Saturday, May 31, 2014

May Miscellany: A Little Bit of Everything

My last two miscellanies had themes, so this one is just the opposite: it contains a little bit of everything.  It may also be a bit longer than usual, as I've developed something of a backlog of posts to share with you.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

From the Archives: Productivity

Productivity is a topic I find fascinating.  I love thinking about how I can be better at getting things done and planning my days.  I don't follow any particular productivity "system" but borrow ideas from here and there to create a unique system that is suited to my needs.  Of course, it's always a work in progress and often I have found that there is a tricky balance to achieve.  The system itself needs to stay in the background enough so that I don't become obsessed with it and use the planning process itself as a way of procrastinating about the more important things that I need to do.  Getting things done can sometimes be a challenge, but somehow procrastination is always far too easy...

My posts on productivity tend to be among my more popular posts, so here are the best of them from the last 5 years:
  1. The Joys & Challenges of To-Do Lists (April 2013): I love lists, and while making a to-do list doesn't automatically make me more productive, it does help.  I've simplified my methods a bit since I wrote this post, but these are still the basics of how I use to-do lists.
  2. My DIY Planner (June 2011): This is my original post on my DIY planner (and one of the most viewed posts on my blog!).  I'm no longer using this system or this binder, but this is where it all began...
  3. My Productivity System (January 2013): My original post on my productivity system.  Again, I've made a few changes to it since then (I no longer write mission and vision statements or set 5-year goals, for example), but these are still the basics.
  4. Rethinking the DIY Planner for 2014 (November 2013): In which I contemplate some major changes to my planner system (which I did end up adopting - see #7).
  5. Creating & Using a Blogging Schedule (March 2013): I've been using this method since mid-2012 and, as I said in the post, it really does make blogging much easier for me than it was before.  Now if only I could manage to maintain a schedule on my other blog...
  6. My DIY Planner Revisited (December 2012): Yet another post chronicling the evolution of my DIY planner.  This is also a good example of what my basic productivity system (#3) looks like in practice.
  7. Update: 2014 DIY Planner / Bullet Journal (February 2014): My new DIY planner!  It may look a lot different from the old one, but it is still based on the same system.
  8. My System (September 2010): This was the system I used in university, when I wanted to keep my lecture notes and planning system together in one binder (while minimizing bulk and weight).  It was very simple, but it worked well for me.
  9. A Post on Planners, Part One and Part Two (January 2010): These were the planners I was using before the one in #8.  Using two planners at once seems rather crazy to me now, but I guess it worked at the time!
  10. Clean Your Desk, Clear Your Mind? (February 2012): Having a clean desk surface helps me to be more productive - even though it's a goal that I can never maintain for long.

In July of this year, A Penchant for Paper will be five years old. As part of the celebration, I'll be delving into this blog's archives and sharing with you some of the best posts from the past five years (with a focus on older posts that newer readers might not have seen).

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ink Review: Pelikan Edelstein Onyx

One of things I love about fountain pens is all of the beautiful ink colours that are available.  With all of those choices, I'm not that interested in more "standard" ink colours like black or dark blue, but I thought I owed it to all of you to try at least one black ink, given that black is probably the most commonly used ink "colour" out there.  Pelikan Edelstein Onyx is the black ink I ended up choosing.

Pelikan Edelstein Onyx in Rhodia dotPad.

I find this ink hard to review, because I'm not really sure what I even want in a black ink.  Do I want the deepest, darkest black around, or do I want a more nuanced black, with hints of other colours in it?  I really don't know, but I do think that Pelikan Edelstein Onyx might be a good balance between those two extremes.  To me, it looks like a neutral black (no undertones of other colours) with a hint of shading, but it is definitely not a deep, dark black.  It's probably more of a very dark grey than it is a true black.  And frankly, I like it.  I don't find it a particularly exciting ink, and I don't love it (I doubt whether I'd love any black ink), but I do like it.  And sometimes it is nice to use an ink that's more under-stated and doesn't call too much attention to itself.

Pelikan Edelstein Onyx in Paperblanks journal with lines from the poem "So Much Happiness" by Naomi Shihab Nye.

One thing I do love about Pelikan Edelstein Onyx is the flow.  It's just perfect for me and my pen (Lamy Safari with an F nib) - very smooth but not too wet.  I feel like I could write forever with this ink (well, until it ran out, of course!).  It's also a very well-behaved ink - I could see essentially no feathering or bleedthrough even on the cheap papers I tried it on.  This is an ink I enjoy using even if the colour is not amazing.

Not a scan.  I was disappointed with the quality of my scans after I uploaded them to Blogger in my last couple of ink reviews, so I decided to try a simple photo instead.  I think this worked better.

Overall, I think Pelikan Edelstein Onyx is a good ink, though if you prefer very deep true blacks you should look elsewhere.  If you don't mind your black inks having a bit more personality, then this may be the ink for you!  This ink performed very well and was a true joy to write with, so I'm sure I'll be checking out more of the colours in the Edelstein series in the future.  An ink this nice combined with a colour that I love sounds like it would be just about perfect.

What do you look for in black inks?

Related reviews: The Pen Addict, Pentulant, Ink Nouveau.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Shades of Neon

This colour scheme obviously lends itself well to highlighters, but I've tried to include a good representation of other items here as well:

From left to right: mini tape measure, Staples Hype! highlighter (a very tiny highlighter that I found in the nearby schoolyard - it still worked!), Stabilo Boss Original highlighter, Uni Mitsubishi Pure Color-F Double-Sided Sign Pen in Orange, Staedtler Polo 0.5mm mechanical pencil, Sakura Gelly Rolls Moonlight in Fluorescent Yellow and Fluorescent Green, buttons, clips.

Left to right: Monami Handy Highlighter, Sharpie Accent Liquid highlighter (this highlighter is fun because you can see the liquid sloshing around in the barrel), Bic Brite Liner Grip highlighter, two Merangue Hi-Jell gel pens (from the thrift store), buttons.  Bottom: Rhodia Pencil.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bic Velocity Gel 0.7mm Black

I haven't reviewed a gel pen since March of 2013.  That's a long time for me, especially considering that gel pens were what I was using and reviewing most when I started this blog.  Today's long-awaited gel pen is the Bic Velocity Gel, a basic retractable 0.7mm gel pen.  I feel that there are a lot of pens similar to this one - the Pilot G-2 (which I have - oddly - never reviewed), the 0.7mm Zebra Sarasa (my personal favourite), and the PaperMate Gel, for example - so I was curious to see how the Velocity Gel would compare to those others.

The Bic Velocity Gel has a translucent barrel to view the ink supply, and a basic plastic clip and grip, both of which indicate the ink colour (it's only available in black, blue, and red).  It looks very similar to both the Pilot G-2 and the Zebra Sarasa - fairly unremarkable but thoroughly functional.  Personally, however, I'm not a fan of the Velocity's grip.  It has a slight lip or ridge before the tip that bothers me since I grip my pens very low on the barrel.  I prefer the Zebra Sarasa's more tapered grip.  But depending on how you grip your pens, this might not be an issue for you.

I've found that 0.7mm gel pens nearly always write well.  The Velocity Gel may not be quite as smooth as the Zebra Sarasa, but it does write smoothly enough and I don't have any problems with it.  It would be nice if this pen was available in 0.5mm, but it is not, and 0.7mm is probably going to be the best size for most people anyway (i.e., normal people who don't have absurdly small handwriting).

Overall, I am happy with the Bic Velocity Gel.  While Bic may be more well-known for their ballpoints, they know how to make a decent gel pen as well.  I don't feel that there is anything about the Velocity that really sets it apart from its competition (and I still prefer the Zebra Sarasa), but it is a good option if you're looking for a basic, inexpensive gel pen.

Related reviews: Economy Pens, Gourmet Pens.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Red and Orange Pen Comparison

To follow up on my green pen and blue pen comparisons, here is a comparison of the red and orange pens currently in my collection.  I don't have as many pens in these colours as I do in green and blue, so I've grouped these two colours together into one post.

Red isn't a colour I use often, but when it comes to red pens and inks, I like a red that is deep and saturated.  The Pentel EnerGel red is probably my ideal red because of that, closely followed by the Pilot Varsity red.  These two reds are so similar I find it difficult to tell them apart.  The Bic Exact-tip Roller red is very deep, but rather dull compared to the other reds.  It's a unique colour - closer to a burgundy than a true red.  The Pentel Slicci and Stabilo Point 88 reds are lighter, and fairly unremarkable.  Another favourite is the dark red Zebra Sarasa (I'm not sure whether "Port Red" is in fact the right name for this colour).  I've used this colour for years and it's great when I want something a bit different but that doesn't stand out as much as a bright colour.  I wouldn't use it as a true red, though.

Orange is one of my favourite colours, but it can be tricky to get right.  It's one of those colours that I worry about being too light to be able to read easily.  The Staedtler Triplus Fineliner orange is probably my favourite out of these, as it's a bright, yellowy orange that is easy to read, followed by the Uni Mitsubishi Pure Color-F orange, which is more of a true orange.  The Pentel Slicci orange is okay, but it's a bit reddish compared to the others, and the Pilot FriXion Point orange is similar to the Slicci but a bit softer.  I used to think that I preferred yellow-oranges to red-oranges, but I loved Noodler's Habanero fountain pen ink, which is definitely on the red side of orange, so I'm no longer sure that that is true.  Finally, I love the bronze Pentel Slicci, which is an orange-brown with a metallic sheen, but this is not an everyday writing pen.

Do you use red and orange pens and inks?  Which are your favourites?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pencil Review: PaperMate Mirado Black Warrior HB

The Mirado Black Warrior is a pencil that's been around a while, and has a good following of users.  It's now made by PaperMate, which is indicated by PaperMate's logo of the two hearts on the body of the pencil.  I'm new to this pencil and know little about its history, but - as always - I'm happy to try out another wooden pencil.

The PaperMate Mirado Black Warrior stands out from the common yellow pencils with its black body and shiny gold lettering.  I think that this different appearance would lead the average person to expect the Black Warrior to be better-than-average pencil.  I do like how the Black Warrior looks; to me the black and gold colour scheme give it a sleek, somewhat professional look (but in a nerdy kind of way).  Taking a closer look, however, the stamped lettering is of inconsistent quality (sometimes cutting deeply into the wood, sometimes not) and a bit of black paint has crept onto the ferrule.  (My camera doesn't have a macro lens so I can't show you this in the photos!)  While these kinds of details don't bother me much since you have to look closely to even see them and they don't affect how the pencil writes, they still concern me because they make me wonder where else flaws might have crept in.

The Black Warrior is a round pencil, which some people seem to like because they feel that it's more comfortable to hold.  I think that I prefer hexagonal pencils, but round is okay too, although round pencils can be more prone to rolling off your desk or other surfaces.  My favourite part about the Black Warrior is that it is made of cedar wood, which gives it that lovely cedar smell when you sharpen it.

I like, but don't love, how the Black Warrior feels for writing.  It seems to hold its point well, and I like the sound it makes on the paper, which is something I have always associated with wooden pencils in general.  I think I would have liked it better if the lead had been a bit darker, but it's certainly acceptable and easily readable as it is.  And while this is a writing pencil more than a sketching or drawing pencil, I couldn't resist including a small sketch with this review anyway.

Overall, I like how the PaperMate Black Warrior looks and I mostly like how it writes, but nothing about it stands out as particularly amazing to me.  In the other reviews I read, some users loved this pencil, while others were disappointed by apparent issues with quality control (such as pencils being warped).  While the Black Warrior is a decent pencil (as long as you can avoid issues like that), I think that if you want to start exploring "better-than-average" pencils, you might be better off looking elsewhere.

Related reviews: Pencil Revolution, Pencil Grinder, pencil talk, OfficeSupplyGeek, SCOJJAC.
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