Japanese vs German nibs

One of the first thing I noticed when I got my second fountain pen (A Lamy Safari) was how different Japanese and German nibs were.

On one side you have the very wet and smooth German nibs, and on the other side you’ll find something is a little bit more scratchy. When I say “scratchy” I don’t mean it in a bad way, just in the way where are a little bit more resistance.

I enjoy both.

I’m not going to turn this into a Philosophy discussion. But I’m of the belief that form and substance follows each other. This means that how you write is determined by the kind of the writing instruments and paper that are available to you, and how they develop over time is a result of how you write.

The difference between Western and Eastern writing instruments is huge and obvious. Where western writing instruments like the Lamy 2000 focuses on being smooth and moving across the page with as little friction as possible, does a Pilot Vanishing Point focus on giving you as much control as possible.

My western understanding of languages of the east, like Chinese and Japanese is at best limited. But as I understand it their symbols are more or less the same as a word.

In a western language like Norwegian, French or English, either you write with cursive or not, you move fast, and your letters don’t contain much detail if any at all. This means that you move fast, and moving fast without any friction over the page is more important than a lot of fine grained control.

While in a eastern language on the other hand all the details matter much more, and you don’t need to move that fast over the page, because the lettering is much more detail oriented.

The result is that Western pens like the ones of Lamy is much wetter and broader, while Eastern pens like ones of Pilot is much dryer and finer. Both is a result of the interplay between the writing instruments and the kind of writing they have been used for in the different cultures.

Which is better is a difference of taste. I personally love wet and broad nibs, while others prefer something finer.

Pilot Vanishing Point

I’m not sure what to say about the Pilot Vanishing Point. There is a lot to like about it, but there is just as much to not like about it. The most striking thing about it is the unique look, and it is not a good one; at least not for me. You can either get a regular blackish one or one of the other. My biggest problem with all of the other designs is that they kind of have a Mont Blanc vibe going on or as I usually say “a little bit too grand daddy for my taste”.

The regular black is very utilitarian and that is fine. Not every pen you own need to have be considered a piece of art (the Lamy 2000) to be great.

My two “gripes” with this pen is the clip and ink capacity.

The clip on this pen is placed in the grip section, which means that it is either bothering you or not. My impression is that it is either a little bit or very annoying to fellow lefties. I can see why some people hate it, but I’m not that bothered by it itself. But I do not for the life of me understand why Pilot can’t use the lower profile clip they had in the past or why they can’t make a left handed version that is reversed. For christ sake, you can get a replacement nib section, and you can’t get a left handed version of the outer casing? There should be a large enough section in the market for lefties for this.

Pilot Converters and me is an old problem, and I’m pretty sure it will go on until they make them bigger or I die. I’m betting on the latter. It drives me nuts that they can’t make something large enough to get me through a day of a lot of writing. It usually lasts me 2-3 days if I’m only writing tasks and so on. But that can be cut down to somewhere between a few hours and half a day if I write a lot. For example if I take a lot of notes in a meeting or if I am in charge of taking the minutes.

This is why I always carry more than one pen.

Where this pen shines is in the coating and the utility of it. I love how fast I can go from “not writing” to “writing”. And the coating on the pen makes it very comfortable to write for longer periods without feeling slippery. It is the thing I go for the first if I am not going to sit down to write for longer periods.

It’s the perfect “office pen".

My first fountain pen is retired

I bought my first fountain pen around three years ago. It was a Pilot Metropolitan, with what we today call the medium nib. There was no choice back then. Today is the last day I’m going to use it or bring as a part of my “everyday carry”.

I have used it a lot, the clip broke off, the nib is kind of bent out of place and the barrel is all scratched up. But I do love it for what it has become.

This does not mean that I’m ditching the Metropolitan, I got a new one to replace this one around six months ago, and will without doubt continue to be a part of my EDC in years to come. And I do love if for being the best al around “cheap” fountain pen out there, either for experienced or beginners.

Sorry…

Sorry everyone. I have not had much time to poste lately. The weird thing is that I have had drafts laying around it various notebooks, but I have simply not had the time to transcribe them. I have some posts lined up now. And my hope is that I’ll get the time to publish at least bi weekly moving forward.

– Eivind

Bag Philosophy.

My old bag philosophy or lack of one was always to always carry everything I might need. And I did so for way too long. It started when I went too school, I just did everything I could to bring everything I might need in order to not having to think about packing the damn thing, and always having what I needed to do whatever I had to do.

I still think that the general idea is correct.

I currently use two bags. One of them are the bag I use every single day when I go to work, and the other is when I just need to bring more than I can fit in my pockets bag. They are both picket because they have room more just what I need with a little bit margin.

What if I suddenly need to bring X? Yeah, that does not happen that often for me. And the more space you have, the more crap you accumulate to fill that space.

Here is the thing, everything I have in my primary bag is stuff I either use every day or most days. This is good for my back because the bag is lighter and it is much easier to find what I have in the bag because I can get something that fits my needs much closer.

My other bag is something I bought for when I want to carry a small camera, a notebook, a few pens and my phone. Another thing I made sure was that it is easy for bouncers to search and small enough to not fit bottles of booze or wine without being very obvious. Something that is very useful when I end up bringing it when I get drinks.

I also have a camera bag. It is useless for 90% of what I need a bag for. But it is very useful for when I want to bring my big camera, a flash and potentially my other two cameras.

Tom Bihn Pilot: a review.

Like everything else in my life, to get a new bag is always a long running process up until the point where I make up my mind; then it goes really fast. My old Osprey Flap Jack Pack have been in slow decline for at least six months. The plastic parts started to break off, and the fabric look really worn down; especially on the back. I don’t expect more than five years of daily use out of a good backpack.

But what I need from a my daily carry bag have changed a lot since then. I carry less and less stuff.

What I wanted this time was something small, and compact that had room for just what I need, without too much else. I also wanted a configuration of different compartments where they weren’t too big or too small. Too small means that they aren’t that useful, because you can’t fit anything into them and too big have the opposite problem where you can’t find anything.

I carry my laptop, a few pens, a few notebooks, some cables, my laptop and charger and my camera. But not much else. I also carry my headphones, but they don’t need to fit in the bag because I usually use them all the time.

The way I went around it this time was to to look at all the various bags I had collected links to during the last 12 months or so, and to round it down to at 2-3 different makers. Before I looked at what they had to offer. I’m not going into who I didn’t chose. But the reason I went for Tom Bihn was partly their reputation which is hard to challenge or rival and partly because their Pilot look like an exact match for what I need.

I have used it a few weeks now. And I got to say: it is fantastic. The build quality is beyond anything I have experienced. And I can find anything without any hassle(except for my bag of cables, but that isn’t the bags fault).

Everything from the process of ordering the bag to the packing to the fast delivery and the content of the box and the bag itself was delightful.

Ordering anything from Tom Bihn is what I want it to be, not unlike Apple. You pick a product and then you are presented with only the options that are available to that product. In other words, you can’t order a strap that won’t fit your bag.

The delivery all the way from Seattle to Bergen, Norway was very fast. They shipped it the same day I put the order in. And I received it 8 days later. I ordered another package from an European company the same day and a new laptop. Tom Bihn beat all the others by 2-3 days.

The packaging was the way I wish all packing was. They proudly told me that it was carbon neutral, something they didn’t have to, but though was the right thing; both being carbon neutral and informing me about it. What I was presented with when I opened the package was the fact that this box didn’t have a spear inch. They obviously make cusstom boxes for all their products. And a delightful piece of paper on top of the bag. Telling me everything I need to know, including how to return a faulty or “not for me” product.

My next bag will without doubt be from Tom Bihn.

The reason I went for the Pilot is the configuration of the compartments, and how compact it is. I ordered it with a Tom Bhin Laptop cover; they are amazing; I have never seen anything that makes it as easy to take my laptop in and out while at the same time give me the confidence that it is secure.

You basically have four compartments, and a small one on the back, which is perfect for putting mail, paper you receive in meetings and so on. The main compartment have a large compartment and two smaller pockets on one side. I currently have my 13” MacBook Pro and two Field Notes Steno notebooks(one in each of the smaller pockets). My plan is to also carry a iPad once I order a new one.

Then you have the three compartments on the front. Two larger, one of each side and a smaller one in the middle. I use the middle one to carry a laptop charger and a pouch with all the various chargers, dongles and cables. Then I have my camera and pens in the right side pocket and my Travelers Notebook and battery bank in the right side pocket.

I’m so happy with this bag because it feels like I have more room in it than my previous bag, while at the same time being smaller and it also makes it so much easier to find anything.

Year one: a little bit too late.

I think I have three or four drafts of this post in my notebook. My intent was to publish it on the day, but I have simply not had the time to get it done.

This site, and most other writing have to take the back seat while I try to complete my degree as fast as possible and try to get the startup I’m working at off the ground.

I feel really bad about not getting this post out in a reasonable fashion or time and I will try to get it done next year. I’m grateful and surprised over the response this site have received. Everything happened much faster than I had anticipated or hoped for.

What I first and foremost want to do is to say Thank You to everyone who has linked to me since I started. I have no idea how many readers I would have had without it, but it wouldn’t have been many.

There are also two people I have to mention in person because they gave me the initial push, and because I have been a fan of theirs for such a long time: Brad Dowdy and Ana Reinert.

The big question is: what am I going to do with the InkSmudge in year two? I’m going to revisit som of the topics I have written about during the first year, and I am also going to look more at ways to integrate stationary and a like into your life and how to be happy with five pens instead of 50.

And I have a new bag review coming up in a few days.

What is convenient isn’t always better.

I bought an Apple Watch last week. This isn’t really about it, but the charging system Apple went for is a very good example for what I am trying to say.

The inductive charging system on the Apple watch is very convenient, you just place the watch on top of it and leave it. You don’t have to plug anything in, you just leave it on top of the charger. But it isn’t that great. My main problem with it is that it’s too easy for something to bump it off, and then you have a watch that is 50% charged in the morning instead of 100%.

You can say the same thing for a classic Bic Crystal. It is a very convenient pen, and it is pretty damn good for what it is, even though I don’t like it. It works every time, and it is cheap. You could buy a large box of them and leave a few in your bag, on your desk, in your jacket etc. But it isn’t better. You could get a much better pen, for example a Lamy 2000, but that is less convenient, even though the experience of writing with it is worse.

Convenience and the best thing is always up against each other, and you need to find the perfect balance. They work after two completely different set of premises. You want to go as close as possible to “best” when it is something that is important to you, and you want to go as close to convenient as possible when you want it to be as easy as possible.

Why I don’t organise my notebooks.

I’m not that into organising “stuff” into folders or compartments. I don’t do it more than I have to digitally or analogue. The reason I never do it is that what I am going to look for when I need it is almost always different from what I would have categorised it as. My approach is instead to organise things based on what it is. All my plain text notes are in the same place, all my pictures are in the same place; all my Field Notes are in on place and all my larger notebooks in another.

I use search to find my stuff on my computer, and I almost always find it. The way I do it with my notebook is that I write when I started using a notebook, and when I completed it on the first page. Then I write a date on the top of each “text” or “list” or whatever. Then I write “(posted)”, “(transcribed)” and so on on the bottom of each text if I have done so.

It isn’t perfect, and it can be cumbersome to find stuff sometimes. But it gives me just enough context to find what I am looking for.

And I can look through all of my notebooks many more times before I even get close to the time it would have taken to set up and maintain a good system for categorising all of my used notebooks.

End of an era, and when I discovered the benefits of handwriting.

I went to my university’s bookstore yesterday, and bought, what will hopefully be the last batch of books for subjects I am taking. I’ll probably still drop by every now and then to pick up some books.

My plan is to be done with my degree in a few months.

It was when I started at the university that I started to see the real benefits of taking notes by hand. I noticed that I didn’t really remember that much of the seminars and lectures when I took notes on my Macbook, while I remembered a lot more when I used pen and paper.

There have been done a lot of research on the subject, and I’m not going to get into that. But my observation after reviewing some of the notes I have taking both in digital form and analogue form, and my observation is that my digital note is more or less a direct transcription of both the slides and what was said. While my analogue counterparts include was less information.

My impression of my own process is that how I pay attention is the key part here. When I take notes digitally I just passively listen and just write down every single piece of information. While I really have to focus and pay attention to pick up the important information and formulations when I write by hand, because I can’t write down every single thing.

My reason for using pen and paper before I started at the university was because I preferred it, now I use it because it often is the better tool for the job, in most situations, but not all. I still think that a laptop is better if you want a very accurate transcript of the meeting.

We need handwriting.

Articles like this always drive me nuts. We still use hand writing a lot in our daily lives, even though it doesn’t have the same role as it used to have.

The author uses one of the most ignorant and idiotic arguments I have seen in a very long time:

But as a left-hander with terrible handwriting who watched my son struggle to master cursive — he had to stay inside during recess for much of third grade because he wrote his j’s backward — that is a loss I can weather. And history is replete with similar losses; consider how rarely people now carve words in stone, dip pens into ink or swipe platens of typewriters. There will be no loss to our children’s intelligence. The cultural values we project onto handwriting will alter as we do, as they have for the past 6,000 years.

School isn’t just about learning useful skills. It is also about learning a wide skill set, so that you can figure out what you want to do later in life. But the most important thing is that many things in life are hard. You still have to do them, and it is good for you.

You still need handwriting. Many subjects you are going to take require you to do a handwritten exam, not because we are old fashioned, but because subjects like Math, Physics or Logic require very sophisticated software and a lot of training before you are able to do the same thing that you can do with a simple piece of paper and a ruler.

There are also many things in your daily life where you are expected to write by hand, for example when you have to fill out some forms. Or in a meeting when you are brainstorming on large piece of paper or a whiteboard. Or in a meeting with a designer when you are trying to figure out how something should look.

You can probably do the same thing on a computer, and we do, but it is often faster, easier and better to do it on paper.

Now. Cursive. My cursive hand writing is horrible, and I hated it when I had to learn it. But it is still a very useful skill. I can read cursive because of it, even though I can’t write it myself. We have spent many hundred years, and billions of dollars to learn how to understand dead languages that we lost the direct ties to. We will cut the ties to most of the primary sources available to historians if we stop teaching cursive. That is bad. The long term problem is that we could loose the ability to read them at all. The short term problem is for everyone that need in their field or study or other work related task. Instead of using a little bit of time learning it, while learning is easier, they have to learn it much later. This means more training or education for various research positions and probably regular jobs as well before they can do their job.

How to ask the right questions

I think we have established that buying every cool thing that shows up isn’t really my thing. But I do buy stuff when I need them. And this is about how I go forward to figure out what I need.

The first step is that you need to start out with a different starting point than the product. For me it is about replacing something that isn’t what I need, removing something I don’t need or adding something new to solve a problem I don’t have a good solution for.

I always take note when I get annoyed. For example my latest change in my “workflow” for a lack of a better word, is the re-introduction of pocked sized Field Notes. As I said in the blog post, I got rid of them because the format wasn’t the right thing for most of what I were using them for. The format was way too small and limited for managing all of my notes and tasks. But I slowly realised that they were the right thing for a small sub set of my tasks and notes. I don’t always bring my Travelers Notebook when I go shopping, but I always have the room for a Field Notes notebook. There: that is a good place to start.

The reason I focus on having a use for something before buying it, is that most of us have a limited amount of money we can spend on stationary per month and year, and the less I spent on stuff I won’t use, the more I can spend on stuff I will use. It’s not that hard to spend enough on notebooks you don’t use to pay for a Lamy 2000 or something really expensive.

Small or large?

I always try to use the smallest bag I can get away with. This is the kind of where you have room for what you need, and not much more.

My previous bag was perfect for what I needed then. But it is too small because I have to bring my computer to and from work at my current job, something I didn’t need to at my previous.

The one I am using is way too big, and I haven’t found the new “perfect” yet.

My problem with a large bag is that it leaves room for carrying a lot of junk. The result is two new problems, first it becomes full, and then you can’t find anything, because it is full of junk.

The result is that I have to empty it once a week, put back what I need and figure out what to do with the crap.

The thing I like about using a bag where you don’t have much more room than what you need is that you can’t fill it up with crap, and you need to consider every singe thing you want to add. It comes down to how important that new thing is, and figure out what to do. You could chose to not add it, or you could remove something else or get a bigger bag. It all comes down to how important it is.

It always feels like I am doing better choices when I really have to consider everything up against each other. This is one of the ways I try to force myself to do just that.

On when to buy.

I have written many times before about questioning what you use, as a way of finding the best tools available to do what ever you are trying to do. But I have left one very important slot open, and that is when to do it.

It is very easy to buy every single new and shiny thing out there, just because they are new and shiny. But that is just a very simple way to spend a lot of money, and fill your house with a lot of crap you'll never use. The alternate approach is to let the need come before, you buy it; instead of trying to find a use for something after you buy it.

For me, everything stationary I order are in one of two categories: new stuff and more of what I already use. What I mean by more of what I already use is things that I need more of(inks, refills, notebooks etc) and things I need to replace, like pens. While new stuff are new pens and other items that I buy to solve a specific problem.

Let me begin with new stuff. I don’t order anything the first time I see them because I know that it is a fairly big chance I won’t use it much unless I have a plan for what it is going to solve for me. But I add everything interesting I see to a list, so that I have a good place to start when I need something to solve a specific problem. And when I decide to buy it, wait a few weeks to see if I really need to pull the trigger. Some problems aren’t big enough to actually justify it, while others are.

The tricky part is when you want more of something you already own and use. For example inks or notebooks. It’s okay to have a few bottles of ink or a nice pile of Field Notes. But you should in general avoid ordering at a higher pace than you are using. My strategy have always been to order a pile of refills for my Travellers Notebook or a pile of Field Notes and then wait until my stock is almost out before I order more. And seriously: how many bottles of ink do you need? When you are getting close to owning more ink that you can use for the rest of your life, is the moment where you should stop buying; and maybe selling a few bottles before you order more?

Everything matters.

I think I first learned about this concept when I started playing guitar, everything has an impact on the sound. From the strings you use, to the picks and everything about how the guitar is made. The same goes for your pens and notebooks.

When you are trying to achieve something, everything that is a part of that something will have an impact. I always find it useful to write down a few sentences about what my goal is.

The most important thing for me is always short enough dry time without any bleed through, while others might think that no feathering is more important than the dry time. My perfect setup would be instant dry time, no bleed through and no feathering. But that is impossible. You could probably get it with a very thin nib, but I’m not a fan of nibs like that because they are way too scratchy for my taste; and I have thing for a thick line.

You need to start with your goal. Before you figure out what the options for getting there are. But you also need to look at where you are willing to compromise.

My personal experience is that you do get something from picking an ink with short dry time combined paper that are known for shorter dry time. But the key factor is the the pen. How broad and wet the nib is the most important factor.

Using a journal to keep track of habit forming.

I’m more interested in habits and how to get yourself to do what you want than the average human.

Let’s say you want to do something, for example read more books, buy more pens or go more to the gym. A typical solution to this a resolution; they usually come in the form of “Work out twice a week”. There are a number of problems with it though.

The problem with it is that you will fail many times, and the typical resolution don’t take this into consideration. A good goal should be achievable, not too hard, while at the same time pushing yourself. It should be hard to fail.

I have taken a different approach to it the last few years. I set a number. For example “I want to go to the gym 100 times this year”. The total number of times you go to the gym is more or less the same, but it takes into consideration that you will skip a week here and there, without breaking it. If you skip a week while on vacation or sick – then you’ll have to make it up by the end of the year.

This is a fantastic way to use that pile of Field Notes you haven’t started using yet. The way I do it is that I write what the goal is on the first page, the next two pages I use to keep track of how many times I have done it. Then I start writing dates; all the days I went to the gym. You can also write some notes about each entry if needed; this is what I do to keep track of all the books I read during a calendar year. I write the date I completed it followed by Author and Title.

My New Work Notebook.

I have spent a lot of time looking for a good notebook to use at work. My previous work place(I work as a Software Developer Consultant, so I work for as long as they need me, before I move over to the next gig) had a supply cabinet with not great but good enough notebooks, so I used them.

I have been using MYN refills since I started at my current gig, but I don’t think they are the right thing to use at work.

What Do I need?

  • Short dry time
  • Be able to rip out pages
  • A notebook that stays flat, so I can read pages and take notes without having to fiddle with the notebooks.

I considered everything from the Baron Fig stuff to LT1917, Rhodia and so on.

I landed on a notebook that I have been curious about for a very long time: The Field Notes Steno Pad. The paper isn’t the best, but I know it after filling over 50 of the pocket sized Field Notes; they are not the best for fountain pens but work pretty well, everything considered. The dry time is short. It is more or less the perfect notebook for me to use at work.

The format is superior to the “book” format in this context, but I prefer a more book like format if it is a notebook I have to carry in my bag all the time, because they are more durable. But it is perfect for something that just lays around on a desk.

I also think the steno page layout is great for task management; you can use the full width, when needed; but the half width is surprisingly useful while dealing with projects with a lot of simple tasks.