Favorite Pencil

The box has its own story that’s a separate matter from my favorite pencils.  I can tell that first.

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I found this in the free pile outside the thrift store where I live now (Friday Harbor, WA), a thousand miles from where I graduated high school (Oakland, CA).  Arrayed in my high school colors, black and gold (Bishop O’Dowd Dragons), seemingly handmade, no manufacturer’s mark.  Decorated in felt flowers, the kind which I made in my first craft stall in the college where I graduated (Mills College, Oakland), where I sold felt flower pins and felt snake boas.  Sporting gold graduation-y watchface and crest deco.  Fits a deep stock of my favorite pencils, which like my favorite notebook drafting set, can be bought at Fred Meyer.  This is some fairy-godmother-time-traveling-future-self perfection, or quantum-freepile-dream-nabbing.  There was that one dream, where I reached in from third person and took a small black container out of the hand of a friend, who looked older and different.  Then a formless ‘they’ chased me down, tackled me, and took it from my hand, saying that I couldn’t do that.  But… I could, couldn’t I?  Didn’t I?  It wasn’t the size of this box, it fit in his palm. The one time I recall in my life where I woke up but couldn’t move.  I was sleeping with my entire immediate family in one room, visiting my sister at UPenn. It was like an object placeholder in a videogame.  Because-therefore interpreted translation to manifest reality: it will be exactly where you are, look exactly like it was made for you, and there is a secret message for you inside. This box…

Ah yes, the pencils.

I, like most people, have had a lifetime of pencils – more than some, less than others.  My preferences and compromises have reasons, but I knew, when I started using these, that they were my favorite.

Presenting: Mirado Black Warrior 2HB

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I’m not going to go into detailed and critical assessment, but I am going to say why I like them.  I did find two such in-depth articles on this very pencil – I don’t fully agree on all points and I didn’t completely read them, because I know how I feel about it.

I’m not sure if I have new or old stock, but mine lack the USA/Papermate branding. There could be a distinction. These pencils also happen to be black and gold.  They look really nice.

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It wasn’t till I used a 6-sided pencil again later that I noticed myself sub-consciously attempting to round the 6-sided edges with my nails or fingers – they’d poke into my bones and waste my energy with discomfort.  Like it was something I’d always been doing, but I finally found a round pencil that didn’t distract me with its shape and peeling paint.  The matte black paint really doesn’t peel much. The texture provides grip, without the tugging stick that can feel blistery after a furious page.

Pretty smooth sharpening wood-wise, not splintery.  The eraser is good enough.  The lead doesn’t splinter too much, but I have a favorite sharpener to use which works best. The graphite mark and feel are fairly artistic in my opinion, but this type is actually reputed for its writing qualities.  That may be why I’m inclined to them… understatement.  They are my favorite pencil.  A pencil warrior’s pencil.  Black, because of all the pencil; like a black belt.

I haven’t noticed that they smell like incense cedar, if that’s their material.

They’re great.  Mirado Black Warrior.  Fred Meyer.  If it turns out that I have old stock and the qualities I like are diminished, then I can be bribed with the correct pencils.  The articles are from 2006 & 2008, and I didn’t get into these till 2012.  But, stock can be ancient.  I found these lovely article reviews when checking to see if my favorite pencils had a website so I could know that they still exist.

EXTRA NOTE, speaking of something that popped into existence while I was in the high school whose colors are carefully crafted into my quantum freepile pencil box:

Please Consider Supporting McSweeney’s Internet Tendency Patreon Campaign

“While we have published the legendary (Steve Martin!), the famous (Ellie Kemper! Jesse Eisenberg! Michael Ian Black!), we also have been among the first to publish writers who have gone on to write for The Daily Show, Bob’s Burgers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Onion, and dozens of other places far more prominent and important than McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. ”

AND ME.

My two New Food Reviews on McSw’y’s Int. T’cy:
Peanut Brittle Cheesecake, last, Batch 14 2016, written at Sasquan
Chocolate-Covered Sunflower Seeds, 2nd, Batch 1 2003, alternymous

2003… they published me first!
Except for the high schoolers’ regional poetry competition publication.
No one has a copy of that, not me, not my family, I’m not even perfectly sure which year I won that regional teen award (California San Francisco East Bay Area 1997~2000). It’s not searchable, I only partially remember the content of the poem (about flying through emotions of music), and no physical or digital copies of it survived my great writerpocalypse – nothing digital did, and few physical records. Maybe it was the same year I got a CA state medal for Creative Writing and went to California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA… 99?), with the illustrious Amy Hale of Dreamworks/Walt Disney-Pixar (Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Penguins of Madagascar).  I starred in her short film that got her into CSSSA the year before me (but also the year with me) for Animation.  Back when I was promising!  Now I’m a glorious mess, sort of doing what they expected of me anyway.  Now, I have my quantum universe graduation pencil box.

So, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is special to me for more reasons than their ultimate greatness. They think I’m funny, who have made me laugh through tears. Without exaggeration.

This was about the pencils: Mirado Black Warrior 2HB.

Confession: Scientist

Yup, for about a year and a half I was a paid undergrad researcher at with my own part of the puzzle: isolating RFP and GFP genetic sequences from Japanese thermophilic cyanobacteria.  I kept my own notebook.  Got samples.  Worked it out on paper, and through three beta programs.  Powerpointed it.  Grew cultures.  Ran PCR.  Refined ligating sequences.  Ordered them myself.  Visited professors at two other universities (Mills), Stanford and UC Davis.  Imagined my research was for all the best uses.

I did not get to keep my meticulous notebook, that goes to science.  These are my remaining souvenirs: my PCR gel polaroids.  The top photo says #1 on the back.

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2016 Nebula Convention Mass Autographing

The Mass Autographing event is sponsored by Tor Books and will be on Friday night, May 13th, from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the Red Lacquer Room at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago. This signing is free and open to the public as well as to the 2016 SFWA Nebula Conference attendees.

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I will be present with copies on hand of Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides for the signing, and who knows what extra!  Chicago, we meet again.  First it was the Merchandise Mart writing for the commercial furniture industry, and now the Palmer House Hilton, writing for readers of science fiction and fantasy.  Chicago is professional.