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Almond Milk

Ulysses, 446 words, 2018-07-19

ArsTechnica1 had an article yesterday about FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announcing that the FDA would crack down on non-dairy products using the word "milk". (That article referenced an article and video in Politico2.)

Really? There's an issue with using the word "milk" to describe a milk-like liquid, like "soy milk" or "almond milk" or "coconut milk"? It certainly seems to me to be a common and well-understood usage. Is an American consumer going to be tricked by a label saying "Soy Milk" and be horrified that it contains no dairy? No, I think it goes the other way, if there's a label that says "Whatever Plant Product Milk", the expectation by the consumer is that it can be trusted to contain no dairy.

Almonds are mentioned specifically: "An almond doesn't lactate, I will confess," Gottlieb said. As an American, the term "almond milk" seems both valid and unambiguous. But let's look it up, and see what we can find.

From the online OED3, milk, n.1, definition 5.a.:

"A culinary, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, or other preparation resembling milk, esp. in colour. Usually with the principal ingredient or use specified by a preceding or following word."

Its first citation for this, from 1399 (text dating 14254), specifically mentions almonds:

"a1425 (a1399) Forme of Cury 72 in C. B. Hieatt & S. Butler Curye on Inglysch (1985) 114 Cast þerinne gode mylke of almaundes."

The OED also has a definition for almond milk:

"A milky liquid prepared from ground almonds, used as a drink and in cooking, and also applied to the skin, etc., as an emollient."

The first citation for that is from 1381:

"1381 Diuersa Servicia in C. B. Hieatt & S. Butler Curye on Inglysch (1985) 64 Seþ hem in almande mylk or in kyne mylke."

In short, it has been in English usage for well more than twice as long as the United States of America has existed. To me, that unquestionably makes it acceptable usage. There are certainly specific political reasons5 to ban the word "milk" from soy milk or almond milk containers. But there is no basis, in either the English language or in consumer expectation, to do so.


Address Cards

Ulysses, 345 words, 2018-07-03

I had a great1 idea the other day. When I'm going to go somewhere, I write the address and any other pertinent details on the lined side of an index card. Then, on the blank side, I draw a map of the area directly around it. If there are multiple addresses of interest within a few blocks, I list them all on the lined side and mark them on the map.

Having the address and a minimap easily available is very handy. And it can also include phone numbers, hours, or whatever else might be useful. But even more than that, the act of writing out the address and then drawing the map gives you a much better understanding of where something is and how to find it.

I know, I know, some may object that in the age of smartphones, one can just call up maps and directions wherever they are. That is true, but I prefer not to lead a bland, gray existence, eyes locked on a little rectangle in my hand, ignoring the sights and sounds around me. I don't judge or condemn people who live that way; in fact I pity them, and have nothing but sympathy for their bleak, flavorless existence.

Instead of living like an automaton, having a card to exactly where I want to go lets me enjoy the trip. I can pay attention to what I'm doing, and what's going on around me. I can take in the sights and scenery, instead of wrestling with an irritating little app.

Another benefit is that once you have a card to a place, it's easy to give directions to someone else. Just show them on the card, and, if you're so inclined, let them borrow it. Not only do they get directions, they have access to any other notes you made.


  1. Opinions may differ; some may think that it was a clever idea, or a stupendous idea, or perhaps a brilliant idea. I chose "great" as being the least controversial.


Fountain Pens IIJ

Ulysses, 576 words, 2018-06-29

Noodler's Ahab Flex Lapis Inferno

I picked up a Noodler's Ahab Flex Lapis Inferno at the local Artist and Craftsman. I like it quite a bit. Brian Goulet, in several of his videos, likes to draw a distinction between "soft" and "flex". This pen is interesting in that it is very firm, and you have to exert a bit of pressure to get it to flex, but it does flex quite a bit and you can lay down a very thick line.

I like the design, the feel of the body, and that it has an ebonite feed. It's a very nice pen, with features that normally cost a lot more. The person I purchased it from, and every video and description of it, says that you have to tinker with it, and that you'll get ink all over your fingers. I must have been lucky; it was set up perfectly when I got it, and I haven't had to make any adjustments so far.

It did have a somewhat unpleasant smell, from the vegetal resin. I stored it by some coffee grounds for a couple of weeks, and now it's fine.

Platinum Preppy eyedropper conversion

To convert a Platinum Preppy to eyedropper, you put an o-ring on the nib housing, put silicon grease on the threads of the nib housing, fill the body with ink, and screw the nib housing into it.

My initial attempt at converting a Preppy met with mixed success, due to bad o-ring sizing. Don't use #5 o-rings, 1/16" thick, 1/4" inner diameter, and 3/8" outer diameter. They are NOT the right size. The ring bulged out, and I had a little bit of leakage while the pen sat.

Next I tried the o-rings from Goulet Pens, they fit much better. Per an answer there, they have a 7mm internal diameter, a 9mm outer diameter, and are 1mm thick. While this conversion went much better, and looked much better, I haven't had much of a chance to test it out because I've been distracted by other pens, not to mention various papers and inks.

Bad O-ring Fraction Bad O-ring Decimal Good O-ring MM Good O-ring Inches
1/16 0.0625 1 0.039
1/4 0.250 7 0.276
3/8 0.375 9 0.354

One last thing I'll mention, every howto I've seen or read says to use silicon grease, and to be careful not to overtighten because you can get cracks. Since then, I've read several references that indicate that silicon grease can cause cracking in some kinds of plastics. So next time I give it a try, I'm going to clean off the silicon grease and try vaseline instead.

Jinhao x450 Red/Gold

I purchased a Jinhao x450 to use for modding. In particular, I wanted to try the Zebra Comic Sans G nib for some extreme flex. However, I ended up really liking the way it looks, I got the Red/Gold and it's quite attractive. I also like the way it writes, despite being a "medium" it lays down a very broad line, and very smoothly. So I'm leaving it as-is and inked up. The Ahab gives me enough flex for now, anyway.


Fountain Pen Inks

Ulysses, 415 words, 2018-06-24

As of my previous post, I'd only tried J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir. (Other than cartridges and prefilled.) Since then, I've gotten to try several. I have a bunch more waiting, mostly purple samples, but here's a summary of what I've used so far.

Noodler's Red-Black

A rather prosaic name for a wonderful ink. It writes well in all the pens I've tried it in, and on the paper I've tried it on. To me it looks sort of metallic, a very pleasant dark reddish-brown.

J. Herbin Perle Noire

A nice, solid choice for straightforward, dark black. When I used other pens, I'd try various colors and always go back to black. With fountain pens, though, black just seems kind of boring.

Not to disparage this ink, though, it is a very nice black. But now I want to try all the available colors.

Noodler's Green

A pretty green, I enjoyed using this ink. My tablets at work, though, have a greenish cast to them, so it isn't a good choice for that paper. Because of that, I switched away from it rather quickly, but I still write with it on white paper at home.

It's a very wet ink, I think the wettest I've tried so far.

Noodler's Purple Wampum

A beautiful, gorgeous dark purple. I love this color, but I don't love the ink. It feathered on every paper I tried it on. I ended up switching away from it really quickly, it just handles horribly.

Nemosine Halley's Comet Purple

I love this ink. As you write, it comes out of the pen as a lighter magenta, and then dries to a darker bluish purple. It's pretty and it's well-behaved. I have a bunch more purples to try; if I didn't, I'd just go ahead and order a full bottle of this now. It's also convinced me to try other Nemosine inks, once I make it through the current batch of samples.

I've only smear tested Green, Wampum, and this ink on the Tomoe River paper; this one acted very oddly. Of the inks I tried, it smeared way more right away. Way, way more. But after thirty seconds, it was fully dry. The others smeared even at one minute, Green a lot, Wampum a little.

What's in my pens right now?

Eclat de Saphir, Halley's Comet Purple, and Red-Black.


Fountain Pens II

Ulysses, 576 words, 2018-06-02

We went to the UW Bookstore Fine Writing sale, and picked up a large Rhodia dotPad, a Midori "003" passport insert, a Platinum Preppy fine nib, a Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop Turquoise medium nib, a Pilot piston converter, J Herbin Eclat de Saphir (Sapphire Blue), J Herbin Perle Noire (Pearl Black), Noodler's Green, and Noodler's Red-Black.

Inks

The only ink we've tried so far is the Eclat de Saphir. It's a gorgeous ink, a light slightly purple blue. I've always favored black inks but now I'm really enjoying using this one. Carol has also been using it, and likes it as well.

Either we were really, really lucky with our first random fountain pen out of over 5001 choices, or I'm going to really, really enjoy exploring all of the inks! I already have three more inks to try, though, so I'm fighting the urge to buy more.

Rhodia dotPad and Pilot Metropolitan

The Rhodia dotPad and Pilot Metropolitan were for Carol. The Rhodia is wonderful paper, 80 gsm, extremely smooth, no bleed-through, and only mild ghosting. They don't, however, have blank notebooks in the size I want, so I have to look elsewhere.

Carol had tried my Pilot, which has a fine nib, and liked it but wanted a larger nib. So far, she likes the medium nib Pilot. Having already tried a Pilot cartridge in mine, I just loaded it up with the Eclat de Saphir.

Midori

I've been obsessing about the Midori passport notebook since I first heard about them. They're gorgeous, I got to see the brown one up close when I went to the UBookstore. They're also fifty dollars (of course you can find them for less) so I've been resisting the urge so far. When I was at the UBookstore, it suddenly occurred to me that I could get the inserts first, and try out the various papers. And only buy the Midori if I like the papers that it uses.

I know. Genius, right?

I purchased the '003' insert. It's MD paper, has a plain reddish-brown cover, then one thick sheet of paper, which on the back is set up to put in all your passport info. It has 32 sheets or 64 pages of lovely white paper, 80 gsm and yet somehow very thin. It ghosts but so far has no bleed-through at all, and it's wonderful to write on.

I'm going to try out another couple of their inserts, in fact I have a '005' refill in transit right now from Goulet Pens. It's on Tomoe River paper, which everyone who's used it raves about. It's a super thin 52 gsm paper that has no bleed-through, though there is substantial ghosting. I'm really eager to try it out.

Platinum Preppy

I got the Platinum Preppy to try out the eyedropper conversion, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I need to pick up a #5 o-ring and some silicon grease. I also might wait until I've tried all of my inks, since the eyedropper takes a fair bit of ink I'll want to settle on one for it first.


  1. "Over 500" inks was mentioned off-hand in a Goulet Pens youtube video, I haven't been able to find a more definitive source.


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All material Copyright © 2006–2018 Ulysses Somers, except where otherwise noted.