Bruce Layman

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.


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 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.

Quick Look: Field Notes COLORS Edition No. 26

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“2500.0”] 2015 Spring Edition - Two Rivers 2015 Spring Edition - Two Rivers [/caption]

I have always taken notes. Half-filled notebooks and scraps of paper filled the drawers of my childhood desk and boxes in my closet. It took me 22 years to finally find a system that stuck. I have to credit Myke Hurley and Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict Podcast for introducing me to Field Notes (drink).

Field Notes motto, I'm not writing this down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it now. is what I live by. Now, with these amazing 3.5''x5.5'' memo books, I have a place where all of the things I need to remember now and later can live. I fill a memo book in about two weeks, so I always have fresh ones handy.

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“2261.0”] I really love the red over the green and brown, and especially the farm animals around the bowl.  I really love the red over the green and brown, and especially the farm animals around the bowl.  [/caption]

I was given a Field Notes COLORS Subscription for Chistmas in 2013 (which is the perfect gift for any pen and paper addict in your life) and now I have two yearly subscriptions. I never have to worry about missing out on all of the amazing editions they create, and it keeps me stocked with kraft notebooks to give to people as a way to spread the joy of using a Field Notes notebook.

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“2261.0”] All of these ended up with big type on them. It's fun trying to piece together what the whole print would look like.  All of these ended up with big type on them. It’s fun trying to piece together what the whole print would look like.  [/caption]

The spring edition for 2015 is absolutely incredible, and the covers are my favorite yet. Not only is each and everyone unique (which made me open every one of my packs, something I NEVER do), but the story behind them is incredible too. I highly recommend ordering the maximum number of packs you're allowed and donating to the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum.

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“1931.0”] According to The Pen Addict himself, the yellow ones might be the most rare. The Hamilton logo on the top one is awesome. According to The Pen Addict himself, the yellow ones might be the most rare. The Hamilton logo on the top one is awesome. [/caption]

The fact that every cover has a unique print blows my mind, and it kind of throws a wrench in the "gotta catch 'em all" attitude I used to have about my Field Notes. I intend to fill every single one of these beauties over the next few months.

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“1931.0”] All the layers of red and blue text on the top one make it my favorite of the bunch.  All the layers of red and blue text on the top one make it my favorite of the bunch.  [/caption]

Guest Post: Brennan's EDC

My Every Day Carry post was inspired a lot by the daily texts and weekly phone calls that I have with my friend, and fellow Hendrix College alumnus, Brennan McGinn. We share the same, "buy less, buy better" philosophy, so our discussions tend toward how we can get the best quality product for our relatively modest, post-graduate, money. Our conversations and buying habits cover a wide range of topics, namely cycling, menswear, photography, and most recently, pens.

Although Brennan already had good taste in regular pens, I'm going to take full credit for his relatively recent love of fountain pens (sorry Hailey). I sent him a Kaweco Sport about a year ago as an introduction and since then his collection has grown considerably.

Brennan has been working on his EDC for about as long as I have, so I asked him to write about what he carries and why. Although he works in a bike shop, and I in an office, you'll notice a lot of overlap in what we carry. Without further ado, take it away Brennan.

I have known Bruce since sophomore year of college I guess. We knew of each other and were acquaintances for a bit, then everything snowballed as we started to discuss clothes, photography, cameras, and film. This continued with bicycles, watches, knives, shoes, etc. Bruce asked if I wanted to contribute a post, and of course I was willing.

Bruce and I probably discuss EDC items on a weekly basis - the big reason... it is relevant to everyday life for the two of us. There is a lot of similarity between what we carry because we have similar taste, and as Bruce stated, simple, well designed items are appealing.

So here is what it looks like.

Pilot Vanishing Point - Matte Black, Fine Nib I agree withBruce about this pen. The construction, knock, clip, and nib are all outstanding. I rotate blue black inks through this pen and use it as my daily writer at work and home.

Retro 51 Hex-O-Matic It’s my jotter. It lives in my back pocket and I love the hybrid Schmidt refill. I have been incredibly pleased with the feel of the pen in hand and writing quality of Retro 51. I have both a black and silver pen, and the mechanical pencil.

Notebook - Field Notes, Rhodia I carry a small pocket notebook for quick notes, but primarily use a range of larger notebooks for note taking and planning. I have become really fond of Rhodia No. 11 or 12 for the perforations and more fountain pen friendly paper despite the overall thickness (not as pocket friendly as the Field Notes).

Benchmade Mini Griptilian This is probably my favorite EDC blade. You can get a variation of blades and scales to meet specific needs. It is on the smaller side for some people, but it doesn’t take up much room in my pocket and fits my hands well.

Esee Candiru I carry this small fixed blade in my front pocket. I like the reliability of a fixed blade over a folder for certain uses. While it does not get as much use as the Mini Grip it is very handy to have.

Shop Keys You need them when you get to work early and stay late.

Corter Leather Copper Bottlehook There are a lot of ways to open a bottle and a lot of things I carry can open a bottle. But, a true bottle opener on a belt loop keeps my keys where I want them and is always handy.

Wedding Band 4mm Rose Gold band from a local jeweler. All day. Everyday.

Shinola Runwell 41mm I prefer checking the time on a watch to my phone. I have a few, but this is my go to watch for everyday wear.

BillyKirk N0. 92 Card Case Monogrammed and getting better with age. It is the perfect size to fit all my cards, and cash on rare occasions. I prefer a smaller wallet and this is a fantastic balance for front or back pocket use.

iPhone 5 Phone, text, email, social media.

Handkerchief Lip Balm Smith Dolen Chromapop

Thanks again to Brennan for the great write-up of his EDC. I love that blue Benchmade and the Shinola. If you want to check out more of what Brennan does, his Instagram is a great place for photos of his EDC in use and the kick-ass bikes that fill his life.

Pen Review: Pilot Vanishing Point

I gave a quick look at my beat up Vanishing Point in my Every Day Carry post last week but I wanted to talk a little bit more about why I love that pen so much.

The matte black Vanishing Point was my grail pen from the moment I saw it. Fountain pens are already unusual enough to see out and about, but a retractable fountain pen (?!), I had to have it. It took me the better part of year to pull the trigger on it, but in 2014 I bought it for myself for my birthday. It's been a constant companion of mine ever since.

Knock Knock

Starting at the top is the incredible knock: the clicky mechanism that makes this pen so unique. Over the weekend I handed the pen to someone who had never seen a Vanishing Point, she clicked it open and remarked, "That is such a solid click sound, it feels really nice." The fact that I never have to worry about losing a cap or having the pen click open is great, given that this pen splits time between my pocket and a Nock Co. Hightower.

Battered Stealth

A year in to my Vanishing Point ownership, and you can see that it is sporting some pretty serious patina. For the first few weeks, I babied the hell out of this pen. I was terrified to scratch the black coating or use it so much that it started getting shiny in places. The more I used it, the less afraid I became of damaging it. I bought the pen to use it, dammit, that's what I'm going to do. Some of the scrapes have come from riding in my pocket next to a Karas Kustoms RenderK, others from tumbles off tables. There is no point in babying a tool like this. Pens are made to be used.

Black Gold

I have the black-ionized 18kt gold nib in extra fine in my Vanishing Point and it is one of the smoothest nibs in my collection, second only to the Pilot Falcon SF. Japanese EF nibs are not for everyone, but for my tiny block print this nib is a perfect match. In my Field Notes or Doane memo books, the nib is smooth and limits feathering, and on better paper, like Rhodia or the Tomoe River in my Hobonichi, it really shines.

The fact that the nib units are entirely removable is astonishing. I’ve been seeing some awesome Architect Grinds on Instagram recently, and it probably won’t be long before I pick up a second nib unit for some variety.

Downsides? Nah

For some people the position of the clip within the grip can create some issues. I have no qualms with the far more polarizing grip on the venerable Lamy Safari (my first fountain pen ever) I didn’t think I’d have any problems. My grip is pretty traditional and I have yet to experience any fatigue or pain during long writing sessions.

Double Black

My Vanishing Point stays inked up with Platinum Carbon Black at all times. I love the crisp, dark black of this waterproof ink. Yes, I’m one of those people that likes to match inks colors to pen colors. I’m tempted to try Sailor Kiwa Guro because of how it behaves with Field Notes’ thinner papers. Either way, it’s nice to always grab my black pen and know that it is full of black ink. Since this is my most-reached-for pen and I take a lot of notes during the day, I don’t use the supplied converter. Instead I emptied the supplied cartridge of Pilot Blue-Black and syringe fill it with the Carbon Black. This little change gets me an extra two-or-so days of ink, which is always nice.

Final Thoughts

For my first grail pen, the Vanishing Point was a reasonable mark and ultimately, the perfect choice. There is a pen that has replaced its grail status, cough Nakaya cough but I will always build my fountain pen load-out around my worn, matte black Vanishing Point full of black ink.

The Vanishing Point has also been reviewed by fantastic pen bloggers like Ed Jelly and Brad Dowdy, so if you’d like more information before you buy the pen I highly suggest their posts as well.

Mindfulness to Intention

My 2014 started on a couch; a wet nose in my face, a faint champagne headache, and a word bouncing around my head.

After letting my friend's dog out and waiting for his family to rouse from their new year's hangovers, we sat in the living room of a rented house and watched 'The Today Show.' Somewhere between Matt Lauer and the other starters and Hoda and Kathy Lee's wine-soaked antics, some guy (whose name and religious affiliation escapes me) was on to talk about choosing a single word to help define how you live your life in 2014. It sounded silly at first. One word to dictate how you behave for a whole year? No way.

But, I kept thinking about it. After spending 2013 floundering in an attempt to figure out what the hell to do with my life (no real luck there), I wanted a way to focus on what I was doing and why. A number of my favorite writers, Patrick Rhone, Leo Babauta, and The Minimalists, write about being mindful. It seemed that mindfulness was the perfect word to shape my 2014.

I'm not entirely sure how to judge how mindful I was in 2014. I don't know if it's something you can truly measure. I fell short of being mindful quite a bit (I cannot tell you how many hours I lost to Threes! which you should check out). But in some instances , I made it out okay. I committed to training for, and ran my first half-marathon. I job hunted in a new city, a process that was an emotional roller coaster. I moved my life to Austin, Tx, but I brought along my lovely girlfriend, Colore' Grace.

I was more mindful with my time and my passions in 2014. I took a class with the amazing Lauren Essl of Blue Eye Brown Eye to follow a rekindled passion from childhood. I then took a second class to grow that skill and build some amazing friendships. I devoted my time to improving my calligraphy and lettering, and shared some of that on my Instagram account and my blog. Slowly, very slowly, I started sharing some of the writing that I fill my Field Notes with every day.

All of these new habits, I carried with me into 2015. With the new year though, I didn't just want to be mindful of what I am doing, I wanted to have a purpose. Despite it's newly minted status as the buzzword du jour, I wanted to live 2015 with intention. Instead of simply being aware or mindful of how I spend my time/attention/money, I want to do things with a purpose.

At this point, I'm two and a half months into living 2015 with intention. I'm spending more of my time doing the things I love with the people I care about, and I'm making the most of the time that isn't entirely mine (my commute for example). I've been reading more, listening to an insane number of podcasts, and lettering and shooting photos with Colore more than ever. There is no better way I could think of to spend my time.

Perhaps the biggest impact in intentional living has come from adopting the habit of meditation. I started using the amazing Headspace to guide the process. Those 10-15 minutes every day help immensely. It is helping me learn to settle my mind and be more calm reacting to change and the ups and downs of life. I'll write more about the meditation habit once I've been doing it for longer, but as of this moment, I have a 72 day streak and I have no plans on breaking it.

On a daily basis, I'm filling memo books and my Hobonici Techo with my thoughts and ideas. I'll be using those to report on my progress, and I'll be checking in here every month. What do you do to help keep your intentions top of mind?

Every Day Carry

Over the past year or so, I've narrowed down my every day carry (EDC) to my favorite items. I cannot imagine replacing any of these things (except a full memo book) as part of my EDC. Most of these items are simple, well-designed items that do one or two things exceptionally well. My favorite color is orange, so you'll find a lot of it.

iPhone 6 in an orange Tec 21

I've had an iPhone since the 3G and I can't imagine carrying anything else. There are so many iOS only apps I rely on everyday, OmniFocus, Dispatch, and Overcast (even my favorite app comes in orange).

Benchmade 585 Mini Barrage

Though it's a bit on the heavy side, I love the size of the 585, and the exclusive Cabela's orange was perfect for me.

Saddleback Leather Sleeve Wallet

Their motto is, "They'll fight over it when you're dead." I'm pretty sure this is the last wallet I'll have to buy. I keep 4 cards

Garmin Vivofit

I have a Garmin Tri-watch that I use as my run and cycling computer, so having something that plays nicely with that system is great. The red move bar that fills up is fantastic for getting me off my ass and getting me to go on a walk.

Ray Ban Clubmasters

Something classic, but a bit less common than the ubiquitous Wayfarer.

Corter Leather Bottlehook Limited Edition Rangefinder

This helped me slim down my keys by combining the hook and bottle opener into one beautiful tool. I've never had a problem getting it on or off my belt loop, plus the way it's aged is beautiful.

Pilot Vanishing Point EF Nib, Matte Black with Platinum Carbon Black ink.

There is no fountain pen in my collection that I reach for before this one. It might surprise a lot of my fellow pen addicts to see the exposed brass, scratches, and scrapes on my Vanishing Point given the price point of this pen, but I love the fact that my VP now has some character. I will have a longer review up soon, but for now, know that I enjoy that this pen gets a little bit of patina, which means it matches my Bottlehook. The Carbon Blacks in such a fine point also tends to play pretty nicely with Field Notes and Doane memo books, and even if there is a bit of bleed, it doesn't bother me a bit.

Karas Kustoms Render K

The guys at Karas Kustoms make some of my favorite pens. I have a Bolt in orange (shocking) and I'm just waiting to the orange Ink to go back in stock and I'll be placing an order. The Render K is by far the most solid pen I own and it pairs perfectly with my favorite Hi-Tec-C or Uni Signo 0.3 mm refills. It's a perfect companion for my last item.

Memo Book

This is the only item in my EDC that gets changed out. I fill 48 page memo books in about two weeks, so there is always a different color one in my pocket. I rotate between Field Notes, Doane Paper, and Word. notebooks. I have a few habits when writing in them that I'll detail in the future, but Field Notes' motto, "I'm not writing it down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it now" perfectly captures why I rely so heavily on these little books.

How well do you know that profile photo?

You appear online as a Facebook profile. A Twitter feed. A LinkedIn page.

Somehow, those lines of code and that stream of data (that you don't always have control over) become how people define you.

Isn't there something wrong with that?

There are parts of me, of everyone, that will never be translated through static text on a web page. The way a person truly listens when you speak, or the way their eyes light up and their speech quickens when they tell you a story, or something as simple as the smile they flash when they hear something witty. Those aren't things you find in someone's "activities" or "likes" or 200 character bio.

What is this obsession with "knowing" someone online? Have we really not yet come to the conclusion that it does not work that way? That who I am online does not equate to spending five minutes with me in person?

As communication becomes more and more digital, there is discussion of a growing distance between people. As connected as we are, or as we can be, truly knowing a person seems like a luxury.

Scribbles and Scratch-outs

Our lives are messy and imperfect. They are not these over-filtered and hyper-curated versions of reality we perfect for the Internet. Scrolling through Instagram often feels like looking at portfolios for a "best-looking-life" competition.

I wonder about this obsession we have with displaying a façade of perfection with such competitive fervor. Is this really a game? What constitutes winning? Is winning even a possibility? At what cost comes such a victory?

I realize that's a lot of questions and no real answers, and to say that I'm not at least somewhat concerned with how my life appears online would be false. But I have to wonder what these constant attempts at one-upping our friends and all those other people on our social media feeds is doing to us.

It is no secret that life is messy and full of mundane moments. Between all those #vscocam meals and #nofilter sunsets, we all lead somewhat imperfect lives. At least I know I do.

My creative process is messy. A clusterfk really. Pens, ink, scribbles, scratch-outs, piles of paper on the desk and floor, and the occasional dash of bourbon. Then finally, some letters on a page or pixels on a screen. That mess of a process is a major part of my life, more so that the product of than work will ever be. There is more of who I am to be seen through those ink spots and doodles, the marginalia of my life, than in the well-lit, artfully-filtered, square-crop photos that fill my social media profiles.

To me, the scrapes and bruises, the little failures and subsequent triumphs, and all the steps and missteps between the start and the glossy finished product are far more interesting. Tell me what worked and what didn't. Show me the rough sketches and the red-marked edits. What did you learn that brought you here to this beautiful finished piece of work?

I will admit I often worry, probably too much, about sharing my process or whether or not I chose the best filter for my last Instagram post. Deep down, I think I know it shouldn't matter. Yet I still get a twinge of anxiety each time I pull out my phone to share a bit of what I'm working on. Who doesn't?

Like many of the issues that have come with our newfound ability to share every waking moment of our lives, I'm not sure what the solution is. Or if there even is one. That said, while I do care about how I appear online, I truly give a damn about making and sharing the best work I can. In order to do that, expect less of those over-saturated competition entries and more posts of my messy and imperfect process and life.

I encourage you to fearlessly do the same.

Give a Damn

This is not something that you do for others. This is not about how others perceive you. This is how you live life and motivate yourself to do something. You are not here to sit around watching who-knows-what on TV all day. You can, and should, do something.

This, is how to give a damn.

  1. Wake up. Hit snooze a maximum of once. Getting out of bed is key to giving a damn, because if you don't make it out of bed, well, you're never going to get anywhere.
  2. Don't just consider taking a shower. Do it. People respond better when you present yourself as well-put-together. Smelling nice is part of that.
  3. Pick out some clothes that are more than just sweat pants and a t-shirt from the last college function you attended. Looking like a sloppy college kid doesn't tell the world that you want to be taken seriously. But hey, maybe you don't.
  4. Check the mirror before you head out the door, you did brush your teeth, right? Maybe tell yourself that you're the best or you're going to have a good day or some cheesy shit like that. Say it out loud. You don't even really need to believe it, something about saying it out loud might make it stick after a while.
  5. As you stand waiting for the next whatever you have to do to start, resist the urge to pull out your phone and check FaceTwitStagram for the 87th time today. You're not missing anything vital in the digital world. Instead, look at the people around you. Ask someone how their day is going. This time, really listen to the answer instead of thinking about what you're going to say next, or worse, what you're going to have for lunch.
  6. Pay attention in class, in a meeting, or with a customer. Or, uh, don't. If you don't care, try making it look like you do. Maybe it will make you start caring about what you do and the people you're around. That's never a bad thing.
  7. It's probably time for lunch now. Resist the urge to sit alone and stare into that little chunk of glass and metal and light for your entire meal. Catch up with someone you haven't seen in a while or, whoa, meet someone new. Assuming you're a remotely interesting person, you'll probably have something to talk about. Make sure not to check your phone as people talk to you, it shows people that their time and what they have to say isn't interesting enough for you. That makes you an asshole. Most people don't want to be assholes.
  8. Act like you do care about the quality of the work that you put out. If you're folding t-shirts, make those the best damn folded t-shirts the world has ever seen. If you're behind a register, talk to the people that you're helping, show interest in them beyond, "Your total is $8.76 sir," and they're likely to show an interest in you. If you're answering email at the office, make your responses clear and make every effort to help the people you work with. This stuff matters. It makes you feel better and people are far less likely to think that you're just a lazy millennial with no direction.
  9. Look at your social media persona. Do you really need to get into those stupid little arguments with people on Facebook? Do you really like that photo of someone's dog? Is there really a point to all that noise? Maybe it's time to put that aside for a bit. Not completely, but maybe you should spend more time engaging with the world in front of you than worrying about the digital world.
  10. Unless you're an absolute hermit, you're probably involved in something outside of school or work; a club, committee, some odd sport like pickleball. Look at your involvement in that. Did you follow through in creating a budget for the next meeting? Did pull your weight helping put on an event? Are you the best damn pickleballer you can be? If not, you should try more. Prove that you want to be there. Not for others, for yourself.
  11. Assuming you've done the work that you were supposed to do (riiiiight) it is probably time for some "you time." You could fire up the Xbox and pwn some noobs in Call of Duty and of course you have to catch up on the last season of Downton Abbey, but there are some many other ways to spend that time. Read that book you've been meaning to finish. Learn something that you would never learn in a classroom. Do something!
  12. At the end of the day, look back in the mirror. Was your day any better? It isn't nearly as hard as it all may sound. Be present in your own life and be a presence in the lives of others.

All of this is not to say you cannot like playing video games, watching sports, reading blogs, or even checking Facebook. This is about focusing your attention on your every day actions and the way you present yourself. You should give a damn about something. Be interested. Be passionate. Be well put together. You don't need a sixty dollar haircut; handmade Italian loafers; a thousand dollar suit; just utilize what you have and make it work.

Look like you give a damn. Act like you give a damn. Live like you give a damn.

whatever this is

In some capacity, I have always been a writer. The heavy boxes of filled journals, diaries, and notebooks stashed around my apartment and my parent's house is proof of that. Now, I go through a Field Notes Memo Book every two weeks and I have no less than six fountain pens full of ink.

I wrote my way through elementary school developing a cursive that later became the foundation of my calligraphy. My mom insists on keeping a twenty-page chronicle of my summer vacation (complete with Yelp-quality reviews of the places we went, Carl's Jr. and Pizza Nova were highlights) that I wrote in third grade. Prolific may not be the word, perhaps thorough is putting it politely.

Pen and paper got me through the bullying and depression that came with junior high and high school. I wrote with a lot of anger and self-loathing, but it still helped me find myself. High school debate taught me how to sharpen my words and wield them in arguments with a semblance of finesse, much to the chagrin of my parents I'm sure.

College saw more notes and a bit more disposable income. I picked up a Lamy Safari my junior year and never looked back. My love for good pens and paper quickly became an obsession (with no help from Brad of The Pen Addict.

I picked up other passions along the way: photography, calligraphy and lettering, running, cycling, but I always return to writing as a way to work through my thoughts. Which brings me to whatever this is.

Given the number of notebooks I've filled (nineteen and counting in 2014), I have something to say. I want to share — my passions, my thoughts, my fears — little pieces of who I am. Sometimes, it will be things I need to hear myself. My hope is that putting them out in the world will make them stick for me, and maybe help someone else too. I can't promise it will always be good, but it will always be me.