Inksmudge

Tom Bihn Pilot

December 09, 2016

Like everything else in my life, to get a new bag is always a long running process up until the point where I make up my mind; then it goes really fast. My old Osprey Flap Jack Pack have been in slow decline for at least six months. The plastic parts started to break off, and the fabric look really worn down; especially on the back. I don’t expect more than five years of daily use out of a good backpack.

But what I need from a my daily carry bag have changed a lot since then. I carry less and less stuff.

What I wanted this time was something small, and compact that had room for just what I need, without too much else. I also wanted a configuration of different compartments where they weren’t too big or too small. Too small means that they aren’t that useful, because you can’t fit anything into them and too big have the opposite problem where you can’t find anything.

I carry my laptop, a few pens, a few notebooks, some cables, my laptop and charger and my camera. But not much else. I also carry my headphones, but they don’t need to fit in the bag because I usually use them all the time.

The way I went around it this time was to to look at all the various bags I had collected links to during the last 12 months or so, and to round it down to at 2-3 different makers. Before I looked at what they had to offer. I’m not going into who I didn’t chose. But the reason I went for Tom Bihn was partly their reputation which is hard to challenge or rival and partly because their Pilot look like an exact match for what I need.

I have used it a few weeks now. And I got to say: it is fantastic. The build quality is beyond anything I have experienced. And I can find anything without any hassle(except for my bag of cables, but that isn’t the bags fault).

Everything from the process of ordering the bag to the packing to the fast delivery and the content of the box and the bag itself was delightful.

Ordering anything from Tom Bihn is what I want it to be, not unlike Apple. You pick a product and then you are presented with only the options that are available to that product. In other words, you can’t order a strap that won’t fit your bag.

The delivery all the way from Seattle to Bergen, Norway was very fast. They shipped it the same day I put the order in. And I received it 8 days later. I ordered another package from an European company the same day and a new laptop. Tom Bihn beat all the others by 2-3 days.

The packaging was the way I wish all packing was. They proudly told me that it was carbon neutral, something they didn’t have to, but though was the right thing; both being carbon neutral and informing me about it. What I was presented with when I opened the package was the fact that this box didn’t have a spear inch. They obviously make cusstom boxes for all their products. And a delightful piece of paper on top of the bag. Telling me everything I need to know, including how to return a faulty or “not for me” product.

My next bag will without doubt be from Tom Bihn.

The reason I went for the Pilot is the configuration of the compartments, and how compact it is. I ordered it with a Tom Bhin Laptop cover; they are amazing; I have never seen anything that makes it as easy to take my laptop in and out while at the same time give me the confidence that it is secure.

You basically have four compartments, and a small one on the back, which is perfect for putting mail, paper you receive in meetings and so on. The main compartment have a large compartment and two smaller pockets on one side. I currently have my 13” MacBook Pro and two Field Notes Steno notebooks(one in each of the smaller pockets). My plan is to also carry a iPad once I order a new one.

Then you have the three compartments on the front. Two larger, one of each side and a smaller one in the middle. I use the middle one to carry a laptop charger and a pouch with all the various chargers, dongles and cables. Then I have my camera and pens in the right side pocket and my Travelers Notebook and battery bank in the right side pocket.

I’m so happy with this bag because it feels like I have more room in it than my previous bag, while at the same time being smaller and it also makes it so much easier to find anything.

Year one

November 30, 2016

I think I have three or four drafts of this post in my notebook. My intent was to publish it on the day, but I have simply not had the time to get it done.

This site, and most other writing have to take the back seat while I try to complete my degree as fast as possible and try to get the startup I’m working at off the ground.

I feel really bad about not getting this post out in a reasonable fashion or time and I will try to get it done next year. I’m grateful and surprised over the response this site have received. Everything happened much faster than I had anticipated or hoped for.

What I first and foremost want to do is to say Thank You to everyone who has linked to me since I started. I have no idea how many readers I would have had without it, but it wouldn’t have been many.

There are also two people I have to mention in person because they gave me the initial push, and because I have been a fan of theirs for such a long time: <a href="http://penaddict.com">Brad Dowdy</a> and <a href="http://www.wellappointeddesk.com">Ana Reinert</a>.

The big question is: what am I going to do with the InkSmudge in year two? I’m going to revisit som of the topics I have written about during the first year, and I am also going to look more at ways to integrate stationary and a like into your life and how to be happy with five pens instead of 50.

And I have a new bag review coming up in a few days.

What is convenient isn’t always better.

September 21, 2016

I bought an Apple Watch last week. This isn’t really about it, but the charging system Apple went for is a very good example for what I am trying to say.

The inductive charging system on the Apple watch is very convenient, you just place the watch on top of it and leave it. You don’t have to plug anything in, you just leave it on top of the charger. But it isn’t that great. My main problem with it is that it’s too easy for something to bump it off, and then you have a watch that is 50% charged in the morning instead of 100%.

You can say the same thing for a classic Bic Crystal. It is a very convenient pen, and it is pretty damn good for what it is, even though I don’t like it. It works every time, and it is cheap. You could buy a large box of them and leave a few in your bag, on your desk, in your jacket etc. But it isn’t better. You could get a much better pen, for example a Lamy 2000, but that is less convenient, even though the experience of writing with it is worse.

Convenience and the best thing is always up against each other, and you need to find the perfect balance. They work after two completely different set of premises. You want to go as close as possible to “best” when it is something that is important to you, and you want to go as close to convenient as possible when you want it to be as easy as possible.

Why I don’t organise my notebooks.

September 16, 2016

I’m not that into organising “stuff” into folders or compartments. I don’t do it more than I have to digitally or analogue. The reason I never do it is that what I am going to look for when I need it is almost always different from what I would have categorised it as. My approach is instead to organise things based on what it is. All my plain text notes are in the same place, all my pictures are in the same place; all my Field Notes are in on place and all my larger notebooks in another.

I use search to find my stuff on my computer, and I almost always find it. The way I do it with my notebook is that I write when I started using a notebook, and when I completed it on the first page. Then I write a date on the top of each “text” or “list” or whatever. Then I write “(posted)”, “(transcribed)” and so on on the bottom of each text if I have done so.

It isn’t perfect, and it can be cumbersome to find stuff sometimes. But it gives me just enough context to find what I am looking for.

And I can look through all of my notebooks many more times before I even get close to the time it would have taken to set up and maintain a good system for categorising all of my used notebooks.

End of an era, and when I discovered the benefits of handwriting.

September 14, 2016

I went to my university’s bookstore yesterday, and bought, what will hopefully be the last batch of books for subjects I am taking. I’ll probably still drop by every now and then to pick up some books.

My plan is to be done with my degree in a few months.

It was when I started at the university that I started to see the real benefits of taking notes by hand. I noticed that I didn’t really remember that much of the seminars and lectures when I took notes on my Macbook, while I remembered a lot more when I used pen and paper.

There have been done a lot of research on the subject, and I’m not going to get into that. But my observation after reviewing some of the notes I have taking both in digital form and analogue form, and my observation is that my digital note is more or less a direct transcription of both the slides and what was said. While my analogue counterparts include was less information.

My impression of my own process is that how I pay attention is the key part here. When I take notes digitally I just passively listen and just write down every single piece of information. While I really have to focus and pay attention to pick up the important information and formulations when I write by hand, because I can’t write down every single thing.

My reason for using pen and paper before I started at the university was because I preferred it, now I use it because it often is the better tool for the job, in most situations, but not all. I still think that a laptop is better if you want a very accurate transcript of the meeting.

We need handwriting.

September 08, 2016

Articles like <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/21/opinion/handwriting-just-doesnt-matter.html?_r=0">this</a> always drive me nuts. We still use hand writing a lot in our daily lives, even though it doesn’t have the same role as it used to have.

The author uses one of the most ignorant and idiotic arguments I have seen in a very long time:

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  But as a left-hander with terrible handwriting who watched my son struggle to master cursive — he had to stay inside during recess for much of third grade because he wrote his j’s backward — that is a loss I can weather. And history is replete with similar losses; consider how rarely people now carve words in stone, dip pens into ink or swipe platens of typewriters. There will be no loss to our children’s intelligence. The cultural values we project onto handwriting will alter as we do, as they have for the past 6,000 years.

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School isn’t just about learning useful skills. It is also about learning a wide skill set, so that you can figure out what you want to do later in life. But the most important thing is that many things in life are hard. You still have to do them, and it is good for you.

You still need handwriting. Many subjects you are going to take require you to do a handwritten exam, not because we are old fashioned, but because subjects like Math, Physics or Logic require very sophisticated software and a lot of training before you are able to do the same thing that you can do with a simple piece of paper and a ruler.

There are also many things in your daily life where you are expected to write by hand, for example when you have to fill out some forms. Or in a meeting when you are brainstorming on large piece of paper or a whiteboard. Or in a meeting with a designer when you are trying to figure out how something should look.

You can probably do the same thing on a computer, and we do, but it is often faster, easier and better to do it on paper.

Now. Cursive. My cursive hand writing is horrible, and I hated it when I had to learn it. But it is still a very useful skill. I can read cursive because of it, even though I can’t write it myself. We have spent many hundred years, and billions of dollars to learn how to understand dead languages that we lost the direct ties to. We will cut the ties to most of the primary sources available to historians if we stop teaching cursive. That is bad. The long term problem is that we could loose the ability to read them at all. The short term problem is for everyone that need in their field or study or other work related task. Instead of using a little bit of time learning it, while learning is easier, they have to learn it much later. This means more training or education for various research positions and probably regular jobs as well before they can do their job.

How to ask the right questions

September 06, 2016

I think we have established that buying every cool thing that shows up isn’t really my thing. But I do buy stuff when I need them. And this is about how I go forward to figure out what I need.

The first step is that you need to start out with a different starting point than the product. For me it is about replacing something that isn’t what I need, removing something I don’t need or adding something new to solve a problem I don’t have a good solution for.

I always take note when I get annoyed. For example my latest change in my “workflow” for a lack of a better word, is the re-introduction of pocked sized Field Notes. As I said in the blog post, I got rid of them because the format wasn’t the right thing for most of what I were using them for. The format was way too small and limited for managing all of my notes and tasks. But I slowly realised that they were the right thing for a small sub set of my tasks and notes. I don’t always bring my Travelers Notebook when I go shopping, but I always have the room for a Field Notes notebook. There: that is a good place to start.

The reason I focus on having a use for something before buying it, is that most of us have a limited amount of money we can spend on stationary per month and year, and the less I spent on stuff I won’t use, the more I can spend on stuff I will use. It’s not that hard to spend enough on notebooks you don’t use to pay for a Lamy 2000 or something really expensive.

Review

August 31, 2016

![](https://static1.squarespace.com/static/560ec734e4b0d6edef0fcf6d/560ec965e4b023d2c257ab18/57c19fa1bebafb2d4a43b3c6/1472307598664/20160824-IMG_0849.jpg)</p>



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  <img src="https://i1.wp.com/static1.squarespace.com/static/560ec734e4b0d6edef0fcf6d/560ec965e4b023d2c257ab18/57c19fa01b631b53bee1fb4f/1472307460631/20160824-IMG_0863.jpg?w=1040" alt="" data-recalc-dims="1" />

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  <img src="https://i1.wp.com/static1.squarespace.com/static/560ec734e4b0d6edef0fcf6d/560ec965e4b023d2c257ab18/57c1a1021b631b53bee202a1/1472307686164/20160824-IMG_0880.jpg?w=1040" alt="" data-recalc-dims="1" />

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I don’t usually buy limited edition products, this might be the first time I have done it. The reason I wanted to buy it is the same reason I support [The Pen Addict](http://penaddict.com) as a member, both on the web site and over at [Relay.fm](http://relay.fm), and because it is the best looking Retro 51 I have ever seen.

This isn’t really the kind of Limited Product that drive me insane, you can get more or less the same thing, the only difference is that it looks different.

The pen looks amazing, and so does the packaging. My favourite design detail is the subtle Pen Addict logo at the top of the pen. I spent a few hours with it when I got it this week(or last week when this is published) and it feel exactly like a Retro 51 should feel. Retro 51 have always had the feeling perfection when you hold the pen and when you twist it.

But the finish of this pen feels much more grippy than the other Retro 51’s I have used, and I like it a lot.

A fantastic pen, and I can’t wait to see what the next Pen Addict Pen will look like.

Small or large?

August 29, 2016

I always try to use the smallest bag I can get away with. This is the kind of where you have room for what you need, and not much more.

My previous bag was perfect for what I needed then. But it is too small because I have to bring my computer to and from work at my current job, something I didn’t need to at my previous.

The one I am using is way too big, and I haven’t found the new “perfect” yet.

My problem with a large bag is that it leaves room for carrying a lot of junk. The result is two new problems, first it becomes full, and then you can’t find anything, because it is full of junk.

The result is that I have to empty it once a week, put back what I need and figure out what to do with the crap.

The thing I like about using a bag where you don’t have much more room than what you need is that you can’t fill it up with crap, and you need to consider every singe thing you want to add. It comes down to how important that new thing is, and figure out what to do. You could chose to not add it, or you could remove something else or get a bigger bag. It all comes down to how important it is.

It always feels like I am doing better choices when I really have to consider everything up against each other. This is one of the ways I try to force myself to do just that.

On when to buy.

August 24, 2016

I have written many times before about questioning what you use, as a way of finding the best tools available to do what ever you are trying to do. But I have left one very important slot open, and that is when to do it.

It is very easy to buy every single new and shiny thing out there, just because they are new and shiny. But that is just a very simple way to spend a lot of money, and fill your house with a lot of crap you’ll never use. The alternate approach is to let the need come before, you buy it; instead of trying to find a use for something after you buy it.

For me, everything stationary I order are in one of two categories: new stuff and more of what I already use. What I mean by more of what I already use is things that I need more of(inks, refills, notebooks etc) and things I need to replace, like pens. While new stuff are new pens and other items that I buy to solve a specific problem.

Let me begin with new stuff. I don’t order anything the first time I see them because I know that it is a fairly big chance I won’t use it much unless I have a plan for what it is going to solve for me. But I add everything interesting I see to a list, so that I have a good place to start when I need something to solve a specific problem. And when I decide to buy it, wait a few weeks to see if I really need to pull the trigger. Some problems aren’t big enough to actually justify it, while others are.

The tricky part is when you want more of something you already own and use. For example inks or notebooks. It’s okay to have a few bottles of ink or a nice pile of Field Notes. But you should in general avoid ordering at a higher pace than you are using. My strategy have always been to order a pile of refills for my Travellers Notebook or a pile of Field Notes and then wait until my stock is almost out before I order more. And seriously: how many bottles of ink do you need? When you are getting close to owning more ink that you can use for the rest of your life, is the moment where you should stop buying; and maybe selling a few bottles before you order more?