Packaging.

I spent some time this weekend going through my desk, and getting rid of some stuff. Most of it was some kind of packaging for stuff I have bought during the last twelve months. Most of it was from stationary products, but not everything.

This isn’t about the environment, even though it can be a nice bonus.

My typical flow when it comes to product packaging if it is small enough is to unpack it, stuff the box away and then at some later point just throw it away. My two favourites at the moment are Apple’s iPhone packaging and the box my Travelers Notebook came in. Both of them are nice, but the iPhone is the nicest from a pure design perspective. It is a nice card board box, while the Travelers Notebook just came in a folded piece of cardboard.

The thing I don’t like is the obsessive need for sending everything in a “nice” plastic box, that you will look at once, start using it and then ignore until you have to get rid of it.

Both have the same end goal, keep what you bought save until you get it. You make it easy to throw out when something is made out of cardboard. It isn’t a practical thing, it’s just a mental thing: this is cardboard, let’s just throw it out with the rest. While I always for some strange reason keep the damn thing if it is made out of plastic. I’m not sure why, but I expect it is something going on in the back of my mind, like “this is nice, maybe I need it for something some day”.

It would have been really nice if everyone got their act together and stopped kidding themselves and us: make the damn thing out of cardboard, we are going to get rid of it anyways.

This doesn’t mean you have to use something ugly. Apple are really good at it. Making boxes that you can just throw out and recycle without giving us the guilt with a fancy piece of plastic that no single person will use for anything but taking up space.

Review: My new Pilot Metropolitan.

The Pilot Metropolitan has a spacial place in my heart, it was my first fountain pen, and have been the pen I more often than not bring everywhere. It is cheap, has a nice nib, can take a beating, and I have never experienced any kind of ink leaking with it.

I ordered a new one a few weeks ago because my old one, while it still works, have seen its better days. The clip broke off a year ago, the nib is a little bit bent and the finish is far from pristine.

The thing that amazes me about it, is how much you get for your money when you put down around $20 for it, plus the good Pilot converter. A lot have happened to the Metropolitan since I got mine three years ago. The packaging is much nicer, you have twice as many nibs to chose from and many more colours. I went for a medium nib, this time, as the last time, and the plain black.

The colour doesn’t look exactly the same as my old pen, it is less shiny and looks a little bit closer to grey than my old pen. The nib feels a little bit firmer and the line a little bit thinner. I expect this is because my old nib is a little bit bent.

It is well worth the money, and I think you get more for the money than with most pens. It is great, it is inexpensive. But I have two minor complaints, which is more or less the same as always: I wish there was more nib options, because I think a broad would have been perfect for me, and the ink capacity is a little bit too low for me; to be fair: this is more of a Pilot converter problem than a metropolitan problem; and the solution is to get two of them. Which is what I plan to do until my old one breaks down.

Ink hoarding.

It is very easy to end up in a situation with bottled fountain pen ink where you own enough ink to supply a school for a generation. I’m lucky enough to not be in that situation.

Here is the thing: you don’t need to buy every single cool ink that shows up in your radar at once.

Like most of you that have been reading this site for a while: I like systems. I think it is partly connected to my personality and partly connected to my job as a Web Developer. I’ve had a mental system for managing how much ink I own at any given moment.

The system:

  • A hard limit of 5 bottles
  • Only once of each colour, unless I’m about to run out of it.
  • Only buy ink that I think is something I could use as my “main” ink for longer periods.
  • Give it away or sell it, if it is something you don’t use.

There are some inks you use more than others, and the only way to learn it, is by trying different things out. And stop buying stuff you don’t enjoy. For example: I don’t like Lamy inks. I don’t like the colours, I don’t like how they behave, so I don’t buy them. I don’t even consider them.

It is fine to have a lot of different inks if that is your thing, but you should try to do something about it, if you feel bad about it.

This is the question I always ask myself before ordering a new bottle of ink: can I use this to write with at work and at home in my main pen, all day, every day, for a couple of months?

The Circle.

I constantly re-evaluate everything I use, everything problem notebooks & pens to apps and electronics. It is the only way to figure out what you need, what isn’t working, and what do I need to change to end up at something better.

It have been over six months since I stopped using Field Notes or any kind of “pocket notebooks”. I might get back into them soon. Not because the change I did in November was wrong per say, but that I think they might still be useful in some aspects. The reason I stopped using them back then was that they wasn’t the ideal fit for a majority of what I was using them for. But I realise now in retrospect that they still are useful for a tiny portion.

I don’t think Field Notes or any kind of notebooks of the same size are the best for managing your paper based getting things done system or journaling. But I think there is a place for them to keep small to-do lists that you need on the go, like grocery lists or to capture things when you are on the go.

The great thing about the format is that you can have a couple of them in your back pocket at all time, something that isn’t as easy with a Travelers Notebook; even though I almost always have a bag. It isn’t just about the size, it is also about how much easier it is to take out a small notebook from your pack pocket and a pen from your front pocket.

I’m a strong believer in leaving stuff behind in order to figure out where their place actually are. This means that you need to try something different and stop using what you were using, to see where the old thing was better, and where the new thing is better.

Curiosity and expansion

Hate it, or love it. But you are probably on the way to becoming a stationary geek by buying a fancy notebook or pen. Being on the way doesn’t mean you’ll end up there.

The same thing happens more or less every time something new shows up in your horizon. Something new as a new sub group, within the larger group; this was how I got into fountain pens.

My first reaction is almost always: I don’t need that.

Then I slowly get curious as I am exposed to podcasts and blogs about it.

A lot of stuff never go beyond the curiosity stage, but some of it is something i decide to dip into, and try out. Some of it stick, and others not. But it is more complicated than that.

There are things that you figure out isn’t your thing, and you have the stuff you like, but you don’t go into the “geek” phase. And then you have the stuff you love so much that you go as deep as you need.

It is all about using that curiosity and expanding to figure out what is and isn’t your thing.

The Ideal number of refills in the MTN.

I have used the MTN for over six months now, and I have tried countless numbers of different configurations of refills in it. I currently have two refills in it. One for journaling, and one for tasks. But, I also have two refills bundled together with one of the MTN rubber bands for my “work” notebooks; one lined for tasks, and one blank for everything else.

Yes, I’m going to buy another one, or find a better solution.

The number of refills comes down to a number of different factors. But one above everything else is the writing comfort. The most practical from a writing standpoint is to use it with two refills, while the most practical from a “have as much options as possible” is to fill it up with six refills.

From a day to day usage stand point, I think two refills is the ideal, even though three is workable, if you need to. The problem with too many refills is that everything moves around every time you are trying to do something, and it is hard to fill the pages.

I wish the MTN worked better with a lot of refills, but it doesn’t. I still think it is a fantastic system, but you need to pick your poison, many refills and many MTN covers, or fewer refills.

The Retro 51 “refill”.

My journey into buying stationary online, started with the Retro 51. What makes it an amazing pen is trifold: quality, variety and the refill.

It is one of the most amazing things I have seen in terms of build quality. It feels good to hold it, and you just want to sit there and twist it back and forth. And you can find a Retro 51 model to match almost any style or design you are looking for.

But the thing that takes the Retro 51 from impressive to amazing is the schmith refill. It is the perfect for everything that want something good, but don’t care about the details. It is also everything I want from a pen, a thick black line without a lot of pressure or hassle.

It is still my goto pen when I want something I can write with for very long periods. Because I don’t have to put any pressure on the page; the weight of the pen is sufficient.

The refill isn’t for everyone. Either because you want different ink, or a thinner line. But there are plenty of compatible refills.

What I think proves my point about it being one of the best “general” refills available is that almost all rollerball pens use it. Everything from the Lamy 2000 Rollerball to the new Baron Fig pen. When I see a new rollerball pen, I see the refill more often than not.

The thing I love about is that, if you like a pen that uses it but hates the refill, or if you hate the pen but love the refill, you have plenty of options in either direction to find your perfect fit.

Digital or analogue?

One of the questions I ask myself the most often is: digital or analogue?

I tend to favour analogue, unless the digital option have some significant advantages.

For example, my current favourite app: Duolingo. It makes learning a language fun and approachable; something I have never seen in a text book. That is a significant advantage compared to the analogue.

Or my digital cameras have an advantage over it’s analogue parents, by letting me take a lot of pictures without going broke by developing or buying film.

E-books isn’t for me. I only buy them when a paper books isn’t available. My main problem with e-books as they are in most cases at the moment is that they don’t provide anything that a paper book doesn’t have. The only advantages I can see as a general rule is: lower delivery time and doesn’t require as much space. My problem with e-books is that everything disappears in the list. Either unread books or books that you enjoyed any would have read again if you saw it in the book shelf.

The thing about digital or anything that wants to replace what is needs to be better, and not just a little bit better, but a much better alternative to win.

Some people are 100% digital, while others are 100% analogue; but I expect most people to be somewhere in the middle.

I go for what works the best for me, and I need to question everything in order to find what works the best.

Good vs Good Enough

I’m writing this with my first fountain pen. My Pilot Metropolitan. A pen that I have used and abused for over three years. And it have been on the short list of being replaced for a while(Just waiting for Gulet to get the colour I want back in stock).

My only real complaint about it is the lack of nib options.

This is not the kind of pen I expect to last forever, like a Lamy 2000 or a Pilot Vanishing Point. But it is still one of the ones I enjoy the most. And lasting forever isn’t really the point.

There is something to buying a good pen that lasts for the rest of your life. Btu there is also something to going for that cheaper option that is good enough. Just get a few of them, and replace them as they wear down.

A Lamy 2000 is a good if not excellent pen, while a Pilot Metropolitan is good enough.

Neither is right or wrong. It just comes down the personal preference, and budget.