Do Students in France Really Use French Rule Paper?

French Rule Notebook at the Virgin Store

After my recent visit to Paris during the height of back to school shopping I would have to say, YES,  students in France really do commonly use French rule paper. While shopping I observed parents and students busily filling their shopping baskets with loose sheets and notebooks filled with French rule, or Séyès paper.

I found the two most common sizes of paper were A4, or 8 1/4" x 11 3/4", and 6 5/8" x 8 5/8". The smaller size of paper was even available in loose sheets and there were nice compact size binders to hold these pages as well.

Clairefontaine paper was everywhere! Just look at these stacks of Clairefontaine French rule copies doubles perforees and loose sheets! The available quantity and variety of Clairefontaine paper was definitely enough to make this USA shopper jealous! I might just have to plan a return trip to France and bring an extra suitcase.

Clairefontaine Copies Doubles Perforees and Loose Sheets
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Shear Panic!

When I first saw Shear Panic! by Mayfair Games with its cute Wallace-and-Gromit-esque game pieces, I thought it must be a game for children. Shortly after beginning to play, however, I discovered that this strategy game is designed with both adults and young adults in mind and is a good choice for a game night with family and friends.

A flock of sheep including two for each player and one independent black sheep, push, jostle, slide and turn to get to the highest scoring positions in the flock. The highest scoring position changes during each of the four phases of the game. During the first phase the goal is to flock your own sheep together and scoring occurs during each player’s turn. During the second phase all of the sheep turn their attention to the handsome, red rose carrying Roger the Ram. When the marker that tracks the progress of the game reaches specific points, the sheep closest to Roger score the most points. The third phase is similar to the first phase, only now the goal is to be next to the black sheep in the flock. In the final phase, sheep are mercilessly pulled out of play to be sheared. The longer you can avoid the shearer, the more points you will gain.

Each player is limited to 12 different moves, so you may want to save your most powerful moves for higher scoring phases two and four of the game. My favorite moves are the "lamb slam" where one of your sheep gets to move in any direction pushing all of the sheep that get in its way, as well as the "ewe turn" that rotates all of the flock 90 degrees to the left or the right. This can either really mess things up or provide instant benefits during phases two and four, since Roger and the Shearer also get moved to their proper position in front or back of the flock.

I played this game with a group of four and found that even with the most careful thought as to your strategy, with each player’s move unexpected events would occur and sometimes even huge reversals as to who had the best positions in the flock. This helped to keep the game fun, interesting and balanced and prevented any one player from dominating the game. I would imagine that a two player game would be somewhat different and would even allow a bit more control over your strategies. This game is suitable for 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up. I’m definitely looking forward to playing Shear Panic! again at our next game night!

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Steel vs Gold Fountain Pen Nibs

Platinum President Demonstrator Pen 18K Gold Nib

Some people feel that to obtain the ultimate experience in writing one needs to invest in a fountain pen with a gold nib. But is this really true? Is a gold nib really superior?

There are a couple of reasons that a gold nib could indeed be superior. For one, acidic or alkaline ink will not discolor or corrode a gold nib, whereas a stainless steel nib can eventually discolor and corrode. This was more of an issue in years past when inks generally tended to be more acidic than they are today.

As well, the workmanship is usually superior on high quality pens with gold nibs, with these pens and nibs getting much more care, attention and hand-work in the factory. Plus the appearance of some gold nibs is truly stunning! High quality fountain pens are considered by some to be family heirlooms and are valued by collectors around the world.

Since gold is a softer metal than steel some think that the writing experience with gold nibs is "softer" or more flexible. But this is not truly the case because once gold is bent or flexed it does not tend to return to its original shape.

During writing, the gold portion of a fountain pen nib is not actually the part of the nib that comes in contact with the paper. All gold and stainless steel fountain pen nibs (except some of the cheapest with a low quality) have a ball under the nib made of hard metal, such as iridium, that comes in contact with the paper. The quality and workmanship of this ball, or tip, will definitely have an effect on whether or not the pen has a superior performance.

We have found that some stainless steel nibs can rival the performance of some gold fountain pen nibs. Even an inexpensive LAMY Safari fountain pen can write "like butter" and provide a very satisfying writing experience.

So should you purchase a fountain pen with a gold nib? That’s entirely up to you! Once you get started with your fountain pen collection you will likely come to appreciate the beauty and workmanship that goes into high quality fountain pens with gold nibs. Happy shopping!

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J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink Mixing

J Herbin 4 basic ink mixing colors

After we wrote about mixing a few basic Noodler’s Ink colors to create a rainbow of other colors, one of our helpful readers mentioned that the same thing can be done with J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink.

The equivalent of Noodler’s Navajoe Turquoise, Shah’s Rose, Yellow and Black (CMYK) in the J. Herbin line of inks would be:

Cyan = Bleu Pervenche
Magenta = Rose Cyclamen
Yellow = Bouton D’or
Black = Perle Noire

Thanks, Will, for pointing this out! Here at Writer’s Bloc we decided it would be a good idea to have all of these J. Herbin La Perle des Encres Fountain Pen Ink colors available so we ordered Bouton D’or and Bleu Pervenche to add to our bottled ink collection. Now we’re equipped for those of you who would like to give ink mixing a try with J. Herbin’s popular and enduring fountain pen inks.

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The Settlers of Catan


One night be phone rang and when I picked up my cousin said, "Hey. Come over and play this nerdy board game with us!" and looking for an excuse to nurture my inner nerd I agreed to go. When I arrived I saw what looked like a really complicated game being set up. My cousin was in the corner with the instructions, brows furrowed and shouting random things about the game to us as we inspected all the various parts and pieces. Needless to say that we were not experts at strategic Eurogames, but I had heard that The Settlers of Catan was a good place to start so we set up, sat down, and started to play.

Catan is a game based on strategic placement of settlements, roads, and cities with the goal of acquiring resources to build more settlements, roads, and cities. A specific number of victory points are attached to each item (1 for settlement, 2 for city) and points can also come from other places (like having the Longest Road or the Largest Army) and the first person to 10 victory points wins. Gathering resources proved to be a game of chance and strategy as the roll of the dice determines what resources are to be collected, but the placement of your buildings determines whether or not you get to cash in on the roll. My first two settlements were both placed adjacent to Wheat fields both under the number "8" disks. So everytime an "8" was rolled I would get two wheat cards, and when I replaced one of those settlements with a city I would get three (having a settlement gets you one card, having a city gets you two). Inadvertently I had monopolized the Wheat market which proved to be quite useful when bartering.

The true character of your friends and family really comes out during trading. Those who are demanding and stingy usually make enemies pretty quickly, but their ruthlessness can end in victory. Those who are too generous usually get walked all over, but they worry less about getting stabbed in the back. I was careful not to make enemies too quickly, but I did do one pretty vicious play that gave me quite a rush.

In the game there is a robber who not only steals half of your cards but also camps out on your resources and prevents you from collecting. When a player rolls a 7 everyone with 8 or more cards loses half their cards, and the player gets to move the robber wherever they wish. In addition there are knight cards that allow you to move the robber and to steal a card from the adjacent settlement or city. Towards the end of the game my brother and I rolled a 7 (we played on teams since there were so many of us) and negotiated that we wouldn’t move a robber to a certain place if that team (who was winning) would give us some absurd amount of ore, then we immediately used the knight to move the robber to that spot and took another card from them. Mean, huh? Well, they won anyways so don’t feel too bad for them.

Overall we throughoughly enjoyed the game, and even though the rules are more complicated than your typical "roll and move" board game it is easy to catch on once the game gets going. We’ve "settled Catan" a couple of times since then, and even though I may not know much about Eurogames, I have to say I have joined the masses that adore playing The Settlers of Catan.


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