Tools of the trade: Keychain notebook

Posted September 18, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | Add your comment »


This is a variation of the “too good to actually use” problem, which is odd, because if you’ve ever purchased a Muji notebook, you know that the paper is terrible — coarse, thin, and utilitarian, the sort of paper that struggles to hold up to a competent rollerball without bleedthrough.

Still, a cute, little 1×3-inch notebook on a keychain, for 99 cents? I was killing time while waiting for the bus in the Muji on 40th Street, and I couldn’t resist. I also can’t decide what to do with it. Online, the notebook is billed as a “word card” and, elsewhere, a “flash card” that works well “for vocabulary lists, formulas, dates and events in history.” In my mind, I was going to use it as an ersatz post-it pad, but the keychain seemed to hold more on-the-go promise, and I let it linger on my desk, wondering.

Obviously, the pages would splay and rip pretty quickly in an actual keychain environment, and the notebook isn’t half as big as I would want for a mobile catchall idea/to-do list book, anyway. If I were in the habit of giving away my contact info in analog form en masse, I can see it being useful… or perhaps some Miranda July type project where you pass out the words of a story to strangers on the street, one by one? I won’t say the possibilities are endless, but there are enough of them that I’m still a bit surprised I haven’t yet found my perfect use.

What would you use this for?

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Writing Wednesdays: The best tool for the task

Posted September 17, 2014 by
in Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | 2 comments »

I’ve said before that I’m none too proficient at composing long passages of prose on anything other than my laptop. I also can’t imagine fleshing out ideas on anything other than a notebook.

At work, I have a very clear set of notebooks and calendars for specific tasks and to-do lists. For my personal writing, however, I haven’t done much to systematize things, beyond making sure to carry a physical notebook with me. So my notebooks all end up being a total hybrid of random ideas, passages, and things I’d like to remember to look up in the future.

I’m a process geek, however — the writer’s counterpart to the planning optimist? — so I love to hear about the various tasks that other people assign to their notebooks. What about you? Do you prefer to make mash-ups or single-course feasts of your notebooks?

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Time management Mondays: Knowing you need a break

Posted September 15, 2014 by
in Editorial, Planning Tips | 2 comments »

It’s one thing to recognize, intellectually, the benefits of taking a break. It’s another thing to know when you actually need one. Aside from the self-enforced breaks that my weekends now represent, I tend to be bad at gauging the times when I should just step away from my desk and take twenty minutes or even an hour or two to do something completely different.

And yet those kinds of breaks, when done right, are among the most productive, giving you just the amount of time you need to recharge and come back with renewed energy.

What about you? How do you know when it’s time to take a break?

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Friday roundup

Posted September 12, 2014 by
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How about this lovely fall weather, New York? Here’s our weekly assortment of reviews and other things of interest.

  • Why are some classics as read as they are talked about, while others gather dust on the shelf? The Paris Review explores the tricky question of universality.
  • This week, La Plume Etoile takes on the Quo Vadis Notor: “The Notor is a daily planner that allows me to combine my to-do list in a book format. It allows the freedom to plan my day in a format the works for me, which makes all the difference.”
  • With thanks to Inkophile, here are some of the most interesting and expressive stick figures I’ve ever laid eyes on, courtesy of Louis Decrevel’s Gesturefest. Do yourself a favor and check them out!
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Tools of the trade: Angry trees

Posted September 11, 2014 by
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I’m a big fan of the show Portlandia, and though I tend to be skeptical of claims that computers are always more eco-friendly than paper (hello, manufacturing and energy costs! Hello, e-waste!), I had to chuckle at this sketch about efficient notebook use.

“Is it important that you try to draw Garfield on two separate pages?” an angry tree demands of a Moleskine notebook user.

I try to fill my notebooks compactly, from start to finish, but there are definitely times I don’t succeed at being as efficient as I could be.

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Time management Mondays: An email vacation

Posted September 8, 2014 by
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How terrific does this sound? Instead of navigating the complex web of obligation, expectation, and habit when it comes to email and vacation, you are forced to shut down your inbox as — did I read that right? — all incoming messages are deleted. (Don’t worry, the senders are notified.)

Such is the experimental program from German carmaker Daimler that I learned about, and lusted after, recently. The idea, says the Times, “is to encourage a healthier balance in life and to cut down on workers’ burnout — a condition that Daimler has concluded can’t be good for business in the long run.”

Sadly, I fear this may be something like the metric system, i.e., a very sensible system that will nonetheless never reach U.S. shores except in very specific domains, but hey, we can still dream, can’t we?

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Friday roundup

Posted September 5, 2014 by
in Pens, Paper & People, Product Reviews | Add your comment »


If you’re cowering indoors on this hot post-summer Friday, here are two reviews to take your mind off the sun:

  • Are you a daily or a weekly calendar person? The intrepid blogger behind Giftie Etcetera has found a way to eat her cake and have it with a customized planner involving a Franklin Covey binder, a Quo Vadis Notor, and — well, I’m not sure where her weekly pages come from, but the ensemble is very impressive! Here she is talking about how she uses her daily pages, and here on the Anno Planner.
  • What, you haven’t tried the new Rhodia Ice pads? In the words of La Plume Etoile: “You can’t go wrong with anything from Rhodia, anything distributed by Exaclair, or anything with Clairfontaine paper. The fact that there is a white and silver cover available in addition to the classic black and orange makes me even happier.”
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Tools of the trade: Smelly ink

Posted September 4, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | 2 comments »

As I mentioned last week, I’ve recently rediscovered the Pilot Varsity as my go-to purse pen.

The other day, I noticed something about the pen that I hadn’t realized before: it stinks! I don’t know if my own Varsity is just showing its age, or if it’s got something to do with the very haphazard way that I’ve stored it over the years. But when, while running errands, I took it out to jot a note on my hand, I got closer to the nib than I ever had before, and took a whiff.

On the order of smells, I would rank it somewhere below my husband’s hockey bag — certainly the scent carries less far — but somewhere above standard-issue body odor. The scent of smelly feet comes to mind. It’s not pleasant! I don’t know if I’m ready to call it a deal-breaker when there’s still so much else about the Varsity that I like. But none of my other fountain pens smell, nor any of my bottles of ink, and they’ve been living in the same environment (and were stored in the same boxes in the same crappy storage facility during our post-Sandy homeless period), so… I’m flummoxed.

Has this happened to anyone else?

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Writing Wednesdays: A month without a phone

Posted September 3, 2014 by
in Beautiful Creations, Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | Add your comment »

How much creative work do you think you could accomplish if you could spend an entire month without the Internet? I wondered this recently while reading this Fast Company account of a writing retreat in Montana.

For those four weeks, I was constantly engaged with my work, but for the first time since I can remember, when asked the question “How are you?” my default answer was not “busy.” Creative work requires prolonged concentration. It often requires solitude. It requires not being busy, but being focused.

Of course, most of our own “fast companies” make the scenario difficult to impossible, but hey, a girl can dream…

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Lost in translation

Posted August 29, 2014 by
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As we head, in the US, at least, into a long, holiday weekend — yes, we celebrate Labor Day in the fall, and not in May like the rest of the world — I’m reminded of a subject that I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while… the linguistic quirks, bloopers, and flat-out mistakes that are probably inevitable for a company that’s headquartered in France.

A few years ago, one of our readers noticed that Herbin’s ink packaging instructs English-speakers to “rince” and not “rinse” their fountain pens. Soon thereafter, Paulien pointed out, that the UK version of the Space 24 misspelled the name of her country (“I don’t live in The Netherland,” she wrote).

Karen has also told me some amusing lost-in-translation style anecdotes about American and British English (using “rubber” instead of “eraser” in product catalogs, for instance, and “Maxi Pad” to describe for a large Rhodia pad.)

At any rate, the arc of our corporate universe is long, but it bends toward linguistic justice, so if you notice something odd in our product literature or in our products themselves, please let us know!

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