Mitsubishi Pencil Company

How I like to Study

stargazing

After taking a 4 year break from studying, I decided to ease myself in gently by studying a subject with which I was already fairly familiar. I opted to go for Galaxies, Stars and Planets, a short course with the Open University that has helped me formalise many of the concepts I have learned through being a member of The York Astronomical Society.

Location

My location of choice is the JB Morrell Library at the University of York. I’ve frequented the library since I worked at the Science Park in 2008. Back then, I was studying mathematics and I loved how studious the atmosphere was. Since then, the library has been refurbished making it even easier to get access to things like power sockets.

uni-library

I do actually have a favourite spot on the second floor which has a nice view and isn’t very far away from the toilets and recycling facilities. There is also a chilled water fountain nearby – but if water isn’t strong enough the Café is just downstairs. (Which is great for my Fitbit floors goal!)

The Morrell Library is located on the Heslington West campus. It is only a short walk to get to the largest plastic bottomed lake in Europe (fans of QI will understand the reference). I have found that it is a lovely place to walk around, and it gives me some exercise and fresh air when taking a break from studying.

bridge

Equipment

The course I’m currently studying centres around one key text book, which is supplied to me as part of the material sent by The Open University. It’s also available online in PDF and epub formats. The latter of which can be used (via conversion) with the Kindle.

large-scale-universe

My Kindle has been the main way I have read the study material while working on the course, and it’s obviously a lot easier to carry than the larger study book. I also keep a copy of the PDF versions on my Surface Pro 2 just in case I need to look at the diagrams in colour.

The Surface Pro is also great for the online elements, including watching videos provided by the Open University, which accompany the course.

einstein

I decided to use a Moleskine notebook to work through the activities and make notes. It actually ended up being larger than I needed, so I think the type of notebook I use will be something I look into changing, for the next course.

Because all the equipment I use is so small, everything fits in my Knomo bag without any problems. In previous years I had been carrying around a large backpack which contained more books, a larger computer and a calculator or two. Keeping things light and simple means I have less to carry with me when I study, helping make the whole experience more enjoyable.

dark-matter

Software and Services

When I started the course back in May, I set about doing a lot of the meta-work up front. This meant that I could just rely on these things moving forward.

  1. I downloaded all the images, videos, and other materials from the OU website and put them on my OneDrive, setting them to always be available offline on my Surface Pro
  2. I made a list of all the work that would be required in the study plan and put it all into OneNote as a task list
  3. I put the milestones and study dates for the whole course into my Outlook calendar
  4. I set up the Aladdin Sky Atlas software using IKVM.NET on my Surface, so that I didn’t need Java
  5. I converted the study book from epub into the Kindle format, and stored PDF versions for the Surface

When actually working on the activities and reading the material, I’ve also used Windows Calculator, Bing Wikipedia, Periodic Table and Star Chart. These applications have helped me do mathematics, look up further reading, and – very importantly – visualise the solar system using 3D graphics.

sun-diameter

hydrogen

The extra programs that the Surface Pro provided where not required for the course, but certainly helped.

Mindset

I decided that I only wanted to study at my study location, which means I go there once a week, every week and make no compromises about that. If a friend suggests doing something on one of these days, I’ve just had to be firm and say no.

surface-library

But doing it this way has really suited me, as it gets me away from a home full of distractions and into a productive environment with other people wanting to get things done. The motivation of wanting to progress my work has been enough to keep me going.

I may have found it a lot easier on this course because it’s a subject I already understand more than the average person, so I’ll be really interested to see how well I fare when I pick a new subject next year.

While I’m not ruling out taking time off again, I’m certainly planning to continue my mindset of life-long learning for the foreseeable future. I’m sure the way I like to study will only improve over time.

What’s in your bag? 2014 Edition

In 2012 I did both what’s in your bag and what’s your every day carry posts, and this year I have decided to revisit both.

Also check out What’s your every day carry? 2014 Edition

What’s in your bag?

Unchanged since around 2008, I still carry my Tumi work backpack which I carry into the office every day. If you’re interested in what I carry with me when I’m not at work then have a look at my Knomo Kilkenny bag for Microsoft Surface.

Dell Laptop

My work laptop is a pretty powerful Dell M4600 with an Intel Core i7 processor and 8 gigs of RAM. I’ve had less problems with this machine than the old HP I used to use, so you won’t hear any complaints from me. Though I have had my eye on the newer Dell workstations that include up to 32 gigs of RAM. Yes please.

USB Stick and USB Cable

It’s a tradition of mine to get a new USB stick every time I change jobs. This one contains debuggers, software installers, eBooks, and backups of my scripts and utilities. I never use these USB sticks for personal information about me, my employer or my clients – it only has the software I need to get up and running.

I also carry a standard micro USB cable, because you never know when it’ll be handy for charging my phone.

Notebooks

I still carry two Moleskine notebooks, but these days I track a lot more work stuff in OneNote – so the black work notebook has become more of a check list for most important tasks with space for notes. I tend to use about two pages a week.

Keys and Pencil Case

I carry a couple of keys with me in my work bag, including ones I need while I’m in the office. I also carry a small pencil case which includes the following:

What’s in your bag?

What’s changed?

The biggest change is the computer, and thankfully I no longer carry my charging adapter with me all the time, as I have a docking station in the office. I keep a spare charger at home, and if I ever need to go see a client I can just take that with me. Thanks to my recently replaced battery, I actually have plenty of power to do email and other tasks when I get home without needing to plug in anyway.

The next biggest change is probably the lack of paper notes. I used to carry a MUJI document folder with various printed specifications and other helpful documents. These days I try to print out as little as possible – mostly for security reasons.

I don’t carry a mouse in my bag either, again this is because my docking station at work is already set up with my Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Mobile Mouse. I have a spare mouse at home, for if I need it.

Finally, the Zune HD has been retired – these days I listen to Xbox Music, and when I’m at work that means my Lumia 920 – which is part of my Every Day Carry.

The Great Pencil Debate

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of many different kinds of stationery, but that doesn’t mean I want to have to think about which pen or pencil to use at any specific time. However, there have been two pencils that have been fighting for my top spot for a while now…

Uni 0.5mm Kuru Toga Roulette

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I have used various Kuru Toga pencils since they first appeared on the market, starting with the original all-plastic design, moving to the amazing High Grade and then to the perfected Roulette model. Each of which has been even nicer to use than the last. The main idea behind the Kuru Toga design is for the lead to rotate as you write, ensuring that the pencil end never gets flat on one side – a trait to most mechanical pencils which means that your writing is not consistent. This gives you an amazing thin line, which added with my B grade lead is dark and bold enough for the majority of writing tasks.

Before using a Kuru Toga I used to manually rotate the pencil every now and then just to make sure I was still writing with a sharp tip. While this is not the biggest problem the world needs to solve, I applaud the Mitsubishi Pencil Company for coming up with an elegant and solution to the problem.

The Kuru Toga Roulette is solid, well weighted, and built with high quality plastic. The grip on the Roulette version is a painted metal which could potentially scrape, but at the moment has held up very well. As with most mechanical pencils, there is also a small eraser at the end which can always be used in situations where there is no full sized eraser available to use.

Quite simply, the Kuru Toga Roulette is the most advanced and gorgeous looking pencil I have ever used. But is that enough?

Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder

great-pencil-2

Enter the 2mm Field Lead Holder. I first started using a lead holder regularly in August 2012, even though I’d had one in my pencil case for a while. On the technical scale it’s pretty much at the opposite end to the Kuru Toga – it’s a stick of 2mm lead with a plastic and metal surround. There’s no rotating lead and not much in the way of fancy technology.

It is also not ideal for writing mathematics or large amounts of text – but I haven’t been doing this much since finishing my university course a couple of years ago. Usually used for drafting, sketching and other art works, the larger 2mm lead actually started to look really nice when set on the Moleskine notebooks I use for my personal and professional endeavours. The thick, bold lines are fantastic for making lists and doing mind maps or diagrams.

Who wins?

Between these two pencils I have decided on both.

Most of the time, I use a squared Moleskine notebook for work. Here the Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder is used to make task lists, draw diagrams and make notes.

The Kuru Toga Roulette is used in my Moleksine weekly diary – making smaller notes, mind maps and task lists.

great-pencil-1

Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder

Brad Dowdy also reviewed the same pencil this week, great minds think alike!

field-1

The Field series of lead holders feel much stronger and more expensive than the original lead holder design I reviewed back in August 2012. The plastic is more solid, the metal seems better, and the mechanism is also a little neater.

field-2

I decided to go for the red Field pencil, even though I’m still using my favoured B grade leads. I think the red colour really stands out, and contrasts well with my Moleskine notebooks.

field-3

Pros

  • Thick bold lines, especially with B lead
  • Feels good in the hand and nicely weighted
  • Has a basic sharpener in the end

Cons

  • You need a pencil sharpener and eraser with you
  • The point on the lead gets flat, so you need to rotate it

Uni 0.5mm Kuru Toga Roulette

kuru-toga-1

I have primarily used mechanical pencils for my note taking more than a decade now, and there are two particular kinds that really stand out in my memory. The older Pentel model that I first really grew to like, and the modern Uni Kuru Toga pencils made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

I have used no less than four different designs of the Kuru Toga (and a number of colours of each) but all of the Kuru Toga pencils share the same important feature – the lead automatically rotates as you use it.

kuru-toga-2

Long term users of mechanical pencils will surely know the biggest problem is that the point of the lead becomes flattened on the edge that is drawing the line. The trick is to manually rotate the pencil in your hand as you write to avoid getting uneven lines. Here’s where the Kuru Toga’s rotating lead mechanism comes in handy – it does all the work for you so that all you need to do is write.

The version I’m currently using is the Kuru Toga Roulette 0.5 mm with 2B NanoDia Lead* – and it is by far the best of an already fine bunch.

kuru-toga-3

Pros

  • A true innovation in pencil technology
  • High quality black plastic components
  • High quality painted metal grip
  • High quality silver coloured trimmings

Cons

  • Not easy to get in the UK
  • Not super cheap at $16 + tax + shipping

* Mitsubishi actually produce leads specifically designed for the Kuru Toga. I have not tried them out yet though.

Uni Sign Pens

Last time I ordered some Japanese pens from JetPens I got myself two Uni Sign Pens – red and black with the fine tip.

For a while I had been using Uni Brush Pens for making notes on A4 paper, however after prolonged use the tips start to get softer. The Sign pen has a much smaller tip and gives a thinner and much more uniform line while keeping the text nice and bold.

I find the pigment ink to be very good too, and it doesn’t bleed or go through a Moleskine notebook. Though I was disappointed to find that they’d printed the barcode on an otherwise very attractive gold-trimmed barrel.

Pros

  • Feels really good to write on both A4 and Moleskine
  • Thick uniform lines
  • Great ink

Cons

  • Why would you put a barcode on the barrel?

Uni 2mm Lead Holder

A couple of weeks ago I ran out of B grade lead in my Kuru Toga pencil. Rather than immediately sourcing some more, I decided to try using another B grade pencil.

The B grade Uni 2mm Lead Holder by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. It has a metal end and a bright red red tip, matching the colour of the stopper on the B grade lead. The rest of the body is the standard Uni maroon, which they use on their wooden pencils too.

The quality is very high, and I’ve really enjoyed using it. The lead is strong, dark and doesn’t break easily. Uni provide a pencil sharpener designed to fit the 2mm leads, which is essential for using this pencil.

Unfortunately, I have had it leak into a bag once, but if I was using a pencil case at the time there would have been no problem.

The Uni Lead Holders don’t have an eraser on the end of the pencil, so you’ve got to supply your own. I decided to go to for the Boxy eraser – also made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

The Boxy eraser is really fantastic, it erases even dark lines without too much pressure and leaves no marks – despite the fact it is black. The black colouring also means won’t get grubby after a while. Very handy indeed.

Overall I have really enjoyed using this combination. However I must say it is a little tricky to carry around all three pieces – all the time, especially when compared to the convenience of carrying just a Kuru Toga Roulette.

Update…

After using this pencil for a solid few months I’ve found that the chromed metal tip has started to peel, revealing a cheap metal under it. I also got the opportunity to try the Field line of lead holders – and decided that their quality is measurably higher.

Uni Brush Pens

Recently I’ve been making a lot of notes on A4 notepads rather than my usual Moleskines, and my usual Jetstream pens are a little to thin for what I’m looking for. So I’ve taken to using a Uni Double Sided Pocket Brush Pen – which I purchased a while ago from JetPens.

I’ve not really been using the fine tip, but it’s good to know it is there… it has a nice feel when you use it but right now I’m all about the big strokes of the medium tip. I guess it does depend on what you are looking for.

I also have a medium tip brush pen as well, and I have not used it as much as the double and you can really feel the difference in the two – the one I have been using feels a lot softer now.

Personally I prefer the single medium brush pen overall, rather than the double. But I guess it depends if you’re going to use that thinner tip.

Pros

  • Feels fantastic to write with
  • Nice thick bold lines
  • Great ink that doesn’t go through the paper

Cons

  • Brush pens go soft after lots of use
  • Looks like they’ve been out of stock a while

Style Fit Meister 3

I’ve always been interested in multi-pens, and I’ve found some pretty cool ones (the Pentel Vicuna suggested to me by Brad Dowdy springs to mind) but my favourite ink is Uni Jetstream by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company, so finding the ideal multi-pen which includes this fantastic ink has been a little mission of mine.

While Uni actually produces a number of Jetstream branded multi-pens, I decided to start using the Style Fit series of pens. These cool Japanese pens allow you to mix and match from a large selection of refills and bodies that they provide. Including the fantastic Jetstream and Signo inks. Oh and they also do a pencil refill, which is pretty handy.

I tried the original 5, 3 and 1 size plastic body components, which were great but felt a little cheap. So I had really high hopes for the Meister 3 – the first of these Style Fit bodies to be made out of metal. Oh and it’s also in a higher price bracket of $16.50 verses $3.30.

I went for the swooby red version, which is looks great with my latest Moleskine diary. The refills I went for were the 1.0 Jetstream in black and red, as well as the 0.5 pencil. It’s so very close to perfect… but not quite there yet.

Pros

  • Massive amount of choice for refills
  • Much higher quality materials
  • Twist to change pens is much nicer than the plungers
  • Metal clip is way better than plastic

Cons

  • It rattles when you shake it
  • Pushing down doesn’t do anything except on the pencil
  • No ‘neutral’ position – it’s one pen or another
  • The window doesn’t really help you see which pen you have selected

There is one last thing I’d like to mention, and I’m not listing this as a con as there isn’t any way of doing it yet – but I’d really like to have the Kuru Toga mechanism in a multi-pen like this. The current iteration of the Kuru Toga pencils are way too large to fit in something like this. I’m sure it would be possible to create something that worked in a similar way in the future, and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

While this multi-pen is very close to the mark, I’m going to stick to using my Alpha Gel Jetstream pens and my Kuru Toga Roulette pencils as my every day stationery at work and at home.

I’m glad I got this new addition to the Style Fit line, and I’m going to be using this Meister 3 as my go-to portable pen for when I’m travelling, as well as keeping it in my work bag (see What’s in your bag?) until I need it.

My Favourite Pen Collection

It’s quite hard to pick an individual favourite pen because each one is handy for different purposes. However a good start is to write about my favourite pen collection. This is an Edwin pencil case purchased from JetPens which contains a collection I call my “White Pens” – you’ll see why.

Edwin Pencil Case from Japan

The pencil case itself has two main compartments which open right out. Included are a number of pockets – though I mainly just keep a set of pens in each compartment, and only use the pockets when I need them.

My main pens are all black – with a pencil and eraser added in for good measure – both of which are extremely handy for university work. I generally prefer using black ink for writing, but I do like to change my inks. I’m rather fond of Uni’s Jetstream ink – but I also really like their gel inks. This is what makes up the main body of the pens, with a couple of extras to fill in the missing pieces.

I also have a set of colour inks which I use when making notes, creating diagrams and drawing mind-maps. These are all 0.5 mm and look really good together.

There’s always favourites among favourites – and in this case it’s the Jetstream Alpha Gel and the Kuru Toga High Grade. The pen is super comfortable and very thin (I put a 0.5 mm refill in there). It’s generally awesome for writing in small Moleskine notebooks. Whereas the pencil has a super cool revolving mechanism inside which keeps the lead sharp, this is what I use for writing most of the time while I’m at work.

Find out more about these pens: