Black Waterman Hemisphere #FountainPenFriday

Black Waterman Hemisphere #FountainPenFriday

My black Waterman Hemisphere is the most expensive fountain pen I own.

black waterman hemisphere

Black Waterman Hemisphere

Our second #FountainPenFriday features my most expensive pen, a black Waterman Hemisphere. As mentioned in first installment of this series, I lose pens. I leave them lying around and forget to pick them up. I’ve been known to walk away from dinner at the bar of a restaurant like Marcella’s in Columbus, Ohio, leaving the pen sitting there. It’s why I regularly carry pens that cost less than twenty dollars.

Keeping a good pen

Black Waterman hemisphere

Refillable cartridges allow the writer a wider selection of ink colors.

I belonged to a chapter of Business Network International (BNI) in the early 2000s. Writing occupied my time, both course development for clients and working on the streetcar book. Since attending BNI meetings became part of my regular routine, looking professional was important. A good pen projects a professional appearance. While the risk of losing a pen always dogged me, attending events around New Orleans made it easier to keep track of them. Hanging on to a fountain pen is actually pretty easy. When asked, “May I borrow your pen?” the answer, “All I have is a fountain pen” facilitated a polite way to decline. So, I splurged and bought a hundred-dollar pen.


black waterman hemisphere

Refilling with basic blue Waterman ink.

Stores like Office Depot offered a decent selection of fountain pens, Waterman’s selected provided me with choices within $100-$200. Paranoia about losing pens ruled the moment. I chose one on the lower end of the price range.

My black Waterman Hemisphere is skinny. Hemispheres fit nicely in a shirt pocket. Ink cartridges served me well at first. After a while, however, desire to change it up more nudged me into bottled ink. I bought a couple of refillable cartridges at the store. Now I could alternate between blue and red. As you saw last week, I’ve branched out beyond Waterman ink, thanks to my friend (and next week’s #FountainPenFriday guest blogger, Jeff Rochlin, host of The Relief Valve Podcast.

My black Waterman Hemisphere sits on my desk these days. That’s a good place for it, since most of the work is via remote now. And I still don’t take it with me out of the house much. I might lose it!

Rosewood BMHS Pen – #FountainPenFriday

Rosewood BMHS Pen – #FountainPenFriday

An inexpensive Rosewood BMHS pen kicks off our #FountainPenFriday series

rosewood bmhs pen

Rosewood BMHS Pen

rosewood bmhs pen

Every year, Brother Martin High School hosts their “Extravaganza,” an evening of food, drink, music, and dancing, wrapped around a huge silent auction. Prior to the Extravaganza itself, the school holds a “patron party” a couple of hours before the main event. Since this party was a gig for the Crusader Jazz Band, we paid up. We didn’t want to miss our now-26yo kiddo (class of 2012) playing a band gig!

rosewood bmhs pen

Because patron party attendees put up extra for more food, more drink, and the Jazz Band, they receive a party favor. It’s usually some sort of branded memento. A few years ago, that memento was a small desk set, with a rosewood pen and letter opener. Both items were laser-carved with the school’s shield and name. Somewhere along the line, my firstborn (class of 2006) swiped the rosewood BMHS pen that came with the set. One Fall, I mentioned the theft to the family. Wife went out on Amazon and bought me a rosewood fountain pen to once again complete the set.

Inexpensive Fountain Pens

I’ve been in love with fountain pens since my University of New Orleans days. I was pen-less one day, right before a test. So, I went to the UNO Bookstore to pick up an inexpensive pen. I chose a plastic UNO-branded Paper-Mate pen. It was on sale, and when I got to class, I discovered why. It was a fountain pen! While that wasn’t exactly what I wanted, it worked. I hung on to that pen for twenty-five years, losing it in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

When I began traveling extensively, delivering computer training in different cities, I didn’t want to bring an expensive pen with me. So, I bought cheap fountain pens like that UNO pen. Lose one? I’ll survive. Over time, I upgraded a bit, opting for heaver pens of better quality. As eBay grew in popularity, I discovered it was easy to buy cheap, serviceable pens.

Completing the set

I keep the rosewood pen here on my desk at home. Since it was a gift, I’d hate to lose it.

Personal Log 20200526 – Ops Center, 1862

Personal Log 20200526 – Ops Center, 1862

Personal Log 20200526 has me preparing for more computer classes.

Electrical box at N. Carrollton and Wisner, painted by Jane Brewster.

Personal Log 20200526

I’ve been fortunate during our slowdown/lockdown/shutdown period. People take training when they can’t go anywhere. That’s obviously good for the trainer. Tip of the hat to the folks that market training from Hitachi Vantara’s Global Learning group. They seized the opportunity. Pitching customers, rounding up groups, grabbing Technical Consultants with too much free time.

It helps that Hitachi dropped a new suite of management software at the start of the year. We prepared for this in the fall. The folks implementing that software know to sign up for classes. Problem is, a lot of their bosses pull the plug on their people being away from the phone for more than fifteen seconds. I may have eight to ten folks signed up, and we start class with six. I suppose there’s an argument for that as a positive, as the other two to four end up in a later class.

Either way, I’m keeping busy.

Working under quarantine

“Busy” means sitting in front of the computer, talking to my own screen, using WebEx. Still making my own coffee, which is the biggest downside to the deal. I feel my people-watching skills atrophy, as we keep this up. Even on a teaching day, I got an hour to an hour and a half of sitting out on the coffee shop patio. While I didn’t mind the (relatively) close contact of the nearby regulars, now, well, not so much. I take this high-risk condition seriously.

I managed to go out to see the trains go by a couple of times this past week. Since Friday was a “lab day,” where I didn’t have lectures scheduled, Watching the Sunset Limited make its way past Central Avenue in Old Jefferson is theraputic. I’m back to trying different locations for train watching. Sitting out and watching trains pass by the Canal Blvd. underpass is easy. Now, I’m going into City Park, and back over to where the tracks cross Bayou St. John. Time to get some cemetery perspective this week, I think.

History work

Two things coming up. I pitched Derby the idea of doing a “panel discussion” via Zoom. We’ve we’ve got the subject matter worked out. I want Mark Bologna to be the moderator, as if it was a classic panel at a symposium or gathering. Mark will lend some gravitas to the thing that goes beyond Derby and I sitting at yet another coffee shop.

I also need to set up something with Ryan Bordenave! He’s such a fount of downtown knowledge. Every time I post a photo of Canal Street, Ryan’s got something to say about it that enhances the discussion. Setting that up is on this week’s to-do.


The poetry goes well. In fact, a couple of photos that Derby’s shared on social media sparked some of the verse. I’m behind on posting them here on the website. Too many WordPress rabbit holes that are more fun to go down.


Today is 26-April. It’s the day that sailors and marines from the USS Pensacola took down the “state flag” of Louisiana that was used during the “secession year” from the US Mint on Esplanade. They hoisted the US flag in its place. Then a man named Mumford pulled it down. Butler had him executed for that offense. Mumford is recognized as a martyr to the (Lost) Cause. It’s important to remind those folks that he pulled down the flag (well, a version with fewer stars) that they, their fathers, and their grandfathers went off to Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East, to fight under. Way too many folks grew up on a diet of the Lost Cause as fact. I’ll keep plugging.


Noodler’s Ink and Social Distancing

Noodler’s Ink and Social Distancing

Noodler’s Ink is my latest fountain pen dalliance.

noodler's ink

Noodler’s Ink

I enjoy writing with fountain pens. I like to keep three with me, one filled with black or blue ink, one with red, and a third with green or purple. Waterman ink works fine for me. A few weeks back, though, my friend Jeff mentioned buying some older pens at a show in Los Angeles. He also bought ink from a company I’d not heard of, Noodler’s. One of the inks he bought was “54th Massachusetts” blue.

My ears perked up, because Union uniforms at the time of the Southern Rebellion were a nice shade of blue. So, I bought a bottle.

noodler's ink

“54th Massachusetts” blue ink from Noodler’s.

The shade of blue is indeed nice!

The 54th Massachusetts

This regiment is the focus of the movie, “Glory.” The 1989 movie tells the story of the formation of the regiment, up through the Battle of Fort Wagner, one of the fortifications protecting the harbor at Charleston, SC. The 54th Massachusetts lost 270 of its approximately 600 members that day. So, I like the notion of thinking back on the sacrifices made by these men. I also think to the times I’ve stopped at the monument plaque on the wall of Boston Common that honors the regiment.

Social Distancing

noodler's ink

As a concept, working to flatten the curve on COVID-19 isn’t all that tough for me. Most of my teaching these days is via remote. So, I’m able to train up enterprise storage professionals without breathing on or touching them. My writing is usually a solo endeavor, with the exception of back-and-forth texting with Lady Duchess of the Red Pen. While I wouldn’t mind sharing a table with Lady Duchess, distance keeps me from breathing on her as well.

So, I’m doing my part here. I’ve never been big on crowds. Since I appreciate how much y’all will miss FQF, I’ll survive. Let’s hope keeping some distance between ourselves keeps us out of that overall two percent fatalities for this thing.


USS Topeka SSN-754 New Navigator!

USS Topeka SSN-754 New Navigator!

USS Topeka SSN-754 gets a new Navigator this week.

USS Topeka SSN-754

Fast-attack submarine USS Topeka, underway. (Photo from the Topeka’s Facebook Page)

USS Topeka SSN-754

LT Firstborn was home for the holidays, having completed the Submarine Officer Advanced Course (SOAC) at Naval Submarine Base New London. We brought him to the airport this morning, and he’s off to Naval Base Guam, which is the home port of the USS Topeka SSN-754. The Topeka is a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine. These submarines formed the backbone of the US Navy’s attack submarine force for the last forty years. While some of the 688s (as they’re known) were upgraded to extend their service lives, the USS Virginia-class boats phase them out.

USS Topeka SSN-754

Insignia of the USS Topeka SSN-754 (US Navy drawing)

The USS Topeka SSN-754 entered service on 23-January-1988. That makes the boat six months older than LT Firstborn! The Lieutenant did his “junior officer” tour on the USS Alexandria SSN-757. So, it was logical for him to go back to sea on a 688.


USS Topeka SSN-754

USS Topeka entering the harbor at Naval Base Guam, December, 2019. (US Navy photo)

LT Firstborn surprised me by choosing Naval Base Guam as his home port. He opted for that base over a position as Engineer. He had several reasons for this choice. Because Guam is so forward (in relation to Pearl Harbor or San Diego), the boats there go out for a few weeks and then return to port. The boats assigned to US ports often go out for as long as six months as a time. By choosing Guam, he gets to sleep in his apartment more often.

His other motivation for Guam is travel. Hopefully things will remain stable enough that he’ll be able to visit places like Tokyo, Bangkok, and other interesting Asian destinations.

The path to Guam

us army CGSC

Arms of the US Army Command and General Staff College (Army image)

So, LT Firstborn was commissioned as an Ensign (O-1), after completing OCS. He received promotion to Lt. Junior Grade (O-2) while in the various schools required of a submarine officer. As a LTJG, he served on the Alexandria. He received promotion to Lieutenant while on that boat. Then came his three-year “shore tour.” He served at NSA Saratoga Springs in upstate New York for two years. Then came a year at the US Army Command and General Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Next came SOAC, to get him and other O-3s ready to return to the fleet as senor officers.

Navigator of USS Topeka SSN-754

uss topeka ssn-754

Insignia for a Lieutenant (O-3), US Navy (Navy image)

Submarines such as the USS Topeka SSN-754 have a Captain and an Executive Officer, who hold the rank of Commander (O-5). Under them are three “department heads,” They command three departments, Engineering, Navigation, and Weapons. The Engineer is usually promoted to Lt. Commander (O-4) when assuming the job. The other two department heads are Lieutenants (O-3). They receive promotion during the tour. LT Firstborn joins Topeka as its Navigator. He’ll be responsible for 30-40 sailors, three or four Chiefs, and a couple of junior officers. He’ll be responsible for bringing the boat in and out of port, underway navigation, and ship’s communications. He will also stand watch as needed, as Officer of the Deck and as Engineering Duty Officer, as needed.


I am so proud of this young man! I do hope we’ll get to go out to Guam to visit. Better still, if the boat puts into Pearl Harbor at a time when we only have to go that far. It was so good to have him home for even a short time. Now I’m back to teaching and writing.

Personal Log 20191123

Personal Log 20191123

personal log 20191123

Arwen is getting SO BIG!

Personal Log 20191123

Taking a moment to catch my breath. It’s been a crazy week. I had a hardware class for HitachiVantara Global Learning on the schedule for some time, but then I was asked by Megan Holt of “One Book New Orleans” if I’d be interested in presenting a talk on “Personal Websites for Authors” at this year’s Words and Music New Orleans festival. I jumped on it! So, I planned the teaching week to get the lecture material for the course done by Thursday. Home on Southwest Thursday night, then out to the Ace Hotel for the festival yesterday morning.

Teaching Brits

Not a bad plan overall, but there’s often a complication. I got an email last week asking me to teach a class to a group of folks from the UK. It was a two-day class (Monday and Tuesday), via WebEx. So, it wasn’t a logistical conflict. I delivered the UK class from 0400 to 0830ish EST, from Columbus, OH, site of the hardware class. No problem, I thought, go to bed early on Sunday night, get up at 0330 Monday, do the deed. Rinse and repeat on Tuesday.

It wasted me. I’m not as young as I used to be, and spent most of Tuesday yawning. Fortunately, I was able to stay awake and coherent for the face-to-face class! I went to a pizza place down High Street from the hotel, had some beer, and a calzone, and went to bed early again. Wednesday, slept to the late hour of 0700! Anyway, I’m back on track by Saturday.

Websites for Authors

personal log 20191123

Reviewing the talk at the coffee shop, Friday morning.

The talk at Words and Music New Orleans went well, I think. This was the second time I’ve presented this material. The first was at the Jefferson Parish Library (Hi, Chris Smith!).  When I do a history talk, there’s a lot of interaction and audience feedback. Ooohs and Ahhhs on various old photos. Someone will chime in with an anectode or two.

When I present on websites, the audience is quiet. They appear to be attentive, but they’re quiet. I’m good at reading classrooms and audiences, but even the computer nerds are more animated than these folks. The feedback after the talk at the library was solid. Folks came up and thanked me for the information. Others asked specific questions, one-on-one. During the talk? Silence.

I’m thinking this topic attracts writers who really don’t know much about the mechanics of website development. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. I’m thinking this merits discussion and such here on my site.