Weekly Update: Taking My Content Back

I have been thinking a lot lately about the content that I create and my ownership of it. It’s come as a result of the mess that is Twitter right now, the way that Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and their algorithms work, and yes, the mess that is D&D’s OGL 1.1 (and I have seen Wizards fold. It is the fact that they thought that could grab user created content so easily that makes me stop in my tracks).

Photo from today’s morning 10k

So as I’m still planning out my year (I’m struggling very much with planning ahead, as part of my PTSD, and it’s been getting worse, not better, over time. So if I manage to actually do any planning for the year ahead, it’s going to take a lot of time and a whole lot of intense effort), I started to consider if I really want to continue publishing things on these platforms.

I haven’t been using twitter for a long time, well before the Musk era. I just discovered that I don’t really need it as a source of news and noise any more, and the only thing I do there now is auto post links to my blog, and find relevant articles to read after hematology conventions, because the search option on ASH’s site is unhelpful.

As for the other social networks, I’ve already started to change my posting habits there. This year will just be me doubling down on the “my site comes first” principle. If it’s something that even remotely belongs on this site, then I’m going to post it here first, with cross posts elsewhere. Here I have an audience that is mine, that isn’t been manipulated by algorithms, and that I want to invest in.

The possibilities of a free deck, clear skies and perfect running weather.

One of the first changes I’m making is no longer posting reviews on Goodreads, but rather posting them here and linking to my blog from the Goodreads site. I have much better control of the format of the review, and I can cross link reviews and do more interesting things with them over time (I have a lot of ideas and not a lot of time).

That’s enough of that, here’s a bit more about the rest of my week:

Reading

I finished reading two Agatha Christie Poirot classics, The Murder on the Links, and Murder on the Orient Express (which I have read several times before and still find enjoyable). She is a master at her craft and it’s nearly impossible to put her books down, despite her more old school pacing.

I’m now reading Aubrey Gordon’s “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and it’s just as good as her wonderful Maintenance Phase podcast with Michael Hobbes.

I saw the Tournament of Books short list for 2023, and decided to opt out of it this year. There are a few books there that I’m interested in, but a few that I really don’t want to read, and so I won’t.

Journalling, Planning and Pens

My PTSD has been getting worse in one of its many manifestations (the others are under control for now). My brain refuses to acknowledge that there is a tomorrow to be had, and so I am allowed to plan for it. Where before I lived in bursts of two weeks (as that was my chemo regiment and that’s how my brain learned that I’m supposed to live), it now only allows me to envision my day a day or two in advance. I can put things on my calendar until the cows come home, but my brain refuses to acknowledge that they have anything to do with me, because who am I to assume that I’ll be alive next week? I know that it’s illogical, but that’s why it’s PTSD and not healthy brain function.

The realities of this are many, but one of the most pressing and annoying ones is that I can’t plan ahead. Planning used to be something I really enjoyed and excelled at, and now it’s something that I have largely lost access to. I am working on it, and as a part of working on it I decided to reflect on past planning systems that I’ve used, what worked and didn’t work in them, and what I can perhaps take from them for the future.

I’ve built a few quick lego sets lately, and the Vespa is one of my favourites among them.

I have changed my journalling notebook from a Moleskine to a Stalogy in an attempt to jump start my journalling post a lot of journalling inconsistency due to travel. It’s also going to allow me to use the very large amount of fountain pens (almost 30 I think) that I have inked up due to the madness that is my Diamine Inkvent reviews. I’ve only now started to log the inks and pens that I have in use in the Fountain Pen Companion, and I’m starting to clean out a few of them.

Have a great week, full of planning, journalling, reading and whatever brings you joy.

Weekly Update: Go on a Run Anyway

It was cold and dark outside this morning, with a chance of rain. My legs and body were sore from a combination of an intense gym session and standing/walking around at a conference yesterday. I didn’t feel like running. I went on a run anyway.

This was my reward:

Rainbow over the Mediterranean

I’ve never regretted a run yet, and today was no different.

Health

I started getting my post chemo treatment tests done, and while my lungs still aren’t 100% (but hopefully will someday get there), my heart and SVC got a clean bill of health. As both the tumour and the chemo slammed it, I’m very relieved that my ticker survived. Can I chalk it up to years of running? Maybe. It surely didn’t hurt.

Reading

I just finished reading “The Golden Enclaves” by Naomi Novik, the final book in the Scholomance trilogy.

It’s rare that I see an author really working out a new concept, a new kind of world building out of a tired trope, and doing it so well. It’s even rarer that the author in question is able to pull it off while still creating a readable and enjoyable story, and one so cohesive that it is clear at every point that this was constructed as a trilogy on purpose, from the start, with every piece of the narrative falling exactly into place in the end with elegance, and without calling attention to itself. This is a mechanically excellent piece of writing that doesn’t call attention to its mechanics.

Instead it calls attention to its characters, their relationships with each other, and in particular their relationship to the deep, inherent, and seemingly justified inequalities in their world. Inequalities and injustices that aren’t very hard to map onto many of those that exist in our world today.

Is the Scholomance trilogy perfect? Of course not. The characters don’t attain true depth because the cast is too large, the world needs building and that needs room, plus, these are teenagers after all. Many of them are still working out their personality. But despite its imperfections this is a very enjoyable trilogy that is worth reading, and won’t leave you feeling like you just consumed several hours of empty air. There’s substance here.

Other stuff

I’ve been creeping back to writing, albeit only adventure writing for D&D. I’m creating a new campaign, in a new world, something that I haven’t done for years.

I’m also looking into planning for next year. I have been really struggling with this mostly because of my cancer related PTSD. More on that maybe in later posts.

If you have Disney+, I recommend watching “The Magic of Animal Kingdom”. It made me smile.

Long Time No See: Orlando Update

I recently returned from a three week trip to Orlando, Florida, which is why there have been no posts in a while now here.
The trip was one that my brother and I planned in 2019, and was originally meant to take place in April 2020. Walt Disney World had a Star Wars themed running race weekend in April, and in those heady days of fast passes you could (and should) have booked things 6 months in advance. We had everything planned to the day and to the hour: hotels, restaurants, tours, parties, and rides.

And then there was Covid.

The world, and the parks, shutdown, the races were cancelled, and we went into lockdown.

The Disney World parks eventually reopened, and even started gradually to return to their former glory. In November 2021 the races returned to Disney, with a tearful group of runners standing on the starting line after missing an entire season of races.

I was in the last, and hardest, parts of my chemo treatment at the time.

When I finished treatments my brother insisted on re-booking our planned Disney World trip. We didn’t plan on including a race weekend in it at first, as I didn’t even know if I could run, let alone run 5k and 10k in the Florida heat. We selected a date mostly based on the hurricane season and when the parks would be less busy. Then we realised that it fell on the Halloween season, and potentially a race. After that we expanded the trip to include both the Halloween and the Christmas season, and the Wine and Dine 5k and 10k races. We’d be in the parks in their 50th anniversary. We’d take a few days to see Universal Studios. It was going to be expensive, but a once in a lifetime trip, one that was three years in the making.

EPCOT

It was. It was exhilarating, joyous and intense. We covered all the parks, ran in the races, swam with dolphins, petted a rhino, ate a lot of good food, went to a lot of parties, and had a ton of fun. We walked 25,000 steps a day on average, with some days reaching 35-39,000 steps. We also had a hurricane hit the parks, in a season that is supposed to be hurricane free. But that was also part of the experience.

Christmas Tree in Magic Kingdom

I returned home to jet lag and some family and personal health issues. My dad will need to have an aorta valve replacement surgery in the very near future, and my lungs are only up to 74% capacity. I’m seeing a lung specialist tomorrow, to see if there’s anything that can be done to improve their recovery.

I have the Diamine Inkvent 2022 green advent calendar, and I intend to use it. My original plan was to post reviews of each colour on each day, filling a fountain pen and writing and drawing with it, as I have done in the past. That is still my intention, but as I don’t know what the future will bring, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do that.

Diamine Inkvent Advent Calendar

This is the time of year when a lot of people feel a lot of things about their family. Whatever kind of family you have, please take the time to consider that they may not always be there, and you may not always be here for each other. Life has a tendency to be shorter than you planned, and it’s oftentimes more dicey. Try to be gentle, kind, open, and understanding if you can. Most people go through a certain amount of trauma in their lives, and that leaves scars, usually of the kind you can’t see.
Be gentle with each other. We are all there is in the end.

Weekly Update: Pre-Dawn Running, Ducks, Books and Fountain Pens

It’s been a busy time, what with my new job taking a lot of time and effort, my running and training taking up a good bit more, and the rest of my spare time going mostly to reading lately, I found myself creating less. That’s not great. My journalling has suffered, my drawing has suffered, my blogging has suffered. The truth is that creating is like running: I feel good during my runs and great after them, but it doesn’t make lacing up and getting out the door any less of a struggle some days. It takes more effort to sketch and blog (I’ve been utterly unable to write since my cancer diagnosis, so at the moment writing is off the table), than to curl up with a book, so I’ve been consuming more content than I’ve been creating.

That’s something that I hope will change over the next few days and weeks. I have a lot of catching up and different kinds of posts that I’ll publish here (pen reviews, sketch posts, art supply reviews, planners and Moleskines, etc). And as September is lymphoma awareness month, and childhood cancer awareness month, expect some posts related to that in the near future.

Despite the heat and humidity my running has stayed on track. This morning I woke up at 4:30 to get my long run in before the heat made things too unbearable. The weather is starting to get a bit better now, and I managed to run a little over 9 kilometres. That’s the longest run I managed to finish since my breathing issues started, and it’s a big milestone. I have a 10k race in two months and when I enrolled I wasn’t sure that I’ll be able to complete it. Today was a good indicator that I have a just may be able to do it despite having a busted lung.

Running in the dark and boats at sunrise.

I finished reading Dr Jen Gunter’s “The Vagina Bible,” which I recommend that anyone with a vagina read (it’s very informative and empowering), and Andrew Cartmel’s latest Vinyl Detective novel, “Attack and Decay”. It was a fun and fast read, and Cartmel knows how to write compelling plots and off beat characters, but his insistence on using purple language and calling attention to his protagonist’s hetro maleness is annoying at times. We get it, he’s a dude and he finds women attractive.
Next up on the reading list is likely “The Sentence” which is a Tournament of Books book (and I decided not to continue with the tournament reading list this year), but as I’ve already bought it and it seems interesting, I’ve decided to give it a go.

Ducks, geese and the Vinyl Detective.

I’m using four fountain pens at the moment, and none of them are for sketching (although I write my sketch journal’s out with my Platinum 3776 UEF). All of these are new pens, inked for the first time. The Diplomat Aero is an excellent pen at a great price point with a very unique and elegant streamlined design. The Colorverse Golden Record, on the other hand, is a disappointing ink. This is the second time that I’m using it, and it darkens considerably when left in the pen, becoming more brownish than golden orange.
The Platinum Plaisir 03 is a pretty decent pen for anyone first venturing into fountain pens. It’s a cartridge pen, and I’m not a fan of the Platinum blue it came with, but I’m not going to invest in trying to find other ink options for it.
The TWSBI ECO is an excellent pen, particularly for the price point, and J. Herbin Emerald de Chivor is a really fun, utterly impractical ink. This ECO is the jade one, and it doesn’t glow in the dark, despite its looks.
The Platinum 3776 UEF is one of the best pens that I’ve bought in a long time, because of the nib. Yes, it’s scratchy, no I don’t mind. It doesn’t feel different than my beloved, finicky Pilot Hi-Tech-C and I get more personality from its fine lines than I get with something like a fineliner. Sailor Epinard (this is from a bottle of the discontinued ink, which is now no longer discontinued), is a good, dark and muted green that has a good amount of personality.

Pens in rotation.

Have a great week, and take care of yourselves in these hectic times.

Weekly Update: Ink Washes, Health Scare and Finding My Stride

It’s been a while since I posted an update, and there’s been fewer posts than usual during the last two months. This is mostly because I started a new job in June, and it’s been longer hours and more work than I anticipated at first. I am enjoying myself, but the change means I have less free time, and that I need to prioritise things differently to better fit the things that I care about into my life. Was moving from a cushy and undemanding job to an interesting and fun but much more demanding one a mistake? Time will tell, but so far I’m not regretting the switch.

As I’m starting to find my footing, I’ve been able to find more time for my hobbies. During the early days of my new job the only thing I did was work, exercise, sleep and eat. Then reading came back into my life, and journalling and sketching followed. Meanwhile the Sketching Now Watercolour course is over and I only had time for the first week, but thankfully the materials are all available online so I’ll be able to complete it all eventually.

What’s left my life almost entirely so far is watching TV, and I doubt that it will regularly return. In terms of media consumption, I read and listen to podcasts and that’s about it. I will watch specific things on Disney Plus or watch Adam Savage make things on YouTube, but even that isn’t something that I do often these days. It’s not a value judgement on TV – it’s just that I have less time now, and of the things I could easily get rid of, this was one of them.

Lego Orchid set (it’s gorgeous). I find building these sets very relaxing, and as you can see in the background, I have quite a few more to build…

Another thing that went out the window is social media. I’ve stopped checking Twitter and Facebook regularly. The only thing left is Instagram, which I still spend too much time on for my liking, and as Facebook starts messing with it I may likely leave as well.

Health

I had a bit of a health scare in late June. It was 6 months after my last chemo treatment, and I had some blood work done for a check up with my hemato-oncologist. One of the results was extremely low, and it was for a test that people rarely get and I certainly have never gotten before, so I had no baseline to compare it to. What little information I found online indicated that I either was going through kidney failure/had a kidney tumor or had a rare form of blood cancer (beyond the blood cancer that I already had). Two sleepless nights later my hemato-oncologist (bless her), told me that everything was OK. The rest of my blood work was good, and this test was meaningless for people in my condition. She never asked for it, and I don’t know what possessed my GP to ask for it. In any case, I am now officially well enough to go on the regular post treatment checkup schedule, which means once every three months. Yay!!!

I’m running five times a week now, four 5ks a week and I’ve now started to work in a long run in the hopes to get back to running 10k. It’s tough running in this heat and humidity, especially with my lungs not being 100%, but I’m pushing through and enjoying myself. Running is my meditation, and has remained that way even though I now also meditate as part of ACT.

I’m also going twice a week to lift weights in the gym, nowadays with a mask on to avoid COVID. I’ve been vaccinated four times, but am now working from home again and staying masked as I can’t afford to get sick with the state of my lungs. Practically nobody is wearing masks anymore, and almost everyone around me is sick, so it’s been frustrating to try and stay healthy under these conditions. I’m hoping that the Omicron variant vaccine will be available here in a month or so, and I’m keeping an eye on the numbers to know when I can go back to the office and see people face to face again.

Reading

I’ve finished Hillary Mantel’s “The Mirror and the Light”, the third and final book in her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. I’ll write a more lengthy review of it on Goodreads, but I will say that I got tired of the book at around the 60% mark (it’s about 900 pages long), and it didn’t really recover from that point on. I can see why Mantel struggled with this one, and I don’t regret reading it, but it’s not as good as the previous two books, and it could have done with some robust (and perhaps ruthless) editing.

I’ve also finished Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece”, which is a companion piece to her seasonal quartet of novels (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer) and is excellent. You don’t need to read the quartet to enjoy this book, and “Companion Piece” would also be a good introduction to Smith’s writing. It’s written in stream of consciousness style, although it’s fairly easy to understand (nothing as complex as Joyce), and there’s a joy in her writing, compassion, insight and humour that make reading her always an enjoyable and worthy pastime.

As these were a bit challenging to read, I had an Agatha Christie “palate cleanser” in the shape of two novels: “The Man in the Brown Suit” and “Crooked House”. “The Man in the Brown Suit” is a detective/adventure story that was originally light hearted, but today just doesn’t work. There’s too much racism and sexism to bear, especially if you know anything at all about the history of South Africa, diamond mines, and labour relations in Africa. “Crooked House” was one of Christie’s favourite novels, and it’s a fun and interesting book with many original characters (and yes, also spots of racism).

Pens, Pencils and Notebooks

I’ve been playing around a lot with ink washes lately, as I’ve written here. They’re a fun and quick way to add colour to a sketch, and having a limited palette makes me appreciate colour values more.

Quick sketch of squash plants gone wild in a local garden.

I’ve written almost all of my fountain pens dry, with the exception of a Franklin Christoph 45L Sage with a S.I.G fine nib (filled with Bungobox June Bride Something Blue ink) and a Platinum Plaisir filled with the blue cartridge it came with. The other fountain pens I have inked (two Lamy’s and two Sailor Fude pens) are used for sketching and not writing. I’ll likely fill up a few pens next week.

From left to right: Platinum Plaisir, Franklin Christoph 45L Sage, Sailor Fude pen, Lamy Lx Rose Gold, Lamy Safari white and red, Sailor Fude pen.

The BigIDesign Dual Side Click pen arrived from the kickstarted that I backed, and it’s fantastic. I hope to have a review up next week, but so far I’ve really enjoyed using it, and I think that it’s their best pen yet (which is saying something).

I’ve decided to start switching around the pencils that I use, instead of writing one down to a nub. I’ve been using a vintage Eberhard Faber Mongol pencil this week, and a Musgrave Tennessee Red one. They’re both #2 or HB pencils, but the Tennessee Red one is much softer and darker.

I’ve changed the way I use my notebooks, streamlining certain things, consolidating notebooks on the one hand, and starting a new notebook (MD A5 blank paper notebook) for insights and ideas that I would have previously explored on social media and now prefer to explore in private, on paper. I’m no longer chasing likes for these things, as I’m more interested in giving the thoughts in my head time and space to grow and change, and Twitter and Facebook are the last places to allow for that.

All the Rest

I’m back to decluttering my house, a project that I had started working on before I got sick and until now didn’t have energy to get back to. Yesterday I found a stash of half used notebooks that I forgot that I ever had, and it was bizarre to go over them and read what my pre-Covid, pre-cancer self thought about life in 2014-2015.

Weekly Update: New Job

There’s been a dearth of new posts this week because I just started a new job, and while it has been great so far, I still haven’t adjusted to it. After being a recluse (out of necessity) for the past year or so, it was a bit of a shock to the system to meet so many new people face to face. I’m not sure yet how my posting schedule or content will change in the coming days and weeks, but I’m hoping that it won’t change too much.

I’ve started the SketchingNow Watercolour course, and I’ve done the first week of classes. This week is all about washes, so I created a grid of all the colours in my palette, showing how each one looks as a watery wash, a juicy wash and a pasty wash (what Mark Taro Holmes terms tea, milk and honey). This was a lot of work, but it did give me a better feel for the potential of the paints in my palette.

There was also an exercise that involved sketching vegetables with a set of juicy washes. Here’s the sketch in progress:

And after it was done:

This was a pretty simple exercise, but nevertheless a lot of fun.

Reading

My reading has been quite eclectic lately. I finished reading “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart and it turned me off the Tournament of Books list for this year. I’ve got very little patience for the plights of unlikable privileged characters that potter about a story with zero plot except having sex or trying to have sex with each other, and whining about their lives all the time.
I’ve read “Drive” by James S.A.Corey , the first short story in “The Expanse”. It’s completely skippable, so don’t feel the need to read it if you want to get into the series. Also, please don’t start “The Expanse” from this story – it may be chronologically first, but it’s their worst piece of writing so far.
I’ve started reading Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece,” which is a companion piece to her fantastic seasonal quartet of novels. I like her writing so much that I bothered to get a signed hardcover of this book. So far it’s shaping up as an interesting read.

Finally, I’ve plunged back into Henry IIIV’s England with “The Mirror and the Light” by Hillary Mantel. Her writing is mesmerizing and she really brings Cromwell, his peers, family, rivals and the entire period to life.

I’m experimenting with various kinds of new sketchbooks and sketching materials (as well as pens and ink) and I have thoughts about them. I just need to find some time to organize them into something coherent and write it all down. Meanwhile, here’s a quick sketch that I did on a paper bag during a zoom call, using a new brush pen that I’m trying out.

Have a great week!

Weekly Update: Open House at the Municipal Nursery

The past two weeks were a bit hectic, with various social gatherings (I’m not used to meeting people after being isolated for so long due to Covid and chemo) and getting ready to leave my old job and start my new one. The weather is still pretty good, and I’ve been relishing it: running, walking, and sketching a lot. As I’ve gotten used to writing and sketching with this level of neuropathy, I’m trying to take advantage of the pre-summer-heatwave weather to get as much outdoor on location sketching done as possible. I also have a backlog of London and Paris sketches to go through, complete where necessary and post.

I’m back at the gym (I had to freeze my membership during treatments), and enjoying getting back to lifting weights. And I went to see a movie for the first time in more than two years. “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” was pretty good, but it had a few too many horror elements for my liking. Another first after a very long time was an evening out at an escape room with my friends. It was a lot of fun, and something that I really missed.

Yesterday I went an Open House Tel Aviv event at the municipal plant nursery. I learned that the nursery serves a wide variety of organizations and gardens all over the city, that urban environments, and particularly seaside urban environments are rough on plants, that the nursery is one of the few of its kind in Israel, and it has been around for 100 years. We saw plants grown from cuttings, talked about plants that can survive the salt and sand and harsh sunlight of beachfront gardens, as well as plants that can thrive in the shade. We saw plants that are pollinator friendly, and talked about local plants vs. imported and invasive plants in the city. It was fascinating, and I could have spent the entire day there. The nursery isn’t normally open to the public, so visiting it and getting such a wonderful insight into it was a real treat.

A sketch of a lady in black work clothes and purple hair, a shaded set of growing tables and a patch of nasturtiums.

Here’s a closeup of Liat, who manages the nursery and was our fantastic tour guide for the day.

A close up of the lady in black work clothes and purple hair from the sketch above.

I’m 3/4ths done with “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart and I’m probably going to give up on the Tournament of Books reading list once I’m done. I have so many good books that I want to read, that I don’t feel like chancing another tiresome one. What will come next is Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece”, and then “The Mirror and the Light”. There are a few classics that I want to catch up on, and some very good sci fi that’s waiting for me, so as much as I’ve discovered some fantastic books through “The Tournament of Books”, I think that this is where our ways will part, at least for a while. Oh, and Agatha Christie is an excellent writer, and very addictive. I may return to her books in the near future.

I’m exploring various ways to manage my projects, and so far I’m unhappy with all of them. When I was in London I picked up this Penco leadholder and some leads (I have another one in shades of green that part of a sketching kit that I don’t want to break up), and I’m giving the good old PigPogPDA another try while I work things out. This is always my “palate cleanser” system, something that I use while I tweak other, more complex systems into relative perfection. I’ll be using this leadholder and a Moleskine plain pocket reporter.

The Penco Prime Timber 2.0 leadholder in red with brass hardware.

I’ve enrolled to Liz Steel’s Watercolour course. It’s starting a runt through on the 8th of June, and as I’ve had such a long sketching break while my hands were bad, I thought that it would be a good way to refresh my skills and pick up a few tips and techniques along the way. I like Liz’s loose, non standard watercolour style, and her courses are excellent.

Next week on Tuesday is my last day in my old job, and the week after that I start my new job. Exciting times 🙂

Weekly Update: Flowers and Races

This week was busy and filled with milestones. On Sunday I celebrated my 40th birthday. That’s not something that I was sure that I’d get to celebrate: in June and July last year I thought that I was dealing with a much more aggressive form of lymphoma, and I was unsure if I’d live to 40. Being where I am right now in terms of health and life in general makes me feel lucky and blessed.

On Wednesday I participated in my first race since 2019 (I missed a race in early 2020 due to Covid concerns, and then all the local races were cancelled until late 2021, when I was dealing with cancer). I was worried about the crowds triggering my post trauma, and the start of the race was challenging, but then the crowds cleared up and I had a great time.

I sketched a bit this week, working with watercolour pencils and watercolours. I’m still experimenting a lot, and still trying to work out how to sketch plants and foliage. Here’s a very quick sketch from a local garden, done with ballpoint, Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils and watercolours (Schmincke Horadam and Daniel Smith) on a Stillman and Birn pocket sketchbook. I didn’t feel like sketching so I just did a quick study of some rocks and plants, experimenting with textures.

Quick experimental rock and plant sketch.

I’ve inked up all of the fountain pens that I bought on my latest trip. That’s an Oldwin 2000 Years of History pen in silver (gorgeous, with a fantastic nib, but very heavy as it’s large and has a silver body), two Waterman 52s, with lovely flexible nibs. One of the pens is still stickered, and yet in the spirit of use the good china, I inked it. There’s also a Wahl Eversharp in the Kashmir colourway. I think that it’s an Equiposed that somehow got an adjustable nib on it, but I bought it for the phenomenal nib, not the pen body as much. All four pens were bought at Mora Stylos in Paris, and I am very happy with them.

I also popped a J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir cartridge into the Kaweco Collection Sport Iridescent Pearl pen that I bought in Present and Correct in London. It was very difficult not to buy up that entire shop, especially since I visited it twice.

The other two pens were inked up before my trip and are probably going to be written dry this week or the next: a Lamy Safari Petrol with a fine nib that I use for sketching as it has De Atramentis Urban Grey document ink in it and that’s waterproof, and a Schon Design Pocket 6 in 3D Teal that has a Diamine Sherwood Green cartridge in it.

From top to bottom: Oldwin 2000 Years of History, two Waterman 52s (the bottom one is stickered), Lamy Safari Petrol, Kaweco Collection Sport Iridescent Pearl, Schon Design Pocket 6 3D Teal, Wahl Eversharp Equiposed.

The Oldwin is inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu, a new ink that I got as a gift from the lovely Mr. Mora. I don’t have many pink inks so it will be nice to give this ink a try.
I still am having terrible luck with J. Herbin inks. Their regular lineup is so watery and desaturated, it’s always been a bit of a let down, especially when compared to the vibrant colours on their labels.
All the vintage pens are filled with Waterman ink, as it’s safe on vintage pens and very easy to clean out. There’s Florida Blue (now called Serenity Blue), Havana Brown (now called Absolute Brown) and my desert island ink, Waterman Blue Black (now called Mysterious Blue).

Ink samples of the all the pens on original Tomoe River Paper.

In terms of reading, I finished reading Ben Aaronovitch’s “Amongst Our Weapons” and it was a really fun read. His previous novel in the “Rivers of London” series, “False Value” got me a little worried that he’d lost his touch (it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t nearly as good as his previous seven books), but “Amongst Out Weapons” is a return to form.
I’ve also finished reading Agatha Christie’s “A Murder is Announced” and boy does she know how to write. The characters, setting, period come to life, and you can sense an intelligent and keenly observing mind at work.
I’m now back with the Tournament of Books, this time with “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart. If I find this book tiresome, I may yet give up on the Tournament of Books list as I’ve got more than enough good books that I can’t wait to dig into.

Next week is very busy, so I’m not sure if I’ll have time for any long posts. In the meanwhile, please remember to take a break from social media and enjoy your life: call a friend, take a walk, listen to a family member, be kind to someone, volunteer in some way. And if you are on social media, please be kind.

Weekly Update: It’s been a while

It’s been a while since the last update, and since I’ve been travelling there also haven’t been many posts lately. I plan to get back to a regular posting schedule next week, but first, an update.

Health

As the weather changed, and as I had to travel, my neuropathy has seen ups and downs. It was absolutely terrible on the plane, but it’s much better now. At this point my pain level hovers around a 2-3, and that’s something that I’ve learned to live with. I’ve been able to get back to drawing, I’ve started building Legos again (something that I picked up as a meditational/self-soothing hobby during my hospitalisation and really helped me while I could still build them), and I’ve had no trouble typing lately.

Watercolour pencil sketch of the lookout over the separate beach in Tel Aviv.

Reading

I’ve been on a murder mystery roll lately, mostly because April was a travel month. I’ve read three early Agatha Christie mysteries, after not picking up one of her books for years, and I rediscovered how entertaining and insightful she could be. I’m currently steaming through the latest “Rivers of London” book, “Amongst Our Weapons” by Ben Aaronovitch (so far it’s been a very enjoyable read), and I have a Miss Marple mystery (“A Murder is Announced”) before I return to more serious and lengthy reading.

As for the Tournament of Books challenge, I made my way through Sally Rooney’s “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” And found it even more insufferable than “Normal People”. I couldn’t stand the characters, the slow and stilted writing, the self importance of everyone involved, and how little plot there was to make up for all the rest.
Anne Garréta’s “In Concrete” wasn’t great, but I’m not sure that it isn’t a matter of a lot of meaning and innuendo being lost in translation, despite the valiant efforts of the translator. It was at least an interesting book with interesting characters – a sort of female, French take on Tristram Shandy.
The Echo Wife” by Sarah Gailey was a fascinating near future science fiction novel that is worth reading even if you don’t like science fiction. It has a lot to say about what makes us who we are, and how cycles of abuse are created and can be broken.
I’ve started reading Gary Shteyngart’s “Our Country Friends” but I moved to lighter reading while I was traveling. It’s the next book in the challenge that I intend to finish.

Currently Inked

I cleaned out all of my fountain pens before my trip, apart from my Schon Design pocket 6, and two Lamy Safaris filled with De Atramentis Document ink. I bough a few fountain pens, a bit of ink, and a whole host of notebook and art supplies during my trip and I’m planning to break them out and give them a try and review a few during the coming weeks. Meanwhile I still have one Lamy Safari inked up for my sketches, the Schon Design pocket 6 fountain pen which I’m about to write dry, and a newly inked Kaweco Collection Iridescent Pearl. I wasn’t planning on buying it, but I saw it at “Present and Correct” and couldn’t resist. As I bought a few tins of J. Herbin ink cartridges while I was in Paris, I popped an Eclat de Saphir cartridge into this pen.

Other

In other news I quit my job of the past 13 years this week, and I’m starting a new job next month. It was a difficult decision to make, and one that took me a while, but I truly believe that this change will be for the better.

Have a great week!

Weekly Update: Remission and Apple Watch

Long time and no update, not so much because things haven’t been going on, but mostly because I’m still having trouble typing as my chemo induced neuropathy gets worse with the cold, and it’s been pretty cold here.

Health

So my post-treatment PET-CT results came in and I’m officially in remission. That is great news – it means that there’s no active disease that can be detected in scans. Now we wait and see if it really is gone for good (it’s a 5 year wait, but the first two years and the first year in particular are crucial), and deal with the side effects and damage the cancer and treatment left behind. It’s a lot of work, basically another full time job building back my body and mind to a place where they aren’t what they used to be (that’s just not going to happen) but where they are as healthy as they can be.

To that end, I “broke down” and purchased an Apple Watch two weeks ago. I really like analogue watches, which is why I’ve avoided buying a smart watch until now, but at the recommendation of several health professionals I decided to give it a try. As my phone is an iPhone, I went with the Apple Watch series 7 GPS, and as I use the Nike running and training apps (NRC and NTC – highly recommended and free to use), I went with the black Nike version of the watch.

Timex Peanuts watch on the left, Apple Watch series 7 Nike edition on the right.

So far it has been a great purchase. I’ve been using it to track my runs and training, my heart rate, breathing and blood oxygen levels, and for bio-feedback based meditation. I’ve also been using it to track my sleep, which is pretty abysmal and the moment due to the residual effect of drugs that I had to take during chemo and are still in my system (and will remain there for a few months yet).

As for the analogue watches that I love wearing, I gave up on them for a few days, and then decided to just do as a local celebrity does and wear more than one watch at a time. So I have an Apple Watch on my left hand and an analogue watch on my right hand, and though it may seem excessive or eccentric it makes me happy (and I still like checking the time on analogue watches better).

Reading

I finished reading Percival Everett’s “The Trees” and it was excellent. A brilliant, funny, dark and timely novel that proves that contemporary satire can still be written. This kind of novel is why I read the books on “The Tournament of Books” list, as otherwise I never would have heard of it, let alone read it. Highly recommended.

I then read Dr. Jennifer Gunter’s “Menopause Manifesto”. It is a must read: expertly written, chock full of information that I would have had trouble finding elsewhere, interesting and kind. Even if you think that your menopause is years away, or if you’re someone who won’t experience menopause this is still a book that you should read, and sooner rather than later.

I’m now reading Sally Rooney’s “Beautiful World, Where Are You” for the Tournament of Books and not enjoying it much. I really didn’t like “Normal People” and I wouldn’t have tried another Rooney novel if it wasn’t on the ToB list. I know a lot of people like Rooney’s writing, and she’s won several awards for it, but I find it whiny, boring and self indulgent, and so far “Beautiful World” is worse than “Normal People” in that aspect. I’m trying to be open minded and patient, so I’m not giving up on it yet. Hopefully it will improve with time.

Currently Inked

As the weather has been cold my neuropathy has been too painful for me to journal regularly. My fingers feel like someone has taken a set of pliers to them, or else someone has lit a lighter under them. It will be warming up a bit next week, and so I’ve set aside a few pens that I intend to write with. I’m down to 18 pens (!) currently inked, and if I do get to journal as much as I expect this week then I’ll probably write 2-3 more pens dry. Not many of my Diamine Inkvent 2021 pens remain inked, but I’m not going to be able to write them all dry by the end of the month. As March will be a warmer month and more time will have passed from my treatments I’m hoping that my neuropathy will improve and I’ll be able to write more, and maybe even get back to regular sketching.

By the way, in April Diamine will be issuing the Diamine Inkvent 2021 inks in “Red Edition” glass bottles, just like the original Inkvent “Blue Edition” bottles. These make for great gifts as the inks are very good and the bottles are stunning. I still haven’t finalized the list of inks that I intend to buy, but for now it includes Brandy Snap, Night Shade, Ash, Harmony and Thunderbolt or Ruby Blues.

From top to bottom: Platinum 3776, Visconti Van Gogh, Kanilea, Lamy Safari, Pilot Falcon, Lamy Studio, Diplomat Aero

Other

The Pen Addict podcast celebrated 10 years (!) and 500 episodes in an epic and fun episode where Brad and Myke read the listeners’ favourite stationery items. This one is well worth a listen, and is sure to make you smile.

I finished watching “The Book of Bobba Fett” on Disney+ and generally liked it. It would have been nice to have more Bobba and Fennec and have the flashbacks more integrated into the later story line. I didn’t like the cyborgs much, and I wish that it wasn’t so much a “Mandalorian 2.5” season but its own thing. I think that Bobba and Fennec’s storyline suffered because of the tie to “The Mandalorian,” fun as it was. Hopefully they get a second season where they’re allowed to stand on their own for a while.

If you aren’t listening to the “Maintenance Phase” podcast, please do. This week’s episode was about “Super Size Me” and boy did I learn a lot from it.

Liz Steel and Marc Taro Holmes are hosting the One Week 100 People challenge again this year on 7-11 March 2022, and hopefully I’ll be able to join it again, hands be willing. It’s a really fun challenge, especially if you don’t feel confident drawing people. There’s a bonus challenge for people who want to sketch from life, but if I’ll participate it will likely be by drawing from Flickr photos as Covid is still raging out there, and I’m still vulnerable to it.