Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ink Review: Noodler's Ахматова (Russia Series)

Feeding the addiction...
I'm a fan of bright colors and even though they might be harder to use for in the office environment, I have no qualms using it for letters and notes.  The most use I get for bright colors is class notes and my language journal, so I had no problems justifying the purchase of this ink.  I was also interested in the ultraviolet qualities that this ink would exhibit, so I figured I would try it for that reason as well.

Overall impressions with this ink are somewhat lackluster unfortunately. This ink dries EXTREMELY fast on the nib, for example, if I don't write for a minute or so. Overnight, this ink gets so dry that the only pen type that is practical for this pen is a piston filler, because you can wet the nib with a twist of the back of the pen.  I believe that the ink can be made wetter by adding water, but I don't know how it would affect the way it writes. The green part of the ink washes off from skin, but under a blacklight, it'll show up for a few washes of your hands.  Another claim is that this ink is in the eternal line, so you can expect good things from it. I will be testing the properties of this ink very soon and I will be sure to let you know.
This stuff can be hard to wash off skin! Put some on before clubbing!

 Pictures can't really do this ink any justice, but I tried to do my best. This ink is best described as a spring green that turns a fantastic glow-in-the-dark green under a blacklight. The green looks silhouetted by silver when used on copy paper, but on Moleskine paper, the entire letter glows.  I was surprised most of all by the fact that there was no bleeding on Moleskine paper at all! Perhaps this is the experience others have had with these inks?

I'm now very interested in trying some of the other UV capable inks in the Russia series, and even Noodler's Blue Ghost as well. There isn't much practicality in the latter, but that doesn't mean that it won't be fun!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hero 285 in Silver and Gold

This is a modern pen I was surprised to find among those from my basement, especially because it isn't old at all. How it got thrown in with this group I can't be certain, but regardless, I'm pleased to have found it.

She's showin' off her wares...
 I quickly inked this baby up and got her down on paper so that I could try it out. It immediately proved to have a very smooth and yet fairly fine nib.  F nibs tend to be scratchy unless you shell out large amounts of money for them, and this (I'm fairly certain at least) was not a costly pen. Noodler's Polar Black was the ink I used to fill this pen. Aesthetically speaking, this pen is pretty snazzy, though I feel that the black and gold version would be slightly better looking.  The pen is excellently weighted, especially so when the cap is posted on the end.

I found the grip on this pen to be about average as far as fountain pens go, with this pen being one with a narrow barrel. I personally prefer narrow barrels because not only does the pen weigh less overall, but it fits into a pocket with much more ease and fits into my hand more comfortably. Portability and weight don't matter when you have time to sit down at a desk and write slowly, but for the average student, those are critical points in evaluation of a pen. I unfortunately can't think of a pen to compare it to, but with the solid construction and fantastic nib, all that comes to mind is a Lamy Safari, but honestly, it isn't even close.

After leaving it sitting for a few days, this pen wrote immediately, which is a practical quality that modern pens should possess.  I know that the finicky nature of vintage fountain pens can be part of the allure at times, but when I'm in class, having a pen that doesn't need constant care is much more useful. We should have standards for ourselves as fountain pen enthusiasts! If a modern pen costs over $100 and looks pretty, but doesn't write well, then we should discourage others from buying it! This pen definitely doesn't cost $100, looks very nice and writes extremely well, therefore, it is a good pen to purchase.  If you're on a budget and you still want a nice pen, then this will fit your niche very well and you'll spend somewhere between $15-20. When I checked last, had a large selection of pens made by Hero that were similar, but not exactly the same. I've never bought from them, so I can't comment about the retailer, but the members on the seem to support them.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Parker 51 Dark Blue Fountain Pen

What a cougar!
I suppose I've been on a bit of a fountain pen tear lately, but after the recent discovery of a veritable trove in my basement, I've been itching to try them all out so this is the first in a sequence of six pens (more if I can get all of them to work).  There is always that exciting feeling that you get when you try a pen for the first time, laying down line after line of pure bliss or agony, depending on the pen.  What makes the experience with the fountain pen different is that it was used by someone else.  This was when pens were made to last and be reused countless times.  A vintage pen hearkens to a time when people had a "go-to" pen and they actually carried it with them at all times. The excitement I feel is that someone lovingly filled this pen with ink,  just like me, all that time ago. I used Noodler's Polar Black by the way.

It was in this era the Parker 51 1/10 12k Gold Filled Cap Dark Blue Fountain Pen was made and purchased by my grandfather or grandmother in Singapore.  As it turns out, in the 50's, my grandmother worked at a department store in Singapore as a fountain pen salesperson.  That also explains the excellent quality that the pen was in when I found it, despite the fact that it is guaranteed to have not been used for almost 40 years.  The reputation of this pen is undoubtable and the quality has so far proven to be unmatched.

The true worth of a pen is that which the owner puts in it.  This pen by modern standards writes very well and lays down a nice wet line, in a pleasant way of course.  I'm personally a bit more of a fan of EF, but this is a case where F is quite fantastic.  We all need to remember that the nib is the most important part of the pen, and here, Parker combined a very good nib with a cheap body and an extremely smooth filling system.  The weight of this pen is great with the cap posted and a little on the light side without it.  The grip is non-existent, but the barrel tapers and fits well in the hand.  So far after a few days of carrying it around with me, there have been no leaks or any problems or issues to speak of.

Sorry, I didn't have the time to take a different picture with the paper.
I wish I had more Rhodia paper!

 They just don't make 'em like they used to.  If you're a user of modern fountain pens, I highly recommend picking one of these up.  I have heard that the best way to find one is to go to garage sales and estate auctions.  Antique stores will usually cost a bit more, but will have them.  Talk to family members and friends first though, because they just might have one sitting around.  Most likely it hasn't been used in years and they'll be happy to let you have it. There is nothing more exciting for me than following the path that a pen has travelled, being a part of that history and then ensuring that it continues.

Salvete omnes!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Noodler's Nib Creaper Fountain Pen

As an introduction to a stash of old fountain pens that I found in my basement, which my mom has lovingly let me keep (Thanks Mom!!!), I have chosen to review this rare fountain pen from the company with the catfish logo.  I feel like this pen will be a good transition to the antiques since it owes its design to older pens.

By the way, "creaper" is a play on creeper...

I ordered the Creaper Fountain Pen along with the Bad Green Gator ink that I reviewed in my last post.  I was originally drawn into using this pen because not only because it was made by Noodler's, but also because the nib was modeled after those from the 1950's and thus lacks a breathing hole.  Originally, the breathing hole was included on pens to increase ink flow, but many inks flow very well out of most pens in the modern era. Personally, I have never had any issues with ink flow with any pen, which can perhaps be owed to the quality of Noodler's Inks?

If you don't like nib creep (which is the pen ink all over the metal part of the feed, then this pen will drive you crazy. sold this pen for Noodler's as a test market, and the pen is unavailable and probably will never be produced again. It makes me happy that I bought two!

I have used Noodler's Polar Black and Bad Green Gator in this pen since I have owned it, both working perfectly in it with no problems whatsoever. I am a college student, and I carry my pens with me from class to class. I don't haphazardly stick them in pockets, but put them front shirt pockets and collars if there isn't one on my shirt. I am not by any means rough with my pens, but somehow, this pen is now riddled with cracks.

I can only remember one drop the entire time I have owned this pen, and it was from my hand to a desk, so approximately the length of my elbow. Nathan warns on the piece of paper included with the pen that the plastic used in making it was chosen more for its resistance to penetrating inks (Anyone tried Baystate Blue?) and as such is a bit brittle, but still this seems to be a bit ridiculous to me. The only thing that I can think has caused the cracks is the stress from possibly being screwed together too tight. I've not had this problem with any other pen, even the rollerball version that I bought at the same time (review to come soon).

The crack is hard to see, but it is fairly long.

You can see the crack just under the clip... sadness...

Despite this, this pen is a fantastic writer and there is some flex to the nib.  The piston filling mechanism works flawlessly in both iterations as well. I've found that for both of them, the ink will leak from the tip or flow too fast if there is too much air in the chamber. A simple twist of the piston will take care of that by pushing the air out. If you want to see the line quality, you can visit my review of Bad Green Gator, for which this pen was used.

 As always with a fountain pen that doesn't use cartridges, the pen is an investment for the future that is not only friendly for the earth but your wallet as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ink Review: Noodler's Bad Green Gator

I have a confession: I love Noodler's Inks. So far, I haven't found one that I've been displeased with. Sure, I've tried other inks, but the permanence of Nathan's creations over at Noodler's are the most attractive features to me, while other inks offer special appearance under UV light or the ability to resist freezing in even in the coldest Chicago winters.  The ability of the written word to survive longer than the writer and potentially outlast the life of the very paper upon which it was written is one of the most attractive features of the fountain pen and these very special inks.  Personally, I was interested in getting a dark green colored ink that would be acceptable for turning in on papers for classes.

Bad Green Gator.... Bad Green Pine Tree just didn't sound as tough.
The Bad Green Gator is an ink that is part of the Warden Series of inks that were developed after a student at Yale cracked through Nathan's bulletproof inks.  Noodler's apparently has an offer to the public that if they can remove his bulletproof inks from an ordinary check that he will pay them $2000 as long as they show him how they did in person. Nathan then takes that method and develops an ink that is impervious to it. The Warden Series is the response to that Yale student's laser removal. Yes, lasers.  Now your fountain pen ink can be laser-proof!

Fantastic on Rhodia Paper!
The ink was a bit darker than I expected and less washed out than anticipated, and both points were immensely pleasing. I would compare this to a dark evergreen for those of you whose computers won't display colors adequately.  The ink flows well from the nib of my Noodler's Nib Creaper Fountain Pen (Review to follow soon, hopefully).  This ink is very susceptible to feathering on cheaper papers, but not too much more than Polar Blue or Black.  This ink arrived in the mail just in time to write Christmas letters, for which I feel the color is perfect. The letters that I used are made of paper that is conducive to feathering, but I couldn't afford anything more expensive, so I somewhat expected it.

Japanese practice went well.

On Rhodia paper, the ink didn't feather at all and was fantastic in helping me study for my Japanese quiz.  I have not yet tested this ink against water and various removal methods (including lasers) but I think that I can go without testing this one, especially since acquiring a laser could be quite costly.  Even though I don't write many checks, I still appreciate the idea that whatever I write is permanent in every way possible, made available at a very reasonable price.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Life-Changing Mechanical Pencil

In America, where the price dictates the quality of our writing instruments and 25¢ pens endlessly abound, the mechanical pencil always just seemed to serve it's function. Sure, the lead was always breaking, and when you write, you have to turn your pencil all the time so that you don't have a sharp edge to cut your paper. The grips are usually uncomfortable and the colors are insipid, the latter of which isn't always bad.

My first trip to Asia, after realizing that I appreciated writing instruments, changed my view on mechanical pencils:

I could just watch 'em turn all day

Walking through a stationery store, I noticed this mechanical pencil, the Uni Kuru Toga. I picked it up and tried to decipher the pictures on the back, since I didn't yet know any Japanese. The concept seemed fascinating. There is a mechanism within the pencil that rotates the lead for you. Now, up until this point, I hadn't actually realized that I was turning my mechanical pencil. I now realized that I didn't have to anymore. I also noticed that because of the point that is created, the lead doesn't break anywhere near as often.

 There isn't too much of a grip on it, but it isn't uncomfortable at all. (Besides, if you wanted one with a grip you could get the Kuru Toga Alpha Gel version anyway) Coming in two lead size variations, I've found this to be the only mechanical pencil I will ever use again. I prefer to use Pentel Ain HB leads, and combined with either the .3 or .5 version of the Kuru Toga, pure bliss ensues. I can write uninterrupted in class and I don't have to worry about the letters being in weird shapes or indecipherable blobs or accidentally ripping holes in my notebook, especially when I'm writing in Japanese. The line is always sharp and sometimes I feel like it is .1mm sharper than the lead number because of the mechanism always keeping the pencil sharp.
The .3 is on the left...

From my experience, any lead that is softer than HB grinds away much too fast for the mechanism to work, and for the .3 version, I would almost say to use a harder lead.  This is a pen that can take the edge off of your work, whether by not having to worry about your writing, or by simply being entertaining.  The colors of this pen are very nice as well, even though with a lot of use, the paint does scratch off.  These pencils are available online at the usual websites, along with the pictures to help understand the internal mechanism.  Uni is supposedly working on bringing a .7 version out, but it is unclear as to when that will happen because the mechanism takes up a decent amount of space in the barrel of the pen.
(written in a Moleskine)

Never again will I use a cheap mechanical pencil, having now lived through the euphoria that is the Kuru Toga. I have 3 and I firmly believe that they are worth every single penny. My addiction to pens ensures that I will still get new pencils, but the Kuru Toga will always have a place on the top of my list.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The End of the Colored Pencil

The Frixion Color-Pencil-Like Erasable Gel Ink Pen isn't a new product from Pilot, but it is one that provides a much needed update to a concept that in the future could be lucrative.

Done up in Blueprint blue, it sure looks good on you... well not exactly blueprint blue.

I have been completely surprised by the lack of advertising that has been used in attempting to sell this pen in the United States. I've seen advertisements for it on, but none that I know of have been aired.  Even in stores, this pen has received very little shelf space and is accompanied by very little to no fanfare, which it most definitely deserves. I know of many people who would use them if they only knew...

This pen is without a doubt, the most useful pen that I own. I have bought many, many replacements and I have tremendously enjoyed each one. I suppose, however, that I should start from the beginning:

The original Frixion, which came in a seven color series, was a useful writing instrument.  As the first of its kind to hit the market, it was unrivaled and for lack of a better term, a bit of a novelty item.  It was useful in tasks that normally would use pencil but look polished with a pen, such as math, sciences and languages.  As could be expected with the first iteration of a product, there were some problems. The most blatant was that the pen cap covered the eraser, so in order to write, the cap had to be off.  Sometimes the ink could be spotty and inconsistent and then finally, all of the colors seemed a bit washed out.  Black wasn't as much of a black as it was a heather, and dark blue was a greyish-blue.  The next pen I noticed in stores was the .4 version of this pen, which made some improvements, specifically in ink quality, but the ink color still seemed to be a bit washed out.  Finally, and to thunderous applause, the Pilot Frixion Color-Pencil-Like Eraseable Gel Ink Pen was introduced! I personally like to think of it as "Frixion v2" but, that's just me.
They're a sweet lookin' bunch..

The major problems with the previous generations have been fixed and the pen has been improved in general. The eraser has been moved to the top of the cap and the ink flow has improved greatly. The best part of the pens now is the wide array of vibrant colors which are bright and bold on any paper.  I've personally found any of the darker colors (dark green, dark blue, brown which are all above) to be fantastic on all types of documents, but even the orange is bold enough to be seen on white paper, as I am accustomed to this color in gel pens disappearing in a bright light. These pens erase just as well or even better than the previous generations and fill a much needed niche in the student's repertoire. The grip is just as comfortable as a standard pencil, and the pen writes for a long while before running out.  These pens are easily accessible on and are nearly impossible to find anywhere in America, unless you have relatives to send them to you from Singapore, that is.  One of the downsides of this pen is that it is not refillable as it's predecessor was, but doesn't even matter considering how much better this pen is than other erasable pens out there.

There is still a novelty factor to this pen, as friends and coworkers will comment, "Wait, an erasable pen that actually works?!?!" And then I'll explain the heat sensitive ink and "magic" reappearance of said ink and continue to bore them with talk of aeromatic fountain pens and the bulletproof qualities of Noodler's Inks.  Despite this, people still ask me what pen I'm using for the day, even though they know that a long rant may accompany it.
Just the pens in my pocket for the day... Not pictured are Lamy Safari and eyedropper Platinum Preppy.

Recently, Uni-ball has released the Fanthom, which by all looks, appears to be an impersonator of the first generation Frixion pen.  I have not yet tried it, but will hopefully be able to at some point in the future, so I can let you know if it is even worth compare. My advice to those who can't decide which one to buy, is to buy the Frixion, because Pilot has already improved on the first generation, whereas the Fanthom is just getting started.

-The Classicist

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Dearth of Testosterone in Stationery Stores

Over the past few years, I've visited stationery stores whenever I would come upon them.  I would almost always walk out of them empty handed.  What has been most prohibitive in my potential purchases is that cards and stationery in general are always targeting women. I suppose that a woman is more likely to send a thank you note or birthday card to someone, but surely there are other men out there who want to send a greeting card not covered in glitter to someone for the holidays, or any time for that matter.  Every stationery store within reasonable reach of me or that I might happen to walk/drive by has been dominated by cards with pom-poms, glitter and bright feminine colors.
Google Image Search produced this Papyrus card, which though nice, would not be sent from a man (and maybe some women don't like them either).

What makes it even harder is that so many stores are chock-full of jewelry, soaps and other craft items, which only target women. All of the Papyrus stores that I know of in the Chicago are this way, and there's even a store in Naperville called Papier Girl.  That alone could deter a potential customer, and it nearly deterred me, because I felt like I was about to enter a Victoria's Secret.

Next, the stationery is expensive, and I am willing to buy some things after saving up for a while, but sometimes paying $20 for 10 cards is not something I want to do. I try to support the few companies that I feel do a good job, so on occasion I will suck it up and just spend the money.

Crane & Co. Paper has really been the only store that has dependably had a few stationery sets that are not specifically female-oriented. Usually I just buy plain cards before they are used by soon-to-be-married couples for whatever purpose they choose. These are usually the best, since they are plain and allow me to do with them as I please.  When I last visited New York, I filled up on plain stationery, for which there were stores all over the place! Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places in the Chicago suburbs, but the only leads I've really been able to find was listed on the Noodler's Ink website for area, but they're a bit far away from where I live in Aurora. I will make the trip to Algonquin sometime I'm sure, but I really can't know exactly when (unless it is today!)

This all brings me to wonder exactly when the demise of stationery and pen began? I know I'm younger than many enthusiasts out there, but it is sometimes disappointing to think that at one time every department store had an entire section of the store dedicated to fountain pens and stationery.  I am thankful for the internet and the online stores that continue to continue to display passion for this hobby, which sometimes feels like more than that. Who knows?  Vintage is starting to become a popular trend, so maybe, just maybe, people will write letters once more and everything will become more accessible.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Pilot Envelope Address Writing Gel Ink Pen

Quite a long and relatively boring name for a pen, considering that there are pencils that go by "Mirado Black Warrior". I am not yet able to read enough Japanese to give a translation or a better name otherwise. I purchased an EF and F from last year and have been using them for quite some time. It is a pen whose use is based on an interesting concept, which is detailed on the Jetpens website, which has this little blurb about them:

Though they may look different on the outside, they're basically twins!
"Often time holidays become a marathon of calligraphy writing as elders send out postcards and letters to family and associates. The older one gets in Japan, the longer the list of friends and acquaintances that require a postcard during the holidays (many times over 100 people). For such an endeavor one requires nothing but the best writing instruments to fulfill the task, for writing beautiful kanji is appreciated by others. This Pilot pen series is designed specifically for kanji writing and is available in extra fine, fine and broad points. The oil based gel ink dries super fast and produces very dark and shiny lines." (Link)

After using this pen for a while, I noticed that the tip was very similar to the Pilot Precise V-7, so I decided to compare the two.  I have to say that my results are disappointing overall:

The tips are different, but they feel similar.
While the ink in the Envelope pen does dry slightly faster, I could really find no difference in the actual line laid down by the pen.  As far as the shine of the ink goes, I was also disappointed because the V-7's ink actually had a bit more sheen to it. The ink in the Envelope pen has a distinctive odor similar to that of a Sharpie, because it is oil based.  My test on Moleskine paper was a wash between the two, with there being only a slight difference in line thickness (The Envelope pen is just a hair thicker). I could barely differentiate which pen was used for which set of lines. I found that on a smear test, that the envelope pen was much more resistant to smearing. Both pens write equally smooth on Moleskine paper, while on anything rougher, especially cardboard, the Envelope pen is a clear winner in smoothness and appearance.  Even though I wasn't able to find my envelope pen in fine (F) thickness, I can say that there aren't too many pens that lay down as thick and dark of a line. I personally prefer the smaller tips, but as far as the wider version goes, I was pleased. My overall verdict on this pen is that it is unnecessary in the extra fine version (EF), even though it may fill an interesting little niche, the difference between it and other pens already out there is for the most part negligible.

It was only after the third group of words that I started writing with the Envelope pen. ιστημι was the first group with the it, and the only difference is a slight variation in thickness.
If you write on rougher, pulpier papers quite often, then this pen will perform wonderfully for you.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Lamy Safari

Those are some nice lines...

Since it is my first official day of fall break, I decided to be productive and get a post online. My mom recently returned from Paris and brought back a fountain pen for me. This is my first real fountain pen, since before this I had only written a few lines with others' pens or just used Platinum Preppy's. I was very excited to start writing with it, yet somehow, the box managed to delay me from my goal. It is quite possibly the coolest pen container I have ever seen, because it can be flipped inside out (kinda) and the pen is just floating there before your eyes, just asking, no, begging to be touched.

As far as writing goes, I went right at it and ended up jotting down the entire set of Greek verbal accidence for the verb "λυω" in my Moleskine notebook.  The nib that came on my pen is an M, which I'm not terribly fond of, but honestly, it still puts down a great line on the paper that isn't too wet or thick.  One thing that I had to remember is that the German nib sizes are larger than the more precise Pilot nibs, probably because of the need for fine detail in writing kanji. The blue ink cartridge that comes with the Safari is more of a blue/black with a hint of purple. It really isn't that far off from Noodler's Polar Blue, which I am really loving.  The cartridge ink also takes very well to the Moleskine paper, with very little feathering if any.  The ink also did not bleed through at all, but at times it can seem a bit washed out. I've got some black cartridges, so I hope to add those to this review as soon as I get to them. Unfortunately, the ink reserve in the cartridges is so large that it is taking me forever to finish them off!  That's how it should be Pilot Petit1!

You take that top off!

One thing that immediately struck me about this pen is that the barrel has a somewhat triangular shape to it, which I assume is intended to make writing more comfortable over long periods of time, which I fully intend to test soon. The steel clip is really strong and allows me to hook this pen into my pocket, so I don't have to worry about it falling out like some of my other pens.  As far as installing a cartridge, there is an interesting little trick to getting it done, which is actually quite nice, which is to just twist the back end of the pen in place and it breaks the cartridge seal for you.  There isn't a whole lot of weight to this pen, but it does have durability going for it, and being a student, that is really the first thing I look for in a pen.

Overall, this is a very practical pen that I can see getting a lot of use for a long time.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Noodler's Polar Blue Ink and Polar Black Ink

I'm relatively new to the world of fountain pens, having only started using them on a regular basis two years ago. My interest was started with the Pilot Petit 1 which was enormously convenient and only took up a little bit of space. I was disappointed somewhat with the amount of ink in one of the cartridges, but enjoyed using them for writing letters and other special occasions.  I moved on to the Platinum Preppy with high hopes of longer lasting ink supply and was reasonably satisfied, but learned that it just wasn't possible to get a cheap "disposable/reusable" fountain pen that would write well and fill the writing niche I wanted.

Enter Noodler's Polar Blue and Polar Black inks however, and Platinum Preppy and we're talking about some seriously useful tools here.  The Polar Blue came with a Preppy .3 because the ink can stain the barrels of more expensive pens and unlike other inks tends to stick to the walls of the barrel even after a day of nonuse, but you could always get an adapter if you want, since they're a relatively cheap solution. The Noodler's website is fantastic and has a lot of information about the inks and their uses in fountain pens.

Polar Blue looks fantastic!
The Polar Blue ink itself is possibly my favorite shade in the blue/black range, despite being named simply Polar Blue.  The black is a good quality standard for use in a fountain pen as well. The ink is also listed as being "Bulletproof" which means it is able to withstand the test of the modern forger even including industrial cleaning solvents, and so far as to the extent of my testing, which entails acetone (until I get my hands on some oven cleaner), it most assuredly is bulletproof.  The ink can bleed through on some cheaper papers but performs well on Moleskine paper. A more thorough review here.

I am very happy with the purchase of both inks and look forward to much use out of them now that I have an "endless supply".  I can now use these inks in all circumstances without worrying about using them only under very specific circumstances. Now, every time I write can be the special experience that I enjoyed so much.

'tis quite beautiful
One of the more interesting aspects of using bottled inks in fountain pens specifically is that since cartridges aren't being used, there is a lot of waste saved from landfills. Even further, if you compare the distance that the average disposable pen goes to that of a bottle of ink and one fountain pen, you'll find yourself saving a lot of money (average G-2 = $2) and saving landfill space at the same time. Sounds like a great deal to me.

I'm looking forward to buying Baystate Blue and Empire Red in the (hopefully) near future. I'm going to need some new fountain pens soon too. I just need to keep my eyes peeled for a good deal out there.

(Edited to add pictures taken during a class)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Pilot Opt .5

The time has come for my first review! I have chosen to review the Pilot Opt .5 as it was one of the first pens that I came to admire, not only for the design but for the lead advancing mechanism (I was a "shaker virgin" before I bought it.) My lead of choice for now is Pentel Ain line (HB) which is just what I happened to be on for my most recent purchase, since I don't yet have a lead preference.

Oh, she's a looker...

I've found the Opt to be a fantastic pen that writes smoothly and is very well balanced. The grip is reasonably comfortable and fits flush with the barrel of the pen.  I don't like pens that have barrels that bulge out from the body of the pen. The shaker mechanism, which was foreign to me until I purchased this, works magnificently. A quick wrist flick moves a weight which advances the lead. There have only been a couple times when I have found it was necessary to have this at my disposal, such as chemistry class where I need to use a pencil, but the professor talks really fast, and I don't have enough time to reach up and click the pencil. The click mechanism on the top of the pen works just like a normal pencil, so nothing special there.

There are two characteristics that make this pen special though. The full line, which can be found at was designed based on the idea that colorful writing utensils, while very pretty, tend to stick out quite awkwardly in a professional environment.  I can see myself at a gala event with this baby peeking out of a pocket.  This pencil caught my eye specifically in the black and white stripe variants.

Alluring, yet still practical.

The second interesting note on this pen is the clip at the end of the barrel.  A large spring is used on the clip, which allows the user to attach the pen to a rather large notebook if necessary.  I am a big fan of pen cases (which I am currently looking to upgrade) so I wouldn't be using the clip much, but I can see it being extremely useful for people who do. I've decided that from here on out, as often as possible, I will display real use of each instrument, so here are some notes from a history class I'm in about Ancient Rome:

HB is my personal preference when it comes to leads

So there you have it! My first review wasn't as hard as I feared. A review of the Uni Kuru Toga will come next!

Salvete Omnes!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A rant about language instruction in America:

Until I get some pictures taken of the pens that I have, this will have to do as my next post... but I promise it will be moderately interesting.

Having taken Latin in high school, I realized what is absolutely necessary to know in order to understand the fundamentals of any western language. I am still continuing linguistics now in college and have even taken Ancient Greek in order to further understand the roots of languages, but I am now learning through the modern languages that my professors don't really know how to teach a language to someone who already knows the complexities of grammar. This misunderstanding is partially due to the fact that the textbooks for modern languages don't incorporate anything dealing with case systems or basic conjugation until you're 50 pages in and even then, it doesn't develop for another 100 pages. The professors, however, chose these books with this knowledge, which bothers me to no end.

All of this methodology deals with strategy and has nothing to do with vocabulary, which is learned differently by every person.

There are two main strategies for learning languages, of which both can be useful, but one is more useful to the linguist.  The first one, which is the choice of many first year language teachers is based on hearing the language. This is similar to the Suzuki method of learning how to play an instrument. The idea is that the student is immersed in the language and hears only that language in the class. The second method, which is more practical for me is the method of teaching grammar, which is less practical for learning cute colloquial phrases, but is more useful in the long term.  I could come to appreciate the first method if the teachers actually immersed the class in the language as the theory suggests, but most teachers don't and that is why so many students struggle with languages in high school, and even college. I've learned the Classics (Greek and Latin) and Arabic through grammar and have found it to be much more efficient. Unfortunately, most teachers would rather not teach it that way, which leads to mass confusion in the class.

So, what is my point?  Americans already have a bad reputation for not being able to speak other languages, while the polyglots in Europe continue to advance farther and farther ahead. Wouldn't it be nice if foreign language teachers actually learned something about the teaching methods for languages and employ them correctly? I've never been so bored and simultaneously confused while learning a language as I am with the Japanese and German classes that I'm taking in college right now.  It doesn't mean that I'm giving them up (since I enjoy writing in both of them so much!), but it does mean that I'm going to stop taking introductory language classes in school and instead teach myself. After all, you could say that there is a third method for learning languages; teach yourself what you find necessary and spend the most time on what you deem necessary.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What it's all about

Pens and writing utensils in general tend to excite me to no end, hence the name of this blog.  My goal is to write and comment about pens that I use, interspersed with my other hobbies and interests. Most of the pens I have are purchased at, but there are other websites and I sometimes beg my family in Singapore to send me more.

I'm a student at Augustana College in the Quad Cities in Illinois.  I live in the Chicago suburbs however and play baseball. I'm majoring in Classics (Ancient Greek and Latin) and I'm also learning German, Classical Arabic and Japanese, which should help in reading the labels on the plethora of Japanese pens that come out every year. Discovering which pens work best for what languages is a lot of fun and is also a great excuse to continue writing. I am also an amateur pen spinner. If you have no idea what that entails, I highly recommend seeing the video at this link:

 I look forward to writing in this blog and reading comments and above all trying new pens and papers.