Vacation #1

(I’m also taking the first week of November off, hence the “#1”.)

I took the last full week of September off and spent several days at my parents’ condo on Dauphin Island, Alabama. While it was hotter than I’d hoped it would be, it still provided some much-needed peace and quiet so I could recharge my batteries. I would go down to the beach in the evening and watch the sunset, and I went into Mobile one day, but a great deal of the time was spent reading on the balcony or in quiet shaded spots on the island, and drinking lots of cheap pink box wine.

It wasn’t a photography-heavy vacation (the next one will be), but of course I took a few shots with my cell phone.

v formation and sunset

Shrimp boats on Bayou le Batre.

Shrimp boats on Bayou le Batre

I tried to tour Bellingrath Gardens, but it was just too hot. There was usually a breeze on the island, but the gardens were too far inland, and there wasn’t ANY air moving among all those plants and trees. I got about 1/3 of the way in, then had a gardener take me back to the gift shop in her golf cart.

Mermaid fountain, Bellingrath Gardens, AL

Magnolia Cemetery was one of the things I saw in Mobile. It was raining, so I just drove around (it’s one of those cemeteries) and shot some photos out of my car window. That was the only rainy day we had, and it stopped around 1:00, not bad.

Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile, AL

I also had fried catfish and hushpuppies (THE iconic food of Alabama, like gumbo in Louisiana) at Wintzell’s Oyster house, strolled around Dauphin Street (Mobile’s answer to Bourbon Street, but much nicer, honestly–not as tacky and sleazy). I found a fun used bookstore called Bienville Books.

I came home on Thursday morning, spent one night at home, then got up early to drive to Texas for the Dallas Pen Show. It was MUCH bigger than the Little Rock show, the only other one I’ve been to, and I found my two wish list items and then some:

dallas pen show

The pen that looks orange but is actually red is a Pilot Vanishing Point, a “clickable” fountain pen. It’s got a stub nib. I love Pilots and have more of them in my collection than any other brand; I’ve wanted a VP but I wanted to see if I could find a used one to keep the price under $100. I just made it with this one at $95, it’s a few years old but was never used and came in the box. (A brand new base-model VP usually retails for $140.)

The pen beneath that is a Parker Duofold and it’s kind of a weird one so I decided it had to come home with me. It’s a Victory but apparently this particular color/shape was only made for the UK market. It’s a button-fill but it’s old enough to predate the distinctive arrow-shaped clip that Parker started using in the early 1930s (at least on American pens), and it’s got a 14k oblique nib.

Those were my two wish list items, but I had some money left in the budget, so I also got a 1960s NOS Japanese desk pen (some no-name brand, kind of a Pilot knock-off) and some ink. I went about $25 over budget when all was said and done, but I can live with that.

Oh, and I also got to eat a cheeseburger at In N’ Out Burger.

In N' Out cheeseburger

Bexley Imperial

(There is eventually going to be a Fountain Pens, Part 3. I’ll do it when I’ve filled my 3rd pen wrap, which is about half full now.)

So I’m kind of wishing I’d never heard of Massdrop, because they are enabling my fountain pen addiction like whoa. They organize group buys of items–not just fountain pens, but that’s what I’m into them for–for discounts. Although really, I ignore probably 90% of the drops, because they’re too expensive or just not my thing. Massdrop offers a lot pf pens that are either industrial-looking and kind of drab (IMO), or rather gaudy. However, this could not be ignored:


The orange and blue pen is the Bexley 701 I bought from Inkpen Vintage at the Little Rock show in February. The green pen is the Bexley Imperial I bought through Massdrop ($60 off MSRP!) and which arrived on Saturday. Bexleys tend to be very large pens and I wanted to see how they compared; the Imperial is a bit larger than the 701.

I haven’t inked it up yet; I’m waiting for the arrival of another Massdrop order, the J. Herbin 1670 ink 3-pack that they put together for the release of the newest color, Emerald of Chivor. There are 4 colors in the line so far, and you had to choose EoC as one of the colors; since I already have a bottle of Stormy Grey (it’s what’s in the 701, as a matter of fact), I chose Rouge Hematite and Bleu Ocean as my other colors. So I’ll have all 4 colors once the order arrives… at least until they release another color in the line. I’m going to ink the Imperial with Bleu Ocean; I bought another Jinhao (at $8–with converter!–probably the best fountain pen for the price you can buy) for EoC.

For the uninitiated, 1670 inks are very special to a certain kind of fountain pen user because, well, glitter:


They have gold mica flecks in the ink (I’m assuming it’s mica, anyway, it would clog the feed if it was any kind of plastic) and color-shifting properties, EoC especially has a weird red shift to it that’s quite startling. It reminds me of those old outline markers (I think Pentel still makes them), where you’d get a gold or silver line surrounded by a thin line of some non-metallic color, red or blue or purple.

Last week I committed to another drop, the Kaweco Liliput, which I’m getting in brass. I have a Kaweco Skyline Sport that’s one of my favorite small pens. They released the Franklin-Christophe drop this morning, and I’m almost relieved that none of the color options I wanted made the cut. They’re offering it in, get this, either ice with blue-violet accents or blue-violet with ice accents. WTF? I mean okay, I guess that’s what got the most votes, but still. I really only wanted it if I could get it in smoke and ice.

Going to the Dallas Pen Show is starting to seem redundant, but I’m hoping to find two pens that aren’t likely have a Massdrop: A Parker Duofold–pretty much any kind, I’m not picky–and a Pilot Vanishing Point. All the VPs that come up for auction on eBay are special editions and way too expensive.

Is it still August?

So, August is grinding on and on and on, but there’s only a week left. Truth be told, September is nearly as bad, but at least by the time it rolls around you know the end is in sight. Plus, I’m taking a week’s vacation at the end of September, so… I got that going for me.

I do not do photography during the summer, except for rare exceptions where I think of something that’s both air-conditioned and worthwhile to photograph–the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans was probably the most successful of those ventures. I like to spend the time I would usually be out photographing combing antique stores for more cameras, but that’s fraught with its own kind of peril, as small town Louisiana antique stores tend to be housed in old buildings that are poorly air-conditioned. Or not at all, as I learned to my horror when checking out a couple of “stores” in Sunset last spring that turned out to be old barns. It was only the first week of June and already terrible; I can’t imagine they actually keep the places open during the dog days of summer. Anyway, I’ve been slowly working my way through the Louisiana Antique Trail over the last few months, although I’m saving Slidell and Covington for when my bank account is a little more recovered from the car purchase. Those towns both contain large antique “districts” with several stores, and I’ll probably want to spend some real money.

I haven’t had much luck finding anything at the stores I’ve visited thus far; I think hipsters are doing to vintage cameras what they did to vintage typewriters a few years ago. What I tend to find in stores lately is either broken and cruddy, or way overpriced. I did find a couple of fun items for my Conjure experiments at a store in Maurice (a small town between Abbeville and Lafayette) last weekend.

road opener lamp

Small oil lamps are not at all an unusual item in antique stores, although finding a small clear one kind of is–for some reason the small ones tend to be opaque or painted glass. This one was only $12, and it was totally intact with a wick that had never been used (although it was severely frayed at both ends and I had to trim a bit off), so I bought it and turned it into a  into a Road Opener spell lamp.

lamp close-up

Inside the bowl:

  • Broom straws (for sweeping away obstacles)
  • Dragon’s Blood resin
  • Orange peel
  • Five Finger Grass (along with salt–see below–frankincense, and angelica root, this is an “add to everything” ingredient for me)
  • Rock salt
  • A bay leaf that’s also my petition paper (use a Sharpie)
  • A quarter, a dime, and a nickel, which adds up to age and has my initial scratched onto each one
  • A few drops of Van Van Oil
  • Some orange glitter. I was hoping it would make a suspension in the oil but alas, it’s too heavy and just settled to the bottom.

I’m also waiting for delivery of a piece of tourmalinated quartz and I’m going to add that when I get it, assuming it’s small enough to fit in the lamp without taking up too much space. Crystals are not a traditional element of Conjure and to be honest I mostly consider them to be New Age Woo, but I just kind of felt like I wanted a crystal in this one and I’m going with my gut. File it under “Won’t hurt, could help”. One of the alleged elements of this stone is that it helps with “self-sabotage”, and that is definitely something I struggle with.

fish bottle

I also found a tiny blue bottle shaped like a fish; it once held a brand of bitters called Fisch’s. I dug out the cork fragment lodged inside with an awl, then soaked it first in Dr. Bronner’s and hot water then Florida Water and hot water, several times each. It’s now holding an offerory oil for my ocean altar of sandalwood, vanilla, and ylang-ylang essential oils in a carrier of sweet almond, and I dropped in a pearl from an old earring (I stopped wearing earrings years ago). An offertory oil isn’t a condition oil like Van Van, it’s just an offering: “I made this for you, it smells nice”. (It does smell amazing BTW; I don’t measure but it’s about an ounce of carrier and it was something like 5 drops each vanilla and sandalwood and maybe 8 of ylang-ylang.)

fish bottle top

Normally what I do with old bottles is carve a smaller cork out of a wine bottle cork, but this bottle is so tiny it didn’t seem like the best solution. I’m pleased with the workaround I came up with: I found an old glass bead big enough to not fall through the neck, and sealed it to the bottle with gold sealing wax. If I want to use the oil, all I have to do to re-seal the bottle is pass the bead through a candle flame to re-soften the wax, and then stick it back on the bottle neck.

lucky cat dish

I also went to World Market that day, and I found this little Lucky Cat dish for just a few bucks, I think it’s supposed to hold used tea bags. It’s going on my prosperity altar to hold small offerings/items. My “family tradition” is Catholic and I mostly try to work within that and not appropriate much from other cultures, but Lucky Cat and Buddha are small exceptions, both on my prosperity altar. Oh, and I like the Hamsa, but that’s such an ancient symbol that it’s really kind of universal.

Fountain pens, part 2

fountain pens 2

Left to right:

  • Eversharp Doric: This was my first real vintage pen, which I found for about 1/3 of its actual value of one of my favorite stores in Breaux Bridge.
  • Ohto Tasche: This is what’s sometimes called a “vest pen”, in that it’s very small, but when you post the cap it makes it regular-sized.
  • Pelikan Pelikano: Pelikan is another swanky brand (a German one) that is too expensive for me to bother with. The Pelikano is a child’s pen.
  • Pilot Petit 1: These were my entry back into fountain pens after many years away, when I found them at Kinokuniya Books in Japantown.
  • Pilot Cavalier: This is my most “ladylike” pen.
  • Sheaffer Balance: This is one of my oldest pens, both it and the Doric are from the 1930s.
  • Parker Urban: My only all-black pen.
  • Everysharp Skyline: This is the model that came after the Doric. I love this design, which I find very “dieselpunk”.
  • Parker 51: One of the most-collected vintage pens in existence. I got this for scandalously cheap in an eBay auction.

Fountain pens, part 1

I kept my collection stopped at a baker’s dozen for a year or so. I told myself that was a respectable but still sane collection, and every time I bought a new pen, I would give one in my collection away. The problem with that is I eventually ran out of pens I could bear to part with, while finding new ones I desired. So I decided fuck it, let’s get crazy–although I know lots of people whose collections are MUCH larger than mine.

I recently discovered Massdrop, which is a terrible enabler. They organize group buys of all kinds of products for discounts. The first one I signed up for was a 3-pack of the J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary inks. One of the bottles had to be the new color coming out next month, Emerald of Chivor. the other 2 could be any of the other 3 existing colors. Since I already have a bottle of Stormy Grey, I chose Rouge Hematite and Bleu Ocean, so when I receive my inks I’ll have a full set (until the next new color is released). I’m also getting a Bexley Imperial for $60 less than the MSRP. Plus, I agreed to take a couple of pens–a Sheaffer Award and an Esterbrook J–off the hands of a fellow pen friend looking to whittle down his collection. And in less than 2 months, the Dallas Pen Show!

fountain pens 1

Left to right:

  • Pilot Vortex: I like the rubberized grip on this one, as I tend to hold my pens tightly.
  • Pilot Metropolitan: From the first release.
  • Sailor Clear Candy: Sailor is a super-duper posh Japanese brand, I only have inexpensive plastic ones.
  • Reform 1745: Has a custom-ground .07 mm stub nib. I have NEVER seen one of these pens in anything other than black and green.
  • Pilot 78G: One of the first pens I bought when I started collecting and still a favorite.
  • Jinhao X750: Jinhao is a ridiculously inexpensive Chinese brand. They’re enamel over metal and really heavy, but great nibs for the price.
  • Sailor Lecoule: This has the same nib as the Clear Candy but I like the body better. I may give away the Clear Candy at some point.
  • Pilot Prera: This is my favorite pen body shape, cylindrical with flat ends (as opposed to torpedo-shaped, like most pens). The cap makes a lovely “snick” sound/feel when you put it back on.
  • Bexley BX701: I saw some complaints in the Massdrop forum that the Imperial wasn’t available in black, which made me laugh. Who buys a black Bexley?

Nook is dead, long live Kindle Fire

After 3 1/2 years, my trusty Nook Tablet died on Saturday. *pours one out* It had been charging slowly lately (I was on my 3rd charger, the first one having been left in a hotel room in New Orleans and the 2nd one having just up and died) and losing power faster–if I wanted to stream anything, it had to be plugged in, because that would burn through the battery by the first commercial break. And over the weekend it just up and died; my mother has the same model and I even tried using her charger, thinking it was just the charger again, but nope. Nothing.

3 1/2 years really doesn’t seem like a long time; at the risk of being all WHEN I WAS A KID, the first television I ever bought lasted 10 years, and I used to fall asleep with it on and even have it playing without sound when I read–I found the movement soothing, even when I wasn’t looking directly at it. But I suppose the more complicated something is (that first television was an old cathode ray tube set, which today seems as obsolete as a biplane), the easier it dies. And I did use it pretty much all the time, probably more than my cell phone. It was one of the first e-readers to challenge the iPad and have apps and wi-fi and stuff. I read books on it, used the internet on it (before I bought my laptop last year, almost exclusively; I only used the old desktop if I needed to print something), watched most of my television shows and streamed movies on it.

So anyway, I’ve had Amazon Prime for a while now, I think since 2008, when I started doing nearly all of my shopping online and it started to seem worth it for free 2-day shipping. Which is all Prime was for a long time, so it wasn’t really a factor when I first decided to get an e-reader. But with all the extras you get with Prime now (access to a huge free library of movies and books, the ability to pre-order one new release a month for $1.99), getting a Kindle Fire HD this time around was really a no-brainer, especially since I found out you can access books in your Nook library with a 3rd party app on your Fire. Finding out how to “sideload” a 3rd party app was a funky adventure that makes me dread the day I need to ask some random 20-year-old for tech help, but I got there eventually. I have like 200 books on my Nook, so I’m glad to still have access to them.

I went with the 6″ HD, which is only $99, although I paid another $20 to double the memory from 8 GB to 16. The 7″ is $139, and one inch doesn’t seem worth another $40 to me. I’m kind of wishing I paid the extra $15 to have the ad-free version; basically whenever you wake the device up, there’s an ad for something on Amazon that you have to side-swipe to get rid of. It’s not like you spend all day staring at the wake-up screen, but it’s ugly and crass and I’m finding it far more annoying than I thought I would. I wonder if you can upgrade to ad-free on a device you’ve already bought? I’m going to look into that.

Too bad the Nook didn’t go kerblooey a week earlier, maybe I could have picked up a Kindle Fire for cheap on Prime Day. Although maybe not; I heard all the good stuff sold out literally within seconds, and then it was just an Amazon Garage Sale for the rest of the day.

Well! Last month was certainly newsworthy.

SCOTUS both upheld Obamacare and told same sex marriage opponents to take their Bibles and go home, medical marijuana was approved in Louisiana, the asshole who co-wrote Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill is going on trial for crimes against humanity, and I BOUGHT A NEW CAR.


Well okay, it’s not BRAND new, but it’s newer by far than anything else I’ve ever owned. It’s a 2014 Nissan Sentra with less than 31,000 miles on it. I bought it from Enterprise, which I did research on and is a totally solid way to get a great deal on car that’s only a year or two old. Brand new cars are a waste of money, anyway. I didn’t get a great interest rate, because I’m basically a ghost when it comes to finances (never had a credit card or owned anything I didn’t buy outright), but they took a chance on me because I made such a large down payment (about 1/3 of the total price), and I can re-finance with my bank in 6-8 months. The car’s new enough that I can get a car loan and not just a shady unsecured loan.

I bought this steering wheel cover last week:



So now that I can stop saving literally every penny, I’m making some travel plans. I took 2 days off in February for Muses (although I wound up coming in to work that Saturday), and that’s it other than a few 3-day weekends. I’m in desperate need of relaxation, and I have 10 days of vacation I’m going to lose if I don’t use them by the end of the year, not counting some days around Christmas that I already have on the calendar.

I’m taking the last full week in September off, I’m going to stay at the ‘rents condo in Dauphin Island, Alabama for a few days. That will be a good time for it, the weather will have started to cool down and the kids will be back in school. Then I’m coming home for one night, and driving to Dallas the next morning for the Dallas Pen Show. I’ll stay overnight–I found a great Airbnb listing, it’s a loft space with its own bathroom, the family lives downstairs–and come back the next day.

And then I’m taking the first week in November off. That’s still in the planning stages, but on the 1st I’m most likely going to the town of Lacombe, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. There are a lot of cemeteries in that town that still practice traditional grave lighting on All Saint’s night, and I really want to get some photographs of that. I’ll stay overnight, either in the area or in New Orleans, and then I’m going to Mississippi for a couple of days. I want to explore Union Church, which is the first place my Galbreath ancestors lived in Mississippi before moving on to McComb, and I might go as far as Yazoo City. I’ll probably stay in Natchez while I’m there, I really like that town.

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