Fountain Pen Ink: Colors of the Moment

Image of three sections of a journal, with outer edges of three pages displayed showing handwriting.  Each page is in a different color of ink.
Inks in my journal, all flowing quite beautifully from my stub-nib fountain pens.. At left: Faber Castell’s Garnet Red (more transparent than I expected); Center: Rohrer & Klingner’s Alt-Bordeaux (so rich! so deep! I love it!);
Right: Private Reserve’s Claret (more red than I expected).

Oh, I am wallowing in ink in all the best ways.

Some of my pen friends enjoy it; some don’t notice. I know I became one of those ink people when I identified a colleague’s ink by brand when he was taking notes in the office. [shaking my head]

It’s difficult to show the inks off, especially the inks with multiple colors and sheens: my clever phone tries to increase the contrast on its images in a way that hides the subtle changes of colors. And how likely is it that you’re looking at these on a color-calibrated monitor, anyway? I’ll likely need to put the inks on my flatbed scanner to show them properly – the scanner’s flat light is more honest (and harsh), though it may struggle with the glitter.

Just the same: it is satisfying to write with good inks. I don’t need the colors, but I like them.

Book (Manga): Light & Shadow by Hee Won

Cover of manga Light & Shadow, original novel by Ryu Hyang, Comic by Hee Won

Light & Shadow
Original novel by Ryu Hyang, Comic by Hee Won
published by (complete – 103 episodes)

Prince Eden has a secret: his mother is raising him as a boy to protect him from the fate of women in feudal society, and so she can retain some safety as mother of the heir to the throne, rather than as the mere mother of Princess Edna. The prince is a great student, and a great swordsman to boot! But when the profoundly corrupt king is overthrown, Eden must die along with the rest of the royal family… But the queen throws Edna out secretly, to live as an anonymous woman who escapes only with her life.

Then things get complicated.

Edna is abducted, sold into servitude, abused, and sent off as a substitute bride for a soldier with Butcher in his nickname…

This has all the things you want from a Korean drama: Cross-dressing! Secrets! Murderous royals! Plots! Scandals! Rough-on-the-outside, kind-hearted, misunderstood men with amazing abdominal muscles! A heroine who is good at literally everything! The threat that the people who you’ve fallen in love with could you will kill you if they discover your bloodline! Romance between battles! Weird scars! Good hair!

The idea that heroines of these stories are so good that people would die for them soon after witnessing their kindness is a bit alarming (how desperate are people for signs of kindness, exactly?). It does makes for good comedy scenes from otherwise hardened characters that softens the stories with humor.

A fun read.

Life: Locally Rough Times

One of the things that is easy to take for granted living in the innovation hub of the San Francisco Bay Area is that there are jobs. There are absurd boom-bust cycles here, along with lots of companies that ride a wave of hype-based funding into nothingness, while a tiny percentage go on to become improbably massive employers. After each cycle, there is always a New Thing, and the cycle starts again.

In the core business districts, some of which have been lively since the gold rush of 1849, the success of any industry feeds others by catering to the workers in the booming sectors, creating ripples of success for businesses offering essential supplies, convenience, and services. Famous universities and even more famous hospitals anchored companies in the area, providing a flow of research and graduates.

Or, at least it did.

From my apartment this past year, I have read of mass layoffs in tech, and within weeks I watched the lights go out up and down the apartment building across the street as it emptied of workers who could no longer afford them.

It is happening again.

Across multiple industries, including my own.

Across multiple employers, including my own.

And the wave of trying to refer people for jobs, screening lists for potential roles for them, comforting people with survivor’s guilt, being sympathetic to colleagues who set work goals for the year that are now impossible to meet, those are all happening again, too.

Superb HR colleagues are reposting departing colleagues’ work-seeking announcements, which are all quite concisely written for this purpose, and are easy to respond to for boosting purposes on LinkedIn, which is new to me, and really good.


Things are rough. Be extra compassionate to everyone you interact with. Lots of people are in uncertain situations. This is something that is always true, but this comes in waves, and some waves are bigger than others.

If you ever wonder about the scale of local layoffs, or want to scope out the habits of specific companies, those of us here in California can read the WARN filings of companies engaged in layoffs.

It is not pleasant information, but it is a lot of information, and some of it is useful. Scope this out before accepting a job offer, so you know how potential employers have operated on this front historically.

Language: Still Studying (Mostly German)

Duolingo language app graphic that reads, "I'm on a 1639 day stream and a Streak Society VIP!"
Special graphic from earlier this week. I am still rolling along, and the lessons get updated around me…

I am ridiculous.

I usually practice German, and will eventually choose my alternate language this year. I should go back to Spanish, but I forget it instantly. I want to return to Japanese, but I found my study notebook, and I don’t understand my own notes! (GAAAAAHHHHH! [Scream that sounds similar in Japanese, actually.])

Google Translate has improved, but often uses less common words or is too literal. I use it when translating discussions of new subjects, but have had feedback multiple times from native German speakers that it isn’t quite right, and they prefer my efforts. But… But…

Life: Talking to Strangers In My Kitchen

My maternal grandmother and mother are both somewhat famous for talking to strangers, often in unusual situations.

I take after them.

On a recent work from home day, I was wrapping up a call when my entry doorknob moved. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and my boyfriend has the keycode, so it didn’t make sense that someone was trying to enter and was failing.

I went to the door, and found a couple looking a bit lost, staring into their phones. I asked if they needed assistance, and they said they were here to see my apartment, which is listed as being available soon.

[Insert me shaking my fist in the general direction of my landlord, who knows I’m moving at the end of the month. Reader: it is not the end of the month.]

Being me, I offered to show these total strangers my apartment, which is a total disaster because I’m inventorying things for packing, and also was working from home at the end of the week, by which time most order has broken down.

I asked them not to judge me IN FRONT OF ME. They said yes, so I showed them how the locks work, gave them a tour of my unit (have I mentioned it was the messiest it has been in months?), talked about the merits of other units I toured here when I was selecting, and answered their questions about my experience living here for the past year, safety, neighborhood features, temperature comfort, and so on.

Beyond that, we chatted about why they are in the market for an apartment, and it turned out one member of the couple got her Ph.D. in blood cancers and is interviewing at local biotech companies. By coincidence, the famous commercial drug for treating blood cancers was my responsibility in legal contract writing at a famous local biotech company. We chatted about the local biotech and biopharma landscape, employers I could recommend or warn her away from, and the wild over-qualification of many people in this industry. We also spoke in detail about specific blood cancers and HER+ breast cancers, because this is totally the sort of topic I can speak about in depth with strangers in my kitchen.

‘Nice couple. Small world, if I move out and another biotech person moves in.

Also, I have to keep an eye on my landlord, because sheesh.

Music: Soundtrack for Recent Weeks

During November and December, I listened especially often to my favorite SomaFM station, Secret Agent. I’ve surely described it before: it is a Jazzy, spy-movie-themed mix of music that ranges from retro to downtempo electronic.

The variety over the past few months was even better than I expected (there was a lot of new-to-me songs), and it was a great soundtrack to set my mind into a different, stylish, fun setting.

Art: Monotype Printing

Collage of three silver-green abstract monotype prints on black paper, suggesting sea monsters, lichen, or antlers, by A.E. Graves

Yes, I celebrated having time off my playing with paint, and it was deeply satisfying.

I learn so much every time.

Also, I have an amazing collection of strange shapes I’ve cut by hand based on my own designs, which are covered with layers of paint, and which look great when compiled into albums, so I have fun with the materials beyond the experimental prints.

Life: Happy New Year

Decorative banner displaying San Francisco's financial district from the southeast in the evening, along with the western spans of the SF Bay Bridge, and fog draped over Mt. Tamalpais

2024… is definitely happening. Ready or not!

I had time off from work during the last week of the year, and used it to recover my health more fully (having been ill earlier in December), read, and print acrylic monotypes (a favorite art pastime!).

I don’t do new year’s resolutions – no one should wait until January of a new year to make useful life changes! – but as a concession to tradition, I’ll make a sincere effort to do a better job of using the ALT TEXT features of WordPress. (This feature helps disabled readers know what’s going on by making more information about images available to supportive tools.)

Out in the world, COVID is still spreading, my most alert friends don’t want to dine indoors, and my social circle includes several people who have had COVID two or three times (!). The data on Long COVID, and what scientists are finding as changes in the bodies of those who were exposed, is… alarming, and completely beyond the perception of my friends in Europe, somehow.

Humans continue to be… I’m looking for a euphemism for violently disagreeable, but it isn’t coming to me. There are multiple scary wars and attendant war crimes happening. It has become unpopular to say that genocide is wrong. (Sign I need to make: friends don’t let friends do war crimes!) Right wing, racist, and authoritarian parties do too well in elections. Fascism appears to be entirely too popular, though I observe that people who support it mosts don’t like the label, which is a minor concession to accepting that it is not good. (Not that semantic arguments work with fascists.)

My reading list has more books on it, but it might alarm you if I disclosed the full list, so I’ll just note that I am actively reading The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel. The title may sound provocative, unless you’ve ever taken art history in a U.S. college, in which case you noticed that only ancient Egyptians and European men have art that was considered worthy of books, and that these textbooks were all written by European men (coincidentally!). For the design degree I was pursuing, art from any other part of the world was only offered as an optional elective, implying that it didn’t really matter. This felt… wildly inaccurate. It took some nerve to call a class “Art History” when it should have been called “European Male Art History, plus some Egyptian Monuments.” [cough] So this book has a good premise, and is off to a good start. Perhaps I’ll be able to read it I have fewer 9pm meetings and people from work stop texting me on weekends to get me back online?

I have some personally disruptive events coming up, and expect my posting to be spotty, though more frequent than in 2023.

Here’s hoping 2024 is a better year for all living beings!