On pens

I'm always happy when novelists can use something other than beverage preference in order to set their characters apart. For instance, when I read that a certain character just love espresso, fine, they love espresso. If they love beer, fine. But what would be more revealing? For me, I like to know what kind of writing utensils a person prefers--mini-pencils, 12-to-a-pack Bics, Bakelites, or what? I usually keep pens in bulk, as they're constantly migrating away from me. Pens and hair ties I would never be able to collect because I lose them in such mass quantities.

I know some people who are more protective of their pens than their pin numbers. You might be granted permission to use said pen, but if it isn't back in its spot, you're going to hear about it. For me, I like Bic Fine Rollers, or really any pen that boasts slightly viscous ink. I like the kind of ink that will start bleeding if you stop writing. I can't stand barely-there ink, or pens that make writing feel like engraving wood. If you're between pens, the Fountain Pen Network has a list of reviews. Until I can track down a Stylographic (Mark Twain obsessed over this one for a bit) I'm going to start pre-gaming for the next Los Angeles Pen Show.

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.


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