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.