My current notebook

This is a bit of a geeky post. I thought I would start keeping tabs on the notebooks and writing sticks I use. I already have reasonably strong preferences in what I like to write on and with, but over time it could be interesting to see what I actually use most as opposed to what I think I like to use. My guess is that non-aesthetic factors such as price and availability could play a bigger role than I presently account for.

The notebook currently in my back pocket is from Story Supply Co. It is one from a pack of three that I ordered from the US in 2016 when I was placing an order for a few other items. I’ve already used one of them and found it a good notebook with nice paper for pencil (hence the pencil in the photo).

story-supply-notebook
Pocket Staple Notebook by Story Supply Co.

The pencil I’m using is a General’s Cedar Pointe HB (or #2 for Americans). It actually seems a bit soft for an HB but is an OK pencil. I like the natural wood finish and the eraser on the end is handy when carrying it around in my pocket. Because the point wears down reasonably quickly (and I prefer a sharp point), I often also have a small brass bullet sharpener in my pocket too. The plastic pencil cap is by Tombow and keeps the lead point from snapping off while doubling as a pencil extender by sticking it on the eraser end when I’m using the pencil. Another centimetre or so and I will retire this pencil to use in my bullet pencil.

ssc-pencil

Note: These notebook posts won’t be particularly frequent as I take a while to get through each notebook (from 3 months to almost a year in some cases).

Related Posts:

How I slowly read the internet

Now that I’ve misled you with that headline, I should clarify that I slowly read select snippets of content from the internet. As my wife has told our kids, “You can’t watch the whole internet!” and neither could I read the whole internet (obviously).

The system

I am constantly finding stuff I want read on the internet. Much of it is from blog posts or news articles, some is reference material that I want to save, books I want to find more about before deciding whether to add them to my reading list, things I’d like to buy but cannot afford, quotes, poems, the list seems to be endless. Rather than deciding for certain whether I will actually read any of this stuff up front, I simply save it into Evernote, my default tool for consolidating all this junk into one place. I use a paid account (currently the Plus tier at US$44 per year) which allows me to save up to 1GB of new stuff per month which is sufficient for my needs. There is a free version but I always exceed the maximum amount you can save on that.

Evernote has a tool called the ‘web clipper’ which copies a web page and saves it to my list of notes. The way I typically use this is to save the ‘simplified article’ version which effectively grabs the text, some images (not always all of them, this can be annoying) but minimal formatting and usually it leaves comments and advertisements out. As part of this saved file the original web address is included, an essential factor in how I finally use these notes.

So I end up with a huge folder in Evernote which I call my ‘inbox’. This contains everything I’ve saved but not sorted into other folders (Evernote calls them notebooks). Aside from a few specific notebooks such as one I call my ‘wish list’ (for all those things I’d like but can’t afford) and ‘to watch’ (for videos I can’t legitimately watch on my work computer!) I just work directly from my inbox which is sorted so that the most recently modified items are at the top of the list. This sort order is key to how my process works.

The reading

When I have time to do some reading I simply begin with whatever is at the top of the pile of notes, if that’s not appealing at the moment I scroll down until I find something that is. Then my weirdness kicks in… As I read a paragraph and move onto the next one I plonk the cursor at the end of the stuff I have read and keep a finger on the delete key. Visually this looks slightly odd on the screen as the stuff I have read is slowly deleted and what I’ve not yet read gradually moves up the screen. It seems daft, but I find that by doing this it is much easier to visually keep my place in what I’m reading and the slowness of the delete action causes me to slow down my reading and actually read it rather than scanning as I do on a normal web page. It also functions as a bookmark because what I’ve already read is deleted so I just pickup at the top of the remaining text. If I need to go back to stuff earlier in the article I still have a link to the original article.

Self-ordering

Because this is how I always use Evernote, my huge pile of 4244 notes (at exactly now, it will change throughout the day) is always sorted with what I most recently was reading at the top of the list. In most cases, what I want to look at first is likely to be the stuff in the top of this pile of notes so it’s reasonably easy to find. Other times I decide to let serendipity play a role and randomly scroll towards the bottom of my list to see what I saved a few years ago that is still in there. This can be a good way to find topic fodder for blog posts because it is a trove of interesting stuff that I’ve seen before, chosen to keep, but not done anything specific with it yet.

This is also where sorting of my notes tends to happen – once something has sat in my notebook for a while I’m in a better place to see whether it is worth reading or is a topic that is no longer of interest so can be safely thrown out. I find that such decisions are better made at leisure some time after the initial “Oh, I should read that,” moment has passed. It is an easy thing to clip stuff as I encounter it and then worry about sorting it later. (You may notice that this all works on the principle of the self-ordering heap, as I’ve written about previously.)

Slow

An inherent ‘limitation’ of this system is that the rate at which I read my notes is much slower than if I used something like Instapaper or Pocket, both of which I have used and are excellent ‘read-later’ apps. With those apps the rate at which I read is much faster, but there is a corresponding decrease in how much I remember. My Evernote approach is slower and clunky in comparison but the inefficiencies of reading slower, seeing the same article several times sitting on the top of my list and being sorted by last modified means that a sort of visual map is built in my mind of the topics I’ve been digging into recently and this can enable connections about stuff that is not topically related by is temporally related simply due to when I happened to see it in my list of notes.

Rabbit fight! (7 to 13 August update)

Misty and Dusk

Rabbit fight!

Misty (the light grey rabbit in the photo above) and Dusk (the black bunny) have been fighting a bit lately and on Saturday morning (5th August) I noticed that Misty had what appeared to be conjunctivitis in one eye. On closer inspection we realised he had a scratch on his eye and some fur missing below the eye, so it would appear that his brother attacked him. We had some chloramphenicol eye drops at home from the vet so I used these in the injured eye and it has cleared up nicely now.

Warmer weather

After complaining about the cold last week, this week has been pleasantly ‘warm’ and dry in comparison:

Mon 7 August High 20°C, Low 4°C
Tue 8 August High 12°C, Low 4°C
Wed 9 August High 9°C, Low 7°C
Thu 10 August High 14°C, Low 4°C
Fri 11 August High 15°C, Low 0°C
Sat 12 August High 18°C, Low 4°C
Sun 13 August High 17°C, Low 5°C

Water blasting

My wife returned the faulty water blaster to Bunnings and got a new replacement which is working much better so I spent most of Saturday afternoon cleaning the concrete driveway area in our back yard.

Army Cadets camp

Our 15 year-old daughter spent the weekend at a camp for her army cadets unit learning navigation and how to use the radios. Thankfully she avoided injuring herself at this camp and had a great time.

Consuming

Reading

  • A DNA App Store Is Here, but Proceed with Caution: I guess this had to arrive sooner or later – consumer DNA sequencing which claims to inform you various genetic traits, ranging in usefulness from whether you are a carrier for 67 different genetic disorders, through to gimmicks such as a scarf coloured to represent the proportion of bases in your DNA. (see Helix online store. You could easily kiss goodbye to thousands of dollars on this stuff and learn little that is truly useful – just my opinion as a biochemist. See your doctor if concerned about genetic disorders).
  • I have been reading a bit lately about social media, smartphones and how these are having negative impacts on people, particularly teenagers. A couple of representative, good articles are: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? (on The Atlantic, note that this site does not like ad blockers) and Understanding our digital persona.
  • Also on the topic of social media, I’ve been considering how to move stuff that I’ve posted on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to my own website (this one). This also includes evaluating what is even worth moving, there is plenty of junk. I have manually transferred a few things but this is going to be a very slow process if I was to shift everything. My consideration of this was prompted by this article: Bookmarks, favs, likes – backfilling years of gaps.
  • Another article which has been timely and helpful to me is Writing As An Act Of Worship. I can easily become quite preoccupied with blogging and so have to question why I am doing it, is this what God would want me to be doing with my time and energy? Kris Camealy’s article reminded me of who needs to be in charge of my writing (God) and that self-promotion should not be my goal.
  • I found another encouraging article the day I Googled ‘why do people read blogs’ in a fit of self-doubt over whether there is any point in keeping a blog these days. So here is a few reasons why people read blogs.
  • Poetry: I’ve been continuing to read poems by Philip Larkin this week and also enjoying Scape by Luci Shaw, refreshing poetry from a Christian writer.

Watching

My media consumption is decidedly not Christian in flavour: Game of Thrones and Vikings. Both quite violent and containing a lot of sex scenes. Judge as you will.

Creating

I’ve not been particularly creative over the last week. My ‘blogging time’ has largely been spent trying to reduce the cpu load of this blog and doing some tentative experimenting with static site generators.

What I have been creating at home is a rough version of this:

Mine is only ⅔ constructed, using old broom handles and in good kiwi tradition #8 wire . Getting the wire through all those bits of broom handle is not as easy as I thought it should be!