Navy Bean, under the table, catching up on the NYT. 🐕

Navy Bean modeling the Draplin Design Co. x Coal beanie. 🐕

I love the idea of Future Fonts. Get in early on some cool typefaces from great designers.

(via swissmiss.)

Bird Mail 015

Alison Pollack’s Fungi

  • In lieu of NaNoWriMo, CJ Chilvers committed to writing about one subject, anxiety, every single day of November. I have always kept a journal in some form or fashion. Though there may be a break of days or months between entries, I have always kept a log of thoughts and goings-on in my life. Often journals are started to document legacy—a behavior I’m guilty of too—but Chilvers recommends that you journal for what’s now. Twenty-two years sketchbook/journals by Christopher Butler are worth diving into. I love his collages and it is interesting to see how they change as his work and life change. If you need a journal for the new year, I cannot recommend this one, with its perfectly thin paper and Japanese details, enough. If you prefer something slightly more…mechanical, why not one of these beauties? Sadly, I think all of them are missing a this odd character ‘⋮’.

  • To mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Der Spiegel interviewed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. > Freedom of speech includes the freedom to be contradicted. I encourage everyone to express his or her opinion, but you must endure having it called into question. Sometimes, there may even be a so-called “shitstorm.” I’ve experienced this too. It is all part of democracy. I hope it’s okay I’ve included her in my tiny ümail.

  • I have been traveling by plane more frequently—mostly for work—and though I lack the modern luxury of bluetooth headphones—I’ll keep my big studio grade monitors, thank you—I came across this nifty little adapter that will make airplane-movie-watching (with a friend!) much easier.

  • Of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about tipping—when to tip, or not tip, how much work must be done to warrant a tip, how much is expected versus correct. I’ve come to the conclusion that American tipping makes no sense. When tips were introduced to Uber and Lyft a part of me felt compelled to tip my drivers when the service was at least average. Now, I’m not so sure that’s the right thing to do. Especially since an average Uber ride seems to be questionably safe driving and sexist comments about women, I feel far less inclined to tip. I’ve been left wondering, why does tipping still exist?

There is no fifth link this week. There are a lot of things to read above, but I wanted to use this space to say thank you. It is a privilege to be given this little space in your email inbox every few weeks. I have such a good time writing Bird Mail for you and getting to share all the internet ephemera that I have collected. I hope y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Your friend,
Bruce

There is a lot to be said for taking the time to get physically in sync with your partner paddling a tandem kayak after a little row—ahem, quarrel. Kayaking in the sunset was actually the best use of our time and money, despite my original stubborn position.

Something to believe in:

Writing things down isn't just about keeping a record; it's about a deeper level of clarity that the finer articulation releases.

Nicholas Bate's Jagged Thoughts for Jagged Times always delivers.

Social networks have amplified this desire, at the same time they simplified the execution. Now you can waste time and dignity instead of money. Who can you tear down? How much time can you waste? What’s it worth to you to have more followers than the others?

It’s a lousy game, because if you lose, you lose, and if you win, you also lose.

The only way to do well is to refuse to play.

Earning trust outperforms earning envy.

— Seth Godin - The never-ending rachet of conspicuous consumption

Emphasis on the last line is my own, and it is what has me thinking the most. Where do you earn trust on the internet? Social media seems like the defacto place to do it, but the benefits seem less and less as time goes on.

With all the noise on the internet, how can you be found, or heard, so that people can start trusting you?

Bird Mail: 003

  • I’m on day two of a month-long diet and I’m hoping by the end I feel increbidle.
  • Last year I devoured the Neapolitan Novels of Elena Ferrante and in her New York Times op-ed likens the power of storytelling to political power. I think she’s absolutely right, the world needs more women, with more power, telling more stories.

    A completely new outlook is required. The challenge for now and the foreseeable future is to extract ourselves from what men have engineered: a planet long on the edge of catastrophe.

    But how? Maybe now is the moment to bet on a female vision of power — one constructed and imposed with the force of our achievements in every field. For now our exceptionalism is the exceptionalism of minorities.

  • Living in Oklahoma it was virtually impossible not to know the name Joe Exotic. The bleached mullet, flamboyant outfits, and big cats were hard to miss on the local news or billboards between OKC and Dallas. There were girls in my high school who had birthday parties at the animal park so they could get photos with big cat cubs. He was an Oklahoma fixture that I chalked up to Oklahoma being a strange place, but I never expected to read a story quite this bonkers.

  • It’s been a few years since I owned a video game console, and almost fifteen years since my last handheld console—unless you count my iPhone, which does have some of my favorite games ever on it (Alto’s Odyssey, Threes, and Monument Valley if you’re wondering). The upcoming Playdate from Panic definitely has my attention. If they have game designers like Zach Gage (maker of great puzzle games like Flipflop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess, and Typeshift) making games for it, it’s going to be a fun little device.

  • I know Danny MacAskill was in a recent Bird Mail, but he keeps doing cool things with a bike…and a kid in a trailer.

Bird Mail: 002

  • ”I decided to try to pull the birds from the sky”

    Stephen Gill’s photographs—they’re his in that he set up the scene, though he never once clicked the shutter himself—and Karl One Knausgaard’s words brought birds down to Earth. In 1502, Leonardo da Vinci figured out how to draw what the birds see.

  • I first learned about Christo and Jeanne-Claude in a college aesthetics class where we discussed the ways their work took familiar structures—trees, bridges, famous buildings—and forced the viewer to look at the form of the thing and nothing more. Next year, Christo is wrapping the Arc de Triomphe, a dream he and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, had almost 60 years ago. Christo and Jeanne-Claude were on my mind after stumbling upon a small installation built into a ten inch wide wall at The Menil Collection in Houston.

  • The song from Wintergatan’s original marble machine gets stuck in my head more often than I’d like to admit so I was a little sad to hear that they dismantled it ten months after this video came out. I’m thrilled to see it’s still turning and the progress they’ve made turning it into an incredible hand-crank drum machine.

  • When I was a kid, there was nothing I loved more than building with LEGO. It’s been a long time since I’ve played with them, but this new Stranger Things LEGO set definitely has my attention. I particularly enjoyed this period-appropriate interview with the set designer.

  • Reader Mike sent @boschbot my way and reminded me how much I enjoy the bonkers art of Hieronymus Bosch. Each hour there’s a new snippet of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Many of the characters wouldn’t look too out of place in the world of Stranger Things, despite being separated by more than 500 years.

If you have something you think I should add to my collection of internet ephemera, write me by replying to this email.

You friend,
Bruce

Bird Mail: 001

  • I’m sorry if this gets to you a little later than last week’s but I'm working from work today.

  • I traveled to Cleveland for work last week and could not stop thinking about these videos that are ten years old, but sadly, still relevant. I was hoping to find a lively city, but even the people I met that lived there didn’t seem to like Cleveland much.

    “No MBA graduate wants to come work in Cleveland out of school. I want some sexy technology, like a VR office called ‘The Engine Room’ that will make them want to work here.”

    — Customer explaining his vision for a Minority Report-style market research software that's never going to be built.

    I don’t know what will pull Cleveland from its slump, but maybe a visual refresh like the city of Oslo could help. From the letterhead to the logo, the typography to trash trucks, Oslo has a gorgeous new visual identity that honors its past and looks to a more inclusive future. New colors and signage won’t fix Cleveland, but they certainly can’t hurt.

  • The first time I confronted Michael Wolf’s Architecture of Density I struggled to make sense of the wide cityscapes without a single sliver of sky. The images are dense—in living quarters and in message. The viewer is left feeling both anonymous and voyeuristic, staring into the tightly packed windows with thousands of lives hidden behind them. Wolf took art photography into large and small spaces and showed the world the humanity that live there. The Guardian has an excellent obituary for the late artist who died last week at the age of 64.

  • If you have to do any public speaking or presentations any time soon, you might want to take some notes from this thought leader.

  • Reader Chelsea sent me Judgments from The Cut and I read through all of them in one sitting—there aren’t that many of them, don’t worry. It also got me thinking about the costumes we wear every day.

I would love to hear from you if you enjoyed any of these links, or if you have something you think I should add to my collection, feel free to reply to this email!

You friend,
Bruce

Costumes and Judgments

I grew up in West Texas in the 90s and early 2000s where, depending on the day of the week, the most popular things were church, George Bush, and high school football. My mom didn’t really dress like the other women of Midland on a day-to-day basis. She’s always been more of a practical dresser. Overalls, hiking boots, this one flannel shirt I swear is in every vacation photo album since I was born. Function almost always wins out over form—though that’s not to say she doesn’t look adorable. In a small town, my mom’s style showed me how much people judge you based on your clothes at a young age.

We would go to the mall, to Dillard’s or JC Penny’s, and the staff in dresses, shoes, or cosmetics wouldn’t speak to us. My mom wasn’t dressed shabbily, she was in her usual jeans or overalls (bibs, we called them), hiking boots or sneakers, and a small backpack as a purse instead of the typical Coach bag I saw my friends mom’s carrying. I watched employees turn and walk away from my mom, assuming she couldn’t afford whatever we were looking at. They were wrong. But what my mom was wearing shouldn’t have mattered. I remember realizing as it happened, and feeling so hurt for her. No customer, no person, should have been treated that way, least of all my mom.

It stuck with me. Every day, we are judged based on the clothes we wear, even when we don’t want it, even when people are wrong. At some time or another, it’s easier to wear a costume. Sometimes we have to, other times it's a choice.

I spent the last two years of high school in a private school I didn’t fit into wearing polo shirts and button-fronts from EXPRESS—the nicest clothes I’d ever owned save my three-piece debate tournament suits— and still feeling out of place next to kids in Burberry and Brooks Brothers. My early twenties were filled with blazers and dress shoes so I could go into any restaurant or bar and not get too much side-eye for drinking gin and tonics with a book and a notebook (I’ve always been weird 🤷‍♂️). Knowing that if I dressed a certain way I’d be given better service or not looked at with suspicion, I wore costumes so I would be treated the same as the people around me. It was frustrating, and sometimes, exhausting.

Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to wear a costume—a suit and tie on New Year’s, seersucker and suede wingtips for a Derby Party, fake blood and lots of eye makeup on Halloween—and be judged on the quality of its execution. It’s also easy to forget that our everyday clothes tell the world something about us too. What we are trying to say and what people read aren’t always the same. Judgments by The Cut (which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places online) brings together assumptions and truths about the costumes we wear and the people beneath them. For a while they were spoiling the surprise in the headline, but now, I think they’ve got it right.

Bird Mail: 000

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a collector. Rocks, stamps, squished pennies, Field Notes, and fountain pens all nicely curated. But my biggest collection of all doesn’t exist in the real world. It’s made of internet ephemera.

ephemera: noun

  1. anything short-lived or ephemeral; transitory
  2. items designed to be useful or important for only a short time.

Much of what you find in Bird Mail may be of fleeting interest to you; something you glance at, skim, or even skip. That’s okay. Some links you may read and absorb and come back to again and again. Each missive will include one of my “comebacks”, something important I revisit often. You may or may not have to guess which link is a comeback.

Each issue will be on my website, along with more of my findings , so you don’t have to dig through your email if you do want to find something again.

With that little explanation out of the way, welcome to Bird Mail: 000.

  • Women’s bike races in the 1890s sound like a blast. I had no idea there was so much fanfare and excitement, or that an amateur seamstress became the pride of American cycling. I’m looking forward to reading the bigger book about Tillie and other pioneers of women’s cycling. If any cycling kit maker can create a “Thistle Team” long-sleeve turtleneck jersey, I’m buying it in a heartbeat.

  • 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Bauhaus movement that continues to influence design today. 99Designs had a bunch of designers use Bauhaus principles to redesign modern logos and the results are fantastic. I never expected to like the Walmart logo, and yet… If you want just a little more Bauhaus, check out the Google Doodle.

  • Eighteen years ago I joined in as “the wave” went around Safeco Field in Seattle three, four, five times. Ichiro was at the plate. This 27 year old ‘Rookie’ had been playing professional baseball in Japan for almost as many years as I had been alive, but this was his first year in the US. Everyone in that stadium knew we were watching someone special. I dutifully kept score the whole game and saved that scorebook, along with the baseball cards I bought that day. I’m not sure they’ll ever be worth much, but they mean a lot to me. Every time I pack and unpack them I am reminded of the feeling of watching someone so gifted at their craft. Ichiro played his whole career with a finesse unlike any other. Now, at 45, Ichiro has retired from professional baseball.

  • It’s hard to believe I’ve been watching this video of Danny MacAskill for ten years. It is definitely showing its age in terms of video quality—and just how far action cameras have come since—but I watch it a few times a year, almost always following it with this.

  • I have a confession. I didn’t own my first pair of Joran 1s until I was 27. I still don’t have any Air Max. But I’m kind of a sneaker head. I will never wait in line for hours, or buy sneakers to flip them. I don’t even really have a collection. Sneaker culture, however, fascinates me. Being late to the game I was surprised to learn, many think that it is dying. I’m not entirely convinced that it is dying so much as changing with the times, though the trend of PreachersNSneakers doesn’t really help the cause.

I would love to hear from you if you enjoyed any of these links, or if you have something you think I should add to my collection, feel free to reply to this email!

Thank you for giving me a small space of your email inbox, it is an honor to be here.

You friend,
Bruce

Walking and publishing a book, asynchronously

One of my favorite writers on the internet, Craig Mod, has a new project that I’m following. In short, over the course of a month, Craig is walking across Japan and distilling each day’s walk into a single image that he’s sending out via SMS to anyone who signs up. You may reply to the images, but he won’t see them until the end when the responses will be collected, paired with the day's image, and made into a book. The longer explanation is here, I’ll wait.

The missives began arriving Monday morning and they’re delightful. Though the communication is one-way I feel an odd sense of connection to everyone else getting each snippet of Craig’s journey. Not one of us—and it does feel like an us—know who is reading, where anyone else is, or how many we number. We are all part of this little publishing experiment in a tiny corner of the internet, and I couldn’t be more excited.

If you’re interested in Japan, walking, or publishing on the internet, you’re welcome to walk along with us by texting “walk” to the following number: +1-424-543-0510. I’ll include Craig’s disclaimer that “Your number will be used for this experiment and this experiment only. You can opt-out at any time by texting “stop” to the system.”

Thoughts about Books: Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me is an incredible book. It is hard to say I loved it, because it is hard to come to terms with the content—the Dream, the America I am part of—that is not flattering or picturesque. But I feel that Between the World and Me is a book that must not just be read, but one that must be talked about. Looking back at what I’ve read this year I have no doubt this is the most important, and affecting, book. 

Between the World and Me is hard—in the uncomfortable way—to talk about. In 152 poignant pages I was faced repeatedly with an American reality I either chose to believe did not exist or had no knowledge of. I’m not sure which is worse. I relish being exposed to writers, genres, and histories I know nothing about, but this stung with the feeling that while Black history is not my history, American history is. The two are so intertwined, as Coates lays out. I barely know the half of it. Fortunately, through his retelling of his own learnings he provides more source material to a history told by black voices. It is a history I look forward to exploring. 

The most crushing lesson Coates is passing on to his son is the need to protect the black body from so many pieces of The Dream that can take it away. From the home to the street to the school to the police to a justice system that feels—or is—biased against the black body, Coates has learned the hard way to always be vigilant to protect his body. Violence, or threat of violence, is a way of life. At any moment his body could be taken by force. As hard as he has worked to protect his son from these truths, he knows they are lessons his son must learn to stay safe in this world. 

I cannot fathom the position Coates is in. The fear—for his body, the bodies of his loved ones, the bodies of his people—is almost all consuming. He has spent years asking questions, researching theories as to why, and still he has no real answer. For his son to grow up knowing less of the fear is wonderful, but as Coates points out, The Dream and the American justice system that protect it are not interested in the elevation of the black body. 

Between the World and Me brought me face to face with an American reality that, though I did not know it existed, I feel somehow complicit in. I have been presented with an American history and identity that I know so little of, with thinkers and writers that tell a different history—and more painful history—than the one I learned in school. To not share this book feels irresponsible. The subject is tender and charged with emotion, but it must be talked about. I fear that until more people who call themselves white come to face the reality Coates presents, there will always be a divide. 

Amazon: Between the World and Me

On Rejection

If you look at rejection as a mark of failure—which it often isn’t—you might see the disappointment and failure you feel is based entirely on the expectations—however unreasonable—you set for yourself, and not those of others.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher is sinking in.

Top 5 Podcasts of 2016

In no particular order:

  1. Song Exploder
    Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder is a wonderful look into the process of making music. I love hearing musicians tell the story of how they pieced together a song. The Commander Thinks Aloud by The Long Winters is hands down my favorite episode. Chances are you’ll find an artist you know as a starting point and then continue exploring from there.
  2. Cortex
    Youtuber CGP Grey and podcaster Myke Hurley talk about doing the right work as a self-employed creators, their individual quirks, and living a multi-iPad lifestyle.
  3. Top Scallops
    Three friends made a show about season 13 of Top Chef and hilarity ensued. I devoured this podcast without ever watching an episode of Top Chef.
  4. Due by Friday
    After Top Scallops ended, the same three friends started a show where they challenge each other to do something each week.
  5. The Journal The Journal podcast comes out roughly once a month and features Kevin Rose interviewing an expert in a field he’s interested in learning about.

My first week without social media

Late on November 30th, I posted a short message to Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter then signed out of any account with a social feed. I deleted all the social media apps from my iPhone and in their place put Kindle, iBooks, and Instapaper. I hoped in the idle - and not so idle - times when I would reach for social media, I would read instead.

I’d been thinking about Cal Newport’s New York Times article for a few weeks and I thought a break from social media would be nice. I am a week into my break from social media and I’ve noticed a few habits I was expecting to find, but am not proud of.

The Twitch

After the third day I stopped reflexively opening the app that fell into the place where Instagram used to be. It worries me that it became so automatic to pick up my phone and be almost instantly pulled into social media. The Twitch between Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat can eat up 30 minutes. It’s effortless to jump back and forth between apps, and there’s always some new and exciting update to look at.

The Twitch kept me from being present. Even if Colore and I were hanging out at home, I wasn’t fully engaged. I haven’t broken this habit completely yet. I sometimes check email or read Instapaper while we watch TV, but not having social media has helped me set the phone aside more than before.

Replacement Habits

One of the goals of this break was to replace scrolling through photos and videos with reading the long list of books and articles I have collected. This week I have been opening the Kindle and Instapaper apps more often and reading for a few minutes here and there. I’m chipping away at my big list of articles saved in Instapaper, and I finished the excellent Raw Materials by Matt Gemmel.

I am embarrassed to say I found myself Twitching to apps that aren’t social media, but could have an update in them. I think I’m looking for a dopamine hit of the “new.” Instead of seeking a hit from social media, I dive into my email inbox or open the app store, hoping to find something there to update.

FOMO

This probably speaks more to my attachment to social media, but I worried about how much I was going to miss in one month. I don’t feel like I’m “missing” anything. I know my friends have posted cool photos and brands have announced holiday promotions, but not seeing those things hasn’t bothered me.

There are definitely Snapchats I’ll have missed that are gone forever. There will be far too many Instagram images to ever spend time catching up on. I’m okay with missing those updates. I gave up on being a social media completionist a long time ago.

I’m consuming far less internet ephemera in favor of longer, more lasting, writing. Without the lens of social media to give me bits and pieces of my friend’s lives, I’ve been texting them more. I might even write a few of them letters.

It is still early in the month, but so far I feel optimistic about my social media hiatus. I’m looking forward to finishing a few more books and seeing if/how this break changes my relationship to social media and my iPhone.

Thought 001

It seems odd to decorate a Christmas tree with Spot the Target dog ornaments. Icons of consumerism on a symbol of Christmas.

Notebook Bankruptcy

I have bad news.

I'm giving up on my Ambitions.

Not in the goals and dreams way though, I'm simply giving up on my Field Notes Ambitions notebooks. It's not just my Ambitions though, there are four notebooks I'm giving up on this week.

Last week I had an idea to add to my list of future blog posts and I reached for my Field Notes to jot it down. After I'd written down most of the idea I realized I hadn't written it in the right Field Notes. I then had to make a note to remember to copy it down into the other notebook. After making the same mistake several times, I realized I had to stop or I was going to go insane.

As much as I wanted to like the Ambitions series, I avoided starting them because I wasn't sure how they'd fit into my life (I was probably afraid that I would end up exactly where I am now). At the end of March as I worked through my plan to put more effort into this blog, I reached for all three of the Ambitions with the best of intentions.

In theory, the Ambitions are perfect for something like planning and executing my needs. A weekly planner for editorial calendar planning, a ledger that can act as a to-do list for projects and tasks, and a standard graph notebook (the only notebook from the series that I will finish).

I launched into each notebook enjoying their purpose driven nature. The notebooks themselves are absolutely beautiful. The muted tones of the covers are warm and understated, and pair perfectly with the "Ambitious Gold" ink on the covers, gold staples down the spines, and the lovely crackling of the gilding. For someone who doesn't usually like cream papers, I find the paper inviting and a joy to write on. Overall, Field Notes created another stunner of a memo book.

Less than a week into using these, I was frustrated. I would reach for my primary Field Notes, my universal capture location, and realize that it wasn't the place the note really belonged in. As much as I enjoy writing in my beloved Field Notes, copying the same info (or worse having to remember what notebook the info is acutally in) is annoying at best and infuriating at worst.

On top of the four Field Notes fiasco I had in front of me, I looked at the notebooks I was using at work: an A4 arc notebook filled with Tomoe River paper I used during my first three weeks of training at my new job; a company-issued cardboard-bound, lined notebook full of fountain-pen-unfriendly paper with 40 pages of notes from another two days of training; and a Rhodia No 16 Top spiral bound Dot Grid Notebook that I use for meeting notes where a Field Notes would fill up too quickly.

My notebook life was a mess. Seven(!) notebooks in various stages of being "active" is absurd and completely unmanageable for me. Compartmentalizing my life this much does not work at all.

So, I've declared notebook bankruptcy.

I'm now down to three active notebooks. I have one Field Notes going at a time, it's functions as a modified bullet journal for me. The Rhodia lives on my desk at work, it will be full soon and I'm thinking of replacing it with one of these. The last is my Hobonichi Techo, which I will write about soon. I'm still looking for a larger, bound notebook for longer form drafting, I'll probably pick up one of the Rhodia A5 Webnotebooks in Dot Grid with an orange cover (of course) very soon.

While it may seem a bit crazy to go from seven notebooks down to four and think everything is under control, my notebook situation will be markedly different. There will be very little overlap between books and that will allow for the maximum utility of each. No more abandoned ambitions, my notebooks will be filled completely again.

Guest Post - Brennan's Jotters

Jotters: All Day, Every Day

In March I asked my friend Brennan to write about his EDC because he's spent a lot of time building it up to be the best possible for him. I work in an office at a desk most of the day and his job in a bike shop is very different from mine. We have a great time talking about what pens work best for his job. He kindly agreed to write a bit more about the pens he reaches for any time he needs to jot something down. Take it away Brennan...

At this point you have seen my EDC, and as pens go I carry a Vanishing Point and a Hex-O-Matic on me. My Vanishing Point is my go to pen, but there are a lot of instances during the day I simply need to jot something down. I am a soft goods buyer at a bike shop, so I am constantly in need of easy access pen and paper to jot down quick notes and reminders about the numerous phone calls, emails, and conversations I have with employees, customers, and brand reps. This is where my jotter comes in, I don't have to use my Vanishing Point or any specific pen — it's whatever pen is easiest to access — any pen on any paper — pocket notebooks, sticky notes, scrap paper, and sometimes receipts. I need pens that work consistently, so I have a collection of pens that just work always in reach.

These are my go-to jotters:

Retro 51 Hex O Matic Ballpoint As I mentioned in my EDC post, this pen lives in my pocket and gets the most use and abuse of any pen I own. The Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 blue refill is currently in this pen, and I have been impressed with its performance. Mike Dudek, of The Clicky Post, has a great review of this pen and refill.

Lamy Al-Star Rollerball This pen is one of my first “nicer” pens I purchased for myself. I love the aesthetic and feel in hand. Lamy’s black M63 Rollerball refill lays a nice smooth consistent line down. My black Al-Star lives at home on my desk and my silver Al-Star lives at work. This pen is awesome at work because it is not intimidating and any one can pick it up and use it comfortably, which cannot always be said about fountain pens. Brad Dowdy, of the Pen Addict, has a nice quick review of the pen if you are interested in more info.

Big Idea Design Solid Aluminum Pen I picked this pen up because I love aluminum bodied pens and the list of refills that this pen can take is huge! I appreciate a well designed pen with flexibility. I have a handful of refills on hand that work in the pen, but currently I have the Mystery Black Mont Blanc Fineliner Broad refill in this pen.

Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Bordeaux Ballpoint My dad gave me this pen recently because he never used it and thought I would appreciate it. I do — this is a pen I would probably never buy, but is a pretty awesome pen to own. The Bordeaux is no longer produced so it is a nice pen to hang onto for the future. The Mont Blanc Pacific Blue Medium Refill lays down a tackier and broader line than I prefer, but the quick dry time and classic look are nice.

Thanks to Brennan for this great write up. The Mont Blanc is gorgeous and I love the Hex O Matic's Rotring inspired vibe. Let me know what your favorite jotter pens are on Twitter or Instagram, I'm always looking for new pens to try.

Indxd - A Memo Book User's Digital Archive

As a person who fills two or more Field Notes/Doane memo books per month, being able to go back and look at what I wrote down is important to me. But, by the time I need to revisit an idea, it's often three or four books back. Until now I've had only one little way to keep track of what's in each of my memo books (more on that next week).

Enter Indxd. Indxd (pronouced Indexed) is an amazing tool from Dave Rea that creates, "a simple, searchable, sortable index of the topics" in all the notebooks you want to keep track of.

The process is amazingly simple.

Add a new book by giving it a name, and if you choose, a start and end date. I use the Field Notes inside cover as the template for the information I put in all of my notebooks, so I always include a start and end date.

From there, you are taken to a simple entry screen where you put in the topic, an optional page number, and hit add. I go through the book and pull any broad ideas, quote attributions, and short phrases I might want to reference in the future. I turn those into "topics" for Indxd to track.

After indexing the contents, it's just a simple Search or browse through the Topics tab to find which book I need to pull from my Field Notes Archival Wooden Box and I've got the page number where I need to look for more information.

For me, Indxd is the perfect system for indexing my notebooks. It's light and simple to add information to, allows for as much or as little organization as I want, backs up all my data, and is quick and easy when I need to find what I'm looking for. I have a running task as part of my Sunday review to add any new completed notebooks to Indxd and, I'm in the process of adding all 25 of the notebooks I filled in 2014.

If you're looking for a way to keep a digital log of the contents of your memo books, but don't want to go through the hassle of scanning them, look no further than Indxd.

Sunset Showdown

In case you haven't noticed, I love orange. My EDC has pops of orange, I have an orange and canvas Filson briefcase (more on that in the future), and I had to come up with a slightly absurd justification to myself to buy the amazing Lamy Al-Star in Copperorange. So, it makes perfect sense that I have a few orange inks to fill my pens with.

I recently got a vial of Diamine Sunset in a sampler pack from Goulet Pens and it was the first ink I ran through my Copperorange Al-Star. I fell in love with it, and I'm apretty sure I'll have a full bottle of it in the future (though Iroshizuku Yu-Yake Sunset is very tempting too).

Prior to getting the Diamine, my only orange ink experience had been with Noodler's Apache Sunset. Since they share the sunset moniker, I thought what better way than to put them together on one page for a wild-west-style sunset showdown.

Once they were on the page side by side, my allegiance to the Diamine Sunset only grew stronger. It's a much darker orange that shades wonderfully, but I think what draws me to it is the richness of the color. Don't get me wrong, Apache Sunset is a lovely orange ink, but in comparison it seems almost thin and watery when writing. The thinness is a double-edge sword. On one hand, it seems almost like there isn't enough ink getting on the paper, but on the other, it allows for beautiful shading that really gives the impression of a sunset in the desert.

I tried to give some variety in my handwriting so you could really see where the letters hold the ink. I do like the range of oranges you can see in the Apache Sunset, but when I look at it all together on the page, I just don't think I like it as a whole.

I'm back to only one orange after I used the last of my Diamine Sunset to fill the Lamy before this showdown. I will still find occasions to use the Apache Sunset in my pens though. It sure looks good in demonstrators like the Pilot Prera and I've enjoyed playing with in my Pilot Parallels. If I don't end up with a bottle of the Diamine soon, I'll probably be buying some more orange samples in the very near future.

Do you have a favorite orange ink you can recommend?

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A Letter Writer's Dream

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month and I couldn't be more excited. Colore finally managed to find a Post Office in Austin that had the special From Me to You so now we are all set to send out letters.

Even though there is a month dedicated to writing letters, I tend to send out a handful of cards and letters each month. After giving up Facebook in 2012, I wanted a way to keep in touch with a select group of people, and with my love of pens and paper, letter writing made the most sense. It's so nice to get a surprised text message from a friend when they get a letter, and sometimes they even write me back!

I've got a big stack of blank cards and paper and envelopes that I cannot wait to fill. If you'd like to get a card or letter from me, or want to send me one, email me at info@brucelayman.com or message me your address and I'll make sure to get one headed your way.

Happy Writing!

How I Write a Pen Review

Chris Bowler said it best in his Tools & Toys article, On Mindfullness and Quality "...quality items not only endure, but they also endear." I've had an unspoken set of rules for the items I choose to spend money on, and subsequently review. Chris accurately put into words the three things I had been using to determine whether I buy something, how much I use it, and what value it brings to my life. Those three rules: Efficacy, Longevity, Quality.

Efficacy is the capacity or power to produce a desired effect. This is probably the most direct way you can calculate an item's value to your life. Do you reach for this item every time because you know it's going to perform and get the job done exactly the way you want? It boils down to how good is this thing at being a thing?

Longevity is the simplest of these to understand. Is this item made to last? This can be measured a few ways. Materials play a big part in how long something can last. I'm pretty sure my aluminum Karas Kustoms pens are bombproof, and my Saddleback leather wallet will supposedly outlast my lifetime, so the fact that I won't have to spend money to replace because they've broken is a nice feeling.

Quality is probably the hardest thing to measure. You often know it when you see it, and you sure as hell know it when it isn't there. Quality is the feel when you hold it, or when you dig into how a product was designed and produced. Filson bags or Field Notes notebooks are on different ends of the spectrum, but pick each one up and you'll get a feel for what quality means.

Though not all quality goods possess the qualities of efficacy and longevity, it's in the overlap with one or both of those features that magic happens. Those are the products that are worth spending the most time and attention finding, and then spending your money on.

My pen reviews aren't really like a lot of others. You won't find me breaking down the weight and size of the barrel, the engraving on the nib, or the virtues of a cartridge or converter system. There are a lot of reviews from great bloggers like The Pen Addict or Ed Jelly that will help you determine whether or not you should buy a pen. Those are always the first place I go when deciding what my next pen purchase will be too.

Pen reviews for me are about how they fit into my life. With each pen, I'm looking at those three factors, efficacy, longevity, and quality. For the most part, the pens that I buy fill a particular need and there isn't a ton of overlap. I said it in my Vanishing Point review, pens are meant to be used. If I'm going to spend, more than $150 on a pen, I want to know that I'm going to use it, and not just on occasion.

I care about how smoothly a pen writes in a Rhodia, or if a pen can handle being carried in my pocket next to a Benchmade, or if the refills a pen takes can give me the finest blue black line imaginable in my Field Notes. Those are the things you will find in my pen reviews.

That's not to say I don't buy some pens for just plain fun. I collect various Lamy Safari and Al-Star pens because I love the colors they come in, and it's a blast to them with inks of a similar color from my growing collection. Plus, it's always nice to have a reliable pen when someone asks to try a fountain pen for the first time.

At the end of the day, how well a pen meets those three criteria determines how much it is going to be used and how much value it brings to me. The more value a pen brings, the more favorable the review, and the more often I write with it, because, isn't that what pens are for?

Pen Review: Lamy Al-Star Copperorange

To say that I have a thing for orange is a massive understatement. A look back at my Every Day Carry or a scroll through my Instagram feed will show you just how much I love the color that doesn't rhyme with anything. So, when Lamy announced their 2015 Al-Star in Copperorange I got on the waiting list as fast as I could. On the day it went up for sale I stalked the Goulet Pens page until the little "Add to Cart" button turned blue.

I already have an unhealthy number of Lamy Safari's and Al-Star's (8!), but this will be the first of my Lamy's I reach for every time. This pen is a stunner. There really aren't adequate words to describe the copperorange color. This pen demands to be seen in person. I have a pretty traditional writing grip so the smoked plastic section don't bother me, and I actually enjoy the fact that you can see the ink moving through the feed.

In my mind, I needed to justify buying my ninth Lamy (that wasn't the Makrolon 2000, so I decided to make this new Al-Star my official blog-ink-review-testing-pen. The steel F nib, being of German origin is thick enough to allow the characteristics of an ink to show, without being so thick that it distorts my handwriting. I syringe fill the included Lamy cartridge to give me more than enough ink for an ample test.

The Diamine Sunset that I loaded straight into it is the first ink to go through it, and I have to say, I prefer it to the Noodler's Apache Sunset I have in my Prera. I will have a full review with comparisons up soon.

This Copperorange Al-Star is an absolute must-own for anyone who enjoys orange, collects Lamy, or just wants an eye-catching, inexpensive everyday pen. I cannot recommend it enough.