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The blog at the end of the Universe

Well, two and a bit years since my last blog update - not exactly what you could call up-to-the-minute news.
Total lack of discipline - so much has happened in that time, but yesterday's news is tomorrow's fish and chip wrappers, so there is no plaice (!) here for it.

I am aiming to bring you my news much more frequently via the medium of Twitter - let's see how I do!

You can follow me here:

All that is left to say here is so long, and thanks for all the fish!

Susan and Russell

BACK to the future

"Why don't you scan the back panels?" This is the question most frequently asked about our website. Of course in the early days it was all about time - each individual scan and crop took around seven minutes, that's over an hour for every ten pens, and we have over 2,000!

However, now we have the process so finely tuned that even Frank Bunker Gilbreth, and Lillian Moller Gilbreth would be proud. Working with batches of at least 50 pens, the process takes around one minute per pen - much more manageable.

So what was it? As ever, it was all about the coding for the web page - we could show the back panel, but it added an extra manual element to the mix if we wanted to exclude the code for those with no back panel yet. And as Mr and Mrs Gilbreth would have concurred, an extra manual element would screw up the production line.

Well, Russell locked Susan in a room with the computer and refused to let her out until she had written the code that looks up whether there is a back panel and makes a choice whether to display one or both sides. "Simples!" as  Aleksandr Orlov, the Meerkat, would say.

This blog post is so educational!

The outcome of this revolutionary development, is that all future pens scanned will have both the front and back panels displayed. Then sometime in the near future, all trade pens will have both sides displayed, and then we will deal with the backlog. I estimate a couple of months because I fear that If I have still not managed it by November, Russell will lock me in a room again until they are done!

That will be so Back to The Future that Marty McFly and Dr Emmett Brown would be proud.

Please Mr Postman, look and see ( Oh yeah ), If there's a package in your bag for me

Floaty pen collectors are an interesting and varied, but always fabulous, bunch.
We love trading with collectors from all over the world.

It is so exciting to open the package and take that first look at our new pens. Indeed, many pen collectors stick something extra in - last week we traded with the fabulous Kim Dougherty, who shares our love of kitties - she put in a really cute cat card that made us smile.

Today a package arrived form IJda in the Netherlands, and for the first time ever, the package looked too nice to even open it to get the pens out. You will see that she has applied the international postage as no less than 32 different stamps, each one is Amazing - thank you so much IJda! Will I actually open the package - well of course, but very very carefully!
UPDATE: IJda says that after 1 November 2013 only Euro stamps will be allowed, so she is just using up her old Guilder stamps before they become worthless. I am so glad she did!

I am a TMC treasure

Remember this conundrum?

I am a TMC treasure!

We have no idea what a TMC treasure is - according to Google it could be The Mother Church, The Motorsports Club, Treasure Mountain Consulting, The Millionnaire Club etc. etc. The truth is out there - please let us know! (Pen 1601, Drawer 78)

Well the mystery has been solved by the wonderful and talented Janet K Miller:
"TMC is Tucson Medical Center (Well, it's a lot of things, but the saguaro cactus that figures prominently in the pen is the clue that solves the puzzle). I bet they gave these to every baby born there!"

Janet also has her own floaty pen which I am hoping to buy or trade:

You can find this pen, and all her other amazing work at:


Another cute Chinese pen!

To Russia with Love!

We recently completed a trade with the lovely Paulina in Moscow - with terrible weather at both ends of the journey, it is with thanks to Royal Mail and the Russian Post that everything arrived eventually.

Paulina sent me some pictures of her and her very cute son enjoying the pens - Thanks Paulina - let's do it again soon!

A bit of a splurge!

Introducing our two new Swarovski pens - definitely not Eskesen, but very similar in shape to the Wesco pens shown in my recent blog entries.

These pens are the height of luxury - reassuringly heavy to hold, and full of Swarovski crystals. They even come in their own velveteen pouches! Floaty pens don't get much blingier than this!

Curiouser and curiouser


There is a pen that we bought about four years ago (pen 486) - it came to mind after I posted my last blog entry two days ago - Does it look familiar to you? It matches the exact shape of the Wallace and Gromit pen shown below:

A little about Wesco China

Like most collectors, we are fiercely loyal to Eskesen in Denmark - all other pens are of inferior quality - or so we thought...

Just recently pens have started to appear that are definitly not Eskesen, but are well made and have a really nice feel to them. All the pens have a 3 dimensional character floating in them - the character is well detailed, and seems to be cult/sci-fi related.

They are more expensive than the typical Eskesen, but as licensed products, have a much wider target audience.

What do you think? (The Wallace and Gromit pen is not definitely a Wesco - it is made for Rainbow Designs, possibly manufactured by Wesco)

Freudian Slippers!

A charming 59 second clip taken form the BBC documentary going behind the scenes of the Freud Museum in Hampstead, London. This clip is set in the souvenir shop, and the floaty pens can be seen very clearly....

A blog is a broadcast, not a publication. If it stops moving, it dies.
- Andrew Sullivan

Global Soul, by Pico Iyer - a book found by 'Hawk eye' Russell at a flea market

"The unhappiest people I know these days," writes transcendental travel writer Pico Iyer in The Global Soul, "are often the ones in motion, encouraged to search for a utopia outside themselves."

Of course, any collector will tell you that the happiest people are the ones in motion, encouraged to search for a utopia inside a floating pen!

Front cover:

Back cover:


Maria and Chad, Canadian floaty collectors, are in India...

We originlly met in 2005, and they visited us at Andy and Kathy's in Vancouver in September 2009.

Maria, as well as being an incredibly talented photographer, is a dedicated floaty pen collector. She only collects the classic style. We traded some lovely pens that night!

At the time, Maria and Chad were planning their trip of a lifetime, Personally I would have designed my trip around floaty pens availability, but one month in India sounds pretty amazing too!

A little overwhelmed... the response to our new trade page.
 However, all the hard work has paid off, because it as led to some amazing acquisitions. Here are a few:

This photo predates our current website...but with the powers of Photoshop...

Shiny new pens...not yet assigned drawer numbers...Russell has been a bit busy in January

Naomi has continued to be a dedicated pen hunter!
Ladies and gentlemen, Naomi's pens in all their glory:

ABC stores Hawaii

Hawaii - surfboarder

Hawaii - Hula girls - newer

Volcano Hawaii

ABC Stores Hawaii (map)

San Francisco's a zoo (narrow font on back)

Aloha from Hawaii!

Aloha Hawaii

A shout out to my big sista!

I am so proud to have such beautiful and talented sistas and sista-in-laws.

Big sista Mandi has a blog at Colette in Paris, commenting on all things cool.
She blogged us - How exciting! Check it out:

To do is to be...

OK, so we failed to reach our targets before we went off to San Francisco - let's not dwell on that.
The fact is that all procrastination is over - our pens are logged, tagged, scanned, and uploaded. The page now has a structure and is ready to go live!

All comments and suggestions appreciated!

Best wishes

Susan and Russell.

PS Naomi you are amazing!

PPS If you handle Italien Fatty fakes all day to scan them, they can really damage your skin with tiny cuts from the poor mold edging!

When the going gets tough...

Well, for a change a blog entry about how much we have achieved.

As you know, a few weeks ago it looked like we would never make any inroads into this task.

Well the good news is that we have made several advances, in sheer quantities, we have perfected our HTML and scanning techniques, and can see light at the end of the (very long) tunnel.

We have set up highlight pages for: Floaty museum, Food and Drink, Floaty art gallery and things that float. We also have our All the pens page.

Our target before we go off on our next Floaty pen hunting trip will be to:

1. Complete all USA and Canada pens and set up a special highlight page for them

2. Make sure that all the scans in the current highlight sections are complete

3. Re-scan some of the pens that were originally photographed, where there is a visible flash across the image.

I'll report back in a couple of weeks!



A pen a day keeps the doctor away!

Cripes - I can't believe how long it has been since I have posted to this site.

Thanks to all our great family, friends and clients, we now have drawers full of pens added to our stockpile of pens still to be scanned and added to this page - it is a staggering task. I am not sure we are up to the task at the moment.

In true accountants fashion, we are trying to at least keep on top of the database and spreadsheet and I have been working on my automatic HTML code generator, so as soon as everything is scanned we should have a pretty advanced real-time web page. Perhaps this is my way of procrastinating to avoid facing the scanning?

We have had some real gems given to us in the last couple of weeks - the star of which has to be the Qatar airways - with a silver coloured body, the only problem was deciding whether it went in - Africa and Middle East or Advertising transport.

We must try to be organised in time for our trip to San Francisco.... off to work!

I can scan clearly now - well not quite yet...


My first 30 pens were scanned in 2003. Since then, I have been unable to take any scans. They have all come out blurred. I have bought 2 new scanners and still have the same problem. This has been really driving me mad. Photographing pens is quite quick, but without a lightbox, the results are never as clear as a scan.


As I am about to try to record 700 images I thought I would try to crack it once and for all. Did you know that the type of scanner that I used in 2003 was a completely different type to the one we have now? We didn't. It's all about CCD and CIS - This nice man Carl Mcmillan  demonstrates it beautifully:

We have to find an old CCD scanner, or start constructing a lightbox...Watch this space.


Spreadsheet Queen, only seventeen... er?


A few days in bed with tonilitis, work piling up around me, deadlines getting precariously close. What is a girl to do? I spent my time dreaming about databases and spreadsheets and how to get the pens on the website -I know, really sad.

Anyway, on Friday, my first day up, I knew what I had to do (please skip if you want to be spared the details)

  • FTP'd all the jpegs of the pens already scanned (file name now equals pen id number)
  • Exported from the database into a spreadsheet, and using the concatonate (?) function, and a couple of nested 'if statements' I generated the HTML code (including over 1,000 image file names)
  • I copied and pasted this code into Windows Notepad - In my opinion, still the best web authoring tool
  • From this I copied it onto Mr Site in design mode, HTML, clicked save and went back to bed!

Anyone who has used Mr Site knows that it is the easiest web page tool ever invented, and no knowledge of anything technical is needed whatsoever. However, with over 1,000 pens to display, even the easiest task would need to be repeated 1,000 times, for which I don't have the patience. Luckily for me, with my previous html experience, and Mr Sites ability to let me override its user-friendly interface, the whole process was a breeze, and took only a few minutes between Lemsips.

We still have about 75 pens to register, and about 800 pens to photograph...



Remember remember the 1st of November...


I knew Russell was the right man for the job. Although he has been a tough task master, we now have every pen in our collection registered on our database, or logged in the swapsie section. Phew! Whatch this space for floaty pen project Phase 2.



What took you so long?

I admit it has been a long time since my last post - but that's not to say we haven't progressed with our pen logging...

We are a few weeks into populating our new data base.

Our aim is to:

  • Import our old spreadsheet into the database
  • Assign each pen a unique reference number and attach a label
  • Locate each pen and record its drawer number into the database
  • Identify all unrecorded pens and duplicates
  • Photograph all pens, with the file reference the same as the unique pen reference number
  • Put all pens on Mr Site
  • Put all swapsies in our Mr Site shop
As you can imagine, this is a huge task - luckily Russell is fully on board and with his organisation and leadership we are well on our this space!


Getting back to my roots!


A very busy weekend, and not much time for updating. Infact, I have exactly ten minutes, which is how long I have to sit here with my hair dye on!

Ten minutes was just enough time for me to add the seven graffiti pens to the art section. I am begining to think that perhaps the art needs to be subdivided. I am sure that I could tell the history of art through floaty pens - it would mean a lot of work and research...oops - my hair dye has now been on for 20 minutes, so I better go and rinse it off.



198 pens onboard - Phew


Today was the first day of the Big Update project.

We were supposed to be in Leeds today for a family party. It would have been lovely to see everyone, but sadly we have cat-sitting problems until we have had our boosters, so we had to stay at home.

Poor YoYo came in last night with something stuck in her throat. After a few hours of watching her trying to clear it, and bringing up a lovely white foam, we took her to see the vet. He sedated her and removed a 20cm blade of grass! She stayed in the cat hospital all night and we picked her up this morning. It is lucky we were home.

Anyway, back to the pens. I have managed to get every pen and description from the original website onto the new site - and made a start on transferring the Flickr photos. It has been quite mindless but relaxing, and so far I don't feel under any pressure! The original site was last updated in 2002, so quite a lot of the text is out of date and will need updating - there is plenty of time for that later.

Until the next time...


Getting started...


This is our 'third generation' floaty pen website.

The first site, at, was entirely hand coded in Microsoft notepad! After the first hundred pens we got bored with this and the site remained dormant for three years.

The second site was attempted at Flickr, This was a great option, as we could get our floaty scans up there, and out in the public domain without too much fuss. However, Flickr is only a photos-sharing website, and we needed more flexibility - with over 1,000 pens scanned we needed some way of organising our pens into logical sections.

Which brings us to our third site - kindly provided by 'mrsite'

You buy the box, take it home, open it up, find nothing but an access code, feel a little disapointed, have a cup of tea, try it out, somehow have a website up and running in 10 minutes, do a dance - what could be easier?

Russell and I know that to get our entire collection online is going to take time,and patience, and perserverance. Sadly we do not have any of these in abundance!

In the coming weeks, we will of course have the same old arguments - is Egypt in Africa? Do two South American pens justify a section of their own?

Starting off optimistically...



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