Books that someone else says you have to read, Part 1.

We have not done a book part of this whole books, brass, bears thing in a while.  For a while now I have been looking at the lists of “books everyone should read.”  I watched the movie The Equalizer in which Denzel Washington’s character is said to be reading through one of those lists.

Problem one is that there is definately more than one list, there are several that come up commonly in fact.  So it takes a little detective work.  I contacted my friend who is a librarian if there was a list to beat all lists that libraries and their secret societies know about.  According to Paula there is not, but she did tell me about a book that her library contained about this subject.  However, this grand tomb is a bit much.  It is 1001 Books You Must Read Before you Die, by over 100 international critics.

Technically this is the first review, this book is a fail.  This is exacly why college professors give you word limits on papers.  These guys did a wonderful job assembling and summarising 1001 books but, even given the total number of books in the world, this was not work.  They did not have to pick something but the Bronte sisters, everything they ever wrote is in here!  It does however have a break down by time frame, so there is a list of “pre 1700,” however there is still the horrid idea of buying a 35$ book…to tell you which books you need to read.

Back to the list.  My next piece of detective work was to say ok what was Denzel reading.  He mentions The Old Man and the Sea, and one of the two main lists had that, so that is what we are going to go with.  There is a Good Reads list, and an Amazon list.  I deduced it to be the Good Reads list and so that is what we are sticking with, you can find it here.

Much to my…utter horror To Kill A Mockingbird was top of the ranked list.  You see I was put up to reading this in highschool, except I did not do it.  I am not particularly proud of the story I am about to tell as, I look back and think I would want to beat a student senseless if they had done this.  I do not know why, I got thirty pages in, gave back my copy, and took a zero for the various assignments that went along with the book.  My teacher was a bit eccentric, and I feel like she protested her way through college, so I am guessing my lack of a few letter grade drop was due to some strange part of her being excited to watch me buck the institution.

So do I wish that I had read this back when?  Not really.  I do wish I could remember why I hated it so much back then, and perhaps not been a snot.  I do not believe though that I had the capacity to appreciate this book when I was fifteen.

I may not agree that this book is “the best novel of the Twentieth Century” as purportedly said about librarians across the country, and no I do not have an immediate contender outside of The Silence of the Lambs right now, but I am not sure this is the top.

I did enjoy it though.  I feel like this type of book is the equivalent to a blog back when, have story and a need to tell it.  It offered a nice insight into the brutal reality of a situation with no way out, and no happy ending.  The race issues portrayed in the 30s, were very relevant when Harper Lee wrote this book, and despite starting this grudgingly, and partly as a show of commitment to this list no matter what I found on it, I found myself wanting to know how it ended.  Tom Robinson’s troubles were devastating and told matter of factly, in a that is life kind of way.  The only thing that can be compared to a happy ending is the death of  Bob Ewell.  I believe in justice, even if it has to be taken, and Bob Ewell got taken out the way he was supposed to whether he did it or Arthur Radley handed it to him, but that is it.  It can be good to read this kind of reality, even if it is grounded in a fiction novel, I feel it was the reality in the world and mind of Harper Lee.

Do I believe that it should remain on the list?  Absolutely, everyone should read it.  My next trip to the bookstore will be to turn it into the next thing that lives on my shelf.

The other thing I will be doing at this time will be to at the same time create my own list, just to see how much work goes into this, and to see what I learn, and am willing to give up along the way.  It will all take years, and I hope some of you are along for the ride.  I suppose this calls for a new permanent notebook…we will see, but the first book on Bjorns list of everyone has to read it, is To Kill A Mockingbird.  I hope you all enjoy it, and if you read it back when that you will go back to it.

 

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A night at the theater…and Jason Bourne **SPOILERS**

While the Ganger enjoys being outside and building fires and such, one of my many facets is that I enjoy going to the movies.  As Katie (had the heart to marry the ganger) always says, if I cannot obsess over it, I will not bother to do it.

Just a fair notice, if you do not care to read about my love of the theater, you can skip down to read about Jason Bourne.

The movie theater is one of those experiences, despite all the garbage that can be involved, I still immensely enjoy.  The cinema is a world unto itself and I enjoy being a part of it.

One of my dreams, one that will probably remain so, is to buy an old world cinema, you know the kind, they look more like an opera house than a place to watch movies.  It would have one screen, a concessions line with popcorn, candy, and some soda, end of story, and I would show old world movies for the pleasure of seeing them that way.

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Some people enjoy this whole thing, me being one of them, but beyond that movies were meant to be viewed that way.  During one of my easily top ten cineman experiences, last year Halloween was released into theaters again during October.  It included and intro from John Carpenter, in which he said that Halloween was not ever meant for home video, as they did not exist really.  If John says watch it at the theater, then do so.  It was amazing, and I still believe that even with home video, something else which I took advantage of early in life, movies at their core are meant to be seen in theaters.

There are some pros and cons though.  Firstly, the people, cell phones are awful.  I do enjoy the new theaters with big cushy reclining chairs.  My left knee, after the army, does not care for being in cramped spaces such as the seats in military vehicles, most back and passenger seats, and cinema seats.  These amazingly spacious seats come at a price, you have waitresses and waiters flitting around during your film, and as the guy whom I chucked some popcorn at learned the hard way, I do not appreciate very bright cell phone lights being used to look at menus.  Secondly, prices are fairly nuts these days, movie, popcorn, and drink, will set you back at least 20$ at least.  Lately some nut cases have chosen these wonderful places in which to unleash their one man terror acts.

I digress though, they are still wonderful places to spend an evening, even if the modern is killing some of their charm.  Myabe one day I will make the actual list of top movie experiences.

** JASON BOURNE REVIEW**  LAST WARNING, SPOILERS

Jason Bourne was my latest trip to the cinema, and I personally was not dissapointed.

What it had: Guns, spies, evil CIA,  car chases and car smashing, a fellow shadow warrior tracking Jason, techno spying, a pretty girl, a previous character who gets greased pretty early on, some flashbacks, and of course Jason himself.

Jason’s mysterious past concerns his father, which while the mystery past stuff was a bit thinner, it was made a bit more personal with daddy and the guy who killed him also being the shadow warrior who wants revenge on Jason.  It twists several times.  Tommy Lee Jones as head of the CIA is not just trying to perform a cover up, this guy was straight evil and he was good at it.  This guy was the devil, and the situation provided for it.  The movie is set post Snowden, post NSA cell phone monitoring, etc.  CIA devil is trying to spy on everyone with what is basically face book.

Part of the reason I seem less than enthused is the fact that I have a hard time accepting new things at first.  I build the timeline of my life out of the constants, be they my favorite possessions, and more often movies and music.  I connect memories and recall them easier based on what I was watching or listening to, and the more often I watched it or listened to it the easier it is to use.  Jason Bourne has been a part of my life since I was 15, and 15-20 was a pivotal time for me.  This new fangle movie almost 10 years later will have to earn its place.

The sad, Julia Stiles longtime character is killed ver early, and thus we bid farewell to the last original character who is not Jason.

Jason, Matt Damon, has aged properly, and that is good.  The hero is not ageless and that is how it should be.  He walked away almost a decade ago.  I will admit tghe underground fighting thing was cool, and fits with his being off the grid.

The larger devious plot to take over facebook seemed stretched in my opinion., had Evil Lee Jones not been willing to kill over it, in an old Cold War way I wouldnt have bought it.

The care chase was much bigger and filled with smashing in a holy crap people died way.

Without ruining it, Jason teaches the new generation not to mess with the original, and exits to Moby’s “Extreme Ways” once again.

All in all it makes up for The Bourne Legacy, its what we should have had.

4/5

Ganger-Bjorn

Where we came from

 

**UPDATE**

I figured out after I wrote this, that the staples brand composition book is fountain pen friendly!! See photo at the bottom.

I want to take you back to a post I did about not forgetting about the value of inexpensive supplies, and leaving behind the idea of calling them junk…now I’m not here to scold anyone today.  Today I want to take you back to your roots, or in the case of many now, the roots of their parents.

First you have to set the mood right.  We are going to go to a great place that sits positioned strategically between the 1980s and 1990s (some from the 90s may have drug this habit into the 2000s with them kicking and screaming.)  We are going back to slide rules and Lisa Frank.  We are headed straight for The Breakfast Club and Full House.  Bring on The Cure and Alice in Chains do what it takes to get yourself there.  Me personally, I can set the scene fairly well by flipping on Family Matters, specifically at night, and hopping in the living room to write, thats my easy switch on the way back machine, but I have a ton of them.

Who knows what those things in my picture are?  Anyone?  See to many of us from the 80s and 90s (90s for me, however the 80s lived strong on television and my mothers music cabinet) those devices served the same purpose as a blog.

Now before we go on I have to tell you that I live by a theory concerning decades.  Here is The Ganger’s (Bledsoe’s) law of the commutation of culture: Each decade is still largely the previous decade until the fourth year of the current decade, and it gets less and less each advancing year.  For instance when FRIENDS (GREATEST SHOW EVER) premiered in 1994, that was the first truly 90s year, and when it finaled in 2004 that was truly the 90s wishing us goodbye.  When Cheers hit in 1982, it was still culturally 50% 1970s, if you do not believe me, go to Netflix, and watch the first episode of Cheers, you will understand.  I explain this theory so that you will understand why Geny Y 90s kids love the 80s, it was exposure, it was a carry over, and we had all of these things.  The true millenials think of Ed, Edd, and Eddy as their re run cartoons of yesteryear.

Before the internet and world wide web and their endless reign started there was the composition book.  How did I get back to it?  Well the story is contained in the photos, which I will photograph for you at the end of this.  The short, I was in a Staples with my Aunt Connie, specifically the staples where I used to buy my school supplies, and we were waiting an excrutiatingly long time for some copies to get made, and so I wandered the aisles.  I layed eyes upon a large and colorful pack of BIC pens, which when combined with the composition book, I first realized they would cost around five dollars, and after that I took the stroll down memory lane.

We used to get one of these every year or so, and this was no ordinary journal, journals we have in plenty, no no no the composition book was where you poured your heart out, and usually only in multi-colored pen.  This was the place to write down your angry songs, your teenage longings about the one which the adults simply could not understand that you really did love so much that it hurt.

Let us not forget the pens either.  This was a process a ritual, turning paper into a stiff crinkly parchment covered in roller ball ink, and engage your senses, there is the smell, the smell of roller ball ink that comes along with the ritual scribing of your deepest thoughts.  Have you broken one out in a while?  The complete experience will have you breaking out Alice in Chains and The Cure before you know it.  I am willing to bet that some of you still have a small stack of these things hidden away, what do yours say?  Where did you take them?

I was very glad that I ended up in that Staples with people who could not make the copy machine work, because in a sea of blackwings and field notes how else would I have been tempted to buy these just to toy with the notes of a blog entry, you see I believe smell to be the strongest sense, and the one best linked to memoryl, and rollerball ink has that distinct scent I keep bringing up.  I am glad I paid for these things, because I took a walk back to crappy songs, bad poems, angst that makes me want to hop in with Mr. Peabody to go kick my own can for being so whiny, all in all a good time.

I encourage every one who has gone down the proverbial rabbit hole with our pens, pencils, and notebooks, and go grungy with one of these just to see how it makes you feel.  I will admit I will have to search for a heavier duty brand, more like the old days, but I almost want to throw these back into my regular notebook rotation.  Grab one, BIC rollerballs, and give the old world “anablog” a try, better yet, go re read your old ones all Harriet the Spy if you still have them.

Ganger Bjorn

P.S. I tried to go for the weird look we wrote in back in the day.

Fountain pen friendly at .99 cents.

Never should we ever…

Right now my adventures, and for that matter my blogging is at a minimum, the semester started just under two weeks ago and the laser focus is back.  That is not to say that college is not an adventure.  I have already taken this farther than you ever could have convinced me back when that I would.  I have committed fully to the experience, minus living in a dorm and such, I am married and have a child after all.  Maybe that is why I always show up to school with a smile on my face, I live with one child, not five thousand adolescents experiencing freedom for the first time.  I am sorry if that seems low, but I have lived in the barracks, it seems to be about the same.

Anyhow I have created a small group of pencil junkies at school.  Two of them asked for care packages when I took my little trip to CW earlier in the month, and they were well provisioned.  Now in all fairness one of those people was Carl.  I already knew Carl, the fact that I applied to the college he works at is pure coincidence.  The other person is Tyler, who graduated right after we met, but we decided we would make such good friends that he drove from Rhode Island to come and see us, talk pencils and watch X-files.

These two are innocent of something I have committed before.  I have witnessed this going on some at school and at various places at large and this is just my take on it.  No matter what our passion or how passionate we are about it, never should we ever be snobs.

I have done it, I probably still do, although I would say I do it in the privacy of my own home, but even then I fight it.  I have recognized my need to be appreciative and thankful and I try to work on it.  That is why I am here, with an exhortation against stationary snobbery.

First let us recognize that many of the pencils, pens and notebooks we love are luxury items from a relative perspective.


It is ok to admit it.  They are luxuries, they are indulgences, they are the exploration of our passion.  We also cannot allow them to be what causes us to belittle something that is ALL that someone else has.  This is not a rant on equality.  It is simply a consideration.  Imagine a middle school child among us whose family keeps them supplied with all their needs school supplies included, but a blackwing is simply out of reach.  That does not mean that we should not write about them, that we should not post pictures of them.  I simply beg that we stop to consider before we describe something that is functional as “cheap” or “garbage.”  Let us consider some of our less expensive utensils and paper.

There is very little to be called fancy about these items.  They are filler paper in a binder, a notebook with no name, and pencils selected from the brands of staples, CVS, office depot, Dixon, and the novelty holiday sort given away at school parties.  They are also the the items who witness the labor and drive of those who want to succeed.  Those who have had the supplies they needed and maybe had to erase a little harder to use the hard red eraser, but wanted to ensure their homework was perfect.  As I said they are not fancy.  The paper has no name, the pencils are mostly named after the store they are bought at, but you can put a point on them and do work.

When I was in school my mother made sure that within reason we got the supplies we wanted when the school year started.  FiveStar and trapper keeper were common, along with boxes of Ticonderoga and Elmer’s.  Now that I am paying for my school supplies I still buy the brands I like for college, but I stare very hard at what a five star notebook costs (and for the price realized I could take school notes on Moleskine) and wondered why my mother didn’t tell me I was insane that paper is paper.

I am not innocent in this.  I must constantly flog myself with the memories of Iraqi children who were living in relocation camps who aside from probably being excited to have enough to eat, could not contain themselves when they found out that we had sent word home that there were schools, but no supplies and people had come through and shipped us boxes and boxes of supplies.  The generosity of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.  This is my exhortation, that before we call something garbage, before we describe it as cheap, that we consider for a moment those who treasure these tools as their own, that they are more careful with their no name number two than we are with a 602 due to having forgotten.

I write this not out of self righteousness, but out of the awareness that I have never shown the gratitude and joy that I saw on the face of a very specific Iraqi girl from the camps when I sat down beside her on the hood of a small broken yellow car in the camp, and from my pack pulled out a small backpack full of supplies for her.  We should live to achieve that kind of satisfaction and appreciation.

Hrolf The Ganger.

The El Casco M-430

Today I joined the erasable podcast community on Facebook.  I began sharing some pictures of Liam and I getting my kit ready for the start of the coming semester.  A member excitedly commented on one of my photos that he had never seen an El Casco in the wild before.  What he was referring to is my El Casco M-430 Desktop Double Burr Handcrank Pencil Sharpener.


Why are they so rare you may ask? The ballpark retail price is around 500$.  That’s a steep price for a pencil sharpener.  Why would anyone engage in this? It is either the best or the cult status of it has everyone convinced it is the best.  I’m going with it is the best.  I learned things I needed to know about my pencils from this pencil sharpener.  Let us start with the beginning of how I learned of them to the end point of owning one.

First I read about it in the book How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees.  I won’t go hunt for the exact quote but Rees described it as one of the three things he owned that cost more than 500$, the other two being his house and car.  This is paraphrasing, hunt the quote if you wish.  He sang this sharpeners praises.  I immediately looked them up and then stopped looking at them.  The price tag was more than I was willing to go in for no matter my great love of pencils.


I started to consistently watch them on eBay and read and Re read the point of the whole thing (pun fully intended) which is that it is the best, it has a window that allows you to watch the pencil being sharpened, it creates a flat and consistent thickness writing point on your pencil, comes with four point settings, suctions to the table, has a telescoping opening for the pencil that will fit just about anything you can feed it and a file on the shavings drawer for customizing those flat points if you must.

 Fast forward some.  It’s on my bucket list to at least try one, one day.  I tell my friends about them as if they are the dream car I will one day but when I’m rich.  I often recieve an “oh geez” from my friend Sarah at school.  My wife went to look at getting one for me for Christmas this year, she saw the price tag and laughed and signed me up for the last big run of the CW Pencil Enterprises pencil of the month club instead, which in my opinion was the better choice, not to impune the El Casco.

I had developed a habit of scanning eBay for them every so often.

  1. There were never many of them, mane three or four at any given time.
  2. They were either perfect or beaten to death, none that were just well loved.
  3. They all started with an opening bid of at least 150$, usually 250$.
  4. They all sold and it was always close to 400$ even for the ones a car had ran over.

Then I came across the one that I have.  Opening bid? 45$.  This can’t be right.  The seller has only 15 feedback, the sharpener was a littler dirty, description read and I quote “good condition” the window appeared scratched beyond repair, and the seller would not respond to any emails about it.  I watched t anyways.  The day came.  I threw a bid in.  One guy bid one time to test the waters.  That was it no more at all, I didn’t even have to fight for it.  In the end I gambled a total of 57$.  I was shocked that I had won.  So imagine my surprise when it arrived in perfect working order and cleaned up with a little windex.  That’s right a fully functioning El Casco M-430 for 57$.  Now for the review.

It weighs 3lbs, you could brain someone with it.  The window is cool, but you can barely ever see the pencils, still cool but you just get a full view of the burrs turning.


There is some pencil on the middle left, that’s about what you see.  The telescoping opening is pretty sweet, I don’t even hold the pencil most of the time.


The suction base works surprisingly well.  It has a lever that you flip over and you can feel it secure to the table as you push the lever down.  Sometimes I have to work to get the sharpener off the table and it leave no damage.


In general the sharpening experience is beyond amazing.  It does what you expect in a perfect world.  It doesn’t continue to eat the pencil like some of the newer ones do, so no wasted pencil, and as you crank it gradually becomes smoother until it feels like you are doing nothing at all.  The best however is the point settings.

It has four.  They vary in graphite exposure length and thickness.  To change them you pull the spring held wheel, rotate the pin into the slot of the pictured point you wish to achieve and that’s it, let go of the wheel.  I will show all four choices.  I am starting with four unsharpened Ticonderoga 2 HB pencils.

Point 1.


Point 2.


Point 3.


Point 4.

As you can see they become progressively shorter and thicker.  Note the flattened points.  This is one of the signatures of this machine.  I have a three hole magnesium hand sharpener that creates something similar.  This is a writing point.  I did not like it at first. Here is what I have learned by putting pencils through the torture test of me learning cursive (a later post).  These points do not break when you put them on the paper where the tip is thin.  These points are thick and strong, less total breaks period, not just less wonky points from where the end crumbled.  These points are not tapered for the most part, so while they start out thicker than a regular point they will remain the same consistent thickness throughout usage, gone are the days of your pencil gradually fattening and destroying your writing style.  Point one is my favorite.  If you feel you must there is a file on the shavings drawer.  It is not a fine grad file and has a learning curve, prepare to experiment.  I have been won over by these points.


No mocking my penmanship, but that point did that for almost three pages.  I am in love with this machine.  Altogether I sharpened 55 pencils with it today.  46 for school, 4 for this review, and 5 because why not.  The metal crank handle will leave you the makings of a callouse if you are marathoning like that.


I do not know what else to say that I haven’t said and I hope this helps your love of this machine or satisfies some of the craving.  If you wish to see one in person stop by CW Pencil Enterprises and observe through the glass the glory that is El Casco.  Enjoy and thank you for reading.

Hrolf the Ganger

Spidey #1 review, spoiler warning.

Reviews cut into reading time which is in preciously short supply these days so I will attempt to be brief.  This review is for Spidey #1 from marvel. Possible spoilers past this point.  I will now place a large picture between you and them. 


If you are a Spider-Man fan, yes this comic is for you.  If you were kind of hoping and wishing that you could go back to the good old days when Spider-Man was in school and things were simpler, yes this comic is for you.  If you have grown tired of worlds where Spider-Man has other Spider-Men all the time and you want a comic that rehashes all the old school story lines, then stop reading this and go grab Spidey.  I will be picking up the second issue tomorrow.  

Here come the spoilers.  Gwen Stacy is alive, but that’s because we are basically back when. She’s not a super hero (as of yet), Flash Thompson isn’t venom and is still just a high school jerk.  Spider-Man is just Peter Parker and to drive that idea home, Otto Octavious shows up havoc style just like the good old days.  Norman Osborne still runs oscorp and kind of talks to a goblin version of himself in the mirror.  Caveat? This is in modern times.  People tweet about Spider-Man.  It is not obnoxious like the current run of batgirl though.  If you think this was spoiler light that’s because this isn’t a long read, it gets down to all that Spider-Man wise cracking we love and makes your heart burst with nostalgia.  

Hrolf The Ganger

 

Savings challenges.

People have been wondering how I do things like fund a random trip by train to New York to go touring for a day and my pencil habit.  I’ll admit I don’t have a specific way…yet.  The pencils themselves came out of my allowance I had saved, and my comic habit suffered a little in exchange.  So be it.  

      First off my wife and I use the envelope system for some things and a budget on the rest.  We run a little bit of investment here and there nothing big, it really amounts to just multiple savings for the time being.  However to do things like randomly adventure it is a good idea to have a side savings, so this is what I looked and found.  The weekly savings challenge and the daily penny challenge.   

 
The weekly challenge starts at 1.00$. The increment increases by a dollar every week.  The idea is that you stuff this amount in a jar.  Now I started a new bank account, and jars (having free checking will help the bank account part.)  The amount does start to get higher, by the time you’ve done half of this you are putting 26$ in a week and it keeps growing.  The touted savings after one year is 1378.00$ which is nothing to scoff at. 

     The penny challenge is daily.  It starts at 0.01$ and doubles everyday.  This is where the envelope system and doing our allowances in cash comes in handy.  We already have a decent stash of change on hand to carry this out, but I am guessing that it will evaporate pretty quickly into those jars as the amounts go up.  I am doing the jar and bank account for this one as well.  The savings at the end of it is supposed to be 667.95$.  This is also a decent little savings.  

  However these are challenges, and these are the difficulties I see coming.

  1. Remembering to do something daily or weekly is usually a short lived challenge.
  2. Having the correct amounts on hand for your jar.  There are a lot of very odd numbers on the penny challenge.  I would advise not to be afraid of doing a small amount of rounding to make it work with whole dollars if possible or even to the next change increment I.E. Turning 1.11-1.19 all into 1.20.  
  3. Having the cash on hand as well for the weekly one, even if you use an ATM you get whole larger bills, you will have to be willing in both cases to not be afraid to inconvenience a cashier for change when you are already checking out.  
  4. Again just keeping up with it, I am putting the checklists next to my calendar so that I see them everyday.  
  5. If you use a new bank account make sure you have free checking with no minimum amount and no monthly fee as this could quickly kill your savings.

     It will be a pain and towards the middle of the weekly one the amounts may even become a challenge.  If you can pull both of these off though you will have saved 2045$ after a year. This is my plan for future adventures.  You can use it for whatever you like though, saving for a down payment, vacation, an investment (my bank asks for a 1000$ minimum to start most investment funds.). I wish you the best of luck and I hope this helps you fund and plan adventures and that it is fun along the way. 

Hrolf The Ganger

Tea with a friend.

Yesterday I told you about pencils from friends.  Today I write of tea with a friend.   

      When my friend Janet brought me a pencil on Sunday she didn’t just bring a pencil, she brought me a bag of one of my other great loves, and that was a bag of tea.   

      Tea is on that great list of things that can make any situation more enjoyable.  Whether it is simply something to share over conversation, or you are sharing it with a buddy in a war torn foreign land, there is always a place for tea.  Janet brought me a bag of “Afghani Chai” from the Boston general store.  She also brought me a very beautiful wire tea strainer. 

      I am always deeply moved when my friends are happy to have found something that they think that I would enjoy because they know of my obsessions.  It makes me wish I was better at finding little things for people on my travels.  Then I realize that I do get to share with my friends.  When they come over they are promptly served the tea or coffee of their choice made by me.  If they take an interest in the pencils they are sent home with a couple of lovelies.  Even if they are paying for a bag of pencils from my travels I stick blackwings on top of it just because it is the best I have to give.  Tea can make any situation better, but the only thing that can make tea better is the company you drink it with.  I cannot wait to serve this to Janet.  

     When I make tea, like everything else, it has a process a ritual I enjoy following.  Sometimes if there is time I enjoy breaking out the moleskine notebook tea journal and using my poor skills to fully evaluate that tea.   

     Pencils from friends are the best, but the best tea is with friends.  My most memorable cups to date.

  1. Anytime my wife and I sit quietly with a cup.
  2. Sitting with Robert Penvose on our fob being served the local brew at an Iraqi cafe.
  3. The thermos full of tea on cold army mornings.
  4. Serving cups by the half dozen to my friends when it is my turn to host tabletop game night.  
  5. Tea with the boys on poker night, there is nothing Devon cannot appreciate.
  6. My grandmothers sweet tea every time I’m home.
  7. Recreating the Iraqi brew for a professor and classmates.
  8. My constant companion of the thermos accompanying my during my current adventure called college.

The list grows. Sit down with a friend, share a cup, and don’t forget to warm the pot. 

Hrolf the ganger.  

Pencils from friends.

I am finally getting around to this, I have a friend in France.  She is the daughter of part of the church family (not excluding her from it) and she has done amazingly well after college getting to teach English in France after college.  When she was setting off I had one request.  My request was a rather tall order to fill in my mind…”I would like some pencils from France please.”  

     After that the waiting begins, however her family visited over Christmas and hinted that they had a package for me!  Not only did she come through in fine fashion, but she got me the extra gift of a very nice little pencil bag made by Elba and a staedtler stick eraser to go with them.   

       The bag’s company I think is funny only to a history nerd…French pencil bag…made by Elba? Bwahahahahahahaha.  Anyhow, the bag has already supplanted my normal locking pencil case as part of my everyday kit.  It had a nice little note in it.   

       I was ridiculously eager to translate the bottom.  In fact I was so eager that as I sat down ralphie style to decode this my brain decided to let go of it’s crude grasp of most Latin based languages and I was actually surprised when I read the translation “a bag for your pencils.”  I still love it, I have not bothered to remove the tag, I believe I will keep it where it belongs.  I wanted to thank my friend again, and tell you to read her blog as well.  Kaitlinplachy.wordpress.com.  I love that some of them aren’t even French, what they are is popular.  These (I believe) are what the children and faculty of the school she teaches at use.  The Noris is the most popular European pencil my research shows.  What my friend did was not to simply find manufactures, but she stretched out her cultural feelers and found me cultural artifacts.  That is almost intoxicating in an anthropological way.

      I even showed how special these pencils were by giving one away.  I had six of the staedtler noris.  The day I got them one of my friends (Nicole) told me that she was unsarcastically enjoying my pencil blog.  She was rewarded with one of my favorite new things.

     As people learn of your love of great graphite they will begin to surprise you with pencils.  Today another woman at church surprised me with a French pencil, bought in Boston.  It is all black and made by La Compagnie Du Kraft.  Upon looking this unique object up, I now believe they don’t sel it, they included it with a special edition of a notebook, which makes it rarer.  

     I have decided that the best pencils are not the ones that you buy as expensive treats or have some rare feature.  The best pencils are pencils from friends who wanted to give you a smile for the day.  

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