fountain pen fight: pilot kakuno vs lamy safari

Having been a gel pen fanatic for the majority of the time I've ran this blog, a fountain pen connoisseur I definitely am not. However, that doesn't mean I'm not interested in fountain pens and last year, I bought my first Lamy Safari when I realised neon coral was it's 2014 colour of the year!

Anyway, I'm still fairly new to the fountain pen scene. I did use a Parker 45 when I was in high school, but it was a vintage one that used to belong to my mum. When I bought a 'modern' one in 2007, the nib just wasn't the same - the vintage one wrote a fine line which I loved; and the modern one wrote a thicker line which I didn't love. I think I mentioned this in my Lamy Safari blog post but I thought I'd say it again as it meant I was bitterly disappointed when the replacement Parker 45 wasn't the same :(

Enter the Pilot Kakuno. This is another entry-level fountain pen, perfect for someone like me but I think it's target market are kids due to its cute design and lightweight, plastic feel. This doesn't put me off though - I'm definitely not mature enough (mentally!) to use a grown-up looking fountain pen yet so this one suits me just fine!

Purchased from Cult Pens back in February when they had 10% off (how could I resist?), I opted for the one with a bright pink cap, grey barrel and fine nib. The bottom bit of the barrel is kind of transparent and the nib has a smily face on it which I thought was a cute touch! My first thought when I opened to up was just how light it was - it's a similar weight to the Lamy Safari I have but is about a centimetre shorter in length (capped and uncapped).

Let's just say I never thought I'd find a fountain pen that could potentially knock my precious gel pens off their pedestal. This pen is amazing - I really can't emphasise that enough. It is super comfortable to hold, the fine nib writes a fine line (finer than even the Lamy extra fine nib I have - you can see evidence of that in a few pictures' time) and it is just so cute.

So cute, that I even forked out for two white barrelled ones: one with a baby pink cap and the other with a baby blue cap. These came all the way from Japan and Hong Kong respectively as I couldn't find a UK stockist for them.

And for some writing samples:

I'm far from being an expert on fountain pens so I thought I'd give rate them out of ten using five sub-categories to try and be as fair as possible. As a basic user, the rating system is equally basic I'm afraid!

Lamy Safari
Design: 6/10
Comfort: 8/10
Ease of use: 9/10
Ink flow: 6/10
Price: 9/10
Total: 38/50

Pilot Kakuno
Design: 7/10
Comfort: 9/10
Ease of use: 9/10
Ink flow: 8/10
Price: 9/10
Total: 42/50

Both pens are in colours that I love but I do prefer the contrasting barrel colour the Pilot Kakuno has. However, neither score too highly here because I do think fountain pens look better when they have a metal barrel. Saying that, I do enjoy how comfortable and easy to hold the plastic barrels are (see the next paragraph for clarification!) so I do understand that it's a trade off here. The only thing the Lamy has on the Pilot is a clip but to me, not having one isn't a deal breaker.

Where the Lamy Safari falls down here is the grip - I found the indentations a bit uncomfortable after a while whereas the Pilot Kakuno has a round and smooth grip. Neither have any rubber but I just found the Pilot Kakuno better for long study sessions where I could be writing solidly for thirty to forty minutes. Both are similar in terms of weight.

Ease of Use
Both are easy to ink up - I use cartridges as I am a fountain pen simpleton. No issues here.

Ink Flow
The Pilot Kakuno could be uncapped for a few minutes without the ink skipping on resumption but the Lamy Safari was a different story. Even a minute or two would cause the nib to dry up ever so slightly where I'd have to do a few squiggles to get it going again before I could carry on with whatever I was writing.

Both are very reasonably priced. The Lamy Safari Neon Coral is currently priced at £15.90 and the Pilot Kakuno at £13.99. Cartridges for the Lamy are 25p more expensive at £1.55 for five as opposed to £1.30 for five Pilot Kakuno ones.

When I first got my Lamy Safari, I did love it and I still do but I think the Pilot Kakuno may just end up being my go-to pen from now on when writing up revision notes and the like. As mentioned in one of the pictures above, I don't have an overwhelming love for fountain pens but the Kakuno may well have changed my stance on that...

Next on my list? The Kaweco Skyline Classic Sport - which I may or may not have already purchased. ;) Have any of you got a Kaweco Skyline Classic Sport?

how I take notes part I: from online resources & textbooks

Having been a student almost all of my life, I’ve picked up a few tricks and refined my note-taking methods. In both my undergraduate and current course, there is a lot of information I need to know and this means I have to be extra productive during each study session involving textbooks, online resources, online videos, etc. 

In this series of blog posts, I hope to be able to share how I take notes from:
1. Online resources and textbooks - so textual resources
2. Online videos and lectures
3. Resources in relation to practical skills.

I don’t claim to be an expert, nor do I claim that my methods are perfectly honed but these are the things that I’ve come to realise work for me and I hope one or two of them work for you also.


Most of my note-taking comes from online resources and I’m lucky in that my medschool has an online database of notes for almost every topic I need to know about as a student. As a result, I tend to use these notes first and then supplement them by reading textbook chapters (usually from Kumar & Clark/Moore & Dalley/Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine - depending on whether the topic is physiology/anatomy/clinical). The online database from my medschool is quite good at breaking things down into simple terms before explaining the more difficult concepts so if your school has something like that, I’d definitely recommend you seek it out and utilise it :)

Further to this, I like to do practice questions (there are plenty online for medical students for quite a cheap fee - seek and you shall find :) - I don't like recommending them because different question banks will work for different people and don't want to be blamed if I recommend one that doesn't work for you!), and when I do a question, I will write notes on them regardless if I was right or wrong.

The picture above shows a Moleskine cahier notebook. On the left are notes from the practice questions I’ve been doing and on the right is a full-page spread on liver function tests. These are brief notes and I use as few words as possible - why use five words when you can use one? I never ever write in full sentences and bullet points are a super useful thing to use and I use a variety of these: dot bullets, line bullets, arrows, hearts, squares, hollow circles, asterisks etc).

The picture above are notes from my medschool’s online resource that I mentioned earlier. I numbered each main topic and then re-phrased the information into words of my own. Any jargon is translated into an easier to understand phrase - directly contradicting what I said earlier because this is an occasion where I may use more words than necessary!

When I take these notes, I don't copy them down as I read them. I read the whole text first, noting down key words on a scrap piece of paper (if I have time) or if not, I just skim read it, then I read it again and then I finally start taking notes. When I take notes, I process it and then paraphrase as explained earlier. 

I like to draw tree diagrams if appropriate. Immunology lends itself very well to this and helps me make sense of the bigger picture. Drawing diagrams and making things more pictorial can definitely help them enter your brain easier - at least for me it does! I think I’m quite a visual learner so this really works for me.

Finally, condense things! Post-it notes are ideal for these and in the picture above, I put the main symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus onto one single post-it. Subheadings are highlighted through the use of a hand-drawn box though I sometimes use actual highlighters for this purpose too. 

In a way, these notes were probably a poor example because I do have a basic background in immunology due to my undergraduate degree which had modules on said topic. However, the principles apply for any topic I study - especially for the ones I'm not so familiar with.

My main principles are:
1) Always start with the basics and break everything down to its bare bones. There's no good diving into the deep end - so start with the most basic stuff and then build on that. Think of it as putting on layers of clothes!

2) Never write in full sentences/paragraphs. Big chunks of text are scary when it comes to revision time!

3) Don't be scared if you don't get things on the first go. Sometimes, it can take a while for concepts to sink in. Before one of my undergraduate exams, I didn't understand NMR at all (even after studying it for hours on end) but the night before the actual exam, I dreamt about it and woke up completely understanding it. I answered an essay question on it in the exam and received a first class grade! I have faith in my brain and you should too, in yours :)

The next part of this series will cover taking notes from videos and lectures. It may be a while before it is posted but it is on my to-do list so don't fear :)

Do you have any tips for note-taking from textual resources? :)

my week #162

This week, two of my close friends from uni left the country because they'll be spending the next two years of medschool in the States. As a result, I've been feeling quite sad because I'll miss them a lot. I spent Thursday catching up on the television I'd missed (hello, Made in Chelsea, 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Have I Got News For You, Grey's Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory... You name it, I probably watched it). There's nothing more satisfying than catching up on TV in your PJs after an intense exam period.

Pass/fail results were released on Wednesday and I was tense the whole day. We were told they would be uploaded at around 3pm or 4pm so cue a nervy hour or so where I sat glued to my email/Facebook to see if anyone else had any info about these results. At 1608, there was a sigh of relief as I saw those four beautiful letters that made up the word 'pass'. Numerical results won't be released for a while yet but this means I can relax a bit easier! This officially means I'm halfway through medical school - where did the time go?!

How has your week been?