Weekly Update: Winter Cats and Yayoi Kusama

We’re still not getting a real winter yet, but I did get some new Rumpl blankets in this week and that was enough to get my cats into full winter mode. Hopefully there will be some rain next week to justify their need for winter cuddles.

The gentleman.
The lady.

I dared to venture out on the day before my Chemo session, because I really wanted to see the Yayoi Kusama retrospective in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. I arrived when the place was relatively empty, and wore a mask the entire time (as did almost all of the other visitors). The curation of the exhibit was phenomenal, and I enjoyed it very much. I loved seeing Kusama’s early sketches in her sketchbook, as well as her later sculptors and rooms. There was a new room, created specifically for this exhibit, the “Galaxy” room, which was my favourite:

Inside the Galaxy room.

Walking through the museum became a very colourful and oftentimes surreal experience. There’s nothing like being dwarfed by pink tentacles:

Pink tentacles in the atrium.

The penultimate room was phenomenal, with a steel ball exhibit on the floor that toyed with people’s need to view themselves (so many people lay down on the floor to take selfies), and two mosaics of Kusama’s paintings: one colourful and one in black and white, on opposite walls. It was very striking.

With my treatments getting progressively harder, flu season (yes, I’m vaccinated, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that I won’t get sick), and a new Covid variant on the rise I doubt that I’ll be going out much for the next few months. That just makes my visit to this colourful, interesting and joyful exhibition even more precious to me.

Health

I had my 10th Chemo treatment (the second treatment of the fifth cycle) on Tuesday, and this time I asked to get less steroids. So instead of a really, really, really, really, really large amount of steroids, I was given a really, really large amount of steroids. It was a risk (the steroids serve as anti-emetics and general boosters to help me get through the treatment), but so far it has paid off. I could sleep better and longer after the treatment, which helped me feel a little better. The treatments are getting harder, and as I suspected I now no longer have a break in my neuropathy. As I’m typing this, I feel about four out of ten fingers. The secret to typing like this is to be like Wile E. Coyote and not look down or think about typing as I type 🙂

Reading

I got less reading done than I expected this week, and I’m only about a third of the way through James S.A. Corey’s “Cibola Burn” (the Expanse #4). I also need to dedicate some time to update my Goodreads reviews. I have a few notes on books that I’ve read that I’ve yet to publish there. Luckily my reading journal is still around to help me keep track of things.

I’m enjoying the way that the Expanse novels unfold, with 3-4 viewpoints in each one, and large systems of government, military and industry are made human without being overly simplified.

Writing

I journaled a lot this week, but other than that I didn’t get any writing done. My neuropathy meant that holding a pen has become virtually impossible since Thursday evening. I really miss holding and using my pens.

Currently Inked

I’ve been focusing on my standard pens this week (while I could still hold them). The Retro 51 Typewriters have Monteverde gel ink refills installed, and I’m really enjoying them (I don’t like the standard Schmitt refill). The Karas Kustoms Periwinkle Bolt V2 has a dragonskin grip and a cerakote finish and is gorgeous. The other Bolt is the steampunk one, which I love and use regularly. The Tactile Turn Nautilus is the most unique and gorgeous of my standard pens, and the click mechanism is a lot of fun to fidget with. The Uni Jetstream Edge was a pen that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy very much, but I ended up writing the most journal pages with it this week. I can’t explain why I love writing with this pen so much, but I just do. The same can be said of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C next to it, which I’m about to run dry (a pen achievement, if ever there was one). The barrel is cracked, of course, but somehow the tip has remained intact and the gel ink refill hasn’t yet inexplicably stopped flowing.

From left to right: Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Uni Jetstream Edge, Tactile Turn Nautilus, Karas Kustoms Steampunk Bolt V2, Karas Kustoms Periwinkle Bolt V2, Retro 51 Typewriter green, Retro 51 Typewriter copper.

Other Things

I’m hoping that my neuropathy improves next week, so that I can get back to journalling. I’ve started working on some long term projects and with the encouragement of my therapist I may actually get back to planning more than two weeks ahead.

The seeds in my garden have started germinating, which is always a joy to see. Monday is going to be very dry and warm so I’ll have to keep a look out for their health and mine then.

As is usual for a Chemo week, a lot of my time was spent trying to fall asleep and failing, so productivity wise it’s not the best. Hopefully next week will be better.

Midori MD Notebook Journal A5 Review

I got this Midori MD Notebook Journal A5 Dot Grid as part of the Cult Pens Paper Box, which is no longer being offered. I’ve used and liked Midori paper before, as part of their Traveler’s Notebook offering, but I’ve never taken the opportunity to purchase one of their notebooks before. One of the main reasons I purchased the Paper Box was to give this notebook a try.

MD Notebook Journal A5 front cover

The MD Notebook Journal is a soft cover notebook with a minimalist design. It’s an A5 dot grid notebook that opens flat, has 192 fountain pen friendly pages, and comes with the bare minimum needed to turn it into a more structured journal: two enlarged dots for the dates and an index insert that you can use to mark the months. Everything you need to know about the notebook is thoughtfully written on its paper wrapper. Everything but the paper weight. I’d start a rant here, but I don’t think it will do something to solve the various standardization issues in the notebook/journal world, so I’m just going to note that I find it annoying. Write the gsm please. It’s not that hard.

MD Notebook Journal A5 back cover with index.

The MD Notebook Journal comes wrapped in a crinkly parchment paper that is meant to protect the cardboard covers, and I kind of liked the way that it felt. On a whim I grabbed some washi tape and taped it to the cover as a cover protector. I don’t know how long it will last (I’ll probably need to add more tape later on), but for now I’m enjoying it.

Inside the front cover is a place to write your details. As usual, I highly recommend writing your name and email, in case of loss.

Front endpaper.

The backend paper contains information about the notebook, and no pocket. It really isn’t missed on such a minimalist design, although you could easily tape an envelope here to serve as a pocket if you are so inclined.

Back endpaper.

The MD Notebook Journal paper is fountain pen friendly and shows off the various properties of fountain pen ink very well. The drying time isn’t great, but that’s to be expected considering the coating on the paper.
Now for a little side note: I purchased the 2021 Diamine Inkvent calendar and I plan on reviewing all of the inks in it, opening each one on the relevant day, just like I did in 2019. I’ll be using old Tomoe River Paper and this MD Notebook Journal for the purposes of the review. So if you want to see this notebook get a little more use before giving it a go, stay tuned.

Fountain pen friendly paper that shows sheen, shading and outlining well.

The paper in MD Notebook Journal isn’t very thick, so there is some show-through, but no bleed-through, with all the inks that I used. It wouldn’t bother me, but if you find show-through distracting, you might want to use lighter inks, fine and extra fine nibs, or just one side of the paper.

Show-through on the back side of the paper.

There’s a thin ribbon bookmark attached to the notebook, which is both charming and adds the only touch of colour (a lovely teal) to this minimalist journal.

The bookmark.

I look forward to giving the Midori MD Notebook Journal A5 dot grid a thorough try out next month. From what I’ve seen of it so far it’s going to be a fun notebook to use (and I don’t even like dot grid notebooks normally). There’s something about the starkness of it that makes it appealing, in that it really is a sandbox that you can play in. I can imagine people placing it in various notebook covers, or covering the covers with stickers and drawings, or just trashing it with use.

A journal with endless potential and excellent paper – what more do you need?

Weekly Update: Shots and Lego

The weather started to improve this week, and with it my health. The winds from the East stopped blowing dust in, and the terrible heat and dryness broke, hopefully until summer next year. It finally started raining on Thursday, and as the weather cooled off I could start to clear out and replant my container garden.

Health

This week was the “good” week (i.e. the no Chemo week, where my body gets to recover), even though Sunday and Monday had super hot and dry conditions that made breathing miserable and made my nose bleed (a problem when you’re on blood thinners, as I am). But the weather improved and I started feeling better as I made up for lost sleep and the neuropathy started to gradually subside.
I also got a pneumonia vaccine (I’m eligible because of my Chemo trashed immune system), and another shot to keep my blood count where it should be. I used to be afraid of shots and blood tests when I was little, and leery of them as an adult, but now they’re nothing to me. I’ve been pricked and prodded so many times that I’ve gotten inured to the procedure.

Next week is Chemo 10 of 12, and also when I start scheduling my post Chemo tests.

Reading

I finished Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies”. I couldn’t put it down, so I ended up reading it during Chemo instead of starting on something lighter. She really makes Henry the VIII’s court come to life, and Thomas Cromwell is such a fascinating character in a book filled to the brim with fascinating characters. I’m a bit wary about reading the last book in the trilogy, “The Mirror and the Light,” as I’ve been warned that it’s not as good, but I will probably read it eventually.
I started reading James S. A. Corey’s “Cibola Burn” and so far it looks like a fun and engrossing read. They really know how to write entertaining epic science fiction that highlights how the various modern “tribes” of humanity work and how individuals interact with them.

Writing

My neuropathy started improving on Wednesday, and so I could backlog the journalling days that I missed. Hopefully I’ll get more writing done this week, but even if I only journal that will be OK considering the condition of my hands and the fact that I need to type with them as I work every day. Sometimes you need to cut yourself some slack.

From left to right: PenBBS, Retro 51, Esterbrook and Leonardo

Currently Inked

I wrote my Kanilea dry. I really enjoyed using it, although I still believe that Kanilea pens are overpriced beauties. I bought my pen second-hand on the Pen Addict Slack, but as the message was archived and the pen that I got is no longer made by Kanilea I have no idea what its name is. That’s something for me to figure out.
I wasn’t planning on adding a pen to the rotation, but my Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Mother of Pearl arrived and it was too pretty to sit in a box until I got to it. I was feeling nostalgic so I filled it with Waterman South Sea Blue, a really great and inexpensive ink that has now been renamed to “Inspired Blue” which is not a very descriptive or inspiring name.
Also in rotation: my Esterbrook Estie Seaglass with a Journal nib, filled with Diamine Jack Frost. This pen and nib combination is so much fun to use I may return it to the rotation for a third time in a row once I’ve written it dry.
The Retro 51 Wings of the Monarch fountain pen with a 1.1 stub nib filled with Caran d’Ache Saffron. The pen drags a little as it writes so I may try to smooth the nib out once I’ve written it dry.
PenBBS Year of the Ox, a trusty, workhorse writer filled with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho.

Other Things

There was a local shopping event two weeks ago, and I went a little wild buying Lego sets. I’ve started building Legos as a way to relax and clear my head once I go sick, and they’ve been quite a comfort during the past few months. I can’t build them on days with bad neuropathy, but on good days they really cheer me up. I’m working on the Hogwarts Icons Collector’s Edition right now, and Hedwig is absolutely stunning.

Uni Jetstream Edge Review

I’m not a fan of ballpoint pens. Their refills tend to streak and glob, the ink they use isn’t ass dark or vibrant as their gel ink and rollerball counterparts, and something about them (probably the lightness and inconsistency of the refill) makes me grip them with “the grip of death,” which inevitably brings on hand cramps and pain. They are, however, useful at times, so I am constantly on the lookout for new and better ballpoint pens and ballpoint refills.

Enter the Uni Jetstream Edge, a ballpoint pen with a strikingly modern design and the world’s first 0.28mm ballpoint refill (there’s also a 0.38mm refill option but I won’t review it here).

Uni Jetstream Edge white and red body with 0.28 mm refill on a Moleskine Denim.

I love the design of this pen. The body is plastic, but the grip area is metal and relatively wide, which makes for a very well balanced pen. The bent wire shape of the clip adds to its modern and clean aesthetic, and I like that chose to make it red and not black or silver in the white edition of this pen. The clip looks like it would be a fun and springy fidget tool, but it’s quite inflexible and immobile. That’s great if you plan on using it to clip it to a shirt pocket, but the unusual clip shape means that clipping it to paper will likely crumple and even tear the paper. I don’t normally clip my pens to things, so that’s not going to be an issue for me, but YMMV.

The clip, and the subtle Uni Jetstream branding.

The Jetstream Edge grip section is metal and round, unlike the plastic, faceted pen body. There are grooves carved into it that make it comfortable to hold, and the refill sits very snugly in the pen sleeve. This is a pen that’s not going to rattle while you write.

Jetstream Edge grip and business end.

The 0.28 mm Jetstream ballpoint refill has been designed so that the tip won’t suffer the usual “bent out of shape the moment you breath too hard on it” fate of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C refills. Its sturdy but still keeps a tapered, fine tip, which means that you can use it with rulers and templates if you so desire.

Jetstream Edge on the left, Hi-Tec-C on the right. Note the difference in the tip and nose cone design between the two, and that the Edge grip is wider.

The refill the Jetstream Edge uses is the SXR 203-28 for the 0.28 mm or the SXR 203-38 for the 0.38mm tips size, although it appears that can also accept the Uni SXR-80 line of refills used for Uni-ball’s multi-pens. If so, that could open a wider range of refill colours and tip sizes.
The original, SXR 203, refill is very slim, which would have been problematic if it was a gel ink refill (you’d have written it dry in a day), but shouldn’t be a problem with a ballpoint refill. That being said, I doubt that this refill will last as long as a standard Parker one, not to mention the Caran d’Ache Goliath.

The Jetstream Edge dismantled with the refill on the side.

While Uni-ball brags that the Edge uses the first 0.28mm ballpoint refill in the world, there are other brands that use ultra fine ballpoint refills not far from it in size. My Midori (now Traveler’s Company) Brass Ballpoint pen has a refill that is around that size, so I thought I’d compare the two.

Jetstream Edge on the top left, the Traveler’s Company Brass Ballpoint is on the bottom right.

Here are the pen tips side by side. The barrels, grips and cones are very different but the refill tups are very much alike.

Jetstream Edge on the top, the Traveler’s Company Brass Ballpoint is on the bottom.

Below you’ll find a writing sample of the Jetstream Edge, and one of the Midori/Traveler’s Company Brass Ballpoint for comparison. Perhaps unsurprisingly, being a Jetstream refill, the Edge’s refill is better than the Midori’s even though it is slightly thinner. It lays down a more consistent and slightly darker line (although nowhere near as dark as a gel ink pen’s line).

I wrote seven full A5 pages with the Jetstream Edge, to see how consistent the line is over time, and to see if it would cause hand cramps after prolonged use. While I was writing I made a concentrated effort to keep a light grip on the pen. The barrel design helped with this, and the pen’s light weight and front heavy balance made it nice to hold and write with. But the Jetstream Edge is a pen with a sweet spot, not unlike certain fountain pens. Angle it too much and the refill starts to skip, so you need to write with the pen as vertically as possible. That slightly awkward writing angle may have been the cause of my hand cramps, but whatever the cause may be, this is not a pen that will work for long writing sessions for me.

So, do I recommend the Uni Jetstream Edge? If you’re a ballpoint fan and an ultra micro tip fan, then yes. Otherwise, there are cheaper and better ballpoint pens out there, even within the excellent Uni-ball Jetstream line.
Will I be using the Jetstream Edge? Yes, although not for long writing sessions. I love the line it lays down, and I like the aesthetic of this pen. Then again, I’m a fan of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C

Weekly Update: Acrylic Markers, Hilary Mantel and Podcasts

I was planning on posting a review this week, but I had chemo this week and it really took me to town. Two days of practically no sleep (due to steroids) and the terribly hot and dry weather we’ve been having meant that I had to spend more time than I planned letting my body recover from the wallop it received mid-week. As I’m typing this I can barely feel my fingers due to neuropathy (a common side effect of my treatment), which means that typing, writing and drawing have been a challenge.

HOWEVER, I’m still here, still smiling, still picking up my pens and journalling, and even messing around with new art supplies that don’t require the precision and control that my beloved watercolours do.

Sakura Pigma BB brush pen on a Maggie Rogers Field Notes sketchbook.

I’m not sure if I’ll dedicate a review to the Sakura Pigma BB brush pen, but I will say that it’s a super soft, relatively wide brush pen that is very expressive and fun to use for spontaneous sketching. The Marabu Yono, which I got as part of a notebook package from Cult Pens, is a delight. I’ve never used acrylic markers before, and I love using this one. This is definitely opening up a whole world of possibilities for me.

Sakura Pigma BB brush pen and Marabu Yono acrylic red marker on a Maggie Rogers Field Notes sketchbook.

Health

I got Chemo number 9 of 12. Had a scary new side effect of the treatment or the blood thinners I’m on (likely the blood thinners), but I weathered that too. Next week I hope to get back to walking after the few days off I took for recovery (and because of hazardous weather). Also got to see a psychologist that works with cancer patients. Hopefully he’ll help me deal with the anxiety of what lies ahead.

Reading

I was planning on reading “Cibola Burn” by James S.A. Corey but Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies” has utterly mesmerised me and I haven’t been able to put it down. The quality of the writing, research and characterisation is evident in every page, and the result is a bewitching narrative – no mean feat considering the fact that very little happens in the book and the ending is well known.

Writing

None whatsoever apart from my journal and my three good things, and even they were backlogged for half the week. A combination of sleeplessness and neuropathy (which, if you’re wondering, feels like what your hands feel like after they’ve grown numb and then started to prickle back to life) made writing unattainable for most of the week.

Currently Inked

No change from last week because I didn’t write much. I’m about to write my Kanilea dry, after which I’ll probably hold off inking any new pen since I’m gearing up for my new Diamine Inkvent calendar. Like last time, I’m planning on filling 25 pens with 25 inks, and unlike last time I’m planning on writing them all dry.

Other Things

I’ve been building Lego sets as a form of meditation and relaxation. I’m currently working my way through the Lego Harry Potter’s Collector’s Edition, and will probably finish it next week.

I’m starting to get back to podcast listening. I used to listen to 3-4 hours of podcasts a day, every day. When I learned that I had cancer I stopped listening to podcasts entirely, and I’ve discovered that there are still podcasts that I can’t listen to right now. On my current listening list are: The Pen Addict, Maintenance Phase, and Reconcilable Differences.

Weekly Update: Chemo and Klara and Ink, Oh My

I am trying something new here, to see if I can start using this blog to update on what’s going on with me plus as an accountability aid. Let’s see if it sticks.

Health

I spent the week recovering from Chemo number 8. I started the week with muscle aches and pretty strong neuropathy that made typing and writing a real pain, but by mid week the muscle aches subsided and the neuropathy, while still with me, is much less sever. Next week is Chemo number 9 out of 12. Getting into the home stretch, but the side effects are getting more pronounced. I no longer try to work on the day of the Chemo, and I may need to take a day off on the day after as well, but we’ll see. Next week I also finally get to see a psychologist at the cancer treatment centre. I’ve been on the waiting list for two months, so I really hope our appointment will go well.

Reading

I finished Kazuo Ishiguro’s fantastic “Klara and the Sun”. Not a breezy read and a very typical Ishiguro book, but I enjoyed his treatment of AI and humanity in this novel. It starts slow, and builds up a world and an atmosphere like few writers can. Highly recommended.

Started reading Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies” and will likely also start reading “Cibola Burn”, the 4th Expanse book by James S.A. Corey. Mantel is mesmerising as usual, but a bit too demanding to read during Chemo. That’s what “Cibola Burn” is for.

Writing

Got some writing done on my non fiction project, although not as much as I would have liked. I’m still writing in my notebook so I’m not counting words, but I estimate I got about 5 pages of writing in. Not great, but better than nothing, especially considering the material involved. I’m also considering picking up work on a novel that I stopped working on once the pandemic hit. I’ll have to rework the premise quite a bit, but I believe that the core of the story still works.

Currently Inked

I wrote my Diplomat Aero Champagne fine nib pen with Sailor Studio 123 dry this week. I really enjoyed the pen and the ink, so I think that they’ll be back in rotation pretty soon.

From left to right: PenBBS, Kanilea, Esterbrook, Retro 51

The PenBBS Year of the Ox pen and the Kanilea pen have been my journalling pens this week, with the first being filled with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho and the second with Diamine Earl Grey, both wonderful shading inks. The Retro 51 Monarch has a stub nib and is filled with Caran d’Ache Saffron, and the the Esterbrook Estie Sea Glass is filled with Diamine Jack Frost. Both are in use for my “Three Good Things” entries.

PenBBS 535 Pen of the Year of the Ox Review

Happy fountain pen day everyone! I hope you get the chance to enjoy your pens today. I thought I’d celebrate with a review of one of the more interesting fountain pens that I have: the PenBBS 535 Pen of the Year of the Ox.

I like pens with interesting filling mechanisms, and I’ve purchased pens from PenBBS before and really enjoyed them so I decided to give this unusual (and inexpensive) pen a try. What’s unusual about it? Well it’s a long pen with an uncommon silhouette, a filling mechanism that doubles as an ink stop, and it has a gem as a roll-stop.

Let’s start with the pen body. It’s long. A Lamy Safari/AL-Star is 13 cm long uncapped. The PenBBS Year of the Ox is 15 cm long uncapped, and about 16 cm long when you unscrew the blind cap to allow for ink to flow (more on that later). That means that it holds a massive amount of ink (make sure you love the ink that you plan to use in this pen), all of which you can see since the main body part is transparent. The cap, blind cap and grip are black with rose gold detailing which is very attractive, and the cap and nib have special Year of the Ox inscriptions (2021 is the year of the ox in the traditional Chinese calendar). I have no idea why this wavy, long silhouette was chosen for the pen, but it reminds me of a bamboo stalk, particularly when capped, and I quite like it.

There is an engraving of an ox head on the rose-gold coloured steel nib, and the pen cap has a rose-gold coloured medallion on it with an engraving of an ox in the middle and “PenBBS 2021 Year of the Ox” engraved around it.

The grip section is surprisingly comfortable to use, as at first glance I was worried that perhaps it would be too narrow for comfort. There’s a slight step at the end where the threads go, and you can see from the picture below that there are very few threads for the cap. This is the weakest part of this pen’s design. While it makes gripping the pen very comfortable (no threads in the way), it makes capping the pen a hassle at times. It’s easy to miss the threads and have the pen not be properly capped. The cap itself is unlined and very short, particularly when compared to the long pen body. It is designed this way so you can post it on the back using the threads and the bottom of the piston.

You can see the threads on the piston below. Apart from checking that the cap can be posted in this way, I chose not to post this pen. It’s not that the posting affects its balance, as the cap is light and doesn’t weight down the back of the pen, but that the threads are so short and shallow that it’s not worth the hassle to use them to post the cap. Plus, I don’t post my pens’ caps anyway.

You also can see the filling mechanism in the previous photo. This is a little complicated to understand and hard to explain, but there’s a good video here showing how it works. You basically twist the piston nob to engage the piston mechanism and fill the pen with ink, and then twist it in another direction to disengage the piston and just allow the plunger rod to move.This allows you to return the piston to place, and is also the mechanism you’ll use to unscrew the piston blind cap and allow ink to enter the transparent chamber at the top of the pen and into the nib. I know this explanation is confusing – please check out the video to see the mechanism in work. It’s pretty easy to get it going once you’ve seen someone demonstrate it to you.

Is this the most convenient filling mechanism? No, not by a long shot. But it fills the pen entirely in one shot (something you can’t get with most converters), and allows the pen to have a really large ink capacity. This and the very decent nib turn this pen from a novelty item into an actual workhorse. This is a pen that is a joy to use, and you can use it for pages and pages of writing.

The Year of the Ox pen comes with a labradorite roll-stop, which is very cool looking and ensures that each and every pen is unique. I have no idea why labradorite was chosen, but I like its colour and I think that it works well with the rose-gold on the pen. It’s also what inspired me to fill this pen with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho.

To start writing with the Year of the Ox pen you need to unscrew the piston until ink can enter the small chamber near the pen grip. You can see the mechanism at work here:

The RF (round fine, or just simply fine) nib is smooth but not glass smooth, and if you plan on sketching with this pen, flipping the nib gives you a very good extra fine line. The nib and the ink capacity really make this pen something you can probably use throughout NaNoWriMo without having to stop for refills.

I wasn’t expecting much from the PenBBS 535 Pen of the Year of the Ox, because it really does look like a novelty pen. But somehow, the pen’s design, it’s weight, it’s large ink capacity and its good nib make for the ideal workhorse pen. This is a pen that’s fun use and fun to have lying around on your desk. Just be sure to fill it with an ink you really love, because you’re going to be using it for a while…