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Review: Myndology Bare Notebooks

Myndology Bare NotebooksEvery now and then I get a notebook that's a joy to use. It could be for many reasons, including paper quality, design, sizing, ease of use, uncommon personal preferences, ideology, loyalty or --yes-- even the buy-in from marketing and advertising. Since I actually work in a marketing firm, I like to think I'm more skeptical in this regard than most, but the rest of the qualities can coalesce into a notebook that's a real pleasure to write in. The hunt for such a beast continues daily, and each week I try another handful.

When Jason from Myndology offered to send me a few samples of their "Bare" line of notebooks, I hadn't very high hopes. In fact, because they were designed from the ground up to be "environmentally responsible," I was prepared for the worst. Several other recycled products sent to me for review have barely seen a line of ink before I passed them off to other less demanding users. Most of them are fountain pen unfriendly (to say the least), with excessive bleeding to the point where I can't use an overleaf. Glued bindings often become unstuck, the fibres of cover and paper start to fall apart in damp air, and some earthy but impractical thing gets in my way, e.g., a scratchy hemp bookmark, a brittle dried flower, or --heaven forbid-- an actual acorn or pine cone hot-glued to the front. Plus, the design generally falls into one of two categories: recycled book covers (usually random, but you're more likely to get a low-budget Harlequin knockoff than "A Farewell to Arms"); or a piece of cardboard that looks like the back of a cheap steno pad. Given past experience, and that Myndology is currently a sponsor of DIYPlanner.com, I was a little concerned that writing a Bare review might prove precarious....

A Wonderful Halloween Treat from Renaissance Art

Happy Halloween everyone! I uncovered a special treat for all of us (and anyone who visits the new Renaissance Art blog, at: http://blog.renaissance-art.com/. Giveaways.

Starting next week, they're doing a weekly giveaway on their blog. Here are the details:

Cool Prototypes, seconds… even firsts…

We want to have some fun and so we thought we would start a weekly program where we give away all this stuff. So, here’s the deal:

1. Once a week on any random day
2. Starting the first week in Nov, 2008
3. We will post a prototype, a second, a first, an experiment… basically something we have made and give it away.
4. The first person to comment on it gets it… for free. Yes, we will post a pic although it will just be a working pic taken on one of our studio tables.
5. We’ll need a valid email address to work out the details of getting your prize to you. Each prize also includes free ground shipping in the lower 48 US states only. However, anyone in the world can feel free to play along. Who knows what you might win!

So come to our blog often cuz you never what we are going to post or when we will post it.

This offer is for everyone. You do not need to be a customer. We just hope that what we offer will be useful to you.

The same person can only win once in a month.

So go read through their posts, and watch the blog to see if you can win some of the fun items they make! I hope everyone has a ghoulish day today.

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty of Ideas

Blog Action Day 2008: PovertyWelcome to Blog Action Day 2008. Last year D*I*Y Planner participated with a post on recycling planners as a way to help out the environment. This year's topic revolves around poverty. Talk about a tough topic to write about. While I know many blogs are posting ideas about what poverty means to them; or ways to donate time, money, or energy to help those in need; my mind wanted to take a different turn on this topic. This isn't to say that human poverty is not important-- I do believe that it's important to do what we can to fight poverty in our own countries and help each other out. It's just my mind, and my muse, want to discuss something a bit different.

I want to briefly speak about the poverty of ideas. If poverty means, "the state of being poor," then I think we're currently in the midst of idea poverty. All around me I see ideas that are not thought out, poorly executed, or just don't seem to raise the quality of life or entertainment of our societies. Many ideas today aren't always the best ideas. Look at Hollywood, where movies are churned out based on the same old ideas (sequels and remakes), or based on someone else's ideas (graphic novels and books). To me, this is rehashing what has come before and while it may be a bit lucrative, it doesn't show our society pushing the edges of creativity. It's stifling and damaging to our creativity.

So what can we do to get over idea poverty? Well, as normal human beings we can stop falling into mass media for one thing. We spend too much time attached to our televisions or the internet (and believe me I'm guilty of this one a lot). They're feeding us patterns of belief and attainment that we can never really attain. We can also do the following:

NaNoWriMo 2008, or The Year I Decided to Do Crazy

NaNoWriMo 2008 ParticipantThe leaves on the trees outside have begun to change color and drop off their branches. The air has grown extremely cold this year and I'm shivering inside again. I keep a trusty notebook near me as I worry and fret and push my mind into thinking mode. What do all these things have in common? It's October and I have less than 30 days to come up with a plot for NaNoWriMo 2008. Welcome to NaNo season!

This year is a special NaNo. It's the 10th anniversary of Chris Baty's madcap escapade into the novel writing life; it's also my 7th year doing it. This year, I've decided to break from my own NaNoWriMo traditions. Usually this means that I schlep my computer around to write my novel. I've gotten good at it but this year I felt I needed to shake things up a bit. This year, I'm going analogue. That's right, you heard me. I'm going to write all 50,000 words by hand. Am I crazy or what?

Of course, I've got friends (like iScribe) who have have done this year after year, writing their novels longhand. And I know that authors like Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman write their first drafts longhand so I know I'm in good company. Ever since I made this pact though, I've been doubting the little sanity I DO have and wonder how on earth I am going to pull this off. So, for this year's annual NaNo article, I've decided to share what I currently know about surviving NaNoWriMo longhand.

The Economy: We Are So Screwed


Anderson Cooper Hello everyone, I'm Anderson Cooper. If I were any more charming, you wouldn't be able to stand it. Tonight we'll be airing the first of a special five-part series on the state of the global economy entitled, Everything's A Mess And We're All Going To Die, but before we begin, let's check in with Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf Blitzer Hi, I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in the Conniption Room. Your can trust me, because I have a beard. Happening now: President Bush tried to calm fears about the ailing economy in a press conference earlier today.

The Writing's on the Wall

Owning a home is fun. I get to hang curtains up (in a color of my choosing), I get to modify the house in any way that benefits my lifestyle, and most importantly, I get to paint the walls with color and patterns.

One of the things I plan on doing to my home, when I get my library, is to stencil and paint some of my favorite quotes on the wall as a top border. This has been one of my dreams for almost 10 years now. I thought that was a good idea and then I read about Charlie Kratzer and how he took a Sharpie (or 10) to his basement walls and hand-sketched murals all over every available wall.

I'm amazed at how wonderful it all looks! Maybe one day I'll draw in some effects for some of my walls. Once I overcome the fear of being a "bad" sketch artist.

Thoughts on the Writing Process

There are times, like today, when I write and feel like the pen doesn't capture exactly what is coming out of my mind. It's like the language and words betray that perfect image I have in my head. It frustrates me and I get down on myself and think that I am not worthy of being a wordsmith, a writer.

Then, I read something like this quote from Neil Gaiman (in an interview he did on Goodreads.com):

And I'm glad I waited. I think it's a better book than I set out to write 23 years ago, and I feel like the gods smiled on me, and I got very lucky. Normally, in anything I do, I'm fairly miserable. I do it, and I get grumpy because there is a huge, vast gulf, this aching disparity, between the platonic ideal of the project that was living in my head, and the small, sad, wizened, shaking, squeaking thing that I actually produce. And then there is The Graveyard Book, which is, I think, the first time I've felt really satisfied.

And suddenly, I don't feel so bad about what I have written.

Shoot-out Review: 3 Cheap Fountain Pens, Part II - Bic Select X Pen

Bic Select X Pen

Woe betide my wife. Whereas she prefers things to follow the more classical stylings so common to those fashionable books, magazines and television shows (which we will here define as "good taste"), my leanings are far more into those odd accoutrements so common to the dusty backrooms of pawn shops, hidden behind a musty curtain, and we here define such things as "tacky" (if cheap), "strange" (if medium-priced) or "eccentric" (if a second mortgage is required). Lavender walls backing mahogany furniture is apparently tasteful, while Superman wallpaper and faux-Lego tables are apparently not, even if it's an ultra-cool riff on Siegal and Shuster's original covers. I say this not to demonstrate my nerd cred, but to give fair warning as to the unique side of my tastes.

The look of the Bic Select X Pen fountain pen, which seems to have arrived as a lonely and mis-shipped item in my local small office supply store, leans towards my definition of tasteful --which is to say, not that of my wife's. This odd little pen seems to have emerged form the Bic assembly line --a place not normally associated with fountain pens, at least in North America-- as a bastard child of an economic writing utensil with Captain Nemo's Nautilus.

Shoot-out Review: 3 Cheap Fountain Pens, Part I - Pilot Vpen

Fountain Pens closedYes, I love fountain pens. I'd be happy as a lark if I could make a living out of testing a different one every day. Unfortunately, such is not the case and I have to make due with using what I can afford, usually "flea market specials" sent along by my friends for me to restore.

Well, not quite, it seems. I've recently come across three different fountain pens selling for between $3 and $9 USD. Obviously, these shouldn't be judged against the yardstick of $100-300 pens, but do they offer a good value for the money? Are they appropriate for fountain pen newbies? In this three-part series of reviews, I'll be examining (from left to right in the picture) the Parker Reflex, the Pilot Vpen and the Bic Select to see if they really are as good a deal as they seem.

My process was simple. First, I used each pen for a full day in a regular work setting, then wrote one page on three different papers: a pocket lined Moleskine, a cheap index card, and a Rhodia pad. Then I left the pen for a week and checked the flow and ink level when I returned to it. What felt good in the hand? What wrote well and consistently? What would I recommend to a fountain pen newcomer? Which pen comes out on top?

The Pilot Vpen (a.k.a., Varsity)

The pen in the middle in the picture above is a Pilot Vpen (which seems to be called the Varsity in the USA), and is a bit of the odd man out in this trio. Whereas the other two pens can use regular ink cartridges, the Vpen is non-refillable. This is a pity, since --although the pen does contain an ample amount of ink in its barrel-- I always feel a little sad about throwing away a perfectly good pen and adding to the world's landfills, just because of a lack of ink. (Note: some people have tried to refill theirs, with differing levels of success.)