Byline, Meet Front Page

Byline, Meet Front Page

The inside of Field Notes' new "Front Page" reporter's notebook.
The colors are a little different, but the awesomeness is the same.

Field Notes just turned their wonderful Byline Quarterly Edition into a permanent edition named “Front Page“.

I’m genuinely excited about this. I have four Byline notebooks from my Field Notes subscription, and they have rapidly become indespensible to me. The reporter’s notebooks work so nicely in so many ways. The fact that they lay flat and stay open means they’re far more useful for presenting out of than regular memo books. I’ve used them for lessons and talks a number of times now, and they are my go-to way to take notes in meetings. So I was sad knowing that my dependence on the Byline books would come to an end. Now I know that it’ll just switch from serious blue covers to serious gray ones, and I can live with that.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

or: My Descent into Fandom

“Wait, the first episode is about shop-window dummies coming to life and terrorizing London? Okay, I’ll watch that.”

And that, dear friends, was the beginning of the end.

For most of my life I’ve avoided two things: being a “fan” of anything, and Doctor Who.

(Okay and a bunch of other things as well like spiders and getting murdered, but those are outside the scope of this essay. Sheesh.)

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The Babysitter Test

The Babysitter Test

While it’s obviously not the only criterion I would use, one simple thought experiment I do when considering presidential candidates is what I call “The Babysitter Test.” It’s quite simple: would I allow the president or candidate to babysit my kids?

Looking back, the score stands like this:

  • Every Republican President Since I Was Born: only if Nancy, Barbara or Laura were there to actually take care of the kids.
  • Bill Clinton: Hahaha nope! Maybe Chelsea. But still, probably nope.
  • Barack Obama: Sure. Especially if Michelle and the girls were there. The kids would have a great time.
  • Hillary Clinton: Probably not. She would just dump the kids on a Secret Service guy and leave.
  • Donald Trump: No. No chance. Never. Even though I never have and probably never will meet him, I’m still considering getting a restraining order against him, just in case.

It baffles me how people seem to think that voting for a terrible man like Trump will somehow lead to good nominations for supreme court justices. This is, by the way, the only excuse I’ve heard intelligent people use to justify their possible votes for the guy.

By the way, this post should not be taken as endorsement for Hillary Clinton, either. There are other options. My advice this year is Vote Weird. Find a third party candidate you like, or that you dislike less than the leading two, and vote for them.

I’m glad we had this little talk.

Field Notes: Remember it Now

Field Notes: Remember it Now

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I really, really wanted to start this off with a quote. I should have written it down.

The quote I half remember is from Anne Lamott, and I think it was on twitter. But I can’t find it. The gist of it was:

Always carry a paper and pen with you to capture ideas. The Gods of Inspiration do not honor cell phones.

If you find the original please let me know. Anyway it stuck with me because at the time I was all about taking notes on my cell phone. Or rather, trying to take notes on my cell phone. You know the drill: you get your phone out, unlock it, see that you have two new emails (or Facebook messages or texts…) check those, close that app, forget why you got your phone out in the first place, and go on with your day.

And after a while I started to realize how many good ideas I was losing in this process. The thing that held me back longer was my handwriting. It’s terrible. But guess what? After a while you realize that you can deal with bad handwriting, it’s much harder to deal with forgetting things entirely.

And thus began my quest for the perfect notebook. A repository for all my ideas. A dreamcatcher for waking dreams. A garden for blooming thoughts. Or, you know, something with pages I can write on.

I tried a number of things starting with standard comp books (way too big) to hardcover notebooks (also too big and uncomfortable in your pocket) to cheap spiral bound memo books (fall apart quickly in your pocket) and was basically ready to give up.

And then I discovered Field Notes.

There are a lot of people who make notebooks. But Field Notes puts a little something extra into their lovely notebooks. Starting with their base “Kraft cover” notebooks you get a sense that these are people who take what they do seriously. Check out the inside back cover, and you’ll see everything about how the notebook you’re holding is made. Who printed it, what machine was used to bind it, the exact ink colors used on the cover and the insides (“Dachshund Nose” black on the cover and “Double Knee Duck Canvas” light brown on the pages). They have an addiction to the Futura font, which I also love. Everything is sourced, printed, and manufactured locally. They remind over and over that you’re “not writing it down to remember it later, [you’re] writing it down to remember it now”.

But as nice as that is, it’s not what makes it. Good paper is nice, good build quality is important. But neither is a call for brand loyalty.

And then they came out with the Byline edition. A flip cover Reporter’s notebook straight out of the 1920s. Smooth, classy vellum pages. A little faux-newspaper included with every notebook. Okay, now I’m sold. This is something new, weird, classy, and unique.

And I started looking at all their “quarterly editions”, and I noticed these were words that applied to the whole range. They’ve got waterproof notebooks. They’ve got notebooks where the outside cover is the color of a leaf and the inside cover is the color of that leaf in the fall. Notebooks that change color in the sunlight. Notebooks that have actual cherry wood veneer on the cover. And most recently (as in, I’m writing this on the day this came out) notebooks where the cover has a cut-out showing the moon, and each of the three books in the pack has a different cutout (full, half and quarter). Like I said, new, weird, classy and unique. I started a quarterly subscription with Byline, and haven’t regretted it at all.

I’ve been using Field Note books for pretty much everything lately. Having a small notebook in my back pocket means I’m not as worried about forgetting things; I just pull it out, write things down, and go on with my day. Kind of like how a notebook is meant to work. they hold up well, the paper is top notch and doesn’t bleed through, and the notebooks are still in great shape when you’re done with them.

A notebook I’ve been working in is a great place to look for inspiration when I’m stuck. But I’ve also been surprised at the number of times I’ve been trawling my notebook for ideas and discovered that I’ve already implemented a bunch of the ideas in there. A number of new stories or work projects have gone from a passing notion recorded in a Field Notes book, migrated to Evernote and then to a work project or Monday Story without me consciously processing it. Turns out having a memo book at all times really does help me “remember it now”.

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Four years ago I set out with the lofty goal of migrating away from WordPress to the heady, nerdy world of Jekyll. And then I realized that as much as I love doing everything command-line style it was actually slowing me down quite a bit. So now I’m moving back to something that actually, you know, works.

I’ve got a blog for short fiction over at Monday Stories. And I’ve got my books. And even a Tumblr. But I’ve been realizing that I don’t have a nice place to ramble like a crazy ol’ grampa. So I’m bringing this blog back out of the mothballs.

IT’s good to see you again. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday in May

Saturday in May

So look; Nobody wants to go out and mow the lawn. It’s not on anybody’s list of fun things to do with an afternoon. But your wife took the older kids to Scout-o-Rama, so it’s just you, the three-year-old and the baby, and they’re both asleep or busy and you feel like a dolt just sitting around doing nothing.

So you go outside and try to get the lawnmower started up and then remember to put gas in it and drag it out front and fire that puppy up and pretty soon your lawn is clean and short and has those lines in it that say you’re a responsible home owner instead of some punk kid who somehow managed to buy a house and doesn’t deserve it at all, not that you ever feel that way. Nope.

But you’re not done yet. Pop open the garage door and grab that new cordless trimmer/edger thing. Grab a battery pack off the shelf and slide it into place with a sweet click like you just jacked a fresh clip into your 9mm, because you’re about to go all Dirty Harry on those blades of grass that defied your mower. Three minutes later the fence line is clear and you do that twisty thing with the edger, flip it over and start shaving the lawn along the curb, trimming that line so straight you could use it as an example for boot camp barbers, but your edger is starting to lose its zest for life.

No problem. You’ve got four battery packs for this thing. Click, slide, click and suddenly that sucker is off to the races, sounding like the angriest metal hornet ever forged. You clean up all the curbing around the flower beds, then go in the house, grab a bottle of milk from the fridge and get it warming up, because not only are you the manliest dang weekend warrior on the block, but you are sensitive and nurturing as crap and you’re going to spend some quality time with your newborn as soon as you get all the rogue grass around the newly planted peach tree cut down to size.

Here comes the cool part, slide that battery pack out of the edger, slap it into the blower. Turnaround time: 5 seconds. Two minutes later your sidewalks and driveway are clean enough to do surgery on. You got your lawn looking good and looked good doing it. And with a lawn like that you don’t worry so much about those last ten pounds you haven’t been able to lose or their 40 good friends. Now it’s back in the house to give that baby a bottle and make sure he’s clean, happy and dry before your wife gets home.

Baby’s not awake yet, so you go get some laundry in, because real men wash they own clothes, dog. Baby wakes up just as you finish putting all the clean laundry away, so time to sit down on the couch, prop your iPad up on its sweet lime green case/stand thing and watch some Phineas and Ferb while you feed your new son, because not only are you extra manly and super sensitive, but you’ve got a whimsical streak a mile wide and people like that about you.

Later that night you’ll install a new doorknob on the shed because you’re handy like that, but for now just pay attention to your son and the animated antics of overachieving preteens. Not bad, kid. Not bad.