 months. It was one excuse after another and miraculously, they started work when I started calling up other shops, one of whom called the shop to go "hey dude, wtf?" And now, of course, there's a leak in the A/C and it's blowing freon right in my face. If I don't develop cool ice powers after this road trip, I'll be really angry.

damselfish: photo by rling (Default)
2014-07-08 07:45 pm

Thoughts on Transistor and Agency

I finished Transistor a while ago, a game I picked up solely on the strength of its trailer. I've never played Bastion, and while the buzz has been (deservedly) good I am not really on the gaming bandwagon anymore. But that trailer hit all the right buttons.

...Well, and the shipping on Tumblr between the protagonist and the talking sword. Which is another right button. I don't think it's a spoiler to say this because right out the box they are shippy as hell and it is about 95% of my satisfaction with the game. Apparently I really love stories where shippiness can be had with people and their talking [inanimate object] (thank you, Tales of Destiny, for starting that one).

Other people can talk about the mechanics of this little action RPG/pseudo-RTS better than I can, and the trailers can tell you that it's beautiful in ways no words can.

What makes or breaks the game, to me, was the emotional core of Transistor: the relationship between the MC, Red, and the transistor/talking sword guy/B. I'm gonna call him B because Tumblr named him Boxer and a friend calls him Blue. B is the chattiest NPC companion I've seen in a long time, and the game is essentially his running monologue interspersed with battles. The game rides on his performance, and given that I had to stop and squeal to my friend every now and again:

me: "seems like you're safe. I take full credit." The inflection when he's drunk! That was so... little boy smug
Crysi: He's so adorable
me:(I admit, I'm weak to guys who take that tone it is SO CUTE)
he is! I can't stand it

Yeah, he nailed it. There's a lot of subtlety and emotion in there, enough that I don't think I was projecting when I found his edgy chatter to be nervously filling up the unaccustomed silence left by Red's muteness.

Most game bloggers aren't talking about this, but I'm not a game blogger, and frankly I don't play games like I used to--and I've always been in games for story ahead of gameplay.

Then again, I'm not your general gaming audience, something I felt keenly both in Transistor and during my playthrough of another indie darling: Child of Light. CoL is a fairy tale/storybook RPG with gorgeous watercolor graphics and its strengths don't lie in characterization but in its beauty and the hypnotically soothing gameplay. I had to stop and marvel that this game had been made at all, watching the little princess protagonist in her nightgown run across my screen. This was a game tailor made for my sensibilities and hit a lot of points that made me happy that usually don't meet up with my gamer side (and haven't met up since Okami and Okamiden).

Both, also, have female protagonists. Hmm, two critically beloved games with female leads... I thought men wouldn't play those?

One of them is a little girl even. I'd say this was an aesthetic that reached right into my childhood, but my childhood was full of Hot Wheels, battle dinosaurs, and Littlest Pet Shop. It still made me nostalgic, like it reached into the platonic ideal of childhood. It's an aesthetic that is decidedly unabashed about sticking to its storybook premise.

Anyway, back to Transistor.

spoilers ahead )

Sure, the game is beautiful. Sure, it's an interesting format. That's not what made it for me. It's more like this game wondered, "what would Sam's demographic want out of a game? Let's make that."

I've been recommending this game to everybody I can. Too bad all my cool friends are on Macs. It's for PC and PS4! It'll come to Mac, eventually. Play it. PLAY IT.

Also: I was pretty surprised by how queer the game was. There's a genderqueer person, a gay couple, and we're pretty sure there was a woman with a crush on Red. That makes something like 4 out of 6 characters LGBT. I know this matters to lots of you, so go on and check it out!