Saturday, December 29, 2012

Show and mail? Snow and mail!

Keep calm and send postcards

Last spring some folks at the National Postal Museum started a groovy Twitter hashtag, #showandmail. The concept was similar to "show and tell:" show us what you've mailed! I love seeing photos of mail, and it was a fun way to see quickly what other folks were sending and receiving. (Especially cool for those who don't have a mail blog to be able to share an instantaneous photo.) I did a blog post about it back in April when I first got into it, and all my posts that I subsequently tweeted about are tagged with #showandmail here on my blog. It was really hot Twitter hashtag for a while, but it's sort of died off lately.

The Letter Writers Alliance did a nice post recently about Show and Mail, with the intent of reviving that hashtag and mail show-and-tell. For an explanation, the LWA Management articulated it better than I could:

Why should we do this? Well, firstly, it will get us to write more letters. Secondly, it will inspire others to write more mail. Whenever I see a show and mail I get an itch to write someone. Why not spread that feeling to others?

I've been writing mail today, and our long-awaited snowstorm has finally arrived... so I thought I'd contribute a Show and Mail in the form of Snow and Mail. (Yes, I love puns, and I'm not ashamed.)

Soda knows how to chill in the snow

Of course, Soda had to help.

The lovely Keep Calm and Send Postcards postcard is from MaxAndCoPost on etsy, and they have some other fine mail-related postcards in their shop. It's a great sentiment for any day, but especially a day like today when many of us on the east coast are getting quite a good bit of snow.

Soda knows how to ride out a snowstorm

Soda and I intend to snuggle up and enjoy it.

Whatever your weather, if you're writing mail, pop a photo up on Twitter and use that great #showandmail hashtag, so we postal voyeurs can enjoy and be inspired. And thanks to the Letter Writers Alliance for the reminder!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The slow little hedgehog that could


This delightful Postcrossing postcard was sent to me on August 31, 2012 - and it arrived in my mailbox on December 20, 2012! I have no idea what makes a postcard travel 111 days... did it get lost along the way? Did it languish in some very slow office? Who knows, but I am so glad that this postcard from Belarus, BY-582121, did finally reach me. I am a big fan of hedgehogs, which I gather are (or used to be?) common in Europe, but are not indigenous to the Americas. I just think they're cute!

I'm always fascinated by slow Postcrossing travel, especially from countries where mail is usually speedier. Generally I get cards from Belarus within a week. I'll never solve the mystery, but it's fun to ruminate on the adventures this postcard must have had in its travels.

Deep Letters Correspondence Project

I know a lot of my blog readers are still looking for more pen pals, and I try to post resources to that end when they come to my attention. I am doing this post as a favor to another mail blogger. I do not participate in this project myself, and so I make no claims for its longevity or reliability, but here's the info:

LadyKayy is launching a "Deep Letters Correspondence Project". She calls it a "letter exchange with a twist" and she describes it thusly:

This exchange is geared towards those of us who suffer from emotional or psychiatric issues! I've always found that it is much easier to confide in someone who has similar 'problems' (I prefer to call them quirks!) as me, so this will hopefully link you up with someone who is looking for that same deep friendship that I am so glad to have in my life already!

I do know that letters can be a real lifeline to anyone who is suffering, so I hope this is a great outlet for some. Full info at Deep Letters Correspondence Project. If you have any questions, please direct them to LadyKayy at the link above.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I made the Letter Writers Alliance blog!

Well, color me tickled - I just happened to be bopping around to my favorite letter writing blogs, and saw a big old photo of me heading off a recent post on the fabulous Letter Writers Alliance (LWA) website. The post, Photos in front of mailboxes, came out yesterday, and touts a "call to arms" for LWA members to take photos of themselves in front of mailboxes. I love that idea. They used the photo of myself on my recent Postcards from Amsterdam post, which of course is not my favorite photo of myself, per se (I swear, my smile doesn't always look quite that cheesy), but I love that I'm wearing the LWA member bag.

I would certainly be tickled to see photos of other letter writers in front of mailboxes - who doesn't love a good mailbox photo? - and this is a great time for me to plug the Letter Writers Alliance as a fabulous organization. I didn't know they featured me on the post, so this is not one of those you-blog-me-and-I'll-blog-you tradeoffs that I find somewhat tiresome, though in the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I am a proud member of the LWA and have been for years.

Membership in the Letter Writers Alliance is very reasonably priced (I recommend getting the fine member stationery which comes with a free membership), and it is good for a lifetime so you never have to renew. The have all kinds of great little perks, like free goodies and downloads, and I just love the idea of supporting an official letter-writing organization of such quality and style.

Rate Change Guide from Beyond the Perf

Postage rates for first-class mail in the USA go up on January 27, 2013. Beyond the Perf has a nice Rate Change Guide, complete with pretty new stamp images, to help illustrate the rate changes. It's worth a peek. As for now, I'm trying to use up my Lancaster County international stamps that just debuted in January 2012.

Monday, December 17, 2012

About the fabulous Platinum Preppy fountain pen, and the eydropper conversion thereof

Platinum Preppy fountain pens, eyedroppers and with converter

A blog reader recently spotted a Platinum Preppy fountain pen in one of my recent blog posts, and asked how I "filled the barrel completely." That practice is called an eyedropper conversion (when you completely fill the barrel of a pen with ink, and then just screw it shut, that's called an eyedropper pen, because you used to fill with an eyedropper), and Platinum Preppies are famous for this. I love 'em. You can see the difference in ink capacity in the photo above - the 7 pens on the left are all eyedroppers, with nearly the entire barrel full of ink, whereas the 2 pens on the right are using Platinum converters, which hold only a scant fraction ink in comparison.

Platinum Preppy fountain pen cap - see the inner plastic cap?

I have no fewer than 7 (actually I have 10, I missed a few in my last count!) eyedropper Preppies going at once; that is my current favorite fountain pen option. They write beautifully, they hold a ton of ink, and the Preppies have some thingamajiggy device (that's a technical term, folks) that is spring-loaded inside the cap so that it makes them extremely airtight, and therefore unlikely to dry up for months. You can see a close-up of it above.

Platinum Preppy fountain pen - awesome cap

You can see above how when the pen cap is closed, the nib pushes it tight inside the end of the cap. That special inner airtight cap thingamajiggy is a handy thing for me, since - I confess - I do often neglect my pens. I can manage not to write with one of these pens for months (it's happened), and then when I pick up the pen again, the ink is not evaporated or dried up at all. Love it. But I digress - let's get back to the eyedropper info.

Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku ink in Platinum Preppy eyedropper

If you are at all a pen or ink geek like me, you may think it's pretty cool to see that ink sloshing around in the clear pen barrel like that. The ink in this pen is Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku, a lovely deep green with quite a lot of blue in it.

So, an eyedropper conversion is very easy to do properly, and there are tons of online resources to get you through it... even those of you that, like me, are loathe to undertake any fancy pen modifications.

My favorite two articles are from JetPens and Goulet Pens (which are, incidentally, two of my favorite online retailers for all of my pen and ink needs). The JetPens article, "How to do an Eyedropper Pen Conversion, shows a really nice tutorial using a series of photos. I prefer step-by-step photos, because my internet connection does not always allow me to stream videos very successfully. Goulet pens has a tutorial, "Converting a Platinum Preppy to an eyedropper pen," and theirs has both photos and a how-to video. Both Jetpens and Goulet Pens sell the supplies (o-rings, and maybe silicone grease) to do the eyedropper conversion, which is extremely easy and no-fuss. I do recommend using the silicone grease. JetPens calls it optional, but I consider it pretty much essential.

Platinum Preppy eyedropper - see the o-ring?

I have done countless Platinum Preppy eyedropper conversions, and only ever had one leak on me. The reason it leaked was because I screwed it closed too tightly and cracked the barrel. Platinum Preppies are very well-made pens, but they are inexpensive, and the plastic isn't perfect. When you have a rubbery o-ring in there, there's a lot of "give" when tightening the barrel. I thought, the tighter the better, but that is not the case. It's a little counterintuitive for me NOT to screw the eyedropper pen full of ink as tight as possible, but lesson learned; I close them gently now, and haven't had a cracked barrel since.

Platinum Preppy pen cap, posted

As the name implies, the first eyedropper fountain pens were filled with eyedroppers. There are some inks that come in bottles with eyedropper tops, and those are handy - but some people use a syringe to fill their pens. I use disposable plastic pipettes, which can be found all over the place (I get mine on eBay), and I know they are not terribly sustainable, but plastic pipettes keep your ink safer from contamination than a syringe would do. They are also faster, and require no cleaning because you just throw the darn things away. Granted, you have to be quite the intense fountain pen and ink geek in order to have a supply of plastic pipettes on hand, but... we all have our quirky hobbies.

My thorough blog reader also asked about air travel and these pens, which is a wise question indeed. The major advantage of an eyedropper pen, especially one with a large barrel like the Preppy, is that it holds tons of ink and lasts for ages. The disadvantage is that it is very susceptible to heat and air pressure. If the ink is very low in the barrel, the heat of your hand itself will make the ink "blort" (another technical term, folks) and flow out of the pen too quickly. On airplanes, they can also spit out some ink. This is very easily handled. When I fly with fountain pens (and I always take pens with me when I travel, so I should just say "when I fly"), I wrap them all in a paper towel or two inside a plastic ziplock baggie. Most of the time, there are no leaks. If there is a leak, the paper towel inside the baggie absorbs the excess ink, and the plastic baggie keeps it from making a mess on anything else in my bag. The one time I had a Preppy leak fantastically on a trip, it was a little messy when I opened the bag to clean off the pens, but since the bag was clear, I knew what I was in for. (It was also my own fault, sort of - I should have known better than to fly with the ink level so low, and therefore more susceptible to changes in pressure.)

If I've made you all excited to get some Platinum Preppies of your very own, you can get them at JetPens or at Goulet Pens, along with eyedropper conversion options from either site. In the top photo on this post, you can see the little baggies of o-rings I've purchased from both Goulet Pens and Jetpens. I always have extra supplies on hand, so I can throw together an eyedropper conversion whenever the whim strikes me. [UPDATE: It seems JetPens no longer sells o-rings. You can get o-rings from Goulet Pens.]

Happy writing!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

4 years of Missive Maven

This little blog of mine is four years old today. I can't believe it. In some ways it seems so much longer, and in other ways I think, FOUR YEARS??!?

I know in the past year I haven't posted as much as in previous years, and right now it's my busiest of busy seasons, but I still so enjoy the wonderful mail blogging community. So on my fourth blogoversary, I say a big thank you to all of you, wonderful blog readers!

May you continue to send and receive magnificent mail, and thanks for sharing your stories and reading mine.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

International first class stamp rates to go up in January

Have I been under a rock (always possible, this time of year), or is this breaking news? I just learned that international first class stamps - currently $1.05 - will go up to $1.10 on January 27, 2013. Oh dear. It seems so recent that they just changed to $1.05, but I guess that was way back in January (2012).

To soften the blow, the new international first class stamps will be "forever" stamps, meaning they'll be valid for full postage with any rate change, just like the domestic "forever" first-class stamps. I guess that's pretty cool. The stamp design is round, which looks nifty to me:

You can learn more about the stamp on the Beyond the Perf stamp preview, which is also a lovely way to get a look at the new stamps to be released next year.

UPDATE: Thanks to Derrick for alerting me that regular first-class domestic stamps go up to 46 cents next month as well.