A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Friday, April 30, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Karen at Exaclair

Before starting this blog, of course, I read quite a few other pen/paper/notebook blogs, and I kept noticing all these references to "Karen at Exaclair," as in:
"Soo… recently I received quite a few goodies from Karen at Exaclair".

"Then came the opportunity to request another ink from Karen at Exaclair."

"It arrived today . . .  kindly sent to me by Karen at Exaclair."

"I need to apologize to Karen at Exaclair for not reviewing these items sooner."

"I'm still sick, and it's cold outside, so this seems like a good time to catch up on my review of the US version of the Quo Vadis Habana. Like the Rhodia Webnotebook reviewed last week, this was also a sample from Karen at Exaclair."

It was almost as if "at Exaclair" was her last name. But from my perspective, her last name did not matter. She seemed some sort of fairy showering gifts on experienced, popular bloggers while they slept. But for all these bloggers attesting to her existence, she sounded like a myth. Someone nice to believe in, but from whom you'll never actually receive anything.

Of course, I knew she was real. But it didn't feel right for me to ask her directly to send me something. What right had I, an upstart, know-nothing pen/paper/notebook blogger, to ask Karen at Exaclair -- that Karen at Exaclair, the Karen at Exaclair -- for anything? So, I went the indirect route by closing my my introductory post thus:
One thing is for sure: I am not writing this blog in the hopes that Karen at Exaclair, who seems to send free notebooks to bloggers far and wide so they can be reviewed on blogs, will send me any. Honest. I mean, after all, I'm a newbie. What would I know?

If she wants to send me the newest from Clairefontaine or Rhodia, I'm not going to resist, mind you.

Then, less than a month after I launched this blog, I got an email from . . . you guessed it . . . Karen at Exaclair, who had apparently found my blog through a comment I left at Rhodia Drive. She asked if I would like to sample a few products. Once I picked myself up off the floor, we exchanged a couple of emails, and a few weeks later (the delay being entirely my fault), there it was:

I swear that when I saw that package at my door, my heart and breathing stopped for a moment. (OK, maybe that's a little over the top, along with the "fairy" analogy, but I'm trying to be entertaining here, folks.) When I tore the package open I found a Rhodia A5 Webnotebook and large Quo Vadis Habana notebook to play with, as promised:

I feel awful for not reviewing either of these yet, even though Karen made clear that a review was unnecessary. Her interest is solely in getting honest feedback, and from what I've read around the Web, the companies behind the products distributed in the U.S. by Exaclair are very responsive to that feedback.

With the Webnotebook 3.0 coming out soon, I figure I better get off my duff and review the second-generation version I have before the review is moot! So, that's my weekend project. Tune in soon!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

My struggle with Circa

Judo European Championship 2010
I wanted to love Levenger's Circa notebooks. Really, I did. But I have found almost everything about it to be infuriating, and I'm trying to figure out how anybody works with this system. I feel like it's been fighting with me every step of the way.

I'm going to keep trying, and eventually get around to explaining my frustrations (not all of which, to be honest, can be laid at Circa's feet.)


Fountain pen heresies

Execution Of Servetus
Fountain Pen Network member "bushido" started a thread there titled "fountain pen taboos - don't enter if you're easily offended," that has generated more than 400 replies since it went up in mid-March. Here's the invitation to which the others are replying:
no bad/hate-filled language or anything that violates board rules but opinions that are controversial. like how you think 149 is overrated (i disagree). how krone pens are the best thing since sliced bread (i disagree). that you use your lamy 2000 as a door stop (no way...that scratches the door!).

you get the picture.

remember: what's said here, stays here! no grudges.
Maybe I'm weird, but I find many of the replies quite funny (and I've only gone through 30 or so). Not because the writers are trying to be funny, but because they are challenging orthodoxy and I like the pluck of the writers.

And I'm finding people just like me: "I do not write enough to justify the amount of pens I have." But I'm trying to change that. Not be reducing the number of my pens, of course, but by finding more excuses to write.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pen Addict Giveaway

Anyone who reads this blog probably already knows this, but dowdyism at The Pen Addict is giving away a Nomadic VS-01 Virgo-Attrezzo Standing Pen Case. This looks like a pretty cool product; it stows your pens while on the go and doubles as a standing pen cup wherever you pause to set up shop.

One of the things I enjoy most about following the pen and paper blogs is the generosity of the bloggers and the manufacturers. There are giveaways going on all the time! (I plan on having one  soon.)


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pardon my dust, and sorry about the missing comments

You might find an entirely different look to the blog (perhaps several different looks) this weekend, as my unfortunate Disqus  experience requires that I tinker with my Blogger template this weekend to un-do the Disqus customization in the template. I will either go to the default Blogger commenting system or perhaps install Echo. While I'm at it, I may toy around with the blog layout.

My Disqus comments have not been working for weeks. Customer support has tried to be helpful, and I don't expect immediate response from a free service, but . . . for some reason, they don't even seem to understand the nature of the problem.

I don't mean to slam Disqus; they seem to be working for a lot of folks. In fact, if my blog were better established, I'd be happy to give Disqus more time to fix the issue. But this blog is young and growing in both traffic and feed subscriptions, and that's no time for comments to be down for an extended period. I've received some nice e-mails as substitutes for comments since the comments have been down and my entire readership (all four of you!) should have access to those remarks, so I'm determined to fix the commenting this weekend.

Unfortunately, all of the comments previously left on the blog appear to be gone forever. Sorry. Please don't let that discourage you from commenting in the future!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Man with a Bic ballpoint . . .

. . . draws The Girl with a Pearl Earring. Impressive!


My pen snobbery is a thing of the past, but what about pen bias?

A highly magnified image of the tip of a ballp...Image via Wikipedia

When I was a younger lawyer, just a few years into practice, I was at a giant firm. An important firm. A prestigious firm. At a prestigious address. With prestigious clients.

I thought I should have an important and prestigious pen. Not because I wanted something pleasing to write with, but because . . . well, bottom line, it was simple pretentiousness. I wanted other people to see me with the pen.

So I bought a Montblanc ball point for $99 at Office Depot. (That's not a Montblanc in the photo, just a cool close-up photo of a ball point.) And while the writing experience was a secondary consideration in the purchase (at best), I was still looking forward to what I thought was going to be an amazing writing experience. It turned out to feel like any other ballpoint. (Maybe I wouldn't think so now, with my more refined "pen palate."). But I used it anyway, because I was pretentious.

Bad me. Bad, bad me.

I didn't really care about my pens, and having an expensive one didn't change that. I ended up losing it within about two weeks, and it served me right! Better yet, no one but other lawyers in the office ever saw me with it, and I can tell you they weren't impressed.

Now that I'm "into" pens and paper, I'm not worried about pretense at all. I buy now for my own enjoyment. While I might like to show off the Waterman Carene I plan on buying next month (as soon as Flax announces its May sale), I won't be buying it to show off. I'll be buying it because I think it's beautiful and writing with it will bring me pleasure, and it won't matter to me if I'm the only one who ever sees it.

I am, however, worried — just a little, really — about a bias based on the price of a pen. I haven't spent much on any one pen yet. My most expensive is the Pilot Knight ($48). When I buy that Carene, am I going to believe that it writes better than the Pilot Knight because it really does, or because I spent 5 times as much on it?

UPDATE (9/23/10): Chris at Pens 'n' Paper takes on pen snobbery.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Notebookism is back

"Notebookism" is not a diagnosis. Well, maybe it is . . . but it's also a blog, and Armand is firing up the blogging engines again! The notebook/fountain pen bug bit me while he was on hiatus, and I am looking forward to new posts there.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Note to self: there is no such thing as the perfect planner

Well, I guess a "note to self" is really a "note to Note" in my case, eh?

As part of my digital-to-analog transition (as far as I can take it, anyway), I've been struggling to find a useful paper-based planner. There's something wrong with every one I've looked at. So, I asked Laurie at Plannerisms for help. She (and one of her readers) had some great suggestions.

Since then, I've become even more demanding. (I'm beginning to feel like one of those people who never marries because he/she finds something wrong in every potential spouse.) The basics, as I expressed them to Laurie:
  1. No address book section. (That info is all in my phone, no sense carrying around the extra paper.)
  2. Monthly AND weekly views. (It's hard to plan ahead without a monthly view, but I want the detail of a weekly view to plan my week.)
  3. A notes page opposite each weekly view. (So I can outline my priorities for the week. Something like the Quo Vadis Space 24)
  4. Goes through the end of 2011.
When you're an attorney who has to plan for court dates stretching out over more than a year, a 1-year bound calendar just doesn't cut it, unless I want to carry around two of them. And the next year's version frequently won't even be published when I need it.

I'm pretty sure I'll have to settle for some looseleaf style — Filofax, Circa, Franklin Covey, or the like — in order to get the sort of flexibility I want. But I've been trying out a Junior-sized Circa this week, and so far I hate it. The paper is horrible, the rings make it very uncomfortable to write on the left side, and I'd probably have to make my own inserts to get the layouts I want. (Don't take that as my full review. I promised several weeks ago to publish reviews only after extended use of a product, so I have to give the Circa a little more time.) But looseleaf seems unavoidable to get what I want, and especially if I want to combine my calendar and GTDing into a single book.

I've finally decided on a an interim planner, at least. At the suggestion of one of Laurie's readers, I ordered a Polestar Business Calendar, mostly because it has the weekly with notes format and monthly format in the same book; they also have a looseleaf version, which would allow me to keep a few years' worth of monthly calendars at a time — provided I can bring myself to use a binder, knowing how nuts it drives me to have my hand run into the rings when trying to write on the left side.

This is all one big experiment, anyway. My law firm, naturally, keeps a master calendar on the computer. My first challenge will be keeping my paper planner synchronized the digital one.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Comments are down

My commenting system is down. Looks like Disqus screwed it up in the process of fixing a minor problem — lack of a trackback link — and turning it into a big one: no commenting at all! I've asked them to get to work on it. Please bear with me (and them).

UPDATE (4/4/10): This problem looked worse than I thought. My whole Disqus account for this blog appears to be gone! So many people have been so kind to comment already, and those comments may be gone forever.  It is important I get commenting going again, since I am planning a giveaway soon!


Anna Quindlen on "The Future of Paper and Pen"

Or so says the cover of this week's (April 5) Newsweek (If you look below the giant picture of the iPad that dominates the cover). Her column is not so much about the future of pen and paper as it is about the future of reading in light of continuing technological development and the popularity of digital formats. This comment, in particular, should give some comfort to those of us who like to feel the book in our hands:
The book is dead, I keep hearing as I sit writing yet another in a room lined with them. Technology has killed it. The libraries of the world are doomed to become museums, storage facilities for a form as antediluvian as cave paintings. Americans, however, tend to bring an either-or mentality to most things, from politics to prose. The invention of television led to predictions about the demise of radio. The making of movies was to be the death knell of live theater; recorded music, the end of concerts. All these forms still exist—sometimes overshadowed by their siblings, but not smothered by them. And despite the direst predictions, reading continues to be part of the life of the mind, even as computers replace pencils, and books fly into handhelds as well as onto store shelves. Anton Chekhov, meet Steve Jobs.
I am still in a love-hate relationship with technology. Still love my iPhone and my Mac, but moving more and more toward paper. And I never did like reading newspapers or other extended reading on screen. (Blogs, of course, are fine!)  Everything digital just seems like it must be hurried. It's hard to imagine relaxing with a Kindle the way I can with a book.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

My haul from Flax

I had to go into L.A. for a deposition the other day after pulling an all-nighter. I was pretty ticked off about having to go, because we'd asked the other side to reschedule the deposition (which 99% of lawyers would have done, but the lawyers in this case refused to do). Then I decided to look at the bright side . . . this meant I could go to Flax again, and actually spend some time looking around since there was nothing I had to get back to the office for.

I had big plans before I got there. You see, on the way there, I got a phone call letting me know I got a big decision in another case that day. Hah! The perfect excuse to celebrate by buying my first expensive fountain pen!

When I got to Flax, I browsed like crazy, but left without an expensive fountain pen. My haul:

Flax Haul 1

A Lamy AL-Star, Pilot Knight, Rhodia pencil, Apica notebook, and a book about how to use handwritten notes to advance your business networking.

I already love the Pilot Knight. I've been searching for the right nib size for my style of writing, but so far my search has resembled the early stages of Goldilocks's search for porridge of the right temperature. The Pilot Knight medium nib writes a finer line than my Lamy fine nib and it's smoother at the same time. Awesome!

The Rhodia pencils are just so damn cool looking that I had to try one. I picked up the Apica notebook because I had been very impressed with the quality of one of their very small notebooks and this paper felt very smooth to the touch, crying out for me to try it. I could not refuse that cry.

When I got home, I regretted not buying an expensive pen. (I had my eye on the Waterman Carene). I mean, I love the Pilot Knight, but . . . I had denied myself the celebration!

Then yesterday (I'm writing this at about 3 a.m.), my boss decides he wants to send me to a hearing in L.A. today that we previously planned he would attend.

This cannot be a mere coincidence. I was meant to return to Flax for that pen.

As soon as I'm out of court, I'm heading to Flax again. I'm not sure I'm going to buy the Carene. But I'm buying something. I just hope I can find the right pen.


Who took my Iroshizuku?

emember when I told you how much I was looking forward to opening my new Iroshizuku ink, and that I hadn't done it yet because I was so busy with work and wanted to wait until I could really take the time to savor the moment?

Well, I finally got my break in work, but I haven't savored anything yet, because I can't find the Iroshizuku! I remember very clearly putting it in my truck the other day at work to make sure I had it at home over the weekend in case I had time to open it then. (I didn't.)

Finally, yesterday, after a a month-long stretch of crazy hours that included three all-nighters, I finally had the time to spend on enjoying it, and even a new pen to fill with it. I went to retrieve the Iroshizuku from my truck and . . . couldn't find it! Maybe I brought it in? Looked all over the house. Couldn't find it.

This is driving me nuts! If anybody finds it, please email me.