It’s All New

In many ways it’s new, yet many things remain the same. Outwardly the world has changed — permanently I would imagine, though perhaps that will be clearer in another few months, or more likely years. The “same”? Well, that remains our own little segment of that world doesn’t it, narrowed even further by factors beyond our own control.

I find myself with the ability to have shifted from working in an office to doing so from home. One of the extremely fortunate group whose employment remains largely unchanged (for the current time at least), save for the change in geographic location. A good portion of what follows can (and should) be dismissed quite readily, for I really have nothing to complain about, as the first sentences of this very paragraph can attest. That said, many of the day to day challenges in this narrow little world of mine (and of many), remain well… the same.

A world of phone diversions, virtual portals and a mix of operating systems. Of screens both small and large, Zoom meetings and group chat. Substandard sound and connections (can you hear me…? they say, lips moving in their own silent isolation bubble — well for starters I don’t know what you’re trying to say, so lets go with no…), weird videoconference backgrounds, and the real likelihood of caffeine poisoning, I wonder whether this new reality is all that distant from a truly dystopian version. Perhaps it is a brave new world.

Now is the time for more communication rather than less, they say in the tips about managing virtual teams. True enough, and it certainly seems virtual conversations are far more frequent than the real ones ever were. Another email anyone? How are we doing with that cc field and reply all? Pretty consistent it would seem. More communication? Tick. More effective communication? Judgement reserved. Actually let’s not reserve it — you all know the answer.

Hold up. Yes, dismiss those two paragraphs. Nothing to really whine about when there are those with genuine, devastating problems having arisen from all of this. I remain very, very mindful of that.

I do have some genuine concerns, as I sit and work in the relative safety of my own home.

Many good friends I’ve left behind in Brisbane’s CBD continue (for now), to front up to work every day, managing or working in cafes and retail outlets — some ultimately having to close their doors.

With an economy like nothing I’ve seen before, not only will some of these businesses perhaps not see the other side of this situation, but their people are in constant direct contact with members of the public — many of whom seem to have no real concept of social distancing, let alone adherence to it. All I can really do is hope and pray I see you all in thriving businesses again, whenever that may be.

In the previous post I mentioned the journaling habit I’d managed to sustain over the past year or so, which continues each morning as I write this. Structure and routines are key when working from home (again… “they” say), and I must admit mine took a hit in the first couple of weeks remotely working. The journaling remained, the overall incidental physical activity level plummeted — notwithstanding the fact I no longer sit on a bus for two hours every day. I’m sorry — what are we doing with that time now? Certainly an adjustment, and one I am still making. Can’t be that hard right? Exactly what I said before this all started…

We now begin to enter a period of perhaps even greater uncertainty, as restrictions begin easing on our “path out”. I must admit to being a little uneasy at the fervour our general populace has shown in embracing this new “freedom”. Perhaps this unease will need to subside if I’m to see those businesses mentioned above thriving again.

Eventually there will be an office to return to. I guess…?

hazel and me

Family owned and run businesses really are the best aren’t they? When it’s your own family — even better. I’d have to say my sister knows a thing or two about owning and running a business, having successfully done so for most of her professional life.

Now? Well something a little different.

Introducing hazel and me

Moving towards a sustainable lifestyle with quality homeware products…

A range of quality hand made fabric homewares for your online shopping pleasure — now shipping Australia wide:

We believe in taking a practical approach to living a zero waste lifestyle. Our products are eco friendly choices, look attractive and will stand up to every day use. We make all items from our premises in the Northern Rivers of NSW.

Products galore…

I can now finally reveal that I’ve been beta testing these products for several months now (disclosure: I was provided these products free of charge, I mean… she is my sister), and can certainly vouch for the quality and utility they offer. Sustainable, helpful, locally made products? I say bring them on!

Time to use that flour and bread improver you’ve all been hoarding…

Whilst most areas of the every day home are well catered for in the Kitchen, Bathroom, Lunches and Garden categories in the online store — I’d like to propose one more (selfish) addition: Barista.

Barista cloths, yes indeed. There is nothing like an Unpaper Towel to dry that portafilter basket before dosing your next espresso. Delter Press drying and draining? Absolutely — got you covered! (Also fits an Aeropress – go figure!!)

Portafilter pre-dose prep taken care of…
The Delter drain…

I don’t really think there is a better time to reassess what we use around the home, and if that results in the need for some products like these, I’m sure you’ll find something you like that will serve you well.

My sister? Well, she’s pretty great.

hazel and me (affiliate link – every purchase earns me a thank you from my sister)

Also on Instagram and Facebook.

Sneaking Back In

The great New Zealand south island family road trip – July 2019

What do you do after all this time — just sneak back in like nothing ever happened? Like a teenager returning home late only to have the back door hinge squeak really loudly when you try and silently close it? I guess that’s it. Like nothing ever happened. Nothing to see here — with the exception of a random new post.

In the context of having your own blog with zero deadlines and a misguided perception of being “busy” doing other things — I see the last post here was 25 March 2019, about some colourful pen refills. That’s a year ago. Not a bad break of sorts. When you feel like writing, I guess you do just pick up pen and/or keyboard and go — like you never left.

I could offer various reasons for why now, however would be lying not to admit the usual introspection which typically occurs around the earlier part of the year (this post originated late January in its early draft).

Although clouded by recency bias, if I think back over the past year or so and the topics usually covered on these pages — there is nothing overly new to report. Pen news saw the acquisition of a Lamy 2000 ballpoint and a bottle of ink (a gift of Iroshizuku Momiji). Apart from being a somewhat lazy roaster in the latter part of the year, the coffee supply and consumption maintained a metronomic rhythm. We all have our dependencies I guess.

That journal streak

I did learn that when I’m not writing here, perhaps I’m writing there. In this case, “there” being a morning journal habit which Streaks app tells me I have now completed 263 times. Once I got into it, my first decent streak was broken at 126 when away for the day one weekend (somewhat proud of myself for not fudging the numbers on that one). Managing to get back on the wagon, I’m currently back up to 133. My hot tip on getting started? A one page limit in an A6 journal – done and ticked off in a flash.

Due to a very generous Christmas gift I was also able to learn the AirPods Pro are transformative to both my listening (that active noise cancelling…), and daily carry habits (daily backpack now sans over-ear headphones). They are seriously good.

Every year my consumption habits change and I’ve been in and out of podcasts, blogs and the usual splattering of social media. There is no quick summary of all this so perhaps more detail is for another day. I would add I’ve recently been enjoying viewing my RSS feeds (yes, still…) through cached full text in Lire.

Is there more to report on? Well, quite a bit most likely. Do I have any idea where to start with all of that? Absolutely not. First a word, then a post, and from there we’ll see.

Perhaps one of those other things to report on – dabbling in the Theme System journal…
I am somewhat mindful of what has changed in the world since beginning this draft to the current time, however perhaps some of the two hour commute I’m now saving by working from home can be devoted to writing a little.

Anyway, I’ve made it back in, the door is closed, and I’m carefully making my way up the stairs — looks like I’m going to make it…

Light flicks on…

 

A Few Montblanc Ballpoint Refills

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I’m not really sure why I began accumulating various refill colours in the Montblanc ballpoint range. Assuming of course you call a grand total of six colours an accumulation – it certainly isn’t a collection by any stretch of the imagination.

A pen requires a refill of course, and with over 12 months of daily Montblanc M ballpoint use well and truly behind me, a single shade throughout that time was never going to suffice. To those fond of their writing instruments, a pen without interesting ink…

Generally speaking

As I’ve mentioned, while this particular list of refills fall short of a comprehensive list, they are a few I’ve rotated through using on a daily basis in the office. The performance of each has been without issue, and I’ve enjoyed blob and skip free output the entire time. In my experience at least, they are high quality, reliable refills.

The pen itself has also been rock solid in terms of performance over that time, and I certainly cannot fault it as an everyday workhorse.

Paper has been your typical office copy variety, with daily task lists housed in a variety of notebooks, recent examples include Baron Fig’s Vanguard and Confidant, and also a Field Notes Byline. More extensive note taking during meetings or conference days occurs in a Leuchtturm 1917 B5 soft cover notebook. Phone numbers, ideas and working notes typically end up on a $4.00 per 400 page jumbo A4 lecture pad.

As you’d expect of a ballpoint, all paper types are managed with ease, and as I’ve alluded to above, no ink blob build up develops on the tip — even on the cheaper, low-end stuff.

The inks

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Below you’ll find a couple of thoughts, an example, what I use it for and how much use it gets. I’m not an ink reviewer, and perhaps some may argue ballpoint refills are not worth writing about at all — yet I beg to differ, and here we are.

The illustrations you see are a product of a far more talented hand than mine — my daughter Emily, whom I sincerely thank for contributing a far more interesting take on each colour than I could have imagined (or produced) myself.

For reference, filter by “Ballpoint” on Montblanc’s Refill page. I would recommend proceeding with caution though, for of course nothing but temptation awaits. With the James Dean Great Characters Edition Rebel Red being added since I initially picked up that link, for ”completeness” it was necessary to go out and buy that one as well, and you will find it included below.

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All purchases were made at either the Montblanc Boutique, Brisbane, or Pen and Paper, Brisbane.

Pacific Blue

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A safe, and perhaps somewhat predictable choice.

Given the choice at the time of a pen purchase, I usually go with blue — and the Montblanc M was no different.

Living on the east coast of Australia, I could probably say Pacific Blue is the most appropriate of any shade to use in the M. Of your “standard” office colours I tend to use blues a little more often than black, which is also the case with my fountain pens. Perhaps I find them a little less overpowering than a page full of black on white. A little calmer perhaps?

In any event, the Pacific Blue would certainly be described as your mid-spectrum shade, and what I’d call a standard blue – if one indeed exists. Lighter? Well I guess there is the UNICEF Blue, and heading towards a greener shade is the Barbados Blue. If you add the Homer Writers Edition into the mix, there is no shortage of options. I can’t imagine there not being something to suit most tastes.

In choosing a blue, I tend to favour mid to darker shades, with the those on the lighter side sometimes coming across a little washed out. The Pacific Blue certainly packs enough punch to hold its own on any page, and also through a copier or scanner should that be part of a page’s journey.

Mystery Black

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For a bold, strong, executive flourish.

That is, far from anything I really require in a pen, however if you were looking for something like that — this would do it.

With Pacific Blue included in the pen, I also picked up a twin pack of broad Mystery Black refills, in the knowledge the pen would see the majority of its use in the office.

The broad designation is true to its name, and combined with the deep black ink colour, a thick, full line results. It’s black. Very black. What you see is what you get.

There are times when I find the broad tip a little too overpowering (perhaps in conjunction with the deep black), yet on other occasions not so. More so on smaller notebook pages for example. If I had to pick one size and live with it for the rest of my writing days, it would be medium. If you were to then require me to nominate a colour for the same purpose, it would be a much harder choice – though next on the list below would be a contender.

The Beatles Psychedelic Purple

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Come for the packaging, stay for the refill colour.

If I’m completely honest about this one, it was more about the box than the refill – at least initially. I imagine anyone fond of a little colour may be of similar thinking. When The Beatles Great Characters limited edition range was released a couple of years ago, I was immediately drawn to the colourful stripes which were part of the branding and design (those pens…). It’s a look I’ve been fond of over many years in the product lines from Paul Smith, providing a little escape from boring business black.

With one of my favourite designs front and centre, and keeping in mind the last time I spent over $1000 on a pen was approximately never, it was time to scan the product line for something else. While my common default in taking this option would typically be fountain pen ink, on this occasion, enter the ballpoint refill.

Psychedelic is indeed a good descriptor, for this one is a “lively” purple – electric you might say? However you describe it, there is enough similarity for this one to sneak by in place of your standard office blue, though as you can see in the associated image it is far from that. It’s The Beatles – there can only ever be one (or four I guess — but you know what I mean).

Performance is everything I’ve mentioned so far, and I do love this colour.

Le Petit Prince Orange

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Something a little unusual.

One of the more recent in Montblanc’s Limited Edition releases, and is more an orangey-brown if you will. Based on the colour of a fox, it does makes sense we are not talking too bright an orange. For that, I assume you head towards Lucky Orange. I do wonder whether the fact it is not really brown nor is it really orange may hinder the popularity of this colour, though it probably won’t. I guess there are enough people out there like myself looking for something a little different.

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The best part about this refill? The smile it puts on my face when I’m swapping it into the barrel. While not perfect, the accents are certainly a great match, and sometimes — no, most times — it is the little things.

I am quite fond of this colour, despite the fact it is perhaps the least used of the bunch I’ve written about here. As I’ve mentioned, the Beatles Purple is close enough to blue in many cases, however an orange doesn’t lend itself to much of the “official” office work. The same can also be said of the Fortune Green. Nonetheless, it isn’t hard to pick up one of my black gel pens for signing a document if the M contains one of these allegedly “outlandish” refill colours at the time.

You know, the more I doodle about with this colour as I’m writing this, the more I think Montblanc nailed the shade. Fox colour alignment aside, it is strong and definitive in its own right. I wouldn’t call it a bold colour necessarily, however it knows what it is, and faithfully lays down on the page with confidence.

Yep – I like it.

Fortune Green

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Because I didn’t have green. Enough said.

Bought this one on a whim because, well… again — I’m not sure really. The opening statement above is pretty close to the truth. I am very lucky to have the Montblanc boutique and two other specialist pen shops within two blocks of the office, For impulse purchases just to brighten my day a little (exactly what I needed on that particular day if I recall), there is nothing like a new ink colour — be it bottle or refill. Of course the added benefit of such purchases being they do not break the bank like other emotionally charged retail therapy (the Apple Store is within the same radius from the office, and I’ve indeed brought myself back from the brink numerous times there…). I’m yet to make my fortune, so the green refill it was.

At the time I had no particular colour in mind, and compared a couple of greens (I think the other being Emerald Green), finding the Fortune Green to be that little bit deeper in colour compared with the Emerald version. That being said, although it’s a nice green, still pales compared to the Irish Green fountain pen ink which is one of my favourites. Of course I’m not comparing the ballpoint output to a fountain pen, they are merely at different points of the colour shade spectrum, irrespective of the delivery mechanism.

I tend to use this one for markup notes on longer documents, not necessarily wishing to slash across the pages with a cheap red. I wouldn’t say I’m not fond of this one, however haven’t used it quite as much as the others, likely due to the recency of its purchase.

James Dean Rebel Red

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I have to admit — a purchase completely without cause…

Yep — this is what happens when you poke about checking links for a post. You stumble upon yet another colour release which more than likely fills a gap in your current line up.

Montblanc describe the colour of this particular Great Characters edition as being inspired by the red leather jacket worn by James Dean in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause.

What can I add here? Well, it is indeed red, though a little more subtle than your typical fire engine type red ballpoint pens, though also a touch brighter than a red velvet or the like. Although it’s early days with this one, I do quite like it.

Perhaps I feel like marking up in red after all…

Signing off

If there is one thing I’m reminded of when I pick up one of these new refills from the array on offer, it’s that I made the correct decision to go with an M ballpoint – despite my fondness for rollerballs. It would seem the ballpoint market is quite healthy, and perhaps more limited editions in this format are sold given it is the cheapest price tier for the pens. I can only assume it isn’t people such as myself poking around looking for different colours which make or break the market segment.

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In any event, I cannot argue with the popularity of the ballpoint pen – Montblanc or otherwise. They perform well, are easy to swap (say, if you are someone who likes to accumulate a few different colours…), and offer an extremely practical everyday solution. Sure, most of us in the pens-are-a-passion realm probably aren’t in it for practicality, though when times require it, why not be using something just that little more unique or enjoyable?

You’ll find me with blue, black, or something very close for standard office use, but for anything else it’s open season, and I’d be hesitant to suggest those above will be the last…

 

 

Lost in the Algorithm

 

Recently I decided to create a separate Instagram account (@petemanship) to follow my pen and paper related interests, after the original feed became overwhelmed with posts related to various other topic areas. Although I’ve always looked to keep things fairly simple, I feel pen people deserve more than to be lost in the algorithm.

As long as I remember to switch accounts on occasion, it should now be a little easier to catch up on things. A fairly simple yet hopefully successful fix. When transferring the pen accounts I follow over to this new feed, I couldn’t help but think perhaps a few other things in my 2018 had been “lost in the algorithm” as well — if I could use such a term to describe what didn’t get written, posted, read, listened to, or moved forward.

The most recent post here? In late September about my love for the cappuccino as a beverage. Look a little deeper, and the last pen-related post was back in June of 2018. Really? That’s the best you could do?

Apparently so…

Don’t get me wrong. I continue to be a staunch proponent of the no apology approach to blog post gaps. Things get written or they don’t. Personally though, I find this can be a reflection of other areas of my life perhaps not syncing as seamlessly as I’d like — assuming the intent to write remains of course. Nothing too serious, simply the busy-ness of life, work, and the organisational and prioritisation aspects required to keep all areas ticking along. We all have them.

I sometimes wonder if a passion is really that if it constantly needs active “feeding” — or should it always be simmering virtually of its own accord. I think it probably is, though whether the effort required to feed it (again, assuming intent) feels like a joy or a chore is most likely the very essence of prioritisation. Not only that, but how well we do in recognising those priorities and putting energy into working on them.

Of course many aspects around what we do, look at, listen to and write about are well within our control. Other things which take up our time and are perceived to be beyond our control probably aren’t — at least not entirely. Put together, they make up the “whole” that is life, and what we choose to do with it at any given moment I guess.

Despite reading many Year in Review and New Year New You posts over the past month or so and vowing there is no way I’m doing that…

While a stream of consciousness more than bullet points and actions, there are a few things I’ve considered while on a week-long break from work.

In the grand scheme of things I would have indeed liked to write more, and for that matter, spread myself less thin across my consumption as well. I seem to have reached a point in my content consumption of being scattered superficially far and wide, interspersed with periods of not much at all. I keep coming back to the word focus when I consider what could improve in both these areas.

Another consideration has been exactly how I use my tools across all areas of my interests, and of course you know what these interests are (if not, tap or click the menu at the top of the page). In lamenting the cost (don’t get me started) of upgrading anything(I didn’t) in the Apple ecosystem these days, perhaps a better approach is to ensure I maximise the capabilities of what I currently have. This of course led me to think such an approach would be a reasonable one to take across the board. Read the unfinished books and saved articles; ink the idle pens; finish the unused notebooks; and in the process perhaps rediscover what brought me to the point of owning so many in the first place.

Notwithstanding the above, I’ve been pleased with the increasing consistency and quality of my coffee roasting, and made some decent strides (despite a little inconsistency at times) in my health and fitness, so it hasn’t all been missed opportunity and lacking in focus. That being said, the perfect cup or the best roast are still ahead of me.

Now if I were, hypothetically speaking, to look at one or two themes for the coming year (Cortex podcast; episode 79), I would probably be looking at something along the lines of The Year of Rediscovery and The Year of Maximisation. I would also probably be thinking of one feeding the other in a cyclical type of arrangement, the result being greater focus on the areas I prioritise as being in need of it.

Regardless of arbitrary blog post titles, if it looks like a year in review, and sounds like a year in review…