Friday, January 20, 2012

For Science: Fountain Pens

I've decide that I would launch a series on this here blog, which I am titling "For Science", drawing on a popular meme (and I am very fond of Portal myself).  In this series of indeterminate duration and frequency, I'm going to write about things that I think are useful for scientific use, and beyond.

This time, the subject matter is fountain pens.  Yes, fountain pens.  That probably seems like a rather odd topic, so allow me to give a brief diversionary explanation.  On Christmas, I was somewhat unexpectedly gifted with a vintage Parker 51 fountain pen (it's a very dark green, basically this pen). It's a lovely bit of work, and considered the greatest fountain pen of all time by many.  It is also not a cheap thing, and wasn't even when new.

And having a fountain pen, for the first time in my life, got me to thinking about how we write, and what we write with.  I have long held up the plastic water bottle as the ironic symbol of modern civilization.  It is made out of a material that lasts essentially forever, is filled with something we can get for almost free, and is intended to be used only once.  And then thrown away.  The standard ballpoint pen is remarkably similar.  Intended to be cheap, convenient and inconsequential to lose, and yet made of immortal materials.

I began to wonder how many hundreds of pens I had bought or borrowed, and then lost or thrown away over the course of my life. Estimates put the number of pens thrown away by Americans per year north of 1 billion.  That's pretty terrible.  I had recently attempted to only buy pens I could get refills for, but found that the refills were often hard to come by, and that the pens themselves were often no great shakes.  The idea of having a few well crafted and durable pens that I might use from here until I no longer need to write had never really occurred to me. Until I was given this Parker.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Amusing Corvid Antics

I have had crows on the brain, of late.  They have been roosting en masse not to far from my house for several weeks now, and I have been watching their roosting antics on my way too and from the office.  If things go well this weekend, I might do a more substantial post on my those crows.

But for now, allow me to share with you this video of a hooded crow (Corvus cornix), doing the sort of thing that makes us pay so much attention to corvids generally.