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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Mon, 15 Oct 2012

Pencils -- it's a thing

Pencils are a thing. I started using pencils -- mechanical and wooden -- more and more over the past year.

I have lost most of my mechanical pencils. They seem to walk away. While I just bought a load of cheap Bics, I've been increasingly drawn to the traditional wooden pencil (ring the bell, take a drink, do what you would do whenever a bad pencil pun appears in an article about same).

Pens have lost their usefulness for me in my so-called work (writing, making and modifying lists, taking notes, etc). The ink bleeds, I make too many mistakes that need to be crossed out. With a well-sharpened pencil, my writing is clear. It's clean. I can erase. On paper, pencil marks don't smudge in the same way as those made with ballpoint (or gel) ink.

Overall, writing with a pencil is an enjoyable experience. That's the main thing.

In the image above you can see some of my "better" pencils. A few of them are of the Dixon Ticonderoga variety -- regarded by many as the benchmark for a non-crappy pencil.

Sorry about poor image quality -- it's a cell-phone picture.

Three of the pencils are made in the U.S.A.: The Dixon Ticonderoga fourth from the top, and the two Papermate pencils on the bottom.

Dixon Ticonderoga pencils are now made in Mexico or China, depending on the model. At least for U.S. consumption, there are no made-in-U.S.A. Dixon Ticonderoga's for sale. I've heard that a U.S.-made D-T is available in foreign markets, but I have no confirmation of that.

Most non-crappy pencils (I hesitate to call these "fine" pencils) are made with two pieces of cedar, the lead (made of graphite) sandwiched in the middle.

You can tell that the Dixon Ticonderoga wood is of better quality than many other pencils, especially the cupful of pencils that kids give each other these days in birthday/Halloween/holiday treat bags, of which I have many (thanks to my daughter for those).

Aside from the printing on the side of the pencil, to my not-so-rareified pencil-using hand the Mexican and U.S. Dixon Ticonderoga's appear to be equal.

This hasn't dulled my interest (ring the bell again, would you?) in finer pencils.

I don't know how I stumbled upon it, but a company that operates the Pencils.com web site is strenuously pushing a re-creation of a seemingly mythical pencil of the past called the Blackwing.

Well, it turns out that the whole "this Blackwing is like the old Blackwing" thing is a bunch of marketing. A very informative web site called Blackwing Pages goes very deep into what Pencils.com is doing. Do check out the entire site, but start at The Palomino "Blackwing Experience" as Cultural Vandalism.

What makes a blog great, in my opinion, is focus. In the pencil world, the best example of such focus is Pencil Revolution. That's where I'm getting schooled in pencil lore.

The pencil is a tool with one job. A blog with one job is also a useful tool. Something to remember. For me, I mean. Maybe for you, too.