Fun_People Archive
15 Oct
Pen Survey

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 15 Oct 98 12:04:04 -0700
To: Fun_People
Precedence: bulk
Subject: Pen Survey

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649
[An article well worth memorizing, if only for its value in trivia games...

Forwarded-by: Nev Dull <>
Forwarded-by: Tim Ruddick <>
Forwarded-by: Phil Agre <>
From: Barry Wellman <>
Subject: pens -- an alternative viewpoint (1.2)


I read Phil Agre's recent RRE writings about the search for a perfect pen
with surprise.  I didn't know that any academic actually pays for pens.  As
an avant-postmodernist, I know that's what conference-going is for.
Sheraton, Hilton, et al. go out of their way to be well-stocked.  Their pens
are good; I actually like them better than Phil's recommended V7).  More
importantly, the diversity of corporate colors means that conference-goers
can pretty much match their shirt pockets with a similarly-colored pen.
(I've been having a bit of a problem matching with Taupe though.)

I've gotten to the point that I choose my conferences by the color of pen
available.  800 numbers allow me to get this information for free.  Once
they get over their surprise at the question, hotel operators always have
this information at hand -- literally.

The basic brand differences are between barrel-and-separate-cap combos
marked either "Bic" or "USA" (perhaps to capture pro-American/anti- French
chauvinists).  Within these families, the pens are constructed identically.
Yet the colors do vary.  My favorites in the mass market are the Bics with
same-colored dark cap and barrel: navy-blue Hyatt (am I deluded or is their
ink better?) and the new all-black Hilton (San Francisco Hilton Towers,

To further complicate things, Sheraton/Toronto Centre non-standardly offers
an all-grey pen.  It is not clear yet whether the recent corporate takeover
of Sheraton (including its linking with Westin) will spill over into pen

The Hyatt is the best choice because it has black ink to the Sheraton's blue
ink.  As no one (except for Phil Agre?)  actually uses pens to write
nowadays, black ink is superior for photocopying marked up articles and

Of the two-tone Bics, Ramada is bright red, Radisson is dark red, Hampton
Inn is medium blue, Marriot Courtyard is forest green, and Embassy Suites
is a slightly brighter green.  The barrel is always white in these, except
for the hotel's name.  The exception is Doubletree which has a translucent
barrel.  It is ugly but I value it for the hard-to-match Ecru top.

The two-tone USA-brand pens are the Hilton's robins-egg blue (pretty by
itself but a difficult color to match with shirts), the Sheraton's dark grey
cap with white barrel, and isolated pens from the Miami International Hotel
and the Burbank Airtel Plaza.

The PITA for all of these pens is that their separate caps and barrels
hinders those of us who eschew Palm Pilots and use small paper pads for
taking notes on the run.  The winners here are the Loews chain (at least
their Montreal Vogue) and the Indiana Memorial Union.  They use one-hander
click pens (IU's is marked "Papermate"). Of course, what you gain in
handiness you lose in ink supply, but there is always another conference to
attend for resupply.  Hmnn, I wonder what the Westin Seattle will use for

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