An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

25 January 2013


Even when I was growing up in the midst of thirty or so cousins, I have always chosen to be alone, reading books, writing something or other, making paper dolls, tinkering with a craft. And I was fine. I grew up a loner by choice, and I have learned to guard my solitude by slowly developing a subtle set of habits that would naturally and instinctively make people stop approaching me when they get to a certain degree of proximity. As I grew older I also grew more and more introspective, and I remember some of my happiest moments to be when I would be sitting in my own warm, dark, limpid pool of thoughts as the world passed me by in multicolored windy frenzy. I grew more and more set in my ways in this murky, arcane wilderness that I nurtured, the people around me still there, but always just at the borderline that I have set for them.

I’m not sure if they noticed. If anyone noticed, I think they just decided to respect my reticent ways as a part of who I am. And I have been pretty consistent with it for most of my life. Friends, cousins, other relatives, classmates, cousins, siblings, officemates, long-ago boyfriends, they have always kept a genteel distance, leaving me free to wallow and revel in the privacy of having my own time and my own space and my own being. Even my very own son has learned to let me be, and we have learned to live in a state of cultured togetherness. And for the almost four decades that I have been alive, this has been so.

But then came T, and everything changed. Now I have more friends than ever, and noisy Friday nights, and talk of guns and movies and rock stars and New Wave and superheroes and dogs, sons and school and travel and mountains and boat rides, and I am not so reticent anymore. I have learned to reach out and talk to people, to call them up to ask how they are from time to time, and to share my opinions and stories with them. This is my circle now, and it's full of color, and it’s growing bigger and bigger, like my world, like my heart, like my life with T.

[Image credit]

18 January 2013

Onion skin love (a review)

I have always loved onion skin. Its classic persona and its sheer age (it's been around for a very long time) truly appeals to me. And although some newer lightweight papers like the legendary and very elusive Tomoe River Paper seem to have more oomph, I say a classic becomes and remains a classic for a reason.

One evening I rummaged through my old paper stash and found two reams of what is labelled Superfine Onion Skin Paper.

The label on the pack says Transword Paper. I am assuming that is the name of the manufacturer. It is distributed by the Kyota Paper and Printing Corporation, and retailed by National Bookstore. I think I purchased this sometime in 2010.

This is US Letter size. One ream (500 sheets) cost 123.50 Philippine Pesos, which converts to roughly 3 US Dollars.

I have always used onion skin, mostly as carbon copies of my daily typewritten letters to my son, but I have never used a fountain pen on this particular paper before. So I decided to try using my fountain pens on it, and the results were quite nice.

As onion skin paper goes, this is very thin and light. This Superfine Onion Skin is relatively smooth to the touch, and has just the faintest hint of texture. It's not as smooth as Substance 24 paper, though.

The color is a little bit off-white. It is neither cream nor ivory. It is brighter than the ivory 85g Clairefontaine paper.

Here are some writing samples.

As you can see, there is no feathering on this paper! The ink actually does just tend to pool, which can be evident from the way the lines dry, but that's okay. More pooling means more enhanced shading.

However, despite the pooling, the shading is more subtle on this paper than on, say, the 85g Clairefontaine paper, but I can't expect too much from a paper that's labeled Substance 8!

Here is the back side of the paper. There is absolutely no bleed-through, which I like.

I like it, actually. In fact, I like it so much that I had a friend from a printing press make a perfect-bound notebook for me using this paper. Not too thick, or it will look like a Bible, and not too thin that it flops around. This little notebook contains about half a ream. It's covered in tagboard material.

Here is how the binding looks. It's done well.

And the pages lay flat when the notebook is opened, too. I suppose because the paper is so floppy, it will indeed tend to lie flat.

I cannot write properly without ruled paper so I will just use lined paper underneath the page as I write.

I had it cut down to 6.25 inches wide by 9.25 inches wide, the same size as my notebook of choice the Quo Vadis Habana A5, so that when I'm done writing on this volume, I can stand it up alongside the other volumes and the arrangement will look orderly.

Not bad! I need to get more of this paper.

11 January 2013

Out with the old and the ineffective

And just as the idea of living in a New Year has propelled us to change certain things in our lives, so have I thrown out something I used to really love and taken great joy in, but which has now changed for the worse: the Moleskine.

I first turned to the Moleskine about less than a decade ago, enamored with its creamy, acid-free paper that was able to take even the wettest of my fountain pens and the most watery of my inks. I have used up quite a lot!

But these past months, all my inks heave feathered and bled through the formerly-awesome Moleskine paper, and I had no choice but to abandon it completely and to look for a replacement "forever notebook." I browsed through most of FPN and Googled notebook reviews like crazy, and trooped to the local brick-and-mortar store and purchased several notebooks off the shelves for serious testing with fountain pens. It did take time, and a whole lot of reasoning with myself, done mostly on the now-bad pages of the Moleskine I was writing on at the time, but eventually, as life goes, I found something else, which completely justified my decision to switch.

Enter the Quo Vadis.

I found the Quo Vadis Habana Smooth in a local store. That same store did have the Habana as well, but the Picasso and Matisse ones, instead of the classic black ones. So since I was just going to try it out first, I opted for the Habana Smooth, in A5 size (6.25 inches wide by 9.25 inches high).

The main difference between the Habana Smooth and the Habana is that the Habana Smooth has only 96 pages, and comes in soft covers without the elastic closure, and in different colors. Each pack has two Habana Smooth notebooks. Here I have them in (L-R) Iced Coffee, Purple, Red, Raspberry, and Watermelon.

From top to bottom, it's Watermelon, Purple, Red, Raspberry, and Iced Coffee.

The pack is sealed in clear shrink-wrap, and has a band. Here is the front of the band. It says 85g, referring to the paper.

The Habana line changed its paper sometime in 2011, from the white 90g Clairefontaine paper with the 7mm ruling, to the 85g ivory Clairefontaine paper with 5.5 mm ruling. Here is Brian Goulet's comparison video between the old and the new Habana papers.

The back of the band proudly proclaims Quo Vadis's Environmental Charter, which I truly appreciate.

The front cover of the notebook is quite plain, with an embossing of the Quo Vadis logo on the lower right corner. I like the classic elegance of this design.

The back cover bears the full Quo Vadis logo on the center bottom of the cover.

The embossings are done very neatly, and for me it's one proof of a high quality product.

Upon opening the notebook, there is a small accordion pamphlet that features all the notebooks and agendas manufactured by Quo Vadis.

And now for the best part: the paper!

Here is the 85g ivory Clairefontaine paper, with the 5.5 mm ruling composed of small gray dots. I think it's very understated and elegant, because once the page gets fully written on, the lines seem to just recede a little into the background, so they no longer intrude into the vision of the reader.

Now here is the ink test. I used all the ink I had! For those inks that were not loaded into pens at the moment, I used the Brause 361, also known as the Blue Pumpkin.

Here is the back of the page I wrote on. Note that there is no bleed-through, except for when I used Noodler's Borealis Black and De Atramentis Christmas 2012, both with the Blue Pumpkin.

There is definitely some ghosting, but I didn't mind that. I actually like ghosting to some degree, because it reminds me of onion skin paper, which I also love.

The inks did not feather on the paper, except for both Noodler's Borealis Black and De Atramentis Christmas 2012, which feathered like crazy.

As you can see, the paper is very, very good. It really shows off the properties of the fountain pen ink and the nib you use it with. I like how fountain pens write, especially the shading, and I always prefer paper that shows off shading, so that people will know I didn't use just any pen. The Habana paper achieves this for me perfectly. The paper is very smooth to write on, but is not too slippery. The ivory color shows off the ink colors very well.

All in all, I am very happy with the notebook. I go through one notebook every two to three weeks, and I like having a variety of cover colors to choose from. Eventually I will be moving to the Habana with the hardcover and the elastic closure, but for now, I just want to enjoy having colors, after years of sticking with just a black Moleskine.

I also like the larger size, because I can get more writing into a page, and it's easier to skim through when I'm looking for a particular keyword, compared with smaller notebooks which I need to flip through more just to find what I'm looking for.

I'm glad I found this notebook. I have already stocked up, as you can see. And then it will be on to the Habana A5, classic black. But for now, I am really enjoying the bright colors of the Habana Smooth.

Here they are once more, in the late afternoon sun. Pretty!

I can definitely see myself using this notebook for a very long time.

04 January 2013

The year of transfiguration

As I grow older, I find that I become increasingly shy of technology, less of an iconoclast, more traditional and conservative in my methods and techniques. I use the computer less, and use paper more. For editorial jobs that do not require layout and design, and which involves a sufficient number of encoders, I tend to write my corrections straight onto the paper, and then submit it as such, old-style, via courier, with the pages marked in longhand, with classic red ink. Even though I have a Kindle Touch, the 2012 version without the “frontlight,” which is closest to paper, I still gravitate to actual books from time to time.

And just a couple of months ago, I have gone back to acquiring fountain pens again, a hobby that I started sometime in 2006 and sort of relegated into the back burner for the past four years, due to the demands of work and life. I have always used fountain pens the whole time, but I used only two pens, one Pilot Vanishing Point for the quick and dirty note-taking and signing jobs, and one Pelikan Grand Place for the more laid-back writing and editorial projects. Both have always been loaded with my ink of choice, Noodler’s Zhivago, a black ink that is tinged with green, which is certified to never fade or disappear with water or chemicals, and will always stay on the paper it is written on, forever.

Recently, after I have gone back to the fold of fountain pen acquisition once more, and I am amazed at what I have missed in just five short years! I have missed out on four different limited edition Lamy Safaris and about five limited edition Lamy Al-Stars, a bunch of special edition Pelikans, and the first wave of pens from one of my favorite manufacturers of ink, Noodler’s. And speaking of ink, I have missed out on a whole lot of limited edition inks as well, and was the last to know that Pelikan has come out with a new line of inks, called Edelstein, and that Pilot has an entire line of gorgeous inks called the Iroshizuku, and they come in the most amazing glass bottles. Ah!

Of course I can no longer collect all of that which I have missed, although I did make it a point to acquire some of the pens and inks that I could find that are still going for the retail price instead of the much-higher-discontinued-rare-pen-or-ink-price, but at some point, I had to put a ceiling on the spending, in favor of more urgent financial duties such as the rent, the bills, the utilities, and the daily bread. Nevertheless, I am happy with what I have, and these are my daily writers.

Some people ask me why I need fountain pens when a regular 5-peso ballpoint will do. I just shrug and say, “I prefer nice things,” but in my heart, the real answer would have taken more words, more time, and and a much more open heart for the listener to understand. Because at the end of it all, these adorable pens and inks are what I use to write down the significant ideas and thoughts in my life, in my attempt to make sense of things, and in an attempt to have some semblance of conscious preservation of the moments and details that are important to me.

As my professor once said, memory is a tricky thing, which is why it’s so important to journal. As one whose memory is also beginning to fail her, I have to say that this girl agrees, and as she grows older, the more she appreciates the things she has written before. And I refer to myself in that previous sentence in the third person, because it’s as if the person that I have written about years ago is a completely different person altogether, and no longer me. I have, indeed, come a long way, in more ways than one, and I am just happy to be alive, in the world, surrounded by friends and protectors, and still able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like fountain pens, inks, paper, notebooks, books, and remembering.

So this year, I will write, write, write. Write down my life, my novel, my heart, my memories, my thesis, my essays, my letters. I shall convert my entire being into words, words, words, in ink, on miles and miles of paper that shall span roads that I have travelled and will travel, and shall span the entire time in which I have been privileged to breathe the same air as the people I love. My experience shall live on in words painstakingly and lovingly written by hand, stroke by stroke by meaningful stroke.