Blue Iguana in Affinity Designer

Iguana graphic drawn in Affinity Designer

No, the iguana isn’t actually blue, but I thought it could do with a touch of something to break up the yellow-greens. (And frankly, titling drawings isn’t my strong suit). I started drawing this iguana in Affinity Designer a year or two ago, decided to work on it yesterday (because COVID-19, and because the dog wanted me to sit on the sofa with her), couldn’t remember what settings I was using for the black line work, and ended up just adding the color bits today.

I was pretty happy with the end result, given that it will always, always be unfinished, but holy hell did it get wrecked every time I tried to export an SVG from Affinity Designer! It got wrecked when I exported from my iPad (where it was drawn), and it got wrecked when I saved it to iCloud then exported from my iMac.

So, PNG, it is. Finite dimensions are go.

My wallet’s unwilling to open up for Illustrator.

My attention span’s unwilling to spend time figuring out if I exported incorrectly.

And imaginary iguanas are unwilling to conform to anyone else’s sense of color.

My Pilot Kaküno Demonstrator Collection

Pilot Kaküno demonstrator fountain pens customized with Kaweco Sport N Pen clips
Pilot Kaküno demonstrator fountain pens in extra fine (times two!), fine, and medium; filled with Namiki black, Iroshizuku Yama-budo, Iroshizuku Juro-jin, and Namiki black (again), respectively. The clips attached to them are Kaweco Sport N Pen clips color-coordinated to indicate the pen’s nib size (chrome = EF, bronze = F, black = M).

My wife and I each have a small collection of fountain pens. Neither of us owns anything that would be considered expensive, as far as fountain pens go, but we’re both happy with (most of ) the pens that we have. We also recently signed up to an email list for the Orange County Pen Club, and we had every intention of attending the March meeting, until the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 in Southern California smashed first our intentions and then the meeting, itself.

I’ll be honest, though: I felt a little insecure about showing up to a gathering of fountain pen enthusiasts with our collections in tow. The most expensive pen we own is my wife’s Pilot Prera (which she doesn’t actually like very much; it needs an adjustment to improve its flow). We would be frauds if we passed ourselves off as actual collectors, rather than enthusiastic users. We would be liars if we said that we knew how to adjust that tight Prera without ruining the nib. We would be dishonest if we implied that we had any intention of buying pens that we don’t intend to write with.

And I’m a picky writer. I always have been. I was picky about my writing tools before I started using fountain pens, and I’m picky about them now. I like Japanese extra fine nibs made of steel. I like lightweight pens. I like pens which allow me to easily see how much ink they have inside them. I don’t like gold-toned trim. I like pens with metal clips (even if I have to install the clip myself), and I like for my pens to be ready to write as soon as I’ve filled them.

Pilot Kaküno nibs in EF, F, and M, with various degrees of nib creep.
Pilot Kaküno nibs in EF, EF, F, and M. Some are creepier than others (The M sees very little use.)

(For the uninitiated: When you fill a fountain pen with an ink cartridge, you have to wait for the ink inside the cartridge to start making its way down into the pen’s feed. This can take more time than I’m willing to wait. When you fill a pen via converter, ink is pulled up from the bottle, through the feed, into the converter, and it’s ready to write, no waiting required.)

I have six Kakünos in my collection, two of which are not demonstrators. I also have one Pilot Plumix, used for writing letters to friends and family, one Monami Olika, and one Platinum Preppy. I only see my fountain pen collection growing through two pathways: I keep adding EF Kaküno demonstrators to hold different inks, or Pilot makes and markets a lightweight demonstrator Vanishing Point with a “special alloy” nib.

And as for the wife? Let me quote her:

I’m happy with my Metropolitan.

(She prefers smoothness to feedback and actually likes heavy pens. If you could see me, you’d see that I’m shrugging.)

We still want to check out that pen club once the COVID-19 crisis is over. We may be playing above our level by doing so, but I think we both hope that meeting other people who love fountain pens will expand our horizons, even as our collections remain constrained.

At Home With the Wife, Thank Tao

I’m almost always at home. Linda has been at home since Wednesday, and it’s a good change. I feel a little guilty for enjoying her presence (given the reason that I have her here to enjoy: the COVID-19 outbreak in Southern California), but I’m enjoying it nonetheless. My heart rate variability—as measured by my Apple watch—has gone up. I’m less anxious. I’m losing weight. (This may be due to panic-induced food rationing.) I make a much better breakfast at 8AM than I do at 5:45.

I want to believe that when/if this novel corona virus has been controlled/contained, Linda will continue to be able to telework, but I know that won’t happen.

Linda is a data analyst in a healthcare setting. She’s been working from home for years now, on weekends, on her days off, and in the evening when she gets home from the office. She worked pretty much anytime she was awake while the organization was implementing Epic. She’s been working way too much since then to implement Tableau for her group.

But she still had to spend 8-hour days in the office, after non-essential businesses in Orange County had been shut down, up until March 25th. The organization she works for is unquestionably essential, and she’s essential to that organization. But I don’t think I’ll ever accept that her physical presence in the office for that week or two, increasing her risk of exposure to the virus, was essential.

My personal joy and annoyance over Linda’s work aside, I want this to end. I want it to end soon. I want the restrictions on business and social activities to last as long as they need to in order to flatten that COVID-19 curve; but I want it to end as quickly—with as few deaths and illnesses as possible—as it can.

If the powers that be see fit to continue to let Linda work from home afterward, that’ll be a nice bonus dollop on the huge serving of relief that I’m more than ready to stick a fork in.

If not?

I’ll still compliment the chef on that main dish.

For My Friend, Jenny, Who Doesn’t Know What a Kabocha Is

Kabocha melon, Kabocha squash, or Japanese pumpkin
Kabocha melon, Kabocha squash, or Japanese pumpkin; whatever you call it, this gourd makes a great alternative to pie pumpkin, butternut squash, and yes, even potatoes!

Don’t feel bad! I had never heard of kabocha, either, before I moved to California! Pumpkins, yes. Spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, summer squash, crookneck squash, and zucchini? You betcha! But kabocha? No. And if I had heard of either “kabocha” or “kabocha melon”, I certainly wouldn’t have assumed that either name for this Cucurbita referred to a type of squash.

But then I got a little adventurous on a night out at Izakaya Honda-Ya in Fullerton—before it became Poke Express by Honda Ya—and had my first taste of Japanese pumpkin. I still have a preference for smallish, orange, pie pumpkins—with their Halloween looks and “real” pumpkin flavor—but when the stores around Anaheim and Fullerton stop stocking those little balls of autumnal cuteness, and kabocha squash is still available, I flip that preferred pumpkin switch from Jack O’ Lantern to Japanese.

Wikipedia says that kabocha melon is “is similar in texture and flavor to a pumpkin and sweet potato combined.” I can’t verify that for myself (and I do not like sweet potatoes, so consider that lack of verification a positive), but I will say that texturally, the kabocha I’ve cooked at home have had a mouthfeel that reminded me a bit of baked, white potatoes, and—confusingly—also a bit of beans. There’s a thick, flaky, carby texture to it that always makes me wonder if the nutritional information I’ve found online for kabocha squash might be inaccurate. My eyes take in the 6 net grams of carbohydrate (total carbs minus fiber), but mouthfeel says “Yeah, no. Double that. At least.”

The info I have is the info I have, though, and since I’m not about to start guessing carb content based on the texture of various fruits and vegetables, kabocha melon is still on the menu at my house. And until I notice a significant blood sugar rise (or crash) in response to eating it (or my poor, carb-deprived wife stops loving when I serve kabocha), it’ll stay right there, in all it’s orange-fleshed, weird-textured, buttered-up glory.