Don’t Make This Mistake – Pen And Paper On Choosing A House

A few years ago we bought our new house in Kentucky. We looked at a lot of houses. It’s hard enough to find a new place in a region that is familiar, but in a new state it’s even more challenging.

I kept bringing a notebook thinking the notes would be helpful in making a good decision. I was wrong – the notes I kept didn’t help at all, but I later realized what I should have done and hope my experience can help someone else. Actually this would work for apartments, cars, boats or any other large purchase where you must balance wants and needs with available inventory.

This is a simple tip for those house hunting in a new area, or perhaps making a similar choice:

When you write down notes on each home focus on what you don’t like. Specifically the deal breaker items.

Yes, that sounds backward, but here’s the explanation:

We started with a list of “must haves:”

  • Close to school
  • Walkable to stores, or at least a park so the kids have some autonomy and wouldn’t drive us nuts needing rides everywhere
  • All kid bedrooms on the same floor
  • Room to park the truck in the garage
  • Space for a shop
  • Nice yard

And on and on and on.

The problem is that the perfect house doesn’t exist, and in the end the choice involves compromise. But it’s not clear what compromises have to be made until after you’ve seen a bunch of places and learn what is available.

Once we figured out the perfect house wasn’t available we decided to give up some items. As we gave up on those items we remembered that there were homes we liked but for those items. The trick was to find those houses to reconsider them. It’s impossible to do this when all that’s been recorded for each house is what we liked.

If I had kept a simple list of address, and reasons why we didn’t like it our search would have been easier.

XYark – Adult-sized Field Notes?

So a long while back I used to journal in the pocket size Moleskine notebooks – the ubiquitous black hardcover ones. They worked pretty well but I slowly moved up the sizes until I was using the Leuchtturm1917 master dots size. A great size with lots of space, but hard to carry anywhere, so I slid back down to the BookFactory blank books in the 8×10 size. Also a nice size, but not so good for travel.

After eventually going all the way back down to Field Notes notebooks in a leather cover I’d made, I realized that’s too small. But I like the cover and I liked the slim volumes. Just needed the next size up. I know Field Notes makes their Pitch Black notebooks in 4.5″ x 7.5″ size, but they’re $8 each. And yes, I bought some and I’ll be reviewing those shortly!

I went looking for refills that were the 5×8 size, dot grid, and not too expensive. Moleskine ruined their Cahier notebooks by making 25% of the pages perforated. Leuchtturm1917 did even worse by ruining the entire book; the whole thing is perforated. I know a lot of folks want pages perforated so they can tear them out, but I’m not one of those people.

Looking on Amazon I found these: XYark 12 Pack Dot Grid Notebook Journals

They arrived in a nice stack in a plastic bag and are just what I expected. Stitch bound, not perforated, dot grid. The paper is thin and the cover is just a bit thicker, but not as thick as a Field Notes or Moleskine Cahier. I didn’t buy them to survive on their own – they’ll be in a leather cover – so I’m not worried about the covers so much.

Fieldnotes with leather cover, left. New notebooks, right.
Fieldnotes with leather cover, left. New notebooks, right.

60 pages is about 1/4 of what is in a Leuchtturm1917 notebook of the same size, so I figure I’ll go through about three or four of these in a year. I used to want notebooks to last for as many months of journaling as possible, but I’ve found I really don’t look back that often away from home.

The paper is not fantastic, but it’s nearly as good as Moleskine, not as good as Leuchtturm’s. It’s a smidge rougher. No word on whether it is acid free or not. A cursory test with fountain pen ink showed no bleed using Noodler’s black that had been in a pen for quite a while, in a TWSBI pen that leaves a wet line. Parker roller ball was the same. Writing very slowly it was a little more apparent from the other side, but not what I would call bleed through. The dot grid is a bit darker than Leuchtturm1917, which was off putting at first but now I’m over it.

Leuchtturm1917 dot grid top, new notebook dot grid bottom.
Leuchtturm1917 dot grid top, new notebook dot grid bottom.

My main concern with these is durability. Will the paper will self destruct over time? The manufacturer doesn’t say if it is acid free. The cover is thin and these books probably won’t be very durable on their own in a bag if you’re rough with them.

$20 for 12 books, 720 pages, or about 1/3 the price of Leuchtturm1917 large notebooks. No pocket, no page numbers, no index, no perforations, no silly promise about rewards.

If you’re looking for a no-frills notebook at a good price this option is hard to beat.

Moleskine XL review

When I moved from the usual A5 size notebook to the Leuchtturm 1917 Master Dots it was quite a shock, but one I got over and I quickly got used to the extra space. But that book is pretty massive, and just to big to find in many bags.

So then it was the BookFactory blank book that I was using, and I filled a few of those. I like the size, and the paper was good, but they got to be very expensive.

Looking for a replacement, I tried the Moleskine XL.

  • This notebook is the right size. Not too big to fit in bags it needs to fit in, not so small that I feel like I’m writing in a cramped space.
  • No tear out pages, so I can use the whole book.
  • The usual pocket in the back, which can be handy at times.
  • The stupid notice about a reward, which I resent because it put’s a reward in the mind of the finder, when they might not think of it otherwise. I can always write my own reward offer.
  • The usual elastic band to keep it closed.
  • Paper is fine for me, but probably too thin for most. It’s not going to put up with a wet fountain pen, or the nibbed firehoses that some folks use. It’s also thin enough that any kind of water color wash will buckle the paper.
  • Book is thin – not as many pages as the book factory. On the plus side, the book shouldn’t get too beat up before it’s full.
  • No page numbers. I always liked the idea of the, but I’ll confess I haven’t really used them.

Really this is a pretty good book. The cover material seems to be a bit thicker, slightly more leather-like than the older Moleskines I have. More like the old softcover notebooks from the past.

Overall this book is a winner. It won’t be for everyone, and especially not folks used to wet pens or water colors, but if you’re writing with a mainstream pen or pencil, it’s hard to beat.

Tricks for keeping a journal that improves with age

  1. Your job is to document what’s happened, and how it affected you
  2. A good journal isn’t about revenge
  3. Stick to the facts
  4. Don’t accuse or speculate with the intent to accuse. Blaming others leads to a victim mentality. Yes, sometimes we are victimized, but wallowing in the mentality doesn’t help.
  5. No name calling
  6. Capture some detail
  7. Draw. Even a bad drawing is better than no drawing.
  8. Write what you can use – plans, lists, etc.
  9. Read your journal from time to time. If you don’t read it you won’t improve, and you won’t get a lot of the value it can provide. You also won’t learn what content is most valuable to you.
  10. Try not to write for the sake of writing, or for some kind of effect – journalling is not an effective way of getting attention, and all that stuff is annoying to wade through when you’re reading it later.
  11. Be honest about yourself. You are the primary audience, are you fooling yourself?
  12. You probably won’t appreciate the drama you write
  13. Don’t use an adjective unless you must. This is useful advice for all writing.

We all have moments when we just need to vent and poop all over the page. Fine, do it on a legal pad, fold the sheet and stick it in your journal. Look at it a month later and if you really think it’s got value leave it in there. Most of the time you’ll roll your eyes and toss it, and it’s gone.

Following these rules will give you a journal that has more value in the future with the added benefit of being less of a liability today.

Parker Sonnet Ballpoint Review

I bought the Parker Sonnet because I wanted a nicer looking pen for an upcoming business trip, and I didn’t want to take a fountain pen, and I wanted the pen to take Parker refills.

Amazon had it on sale, so I ordered the black and gold version:

The girth is medium, perhaps a bit thick for a ballpoint but medium for pens in general. Not a tight fit for most of the pen sleeves in the bags I use these days. It’s twist operated, so opening it one handed is no problem.

The clip is fairly firm, but has little reveal, so digging this out of a deep sleeve could be difficult. My current bags all have short sleeves so it’s not an issue. The clip does flex a bit side to side, which I don’t care for.

The gold section at the end and the black barrel shift ever so slightly while writing. It’s so slight that I’m still not 100% sure it’s happening, because when I try to shift them with two hands can’t detect it. Only while writing. It’s a minor thing really.

Unscrewing the two halves opens the pen for refill replacement and there is no spring or other parts coming out of either side. I like this.

I got the pen in late 2019, and I’ve been using it exclusively since then, which is why it looks a bit worn in the photo. It’s comfortable, and the mechanism operates the same as it did when I got it. Will it last forever? Hmmmm…probably not, but the nice thing about ballpoints is that I don’t feel like they have to.

So if you’re looking for a decent ballpoint that is formal in a generic sort of way, that is nice to hold this could be a good choice.

[UPDATE 1/15/2023] I don’t know if it is just the unit I got, or a chronic flaw in Sonnet ballpoints, but mine has developed a looseness between the upper barrel and the lower barrel. When the point is extended the looseness is gone but a there’s a gap that shows up (just to the left of the gold band in the photo).

Basically the threaded portion in the upper barrel is coming loose. I can send the pen back for repair, but it’s now out of warranty.

Recording Thoughts Reboot

Welcome to the reboot of Recording Thoughts!

Back in March of 2005 I started a blog called Recording Thoughts where I wrote about pens and paper, journaling and writing, and how to record thoughts in general. I posted off and on up until about 2016 when life circumstances meant I just couldn’t writ much. It limped along until I shut it down in 2020.

The photo from the header on the first layout I used. Remember when Palm Pilots were a thing?

Well life has calmed down quite a bit and I miss writing about these things, so I decided to restart the blog. Unfortunately, between changing hosts a few times and other challenges the backups I’d made before the shutting the site down were far from usable so it’s going to be more of a reboot than a restart!