Category Archives: Writing

Parts of Three Equals None

Today I’m going meta as I managed not to finish three different projects for this daily bit of blather. In my defense, I did actual work, which is not something I usually do on days off.

My plan was to go out and do stuff but eventually I realized that all was planning on doing was going to lunch. Instead I stayed home and worked on a couple worksheets for the school where I work (and for future house arrest days).

I also took some photos for this bit of blather but only wrote part of the actual text. Granted, I wrote part of the text for three different posts but didn’t actually finish either of them.

This is the curse of enjoying your days off a little too much. Eventually I finish all the posts. Eventually.

Monokaki Pocket Notebook–End of Book Review

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: There’s this really cool notebook that claims that it’s the notebook of Nobel Prize winning writers.

Although the way a  famous notebook brand uses this story is somewhat dodgy (and is most accurately described as “famous people used a notebook that looked kind of like this”) in the case of Masuya’s Motokaki notebook, there appears to be some truth to the story. The notebook was, as near as I can find, made in 1939 for Fumio Niwa, author of The Buddha Tree. Since then it’s been used by other Japanese writers.

Note: Please keep in mind that none of this impresses me. In fact, when I learned about the story behind the more famous notebook, I felt kind of sad, as if I’d been duped, even though I hadn’t read the story beforehand.

Two Monokaki Pocket Notebooks. The one being reviewed is the one on the right.

The Monokaki Pocket Notebook I used was terrific. It is one of the most fountain pen friendly notebooks I’ve ever used.

The notebook contains 128 pages of Masuya’s cream colored, acid free Kotobukiya paper. I used the version with a light grid, but it also comes in blank and ruled versions. The off-white cover is made of thick Japanese washi paper with a woodblock print inspired pattern designed by Ryo Takagi. The end pages are black (charcoal gray?) paper and help add some support to the notebook when you’re holding it in your hand as you write.

Detail of the fountain pen and ink bottle on the cover. Also, detail of the wear on the spine.

At 140 mm (5.5 inches) tall and 85 mm (3.35 inches) wide the notebook is roughly the same length as a Field Notes Notebook, but slightly narrower. Because it’s made of eight sewn signatures, it lays flat when it’s open, which is not true of many smaller perfect bound notebooks.

Detail of the end pages and the notebook’s construction. If you zoom you can see the individual signatures.

Although the paper is thin, it handles fountain pens extremely well. There is a lot of show through, which might bother some people, but very little bleed. In fact, the only ink that bled consistently was Wancher Matcha, which is always a heartbreaker. It breaks hearts.

Wancher Matcha bleeding through the page. It is a heartbreaker. It breaks hearts. Also, nice detail of the grid pattern.

The only real complaint I have with the notebook is more a matter of taste than a problem. As a rule, I don’t like solid grids on notebook pages as they break up the lines. Yeah, you have to look fairly close, sometimes, to notice, but it bothers me. Ruled pages I don’t mind as much because I don’t have to cross the lines, but I prefer blank pages in small notebooks. (Actually, in all notebooks, but more on that in a future post.)

The Monokaki Pocket Notebook has entered my top five pocket notebooks. I have a blank version yet to use, and I may bump it forward in my notebook queue.



Passing On Three

It just dawned on me that this bit of blather started three years ago today. Unfortunately I have nothing profound to say about that.

Starting it at the end of the school year puts me in an odd time for recollection and reflection. When I started there was a lot of energy and that pushed me through the end of term stress. Now, it’s just another thing I need to do when there are other things I should be doing.

Soon after I started I developed a fairly stringent set of rules about length and the amount of time I could spend writing. Over time those rules have changed to allow shorter posts and shorter writing times which has led to lazy posts.

As always, when I’m writing about work, unless it’s particularly funny or lengthy, you can be confident that I’m being lazy.

Now that I’m not working evenings or Sundays, I have a lot more time to put things off, but have been doing rough drafts of various reviews. I’ve been mostly lazy about the the photography and processing the photos.

Going forward to the plan is to put together some kind of collection of expanded versions of posts I liked and organize them around pens. That has also been stealing a lot of time, which makes me default to “Today at work, things really sucked” posts.

I’ll write more about that in another post, though. Probably. Someday.



Field Notes Lunacy–End of Book Review

For some reason, this song seems appropriate:

The Fall 2016 Field Notes Limited Edition looked really cool, then I started using it and things changed slightly. I liked the paper, but the gimmick is annoying, at least on the one I used.

The Lunacy, released about the time of the harvest moon, is a moon themed edition. The unique feature is covers cut in ways to reveal different phases of the moon. The three-packs available to the public contain the full moon, last quarter, and crescent moon. Subscribers received a fourth, uncut version representing the “new moon”.

Bad, so to speak, moons rising? #fieldnotes #notebooks #penaddict @fieldnotesbrand

A photo posted by DL (@d.e.lively) on

The covers look great, and have an interesting texture, but I found that with the full moon, as I flipped through the pages, my finger slipped through where I usually press. Or, it would flip at first but then the cover would bend and it would slap closed. It’s not a big deal, but it disrupts what should be simple process. I also don’t like the glossy end pages, even though they are necessary to pull off the gimmick and provide lots of interesting information. I’d rather have more pages I can use.

Detail of the cover showing the nice texture and the hole for the moon. (Also a Pen Addict Edition Retro 51 Rollerball.)

Some of the information. I would be 14.85 kg (32.73 lbs) on the moon and would rather have extra page.

I  like the embossed dark side of the moon on the back and would rather have seen the full, half and crescent moon done that way on the front.

I used it as my mini-planner for a couple months. The 60# paper was excellent and handled every pen well and almost every ink. (Wancher Matcha is the heart breaker. It breaks hearts.) I liked the gray reticle dot pattern, even though I generally prefer blank pages. The paper has a gray wash to it that I was worried about at first, but it didn’t cause any problems except to my eyes when they tried to adjust to what they were seeing.

I wouldn’t mind getting more copies, but I’d probably give away the full moon version and since my favorite, the new moon, isn’t available, I’m not sure getting only two notebooks for the price would be worth it.

More or Less Formal

About the only form of writing I hate doing is formal letters as they are the written equivalent of trying to do complicated business over the phone (something I also hate). The language is stilted and artificial and I always feel uncomfortable writing it.

This is especially true if the formal letters are recommendation letters for students.

I don’t like that my students’ futures possibly lie somewhere beyond my typo-ridden fingers. For example, I was almost done with the first letter today when I realized I was misspelling the name of the school.

I hate starting letters with “To Whom It May Concern” as this is horribly impersonal and makes me appear to have done no research whatsoever on who to apply to. Granted, I had done no research whatsoever, but it would have been nice if my students had, just to make me look better.

Since certain details are the same for different students, I have to be careful about any material I recycle from one letter to the next. He becomes she becomes her becomes his.

(Random But Slightly Related Aside: since it is trendy to adopt a gender/sex neutral method of being addressed, I will no longer be Mister Lively or Sir. Instead, please refer to me as “You Sexy Thing Lively” or just “You Sexy Thing”.) 

Complicating matters today was that I wrote a letter for a student who didn’t actually deserve a recommendation because he had a habit of plagiarizing on assignments. Instead I wrote a tonally neutral missive describing the course and how he enjoyed doing internet research as part of his writing process.

Now they’ve been sent off to someone who will probably, if it’s even possible, make them better.


Hobonichi Techo Cousin Planner–End of Book Review

The size of the Hobonichi Techo Cousin didn’t put me off as I only intended to use it as a desktop item but the color did. Unfortunately, for reasons involving expensive covers that are sold separately, the Hobonichi Cousin comes only in Caucasian flesh tone beige.

The Cousin is an A5 sized planner with 544 pages of Tomoe River paper. The pages include daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly planners with several black pages at the end for notes. Each day has a quote (in Japanese, though) that is supposed to serve as a source of wisdom, inspiration, contemplation.

The Cousin filled the role of my daily log and it was nice to replace the average paper of the MUJI notebook I’d used before, with the terrific and fountain pen friendly Tomoe River paper in the Cousin. I ended up using the monthly planner to keep track of days I actually wrote and the daily pages to write my log entries. I also used the blank pages as a scrapbook for random stickers and labels.

The paper was terrific, with only a few pens and inks bleeding through. My Noodler’s Ahab flex nib scored the paper and caused lots of bleedthrough and Noodler’s Apache Sunset ink is oily enough that it tends to soak through. Wancher Matcha, as good as it looks, laughs at pages made of any paper and makes them cry.

Noodler’s Apache Sunset bleed through.

Noodler’s Apache Sunset from the above bleed through staining a third page.

Wancher Matcha laughs at Tomoe River, even from a smooth M nib.

My biggest problems with the Cousin was that it simply was trying to do too much. Out of the 544 pages, I left about 100 pages unused. This isn’t so much the fault of the planner as much as it is a testament to the way I used it. However, I don’t see why it needs monthly, weekly and daily planners under one cover.

As for the cover, despite being on my desk, it showed a surprising amount of wear and tear. It is glossy card stock, but a year of being pulled in and out of a slot next to my PC wore both sides of the cover, including the side that wasn’t against the metal. A fellow Cousin user has dubbed this as “Hobonichi Cousin patina”.

The “patina” (aka scuff marks) on the Caucasian flesh tone beige cover.

I also noticed that the end tape started to peel and that the cover that was against the warm computer began to separate from its backing paper.

Another example of the “patina” spots and of the peeling end tape.

It is a good planner though, and most of my problems with it are a matter of personal preference. It has a lot of space for recording events and even writing follow up, which is nice. I find the daily quotes to be useless, though. After a while, I didn’t even notice them, except when I wished they weren’t taking up so much writing space.

I would recommend the Cousin, especially if you’re willing to splurge for a cover, or just make one yourself from some construction paper. (Alas, gone are the days of making book covers from paper grocery bags.) Even if you’re ballpoint pen user, you’ll like the paper.

However, as I’ve written before, sort of, this year I’ve decided to pare down some of what I’m using by combining my planner with my log. I’m also not going to keep the log in the same way. (But that’s fodder for a future post.)



Technical Difficulties Meet Worn and Done

Technologically, it was one of those days that remind me why I prefer analog tools such as fountain pens and paper.

First, Scrivener and I formed a new working agreement: if it stops f@#king with me, I won’t uninstall it.

I worked on a novel yesterday only 1) to find that I was actually editing a version that was in Scrivener’s trashcan and 2)  to discover today that everything I’d worked on yesterday was gone.

Much swearing ensued.

After a few minutes of using a hammer to “hit any key to continue” and playing with lighters and kerosene for a more permanent solution, I figured out the problem was that because I was using the program on two computers, Scrivener was confused. Once that was figured out, I went back to my laptop to open Scrivener and it wouldn’t open. Instead it gave me an error message.

Much more swearing ensued.

Then I reopened it on my desktop and it worked.

Much “Huh? What? Really?” ensued.

Then I tried again on my laptop and it opened without me having to change anything. That’s how I know Scrivener is f@#king with me.

After all that was resolved, and yesterday’s work was moved from the trashcan, I started up my printer to print the current draft and my printer announced that it had put itself on a death watch. It told me that parts of it were approaching the end of their working lives.

Much more swearing (and yen counting) ensued.

This means I’ll have to find a way around that alert or will have to finally break down and buy a new printer. As I’ve had the current one for 10 years, and it doesn’t like working with Windows 10, it’s probably something to consider.

Accidental Time Swapping Traditions

It has become a tradition in my daily log that I get a couple days backward.

In both this year’s log and last year’s log, I’ve started to fill out a page only to realize, much too late, that it’s the wrong page. This means that the next day also has to go into the log in the wrong place resulting in a couple pages of swapped time.

This made more sense in last year’s log as it was a blank book and I had to write the dates every morning.

However, my current log has dates already printed. Despite this, for yesterday’s entry, I strarted writing the notes for the 12th on the 13th. Today I had to write the 13th on the 12th.

Tomorrow I hope the 14th is on the 14th, but I can’t guarantee that.

One-Thousand Bits of Blather

If I could do math, I’d figure out how many years 1,000 posts is, but I can’t be bothered to do so. Instead, I’ll just admit I’m shocked I’m still doing this and shocked I intend to keep going.

I also have to keep in mind there were a couple days posted directly to Facebook because of technical difficulties with the site, which means I’ve probably already passed 1,000.

Either way, the blog has become a regular habit, for better and for worse, and the compulsion to produce something at all costs has led me to produce more than a few bits of filler. This is partly because my usual writing time (sometime after 10:00 p.m.) has become more of a chore than it used to be and I’m not always in the mood to produce something, but then I produce something.

I’ve resisted the urge to produce nothing, even when I have very little to say, mostly because I know how addictive that “after all, tomorrow is another day” habit can be.

Readership hasn’t climbed greatly, but that’s partly the fault of the random content and lack of self-promotion.

The goal from now on is more pen and stationery posts mixed with more personal history and random philosophical bits, tying it all together whenever possible. It’s fun doing the long-term pen and notebook reviews, but they take time, not only to use the item long-term, but also to assemble notes and to take and process photos. In general, if I haven’t done all that by 10:00, I end up with a filler post.

I continue to resist any kind of plan, but I also know I’m too dependent on random posts.

For those who’ve stuck around though, thanks, although I’m not sure why you are still  around. Thanks, though. I hope you’ll stick around.

Almost Completely Useless

On Thursday, I predicted to a colleague that I’d get a migraine on Friday. I knew this because it was the first day of a long holiday.

As predicted, I got my migraine aura and quickly took medicine and coffee. Despite this treatment, my body still punished me for the migraine. I spent most of the day caught somewhere between sloth-like and slug-like.

I did manage to get outside to buy some clothes and feed our youngest, but then I came back home and returned to sloth-like, slug-like mode.

That means it’s early to bed, especially as I’m working tomorrow. I did rough out some reviews for future topics here, and also weighed the pros and cons of doing NaNoWriMo this year. (Short version: It’s cons all the way down this year.)

But more on that in a future post.