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With a nod to our friends at Field Notes.
R. Buckminster Fuller is famous the world over for his geodesic dome designs and for his unrelenting questioning that makes him sound more like a philosopher than anything else. When he summed up his search for what one might call “truth,” he uses the metaphor of the pencil.
“Buckminster Fuller never gave up his searh to find ‘Nature’s pencil.’ Like so many geniuses, he was constantly searching for the essence of how things worked best. And when he found such solutions in Nature, he applied them to his projects. Thus, we have his most famous invention – the geodesic dome – modeled after structures found in Nature.
Still, the question continues to be in the quest. Fuller and many others constantly seek the next evolution of ideas, and the really cleaver people always look to Nature first. Were all humans to do that, we would realize that there are enough resources to go around, and what we need to do is be very careful in using exactly enough. Not too much and not too little.
Nature’s pencil is such a sustainable model. She writes and draws with a precision and exactness that humans have difficulty understanding or modeling. Still, people like Bucky and many of today’s great minds continue to search because they know that the search is as important as reaching the goal.” (More.)
This resonates with me, personally, since one of my grad schools was where Professor Fuller taught and worked from 1959 to 1970. He’s still a legend around those parts.
As promised, here is the pencil trivia question for the RAD & HUNGRY Colombia pack give away. This contest is open to anyone with a mailing address, the world over (with thanks to R&H). I was very tempted to include something from literature as the trivia question. But. Well. I can’t resist a good television character with a love of pencils and flannel.
The show ran during the previous decade on a national American network, possibly in other countries. It’s set in a small town. The character in question is usually found with flannel, a ball cap and a pencil. He will give you coffee if you ask for it. He is curmudgeonly and enjoys stick-shifts. He is a good guy and seems to hate razors.
Who is the character (his name)?
The contest will close at 11:59pm Eastern US Standard Time on this Wednesday, December 8th. To enter, please use the CONTACT FORM (CLICK) to send your name, email address and your one guess. All correct Comrades will have their names written down and put into a black backpack. One person who is not me will draw one paper, and the winner will be announced Thursday. Hen at RAD & HUNGRY is kind enough to handle the shipping of this awesome and exciting pack!
Karen was kind enough to send us a nice package of goodies to review this fall, and it’s time we publish some more reviews! I thought we’d go with a pad I’ve been especially enjoying: the Dot Pad — especially after the announcement of the Dot Webbie, which might be one of the greatest notebooks available.
Cover Material: Coated cardstock.
Paper: 80 g acid-free; light lilac grid with 5mm intervals between dots.
Size: Assorted; 6 ” x 8 ¼ ” as tested.
Page Count: 80.
Unique Characteristics: Foldable cover; dot=grid.
As you can guess, the Dot Pad has dots in place of the squared lines regular Rhodia paper has. While this might seem like a small deal at first, I think this means several things. First, this paper photocopies better. Second, one can more easily ignore the dots, easier than ignoring purple lines, anyway. Third — and most important to pencil users — it makes what you write or draw easier to see! I have long loved Rhodia pads, but I have usually felt compelled to use a dark/soft pencil because the graph lines are a little heavy. It never bothered me enough to steer me away from Rhodia pads — to be sure — but the Dot Pad is still refreshing and, well, fun. While I appreciate the orange of Rhodia pads, I like the departure for black, and I really like the graphic/logo work for the Dot Pad.
As as always the case with Rhodia, the construction and design are both solid. The way the cover folds over and the extra cardboard backing are just intelligent and functional. Period. The paper is smooth and wonderful. While Rhodia paper usually wins praise from Comrades who love fountain pens, the pads are also excellent for graphite. (It’s no accident that the first post on Pencil Talk was about Rhodia pads.) Smearability on Rhodia paper has never been a problem for me at all. What’s more, strangely, the Dot Pad seems somehow extraordinarily smear-resistant. Ghosting is not an issue with a Rhodia pad because of the construction of the pad itself. I mean, I suppose one could write on the back. But it would be pretty difficult, at least if you have meaty hands like I do.
Another thing I always like about Rhodia pads are that they are easy to find in person and relatively inexpensive. I’m willing to bet that if you live in even a medium-sized city, you can find them at an art shop or even Target. I can walk to several shops from my office in midtown Baltimore and find them, for instance (though none of these locations sell the pencils).
I’ve been using this particular pad as a bedside reading notebook, and I definitely plan to get more when I fill this one up. Right now, it’s recording all the pencil mentions in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
You are visiting a Civil War battlefield in the United States. You are at the visitor’s center, run — most likely — by the National Park Service or the local historical society or some other group interested in preserving the past or, at least, educating the public about it. You see those replica musket balls, tiny metal carbines, maybe a Lincoln hat and beard. Perhaps you even see some replica dip pens. Do you see….pencils? Maybe the souvenir kind, but do you see them with the historical replicas? Do pencils have the “stature,” to be learned about? Rarely. Maybe this is because pencils really haven’t changed that much in the last 150 years, not so much that a lot of folks feel they are worth mentioning. Or maybe pencils are not as interesting as guns and bone-saws?
These replicas do feature some pretty, well, inaccurate information with them. For one, this is not the same cedar that colonial pencils would have been made of, not to mention that they would be far less precisely constructed. From the manufacturer’s site:
“Our Colonial Cedar Pencils (1004) are a set of five round, natural 7-inch cedar pencils without erasers similar to those used in England and imported to the American colonies during the 18th century. Pencils of this nature would have had to be sharpened by whittling or cutting one end with a knife. No pencil sharpeners for those colonists! Pencils are neatly wrapped in a parchment history sheet.”
Nonetheless, I was tickled enough to grab a pack for myself/the site and for my baby daughter’s growing collection/arsenal of pencils. I haven’t sharpened them yet, but I’m getting severely tempted — with a knife, of course.
Loose Arrows has a great post about preferring thick pencils and thick leads. Personally, I enjoy them as well and have found a fat ole’ learner’s pencil to be just the thing for days of really sore hands and/or really big notes.
“I’ve become a big fan of jumbo pencils with triangular cross sections. I’m not sure whether it’s because they remind me of wankel rotary engines, or because I have long fingers and do a lot of writing. I’m particularly impressed with the Staedtler Norris Triplus Jumbo in bumblebee plumage. It has great balance, nice grip, and best of all, the 4mm HB lead puts down a line as dark and dense as antimatter.”
(Images, Loose Arrows.)
It’s that time of the NaNoWriMo cycle: half-way! That means that we’re all either:
I missed a few days this weekend due to just being plain tired. My daughter turned seven months old yesterday(!). While babies are cute and plain joy, they’re not advantageous for your sleep. Plus, well, my hand hurts! Writing this by hand has been both refreshing and painful. It’s been refreshing because I can type several times faster than I can write by hand, no matter what kind of pencil I use. Slowing down helps me stay in control and not let everything go too much on autopilot. I’m a little over 18,000 words as of last night, which is a little behind. One of my writing buddies and blog pals (Gary!) is kicking my butt!
How are other folks faring? I thought I’d do a post about pencils (which ones I’ve been enjoying the most, etc.) and all that, but that might have to wait for later in the week, so that I can do some catching up. If you wanna be writing “buddies” on NaNo, search for me under jfgphd (so many consonants)!
Comrade Brian sent this very cool dispatch from Portland (OR):
“I checked a book out from the Library called The Boy Mechanic: 200 Classic Things to Build, which is a neat little book that collects a bunch of old D.I.Y. projects from old Popular Mechanics articles, and this little blurb about a sharpener that collects the its own debris made me think of you, and your recent posting on Pencil Revolution. I made a scan of the article for you. I don’t know how practical such a device would actually be, but it’s fun to think that someone tried solving your dilemma.”
With some very nice wood (read: red cedar!) and an attractive handle, this could be a great device to keep on your desk, to sharpen the dulled-but-exposed lead in your pencils.