Fountain Pen Resurgence

About two weeks ago, I rediscovered the joy of writing with a fountain pen. I know, I know, you’re going to say they are messy and “no one uses one anymore.” Yes, they can be messy, but they seem to be making a resurgence, which I am glad for. It’s that old adage, everything old is new again.

So, how did I rediscover fountain pens? I was at a local chain craft store, looking at pens for my Bullet Journal, and noticed some pens I hadn’t seen before. It turns out that Pilot Pens and Zebra Pens both make a disposable fountain pen in seven different ink colors: black, blue, red, teal, purple, pink and green. I had a field day and bought red, pink, purple, blue and green pens in both Pilot Varsity and Zebra Fountain Pen varieties. I have been having fun writing with them.

I always enjoyed using a easy-writing fountain pen. I used fountain pens all the way through college and graduate school, until it became very difficult finding ink, and pens. Fast forward 3 decades… Fountain pens are back, you can find them in you local big box office supply store or craft store for about $3 – $4 each in a variety of ink colors. Oh, and you can even get a refillable Zebra V-301 fountain pen at Walgreens!! That happens to be a very nice $4.00 fountain pen. In addition, I just ordered a Jinhao 993 Shark in bright pink and ink to match just for fun. It hasn’t arrived yet.

I still have the two Parker 51 fountain pens that my father used, plus the one he gave me as a present when I went to college. All three are refillable using bottled ink. One uses a bladder cartridge (called the Aerometric filler) and the other two use a pump to suck up the ink into the ink reservoir (called the Vacumatic filler). I would periodically use one of the Vacumatic pens or the Aerometric pen. I just to enjoy writing with them. I figured that eventually, they would become obsolete because I wouldn’t be able to get the ink for them anymore. Wow! Was I wrong, or what?  As I said at the beginning of this post, fountain pens have made a resurgence.

You can pick up a nice, inexpensive nice-writing, refillable, fountain pen for under $20. You don’t have to break the bank or live on spaghetti or Ramen Noodles to have fun with a fountain pen. Over the past week, I have picked up three inexpensive refillable fountain pens. I am so glad that there is now a variety of pens, and ink colors.

So now I have four refillable, usable fountain pens and two that need some TLC and restoration. Those four pens are Pilot MR Animal, Parker 51, Parker Jotter and the Zebra V-301. They have either fine or medium nibs (the part that spreads ink on the paper). Which nib size one uses is a personal decision. To find out more about nibs, and fountain pens in general, there is a very good Web site, called the Fountain Pen Network.

Fountain Pens, Capped

From left to right:  Capped Parker Jotter, Parker 51, Pilot MR Animal Zebra V301.

Of the four pens that I am currently using, the Parker 51 is the most interesting. When I was growing up, that was the most popular fountain pen around. Parker Pens made the 51 for about 30 years. To learn more about Parker 51 fountain pens, Parker 51 is an excellent Web site to go to. I was able to use that Web site to determine the age of my Parker 51. It’s older than I am! The pen was made in 1949. It is in beautiful condition. After giving it a good cleaning, it’s writing like it always had. It has a fine point nib (my preference) and uses bottle ink. It cannot use ink cartridges. My father gave me that pen as a gift when I went to college. I used it all the way through undergrad and graduate school.

Fountain Pens, Uncapped

From left to right:  Uncapped Parker Jotter, Parker 51, Pilot MR Animal, Zebra V-301.

So, now I am having a blast using fountain pens. Ink in all sorts of colors and makers is available on-line which makes it even more fun. If you have a yen to try a fountain pen, pick up a cheapie pen and have at it. I would suggest to try the Pilot Varsity or the Zebra disposable pens before going headlong into the fountain pen rabbit hole.

Have fun and keep writing!!!

sheep-icon-03  Barbara.


When Parrot Linux is installed on a computer, it always names that computer, parrot. That can be very confusing if you have Parrot installed on more than one computer, or you want to have a different name for the computer than the default name. During installation, Parrot does not currently allow the user to specify a specific host name during any part of the installation.

There are two ways to change the host name.  Since Parrot is Debian-based, and Debian using Systemd for startup and system processes,  Systemd commands can be used, The “new fangled way.”  You can always use the “old fashioned way,” which requires editing the /etc/hosts and /etc/hostname files.  Either method produces the same result.

The New Fangled Way

Changing the host name using Systemd commands is a two-step process.

  1. Open Root Terminal (accessible through the Menu -> System Tools).
  2. Enter hostnamectl set-hostname NAME where NAME is the new name for your computer.
  3. Close your terminal session, and your computer has been renamed without even having to reboot it.  You can check this by opening a new terminal session.  Looking at the prompt, you’ll see the new host name.

The Old-Fashioned Way

Changing the host name is very easy, but you do have to be careful that that you make sure you don’t assign a name that is currently used on the network. You will have to edit two system files: /etc/hosts and /etc/hostname.

  1. Open Root Terminal (accessible through the Menu -> System Tools).
  2. Enter the root password when prompted.
  3. On the command line, enter pluma /etc/hosts. You can use any other editor that is on your system if you do not want to use pluma.
  4. Locate the line that contains: parrot where hostname is the current name of the computer, parrot.
  5. Change host name to whatever you want. You can use letters, numbers, and dash (hyphen).
  6. Save the /etc/hosts file and exit pluma.
  7. On the command line, enter pluma /etc/hostname.
  8. Look for the line that has parrot.
  9. Change the host name to whatever you want, but it must be identical to the name you used in /etc/hosts.
  10. Save the /etc/hostname file and exit pluma.
  11. Exit Root Terminal.
  12. Once you reboot your computer, you should see the new name when you open a terminal session or browsing devices on your network.

If you have any comments or notice any error(s) in these instructions, please feel
free to contact me.


Updated 7-17-18:  Edited to add hostnamectl instructions.




Resuscitating My T420

Several months ago I gave up on my Lenovo Thinkpad T420 because it would not boot. It was producing those dreaded boot up beep errors. Although the errors indicated the motherboard was the problem, I opened up my laptop and reset both RAM DIMMs.

Problem solved… for a month or so… or so I thought.

One day, I turned on my T420 and it gave me those dreaded beeps again. It didn’t matter what I did. The beeps sounded and my laptop wouldn’t boot up. I figured it had finally died, so I shoved it in a closet for the next few months.

On a whim, yesterday morning (Tuesday, June 26, 2018), I decided to give the T420 another look. I turned it on and it gave those same boot up beep error codes: 1 beep, 3 beeps, 3 beeps, 1 beep. I looked it up and after a bit of searching on the InterTubes, I came across two very helpful Web pages (refer to the references below). It turned out that the beep codes indicated that the problem was a RAM issue. At least that was something than can be remedied.

I proceeded to check the RAM. I took out the one DIMM that is right under the small access panel and rebooted. Nope, that wasn’t the one. It figures it has to be the RAM that is under the keyboard. Murphy’s Law gets me every time. As far as I’m concerned, putting one RAM socket on the bottom and one under the keyboard is just a bizarre way of doing things. It was probably easier for manufacture, or just a bad design.

I took out the RAM that resides under the keyboard and replaced it with the other stick of RAM, and started the T420 up again. Booted up with no errors. WooHoo!!! I put everything back together and even replaced the spinning hard drive with a 480GB SSD (Sandisk Ultra II) that I had sitting in my desk drawer waiting to be used somewhere.

Okay, now I have a working T420 with Ubuntu Mate 18.04 on it. It runs like a dream, except I went from having 16 GB RAM to 8 GB RAM, then I remembered that I had two 4GB sticks of DDR3 RAM sitting in the desk drawer that had come out of my old mid-2010 MacBook Pro when I had updated it from 8 to 16 GB RAM a number of years prior. I put in one of the 4 GB DIMMS and now I’m up to 12 GB of RAM. I can live with that until the 8 GB RAM comes back down in price a bit.

Now, my T420 is a happy laptop working perfectly. After not using it for several months, I did forget how enjoyable it is to use.

Screen shot of T420 after RAM repair

Happy computing all!!!


Beep and No Beep Symptoms – Thinkpad General: Support Community:




Eastern Bluebirds – Home Sweet Home

On Wednesday, June 13, 2018, while trying to figure out why my tractor wouldn’t start after I turned it off for a moment, I noticed a pair of birds flitting in and out and perching on top of a dead tree trunk that I was going to have removed.  I didn’t really get a chance to check the birds out until Sunday afternoon.  It turned out that the birds are a nesting pair of Eastern Bluebirds.  They have made an almostEastern bluebird at apex of tree trunk perfectly round hole about four feet up from the ground.  In addition, they have a hole in the back of the trunk at about five feet, along with a tunnel to the top of the trunk that they pop out of.  What they have created is a natural bluebird house.  How could anyone disturb that!

So, Sunday afternoon, I took my camera and plopped out on the newly mowed lawn, sitting about 40 feet from the tree trunk.  I didn’t want to disturb or scare them away.  After about 15 minutes, they became used to me just sitting there and started coming and going from their natural home.  I took a series of photos of this cute pair.   After editing the photos, I decided to create a slide show video.

The Technical Particulars…

All photos were taken during one afternoon session, from approximately 1:40 to 2:00 p.m., using a Nikon D7000; ISO 200; Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm f/4-5.6 ED DX lens set at 185mm and f8; 1/250 sec shutter speed.  I was approximately 40 feet (12.2 meters) from the tree trunk.  I felt that being any closer would keep them from their nesting tree.

All photo processing was done using Ubuntu Mate 18.04.  Raw photos were uploaded and processed using Raw Therapee.   The video was made using Photofilmstrip, which I installed from the Ubuntu Software Center.

I wanted to create a slide show of my bluebird photos and found Photofilmstrip, which creates videos from a set of still photos.  It worked perfectly and was easy to use.  I highly recommend it.  The audio that accompanies the slide show are actual eastern bluebird calls and songs.  I downloaded them from the Cornell University Ornithology Lab Web site.

You can check out my front yard neighbors at

To read more about Eastern bluebirds, check out the following Web sites:

Thanks for stopping by and reading.


Shivering Sheep Shawl

The second project for the month of April, using only handspun yarn, is a shawl that I am calling the Shivering Sheep Shawl.  It is a pattern that I have developed myself.  This is the first project I have used the pattern on.  I plan on test knitting it using several other yarns, from fingering to worsted weight, to get a better handle on size and amount used.  Anyway, here is the first go-around with the Shivering Sheep Shawl.

I had about 505 yards of handspun, and used just about all of it except the last 5 yards.

Sh-01 Yarn-wp

Sh-01. Yarn for Sh-01, Shivering Sheep Shawl.

The fiber I used was roving that I had.  I don’t remember whether I purchased the fiber or if it was a gift from a friend, but it was about 4 oz of 90/10% wool/mohair.  It has been aging nicely in my stash since 2004.  I figured it was time to use it.  It was spun approximately to a sport weight.

The Shivering Sheep Shawl pattern is very easy.  The pattern will be available on Ravelry once I have finished test knitting it with several different weights of yarn.

Sh-01 Shawl 170406-wp

Sh-01. Start of Shivering Sheep Shawl, as of 4-6-17.

I started the shawl on April 6, after finishing the cold sheeping socks.   It was finished and just needed blocking on April 22.  The yarn was very nice to knit with and I do wish I had more of it.  Oh, well.  I had three hanks of spun yarn 505 yards) that I used.  This is a top-down shawl, so, of course, each row has more stitches than the previous row.

I used U.S. size 6 (4.0 mm) 48″ needles (Clover needles to be specific).  I basically knitted it until I had just enough yarn to do the picot edging.  The first attempt a the picot edge was not successful because I ended up running out of yarn when I still had about 4 inches of the edge left to do.  The unsuccessful picot edge used three chain stitches between each bind-off.  To make it to the end, I had to frog it back to the beginning of the bind-off, and changed the number of chain stitches between bind-offs from 3 to 2.  That made a big difference and I was left with about 5 yards of yarn when I was finished.

The finished shawl can be worn as a scarf or shawl, which makes it very versatile and usable through more seasons.  I do like how the shawl came out.  It stays on the shoulders well because of the curve the top of the shawl.

From tip-to-tip, the span of the shawl is 68″ (172.7 cm).  The length of the shawl from top to bottom is 19.5″ (49.5 cm).

Sh-01 Shawl 170424-01-wp

Sh-01. Finished, blocked Shivering Sheep Shawl, as of 4-24-27.

Sh-01 Shawl 170424-02-wp

Sh-01. Shivering Sheep Shawl, side view, as of 4-24-27.

Barbara. sheep-icon-04


Cold Sheeping Continued – Socks from Handspun

Over a week ago, I finished the handspun socks dyed with butternuts (S-06 Socks).  I just needed to weave in the ends before I photographed them.  For some reason, finished socks can languish for days or weeks on a shelf in my bedroom, just  waiting to have their ends woven in.

Well, I finally wove in the ends and the are officially done!  Now that it’s spring, I think they may be a little to heavy to wear.  At least they will be ready for next fall.

For those who want particulars, here goes…

S-06 Socks - Cold sheeping continued.

S-06 Socks. Handspun East Friesian wool, dyed with butternuts.

I used about 222 yards of handspun East Friesian wool.  The wool was skein dyed to minimize any possibility of felting.  The yarn is a worsted weight.  I used size US 3 (3.25mm) needles.

The socks were knitted from the toe up, using a pattern I developed around 1998 or so.  The stitch pattern is a K1P1 rib.  I always like how it looks.  There is something elegant about a K1P1 rib.  It’s a little tedious to do, but the result is worth it.

I started with 289 yards of wool, and have about 67 yards left.  At least I used most of it, and will put the remainder to good use later.  Just for the record, this yarn was spun and dyed in 2002.  I guess you could say it is well-aged and has ripened nicely.

Barbara.  sheep-icon-04




April: Starting the Month of Handspun Cold Sheeping

I have been a hand spinner since the late 1990s.  In that time, I have created a lot of handspun yarn.  Like most hand spinners, I have not used up all of what I have spun.  With that in mind, I decided that April 2017 will be the month of cold sheeping with handspun.

The handspun cold sheeping idea came to me when I was going through a very large bag of yarn that was hand-dyed with natural dyes.  Much of that yarn was natural white yarn that I had spun from roving or from a fleece that I processed.

I grabbed some light brown yarn that was spun from an East Friesian fleece I had acquired from Wooly Acre Farm, in Lisle, New York.  Although East Friesian sheep are considered a dairy sheep,  their fleeces can also be used for handspun yarn.  It is a medium grade wool with a relatively long-staple length.  It is great for hard-wearing boot socks and outer garments.  The wool is very springy, has a slight luster to it, and spins up very nicely.  It also takes up dye very well.  The spun yarn produces beautiful stitch definition due to it’s springiness.  It is great for cabled and texture-stitch garments.

East Friesian handspun yarn

East Friesian handspun yarn for S-06 socks. Yarn dyed with butternuts.

I am making socks from the yarn I spun and dyed in 2002,  Talk about well-aged stash!  It is a worsted weight yarn.  I decided to make a pair of socks from this.  I have about 290 yards of this yarn, more than enough for socks.

I started working on the S-06 socks on April 2, 2017.  I always knit my socks from the toe up because I could never get the kitchener stitch to look right.  I blamed that on my being left-handed.

I use a basic toe-up pattern that I developed for myself.  It starts with a figure-8 cast-on for the toe, then increasing to the number of stitches needed for the foot.  I chose to do a K1P1 rib for the instep and cuff.   I also use a short row heel.

S-06 sock foot completed.

S-06 socks.  East Friesian handspun dyed with butternuts. Foot completed as of 4-2-17.

I am using US size 3 (3.25 mm) needles for the socks.  Normally, for commercial worsted weight yarn, I use US size 4 (3.50 mm) needles for socks, but since handspun can have some minor inconsistencies, resulting in a slightly “thick & thin” yarn, going down one needle size works best resulting in a consistent stitch gauge.  I do the same thing for sweaters and other garments knitted with handspun.  That little rule of thumb has served me well over the years to get garments that fit.

S-06 sock, heel completed.

S-06 sock, short row heel completed as of 4-4-17

I am now working on the cuff, and hope to get the first sock finished and the second one started this weekend.   Socks work up very quickly when knitted in worsted weight.



Barbara. sheep-icon-05








The Linux Only Challenge – Round 1

The Linux Only Challenge is a personal, self-imposed challenge to see how long I can go using Linux (Ubuntu Mate 16.04 specifically) without requiring me to use my Mac for something that could not be done in Linux.

Started: March 19, 2017. Ended: March 28, 2017.

My mouse did me in!!

My first attempt lasted a whole 9 days! It was all due to the death of the Logitech mouse I was using on my Dell XPS17. After 4+ years, and numerous dives off tables, desks, and such, it had the right to die.  I had an extra mouse without a transmitter and the unifying transmitter from my dead mouse. I really did not want to go out and buy a new mouse when I had two parts, that if I could get them to work together, I would have a usable mouse again.

I checked Logitech’s Web site for unifying transmitter software. I found it only for MacOS, Windows, and Chrome OS. So, I broke down, got out my Mac, and downloaded the software. I followed the instructions in the unifying software.  Lo and behold, I had a working mouse! Unfortunately, that meant I ended my Linux Only Challenge.

It was only later, after posting a message about my mortal mouse to the Destination Linux chat group, that I found out there is a Linux solution. The solution is Solaar, the Linux devices manager for the Logitech Unifying Receiver.  Yes, that is Solaar, with 2 “a”s. It is easy to use. Just follow the directions and you will have your Logitech mouse, keyboard, or whatever uses the unifying transmitter, up and running in a matter of seconds. Now I know.

So that just made be double down and restart my Linux Only Challenge after I had a working mouse again. My challenge restarted on March 28, 2017.

I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes.


TGV Scarf – Ribbing Started

I finally finished the garter section of the TGV shawl, finished the increase row, and started the ribbing section.  I worked 8″ of garter stitch which was actually the halfway point of the yarn I am using.  That was just a fluke because I had planned on working 8″ of garter stitch anyway.

Now for the increase row.  I had to redo it after I thought I was done with the increase round.  It turned out that I had significant sections where I did not do any increases.  So frogging (ripping out:  rip it, rip it) the increase round was a must.

Okay, so when I finished redoing the increase row, there were 564 stitches that will become ribbing.  ACK!  If you think it sounds like a lot, it is. At this point, working the K2P2 ribbing section will be much slower going.

Sc-01 increase row

Sc-01 TGV scarf increase row. The rectangle highlights a portion of the Knit in the front & back of each stitch increase that used. 3-26-17.

One of the nice things about using the specified increase results in an increase round that is almost invisible.  It also looks the same on each side.  If you look at the area highlighted by the purple rectangle, you will see that the increases are almost invisible.

I worked the first five rows of K2P2 rib, increasing one stitch per row.  By the time I finished the fifth row, I was done for the night.  The orange marker shows where I finished for the day.

Sc-01 TGV scarf. 3-26-17.

Sc-01 TGV scarf. 3-26-17.

I have finished of total of nine rows of K2P2 ribbing so far.  I figure I will complete a total of about 24 rows of K2P2 ribbing when I am ready to bind off.  That’s an estimation based on the three other TGV scarves I have already finished using the same weight yarn.

I just enjoy working on this scarf, especially in sock yarn.  You get a lot of knitting for one 100g ball of yarn.  It’s also very easy and is very good as a travelling knitting project.  I recommend it to anyone who wants an easy to work, almost mindless knitting that results in a stunning scarf.



The TGV Scarf Continues

I am still working on the TGV scarf but have not had time the last few days to update my progress.  I hate it when real life gets in the way of my knitting.  Progress has been moving along, although as I get more rows finished, it takes longer to finish a row.

7.5" of Sc-01 scarf completed.

7.5″ of Sc-01 TGV scarf completed as of 3-23-17

Anyway, I had finally worked 7.5″ worth of garter stitch when I noticed I had dropped a stitch a number of rows back.

Looking at where the dropped stitch was and how many rows I would have to work through to fix it, I had two choices for fixing the dropped stitch.  I could rip back to the dropped stitch, pick it up and then reknit the rows.  Alternatively, I could just work the stitch up the finished rows.  I decided on the latter option.

Sc-01 Dropped Stitch 170323-wp

Sc-01 scarf.  Green plastic marker holds the woe-begone dropped stitch.  3-23-17

One word of warning…. Do not try to fix your knitting when you are tired and really should be going to sleep.  I started working the stitch back in, using my trusty crochet hook, then realized I was too tired to continue.  I had made a few bizarre mistakes.  I ended up taking out the fix and redoing it the next day.


I finally fixed the woe-begone stitch.  Once the scarf is blocked, any indication that the stitch was picked up and fixed, or even where it was.

Sc-01 Dropped Stitch Fixed 170324-wp

Sc-01 scarf.  Dropped stitch fixed.  The ellipse shows where the stitch was.


I have only 6 rows to go before I increase for the ribbed portion.

Thanks for stopping by.