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Stationery Pr0n: Japanese Pens and More from JetPens.com

Stationery Pr0n: Japanese Pens and More from JetPens.com

Stationery Pr0n: Japanese Pens and More from JetPens.com

    Geeks tend to love pens, notebooks, and office gadgets. Some of the most popular posts here at Lifehack have been about pens and other stationery. Let us loose in a Staples or Office Max and we’re like kids in a candy shop. We can’t pass a stationery shop without feeling at least a twinge of desire – and usually without dropping some of our hard-earned money inside. And of course, there’s our love affair with the Moleskine…

    Sure, it’s a pointless pursuit and probably a waste of time and money. Sure, there’s the danger of fiddling too much with the latest cool organization gadget and not actually getting work done. Yes, it’s a kind of pornography for some of us – and almost illicit pursuit of sheer pleasure.

    But it is a pleasure. To write a note across finely-grained paper with a free-flowing pen that has just the right heft and width is a sheer joy. To pack your bag with tools that beg you to touch, hold, and use them is a delight. And therein lies the rub – because while an expensive pen or just the right grade of paper shouldn’t make us any more productive, often it actually does. We itch to get to work, for the simple gratification that comes of using the tool that perfectly fits us.

    So when someone at JetPens.com, a seller of imported Japanese pens, stationery, and other gewgaws contacted me and asked if I’d like to try some of their products, of course I said “yes”. Japan is like the Mother Ship for stationery buffs, and JetPens.com sells a variety of unique, not-to-be-found-in-the-US items. They also specialize in ultra-fine-tipped pens and pencils, which can be difficult to find in the US.

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    After playing with… I mean “using”, of course – after using the stuff they sent me for the last week or so, I thought I’d share with Lifehack readers some of the things I liked and what I didn’t find much use for. I should add that JetPens.com isn’t paying me, aside from offering me the samples. Lifehack’s editorial policy is that while we do accept products for review from time to time, we only review them if we think that doing so will be of value to our readers. JetPens.com’s offerings are so unusual or hard-to-find elsewhere, that I think most Lifehack readers would love to check them out.

    Let’s start with the pens!

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      Pilot Frixion Point 0.4mm:

      Pilot’s new Frixion pens are erasable, but totally unlike the crappy erasable pens of the past! Those had gloppy ink and abrasive erasers that never seemed to really get the job done. You’d expect better from the people that brought us the beloved G2 gel pens, and the Frixion doesn’t disappoint. The heat-sensitive ink is fluid and smooth, and dries quickly so it doesn’t smear. Best of all, it erases with friction – rubbing the pen’s solid rubber eraser tip over your writing generates heat (without wearing away or leaving residue) causing the writing to simply disappear. Completely. You can easily write over it, erase again, and write over that – forever, as far as I could tell. The .4mm point is great for printing; I found it a little scratchy for cursive writing. I’m a little worried about the durability of the ink – US packaging suggests that they not be used for official documents. This is the ideal pen to pair with a Moleskine-based to-do list.

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        Uni-ball Signo DX 0.28mm: The Signo is a gel ink pen that writes very smoothly and cleanly. The 0.28mm line is astoundingly thin, allowing for super-small writing – this is a great pen for filling out forms! I thought I wouldn’t like the tiny little cap, but it clicks onto both ends so solidly that I ended up liking it a lot (though I’m sure I’ll forget to click it to the end some time and that will be the last time I ever see it).

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          Zebra Clip-On Multi: I don’t normally like multi-function pens, but this one’s pretty nice – it has the usual 4 colors of ink (black, red, green, and blue) operated by color-coded levers, plus a 0.5mm mechanical pencil operated by clicking the whole clip assembly down. I say “clip assembly” because it’s more than just a clip – the clip is on a spring-loaded swivel that allows you to clip it to whole notepads, leather padfolios, and so on. The ink is fine, nothing special – this one’s all about the form factor.

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            Uni-ball Kuru Toga 0.3mm Pencil: The finest mechanical pencil I’ve ever used is a 0.5mm pencil, and those are a pain – the lead breaks all the time. This pencil has even finer lead, but its auto-rotation mechanism is supposed to minimize breakage by turning the lead a bit every time you life the pencil, preventing the creation of a brittle chisel-point. It seems to work, though it’s hard to know much about something that doesn’t happen. I keep the lead pretty long and it feels pretty sturdy – and I wrote a couple test paragraphs without any breakage.

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              Kokuyu Beetle Tip 3-Way Highlighter: One of the store’s more unusual products, the Beetle Tip highlighter is named for it’s unusual two-pronged head (which didn’t really remind me of a beetle, but whatever…). The tip integrates fine and chisel points, allowing thick highlighting over text or thin underlining. The two can be used together to make double lines, one over and one under the line of text being highlighted. Which all seems pretty neat, but I found it hard to get and hold just the right angle to use it any of its 3 modes, especially for double-lines.

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                You can click on the writing sample above to get a full-sized image — hopefully that gives you a pretty good idea of what each pen writers like. Now, on to the rest of the JetPens.com package:

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                  Kadokeshi Stick Eraser: This is an odd bird, but handy – an eraser that’s all corners! The latex eraser twists up (like a Chapstick) and is shaped like a bunch of cubes stuck together, offering 28 corners. Great for fine work, and erases without ripping up your paper. I’m not crazy about the screw-off cap, though – it’s attached to the mechanism you twist to advance the eraser, and it’s all ultra-clear plastic, so you have to look pretty close to make sure you’re twisting right.

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                    Nomadic PD-04 Roller Pencil Case: This is a standard-sized pencil case with a roll-out “scroll” that has 5 pen pockets and two small pockets for erasers, paper clips, or similarly small doodads. It’s all very neat and tidy, but I am simply not this organized about my pens – I’d just as soon keep them in my pocket! That’s not to say I don’t use pencil cases – I do – but to hold a lot more than 5 pens. Unfortunately, if you stuff the body of this full of pens, it makes getting the scroll in and out kind of awkward. I imagine there are people out there who love this sort of thing, but I really don’t see myself getting much use out of it.

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                      Kukoyo Systemic Special Cover Refillable Notebook: This refillable notebook cover is pretty handy, and elegant enough for business use. It’s basically an A4-sized (about 6” x 8”) canvas folder – the black part in the image above forms a pocket so you can stick business cards, notes, and other papers in (there’s a pocket on the front and another on the back). There are two ribon bookmarks inside, and the elastic closure to hold it all together. JetPens.com sells refill notebooks, but what really excited me is that medium-sized Moleskine Cahier and Volant notebooks (the soft-cover pads) fit perfectly.

                      This is only a small sample of the stuff JetPens.com offers. Most of it is reasonably affordable, at least in the same ballpark as their Office Depot counterparts. Several of the pens above come in fancier “business-y” styles, with nicer barrels and a less disposable look, too. The whole site is worth looking through – I haven’t even touched on the various art pens and markers.

                      More by this author

                      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

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                      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

                      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                      Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

                      This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

                      The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

                      The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

                      Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

                      Curiosity

                      Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

                      People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

                      Patience

                      Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

                      When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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                      Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

                      A Feeling for Connectedness

                      This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

                      A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

                      The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

                      How to Self-Taught Effectively

                      With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

                      1. Research

                      Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

                      Learning the Basics

                      Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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                      Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

                      What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

                      Hitting the Books

                      Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

                      Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

                      Long-Term Reference

                      While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

                      My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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                      2. Practice

                      Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

                      A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

                      Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

                      Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

                      3. Network

                      One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

                      These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

                      Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

                      Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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                      4. Schedule

                      For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

                      Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

                      Final Thoughts

                      In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

                      If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

                      At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

                      More About Self-Learning

                      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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