The Cheap Fountain Pen with the Expensive Look: Jinhao 159

Followers of this blog will know that I like, and use, fountain pens for my writing. They are economical on the ink, friction-less and beautiful writing tools. They are also temperamental, get ink on your hands and cost a lot depending on what you buy.

Instead of talking about my most expensive pen, a TWSBI Diamond 580, I am going to talk about my cheapest pen, because it is one that I use daily and is a joy to write with.


Chinese pen manufacturer Jinhao has been making many interesting and affordable pens that you can find on sights like eBay. Some are outlandish, others classic. The pen that I heard about was the Jinhao 159.


This pen is big! It’s also heavy and made of metal-every bit of it except the pistol ink compartment which is better left to plastics anyhow. If you are a person who likes FAT grip pens then this is one you might like. The best thing about this pen? It only cost $2, which included shipping!


I’m not sure what they are going for now, but that is what I ordered mine for on eBay about 4 years ago. The nib is nice and has the Jinhao chariot engraved on it, but for myself I wanted a thinner line and swapped it out for a Velvetouch nib from the 40’s. It takes the standard big #6 size nibs which are fairly common so swapping out and experimenting means you can find the combination that works for you. The grip, feed, nib and ink pistol all come apart effortlessly so you can clean or change something yourself.

Since it is a copy of the well known Mont Blanc signature pen used when presidents and prime ministers are signing treaties, it can fool people into believing you have a much more expensive writing tool.


For $2 how can you lose!

Keep writing, no matter what you write with, just keep writing.


Yellow Raspberries

A good 6 years ago my wife and I were looking for flowers at a spring festival when I found yellow raspberries for sale. We got them, and a fig tree too, and I planted them in a deep long pot. They grew like crazy and eventually we moved them to our new home where they are growing in a nook of my yard.


Yellow raspberries you say? Well they are the best tasting raspberries I have ever had, especially when they get to about a peach pink color. I should know raspberries, I grew up eating them in New York, picking them in the abandoned fields and then also in the woods in Maine as a teenager. During the rainy season the humidity shows you just how sweet they are-they will start to mold almost immediately as the sugar content is so high.


Here in Ishikawa we often see raspberries twice a year, around late May-early June then again when the weather cools in early November some appear. The stalks with bark on them will give you the berries as the green stalks will not produce flowers until they are mature. I am planning to propagate them into big pots and increase the yield next year so I can eat them more often. As raspberries don’t all come ripe at the same time the effect of picking a few every day for a month is what makes them so memorable.

In fact, I can’t wait for my next bite!


Keep writing, and seeing the flavors of the world.


I know I am selfish. No real question about that part of my personality. My intention of this post is not a pity party, windge-fest, look-at-bad-me. It’s intention is merely self reflective, introspective and trying to find the honest truth-then move forward.


Married life is one of the best places to see your own faults. It intensifies and ferments what is under the surface until it can explode. That is why many married couples have such blow ups. My own personality and that of my wife are similar and that leads me to see how selfish and dumb I can be.

So what do I mean by selfish? Basically I don’t think about others with the compassion and care they deserve. This is especially true the closer a person is in relation to me.

I should be fulfilling my wife’s dreams. Being the best father for my daughter. But so often I am thinking about my next book or my next big stress in my job. The longer I’m married the less we do as a couple. I put this down to my own insensitivity and lack of seeking to make my family the center.

I once said I would make my wife’s life exciting and different than she expected, well maybe that is a promise I have not kept yet. She married a foreigner, but that is not enough. We have fallen into the work-a-day mid-life slump where my own focus has shifted. What to do?

Think of others needs.

Untangle what is important from what is trivial and useless.

Make life better for others, help their dreams to flower even if means I lose out.

Be happy when other people are happy.


Selfishness is a self-affirming cycle and I am thankful I have prayer in my life. What? Yeah, well I believe prayer has helped me realize my own weakness, because when I talk with God and listen to myself I see how foolish and petty I am. Coupled with the Bible I can see what priorities really do matter and in praying for others needs it subtracts “me” from the center. I am thankful that God listens. Answered prayer has shown me God works, selfishness blocks our ability to appreciate this point.

Writing is in its own way selfish if it doesn’t lead us in the right direction. I write partly because I have to, but that excuse aside I write to better my family and friends. And all of you out there in the blog reading and writing world. I hope this Sunday (the day of the week this was posted) you will look at the needs of others and find how to put them first. Write a love letter to your spouse, take your child for a walk, write something to encourage a friend. You have one life, live it with others in mind.

Keep writing.


Cards for English Teachers

When it comes to cards for teaching, two companies come to mind: Trend and School Zone. Both of these produce excellent cards for their cost and will last you years of useful service.


Trend is the leader of the card war because they have a huge volume of cards to chose from. Their boxed sets of sight words, word families and verb cards are sets every English teacher should have for teaching ESL. The boxes protect and keep the cards from getting lost/damaged while the double sided format makes them flexible for reading practice.

I would say though, stay away from the set vocabulary-like opposites- as these are not a good cost to value product. The card sets can be used easily, but I have found any matching set type product to be hard to use in lessons and the number of cards to cost is dramatically skewed.


School Zone relies on drawings instead of photographs, but because they offer more game based cards they are a very valid company to check out. Their sets include some important vocabulary, especially adjectives, that aren’t found on Trend cards. Games like Go Fish Alphabet are a must for small classes, not only for the letter reading, but the review of animal names that go along with the game.

Cards, like any item in a classroom, are a tool for teachers. How you use them is where the students learn. Having the best cards you can gives you the best chance to impact and improve their ability to use the target language. I highly recommend both of these companies for the products they produce in cards.

Keep writing, and teaching-that’s good too!

Revamping an Old Computer as a Writing Machine


My in-laws bought a new computer and didn’t know what to do with their old one, so I took it off their hands. The 2006 Fujitsu FMV Biblo has a Celeron M, 20 gigs of HD space and maybe 1.5 gigs of RAM. I set out to find the best Linux bistro to use on it.

I first installed Ubuntu 16 which turned out to be a big mistake. I like Ubuntu and what they are doing with their Unity desk top environment, but it taxed the devil out of the old beasts hardware.


I thought about using Lubuntu, which would have been a good choice in retrospect, but instead found LXLE a stripped down version that has a nice desktop, uses very little RAM resources and takes up a minuscule chunk of the existing HD. It even comes with Audacity and some video editing software pre-installed which I thought was a nice touch.

blog gif file screenshots

One of the best things about this desktop is a rather vain point, but it is the wallpaper gallery. I know that sounds really lame, right? However the pictures really work with the environment and are better than anything I have seen on any other OS-and this one is free!

So why did I choose to reformat the old compy anyhow? I wanted a non-internet accessed laptop that I would use ONLY for writing and editing. To that end I have kept it off line and only made files based on documents. It has been reverted to a WORK machine instead of an ENTERTAINMENT device. If it wasn’t for the fact the battery is never going to work again and you wouldn’t be able to use it without plugging it in someplace, I would want the newest, coolest thing. But those are made to be connected on-line and I feel that takes away from the point of why I am writing.

No I do not need to check my facts every 5 seconds. I have a brain that can take notes and check them later-when they are moved to my BIG computer to be printed. I do not need to email, chat or send copies to people on FB. I need to write, and like my Alphasmart Neo, this computer was formatted to do just what I set out to do. On top of that it looks cool-so no complaints!

Whatever you need to do-keep writing!