Posts Tagged ‘iowa’

noodler’s ahab

I have a profound weakness for demonstrator (transparent) pens, so when I visited Quill and Nib at the Valley West Mall, West Des Moines, my eye was drawn to this cheerful sunny Noodler’s Ahab fountain pen.

I don’t like yellow, but this was the only color they had left that was light enough for me to see the ink inside, which is why I like demonstrators in the first place. I don’t mind the color now – it’s a change from all the transparent demonstrators I already have.

These are the parts of an Ahab – from the top, the nib and section with the breather tube for the piston-fill system; cap with steel band; piston rod; and barrel.

The filling system was new to me and at first I was unsure how to go about using it. I thought about Googling, then asking Ahab-owning friends for help. But I decided, naah, I’ll play with it.

I chose magenta De Atramentis ink that I also got at Quill and Nib. (There were so many other lovely colors but alas! I had no room for more in my small hand-carry size suitcase.)

I dipped the nib into the ink and drew up on the rod. Success! The ink flowed into the chamber and up into the breather tube as well.

I still didn’t know if this was supposed to happen, but it seemed fine so I fitted the piston rod back into the barrel for the next step.

A word on the filling system: there are excellent reviews all over the Web that I could have read first, such as Peninkcillin’s and FP Geeks’, and they are informative about all aspects of the pen.

One thing that’s great about it is that it can be converted into an eyedropper fill with an o-ring, giving a generous 6ml ink capacity.

The piston rod is quite long when fully retracted.

Even so, it fits into the barrel.

I pushed the rod back in a bit. Ink dripped out of the nib, but at the same time air was expelled, which seemed to be the right thing to happen. When I read other reviews, the advice was when filling to first push the rod in to expel air, then dip in ink and draw back to fill the chamber. Now I know.

It’s a bit of a wet writer, which is only as it should be, since the Ahab has a semi-flex nib. Flex nibs use a lot of ink and are very thirsty. They tend to railroad when not enough ink for the flex gets up into the feed.

The Ahab’s got nothing on the vintage flex nibs that I own and have reviewed on this blog, such as those by Waterman and Sheaffer, but considering that it’s a modern version in steel and not the more malleable gold is quite an achievement.

Alas, it railroaded the first time I tried it! I was disappointed and put the pen away. What did I expect after all for $19?

After a couple of weeks I took it out again, and was pleased to find that things had somehow settled in and the pen was performing much better. Look at that juicy flex action on the downstroke, and the overall width variation!

Affordable cost + flex ability + eyedropper ready = good deal!

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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pop goes the world: a little patch of paradise

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  3 May 2012, Thursday

A Little Patch of Paradise

Waukee, Iowa – It’s a town of less than 14,000 people, about twenty minutes from Des Moines on the freeway, and is as close to Heaven as a bit of earth can be.

It’s my first time to visit the Midwest. I am here to spend a few days with physician Amerlon Enriquez, his wife Eva, and their two children. Amer occasionally contributes to MST’s Diaspora column, and has been based in the US for nearly twenty years. He and his family have been Iowa residents for almost ten.

It is springtime, and God has laid wall-to-wall carpet in emerald green. Grass and trees growing in endless profusion, rolling from hill to hill. Lilacs fill the air with a heady scent. Fresh-mown grass is another common fragrance. Soon, Eva tells me, roses and hydrangeas will poke their colorful heads above the ground.

An Iowa landscape.

Iowa has a large farming community, and is one of the country’s top producers of corn and pork. Stuffed toys shaped like pigs and corn ears fill souvenir shops, along with John Deere tractor merchandise, homemade fudge and jam, and other tokens of an agricultural nature.

Massive silos reach into the sky, giant steel fingers filled with corn to be turned into food products, animal feeds and biofuel. The prosperity of the state shows in the miles and miles of perfectly paved roads, clean streets and sidewalks, and well-maintained public buildings.

Silos dot the Iowa landscape.

These infrastructural achievements are even more impressive when you learn that the entire state, which has an area of 145,743 square kilometers, almost as large as the combined area of Luzon and Visayas at 165,765, is maintained by and for only a little over three million people.

In contrast, Metro Manila is crammed with over eleven million people in an area less than 639 square kilometers.

Iowa has one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates; while a few companies are laying-off people, others are constructing new office buildings (such as hospitals and insurance firms).

People are friendly. You pass them on the street, they make eye contact, smile, and say hello. When Amer and his family first moved into their house, the next-door neighbor came over with pie.

Iowans take pride in their surroundings, keeping their homes and gardens immaculate. Paint is never peeling, lawns are always mowed, windows do not remain broken.

The front porch of a well-tended Iowa home.

They care for their environment – great expanses of woods are preserved so that deer can come up to Eva’s yard and nibble at her plants and raccoons can run across her lawn, and long stretches of freeway and roads are kept unilluminated to reduce light pollution. At night, you can go out on Amer and Eva’s deck, look up, and see stars sprinkled across an expanse of velvet black.

I have not seen stars in the Manila night sky in over a decade.

The people are so trusting, none of the stores have armed security guards out front like ours do. A store will be manned by only one to two people. Sometimes the storekeeper will go out back to fetch something, leaving you unattended for minutes. Come the corn harvest, farmers leave their sweet and crunchy produce out beside the road, with a sign setting out prices and an open cash box for payment – all also unwatched, unguarded. It could be cords of firewood or baskets of fruit, same thing.

They have a rich sense of history. Grand Avenue in Des Moines is lined with houses dating back a century or more. They are not torn down but sold to people who will preserve them. Old buildings are re-purposed; a Masonic temple lavishly decorated with marble, wood panels, and decorative tile was converted into a performing arts center. Other buildings from the 1800s are now offices. Also from that period are the red-painted covered wooden bridges featured in the film “Bridges of Madison County”, all lovingly maintained. Where now our own architectural gems, such as the Art Deco-style Jai Alai building?

Dr Enriquez on Roseman Bridge.

What is it about their culture that has resulted in their creating such a pleasant community? Honor, honesty, and hard work are among the significant values that guide them, as well as discipline, thrift, and respect for nature. Perhaps the state’s small population also makes it easier for their people to conform to the societal norms that continue to serve them well.

The Capitol building, Des Moines, Iowa. (Edited with Instagram) 

Living close to nature, espousing traditional values, defending the environment and preserving history – this is a good way to live.

Amer and Eva have asked me to come back soon for a longer visit. I will try my best to do so, because I have left a wee bit of my heart here in Iowa, in their little patch of paradise. ***

All photos taken May 2012 with an iPhone 4S.

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chitofied pens

Modification of fountain pen nibs is done by nibmeisters, savvy pen users who can grind plain vanilla or rough nibs to make them smoother or more interesting in terms of line variation or flex.  Fountain pen collector Chito Limson is one such gent, whose ‘chitofied’ nibs are prized by his pen friends, among whom I am fortunate to be counted.

He recently modded three pens for me. All came with stock fine nibs. From top to bottom, a Wality marked ‘Airmail’ from India, a Chinese-made Bulow, and a custom made pen from Rob Beers in Iowa.

After smoothing with micromesh and magic, the Wality is now a crisp italic. Not for daily notetaking, it is toothy and sharp at the edges of the nib to create lettering for special occasions. And doodling.

The Bulow is blingy, heavy, and best wielded unposted.

From a vanilla fine, it is now a sweet cursive italic that yields some line variation since the nib happens to be semi-flex.

The Iowa pen, says Chito, was the easiest to work with and is now a deliciously smooth stub that glides over paper.

It bears a two-tone nib with the edges smoothed to a stub that is wider than a fine, which it was previously.

Nib modification is an option to take stock nibs to the next level. Thanks to Chito and his magic hands, these pens have been transformed and given more character.

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christmas pen

Sometime in late December last year, our high school batch came together for a reunion. For many of us, it was the first time we had seen each other again since graduation day. From all over the Philippines, North America, and Australia, more than twenty of us, almost the entire batch, trekked back to the place where we spent most of our waking hours for ten of the most formative years of our lives.

It was a notable event in many ways; I’ll tell the story some other time. Suffice to say that it would not have happened if not for our class president, Amerlon Enriquez. He’s now a physician specializing in pulmonary and sleep disorders, based with his family in Iowa.

You can take the boy out of the Philippines, but you can’t take the Philippines out of the boy. Amer might live and work in America, but his heart and soul are pure Pinoy and will remain so. Memories of school days played a sentimental arpeggio on his heartstrings, and, recalling a milestone for our batch was nigh, took time from his busy schedule to organize a reunion.

After rounding up as many stray sheep as he could, this shepherd cajoled, guided, asked, reminded, and pleaded with classmates to prepare for the event. (He didn’t scold – he’s too nice to do that.) It was a huge undertaking, involving much effort on the part of the Manila-based organizers and expense on those abroad who flew over. It took a year or so, but Amer pulled it off.

I knew there was a reason we landslide-voted him class president – every single school year.

Finally we come to the point of this post. Amer and his wife Eva’s pasalubong for me, when they came to Manila last December, was a custom-made fountain pen.

The pen comes in this handsome pine box. A ‘Q’ is laser-cut into the lid, with a backing of etched plastic inserted into the other side.

Inside was the maker’s card and a pack of ink cartridges. The pen was made by Rob Beers of Quill and Nib in West Des Moines.

The pen is hefty; the metal trim is engraved with lovely detail. Grape leaves adorn both bands.

Grapes cover the clip.

The barrel is hand-turned, cut from a resin rod. The color reminds me of fresh purple grapes held up to the light.

This long part at the bottom allows the pen cap to be posted, although for me it’s too heavy to write that way. I don’t post this pen.

The nib is a two-tone medium nib marked “Iridium Point Germany” – perhaps a Bock?

Writing sample with grape-violet Waterman ink. The pen has a converter and can take standard carts.

With care, the pen will last many lifetimes, to be passed on to my daughters and their children to come, along with the story that goes with it. For the pen is more than iridium and resin and plastic;  is a sign of that which is greater and stronger – the friendship, the concern, and the love of the Enriquez family. For that, they have my endless gratitude and the blessings of a friend who wishes them the best of everything always.

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