Hiatus and Return

Remarkable how much time has passed since my last blog entry; the reasons for the lapse were severalfold, including life simply getting in the way. So once again I pick up this blog and take a few tentative steps to see the Muse of paper and ink comes forth to sustain this endeavor. 

Interesting really to look back at previous entries, those enthusiastic, yet largely cringeworthy accounts of early dabbling with paper and pens and see how my interests have since evolved. Much changed over the ensuing years, but there remain a few constants such as my habit of near-microscopic penmanship and my enduring, almost visceral, dislike of Moleskine.   

Two evolutions of note are the discovery of Hobinichi Techos in late 2015, which have since become my go-to books for nearly all of my journaling/diary keeping needs. I could (and probably will) write volumes about the wonders of Hobonichi and that glorious Tomoe River paper. 

The second and perhaps more exciting of the evolutions has been that FINALLY after all these years…..

*dramatic pause*

….I’ve fallen headlong into the wonderful world of fountain pens. This has been the most intriguing and rewarding of endeavors and quite the departure from my initial assessment. Years ago I wrote of my early frustrations with fountain pens and how I was unable to find nibs small enough to be compatible with my penmanship, which relegated me to being a bitter spectator on the sidelines. But with research, experimentation, and practice, I’m now deeply immersed in the fountain pen and ink thing and am greatly enjoying the experience. Nearly all of my fountain pens are Japanese, with most having EF nibs, with a couple F thrown in for good measure. But such are topics for another time.

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Planner Review: ABP1

I currently use three different planners- two for my personal life and one for work. Today I’m going to offer a review of my work planner- the gorgeous yet practical ABP1 made by Quo Vadis. I’ve used an ABP1 as my work journal the last two years and have found it well-suited to my needs. With its pleasing, clean layout and high degree of functionality, the ABP1 will be my work planner choice for years to come.

The ABP1 is a daily planner that measures 5 1/4″ by 8 1/4″ – large enough to be useful, yet compact enough to be portable. The planner boasts smooth 64g white paper which is a delight to use. And as with almost all Quo Vadis planners, the ABP1 has a sewn binding that lays flat when open- which is essential. Sections in the planner include a personal information page, annual planning calendars, a slew of maps, and an address section at the back. The volume has a nice heft and balance and feels right in the hand.

The Quo Vadis ABP1
The Quo Vadis ABP1

 

 

Anno planning calendar
Anno planning calendar

 

Page layout of the ABP1
Absolutely gorgeous page layout of the ABP1

Now lets take a tour of the daily planner page itself. As I’ve said before, the layout is clean and aesthetically  pleasing and, most importantly, very practical, perhaps the most useful layout I’ve encountered in a planner (and over the years I’ve tried many a planner format). As you can see in the image above, the page is divided into three main sections- a narrow timed column to the left, with a larger open format notes section comprising most of the page. A smaller notes/email section appears at the bottom of the page along with small monthly calendars. Line width I’ve measured to be approximately 5mm, which I find to be nearly perfect. And if you look closely, you’ll see that the bottom corners of each page are perforated- simply tear away the corners to mark you place as you progress though the year.  While I wasn’t particularly fond of the tear-away corners at first, I’ve grown to appreciate their utility over the ribbon bookmark found in some planners lines, which, at least in my case, becomes a delicious temptation for the cats whenever my back is turned.

An example of how I use the ABP1- a useful combination of timed schedule and notes sections.
An example of how I use the ABP1- a useful combination of timed schedule and notes sections.

Above is a shot of the ABP1  in action. Again, very practical with appointments and other scheduled events appearing in the timed column to the left and general notations about key events of the day appearing in the generous notes section to the right. One of the nice things about the timed column to the left is the extended range of hours. Perfect for weary souls such as myself who report to work early and often stay well into the evening.

The only drawback of the ABP1 (albeit a minor one) is the absence of large monthly calendars, which would be a useful inclusion when a broader planning view is needed such as occurs with project management. While this would be a nice addition, it’s not essential and doesn’t detract at all from an otherwise excellent planner.

 

 

Catching Up

Remarable just how quickly time passed since my last real blog post. In terms of notebooks and pens and planners, I have been far from idle the last two and a half years.  If anything this period has been a golden age of experimentation- a time of hope and disappointment; a time of paper cuts and inky fingers. I’ve tried new notebook brands and paper styles and found some workable and others…. well, not so much. I’ve continued my quest for the best of the micro-point gel pens and again picked up a fountain pen after many years away. I culled through a variety of planner styles and settled on two I’ve since placed high in the pantheon of what a planner should be. And, finally, during the time away from the blog, I fell in and out of love with Moleskine. Twice. Each time I was drawn by the ideal and driven away by the reality of cheap ass dreadful paper. The last breakup with Moleskine was different. It has about it a sense of permanence; a feeling that I’m just….over that brand, that annoying and deep chasm between expectation and reality.

So when it comes to pen and paper, what am I using now?

  • For notebooks and pads I’m mostly using Rhodia
  • I’ve become quite fond of dot grid paper which has become my paper of choice when it’s an option.
  • For planers, I’m using Quo Vadis: a Hebdo weekly for personal use and an ABP1 for work. The latter is among the best. planners. ever. made. And will likely be the subject of my next product review.

Site Update

Hi all. Just wanted to provide a quick update on this blog. After a lengthy hiatus, we’re again moving forward with Fine Points and hope to resume somewhat regularish posting in the coming weeks. A few changes to blog form and fuction are also in process. First up has been a reformatting and streamlining of the site to facilitate ease of posting and navigation. A few changes in content are also in development, though these will come further down the road. The first order of business is dusting off the blog and getting it back online. Feedback is welcome as we again move forward. 

Review: Pentel Slicci .25

In terms of micro-fine point pens, the Pentel Slicci .25 ranks consistently among my Three Jewels, one of my favorite “go to” pens that receives a lot of writing time. While the Uniball Signo Bit .18 is my favorite of all time (see earlier review), Pentel Sliccis rank either second or third, competing with another Uniball product (the Signo DX .28s) for the coveted silver or bronze.

Overall, the Pentel Slicci (.25 tip) is a solid and reliable pen and I think one would do well to have a couple of these in their pen arsenal. It is well-balanced and very lightweight, which makes writing with one a pleasure. Despite their weight, Sliccis are nicely durable. I always make it a habit, and count source of pride, to accidentally drop my pens immediately after putting them into use and even after a few such mishaps Sliccis have thus far emerged unscathed. Their durability (plus light weight) make them a great pen to carry along on travels.

Pentel Slicci .25 (black ink) and a Quo Vadis Habana notebook

While the .25 line width isn’t as narrow as some other pens I’ve used, it’s nonetheless adequate for my tiny handwriting. And with variation in pressure once can achieve a subtle, yet noticeable contrast between thick and thin lines, which is always a pleasure for those envious of the English Round Hand style of script.

One of the nice things about the Pentel Slicci .25 line is the selection of ink colors. To date I’ve tried blue, black, blue/black and brown and have been duly impressed with color quality. Vibrancy is especially apparent with blue as well as black. I’m looking forward to experimenting with some additional colors in the near future.

The only somewhat negative element of Pentel Slicci .25s that I’ve encountered is the occasional inconsistency with ink flow. Every so often ink flow will reduce almost to the point of stopping, which of course creates problems, especially if you’re frantically trying to catch a fleeting though before it is forever lost. I suspect this may have something to do with formulation of different color inks; it’s a problem I’ve encountered with blue ink, but not with any of the other colors tried to date.

The occasional ink flow issue notwithstanding, Pentel Slicci .25s are delightful writing instruments worthy of a place in the pen cases (or for the nerds out there: the slot of honor in shirt pockets) of anyone having a use for micro-fine point pens.

Frustration of Fountain Pens

In terms of writing instruments, the greatest source of frustration for me comes from fountain pens. While I enjoy experimenting with different ink brands and colors and likewise find appealing the smooth glide of a good fountain pen on quality paper,  I nonetheless find the overall fountain pen experience disagreeable due to one important factor: even with the finest nib size, I am forced to write much larger than what feels natural for me and as a consequence the quality of my penmanship goes to hell in a hand basket. Or in this case, an ink bottle. I have found that old steel-nib dip pens are more conducive for my style of handwriting than any fountain pen I’ve tried to date. Of course dip pens are about as impractical as one can get in terms of writing instruments.

Perhaps I just haven’t found the correct fountain pen yet. I recall reading somewhere that, as a rule, Japanese fountain pens have finer nibs that European or American products. Perhaps I should give an extra-fine point Japanese model a try (am open to suggestions!). Or perhaps I haven’t stuck with the fountain pen thing long enough to acquire the skill needed to write with the exactness I’ve grown accustomed to using .28 and .18 gel pens.

While I am intrigued by the world of fountain pens and bottled inks, I disappointedly remain on the sidelines, a mere spectator of new inks and “fountain pen friendly” paper, wishing that someone would develop a “tiny handwriting friendly fountain pen.”

Space 24: Health and Fitness Journal

Weight is something I’ve struggled with on and off for most of my life. Over the years I’ve ranged from Jabba the Hutt proportions (high school) to lean and lanky (late 1990s and again from 2006-2009). Apart from these somewhat extreme phases my weight tends to fluctuate anywhere from ten to 20 pounds (or more), depending on two factors: diet and exercise, or the lack thereof. Most of 2011 and 2012 fell well within the “lack thereof” category.

Back in November I decided that dropping the extra pounds was going to be a priority, so I began paying closer attention to my diet and returned to the gym after an absence of nearly three years (though all the while I still paid my monthly membership, you know, just in case…). Building on the modest successes of last November and December, I began at the start of the year a project notebook dedicated to health and fitness. For this endeavor I chose a Space 24 weekly journal by Exacompta which has fit well the specific needs of this journal format.

The photo below captures the essence of the endeavor: for each day the column on the left serves as the “food diary” with the corresponding column to the right serving as “fitness diary”, including gym visits (and what was done), and other physical activity such as walking. Weekly weight goals (and actual weight) are also recorded. The blank page to the right provides ample room for an analysis of the week. What worked for me this week? What didn’t? What should I focus on the coming week?

space 24 2

I tend to be a visual person and one aspect I rather like about the Space 24 are the monthly calendars near the front of the volume where I can capture gym visits and physical activity (see featured image above).

Oh…and a fun note about the food diary: I have found that writing down what I eat each day is a GREAT deterrent from eating something I shouldn’t.

The health and fitness journal is not nearly as much work as one might suspect once you develop the habit of taking a few moments here and there to record this and that. The rewards are certainly worth the effort, not only for the present time, but in the future should I begin slipping towards a position where such a struggle again becomes necessary.