Let’s Restore Civility In Pendom

Note: This was edited on 2015-02-15.

While writing about civility, I described internet trolls with words that were anything but civil. Those words undermined the intended message of the post and should have never been written. I’ve edited the post to remove the negativity and name calling and I’m sorry. -Brad

I’ve been in a number of communities during my years on the internet but none so accepting and friendly as the community of pen enthusiasts.

Ah, the penfolk, champions of the pen, embracers of ink, purveyors of paper. We grasp our pens and hold them high in protest of a world claiming digital as the new way of life. But yet even as we’re deep in the good fight, some in our midst are spreading a darkness over our community.

Let’s travel back to in time to the year 2007. We’re in the bedroom of a third floor apartment staring at a man digging through boxes of stuff he probably should have thrown away. From one of those boxes he retrieves a Parker Vector fountain pen. He bought that pen years earlier at a local supermarket because it looked neat and it’s about to send him down a rabbit hole.

He finds a package of Parker Quink cartridges and manages to get the pen working. Something deep inside of him awakens, he feels the urge to learn about fountain pens. Luckily it was 2007 and he had the internet at his disposal.

That guy was me but you already knew that right?

I remember finding Fountain Pen Network and being amazed that there were so many people still using fountain pens. Not just dabbling like I was, these were full blown collectors and enthusiasts. As someone with a tendency to latch on to strange hobbies, this sucked me in deeper. The first thing I noticed: everyone was extremely nice.

I’ve spent most of my life since my early teens in the car enthusiast world. This is a hobby that has no shortage of bickering and drama. No matter how you modify your car, someone out there thinks you’re doing it wrong and they won’t hesitate to start a flame war with you online. In 2007 I was waist deep in that drama and FPN was a welcome escape.

In the fountain pen world, it’s not uncommon to find someone with a collection of Montblanc fountain pens praising a much cheaper pen. Penfolk just like pens that write well, price be damned. This sets our little group apart, we just love pens and ink and paper and we want to use as many different types and brands as we can.

You’d think a group of enthusiasts who are so open that they’d place a $2 pen next to a $1200 one might be incredibly civil and for the most part they are. But while most of us are enjoying our hobby and watching it grow, there are a few bad apples who are spoiling the fun for some of us.

There are a few prominent bloggers and video reviewers that I think every fountain pen enthusiast knows. I’m talking about Brad Dowdy, Ana Reinert, Ed Jelley, Matt Armstrong, Stephen B.R.E. Brown, and Azizah Asgarali. There are plenty more but I feel like these folks are specifically front and center when someone tries to enter this hobby. They spend their time writing great reviews, taking amazing pictures, or shooting and editing video simply because they love pens.

So we have a number of great people who are pouring their time and efforts into our hobby and who shows up? Yup, the internet trolls.

They seem harmless if you’re not on the receiving end. “Just ignore them” we say, but it’s not that simple. Why does Matt need to deal with constant comments about his lack of hair? Why does anyone need to complain about Stephen and Azizah’s on-air chemistry? Why waste the energy to type a negative comment in the first place?

Surely you’re familiar with the saying: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I like to imagine most of the penfolk follow this rule but there’s a select few of you who don’t and it’s time you learned.

I believe the good penfolk outnumber the trolls so I’m calling on all the good folks of our community to counteract them. Whether it be a nice comment or an admonishment of theirs, help us run these rabble-rousers out of our town. The worst we can do is to say nothing.

The next time you watch a YouTube review or read a blog post and you see someone acting rudely, counteract it with a kind comment and make it clear you don’t support such negativity. I may be giving them too much credit but I think they’ll get the message.

Be nice. Be civil. And most of all, call out those who aren’t. The internet is a cesspool but that doesn’t mean our little pond needs to be polluted.

Let’s Be Bad At Things

Sometimes I’m afraid of turning this site into a pity party but no one reads me so I’ll try to rid myself of that fear. This is more for me than you but feel free to read if you must.

Hey Brad, it’s okay to suck at this writing thing.

You’ve read a hundred articles on the subject but you haven’t grasped the concept. Pretty much everyone sucks when they start doing something. The real victory shows when you push through the barrier, admit you suck, and keep on chugging. This applies to writing, photography, design, and pretty much everything you can imagine. They say practice makes perfect and while I don’t know if “perfect” is the right word, practice sure makes you better to some degree.

I hated my Ti2 TechLiner review. I really did. Why? It lacked feeling, it felt forced, and it was abnormally hard to write. Of course I know why, I haven’t tried to write anything in months! If you pick up a pen or sit down at a keyboard once in a blue moon, you’re not likely to produce anything worth caring about. The trick is to sit down, pound out garbage, publish it (or whatever applies in your situation), and move on to the next thing. Sure it might suck but people have short memories these days, keep at it and eventually you’ll write something resonates with someone out there.

So this is a note to myself — and anyone else doubting themselves — keep up the bad work. You’ll eventually become mediocre and when you do, you’ll feel pretty darn great.

A Look at the Ti2 TechLiner

Ti2 TechLiner Uncapped

I love things that are made of copper, especially when they’ll see heavy use and develop a nice patina. Copper is a beautiful, bright metal when new but once it starts to patina, it takes on a look that can be incredibly beautiful. Some people prefer their copper bright and shiny, others prefer patina, I fall into the patina camp.

I backed the Ti2 TechLiner Revisited Kickstarter project because it came in copper and even more so because the acid wash finish was stunning. As soon as I laid eyes on the acid wash pen, I backed the 5.75″ version without a second thought. However when the pen arrived, I realized I should have taken the time to consider what I was purchasing.

Here’s the problem: copper isn’t exactly a lightweight metal. Throw in a couple magnets and a refill and it’s a pretty substantial pen. I knew it felt heavy in my hand but for the purpose of this review, I put it on a scale where it registered a whopping 1.9 ounces or if you prefer, 53.864 grams. Compare that to the TWSBI Vac 700 which weighs in at 32g (cap and body) and you have a very heavy pen. I don’t think many people can tolerate a 54g pen for a lengthy writing session, I know I can’t.

Ti2 TechLiner Capped

If I had a second chance, I might try the same pen in the shorty version although I suspect it would still be too heavy. While aluminium and titanium may be lighter, they just don’t have the appeal of a copper pen. I have a few pens in those metals and they’re not on the same visual level as this copper TechLiner.

Weight concerns aside, this is a fantastic pen. It uses magnets, uses a great refill, and has an eye catching design. What’s not to love?

Thanks to that great refill, there’s no real reason to discuss the pen performance. This pen was designed specifically for the the Uni-Ball Signo 207 refills which I place among the very best of gel pens. Years ago I preferred the G2 but now I feel the 207 outshines it in all areas.

So, is this pen worth the cash? Absolutely! I don’t find myself using gel pens very often but I might still buy a lighter version of the Ti2 TechLiner. If you’re in the market for a nice pen and you love the Signo 207 refill, check the TechLiner out. Just keep the weight in mind before you buy a regular length copper or brass version.

The Passable Writer

I’ve always thought I’d be some sort of writer. Not a good writer, a passable one. A passable writer won’t be widely read, they won’t be overly interesting, nay, they won’t even be talked about. A passable writer will spell things wrong, their grammar might be poor, they might even over-use commas, but just enough people will read their words to keep them in business, whatever that is.

If you’re going to do something, I guess there’s less to aspire to than a passable writer. I could be a blogger! Oh wait.

So if I were a passable writer, I’d write. Instead I’m even less than that, I’m a guy who could be a passable writer who also doesn’t write. That’s the recipe for a good joke I suppose.

Hold on a second, I said mean things about bloggers a paragraph ago. I don’t believe there are bloggers any more than I believe there are joggers. You either write or you run, it doesn’t matter what speed or what your subject, just do it. That’s what Nike said so who can argue?

Okay back to the whole self loathing thing. If I were a passable writer, I’d be ecstatic right now. I almost put an expletive in that sentence but something told me you didn’t want to read that. Or maybe you did so go back and add whatever spice you like, I’ll wait.

Long story short, I don’t write, you don’t read me, and I didn’t curse in this bit of passable writing. I’m giving me a gold star.

That was passable right?

The Curse Of The Inked Fountain Pen

Last night as I scribbled random words on some lovely Tomoe River Paper, I found myself proclaiming my undying love for the TWSBI Vac 700. It has a large nib, large body, large ink supply, and it’s just…. large.

In that moment I decided I would flush every inked fountain pen and only use the Vac 700. So it was set: tomorrow I would be a 1 fountain pen user.

Tomorrow is here. I took the day off because World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor comes out today. That’s normal right? Nevermind that, I was talking about pens.

Before we get too far into this story, let’s cover what I currently have inked.

  • TWSBI Vac 700 – Broad nib filled with Diamine Prussian Blue
  • TWSBI 540 – 1.1mm nib filled with Diamine Ox Blood
  • Levenger L-Tech – Medium nib filled with Sailor Sky High
  • Pilot 78G – Broad nib filled with Iroshizuku Kon-Peki
  • Pilot Custom 74 – BB nib filled with Sailor Grenade
  • Kaweco AL Sport – Medium nib filled with Sailor Sky High

That’s not a lot of pens but it’s more than I need. I was positive one pen would be enough last night but today? I’m not quite so sure. I woke up ready to flush all my pens except the Vac 700. Diamine Prussian Blue? What a great ink! Who needs anything more than that?

Oh wait, the 540 has a stub nib and that’s different enough to warrant keeping it inked.

Okay, I’ll flush the rest.

Wait, the Pilot Custom 74 is super broad. Who doesn’t like super broad nibs? I love them! Okay, let’s keep that one inked, plus Sailor Grenade is a gorgeous ink and it would be a shame to flush that down the drain.

What about that Kaweco? It’s a cartridge pen and I carry it in my pocket every day although I never use it. That seems pretty important. Also, who flushes a cartridge pen? I had to fill the cartridge with a syringe! That’s a lot of work and it should stay inked.

That leaves the Levenger, the 78G, and…. I guess that’s it.

What’s that pen sitting in the stand over there? An un-inked Pilot Falcon? I bet Sailor Sky High would look cool in that. There’s no harm in having 5 pens inked right?