Review: Parker Reflex 
2005.07.14 11:04 - Toys, Pens
The Reflex line of pens is the one Parker is currently pushing as their school pen. The Reflex features a medium nib, a rubber grip, and an all-around larger profile than the Vector. It feels altogether more solid than the Vector does, is lighter, comes in at a lower price point, and is without the design flaw that caused me to destroy my first two Vectors. So why am I unable to get comfortable with this pen?

The Vector's fine nib runs on the broad side to begin with. The Reflex's nib is a bit larger. Coming from the Vector to the Reflex, the Reflex felt large and unwieldy, and, being lighter, insubstantial. I don't seem to get along real well with most medium nibs, which means that they have tended to skip a lot in my hands. I sometimes found it leaving ink on my hand (there is a spot at the end of the section where you should not put your fingers, unless you like ink stains). Plus, it just wasn't what I'd been after (which was another Vector).

That said, it's not a bad pen, and many people do get on fine with it. The feed and nib are basically the same as the Vector's, for whatever that's worth. Despite the lack of heft, it's a solid pen, and inexpensive (retail's about $8).

(It used to be the case that Parker had a lifetime warranty and would do a nib exchange for the cost of shipping. I think this has changed, though you could try contacting their Janesville, WI service center about it. I've gotten very good service the couple of times I've contacted them.)
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Review: Parker Vector fountain pen 
2005.07.11 10:38 - Toys, Pens
I am greatly suspicious that Parker may be in the process of discontinuing most of the Vector line in the US in favor of relaunching it with new designs with a similar aesthetic, possibly at a higher price point. Time will tell.

In the meantime, it seems to still be possible to purchase the Vector fountain pen, roller ball, and ballpoint (the ballpoint if you move fast: they no longer seem to acknowledge its existence on their website), if you're interested when I get done picking it apart here.

Let me first say that I have a soft spot for this pen. It is emphatically not a great pen. But it was the first fountain pen I bought myself, and which lasted any significant period in my possession (this distinguishes it from two or three A&W foutain pens I had in, I think, grade school and middle school).

The Vector is a 'school pen', which is to say that it is primarily aimed at students, and that it is cheap. The nib, section, clip, and end of the barrel are stainless steel, the barrel and cap are matching plastic. The whole affair is about the same size as your average disposable rollerball. It's a mediocre writer.

I like the feel of the Vector better than the feel of the afore-mentioned rollerball (an old Pilot Precise V5--it's gray, current ones are black, though I doubt the difference is any more significant than that). I've a Parker ballpoint with their gel refill going at the moment, though, and I find it at least equal to the Vector in feel, if less expressive. I'll take about it next.

When I purchased this pen in late 1998/early 1999, it was to replace the immediate previous Vector I had purchased late summer of 1998. After much abuse being carried about in my pocket, the first Vector had come apart: I had been screwing the section into the barrel much too tightly, and cracked it, eventually destroying the pen. The second suffered much the same fate, but I couldn't get comfortable with its replacement, so I patched it up with duct tape and continued to abuse it for a further three years, when I procured a replacement Vector in stainless steel, and sent Vector #2 off for repair under a lifetime warranty I had not been aware of (I think this warranty may have been discontinued). Despite further abuse, I haven't had any problems with it since it was repaired, so they may have fixed the design problems involved (the school pen they are pushing right now does not suffer this ailment), or I may have just become more careful about it.

General recommendation: if you're operating on the cheap and would like to try out a fountain pen, I think this is a good place to start. Unfortunately, it's difficult to get hold of one in a bricks-and-mortar retailer. In fact, about the only place I've been able to find that sells them in the US is Kingpen, which operates as an outlet of sorts for Sanford products (Parker is one of several brands owned by Sanfor Corp.). They're inexpensive (as fountain pens go, that is) at six or eight dollars or so, but you'll still need ink cartridges (one is packaged with the pen) or bottled ink and a converter. The Vector is available with a Fine nib.

If you're not interested in ordering online, you may be able to find the Parker Reflex in an actual store near you (I've seen them at Staples and Target here). (Many find the Reflex superior to the Vector, but I do not share this opinion. I will note that the Reflex is slightly less expensive, and more easily obtained, though.) The Reflex comes with a medium nib.

An alternate avenue for getting your feet wet with a fountain pen is the Pilot Varsity, a disposable fountain pen. They can be had in packs of two or three for about $5 or $8, IIRC, and are quite solid pens for the money--superior writers to either of the above-mentioned Parkers. They're not refillable, though. AFAIK, the Varsity is only available in a medium-width nib (this is an Asian medium, though, which corresponds closely to a Western fine).

If you've got a bit more money to spare, I have a handful of other pens to recommend instead, later.

[Addenda: Added some information about the Pilot Varsity, and nib sizes.
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Pretty ... 
2005.07.08 08:18 - Toys, Pens
The Stipula Da Vinci looks like a fantastic pen.

I wonder how I'm going to sneak it past my conscience.
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It's going to be a bit quiet 
2005.07.04 12:56 - Site/Meta
I am reading a novel. I am many, many months behind in my reading; the travails of gainful employment much encroach upon the joys of idleness, and so it is that, in the vast space of six months, I have not read a quarter of a half of the books I had much intended to read in the course of this year.

I shall forego The List in this space.

Of late, I find myself behind upon the peridical to which I am subscribed, or am following (on a couple, I am two issues deep, on others, only one), uninterested in the particular details of political this and that. I am sure it will pass in a few weeks or months. It is summer at last, however, and so I am constantly uncomfortable from the heat and the humidity.

So, as I sit, sweating from every joint, I turn to lighter fare. I shall probably be very quiet for a while, more laconic than is usual (even as this loquaciousness is itself a strange thing from me). And, in time, I'll be back, to bore you, to irritate or to amuse you. These things happen, and I doubt this shall be too long: I have grown quite accustomed to the sound of my own voice, and doubt I could much be without it.

Until then, may God bless and keep the whole lot of you.
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Dog zombies? 
2005.06.28 10:55 - Miscellanea, News and Politics
Is it real? Is it a hoax? There's some speculation over at The Corner, but I really only want to know one thing: Do they lust for the brains of the living? Because I'm really kind of concerned about that, as I'm sure you can understand.

(You can find continuing zombie coverage over at MNSLog, if that's the sort of thing you're into.)

Also, what's a 'boffin'? Right, never mind then.
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