The Merlot Incident at Tomoe River

It started with a question. “How does Tomoe River paper handle wine?” she asked.

Not beer? I thought to myself, as she’d written an entire book on the subject, but perhaps that meant she’d already splashed a frothy brew across pristine sheets sometime in her past. Her book was titled “Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know,” after all.

But she asked about wine and Tomoe River paper, and I happen to have both, plus a willingness to make sacrifices for science.

For this experiment, I chose an unremarkable Merlot from a country that shall not be named. It would be a sin to waste good Bulgarian wine, and in my time here in Bulgaria, I’ve yet to encounter a bad one.

Wine in glass, I opened my Hobonichi Techo, which is filled with sweet, sweet Tomoe River paper, and applied the wine by dripping it onto the page. I apologize in advance for not having a control in the form of wine on a different paper. I’m a penster, not a scientist.

Upon application, the wine pooled on the surface of the paper in dark red blots. Dry time was very long, approximately 24 hours, but during the drying process, the color changed to a lovely dusky purple. There is some shading, but no sheen.

Closer examination reveals absolutely no feathering.

On the reverse side of the page, there is quite a bit of showthrough but zero bleedthrough. Some wrinkling is also present within the larger wine blots. The qualities that Tomoe River paper is known for appear to hold true with wine as well as ink.

Tomoe River paper truly is a marvel. Now go forth and pour yourself a glass of wine or several, and worry not about spilling your thoughts — or your wine — out on the page.

Kinda Sorta Bujo-in’ With a Hobonichi Weeks

No, not one of those pretty, pretty bujos with the frilly flowers and brush lettering and stuff, because I can’t draw and all of my journal flatlays turn out like this:

Yes, that’s a mug full of wine because THAT’S HOW I ROLL.

(Also: please contribute donations to my campaign to help those afflicted with Instagram Wristlessness. As you can see, I contracted this condition myself after browsing through the #bujo tag for two minutes.)

My goodness, this wine is delightful. Darlings, you simply haven’t lived until you’ve come to Bulgaria and tried their homemade vino. Seriously, everyone’s father, uncle, grandfather, great-uncle, grandpappy, etc. has at least a few barrels down in the basement. And all of it is TASTY. Trust me: I’m from Oregon, the land of pinot noir and snobbery.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I was about to tell you how I keep a bujo for work.

I started using this Hobonichi Weeks back in mid-December to keep track of work to-dos, but it took a couple of months for me to settle in and get comfortable. The result is a hybrid system that mashes up the seven-day spreads in the Weeks with Ryder Carroll’s version of the Bullet Journal system.

The first week shows the , ×, and > bullets from the Bullet Journal system in use. I also highlighted time-specific events like meetings with a fluorescent pencil.

By mid-January, I’d ditched the colored pencil, which streamlined the utensils I needed for planning down to a single multipen with blue and red ink. Events and other important bits are written in red, everything else is in blue.

The bullet system is simple:

  • To-do items have a bullet.
  • If a to-do item must be done on a certain day, I write it on that day. If not, I just write it in the current day.
  • When I finish a to-do item, I × it out.
  • Time sensitive events have a bullet and are written in red.

Every Monday morning, I migrate all the tasks I haven’t completed by marking them with > and copying them into the new week.

One of the things that always annoyed me about analogue planners is handling tentative items, like a task or event that hasn’t been finalized yet. I don’t like having crossed-out items or eraser smudges all over the place. This time around, I’ve been using post-it notes to keep track of items on the days they might occur. Once finalized, I remove the post-it note and write the item down in ink.

Of course, I still have the occasional cancelled task or meeting, but using post-it notes has reduced the number of crossed-out items considerably.

As a computer sysadmin/programmer/jack-of-all-trades, most of my big projects are tracked in an online ticketing system. I don’t usually bother copying those items into my planner. Instead, it’s been useful for tracking the smaller things that can sometimes slip through the cracks of the workday.

My work planner isn’t pretty, but it’s simple and it works for me. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s 5:30pm in Bulgaria and I think I’ll have another mug of wine.

In Praise of Boring Ink

Pen. Paper. Ink. These three things come together to form the experience of writing with a fountain pen. While I’ve made my pen and paper preferences well known on this blog, I haven’t written much about ink, and the reason I haven’t written much about ink is because all the inks I love are boring.

Sure, I dabble in inks like any other Diamine Oxblooded fountain pen addict. I sip and I sample, and I always toss a few more ink vials into the shopping cart because I’ve already qualified for free shipping so why not. I’ve swum the shimmery seas and had whirlwind romances with sheen monsters. But I always come back to the same few boring, boring inks.

A few months ago, Anthony at UK Fountain Pens wrote about picking ten “desert island” inks out of his collection, and at the time I commented that I didn’t think I even owned ten bottles of ink. That statement is still true. I may have a smaller collection than most, but if I ever ended up like Robinson Crusoe and had to hope for some ink to wash up on shore, I’d hope for some bottles of these:

  • a blue-black (my most fav is Pilot Blue-Black)
  • Sheaffer Permanent Skrip Blue-Black (gotta have a water-resistant ink on an island!)
  • Waterman Inspired Blue (just as well-behaved, pretty, and red-sheeny as Kon-peki — at a third of the price)

No one’s gushing over these inks on Instagram. They’re not getting reviewed on the same exact day by all the top pen bloggers. They’ve all been around for a while — in the case of Sheaffer Skrip Blue-Black, a several-decades-long kind of while. Yet they’re still here, working quietly, effectively, in that boring way. Without them, all the other (shimmery, sheeny) inks wouldn’t feel as special.

Perhaps you’d like to share your favorite “boring” ink?

I’m Leaving Home For 10 Weeks and Bringing These Pens with Me

By the time this post goes live, I’ll be on a plane to Bulgaria, where I’ll spend the next 10 weeks living out of a carry-on bag. I’ll also be 9,771 kilometers away from my stationery stash, and it’s been quite the puzzle figuring out what goodies to bring with me.

I’ve always packed lightly, be it for a backpacking trip, motorbike adventure, or jaunt across the Atlantic. The whole idea of bringing a bunch of notebooks and pens clashes with my minimalist packing tendencies. As I only started bringing paper back into my life within the last couple of years, finding balance here is something I’m still working out.

First, I must apologize for reusing the following photo from last week’s post. It’s been crazy busy at Penster HQ as I’ve scrambled to prepare for my trip, and I didn’t get a chance to gather everything for a nice photo shoot.

For paper, I’m taking the Hobonichi trio I wrote about last week. This is a case where Hobonichi’s dedication to making compact notebooks really shines. Space is at a premium in my carry-on bag, and these three cram a lot of pages into some wee little books.

I was really torn about taking my Traveler’s Notebook, and ultimately decided against it. Spending 10 weeks in Europe sounds like the perfect chance to get my TN on, but due to certain particulars about this trip, I won’t have the time to do much travel journaling. I think I can get by with my Techo alone. But who knows — this might come down to a game-time decision. [Update: I changed my mind because of course I did. My TN is tucked into the last remaining space in my bag.]

When I started thinking about what to pack, I set a limit of six pens. Even six feels like too many, but I have some reviews in progress where I need to give the pens more of a workout before I can pass judgment upon them. Bringing the pens along will kill a few birds with one stone.

Here are the fountain pens I’m taking:

  • Pilot Metropolitan (F nib)
  • Lamy Vista (EF nib)
  • Namiki Vanishing Point (M nib)
  • Wing Sung 698 (F nib)
  • TWSBI Vac Mini (F nib)

The Metro, Vista, and VP are workhorse pens that I use on the regular. They’re traveling empty and un-inked. The Wing Sung 698 and TWSBI are newer acquisitions that hold gallons of ink. They’re on the flight with me fully inked because I like to live dangerously. (I also want to test the TWSBI’s ink shutoff valve.)

Mathematically-inclined readers might have noted that I’ve only written about five pens. That’s because the sixth pen I’m taking is not a fountain pen.

This sleek beauty is my everyday pen at work. It’s a vintage Pilot 2+1 multipen and I’ve never seen anything else quite like it. I don’t know much about it — not even what its real name is. I’ve been told that it’s around 40 years old. Despite its age, it takes most D1 refills.

Speaking of refills, I’ve packed a few spare D1s. For fountain pen ink, I have a nearly-full bottle of Waterman Inspired Blue, a few Lamy cartridges, a pack of Pilot Blue-Black cartridges, and a small 8ml bottle of Iroshizuku Yu-yake. That should be plenty.

If I run out of anything, I’ll just buy more. I’ll be scoping out the stationery scene regardless. If it’s anything like the bookstore scene in Sofia, I’ll be in great shape. If not, there’s always the Pilot G2 I stash in my laptop bag as a spare. And the other G2 I keep in my carry-on. And the other G2 I clip inside the top of my sock, like a shiv.

Always be prepared, I say. See you on the other side of the pond.

How Many Techos Does It Take to Get Through a Year?

Not sands through the hourglass, or licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop, but pages in some expensive little books?

I ask this rhetorically, but of course you can admit your journal addiction too. Please, come in and have a seat. You are welcome here. Can I get you a warm beverage? A generous pour of bourbon?

That’s the spirit! While you were sipping, I took a moment to retrieve my Techo from its hallowed place on my vintage 1980s writing table. See me cradling it in my arms? Hear me whispering sweet words to it in babynese? (“Who’s a good little notebook? You are! Look at your cute widdle bear face!”)

Ahem. My apologies. You see, this is very hard for me, but I have to admit that I… that I… am… a… Hobonichi stan.

I admit it! It’s the cutesy websites. The oddly quirky English. The fact that I secretly dream of having a pretty Techo like these ones, even though I can’t draw worth a damn.

IT’S THAT SWEET, SWEET TOMOE RIVER PAPER. (And the nibs sing, “Glidin’, glidin’, glidin’ on the river…”)

This Hobonichi trio’s going to see me through 2018.

  1. The Hobonichi 5-Year Techo. I wrote a lot about this one recently.
  2. The Hobonichi Steiff Edition Planner. I wrote a lot about last year’s edition, and my opinion hasn’t changed — it’s just aged like a fine wine.
  3. The Hobonichi Techo Weeks. I started using this planner in December strictly for work stuff. I’ll write about it once the honeymoon phase is over.

Let me tell you, Hobonichi’s a helluva drug. Back in 2016 when I was fully digital, I never used paper. Never. Now look at me: an ink-stained wretch, surrounded by the wrinkled sheets of some expensive little books.