Midori Traveler’s Notebook

(Flickr set)

I have recently received a Midori Traveler’s Notebook, ordered from TheJournalShop. (Please note: “traveller” should have two “l”s in Proper English, but their advertising has it spelled with one. I may randomly switch between the two.)

What is this thing?

The Midori is halfway between a standard journal and a “system” such as Filofax. It’s really a very simple “system”. The basic part of it is a leather cover, with some elastic to hold refills into it with, and some more elastic to hold the journal closed. There are two pieces of refill elastic, so each book can hold at least two refills, in fact more if you care to fiddle about, though that would probably make it too fat. Two refills should be enough for anyone.

As well as the basic journal cover, there are a number of different refills available for it – it comes with a basic plain paper one, but there are squared books, lined books, sketch paper, extra-thin paper, calendars, zip pockets and others. In addition it would be quite simple to manufacture your own custom refills, since they are very simple in structure and don’t need, for instance, any sort of special punch.

The pages are A5 in height but less than that in width – the dimensions are 110x210mm, as opposed to A5 which is 148x210mm or thereabouts. The leather cover is thick and durable but not stiff.

First impressions

The thing is packaged very nicely, in a card box sealed with elastic, which is useful afterwards to store refills in (plus points there). I confess that when I unwrapped it and took it out, after the first sniff of the leather had worn off, I thought “is this it? Have I really just spent £30 on what’s basically a bit of flappy leather with some elastic? Have I really gone off the deep end here?”

It didn’t take very long for me to change my mind though.

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The Pilot Pluminix

I recently ordered a new OHTO Tasche from Cult Pens, and while I was there, thought that I could possibly stretch to splashing out an extra £4.50 on a Pilot Pluminix pen.

“That is a cute little pen,” I thought, “and I am trying out compact pens to see which ones I prefer so this is worth a go, and I don’t have any italic pens apart from a 1.1mm Lamy nib which is too wide for general use, and also I have a hundred or so short international cartridges which I’m not using and which I should put to some purpose.”

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How small can one write, anyway?

This morning I received a brand new Pilot Decimo Capless, with an F nib. I was aware that the Japanese do tend to produce nibs with much finer grades than the European equivalent, but in this case I was really quite surprised; this is easily the finest fountain pen I have used, and in fact is as fine as a Pilot 0.1 drawing pen that I had on my desk.

I will write a proper pen review at some point, probably after I receive the M nib section that I have ordered, but for now j wondered just how many lines I could get onto a page. Here I am using a slightly diluted Noodlers Bulletproof Black on Rhodia paper – I might be able to get more lines in with a drier ink.

Cillit Bang vs ink

Inspired by a post on FountainPenNetwork where somebody had exposed a number of different inks to not only water, but bleach, I decided to do something similar with a selection of the black inks that I possess (and also Noodler’s El Lawrence, which is “dirty pond algae” coloured rather than black) some of which claimed to be “archival”, “bulletproof” and similarly impressive things. Would they turn out to flee at the hint of strong alkalis? To test, I wrote the same things on two sides of a piece of paper, cut the paper in half, put one half in the sink and sprayed it repeatedly with Cillit Bang over a period of fifteen or twenty minutes.

Bang! And the ink… well, in general, was not gone, really. Waterman Black and Viva black, neither of which claim to be unusually permanent, were affected. The Waterman Black faded quite a lot and turned blue; it does this when exposed to water as well, though less than that. It has not vanished but has definitely moved from “readable” to “possibly decipherable”.

The Viva ink I bought in a pack of fifty short international cartridges from a branch of Rymans, for just over a pound. It is made in Slovenia by a company called Vivapen, and is actually really good ink – nice dense colour to it, as you can see quite permanent, and for just over 2p a cartridge one can’t go wrong. (I have a suspicion that they make ink for other companies as well which is rebranded.) It just turned green and faded a bit – more durable than the Waterman certainly.

The others really didn’t care in the slightest about being bleached. The two Noodler’s inks at the bottom were ever so slightly paler at the end; the Sharpie marker had spread slightly on the paper; the Sailor Kiwa-Guro “nanocarbon” ink was entirely unaffected. Also note that whatever ink they use to mark the grid on Rhodia pads also didn’t care.

In fact, really, this was one of the more boring experiments that I have done. Sorry. The only thing that’s been learnt here is that Waterman Black is not bulletproof but doesn’t claim to be, and that a Slovenian ink that you’ve likely never heard of is quite durable. Next time I will try concentrated sulphuric acid or a laser or exposure to Martian polar winds.

Jinhao “Long March” fountain pen

After hearing about some outrageously decorated pens by the Chinese company Jinhao, available for basically buttons and of good quality, I decided that I had to at least try one. Nothing actually with dragons with gemstones for eyes around the cap or anything like that, but something reasonably subdued. There are several people selling Jinhao pens on eBay, and many, many models – in the end I settled on the one below, a commemorative model of the “Long March” in a display box for £22.68 from the “Go To School” eBay shop. Including shipping from Hong Kong. That is really not a lot of money for a posh pen.

Most of the “commemorative” models appear to be pretty much the same pen, with different styling; there are assorted ones of years, and historical emperors and scientists and so on. I picked the above as it had only two colours and no swirls, gemstones etc, unlike most commemorative models, but was still reasonable showy. It took two weeks from the time of purchase to arrive, which seems quite fair for something coming by regular post from the other side of the world – I’ve had packages take longer than that to arrive from the US.

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Tags, contexts and multidimensional space

Those of you familiar with GTD will know that one important concept in the system is that of contexts. (For those yet unpolluted, GTD is a task management system, and the context of a task is the situation in which one can do it – so tasks in the context “home” are ones which can only be done at home. This saves having to sort through lots of tasks that you cannot do because you are on a train or halfway up Everest. Contexts can be almost anything; they may involve the tools one has at hand or the mood one is in.)

“Contexts” is a very sensible idea, and something that is worth keeping even if one isn’t actually practicing doctrinaire GTD. Traditionally there are just single contexts, home, office, phone, but much GTD related software (for instance Omnifocus) allows contexts to be nested, so that “errand” might contain “chemist”, “supermarket” and “gun shop”, allowing one to easily see a full list of all things that might be done while one is out but not be bothered by needing to buy fishfingers whilst browsing revolvers. Most of any task management system is narrowing down what one has to do so that it does not appear so overwhelming, after all.

This corresponds fairly well with the standard computer idea of nested folders. Some software (e.g. Taskpaper) instead uses tags, which should be quite familiar by now as well. One advantage of tags is that one can assign more than one tag to an item. If my local gun merchant actually did sell fishfingers as well, I could tag the “buy fishfingers” task with “supermarket” and “gun shop” and see it in either list, but would not see it when at the chemist. This is not possible with the Omnifocus sort of nested contexts.

I was considering today the program Things, and why I still end up preferring to use it over other alternatives despite some shortcomings, and one reason that occurred to me was that it did both. Things has tags, but those tags can be hierarchical. This enables me to place my tasks within an arbitrarily defined multidimensional Context Space. Top level tags in Things are generally treated as a category name, and the second plus level tags within them as values for that – so I can then rate my tasks by, say, place, urgency, time required and client. Perhaps I am thinking “what do I need to do urgently for MI5 while I’m at the supermarket? It has to be quick though, I have to catch the last bus home”. Clearly a system which can tell me that I need to plant a recording device in the frozen food section, and that task would also just appear in a list of “things I need to do when I’m out”, has advantages.