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November 16, 2007

Posted by Teresa at 07:10 PM *

Resolved: that the Mead (or Cambridge) one-subject notebook, 8-1/2” x 11”, action planner format, side bound, double wire spiral bound, side perforated, 80 pages, 20 lb. bond, white paper, rule lines printed in gray and maroon; catalogue number 06064 or MEA06064; or the Cambridge Executive Action Planner Limited Notebook, otherwise identical, Cambridge catalogue number 20568208—

is the One True Business Notebook.

Comments on Notebook:
#1 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 09:39 PM:

Jim: The Army has recently gone to a waterproof paper, top-bound. It has lots of useful (for an army guy) stuff on the four sides of the covers.

I can find the NSN for you, if you like.

#2 ::: Dave Trowbridge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Standby by for incoming abuse from Moleskine fanatics. That's my choice for a notebook for any activity.

#3 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Wierd. All the comments before mine have disappeared. I suspect this has to do with oddities of the possible downtime.

#4 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 09:46 PM:

Have read aftermath.

My previous comment: I prefer the top-bound Mead Five Star. It has a plastic cover, which bears up to my ways of carrying it (in computer and camera bags). The vertical flip means it doesn't take up side to side space when I open it.

At 100 sheets for a single subject, it's a decent amount of paper.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:11 PM:

Wow. You know, I just go to the store when I need a notebook, and buy one that looks right and feels right and isn't a completely disgusting color.

There's generally only one, but I never look at brandnames.

#6 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:22 PM:

I am trying to get the 3x5 or so At-a-glance weekly pocket planner and they don't make them anymore! You have to buy bigger ones. How rude! I could get the Daytimer Miniplanner, but I don't like it as much as I do the At-a-glance. So I have to decide between bigger size or lesser use.

#7 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:33 PM:

The other nerds of my acquaintance tell me I should get a PDA or a smartphone but the truth is that the last time I had one of those devices I spent hours playing minesweeper and solitaire instead of paying attention during business meetings. So I went back to ordinary paper notebooks. Usually cheap crappy high-school-student notebooks. I may have to upgrade.

#8 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:28 PM:

No abuse here, but I'm another Moleskine user, in particular the small ruled model; it fits nicely into a pocket (even a shirt breast pocket), has nice-feeling paper, and a satisfying heft in the hand.

#9 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 12:21 AM:

Levenger's Circa Planner pages are my favorite - the same format, basically, as the Mead, but you can move and remove them easily from one Circa set to another. I have multiple projects in my program, plus managerial stuff with my staff, it's good to be able to move the pages around for archiving without having to tear things out of spiral notebooks. I love my Circa stuff. Recently bought their notecard system - it's been really helpful, too.

#10 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:22 AM:

Ah, moleskine... The sturdy covers. The paper heavy enough that you can write on both sides. The rubber band to keep it closed _and_ the ribbon to keep your place! The cunning little pocket in the back cover to hold receipts. Available in grid, and everyone knows that ruled lines are (1) much too far apart, and (2) uninspiring for doodling.

#11 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:24 AM:

Isn't mentioning the Levenger product line to this crowd sort of like bringing up porn?

#12 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:43 AM:

I once infuriated my mother by insisting that I had to have a certain specific kind of notebook and folder for school. The folders were impossible to find (I haven't seen them since) and the notebooks were not, but still, why be so picky about paper?
Because one is right and one is good enough, but not right.
My current school notebooks are Mead Five-Star three-subjects, college ruled, with the understanding that I never fill more than the first third and may as well use them more than one semester. One-subjects hold just the right amount of paper for non-school purposes. For lab, also Mead, but the composition-notebook style thing.

Engineering paper? Not using it unless I have to. That is poorly designed.

#13 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:48 AM:

No, sorry: I doubt that there can be "One True Business Notebook". Simply because people are too various.

And before we even get started on the question of what might be the Platonic Ideal of the Business Notebook, it needs to be said right up front that spiral bindings are an affront to left-handers.

(Unless you use it backward - or unless it's one of the exremely rare reverse-bound spiral notebooks. Which I actually found once, in a "Left-Handers" shop.)

#14 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:50 AM:

My mother was a fine woman, in general, but very weak in the area of school supplies. She bought discount notebooks and pens. However, my family lived in Belgium for a few years when I was in elementary school. As a mother, she received a monthly stipend for every dependent child, and there was extra money each September, presumably for school clothes and supplies. She reacted to this as a windfall, and let me pick things out myself. Ah, how I remember that 3-ring binder paper! It was so thick that fountain pen ink didn't bleed through, and had perfectly centered, pre-applied silvery hole reinforcements. If the socialists hadn't already had me at $2 doctor's visits, they'd have won my soul with school supplies.

#15 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 02:05 AM:

Is brand loyalty to office supplies something one learns in MBA classes? Along the lines of "carry a Mannlicher-Carcano genuine leather briefcase or the other lawyers will laugh at you behind your back"? heh. I have a 25+ year old Cross pen, but since that was a gift from one of my best friends, I'm not particularly objective about its qualities, as I bonded to it long ago.

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 02:33 AM:

Having taken up bookbinding specifically to have nice blank books, I like this thread.

So, as you cite your own favorite notebooks, can you articulate what makes them good? And what's a deal-killer?

I'm feverishly taking notes in my hand-bound, leather-covered sewn boards notebook with the white 100gsm paper, handmade headbands and marker ribbon.

(At the moment, I have one colleague who has commissioned me to keep him in blank notebooks, in whatever design and whatever price I want. This

#17 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:29 AM:

Naah, the one true business notebook is clearly whatever the most compact model in the IBM ThinkPad range happens to be at the time.

(Sorry ...)

Incidentally, on the subject of paper, can I register a HATE!HATE!HATE! vote for side-bound or top-bound wire spiral bound pads in general? I'm not only a left-hander, but the kind who writes with his hand curled round so that the pen's tip is pointing at his belly-button. This means that if I try to use either type of wire spiral bound pad I end up with the wire digging painfully into my hand. I can see why they'd be fine for right-handers, but for me and my ilk, they're Not Fit For Purpose.

#18 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:53 AM:

Charlie (at 17) at what angle do you hold your paper?

I'm a right-handed over-writer (and a finger-writer, no less), and I keep my paper almost purely perpendicular to my torso, so I write away from myself. (People assume that I'm left-handed, because of this.) I find that gets the spiral out of the way most of the time.

Abi (at 16), I may have to talk with you. My current loves are various brands of Japanese spiral notebooks (Boston Note, and cutemodel, in particular). B5 size, narrow ruled, fountain pen friendly paper; if they're not spiral -- which I like because I can then fold them back on themselves when writing on the subway -- they need to open fully and flatly; about 100 sheets max. I modify my notebooks with storage envelopes and ribbon bookmarks, and decorate them inside with rubber stamps. The paper needs to be smooth enough to take a super-super needlepoint fountain pen nib without bleeding or feathering, in most inks.

So... iffens a person were to send you a list of specs, a list of negotiables by bookbinder, and a wodge of money, could a book happen?

#19 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:57 AM:

In my office, however, the preferred notebooks are standard Mead college-ruled composition books. (Think Harriet the Spy, but college-ruled; we are an educational organization, after all.) The other type appearing frequently is the Levenger Circa model, with the pages that can be reorganized.

I have a disc-style notebook with the replaceable pages, from a company called Myndology. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks sweet, though possibly designed more for undergraduates.

#20 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:01 AM:

I found, when I was in high school, that good top-perfect-bound quadrille paper pads were awesome. They were great in calculus, they were great in science classes, and in every other class I could make cool D&D dungeons when the lecture got too boring. Sadly I don't remember the brand that I liked so much. But I bet they'd be equally good for distraction when I'm in boring lect^H^H^H^Hbusiness meetings now.

#21 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:16 AM:

A suitable notebook must have paper that doesn't soak through with fountain pen ink or drink it up into a splotchy pool. It must not be wide-ruled. It must be sturdy enough to be dropped, shoved into bags, and stepped on. If spiral-bound, it must not warp so the pages can't be turned; if not spiral-bound, it must be bound such that the pages lie nicely flat. It must not be too beautiful to write in, but must be pleasing to the senses.

Yeah, I have brand loyalty. It's taken me years to remember the type of looseleaf I like, and now I have three unopened packages of at least two brands lying around because I can never remember that I've already bought it.

#22 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:24 AM:

In the Server Migration my post that Terry was replying to in #1 above vanished. It went something like this:

For me the one true notebook is the Navy "Wheel Book." Green hard covers, top-or-side opening, pages bound in, sized to fit in a shirt pocket.

At one time I knew the NSN for them.

#23 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:27 AM:

I use a moleskine notebook, but mostly because it fits in my pocket. (i.e., it's with me at all times.) However, because what I write in it really wants to be on my computer, either I need to be more diligent about transcription, or I need a computer which fits in my pocket (which is as easy to write into as a paper notebook).

#17: I'm the other type of left-handed writer. (The pen tip direction is mirrored compared to a right-handed writer.) The wire sometimes ends up digging into my forearm. In any case, I'm all for people pointing out right-handed biases.

#24 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:28 AM:

Like Velma, I think that Japanese B5 notebooks are lovely for writing. Most of the notebooks at the office supply store feel too institutional; Kokuyo notebooks are daintier, sweeter, but not so expensive that they're too precious to write in. I must remember to pick up a couple next time I'm at the Japanese bookstore.

#25 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:51 AM:

Not a fan of spiral bound at all.

I like the Cambridge pad with the really hard cardboard back.

And I luvs me my Uniball micro pens (but not in the rain).

#26 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Finally,a true pornographic conversation at Making Light! (grin)

My library uses an integrated online system that has a very active user's group; every year we hold a conference and one of the "welcome bag" items is a spiral bound ruled notebook with hard covers and nice thick pages. I take a regular (law school, hard backed, top spiral bound) notebook with me and use the freebie for project books for the year.

My own personal carry around is a Franklin Covey leather notebook I got as a gift a few years ago. You can buy undated calendar pages and nicely lined notebook pages for it plus, if you are into the Covey rah-rah thing (I'm not) other parts. Charles, I'm sorry, but one of the fun moments of my life was sitting at a high powered meeting when the chairperson wanted to set up the next meet date. Everyone started turning on/pecking at their pdas. I just flipped my Covey notebook to the right month and sat back waiting...

Marilee @6: I've seen those in my University's bookstore, and believe it or not, at CVS. It all depends on your tolerance for cute puppy/kitty/flower themed covers...

Abi @16: you evil woman you. Paper envy is a nasty thing to induce in your friends...

#27 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:08 AM:

Earlier I commented that I do like "action planner" notebooks and have used them in the past from time to time for certain situations, like interviews to document use cases, and such. My problem is that ring bound notebooks cause problems in my bag, so I avoid them.

These days I ususally pack a Mead/Cambridge quadrille pad with the heavy board -- I often have to take notes well away from a desk or table. My standard is pretty much letter/A4 paper so everything fits into one filing system. With the pad I carry a View-Tab sorter with a current Google Calendar printout in front to act as my "planner" replacement. Most paper either goes in the sorter or in clear plastic folders. Task lists are printed out from Remember the Milk.

I used to carry a Cross Ion, but I managed to lose two of them. Pilot G2 black is my preference now, especially as I can buy a bunch and stick a couple in all sorts of places. I wish the G2 smeared less, but it writes well on most of the different kinds of paper I work with.

I do have a serious office porn problem with Moleskines, but drugs and counseling are helping.

#28 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Emma @26:
my library uses an integrated online system...

Out of curiosity, what integrated online system?

Paper envy is a nasty thing to induce in your friends...

So I shouldn't tell you about the neat little notebook I made for my month in Amsterdam, leather covered, elastic band a la Moleskine, with all the required maps & ferry schedules printed out and bound in? Calendar pages, with space to write appointments, and extra pages to keep a journal?

OK. I won't.

#29 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:31 AM:

Velma @18:
So... iffens a person were to send you a list of specs, a list of negotiables by bookbinder, and a wodge of money, could a book happen?

In theory, yes. In practice, mrmrmrmr....not so much right at the present moment. I'm as busy as an astronaut with three holes in her suit and only two patches*. And I'm still halfway through a book structure development phase.

I am working on a binding style that should, when refined enough, yield a nice flat-opening book with leather covers. At the moment, there is a slight technical hitch to the exterior spine structure, so when you're writing in the middle of the book it's not ideal.

(I like it for other reasons as well. It's easy to teach the most basic version, and can be done with virtually no specialized equipment or materials.)

Lined paper is generally problematic, because it means I can't just go buy really wonderful paper from my new local paper shop and make it into a book.

Most difficult of all, though, is the ability to discuss materials and structures with people from afar. The feeling of picking up a book and handling it, feeling how it turns and how it sits in the hand, can't be reproduced online. So there's a higher level of risk doing things online.

* phrase stolen from John Varley

#31 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:55 AM:

Moleskines, because they work in tropical climates filled with heat and humidity. The paper doesn't bubble and crinkle, the ink doesn't run. And for all kinds of other reasons too.

But if one's in the classroom or library, or doing notes for novel, etc., the Meade 5-subject, forever!

(I hate my pda, and I never, ever use it.)

Love, C.

#32 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:56 AM:

I go through notebooks like a serious smoker goes through packs of cigarettes. My preference is the top-spiral-bound lined legal pads, but I'll settle for the well-made staple-and-glue top-bound notebooks. And in a pinch, I'll use anything--I've been known to use a pad of post-it notes when I didn't have anything else to use.

I tend to carry a notebook with me almost everywhere, since discovering, at age 8 or so, that with a notebook and pen, I would never be bored when stuck someplace with nothing to do. Oddly, I am not much of a note taker. I use the paper as scratch space for my brain, "bookmarking" a line of thought when the lecture gets interesting, writing out implications or questions about the lecture I'm watching to help me think them through, sometimes writing something out to help me remember it. I will very rarely write something to keep in my notebooks, though I'll often go back to my "notes" when I'm writing something up on the computer. My notebooks have these weird snippets of pseudocode or Python or C, math, diagrams of various kinds, outline-style descriptions of things, notes to myself in English and Spanish, etc. I am not sure many people could get much out of this, though I'm not trying to obscure it.

I'm somewhat picky about my pens, for "feel" reasons I can't really justify or explain. I like roller ball sorts of pens or those very thin marker type pens. I hate using a pencil, and have since I was a little kid.

#33 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:59 AM:

Constance #31:

Yeah, I've used Palms for a few years, and they're a bit of a disappointment. I can use my PDA for a calendar, document reader, music player, and address book, but it's worthless for me as far as my kind of notebook use. I can't get information into the PDA without interrupting the flow of my ideas and thoughts, I don't have enough resolution to do really good diagrams or very legible handwritten notes, etc.

#34 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:06 AM:

Claude @ 27: I love quadrille pads. During boring meetings, I don't use them to create D&D dungeons, but for structured doodling. You can cross hatch individual square to form patterns, for example. Plus they make for tidy notes -- orderly columns, and suitable for the tiny writing that the nuns drilled into me.

Pilot Precise V7 Fine is The One True Fine Point Rollerball, but they seem to have stopped making them in the shade of blue that I liked. It does smear, and sometimes leaks, alas. I can't stand to write with a wider tip rollerball, or ballpoint. Ballpoints skip. Even fancy expensive Cross ballpoints.

#35 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:07 AM:

I'm not very picky about my notebooks, although they've got to be college ruled. I usually buy whatever's cheapest at Walmart. Yes, I know--that statement is wrong on so many levels. But how can you beat a 10cent Mead single-subject? I write big chunks of novels out longhand, so I go through notebooks too fast to spend much on them.

On the other hand, I'm in my local coffeeshop right now with my new laptop (Asus eee, which is adorable), where I had planned to stake out this corner table and power outlet for the rest of the morning while working on my NaNo book--and I'm Making Light instead. So I guess there's a lot to be said for writing longhand, whatever the notebook.

I am as passionate about my pens as I am indifferent about my paper. I like the Pilot Precise Rolling Ball pens, in V7 if I can find them, but lately I've discovered that Staples has their own brand of rolling balls that are even nicer.

#36 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:07 AM:

Having been taught to write in the French school system, my One True Paper is Clairefontaine French Rule. It's ridiculously difficult to find in the states, but the stationary store near me carries the perfect bound notebooks, so my current One True Notebook is one of those in a surprisingly nice leather cover either my boyfriend or I picked up at some conference a while ago. The logo is embossed in the front, but you can't see it unless you're looking, so that's all right.

When I can't get those, I use plain old college ruled notebook paper in a plain 3-ring binder. Oddly enough, I've never had a fountain pen bleed-through problem with it. You can see that the other side's been written on, but not enough so to make things difficult.

If I could have an idea notebook, I'd get a three ring binder with french ruled looseleaf, but since that's not going to happen short of going to France and putting it together myself, I'll just have to live with what I've got.

#37 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:08 AM:

I gave up my Palm Vx when (a)I got into bookbinding, and (b)it became unreliable. But mostly (a).

I prefer to write notes to myself on paper. I also keep most of my low-res information in between my ears ("I'm flying to Edinburgh Thursday week."). And for the detailed electronic things where Palms and PDAs were useful, I tend to use Gmail or Gmail calendar. I'm usually online, either at home or at work, when I need access to detailed information ("Flight number XXXX, precise departure time YY:YY, arrival time ZZ:ZZ").

#38 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:17 AM:

I carry a notebook at work to take notes, but when out & about I just have a PDA. I tried to keep notes in meeting using a PDA once -- never again. I quit carrying a paper organizer in my purse when I realized how ghastly it would be if I lost it. My PDA gets synched to my PC regularly, so I've got a backup.

At this October's Pacific NW Software Quality Conference, one of the presentations was on the Moleskine Notebook. Really. I think the presenter was Michael Bolton (not the musician, or the character from the movie). The title of the talk was something like "The Software Tester's Notebook". He spoke about the value of being able to catch stray insights, and organize your thoughts. I think most attendees expected something a tad bit more technical. The snippet I liked best was hearing that Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks were about the size of the moleskin that fits in a pocket. I've only seen images and assumed they were much larger. Apparently Leonardo's handwriting was even smaller than mine.

#39 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:25 AM:

I've given up on notebooks, because the notebooks on the market seem to have been invented for people who never do anything but straight text. Given me quadrille ruled or give me a PDA!

My ideal notebook would have —
* About 120 pages of about 24lbs weight, high opacity stock, either 8.5x11 or A4 (depending on local paper standard) — absolutely not the old US government size (8x10.5) so common in school bookstores and big-box stores
* Either extremely pale yellow or "natural" pages... with dark-blue numbers, preferably at a 90 degree inward orientation in the top outside corner
* 0.5cm quadrille rule in pale, but photocopiable, blue or blue-green
* A permanent non-obtrusive binding (sewn, perfect, tape) on the left (sorry, lab stations are set up for you righties, and I've adapated over the years)
* A stiff, but not too thick, cover that isn't ugly and has a non-coated area for identification on the front that will take non-permanent market

Yes, I'm picky, but that specification used to be easily available for research scientists (usually in only 80-page versions). That's because the standards for admitting materials as evidence, whether in military courts, civilian courts, or administrative proceedings, are rather picky, and I'm a big fan of relatively self-authenticating business records.

Pens? Given me Pilot Razor Point black felt-tips or Pilot or Tetra extra-fine-point black rollerballs and I'm happy. Give me a Bic and I'll shoot you. Give me a PaperMate (or other traditional "ballpoint") and I'll feed you to the crocodiles allegedly in the sewers near Our Gracious Hosts' home.

#40 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Engineering paper? Not using it unless I have to. That is poorly designed.

This gave me the best chuckle I have had all morning. Thank you.

So basically, engineering paper needs to be re-engineered?

#41 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:41 AM:

So I shouldn't tell you about the neat little notebook I made for my month in Amsterdam, leather covered, elastic band a la Moleskine, with all the required maps & ferry schedules printed out and bound in? Calendar pages, with space to write appointments, and extra pages to keep a journal?


Innovative Interfaces; good ol' Triple I.

#42 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 12:07 PM:

K. C. Shaw #35 -- aha, so you have an Eee! (Mine's on order, due for delivery on Tuesday -- and black.) For everyone else: it's one of these -- a $400 solid-state ultra-portable computer that runs Linux, comes with Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice as standard. Sort of like the One Laptop Per Child folks' XO-1, only designed for adults with real work to do.

Now, that's a notepad!

#43 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Jim: I wasn't thinking. I can probably get you some wheel books. I used to use them (at least I think so) as journals. The Army still has them. Lt.s and Capt.s can't live without them.

The NSN is printed right on 'em.

#44 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 12:23 PM:

I have to chime in with a vote for Moleskine notebooks. The sewn binding stands up to be chucked in my backpack and toted everywhere, no matter what else is in there or what orientation it is stuffed in at.

The spiral binding on other notebooks generally are too fragile and tend to catch on things (most annoying when it is my *knitting* that is caught).

I only wish they made Moleskines in larger dimensions. The paper and construction are excellent, but the size limitation is occasionally frustrating.

#45 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 12:26 PM:


If I'm translating Teresa's original spec to metric correctly, 20lb bond is 75gsm, which I'd find terribly thin - I used to use standard 80gsm narrow-ruled A4 pads for lecture notes, back in the days when I had lectures.

These days, I carry a Daler-Rowney A4 sketchbook everywhere with me - hardback, sewn binding, 150gsm acid-free paper. Drawing, sketching, engineering diagrams, or painting on the recto, writing on the verso. It's relatively large and heavy, but that means I'll never lose it, and it also makes an impromptu desk or straightedge when I need one. Plus, it'll last forever.

#46 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 12:50 PM:

Moleskine now makes what they call "City Notebooks", for Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Paris, Rome, etc. They include both maps and blank pages. A compromise for the non-bookbinders.

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:05 PM:

I looked at the Moleskine Amsterdam City Notebook, and considered buying one. It's really quite nice.

But it had a bunch of cruft pages I didn't need (restaurants! shopping!) and the map didn't cover either where I was living or where I work. And I wanted a calendar for the specific month I was living in the city.

Plus, mine is covered in leather.

(Emma: Innovative Interfaces? They do Encore, don't they? I work for a competitor - AquaBrowser Library. Isn't it fun watching the way people love these applications? Exciting times in the library.)

#48 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:15 PM:

I use Moleskine but I find them imperfect. The covers are usually black, which means that it's harder to start labelling them when you accumulate a great many and need to start a filing system for them. Also, they get harder to write on when you are near the end and the pages you are writing on are tearoutable pages that you don't actually intend to tear out.

By the way I find 3 ring binders impossible to use.

#49 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Abi, yes, they do. I'm not involved in that side of the technology -- I'm in charge of the Acquisitions (including electronic ordering), cataloging, and serials modules. Back office operations all the way.

Yes, it is exciting times in the library -- I started way back enough to have worked with card catalogs and checkout machines that sounded like pneumatic hammers. Not that long ago, really.

#50 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:28 PM:

I am a qualitative researcher, which means I talk to people and watch people doing things, and need to capture extensive notes (sometimes I am semi-transcribing conversations). This means that I can burn through notebooks like crazy at times. I've found that for me, the 8.5x11 ones are too large if I'm wandering around and trying to take notes, while my handwriting is large enough that an 8.5x5.5 fills up too quickly (though I will use them if need be). My favorite notebooks are the squarish ones, roughly 7x9, spiral bound so it can completely fold back on itself, 80-100 pages, and narrow ruled or with a grid. I was in heaven last when I went to Malaysia for business, and found that this was a common school/office supply item. With amusing graphics on the covers, to boot! Alas, these are less common in the US, and I haven't yet discovered a cheap, reliable source.

#51 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:38 PM:

Kayjayoh, engineering paper is... okay, I admit, my goals in paper are not the same as the designer's. Yellow paper with a border and spaces at the top for name, date, project, et cetera, all in green ink, that's fine. My main issue is the grid on the back. I know that graph paper is good. Grids are excellent to have. But putting a grid on the back in such heavy ink that you can't write on it-- it shows through to the front, and that's where you draw the graphs-- it's... aigh. And even knowing that you're not supposed to write on the backs of things, I am in an *environmental* engineering program, and we do that. A lot.
I miss my chem notebook. Plastic spiral, lots of pages, carbon paper in there so there's a turn-in copy and a keep-copy, and a nice subtle grid, useful for graphing but otherwise unobtrusive. Le sigh.

#52 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:41 PM:

Did Tolkien use a one-ring binder?

#53 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 02:02 PM:

I used to work as a databased publishing and typesetting computer programmer back in the days when getting a flat file database to present in multiple columns on a page with correct capitalization was something new and special. To take someone's dull, lifeless facts and reshape them, like unto the clay of Eden, into something extraordinary is a gift that has never quite let go of me, to this day. It's one of the reasons I play around with Drupal, and yet I still have not grown beyond the need for words on paper.

#54 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Engineering paper ... it's for pencils, really.

I used to use it for coding when I had to pay attention to things like column count and line length - a 5 squares/inch spiral bound actually worked better, but they were getting hard to find; apparently the folks who make them prefer 4 squares/inch.

There are spiral-bound notebooks with a cloth cover over the outside of the spiral, sewn (!) to the covers, so it won't catch in everything.

I carry a small notebook in my purse; the PDA, if it's along, isn't for notes, it's for reference. (Or, sometimes, calculating.) Since I also have multiple pens and pencils int the same pocket, it's not a problem. And I don't have to worry about the battery dying at an inconvenient moment.

#55 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 04:04 PM:

Erik @ #52, Now that was good.

I'm not a notebook user, either paper or electronic, but I gotta have my Parker T-Ball Jotter (black ink, medium point).

#56 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 04:26 PM:

I carry a pocket-sized grid Moleskine for jotting things down as the occur to me. I used to use one of those elastic wristbands (a glow-in-the-dark one promoting Supernatural I got as a freebie from someone handing them out on 14th St one day) to hold a pen to it -- they're just the right size, if you wrap the band around the short dimension of the notebook and then slip the pen in along one of the flat sides and drag it over to the spine. But I decided that the extra three seconds or so that this added to opening the notebook and getting the pen out was too long, so I made a pen-holding sleeve out of duct tape and attached it along the spine. Works great. And I mark the cover up with silver Sharpie.

I use the standard, hardcover 192-page Moleskine, without detachable pages.

For longer writing, I tried using a 6" x 8.25" 200-page Miquelrius "leather look" gridded notebook, but it's a bit heavy for carrying around every day with all the rest of my kit. Maybe I'll get a 100-page book and see how that goes. One nice thing about these is that you can wrap the front cover around to that back, and when you unwrap it it'll eventually lie down flat again.

For sketching, I've got a Hand Book Artist Journal. These are come in the same height and width as Moleskines, with more pages, and better paper that takes watercolor readily.

#57 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Hey, it looks like Moleskine will be releasing "extra-large" (7.25" x 9.75") notebooks in their new soft-cover line.

#58 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 04:36 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 52

Yes, with a line background called "Mystic Rule".

#59 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Personally, I like 6" x 9" top-bound steno pads. I've now got an archive of about 4 years worth. [Before that, I had taken a Franklin DayPlanner class, and think their notion of trying to keep all notes in one place is a good one.]

When we were in Italy over the summer, we stopped at Rivoaltus on the Rialto Bridge in Venice, where I bought a handcrafted soft-leather cover that fits over my current volume. [Rivoaltus: an amazing store. I wish they could bottle the scent, a heavenly combination of leather and paper...]

#60 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:09 PM:

For all that I always have at least one, if not three, cheap spiral notebooks around, a lot of my notes end up on yellow and white pads, yellow stickies, napkins, sketch pads, note pads, old prescription receipts, Amazon shipping bills, etc. I've tried hard to maintain some sort of notebook discipline over the years; especially when I was working in a research lab where attribution can be important. For a while I did use bound notebooks, and I love the feel and the look of them, but I just can't keep all the notes in them, or even make sure to get all the notes down.

On the other hand, I discovered Moleskine last year. We were visiting our older son in Louisiana and spent a couple of days sightseeing in New Orleans. We stopped in an upscale stationery store for some cards to send to friends and relatives, and I was lured to the table of Moleskine. I bought one because I loved to look at it, without any idea what I'd use it for. A few months later I started writing poetry, and it was the perfect notebook for drafts and notes. Writing in it feels different from writing on a pad, and that makes poetry a slightly different experience from other kinds of writing. These days I keep the notebook in the backpack I take to work and on trips with me, along with my laptop, my PDA, a sketchbook, and a case of technical drawing pencils.

About PDAs. I have a Newton Messagepad; it's more than ten years old, weighs almost a kilo, the screen is starting to go, the rechargeable battery died last year, and it only has about 10 Megabytes of memory, counting the 8 Meg flash card I put in it. But it recognizes my handwriting* so I don't have to learn a new alphabet, holds several novels and a half-dozen Infocom text adventure games, and an encrypted note application with all my passwords. I'm not replacing it until Apple comes out with a tablet, ultralight notebook, or PDA that I can freehand sketch in and that uses their handwriting recognitions.** If you remember the Dynabook that Alan Kay described in the 70's, that's what I'm waiting for. Even Alan's stopped waiting, I think.

I franky don't care how the paper is ruled††. I'll write on blank notepads and draw on college-ruled. But quad paper is nice when you're doing software architecture or design, or some other kind of diagramming. The cloud style of diagram just never appealed to me; I prefer circles and rectangles.‡

Pens and pencils. I'm not picky about pens, any rolling ball or fibertip is ok as long as the tip is not soft and the shaft is thick enough and soft enough to hold comfortably. But I prefer to use pencils when possible; I always have a 0.7mm mechanical with me†, and there's the Derwent pencil set in my pack, which has leads from 9H to B, that's great for shaded sketches.

* No mean feat.
** The perennial rumors have heated up again, now they're talking about an announcement in January. I hope.
† I'd actually prefer to use a 0.9mm in soft lead like a 1H because I like a thick, creamy line for sketching, but it's difficult to find that size these days.
†† Except for poetry, of course; the Moleskine is lined.
‡ And arrows and notes on the back, like Arlo Guthrie.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:12 PM:

No PDA for me, but a small 3-ring binder, with lots of things scribbled in, lots of things scribbled out, photocopies of documents shrunken down to above illegibility that, when they're too big, I set up to unfold.

#62 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:16 PM:

#52: Tolkien (who appears to have been rather disorganized) used any scrap paper he could get, from his publisher, college, or what have you. Christopher Tolkien often cites this as evidence in dating his father's manuscripts.

#63 ::: J MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:17 PM:

John Chu @ #23, a spiral-bound notebook recently reminded me of that bias. While studying for a university exam, I'd turned to the back of the notebook to write in, but not turned it upside down. Right-hander gets painful lesson in what left-handers already know all too well. (Trying to write this way in a rattletrap of an intercity train did not help either...)


#64 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:24 PM:

It occurs to me to add that one side-effect of my crabbed handwriting is that writing is physically painful -- all the more so if I don't practice -- to the point where I've mostly given up using a pen at all. The longest things I write in day-to-day life are my signature and addresses on envelopes, and a long overseas address can come close to giving me writers cramp. Last time I had to sit a written examination (17 years ago) my left hand was in agony for three days afterwards. Today? I probably couldn't get half way through the paper before bailing on medical grounds.

This may go some way to explaining my addiction to PDAs and subnotebook computers ...

#65 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:28 PM:

All this notebook discussion has caused me to go to my super-secret lab* to prepare for several experiments on getting the spine structure right for my next blank book.

Which is good; I was missing bookbinding. It gets pushed out of the way by real life so easily.

* OK, not very super-secret; it's actually documented on my flickr photostream.

#66 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Charlie @42: Yes, I adore my eee. Mine's white. I figure once it starts getting grubby I'll get some indelible markers and draw all over it. You won't be able to really comprehend how small they are (er, the laptops, I mean, not the markers) until you actually hold one. Tiny and perfect!

#67 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:39 PM:

As I said above, I'm a moleskine user. This thread (and the thought of custom Abi-made notebooks) has led me to think more about how I wish they were different.

I'd like a 2nd ribbon and maybe even a 3rd ribbon; I fill them in mainly front-to-back, but put phone numbers and addresses I expect to need a lot back-to-front, and it would be nice to be able to mark my current spot there too. And then sometimes, after finding a certain previous day's notes, it would be nice to have a ribbon left to mark it as well.

I'd like a way to label both the covers and the spines, but without it being light enough that it looks dirty after being mistreated. I'm not sure how that would work. It would be enough if it could only be labelled after I was done with it; maybe the hardback cover is one-time-detachable when it's full, then you label it and put it on the shelf? Of course, it's important that it not feel flimsy or loose during normal use.

Some way to attach or store a pen would be nice, but again I'm not sure how it would work.

#68 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Erik Nelson @ #48:

re: labelling black Moleskine notebooks: are silver Sharpies insufficient for your needs?

As for my notetaking/pen/pencil practices:

At work, I alternate between steno notepads (which live next to the phone, for any random jotting) and the cheap-ass legal pads that the state buys (for notes on specific cases). However, I buy my own pens, because I am that picky about them (Uniball Signo Gel Sticks, because my pens must *flow* to keep up with my writing, and Pentel 0.5mm mechanicals with extra-hard leads, because I hate smudgy thick pencil).

I carry my Palm TX everywhere, and it suffices for quick jot-down notes; for long note-taking, like at con panels, I have a collapsible wireless keyboard. I used to carry paper organizers of various types, but they were heavy or required constant re-writing of to-do lists or so forth.

Also, the e-books on the TX are a brain-saver.

(At cons and on vacation, though, I carry one of the little Moleskines as a backup.)

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:46 PM:

Todd @67:
I may be able to suggest a few things with regard to ribbons, but I don't have a Moleskine. I need some structural information.

Can you* please describe the spine to me? Does the cover adhere directly to the spine, or is there a gap between the cover and the backs of the pages at the spine?

* or some Moleskine owner

#70 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:53 PM:

K. C. Shaw: I was a Psion addict from about 1992 through 2002 -- I'm still bitter about them chickening out and leaving the PDA business to the idiot-stick vendors in 2001 -- and I've messed with Pocket PC machines with keyboards (ugh) and latterly the Kohjinsha SH series subnotebooks (available from as a grey market import from Japan). The latter are a delight, except their ACPI BIOS doesn't play well with Linux on resume from sleep, and they're about three times the cost of the Eee.

The Eee really does look like the Second Coming of the Psion Series 5 from here (slightly larger, but that's okay -- the Series 5 was never really a shirt-pocket PDA anyway), and unlike the other A5 sized subnotebooks it doesn't cost its own weight in gold.

I have a theory that might be worth expressing here: we are used to thinking of Moore's Law as dictating a doubling of computing power every 15-18 months. But the mirror-image statement of Moore's Law is that the price of computing halves every 15-18 months. Obviously, radical structural deflation does not appeal to the consumer electronics industry, so they have fought back by building more powerful devices to sell to us -- but once the dam breaks, the company who starts halving the price of their gear is going to pick up so many sales to people who couldn't previously justify a laptop that they'll redefine the price point.

I see no essential reason why the price of a basic entry-level notebook computer like the Eee, in 3-5 years' time, shouldn't be on the order of $50-100.

So (to bring this wandering post back on-topic) if you add a flip-over tablet screen and pen input (like the Kohjinsha SH-6 I mentioned earlier), and which doesn't add much to the bill of materials, suddenly puts the debate over Moleskine or ruled 11x8.5" paper in a wholly different light.

#71 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Paper: @ Desk and bench: Staedtler engineering pad (accept no substitutes). @ Backpack/briefcase: Clairefontaine cloth-spine, perfect-bound notebook, 0.5 cm grid, 90 g/m^2 paper, 96 sheets. Opens to what is functionally a piece of A4 paper, suitable for lefties, accepts fountain pen on both sides of the page without bleed.

Pen: I will write with anything Pilot makes, other than the execrable G2. In order of preference: Vanishing Point fountain, Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.3 mm, or various Pilot retractable ballpoints (which have gotten shockingly good and are very inexpensive). Pilot Razor Points are nice, too. Pencil: Pentel Graph 1000, 0.7 mm. I have used a LOT of mechanical pencils. This one is has better grip and balance than any I've ever used, even the Pilots. Just a joy to use.

#72 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 06:37 PM:

Charles Stross @70:I think part of what has kept the price up is an actual demand for ever more computationally powerful devices. If we've gotten to the point where the customer doesn't care because, for example, the least powerful laptop is powerful enough, then prices have to go down. (Or manufacturers have to find something else customers value in order to keep the price up.)

If the Eee takes off, I wonder if it will also do something for the market for really light laptops. It's not like the Eee is the first 2 lb laptop. But it's probably the first one at this price.

BTW, as much as I like my Tablet PC, I also have to admit that Tablet PCs tend to be heavier, thicker, and more expensive than their laptop counterparts. Maybe the rotating hinge is expensive to engineer and adds to device thickness or something. (Well, there's also less demand for Tablet PCs.)

I haven't tried Vista handwriting recognition. (My 3 year old Tablet PC is deemed too wimpy for Vista.) WinXP tablet handwriting recognition is ok, but definitely not good enough that you can take accurate recognition for granted. The pen based note-taking programs let you defer handwriting recognition. That's more useful. (i.e., defer recognition until you have time to fix its mistakes.)

This leads me to the OQO Model 02. It's appealing lots of ways. It fits in a pocket, and replaces my laptop. In particular, it does pen input. It could replace my Moleskine, and save me from having to transcribe. However, it's also really expensive...

#73 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:24 PM:

John @ 72, Charlie @ 70: Is the Eee keyboard large enough for a big-handed adult to use comfortably?

abi @ 69: There's a gap between the spine of the cover and the back edge of the pages; it's not obvious when it's closed, but is when it's fully opened. The pages are folded into groups of 12 (I think -- isn't that normally a power of 2, though?) and sewn together, but with a pretty loose stitch, only 4 holes in each page. The groups of pages (signatures?) are glued (I think) to pieces of heavier end paper, which are in turn glued to something which is attached to the cover. The ribbon is glued flat to the inner edge of the back of the pages. I hope that makes some sense.

Another note on the goodness of the moleskines: the feel of the covers; it's not shiny, so you can't worry about leaving fingerprints, even if you're the kind of person who might worry about that.

#74 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:25 PM:

I use cheap yellow wide-lined glue pads for writing (which includes various bizarre state diagrams as preparation); I've done this for at least 15 years. (Then it has to get transcribed to the computer, but that's another story.) They go well with black Pilot V7 Rollerballs (hi, Janet!), but the glue seems to be cheaper than it used to be, and the latest batch is falling apart before I get the pad filled up.

Back when I had classes to take, I used various combinations of single-, 3- or 5-subject side-bound spirals. I tried to always get narrow-rule, and the notebook wasn't acceptable unless it had pockets, one for each subject, since I tended to accumulate handouts. In those days, I used either a Pilot razor-point or a fountain pen; it was mostly razor-point after I started making little drawings of buildings and pictures for my art history lectures.

I have a 4-year-old Ipaq, which I bought to handle small spreadsheets for contractor accounting, and I tend to take it along on any trip likely to involve a used bookstore, because that's where I keep the magic lists of what series books I have and what I don't. Mostly it's too slow to enter stuff into via the stylus, though. I also keep a couple of ebooks on it, usually something sufficiently old-fashioned from Gutenberg.

#75 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:39 PM:

Todd @73:
Since there's a gap when the book is opened, you're in luck. Here's what you do.

Go to a sewing store/haberdasher's/somewhere that sells cloth (satin) ribbons and pick out two that you like. Narrow ones work best for this, because if they're too wide you have to glue them one atop another and that adds to the thickness. Buy them about 3" longer than the book height.

Get an index card, or something about that thickness. Old business cards work fine. Cut a rectangle about 1/8" narrower than the spine of the book, and maybe an inch long.

Using Elmer's glue or something like it, glue the ribbons to the rectangle, running along the length of it. If they're narrow enough, glue them side by side. Otherwise, stack them.

Wait for the glue to dry. You can wrap the thing in waxed paper (just the ordinary cooking stuff) and dry it under a few heavy books for extra flatness, but it's probably not necessary.

Then just slip the rectangle of card down between the book and its spine, card side toward the book. It shouldn't be thick enough to interfere with the closing of the book (if it is, put the closed book under a few heavy books overnight to give the spine materials time to do whatever stretching they can do.)

Cut the dangling ends of the ribbons at a 45° angle to prevent them unraveling, at whatever length seems most practical and elegant. Use and enjoy.

You can either transfer this assemblage from book to book, or make new ones. It depends how grubby and frayed the ribbons get.

(I learned this trick from a breviary, and mostly use it on Bibles.)

#77 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:46 PM:

Aside from the final page as scratch paper, I've become relatively well-disciplined about filling in my notebooks from front to back.
I even trained myself to put page numbers in the lower-right corner and date the upper-left, so it's not that hard to find things in my archives.

For marking my place, I tend to use binder clips. [I've grown very attached to binder clips.]

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:20 PM:

I used spiral notebooks in school, one per class. For one-term classes, I'd use one that was single-section, 80 or 100 pages. For multi-term classes, I'd use either that kind or get one with more pages (with or without sections). Alway college or narrow ruled, of course.
After a year and a half of calculus-and-analytic geometry, I know really well how to make an isometric drawing on lined paper (use a piece of the same paper as a scale, and hold it so two spaces on the scale cross only one on the drawing page; folding the scale sheet in half and then thirds, and tucking the punched edge inside, makes it sturdier).

Oh yes: I liked Fountain Pentels.

#79 ::: pb ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Todd @73 and abi@75

I ran across this youtube video of someone adding four ribbons to an old moleskine.

It's a slightly different technique than abi's, but a similar idea.

#80 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:59 PM:

#64 ::: Charlie Stross commented:
It occurs to me to add that one side-effect of my crabbed handwriting is that writing is physically painful -- all the more so if I don't practice -- to the point where I've mostly given up using a pen at all.

I've grown accustomed to explaining that the reason I'm typing away on my laptop in a meeting is because I -can't- write, not because I'm sending sardonic notes to people via IM[0].

When I do carry a physical notebook, it's ideally in the half-a-US-letter size form factor, with hard covers, and properly bound. I'm quite fond of the slightly larger ones of a similar nature that have heavy lined paper, and seem to be making a resurgence, finally.
[0] Not that this doesn't occur to me, now and again.

#81 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 12:39 AM:

Quadrille pads are also great for charting knitting patterns. While at the beach last week, I charted out how to do decreases for a moss-stitch beret I'm working on. Yeah, yeah, who charts knitting patterns at the beach? At least I left my knitting at home. Wouldn't want to risk damage to my Addi turbos.

I use cheap composition notebooks, the sort with marble covers and unlined paper, and tab the pages so I can find notes for particular lectures. For quick notes or rip-out-and-give notes, I have a little notebook made by an art school grad student who uses recycled "found" paper for the pages and her prints for the covers (jodigreen on - btw, has loads of handmade notebooks and journals for sale). I look at Moleskines and know I should covet them, but I associate them with a particularly pretentious ex.

#82 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 12:56 AM:

Dawno, #9, I have a Circa planner and it came in very handy when I was the president of the condo board, but now it's languishing in a drawer. I just don't do complicated enough stuff most of the time to need something like that.

I don't have notebooks. My handwriting is illegible to me within a few hours and my hands hurt after a few minutes of writing. The pens I like best for day-to-day are Uniball micros and I have them in lots of colors. I do have a nice fountain pen that I can use, but to write nicely, I have to do a line, wait five minutes, do another, etc., so I don't do that often.

I've been reading about the Eee for a while and asked the WashPost's lead tech reporter to review it. I bought my current laptop, a Mitsubishi Amity (cute, innit? I didn't realize it was 10 years old), for about $500 (including all the upgrades they offered) and it was great for travel for a long time, but it has reached it's tech death level. I've considered wiping what's on there and loading Linux, but it would still be pretty limited because of storage and too many peripherals for broadband.

#83 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 01:00 AM:

Oops, forgot to offer this webpage that offers a batch of downloadable math papers for $2.85. Once you download the .pdf, you can print as much as you want.

#84 ::: Susan Kitchens ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 01:30 AM:

Can we talk about notebooks with the single-spiral binding? Your basic 1-subject wide rule notebook?

It all comes down to the feel -- or tooth -- of the paper. Mead (which I find at Office Depot) is a little rougher than Stockwell (it was once available at Staples. Then Staples put its own brand on the notebooks). I buy 'em in the shrink-wrapped 5 or 6 notebooks to a package set. Stockwell-turned-Staples paper is smoother, and the hand flows across it faster. These are the notebooks I use for "keep your hand moving on the page" writing, so tooth and drag DO make a difference.

More recently, tho, Staples made a slight change to the notebooks. (I don't know how recent, since I buy the notebooks in bulk.) Some accursed Staples/Stockwell product manager got the bright idea to increase the diameter of the spiral coil oh-so-slightly. I swear at that product manager when my hand reaches two-thirds the way across on the back side of pages and crashes against the spiral spine. Now the Stockwell-turned-Staples notebook has been ruined.

#85 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 01:45 PM:

#83 downloadable math papers.
But... won't all those beautiful logarithmic and trig pattern lose precision and beauty when you constraiin them to a digital grid?

(I am reminded of cartoonist Howard Cruse, in his web page, saying he had trouble scanning his old comic strips because he got interference patterns in the Zip-A-Tone. Wouldn't fancy graph papers have similar problems?)

#86 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 06:35 PM:

The PDA is cheerfully referred to as the spare brain, and takes care of remembering addresses and phone numbers, shopping lists, and the like. It's also got good calculator software, and helps me find my way around on strange Metro systems.

I carry a Moleskine, which I use when I need a notebook--if I have more than a couple of sentences to write, or want to do so quickly, which can include a long diary-style entry or "1200 Sixth Avenue, 2:00, ask for Jenny." )The PDA memo pad is full of things when I didn't have a notebook handy.)

I also, at the moment, carry a cheap notebook, I think about 3 by 4 -- that's centimeters -- which Jo gave me. She used them as stocking stuffers last year, because they have gorgeous tropical frogs on the covers. I like it because it fits in my pants pocket, so it's always handy--also useful for those brief notes, and for scribbling a quick recommendation and handing it to someone.

(The Moleskin lives in my daypack, so I don't always have it in easy reach.)

#87 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 07:52 PM:

I have a stack of 8.5" x 11" paper cut into sixteenths and held together by a binder clip, to write my one-off thoughts that I get distracted by when I should be doing something else. (Part of David Allen's GTD system - a constantly-with-you capture device; I don't feel bad about writing on a little slip recycled from somewhere else, then throwing it out.) I carry in my purse a planner (in 2008, I have the RED Moleskine planner, small size), a Moleskine signature to record my school-related thoughts, and a Dover notebook to carry important things to remember, like which issues of the Basara manga I'm missing.

How do you all track lists of books you want to read or might want to read? I'm keeping a list in bookmooch, and another pile of papers stapled together in a binder system I've set up for the aforementioned GTD system, but the list is very long, and I have no idea how to sort, categorize, or prioritize it.

At some point, I want to learn to bookbind, but one of my current major projects is to focus on the school stuff, and I have more than enough hobbies as it is.

#88 ::: John Faughnan ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 08:45 PM:

I wrote paeon to National Brand a while back:

#89 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 09:02 PM:

Erik Nelson, #85, what digital grid?

Nancy C. Mittens #87, I use quartered paper for my weekly lists, but that stack is on my desk. I use Amazon's wishlist for the books I want to read.

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 09:22 PM:

There was a stationer's, where I lived in Texas, that took microperf tractor-feed paper and turned it into small notepads - about 6 per page, 3 high by 2 wide (call it 3.5 by 4 inches), and about 50 sheets at a time. (They were glued along the outside edge of the feed strip.) Nice size pad, good quality paper, cheap, and any place that can make pads can make them.

#91 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 09:42 PM:

For notepads, I've had the best luck with page-a-day calendars. Something funny on one side, and then I stack them up behind the calendar and grab them for whatever is necessary. At one point at the end of college, I taped ten of them together into a scroll, with one page per day of my remaining undergraduate career. There was a lot to keep track of right then.

#92 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 11:09 PM:

I'm very fussy about art materials, but notebooks... usually they're filled so quickly I have to grab new ones from the dollar store. A thick one would be nice, with the aforementioned college ruling. I really don't care if it has a kitten on the cover, or the Transformers.

Thr trouble is indexing, so nowadays I'm trying to write a list of contents on the inside cover as I add them, so that will cut down on trying to page through lots of them to find an idea. Indexing tabs also help, but I'm pretty haphazard in my notetaking, so subjects will switch around a lot before I can add another tab. Adding page numbers might help more.

(my poor previous message got wiped out in the Great Migration)

#93 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Moleskine notebooks are pretty expensive where they're available here. The cheapest type is about $AUD11/12, with the standard versions being in the $AU20-30 range. A quick browse through eBay shows some are cheaper on there, but the shipping to or across Oz tends to nullify the difference.*

I keep a lot of people's details and appointments and reminders on my mobile phone, but have decided to also get a compact address book as backup, as well as my usual teeny pocket diary for scribbling notes, 'cos transferring all the details every year is getting to be a real pain. [What happens to those orbital rotation periods these days? It surely cannot be November already?] I particularly like the ones that have enough space to slide or clip a small pencil or pen into, so a writing implement is always to hand.

One new notebook I saw recently, and might experiment with as a treat for Christmas, was a particular brand (something Lotus?) which had blank pages impressed with lines. This seemed to give the best of both blank and lined pages. I hope the idea spreads, especially since the price of the ones I saw was even higher than Moleskines

* OTOH, many printed books, new or 2nd-hand, are cheap enough to still be cheaper to import with shipping, but I only do this where I haven't been able to find what I'm after in the fairly good sources accessible in Oz.

#94 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 12:11 AM:

* OTOH, many printed books, new or 2nd-hand, are cheap enough to still be cheaper to import with shipping, but I only do this where I haven't been able to find what I'm after in the fairly good sources accessible in Oz.

Particularly as the $AUS flitters towards parity. Soooo ... next time you feel the need to Amazon a few things, top the order up with a couple of Moleskines.

I got one as a present years ago, and the brand has won my undying esteem, not least because they can be flung into my deathtrap of a handbag.

I write with fountain pen (see-through Lamy, for everyday) - the traction of the nib on the paper slows my hand to the point where my writing is very often legible, occasionally even by other people; there are no recorded instances of me writing legibly with a ball-point.

#95 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 07:43 AM:

#1 - the waterproof paper spiral pad used to be available from Lee Valley, although I could not find it this morning. It was positioned as a gardener's sketch pad. That one was without the information parts, of course. They do have a nifty Workshop Pad with accurate inch and metric calibrations.

#29 et al ... One benefit of an employer with a Montreal head office is that I get to visit L'essence du papier in Place Ville Marie occasionally. The other benefit is that it isn't any nearer. Although branch #1 of my bank is right there, I could negotiate a second mortgage...

And, addressing the OP - I preferred a hard-bound notebook for office stuff. (I have, put away, a virgin Bell-Northern Research official lab book with the "read and understood" signature pages. Those were official company records for patent purposes.) I use Blueline, a Canadian brand that's pretty common. I number the pages myself, doing pp i-vi then 1-190, so I have an index space at the front.

I used them at home, too. My oldest is the cooking notebook, same system, started May 1990, and we're on p 139 as of last night's pork tenderloin.

For appointments, it's the Daytimer original format, with the RecordDay™ extended day of 7am to 10pm. I did use the 24-hour one for a while.

All this reminds me I need a new notebook.

#96 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 09:15 AM:

I long for the days when heavier weight paper was easier to come by in notebooks: I hate any paper where an ordinary pen is see-through on the other side. (Pen of preference these days is the Vision Uni-ball, though I keep wanting to make the transition back to using fountain pens.) And I've got a preference for unlined for many uses, too, now that I've finally learned to write in a straight line.

My solution for my regular 'carry around all the time' day planner (classic size: roughly 8.5 x 5.5 inches) was to get 5x8 inch index cards, a three hole punch with moveable punches, and to punch holes in the long side of the card, so they fit in the book.

The result is a nice heavyweight writing surface I find pleasant to write on (and have no worries about bleed-through), cheap enough that I don't regret recopying things if I smudge or cross out, easy to pull old sheets out of, and study enough that filing just requires a suitable index card box. (I keep things like book lists in there, which means archiving is sometimes handy.)

The down side is that it's too big to carry around casually if I don't have a bag with me. Still looking for a solution for that.

#97 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 09:25 AM:

#16, abi -

Unfortunately, one quality of my ideal notebook is "not too nice." Notebooks that are too nice are "special" and I find it nearly impossible to sully them with anything. When I do manage to write in one, I usually limit the subject sharply so that it won't have much scratching-out or junk added, and that limit means I don't write in them much.

Oddly, cost doesn't seem to affect my perception of "nice." I got a nice blank book at the thrift store. It's the sort of thing they sell at Barnes and Noble, so it is middling nice, not super high quality. I got it for two dollars, and I haven't been able to think of a subject 'good enough" for it yet.

My blank books of choice are composition notebooks. They don't qualify as too nice to use, but they're sturdy. They feel more permanent than writing on loose leaf, and as a left-hander I'm allergic to spiral notebooks.

For brain-stretching and thinking out loud on the page, I've been using the back side of used printer paper from work, and I may be hooked on the "no lines" thing, though I'm not sure why.

Obviously I'm not much for paying attention to quality-of-paper.

#18, Velma -
It sounds like you and I do nearly the same thing. I'm a lefty. I write with the paper between 45 degrees and 0 degrees to the edge of the table*. The top of the page is on my left, the bottom of the page is on my right, and I write in a straight line away from my elbow. Spirals are my enemy too. I've found that changing the angle I use at this stage in the game to be utterly impossible. I end up hooking my wrist, angling in my chair, writing with an odd slant and slowly sliding the page back to comfortable. I'd probably be as successful just switching hands.

Speaking more generally, it looks like coping for lefties varies widely. One of the lefties at work writes upside down. The top of her page is nearest her and the bottom away from her, so she effectively writes from right to left. Another does the exact opposite from what I do, turning the page so the top is on her right and the bottom on her left, writing in a near-vertical line that moves toward her. I think this is actually what the textbooks encourage, but I suspect few lefties do it because it means you have to make your downstrokes toward your pinky to get the slant right.

*Or should that be between 305 and 270?

#98 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 09:30 AM:

#96, Jennett

Do you use the cards landscape or portrait? Does using them portrait cause problems with filing in the box?

#99 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 05:20 PM:

OS X people with particular paper and layout needs might like CocoaBooklet, which resizes and repaginates any PDF so you can print it out and fold it yourself. And it is surprisingly easy to sew a couple of signatures together usably, if not aesthetically.

I have been using the same (Handspring Palm) PDA for six or seven years now; possibly because I am one of the three people for whom Graffiti works, esp when compared to writing in right-handed furniture; and definitely because I think of it as a simply adequate input device but incredibly useful output device. To-dos, some set years in advance, with alarms if appropriate, connected to the information needed to complete a task! (I can put droning-mosquito worries onto paper, but my worrier really shuts up when I know that a Beep will occur when I have to do something, and that I can concentrate on what I'm doing until it beeps.) Also, it keeps an actual database for books I mean to look up, and phone numbers for people I thought I'd never have to deal with again. And a table of the elements, with isotope abundance!

On the other hand, the company that made it is out of business, possibly because no-one had to upgrade... the thing is made out of metal and screwed together and has survived fieldwork. I can write on it through a ziploc baggie.

Paper notebooks I like more than I think I would, none of them 'too nice to write in'; Chinatown red-with-black-corners, A4 (lots of room); faint lines; tooth quite nice for pencil, but writing on both sides with fountain pen is just legible. Also, the marble-covered blank notebooks (Mead?) can be got with heavier paper than the lined ones, so they really work with ink.

I usually want lines to be much fainter than they are; I think a grid of pale dots would be perfect for me.

#100 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:30 AM:

#99, clew

I use Graffiti* on my PDA devices as well, and I totally agree with what you say about it being decent for input and very useful for output.

*My last Palm device came with "Graffiti 2" or whatever they actually called it, and I hated it. It is supposed to be "more intuitive" but that seems to me to be only true if you're not left-handed. I'd already taught myself one non-intuitive alphabet and saw no reason to bother teaching myself another, so I installed a program to revert it to original Graffiti.

#101 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 70

I'm still a Psion addict. "Brain 2" goes practically everywhere with me. People look sideways at the grey screen, and the size (compared with e.g. a Blackberry). Then I mention that the batteries last about a month, and they look suddenly more interested.

I can type on it, just like on my laptop (or very nearly), as well as it being a jotter, address book, diary, book database, time zones & country/city codes source, and I can read e-books on it - and it's a lot easier to carry around than my (15.4 inch screen) laptop.

My biggest problem is switching back to my laptop and trying to move around by touching the screen...

#102 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2007, 09:02 AM:

Re: #17 A laptop computer is very nice, but low-tech, analog, word-processing technology still has its points.

It's still much lighter, cheaper and tougher than a computer.

It's much less attractive to thieves.

It doesn't require a power source.

It is compatible with a wide variety of tech-level equivalent read/write technologies.

With proper input there is much less eyestrain than reading equivalent-sized font on a computer screen (especially a small screen, much less a PDA).

And, best of all, for a minimal increase in price the data files are archival grade, will last for centuries, and can be easily digitized so that they are compatible with any current or foreseeable future data format.

That said, I too am a sinister person who hooks my hand over the top as I write. For this reason, I share your dislike of any right-hand side spiral bound notebook. If forced to use such things, I render them user friendly by TURNING THEM OVER and writing from the back of the book to the front. For legal tablets, I just turn them upside down.

Given my druthers, I go for a 3-ring binder and college-ruled loose-leaf paper or quadrille-ruled engineering paper. It's cheap and I avoid cramping by just pulling out a few sheets at a time so I don't have to rest my wrist on the binding.

As for keeping extraneous papers, with a 3-hole punch, or even a rubber band, any piece of paper can be incorporated into the binder.

#103 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 12:19 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers):

You do realize that if you either join up at or go through the archives there you'll find answers to every one of the problems your Newton is having, don't you?

#104 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 12:34 AM:

R. M. Koske #100 My last Palm device came with "Graffiti 2" or whatever they actually called it, and I hated it. It is supposed to be "more intuitive"

I expect Palm actually agreed with you -- Graffiti was their original product, after all, predating the Palm PDA itself -- and they only switched to Graffiti 2 (a licensed version of CIC's Graffiti competitor, "Jot") after losing a multi-year legal battle with Xerox. I always took the "more intuitive" claim as the best face their marketing department could put on a situation everyone involved despised.

#105 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:50 AM:

Looks like the EEE is doing well here. My local paper says:

Taiwan computer maker Asus might have underestimated the local demand for its diminutive Eee PC, as the $499 laptop is now virtually sold out in Australia. The Eee PC went on sale exclusively in Myer stores nationwide on Sunday and by close of business on Monday all the capital city stores were sold out.
"We've had a lot of schools coming in making multiple purchases." said Neil Merola, electrical products business manager. "What we've also found in the first five days is it hasn't impacted at all on our Apple or Toshiba or Hewlett-Packard sales, at far higher price points. ... Certainly with the Labor Government and the means-tested rebate for PCs, we're seeing that the whole category is going to further ignite ..."
BTW, checking in the Pitt Street Mall Borders bookstore for a Steve Brust work I hadn't found elsewhere, I found a few soberly attractive 'journals' on special for $5.95, perfect bound, about 4" x 5" x 3/8" or slightly smaller, lined on the obverse and blank on the reverse (yes!), and grabbed a couple. (The queueueueueue for the main desk was a good 50m/yards long, so, on my way to a doctor's appointment, I went for the cash-only back desk with only 2 people waiting. This entailed dragging out the last of my spare notes in rather ragged condition and a heap of assorted coins. Raised eyebrows all round. After all that, the wait at the doctors' meant the visit took 2.5-3 hours for a 20-30 minute consultation & test. At least I could caress my lovely new textured covers & clean pages while there.

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