Happy New Year! A Look at 2016.

I can’t believe that it’s already here. The day where everyone looks back on the year and how they navigated through the many curve-balls life threw at them. For me, this was certainly one of the most fulfilling years I’ve had in a while. A couple of years back, after being bogged down and overrun by the math-heavy curriculum for Computer Science, I was lost. It was the worst feeling for me, to know that I had a genuine interest in a field, but I couldn’t pursue it simply because calculus wasn’t my thing.

It was at this point that a simple mistake allowed me to meet someone who would change my life. I had gone back to being a business major and needed to take financial accounting as a prerequisite for transfer. My business club advisor, a Mr. Kevin Mello, was an accounting teacher at the time, so I planned to take him. It wasn’t until the day I walked into the classroom that I realized I had signed up for the wrong Mello’s class. Apparently, Kevin’s twin brother Keith was also an accounting teacher and the online registration portal hadn’t shown the difference. Determined to just get through the course however possible, I sat down and prepared myself for another mundane and uninteresting course. The moment he started teaching, something in me clicked. He handed us some exercise sheets and I was breezing through them with 100% accuracy. A feeling of euphoria that I used to feel only when I was in a computer class invaded me. I had finally found it. Something I was good at and a field I could pursue for a career.

I found myself attending his office hours daily, peppering him with questions about what accountants do, different sub-fields within accounting and about his personal experience in the industry. He patiently answered every single one and shared his thoughts on what he used to do and how the field is changing in numerous ways. He sat with me daily for almost a month straight and helped me find a path that I was interested in pursuing and encouraged me to follow my heart, wherever it took me. He helped encourage me when I was mired by self-doubt and ultimately inspired me to work hard to get into a good business program at a 4-year university. In the immortal words of William Arthur Ward, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” He turned out to be the most inspirational and kindest professor I had ever had the fortune to meet. I fondly reminisce on that incident now as one of the best and luckiest mistakes I ever made.

I worked hard and got into Indiana University at Bloomington, home to the prestigious Kelley School of Business. Through all my effort, I was able to transfer to a college with a beautiful campus, amazing people and dedicated teachers. I was able to meet my roommate Nick, who has since become one of my best friends. 2016 was an amazing year for me and I sincerely hope that I can carry this momentum into 2017. I have some personal goals I’ve set that are ambitious but achievable. I feel that aiming for these goals will change my life for the better and I fully intend on following through.

I want to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year! πŸ™‚ May the new year bring tidings of health, happiness and prosperity to you all. Thank you so much for all your support and I will see you all in 2017. (I’m in California, and it’s technically not 2017 yet)

Advertisements

Word Notebooks

Post 3/3. All caught up, see you tomorrow! πŸ™‚

Word Notebooks are something that I have wanted to try for the longest time and I finally got a chance to after a friend gave me a pack. I’ve seen numerous versions of these over at Cool Material, a website I visit occasionally to find out about cool gadgets and the latest trends. They always have these in stock for some reason and the one thing that drew me to them was the cover. While Field Notes does a really god job with unique covers for their notebooks, Word just has very aesthetically pleasing covers that immediately draw the eye. I really liked this one in particular due to my obsession with the color blue and the numerous shades therein. The chromatic effect that is the highlight of this cover just really worked for me. I actually didn’t want to use them simply to maintain the neatness of the cover, but I had to review them, so they invariably got bent and crushed mercilessly by the contents of my bag. T_T

Word Notebooks, unlike Field Notes has a very specific system in place for the functionality. It’s a lot like the Bullet Journal system, except in a simpler form. At the front of the notebook, after the property identification and archival system, there’s a dedicated user guide. I honestly had used a bullet journal before, so it was easy to handle the transition.

The paper was much better than I expected and held up against most of my EDC pens to a good extent. The writing instruments I tested are in the picture above and it took just about everything I threw at it. The Platinum Preppy M loaded with Platinum Blue-Black showed signs of feathering and it ghosted through much more than any of the other pens tested. However, it did not bled through at all, but that could change depending on the nib size. I think that Japanese Extra Fine/Fine nibs should be alright, but the ink can also play a huge role in the performance, so some testing with your regular use inks is required.

Word Notebooks really puts out some decent notebooks with quality paper than can handle numerous styles of pens all packaged with aesthetically pleasing covers. The biggest drawback to these notebooks is the inherent system. While effective, it does the one thing that Field Notes doesn’t, and that’s limiting your customer’s choices. With a standard Field Notes notebook, I can turn it into anything I want, be it a to-do list, a photography journal, etc. I’m not limited to what the company dictates I use it for (a to-do list, in the case of Word Notebooks). It’s been a while since I’ve last checked out their stuff, but I hope they’ve stopped shipping their notebooks out with the system, otherwise the use they provide to the buyers would be limited in nature. So if you’re looking for a Field Notes alternative that is functional mainly as a to-do list, then the Word Notebook is the right choice for you.

 

Tombow 2558 Pencil

Post 2/3. I’ll get the last one for the day done after dinner. See you in a couple of hours.

dscf8183The lead on this pencil is the standard that one can expect from a Tombow pencil. The lines it puts down are nice and dark allowing for high visibility under light. I used it primarily in well-lit lecture halls and had no trouble rereading and studying my notes when staying in my dimmer lit room. It required a touch more pressure than the Mono 100 and performed just a shade under. It didn’t break under quite a decent amount of pressure (math makes me very frustrated sometimes :P). I had no problem sharpening it to a nice point, but it often lost it quickly once I started writing. While it didn’t affect the performance too much, I personally like writing with a sharp point. I feel it helps me control my hand better and it helps whenever I do drills for my calligraphy practice. All in all, a decent upper tier pencil in comparison to the various lines from Uni Mitsubishi.

dscf8189I have never seen a pencil resemble a standard Dixon Ticonderoga so much and be so different at the same time. The Tombow 2558 isn’t a very flashy pencil. Much like the Ticonderoga, the bright color draws the eyes, but the similarities end there. Tombow opts for a more subdued branding done in a dark purple color that contrasts beautifully with the burnt orange body.

dscf8190This is a no-nonsense pen that is geared towards functionality more than anything else. If one removes the branding, then this is just a standard pencil you see in schools across the nation. That is how simple the design is. It is this design that does it for me. Unlike the Caran d’Ache I reviewed in the last post, this pencil is geared specifically towards writing. It doesn’t give off a luxurious feel or use high-quality materials. Just simple wood and graphite with some embossing on the side. I would recommend this pencil to anyone who wants a functional and simple pencil. It’s a little bit more on the expensive side with a price of $1.20/pencil but if a sturdy pencil that performs well is what you want, I highly recommend this one.

Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood Beech Pencil

Review 1/3 today to make up for the staggered schedule. Next one coming in a couple of hours.

dscf8176This was a pencil that I had been dying to try out, but not up for buying. At $5.45/pencil this is definitely one of the most, if notΒ the most expensive pencils I’ve ever reviewed. Caran d’ache is a Swiss manufacturer of school, office and luxury stationery supplies. Founded in 1915 in Geneva by Arnold Schweitzer, he named his company Caran d’Ache after the nickname of French satiric political cartoonist Emmanuel Poire, who took his name fromΒ ΠΊΠ°Ρ€Π°Π½Π΄Π°Ρˆ (karandash) the Russian word for pencil. In 1929, they trademarked the design for one of the first mechanical pencils. (Wikipedia)

After being around for nearly a century, Caran d’Ache is still going strong with their iconic designs and luxurious materials. This pencil in particular is made from FSC-Certified Grovelier beech wood from the Jura mountains for northwestern Switzerland. (JetPens) Just from that description alone, I was excited to try this pencil out. I have to say, so far after almost 2 months of use, I have not been disappointed.

dscf8173The first thing that I often look at when I want to buy a pencil is looks. I admit it is a bit superficial, but a good-looking pencil more often than not indicated decent writing quality, at least in my experience. Some of the simplest pencils with elegant design and color choices have constantly performed better than garish ones. The best example I can give would be the Tombow Mono 100 and the Palomino Blackwing 602. Simple color palette, subtle branding and an attention to details made them some of my favorite pencils to use.

dscf8170With the Swiss Wood pencil, the clear coat of matte varnish helps keep the natural grain of the wood intact and looking amazing. I have started to love seeing the grain of wood ever since I started collecting oblique holders. I sometimes need a bib when I’m browsing through some of my favorite pen-maker’s catalogues. This pencil showcases the natural beauty of the wood and accentuates it with the red paint and Swiss cross on the back.

dscf8177Writing with it has been an absolute pleasure. It holds a point very well and I’ve yet to have problems with the lead breaking even with a decent amount of pressure. While the smoothness is not up to par with say, the Blackwing 602, it’s definitely up there in terms of how easy it is to write with on different papers. I’ve tested it out on everything from Doane and Field Notes to Rhodia and Maruman. It handled every change like a champ and I never had any trouble switching between them.

However, one thing to note is that there is no eraser. While to me this isn’t much of a problem, it can be a bit of an issue for someone who is more function oriented when it comes to pencils. Having a decent quality eraser can be a huge deal, especially with expensive pencils. The Blackwing 602 is the penultimate (get it?) luxury pencil as it affords the consumer both quality and functionality for the price. The Caran d’ache on the other hand offers natural beauty, high quality materials, but less functionality for its price point. This might be a turn off to some buyers, so I thought I should mention this.

If you’re looking for a premium pencil at a premium price, then look no further than the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood Beech pencil. It maintains the natural aesthetic of the wood grain while adding tasteful additions like the red and white Swiss cross on the back. It’s versatile and high quality lead can be used on numerous papers without a fuss and it can hold a point well. I highly recommend anyone interested in high quality pencils to try it out.

TWSBI Eco – M nib

dscf8156

TWSBI is always known for pushing the buck on affordable fountain pens. From their Vac Mini line to their Mini model. They’ve constantly surprised the pen community with just how affordable they can make such great pens. That’s why I was really excited to try the Eco, their cheapest pen to date and one that can be anyone’s first fountain pen. After some time of using it nearly every day for notes, I was pleasantly surprised.

dscf8159

For $30USD, this pen really delivers on the TWSBI experience. I was a little hesitant due to the all plastic build, but decided to trust TWSBI with their quality, something that I will no longer hesitate to do. The plastic they used is solid and reliable. The one problem of this, is that there is no texturing around the grip area. I constantly found myself adjusting my grip because no matter how hard I tried it slipped after a couple of minutes. One of the biggest drawbacks to this pen for me, is how insecure the grip feels. However, due to the quality of the plastic, it can survive being dropped multiple times. I feel that they could improve on this by just adding some texture to the grip area, nothing fancy just a couple of line to ease up the grip pressure and not stress the hand out as much.

dscf8163

For the rest of the pen, I don’t particularly mind the use of plastic as nowadays the quality of plastic is relatively high and helps keep such a great pen affordable. I know some have complained a bit about the flimsy nature of the piston, but I feel that it’s merely a tactile difference in operation form the standard metal knob that is present in all of TWSBI’s other models. To me, it doesn’t feel flimsy and was very smooth in operation. I wasn’t worried about any accidental turns leading to spills.

dscf8162

The best part of this pen has got to be the nib. While I was expecting the standard TWSBI experience of smooth nibs to be there, it wasn’t until I actually tested it and affirmed my suspicions that I realized what it meant. When it comes to fountain pens, you usually tend to get what you pay for, especially in the price range of $15-$30. The fact that they managed to keep the amazing quality of the nib in this pen is something to be commended. I honestly have never tried another pen in this price range that had such a smooth nib out of the box. It lays down a nice line consistently and hasn’t failed me even once. Kudos to TWSBI for managing to do this. However, I found that there was often a small amount of leaking occasionally and feel that the clear direct feed design makes it much easier to occur. While it’s cool to see the ink run through the feed and look at the color right underneath your fingers, it also diminished my confidence in keeping it in my pocket. I found numerous ink stains on my fingers sometimes without knowing exactly how I got them while writing. I think it might have to do with my grip position alongside the way the feed was designed.

dscf8168

Finally, the branding is very subtle and tastefully done. It’s not festooned around the pen and it really accentuates the glossiness of the black plastic that I opted for. TWSBI also has a lime green and clear version with the same nib range (EF – 1.1 Stub).

All in all, an a great and affordable first fountain pen that can definitely turn people into pen addicts. I would highly recommend this as a starter pen for anyone who wants to get start writing with fountain pens, or as a way to get others into the hobby. The first pen is a very important milestone that can make or break an individuals perception on fountain pens, so it’s important to have something beginner friendly and high quality that can give a great writing experience. The TWSBI Eco checks all those boxes for me, so don’t hesitate to try it out.

 

Christmas Update

Hello Everyone,

I know it’s been a month and a half since I last posted and I sincerely apologize for not keeping you apprised of the situation. During the last month I had to buckle down and hit the books to study, complete numerous group projects and take my final exams. Thus I was finding myself spending hours on end in the library and basically living there for a month and a half. So, now that my first semester is officially over, I’m going to make it up to you with a deluge of posts covering all I missed so far. According to the calendar, I missed about 6 posts and owe you one for this week, so 7 reviews in total. Starting tomorrow, I plan to give you one post a day until Friday where I’ll put out the remaining before Christmas Eve. There won’t be any posts on New Year’s Eve except for the annual WordPress statistics update for 2016. There will also be a surprise post after New Year’s that I’m looking forward to sharing with you. Let’s start off the countdown to Christmas and spread some holiday cheer. Thank you all for reading. See you tomorrow with a new review. Look forward to it! πŸ™‚

Sincerely,

Anchit, The Passionate Penman