Bagasse Paper By The Ream?

Why isn’t bagasse (made from sugar cane) paper not available as plain old copier paper? They do sell a bagasse paper by the ream, it’s just not the bagasse paper. I know because I finally ordered a ream to try it out.

The good stuff they sell as composition books. As legal pads, and as little note pads. Not as plain paper.

The good stuff is pretty similar to Tomoe River paper, it takes ink about as well, and it’s about the same weight. But it is a lot cheaper. At least, it could be, and probably still plenty profitable for the manufacturer.

I call it Bagasse paper, although it goes by the brand Sustainable Earth at Staples. I’ve used both the legal pads (nice, but horrible perforations) and the composition notebooks. A Bagasse comp book and a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni handwriting pencil have to be the fastest combination I’ve ever tried. Awesome for freewriting. The paper in general is very well behaved, thin, and has a nice crispness to it. The books are cheap enough to fill without a thought, and very pleasant to write on.

Still, it would be nice to have plain paper available.

So, how about it Staples? Can you do this for me?

Using Ulysses for iPad

Yes, I wrote just a week or so ago about using IA Writer. Then I tried Byword, then I went back to Scrivener, and then, in a peak of frustration at trying to find a workable portable writing solution, I got Ulysses III for my Mac and Daedalus for the iPad.

Then I actually started doing a lot more writing. Those two apps – really Daedalus – got me going. I had a few bumps, was pretty impressed with the support I received, and kept going. It was strange at first, the concept of sheets, and so on. After a while I realized that when I was writing if I had an idea for another part, a scene, another book, or whatever, I could just type a cmd-N and get a new sheet and type away. Then option-cmd up arrow got me back to what I had been working on. For me, this is golden.

One thing that had me a bit queasy at first, and still gives me a little pause, is iCloud. Ulysses and Daedalus store everything there. Sometimes it has taken a while to sync. But, I now know where to find the actual files that are being saved on the mac, and I know they are being backed up by time machine. So I have the ability to go back in time to restore things if they go to hell.

I kept meaning to write up my experiences with the two apps, but I kept getting distracted by other things to write. Yesterday the new version of Ulysses for the mac came out, and also Ulysses for the iPad. So far, I’m happy. Quite happy. And, since I so rarely am ahead of the curve, I thought I’d better write this now!

Overall Ulysses on the iPad is pretty much the same as Ulysses on mac, but with some navigation changes and a few unimplemented features. I like it more than Daedalus, I think. I have to be careful because I’m still working out how to consolidate the stuff that I had in both apps into one set of files, and that sort of problem always unnerves me a bit and it might be clouding my judgement here.

One downside is that Daedalus is available on the phone, but Ulysses is not. So when using Daedalus I can see everything everywhere, but now it’s just iPad and Mac, unless I put something in Daedalus. But seriously, writing on the phone isn’t really a solution for me, and I can live without it. 

I figure Scrivener will come out with their iPad app just about the time I get fully immersed in Ulysses, but by then it may be too late. This app gets me writing.

If you’re looking for a good way to write long form work on your iPad along with your Mac, have a look at Ulysses. Together the two apps will cost ~$65, which is not much for tools like these. If you’re not looking for all the features of Ulysses, Daedalus is still very good, and it has most of the magic I’ve found here, at a much lower cost.

The incredibly resistant ink I should be using

Many folks have made a substantial investment in pens and ink to ensure that their journal last through the ages. I certainly have, but there aren’t many fountain pen inks that really last, behave well, and are commonly available. There aren’t many disposable pen choices either – even fewer if you hate felt tip pens as I do. Is there another choice that makes more sense for posterity? 

What if there was as ink that worked well with all papers, didn’t bleed, didn’t spill, and could be removed to fix mistakes?

Enter the pencil. 

Yep, the lowly pencil. It resists solvents, water, and the sun. It’s easy to carry, attracts little attention, and even the most expensive brand is cheap. It can be erased when needed, and even comes in different colors, albeit with different properties.

Pencil would seem to be an ideal journaling medium, and I suspect that many of the most famous journals have been kept in pencil. 

Imagine yourself tossing in an open boat sailing from Elephant Island to South Georgia – are you going to be able to refill your pen with ink? Are you even going to be able to write very many words without crossing them out and rewriting? That Shackleton got anything down at all is amazing.

I originally drafted this post in my journal using Noodler’s bulletproof black ink, as good a choice as any for permanence and longevity. I’m not sure I need to protect my work from forgers. Checks? Sure. The signatures on a really important document? Often. Scientific measurements used to support patent filings? Protocol suggests it’s foolish to use anything else, but I don’t know that one’s actually required to use ink. 

 But my journal? Pencil is vulnerable to erasure, but is anyone going to devote the time and effort needed to erase my journal? I think it’s pretty unlikely. Perhaps I might, to get rid of an offending reference written in haste, but there aren’t many secret plans in there, and even if there were, an eraser weilding perpetrator has many hours of boring reading before they’re going to find them. 

 What is likely (and indeed has happened) is spilled coffee or other drinks (including booze, which will dissolve ballpoint ink). Sure, if I spill coffee on a page I can rinse it with water, and probably be left with a readable image with many inks. Rinse again with alcohol and the list of inks shrinks. With pencil there’s no problem.

In the same way that fountain pens have shading, and other dynamics of line width, pencil has it’s own character. The line width varies and when using a sharp part of the point it can be dark and dense, but as the point dulls it grows wide and wispy. 

There are lots of other considerations, like sharpening, smudging, ghosting, etc. but I often ask myself when using a rollerball or the like if I wouldn’t be better off with a pencil.

Space pens: AG7 vs. Shuttle

I’ve written a few times about how I like the Fisher refill, and while other pens hold this cartridge, some very versatile pens, I usually ended up back with the AG7(affiliate link) or the Shuttle (bottom). It’s hard to find a ballpoint made as nicely as these.


Both are fundamentally brass pens. A push-button design with a side button release. Both unscrew into two halves to replace the cartridge, and both have retained springs and no loose parts when disassembled.

So it might seem that they are interchangeable, but they aren’t.


The Shuttle (bottom) has a narrower body, but a profile that makes the grip thicker in the writing position. The AG7 has a thicker body, but it narrows further from the point, so it’s a more slender pen to write with. The AG7 is also heavier and more expensive, and has a clip that has more capacity than the Shuttle. It also has less reveal, which can make the pen difficult to remove from pen sleeves. I had a clip break on an AG7 from fatigue. It was about 9 years old and was my daily pen for most of those years. Fisher replaced the pen free of charge, no hassles.

The Shuttle’s clip has a tighter grip, but it’s not a design that will recover from being pushed very far – like over the hem of some jacket pockets. It’s a better clip for a shirt pocket though, where the AG7’s clip sometimes doesn’t grab very well.

The mechanism on both is very solid, and both pens feel good in the hand.

The Shuttle is available in several finishes, and the G4 Gold Grid(affiliate link) is the one I prefer. I bought a CH4 chrome one thinking it would be similar to the AG7, but the spiral knurl isn’t sharp like on the AG7, it’s dull and pretty much useless. The CH4 is also profiled more like the AG7 in the grip area, instead of being thicker. The AG7 is available only in the spiral groove grip, but it’s quite sharp and provides a firm grip.

I use them both, but the AG7 continues to the one I favor, even though I think the CH4 is a bit more comfy.

Most ballpoint pens are pretty darned reliable. The Fisher cartridge adds the ability to write at angles, and I think they are exceptionally smooth when used often. When used infrequently they tend to gum up a bit faster than regular ballpoints. While the cartidge will fit anything that takes the universal Parker refill, these solid body pens have a nice mechanism, feel sturdy, and absorb real world treatment without complaint.

The Handwriting Disconnect

Most of the time the real beauty of pen and paper is that it just works. We don’t think about tuning anything, or whether it will start. We grab them, use them, and forget them. It makes for a great experience as the user, but as a blogger of these things it makes for a shortage of material sometimes.

Not only do we have extremely reliable writing instruments, but a huge variety of them. A person could probably choose a different instrument every day for more than a year and not use the same one twice. Just woodcase pencils alone would probably take a month. There’s even new ones being funded on Kickstarter – quite a few – because there’s still unmet demand.

All of them work, they work well, and we take them for granted. So much so that we’ve even got the hubris to think that we don’t really even use them anymore. We think we don’t need to teach kids to write by hand, because people don’t think they will need to know how.

I see that message in an article in one form or another almost every day. But I have yet to go to a meeting where even the person who keeps all their notes on a computer hasn’t also brought paper and something to write with. I haven’t yet been to a sit-down restaurant in the US where the person didn’t take my order on paper. I have yet to go to a medical appointment of any kind, even to the vet without being handed a clipboard and pen and a form to fill out.

Nearly as often as the handwriting-dead message, I see the we’ve-added-handwriting-recognition-to-this-device announcement. Even the devices that we’re told supplant the need for handwriting need to accept it as input.

We’ve got a huge and growing variety of tools for a skill that many people still use and we’re going to stop teaching it to our kids? 

Does anyone else see the disconnect here?

What are you saving that notebook for?

You know the one. You found it by surprise, and it was so cool you snatched it up and bought it before anyone could change your mind. You scurried away muttering ‘precious…precious…precious…’ Ok, you might not have actually said it out loud, but you were thinking it. 

There it is, on the shelf, a willing companion just sitting idle. There’s no perfect use for this notebook. There’s no prose you’re going to write, no sketch you’re going to make that only it is good enough for. The only things it’s good enough for are those marks that will go unmade because you don’t use it. 

But its one of a kind!

First, unless it was made by hand for you it probably isn’t one of a kind. 

Second, it will still be one of a kind after you use it. More so, in fact.

No! You don’t understand! If I use it, I won’t have it. And there aren’t any more. 

Yes, I get it. What did you buy it for? If you were on a deserted island, and down to your last candy bar, would you die of hunger with a little bit of candy bar left over, sitting there unused, just because there isn’t any more?

But if I wait, what I create will be so much better!

No, it won’t. Well, it might be, but the notebook won’t know the difference. The only way you’re getting better is if you fill another notebook anyway. So fill it. 

But I’m in the middle of another notebook, and to leave that one half empty, well, it’s just not right!

Leave it and come back. Put a volume number on the spine so you can tell when you jumped from one book to another. Or don’t. It will add to the mystery for your descendents. 

So use the notebook already. It’s calling to you. It wants to be used. So use it.

Ok, I will.