Notes about liquid-ink pens, plus URLs on spam and other topics.

A Web version for "How to Complain About Spam" is now available, thanks
to Tom Blake.  Here is the URL:
By all means recommend this URL to anyone who might appreciate it.
Some people have asked why I restricted distribution until 12/31/97.
The answer is, the article will go out of date someday, so I don't want
it circulating on the Internet eternally.  Also, just in case the article
turns out to say something stupid, I want a chance to issue a revised
version.  I figure, the Internet being what it is, that it'll reach a
large percentage of its truly interested audience within six weeks anyway.

The Spamonade project is a semi-serious project on the rhetorical analysis
of spam:

If anybody has a URL for the hilarious Spam Haiku then I'll pass it along.
Real Spam, that is, the trademarked stuff in the can, with the capital S.

Here is a useful technical article on the problem with mailer hijacking
and related topics:

Beyond spam...

Am I on your Christmas list?  That's great.  Maybe you could call up the
Reynolds company in Valence, France (you'll probably need to speak French)
and get me several copies of the Reynolds "Liquid Ball" pen (not the "Liquid
Point").  It's a fairly cheap (under 20FF) disposable liquid-ink ballpoint
pen that is just terrific.  I think you need to specify the point size, 0.5,
any color.

Why?  For many years I have done most of my work by writing with an actual
pen in artists' sketch pads.  As a result, I have become I am a serious
connoisseur of cheap pens, the kind that're lots better than those nasty
standard-issue pens but lots cheaper than those heirloom pens that're really
for symbolism and not for writing anyway.  You can get these things in art
supply stores for a couple of bucks.  (I'm also a connoisseur of artists'
sketch pads; the best are made by Canson, and so far as I can tell, you
cannot get a good sketch pad outside of the United States.)

Just this year, the world of cheap pens was revolutionized by disposable
liquid-ink pens.  As someone who spends hours a day writing on actual paper,
I can't tell you what an improvement they are.  The reason is simple: it's
liquid ink, not that nasty viscous stuff that's always clotting up, and so
it flows much more smoothly onto the page.  They're also more entertaining
than regular pens, since they include a window onto the ink reservoir.
While I was travelling, I went to art supply stores in several countries
looking for them, and the best was the Reynolds model, which I could only
find in a single art supply store in Nice, France.  (Reynolds makes a lot of
other, more garden-variety pens, which are distributed more widely.  Forget
them.)  I did find some other pens that are almost as good.  The most widely
distributed is the Uni-Ball Eye (called Vision in the United States), which
has the advantage of coming in a range of slighly unusual saturated colors.
Another good model is the Pilot V-Ball, although its barrel is a little
too skinny to be comfortable.  You can get a disposable fountain pen, too,
the Pilot Varsity, but much like regular fountain pens it's way too much

More common than ballpoints and fountain pens are those "precise" pens with
the thin cylindrical tips.  Among these, my favorite by far is the Compactor
XTRA 0,5 from Germany, and if you should happen to speak German it'd be
great if you could track down some of these for me.  Its barrel is also a
little narrow but its ink flow is exceptionally good.  The Xonox Rollerpoint
EF (Germany) is also good, but with it, as with the Pilot Precise Rolling
Ball V5 (Japan), I start to feel as though I'm scratching my words into the
page rather than writing them.  If there's a Xonox ballpoint then I'd love
to hear about it.  The Sakura Microperm 05 and Micron 05 are also good pens,
although the tip feels so fragile that it's probably more for drawing than
writing at full speed.

For what it's worth, you can also get liquid-ink highlighter pens.  The
most widely distributed is the Pilot Spotliter Supreme, and it's pretty
good.  The Zebra Zazzle (Japan) looks cool, but the more you use it, the
more problems arise, not the least of which is this annoying pump-action tip
that supposedly keeps the ink moving but mostly makes it hard to highlight
precisely.  My favorite highlighter, though, is the mystery highlighter
from Brazil.  It doesn't have a brand name on it.  All I know is that I
bought it in the Jou-Jou shop in the Leblon neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.
So if you're in Rio and know where that shop is, maybe you can score a few
of these highlighers for me.  They're easy to spot: completely transparent
except for colored bits at each tip.

J. William Gurley and his recommended "Above the Crowd" newsletter have
resurfaced, at CNET:

Jamie Love, who works for Ralph Nader, has posted an interesting document
that purports (rather plausibly) to be a leaked Microsoft PR damage control

Common Cause has a comprehensively depressing report on soft money in US
politics, including some relevant news about the broadcast industry, at:
(Something is screwy with their DNS entry, but I can get the report with
lynx.)  The editors of the Wall Street Journal, upholders of civilized
standards of public discourse that they are, consistently refer to the
people at Common Cause as "goo goos".  So they're doing something right.

The Internet Filter Assessment Project:

Two good articles from the ISOC magazine OnTheInternet by Michiel Hegener
whose work has appeared previously on RRE: "Internet, Satellites and Economic
Development", from the September/October 1996 issue, is at
and "Internet Unwired", from the September/October 1997 issue, is at

Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies:

Cyberspace Law Abstracts:

World Wide Weight ("America's dominance of the Internet isn't just a cultural
issue. It could pose an infrastructure nightmare."), by Andreas Evagora, from

The Transactional Records Clearinghouse at Syracuse University has a new site
of materials relating to the FBI:

OECD report on the GII:

I mentioned "copyright management" systems the other day.  For background,
Mark Stefik's Scientific American article on the use of "trusted systems"
to implement them is at:

  What is the price of Experience? do men buy it for a song?
  Or wisdom for a dance in the street?  No, it is bought with the price
  Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children.
  Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
  And in the wither'd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain.

  It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer's sun
  And in the vintage & to sing on the waggon loaded with corn.
  It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted,
  To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,
  To listen to the hungry raven's cry in wintry season
  When the red blood is fill'd with wine & with the marrow of lambs.

  It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements,
  To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter
    house moan;
  To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast;
  To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our
    enemies' house;
  To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness that
    cuts off his children,
  While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door, & our children
    bring fruits & flowers.

  Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten, & the slave grinding
    at the mill,
  And the captive in chains, & the poor in the prison, & the soldier
    in the field
  When the shatter'd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead.

  It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity:
  Thus could I sing & thus rejoice: but it is not so with me.

    -- William Blake