OK, second attempt at this post. The formatting went wonky after I posted it the first time, and when I went back in to edit...it got eaten by gremlins. And of course, I don't have the entire original. I'm attempting to fix by memory.
I'll cut straight to the pencil stuff.
A short rant on pencil variability:
1. Mirados: In my web wanderings, I'd read great things about the Mirados, and was super excited to find them in a store locally: both the yellow Classics and the flat black Mirado Black Warriors. All packages are marked Made in Mexico. Now...all have some fit and finish issues--paint chips overlapping the ferrules, that sort of thing. But the Black Warriors--or the two that I've pulled out and used so far--have issues that go beyond cosmetics.
The very first one out of the package has a lead that's so off-center, it's a pain in the neck to sharpen the thing. and it wobbles as you write.
The second had space around the lead...that's the only way I can describe it. Which meant that the lead flexed as you wrote with it, making obnoxious clicking noises. It drove me bonkers (not that long of a drive, perhaps). I kept sharpening it hoping it would get better, and I think I've finally reached a point where the lead is more tightly gripped and less noisy and doesn't feel about to break at any moment. But it took at least an inch off the over-all length, and at any moment, the problem may crop up again.
It's all rather annoying, because they should be great pencils: the matte-finished round barrel feels good in the hand, and the lead is quite nice. It's greyer (lighter) than the CalCedar offerings, and no, it isn't the smoothest pencil ever (that'd be the Palomino, at least in my so-far-limited experience), but it's pleasant to write with, leaves a nice solid line, and doesn't seem to have any weird gritty chunky bits in it.
I've not had similar issues with the Mirado Classics, but I've really only used one of those heavily. Thus far, I'm wondering if I should stick with the Classics. They have a more substantial feel, too, I suppose because of the heavier lacquer. And they don't tend to charge off into their own little battles every time you set them down on a table like the round-bodied Black Warriors do.
2. Ticonderogas: Leaving overall thoughts on the whole outsourcing of an American classic thing aside...I've discovered a curious discrepancy: I have some Tri-writes and a few Ticonderogas that were marked "Made in Mexico" on the blister pack. They're...just OK, if that. Rather pale writing, and with very definite chunks in the lead here and there. Scratchy. Sometimes you have to go back over a line where they've just failed to write due to a hard bit of something in the lead.
This weekend I found myself at Staples (odd how often that seems to happen) and noted that a) they carry various grades of Ticonderogas and b) those that come in different grades come in cardboard boxes instead of the blister packs, are not pre-sharpened, and most are "Made in China" rather than Mexico. Hm. I was curious. I bought some--just reg'lar HBs for now. And they're very different. I don't think it's at all subjective--I can see the difference on a page if I switch back and forth between the two. The Chinese Ticonderogas are darker, and don't have the same issues with chunks of something making them scratchy. Maybe it's a batch variance rather than an across the board thing, I'm not sure. Or maybe the boxed Ticonderogas are made using a different "recipe". In any case, I quite like them.
- Composition book pages killed: 146 as of this morning. Hoping to break into the 160s by the end of the day.
- Pencils obliterated: Well, the original Forest Choice has retired to the short-pencil jar. Next to follow will almost certainly be the Helix Oxford, followed by the most used of the USA Golds and the crooked Mirado Black Warrior...but all but the Oxford may live to write another week. Now that I'm using the many pencils sharpened method instead of tending to use a few favorites most, the wear is more spread out.
- Word count: somewhere upwards of 22630. I upped my words-per-page estimate to 155, since even the dialog pages I counted had at least that.
Pencil Achievement Awards--only one this week. We've run low on trophies.
- Best bang for the buck: I continue to be impressed with the USA Golds, which were about two bucks for twenty-four at Wal-mart. They're on the skinny side, but write well even on the bagasse paper, darker than the Ticonderogas and with no weird chunks in the lead. The eraser is smallish and kind of an odd orangey pink, but it works surprisingly well: erases very cleanly, and any eraser bits curl right up into neat shreds to be easily brushed away instead of turning into smeary crumbs like some can.
Aaaand the status of the NaNoWriMo story: OK, so I still haven't really gotten to the story. Two characters who were supposed to be a flash in the pan have spent the last thirty some pages discussing debt and their first kiss and farm equipment and a cousin's ugly eagle lamp and a spider evacuation. Over hot cocoa, no less. (Incidentally, the amount of cocoa/coffee/tea consumed by my characters over the course of my NaNoWriMo career would be an interesting theme for psychoanalysis.)
Considering how much time I've spent recounting about thirty minutes of thelives of these "minor" characters...we'll see how I manage to sum up the next fifty years or so in order to get to what was supposed to be the real story.