Calculator Obsession

I’ve always been prone to the odd geeky obsession. Some last, some don’t. Pens, fortunately, seems to be lasting pretty well, otherwise my job would be getting a bit tedious. The whole Interweb thing has kept a long appeal for me. Every now and then I have a recurring obsession with text editors, especially the really painful ones to use. I’m writing this in Emacs now, but I spend just as much time obsessing over Vim. It’s all part of being a bit of a wannabe geek.

I recently developed one of these obsessions over calculators, and it’s a tricky one to explain. Yes, I studied maths and further maths at A-Level, but I’ve not done anything much with it since then, and I don’t know how to use most of the features on the calculators I’m obsessing over. That doesn’t seem to stop me at all, though.

So what’s the appeal?

  • They are genuinely useful – sometimes at work I have to quote prices for people, so being able to do a quick calculation can be helpful. Yes, I could use Windows Calculator or Excel, but a handy pocket or desktop calculator is quicker.
  • There are big differences between different calculators, and although most people can (and probably do) use one, they don’t care about the functionality or quality at all. There’s a bit of a common theme with pens here. Everyone uses pens, but most people don’t care which pen, or how it feels to use it.
  • There’s something very geeky about scientific calculators, and that appeals to my sad little inner geek. I can’t remember how to do calculus, or even why I might want to, but there’s still some strange appeal to using a calculator that could, if I ever remembered.

I don’t use many of the actual scientific functions on any of these calculators, so you’d probably think they have no real advantage to me over a cheap and simple calculator, but there are features that an expensive scientific calculator has that actually help with basic stuff too…

  • Good quality buttons. A cheap calculator has cheap buttons, which may not register every click correctly, and may edit out some of your clicks in an attempt to correct for those dodgy keys. A really good calculator should let you hit the numbers as fast as you can, and you should know from feel if they registered or not. It’s much the same as a decent computer keyboard against a cheap phone keypad.
  • A big screen can be easier to read, and can give you other advantages, like being able to see previous calculations, or at least the calculation you entered to get the current result.
  • Some good scientific calculators will also let you go back to the previous calculation and edit it, and in some cases you can go back several steps. This can be handy if you find you now need the same result with a different starting figure.
  • Equation Solver. Most high-end calculators will have one of these, though some are more useful than others. What it means is that you can, for example, enter the formula for getting the markup percentage from the buying price and selling price, then enter any two figures, and let it solve for the third.
  • Build quality. A cheap calculator may last a while, maybe a year or more. Some of the calculators I’m playing with at the moment have been around since the 80s, and are still working just fine.

So, it’s a geeky little obsession, but I enjoy it, and it has a few practical uses – not such a bad thing, really.

Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen Review

What Is It?

Lamy 2000 XF - Pen and Sample

A fountain pen that still looks modern, though it’s been in production since 1966. It’s a piston-filler, so you have to use bottled ink, not cartridges, and the nib is quite a bit more flexible than most modern pens.

Looks

The 2000 is a great example of German Bauhaus design – simple, minimalist, with clean lines. The form seems purely derived from the function. It’s not a flashy pen, by any means, and you could probably use it almost anywhere without getting a second glance.

Lamy 2000 XF - Logo on Clip

How you feel about it depends how you feel about such design. Personally, I love it. If you like a bit of ‘bling’, then you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Feel

The body of the pen is made from Makrolon – it’s the same stuff that’s used for the ‘glass’ in the front of car headlights. With the ‘brushed’ finish, it feels quite similar to wood – pleasantly warm to the touch. It’s a very light pen, which suits me well. Sam usually likes a heavy pen, but she found the Lamy 2000 quite pleasant to hold and use despite the lack of weight.

Lamy 2000 XF - Piston

The piston filler is a little on the stiff side, but turns quite positively, and is still quite easy to operate. The nib is smooth. Mine is an Extra Fine, but Lamy 2000 nibs run very much on the broad side. The Extra Fine is much closer to what most people would describe as a fine, and even what some would probably call medium. Whatever nib width you usually prefer, go one finer with a Lamy 2000.

It’s quite a wide pen, and because it’s smooth all over, you can grip it wherever you like.

In Use

The first thing you have to do to use a fountain pen is get the cap off. This pen uses a pull-off cap, with two tiny lugs that locate into a slot inside the cap. They click nicely into place, and keep the cap on much more securely than you’d expect, yet it pulls back off again very easily. I’m often a little nervous with pull-off caps, in case the cap comes off a bit too easily – especially when I’m carrying the pen clipped into the neck of my t-shirt, with the pen hanging on the outside. In six months of use, though, I’ve never had the cap come off the Lamy 2000 unintentionally.

Filling

Filling with ink is easy – just unscrew the blind cap, dip the nib into ink, and screw it back down again. The piston pulls in plenty of ink, and gives you a good capacity to last a while.

The Nib

As for writing or drawing, I’ve found this pen well suited to either. The nib has a little more flex than most people will be used to, but it’s nice and smooth, and gives a nice wet line with a bit of variation. I’ve used it with a few different inks, including Pelikan, Diamine and Noodler’s, and it’s behaved well with them all.

Lamy 2000 XF - Nib Top Lamy 2000 XF - Nib Bottom

Like many other nibs, this one will give a finer line when used upside-down. It’s a bit on the scratchy side, and it’s a very fine line. I wouldn’t want to try and write much that way, but it came in useful a few times when I needed a note in a tiny space, or some very fine lines in a doodle.

Ink Window

Lamy 2000 XF - Ink Window

You can check the ink level through a set of little windows in the barrel. They are fitted perfectly smoothly into the barrel, and I can’t tell at all if they are actually different parts fitted in before the brushed finish was applied, or if they have somehow only blacked out parts of the plastic.

They’re a bit on the small side, so you do have to hold the pen up to the light, and tip it back and forth to get much idea of how much ink is in there. With a little practice, though, it doesn’t take long to check. I’d prefer bigger windows, but they’re not at all bad.

Flushing and Changing Ink

The piston makes changing ink much easier than it is with many pens, but it still takes quite a few flushes through with clean water before you get all the previous ink out. My Pelikan makes this quite a bit easier, but the Lamy is easier than most other pens.

Conclusion

I used this pen for six months. I say used because I’ve now sold it on eBay. That doesn’t mean it was a bad pen at all – it was my favourite until I got a Pelikan M600, and even then, it was very, very close. They’re great value, and wonderful pens to hold and to use. If you like the minimalist styling, I’d certainly recommend it. I bought mine new on eBay, and sold it for more than I’d paid six months later – negative depreciation!

Lamy 2000 XF - Cap

Why might you not like the Lamy 2000? Well, if you don’t like the styling, it’s probably not something you’d get used to. If there’s an element of status symbol to your choice of pen, few people would think you spent so much on it. You may also want the option of using cartridges, rather than having to take a bottle of ink with you when you travel – if you don’t mind that, though, the Lamy will hold more ink than a cartridge/converter pen, and you don’t have to take it apart to fill it.

I’ve heard of some people who find the little lugs that locate into the cap annoying – depending on your grip, they could be where you fingers are. All I can really say is that they never bothered me at all.

If you like the looks, and you want a well made German piston filler, the Lamy is hard to beat for value. If you want something a bit flashier, I can certainly recommend Pelikans, but the Lamy 2000 is a beautifully simple pen that feels great to use.

  • Update, 2010-10-03: I soon missed the 2000 after selling it, and ‘borrowed’ the OM-nibbed version Sam had. I didn’t get on so well with the oblique nib, but reground it down to a flat Medium, and I’m still using it regularly. With more time, it’s the Pelikan that fell into disuse.

  • Review at But She’s a Girl

  • Lamy 2000 at Cult Pens in the UK

Safari for Windows

Apple released a Windows version of Safari (their web browser on the Mac) a while ago. I downloaded it and gave it a go, despite the many reports of it being terribly buggy.

Safari Showing PigPog

Well, for me, it seems more reliable than Firefox – I only managed to crash it once in a couple of days of use, where Firefox crashes several times a day under my use. The down side is how it handles crashing. Firefox brings back all of my windows and tabs, maybe losing the last couple I’d opened. Safari just opened up again from scratch with everything gone. Not graceful.

Still, it doesn’t seem bad for a beta release – I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes – worth trying out if you’re interested, just don’t rely too heavily on it yet.