Lost in translation

Posted August 29, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People | Add your comment »

As we head, in the US, at least, into a long, holiday weekend — yes, we celebrate Labor Day in the fall, and not in May like the rest of the world — I’m reminded of a subject that I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while… the linguistic quirks, bloopers, and flat-out mistakes that are probably inevitable for a company that’s headquartered in France.

A few years ago, one of our readers noticed that Herbin’s ink packaging instructs English-speakers to “rince” and not “rinse” their fountain pens. Soon thereafter, Paulien pointed out, that the UK version of the Space 24 misspelled the name of her country (“I don’t live in The Netherland,” she wrote).

Karen has also told me some amusing lost-in-translation style anecdotes about American and British English (using “rubber” instead of “eraser” in product catalogs, for instance, and “Maxi Pad” to describe for a large Rhodia pad.)

At any rate, the arc of our corporate universe is long, but it bends toward linguistic justice, so if you notice something odd in our product literature or in our products themselves, please let us know!

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Tools of the trade: Rediscovering the Pilot Varsity

Posted August 28, 2014 by
in Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | 3 comments »


A while back, I wrote about the “knockabout” pen — something simple, relatively inexpensive, and easy to put your hands on, something that makes you sad but not grief-stricken to lose.

Soon after writing the post, I retrieved an old tote bag from my closet and made an intriguing rediscovery: the Pilot Varsity, a “disposable” fountain pen that can actually be refilled, but that doesn’t cost more than a few dollars.

Given how long it takes me to ink up some of my nicer pens when they run dry, it seemed like a natural next step to allow it to audition for a part as my de facto purse pen, used for in-person work sessions and other on-the-go applications. Lo and behold, it’s worked perfectly: a welcome break from rollerballs that I nonetheless won’t mind misplacing or lending to a co-worker, which is the eventual but inevitable point of departure for all such pens in that position.

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My Pilot Knight

Posted August 26, 2014 by
in Beautiful Creations, Editorial, Pens, Paper & People, Where to Go? | 1 comment »

photo (7)

At every trade show I select a notebook and pen to be with me at the show.  My “show book” and “show pen” need to be sturdy, reliable and good travelers. I  jot notes and ideas in all kinds of places:  free-standing in my hand, coffee bars, on the run in a cab or shuttle bus, or on my knee when I can sit a minute to think and reflect.  I count on my pen.  photo (6)

A Pilot Knight was the pen I took with me to the recent NY Gift Show.  It is a good, solid pen for writing; it feels good in the hand.  Nothing fancy, unpretentious, a real workhorse pen that writes cleanly and smoothly on whatever surface it had to perform.  I also (gasp!) dropped the pen (capped) several times.  Like a good car, it started right up, no problem.

Several people came by the booth who did not write with fountain pens.  I let them try out the Pilot Knight, and the experience was so delightful to them that they plan to get a pen of their own.  I thought that was pretty neat.  I love introducing people to the joy of writing, particularly with fountain pens.

The Pilot Knight has joined a few other pen friends as one of my go-to pens in the office.

Available from Pen Chalet.



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Time management Mondays: Staycations

Posted August 25, 2014 by
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I’ve been interested in taking a so-called staycation — time off without the travel — for years, but never more so since I became a mother. Could I get everything done around the house that I’d like to do in the space of, say, a week, plus have time to relax? Small, insignificant, but seemingly unattainable things like fixing the crooked curtain rods in the bathroom or reorganizing the pantry? To say nothing of all the garden chores I’ve let slide.

Sadly, I’m no closer to actually taking a staycation, but I definitely had pangs when I read that Stephanie had. Her experience sounds glorious:

I spent time reading, resting, working in the garden, writing in my journal, and painting. I walked around a local music festival, watched a few movies and cooked a few really tasty meals.

Have you taken a staycation?

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Friday roundup

Posted August 22, 2014 by
in Beautiful Creations, Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People | 1 comment »


Books, notebooks, and forest-dwellers! It’s time for our Friday roundup.

  • Have you read about Christopher Knight, the man who wandered off into the Maine woods and lived there for almost 30 years, stealing food and supplies from nearby cabins? GQ’s piece about his life story is the closest thing I’ve seen to incredible for quite some time.
  • While I was on vacation last week, The Pen Addict’s Brad Dowdy reviewed Rhodia’s new Ice Pad. “The white is wonderfully clean and the metallic silver accents are perfectly understated in typical Rhodia fashion. Plus, the lines are grey instead of the traditional violet, which I think I prefer.”
  • Through Margana at Inkophile, I also learned about Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s beautiful handmade books. She’s even got a shop on Etsy!

Happy Friday…

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Tools of the trade: On auto-correct

Posted August 21, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | 3 comments »

I daresay we’ve all had moments of frustration with auto-correct: when we mean “its” instead of “it’s” and don’t catch it till after we’ve sent a text message, when Word insists on converting an unconventional proper name to a puzzling and nonsensical noun. Or an adjective, in the case of Bill Vignola, whose name, as he once complained to Bill Gates, Word always changed to Bill Vaginal. (Microsoft promptly tasked an intern with removing vulgarities from the autocorrect dictionary.)

Still, where would we be without it? I’m not sure a hastily tapped-out text message would be any more intelligible — reverse engineering nonsensical messages isn’t always easy, after all — but our comedy would be much poorer. Wired has a great history of the technology, at any rate, which is well worth a read.

As for Mr. Vignola:

And Bill Vaginal wasn’t the only complainant: As Thorpe recalls, Goldman Sachs was mad that Word was always turning it into Goddamn Sachs.

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Writing Wednesdays: Spoetry

Posted August 20, 2014 by
in Where to Go? | Add your comment »

People take liberties with words, and occasionally, the results are unexpectedly beautiful. But spam has become its own category of found poetry, as I thought about recently while reading an email we received:

What i do not realize is actually how youre not really much more well-liked than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You realize thus considerably relating to this subject, made me personally consider it from so many varied angles. Its like men and women arent fascinated unless it’s one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always maintain it up!

Is this just the latest incarnation of the Infinite Monkey Theorem?

Nonsensical as it is, there’s a lot of food for thought. The first sentence starts with praeteritio (“What I do not realize is…”) and ends like a Zen koan — how can you be more well-liked than you… might be? The pop culture reference to Lady Gaga comes at exactly the right moment. And the last sentence, with its charming approximation of a well-known vernacular phrase, reminds me of the inscription on a card that a German relative once sent along with a gift: “I hope it likes you.”

Always maintain it up, indeed!

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Test Drive a Quo Vadis Visual Winners

Posted August 18, 2014 by
in Where to Go? | 1 comment »


Congratulations to Saul H. of NY, Gino P. of MA, Noriko S. of FL and Nicola of FL for being this month Test Drive a Quo Vadis winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered and look out for the “Business” giveaway later this month.

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Time management Mondays: The elusive web-life balance

Posted August 18, 2014 by
in Editorial, Pens, Paper & People, Planning Tips | Add your comment »

I’m always a sucker for a good take on digital distractions, and this Fast Company article, which, appropriately, I’ve been meaning to read for some time and am only just getting to, delivers four simple suggestions for managing the chaos that constantly lurks (or looms) in computers, smartphones, and the like:

  • Keep incoming messages at low volume by restricting the volume of outgoing messages you send
  • Embrace downtime with analog activities, rather than rushing to fill it with digital ones
  • Strive to put yourself in more engaging situations so you don’t miss the digital filler
  • Learn from those who are best at managing digital distractions, who “tend to be more outgoing, conscientious, and optimistic. They plan ahead and value face-to-face contact with others; they enjoy meeting new people and remain positive and calm under pressure”

I especially appreciated the reminder that a lot of real life is boring, in the sense that not much is happening at any given time. In my experience, social media and the like are tempting not because they are more interesting than what’s going on at any given moment, but because they relieve you of the need to generate your own thoughts. Fittingly, that occurred to me yesterday on a long, traffic-filled drive back from vacation.

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Friday roundup

Posted August 15, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People | Add your comment »


Happy Friday! From my perch here in Massachusetts, outdoors is the best place to be, but if you’re looking for things to read, feed your mind with the following things:

  • I don’t know how I managed to miss this for so many years, but an ad on A&L Daily directed me to the fact that Lingua Franca magazine is back! And has been for some time, as a blog that’s now affiliated with the Chronicle of Higher Education. Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with the original version — which lived up to the “common language” of its title by tackling a wide swath of cultural and academic topics and died in 2001 — be sure to peruse the new version and its equally appealing mix of subjects.
  • In the more recent past, A.O. Scott had a great piece in The New York Times on the death of the middlebrow and its effects on culture. “Like the later, sociologically related terms “yuppie” and “hipster,” middlebrow is a name you would never call yourself, but rather a semantic shoe that belongs on someone else’s foot. It is also, however, a workable synonym, in the sphere of art and culture, for democracy.”
  • Feeling green? Check out Jeff Abbott’s review of J. Herbin’s Vert reseda ink at the Pen Addict blog. “When I ordered it, I didn’t think I would use it very often, but I’ve actually used it quite a bit for general writing and notes. It’s an everyday ink for me. It’s not eclectic enough to take a backseat for special occasions.”
  • If you, too, have a vacation coming up, consider imitating Palimpsest and packing a pen-and-pencil first-aid kit. As she says, you might not need it, but it’s nice to know you’ll have it handy if you do.
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