Freya’s Day

Welcome to another action-packed Friday blog! Let’s get started, shall we?

June Challenge Day 16

I’m still running a mile every day and still doing it in the morning. I know, right? Me, getting up early and running fifteen days in a row? Inconceivable!

I’m not sure what gains I’ve made. I do feel more erect when I walk, so it must be benefiting my core, which is good because I sit at a desk all day at work slouching.

And my legs feel more muscly, less flabby. And as I mentioned before, I feel more sure-footed carrying my elderly, 70-pound dalmatian upstairs at night.

Cardiovasularly, it’s hard to tell if I’m making strides (strides… Running… Ha!). If I push myself to a pace of over 6.7 mph, I tend to start gasping and I’m not sure if that’s helping or hurting my progress. 

I’ve always heard that you should be able to carry on a conversation. Well, that’s only going to happen if I jog at a slow pace, not run, and what’s the fun in that? Besides, I run solo; who am I going to talk to? The television?

Photographic Proof of Bigfoot?

I think I should have taken some semi-naked photos of myself before I started the June Challenge so I could compare and see if I’ve had any visible physical changes. I really regret not taking any “Before” pictures a year and a half ago so I could see how far I’ve come. (I imagine they would resemble a hairless version of the infamous Bigfoot picture.)

Oh. OK. Nevermind. Now that I see him, Bigfoot looks in better shape.

The photos would be helpful because now I look in the mirror and I don’t see much change, but considering I’ve dropped 30 pounds, there must be a change. Photographic evidence woukd have been nice to verify it.

The tape measure, after all, only shows minimal changes in size and that always depresses me. How is it possible that I’m now down to a 34 inch waist in my pants but the tape measure still shows it is 38 inches?!?

Weigh-In Friday

I’m down a pound from last week. I’m at 201.8. I’m still above my lowest weight of 198.6 from back on May 12th.

However, looking back, in the last month I’ve dropped -3.4% in average body fat and gained +2.3% muscle mass. 

So why can’t I lose the weight? Because I love junk food, that’s why. I love salty snacks, especially cheddar and sour cream potato chips. Don’t leave that bag near me or it is gone. Put a few in a bowl and I’ll be fine. Wait. It’s empty already. Just one more bowl.

And last night, I baked the Bigfoot-sized bag of frozen Jeno’s Pizza Rolls for dinner. Sorry, not sorry. Had a craving. Usually I’m good with portion control for dinner, but last night I went a little overboard stuffing those delicious little pizza-filled wonton-like things in my mouth. It was like the old Alka-Seltzer commercial:

https://youtu.be/VFKifpMtlNs

On Becoming an Auto Geek

I’ve never really been a car guy. By that, I mean, a guy who fusses around his cars, spending entire weekends in the garage massaging and oiling and pampering them.

Sure, I like cars. One day, I’d love to get a classic muscle car and attempt to restore it, except we haven’t the garage space for that and to me, a header is the thing at the top of a document.

The closest I came was my 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z. I did change its oil. And I hand washed it. Applied polish. But to be honest, I never understood the process. 

Did you know that polishes and waxes are two totally different things? I didn’t. I learned washing from my dad, who also wasn’t a car guy. You got a bucket of hot, soapy water (dish soap, why spend money on car wash soap?). Then you’d dry it with old beach towels. Then lather on some Turtle Wax. Voila. Done.

And after the Daytona, I kind of lost interest in band washing, mostly for two reasons, 1) We were living in an apartment without access to an exterior hose, so automatic car washes became a habit, and 2) None of our cars really had a very impressive looking paint job.

And up until recently, my philosophy on car washes had devolved to, “If the rain can’t get it clean, it ain’t getting clean.”

That changed when I got the Fiat. Part of the reason I was attracted to it was the paint job, olive green metal flake that sparkles in the sun.

So I’ve been researching how to detail a car to preserve and protect that shine. I’ve spent hours on sites like Autogeek.net watching videos on car detailing.

Thursday, my order from Autogeek.net came. I can’t wait to take my new random orbital polisher and the detailing products to our Vibe and see if I can’t make her shine again. She’s got a bad case of neglected, oxidized paint. White? I thought she was supposed to be dirty dishwater grey?

Stay tuned.

Making Baseball Great Again

Did anyone watch the Congressional Baseball Game last night? It was very enjoyable, and not because the Democrats destroyed the Republicans 11 to 2. 

No, it was enjoyable because you could sense, despite the athletic competition they were in, that there was a sense of comraderie that probably hasn’t been evident in Congress for a long, long time. 

Sad that it took a shooting to make everyone realize that, despite our political beliefs, we’re all still human beings.

And who knows how long it will last.

The part of the game I found touching was (and I swear there was something in my eye), at the end when the Democrats received the trophy for winning, they called out the manager of the Republican’s team and gave it to him to put in the office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana to keep until he recovered from his wounds.

That’s the spirit of cooperation and civility we should all be living every.single.day.

Currently Reading:

The Complete Guide to A Show Room Shine by Mike Phillips

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Meet Gina

I’ve been doing research on a new used car, because that’s what I do: I research the Hell out of everything before I buy it.

Is that an odd trait? To enjoy doing research, making comparisons, weighing the pros and cons? 

I know some people buy on the spur of the moment, sometimes making what to me seem like rash decisions.

But I have to know everything about something before I jump in. Or in my case, wade in and gradually test the waters.

It’s just how I’m wired. I think it’s the OCD aspect of my ADHD. Others with ADHD are the risk takers and make decisions immediately. It’s been said that I can’t make a decision to save my life  (which is untrue. In life and death situations the obsessive part of me shuts down and I rely on instinct).

Anyway, this was supposed to be about cars. So I narrowed my search down to two makes, Ford Mustang and Mini Cooper. These two were then narrowed down to two specific cars on the same lot, both 2007. The Mustang was a black deluxe with white hood stripes and 75,000 miles and the Mini Cooper was the S, turbo model with 84,000 miles. Same price.

I test drove both. The Mini seemed like a better driving experience, but the engine was covered with oil, which concerned me, and they had to jumpstart it because the battery needed replacement. Because of that, the radio didn’t work. But the interior was cool otherwise.

Whereas the Mustang’s interior seemed dated. And although it had a new clutch, the shifting just didn’t seem as smooth as the Mini.

So I made a chart of pros and cons. Doesn’t everyone? In the end, it turned out there were more pros for the Mini than the Mustang and surprisingly, the Mini was actually the faster of the two in the quarter mile and the Mini had a top speed nearly 20 mph faster. 

But talk maintenance costs and the Mustang wins, because Mini turbos are notoriously expensive when parts start to go and they suffer from carbon buildup that can be costly as well to clean.

So it came down to the Mustang, my childhood dream, a car that still turned heads when I test drove it, or the Mini which was fun to zip around in city traffic, would be smaller and easier to park downtown, and gets much better gas mileage.

My teenage son tried to influence me toward the Mustang. “Dad, you won’t have any street cred in a Mini.” 

Which did I choose?

Right? The 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge,  of course. 

“Wait,” you’re saying, “you never mentioned a Fiat was on your list!”

That’s because it wasn’t. The Fiat was a surprise last second entrant that we saw sitting on a lot Saturday as we went by and once I took it for a test drive, that was all she wrote. 

It’s a cute, zippy fun car to drive and its the first car, or even first inanimate objects, I’ve ever felt compelled to name.

Meet Gina, my Italian beauty:

Gina strikes a pose

“So all that talk about researching and not buying spur of the moment was just bullshit?”

Well, yes and no. I did generic research on the Fiat 500, Honda Fit, and Mazda3, among others, but using Autotrader and CarGurus, I didn’t find any specific vehicles that interested me. Not like the Mustang and Mini.

So I knew specs, Fiats got much better gas mileage than the other two, and reliability, Fiats didn’t have the mechanical woes of Mini turbos and since Fiat owns Chrysler,  the parts are Molar and more comparable to other domestic cars, like the Ford for repairability.

The Fiat 500, Gina, reminds me a lot of the first car I ever drove, my mom’s 1971 VW Superbeetle. It was stick as well and a blast to drive around town. I’ve driven many cars since then, but not one gave me the same thrills zipping in and out of traffic or the cute good looks as the bug did. Until Gina.

Gina’s two-tone leather interior

Gina is all the bug was, and more.
And both my sons like it and not a word about street cred from my teenager. In fact, he wants me to pick him up from school.

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Out of the darkness

A long, long time ago in a galaxy not so far away there existed people who were outcasts, shunned by mainstream society, bullied, picked on, and made fun of.

These were people who enjoyed strange and bizarre things. They read comic books, and enjoyed science fiction and fantasy. They stayed up late at on Saturdays, but not to go to the bars or nightclubs, no, these people stayed up to watch horror movies on TV; movies introduced by horror hosts.

These people would go to drug stores to purchase (shudder!) comic books! And they’d carried them home in unmarked brown paper bags.

They’d go to bookstores and lurk in the dark recesses where they kept the science fiction and fantasy novels. And when they’d walk through the store, they had “Conan the Adventurer” or “Tarzan of the Apes” sandwiched between ordinary best sellers by Erma Bombeck or Jackie Collins. Then at the counter they’d say, “I changed my mind about these” and they’d just buy the Conan and Tarzan, and the clerk would wink knowingly.

At home, they’d put on their Battlestar Galactica jacket (which they could never leave the house wearing for fear of ridicule) and go into their closet, pull out a musty old box labeled, “Grandma’s quilts,” inside of which was their secret stash of Marvel and DC comics, Warren and Mad magazines, and their collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. And they’d read!

It was a secret society. There were no meeting places, no memberships, no secret handshake, because you never knew who was watching you.

You never flashed the Vulcan salute because, like a gang sign, you couldn’t be sure who would see it. Maybe a school jock would see it, peg you for “one of those pencil-necked geeks” and before you knew it your ass would be on fire from a wedgy or you’d find yourself face first in a toilet receiving a swirly.

We lived in constant fear that our secret life, our forbidden passion for comic books and science fiction and fantasy, would be found out.

But today, that has all gone mainstream and geek has become a pop culture phenomenon.

We didn’t have comic books stores where you could speak geek with others who shared your interests. No Internet with forums for our kind.

Now there are whole shelves at Target devoted to superheroes, Star Wars, video games, entire online stores, like Think Geek, selling nothing but geek-inspired items.

Television is inundated with superhero and sci-fi shows. The biggest blockbusters at the theater feature the Marvel Universe.

We had Lou Ferrigno in green make-up as the Hulk. You have CGI. We had Robbie the robot and the robot from Lost in Space. You have R2D2 and some round little thing. We had Captain America in a motorcycle helmet and an Evil Knievel-like suit. You have Chris Evans. We had Adam West. You have the Dark Knight. We were laughed at by the girls. You have the beautiful women of Cosplay.

We blazed the trail, we took our lumps, we hid in the shadows. You get to come out of the darkness as the force awakens.

You’re welcome.

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Parker 45 Flighter or Special GT?

So I’m sort of on a binge with fountain pens, having purchased several since I refurbished my vintage Esterbrook.

Recently, I picked up what was listed on eBay as a Parker 45 Flighter, made in the UK. I probably spent more than I should have. But who knows, maybe not. I’m not exactly sure what they go for, nor do I know how to age one. But it’s a nice brushed stainless steel with gold accents and a black cabochon on the cap crown (and similar looking ones on Amazon seem to go for twice what I paid).

Parker 45 Special GT Flighter

Parker 45 Special GT Flighter

The black cabochon, if my research is up to snuff, might actually make this a 45 Special GT, the last 45 update before they retired it in 2006.

The nib is partially hooded, which gives the pen a sleeker look. It’s also a gold color, but I don’t know if its actually 14K gold or just some sort of plating. My research says that when introduced in 1960 it did have a 14K gold nib, but that was then, this is now.

Black section with hooded nib

Black section with hooded nib

Close-up of nib

Close-up of nib

Unlike my Rotring which uses replaceable cartridges, this pen came with a “converter,” as they’re called. This is a cartridge-sized refillable doohickey. That’s the technical term, by the way, refillable doohickey.

Never having run across one before, I had to figure out how to fill it. So I did some more research. Parker, it seems, has made six different converters over the years. And it took me a while before I found a YouTube video on how to fill it. As you can see in the picture, there’s a little slider and guess what? You actually slide it!

Slider-type Converter

Slider-type Converter

You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh.” And now that I know how it works, it is a well, duh moment. But when I first got it, not knowing what it was, I was afraid to do something that might ruin it (and gentle pressure didn’t make it move). And I’m reading different how to fill instructions talking about twisting one part, while holding another and the slider will go up. Nothing made sense until I finally saw that video showing me that it actually does slide.

So I filled it and started writing with it. It’s not a bad writing pen, and at this point, I don’t know which pen I prefer, the Esterbrook or this Parker.

But I do know this. The Parker looks sharp in my pocket.

Parker in my pocket

Parker in my pocket

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It’s alive! Wherein I bring life to a dead fountain pen

Sunday I mentioned I wanted to fix my vintage Esterbrook fountain pen. It needed a new bladder sac. The old one had essentially disintegrated.

When I first found the pen at my mother’s house, I had tried to use it, but it wouldn’t suck up ink. At the time, I had no idea how a fountain pen worked. And when I pulled the lever, it felt like something was being crushed inside. When I shook it, these little black particles came out. At the time I thought it was dried ink. Now I know the rubber bladder sac had dried up over time and crumbled away.

I set the pen aside, bought a new Rotring Skynn fountain pen, and forgot about the other pen. But now I need to replace my Rotring, as I mentioned on Sunday. I had ordered what I needed for the repairs on my Esterbrook on Sunday and they arrived today.

My supplies arrived from Pendemonium

My supplies arrived from Pendemonium

I must say I’m very pleased with the fast service I received from Pendemonium. I ordered a bladder sac #16. A bottle of blue ink. And a bottle of orange shellac.

I had previously dismantled my pen and cleaned out all the remnants from the deteriorated bladder sac. Next, I laid everything out so I knew exactly how short to trim the new bladder. The section (the part that has the nib) should be lined up next to the barrel the way it would be if pushed together. Then the bladder is laid out so the closed end reaches to the part of the barrel where the lever is. The cut will be made at the point on the section where the sac nipple meets (yellow arrow).

Measuring where to make the cut.

Measuring where to make the cut.

Once the bladder sac was trimmed, I then folded back the top section of the bladder so it formed a cuff about 1/4 of an inch. Then I tried my best to insert the bladder over the bladder nipple on the section. This was the fun part. I was all thumbs and struggled to get the cuff over the nipple. Imagine the fun I had after I applied shellac! Now it was slippery (yet oddly sticky). I was successful twice, but because the shellac was wet, it came off. The first time, because I tried to straighten it and it just popped off. The second time it just squirted off. But three times is a charm and I went away to let it dry.

Finally! Sac meets nipple.

Finally! Sac meets nipple.

When I figured it was all dry, I reassembled everything. Then I dipped the pen in the fresh new bottle of blue Parker Quink, pulled the lever slowly three times, wiped the nib off with a tissue, then tried to write.

It's Alive!

It’s Alive!

And Voila! I now have a beautiful working vintage Esterbrook J pen!

Now to do some writing.

And thanks go out to the folks at Pendemonium for their quick turnaround of my order!

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Before my pen has gleened my teeming brain

Back in April 2011, I picked up my first fountain pen. I’ve been using it ever since as my primary fiction writing tool. Well, I recently noticed it was getting a little worn.

Rotring Skynn

Rotring Skynn

As you can see from the picture, the rubber is starting to tear. There’s a similar wear area on the opposite side. The wear areas sit against my fingers and are starting to distract me. So it’s time for a new fountain pen.

As much as I liked the Rotring Skynn because it ergonomically fit my gorilla handwriting grip, and as much as I’m used to using it, I wonder if it’s time to move on to something else. If I chose another exactly like this, I’ll just run into this same problem sooner or later.

Also, I’d like to try something that doesn’t use those little insert ink cartridges. First, those things are more expensive compared to a bottle of ink. Second, I’m not too thrilled where those little plastic tubes go when I throw them out. They can’t be environmentally friendly. Neither are disposable fountain pens. And third, the idea of being able to use an ink bottle and refill the pen’s reservoir excites the retro-geek in me.

So I’m looking at refillables. I have a vintage Esterbrook “J” fountain pen from the 1950s. It was either mine from grade school or my mother’s. Unfortunately, the bladder sac is gone. When I first was looking at it, I pulled up the lever to try to fill it, but nothing happened. I shook it and I could hear something rattling inside. Little black hard pieces came out from the lever’s slit. I thought at first that it was dried up ink. But I later found out that there is a rubber bladder sac inside that can dry out and needs to be replaced.

Esterbrook J

Esterbrook J

I found a place that repairs them on the Internet for around $25 or so, but I’ve since decided to try to do it myself. I researched what I needed, ordered it, and now I’m waiting for a new bladder to arrive along with a bottle of shellac to glue it in place. If I’m successful, who knows, fountain pen repair might be an interesting hobby.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking at other fountain pens, new and vintage. There are some very beautiful ones out there. If you follow my Pinterest Pen Porn page, I’ve been posting several of the more expensive ones. At the moment, I doubt very much I can afford anything that costs several grand or justify anything even around $100.

I’m frugal so I can only afford cheap pens, for now. The Rotring Skynn cost me around $30. A new one at the oldest pen shop in America, Daly’s Pen Shop, is currently selling for around $12.99.

But as I said, I’m looking for something different and on eBay I’m finding there’s a ton of Chinese manufactured pens out there that just look gorgeous, but many might perform rather poorly according to many reviews (and many are just knock-offs of popular pens such as the Parker “51,” which many regard as one of the best fountain pens ever made). Seeing how cheap they are however, I’m going to get a few just for display if they don’t write very well.

So for now, I’m on a fountain pen kick. If you’ve been paying any attention, you’ll realize I get interested in something and go on a binge devouring everything about the subject I can find.

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