Finally … a winner!

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men go astray or something. Life got very … interesting over the past few weeks, but I’m happy to announce our winner for our Field Notes Spring 2016 Colors Edition Prediction giveaway. There were 24 comments …


Congrats spaceghost33! Appropriate for one of the prizes …


I promised a custom, one of a kind FN notebook. In honor of my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes going 12-0 in their regular season, I made the “Perfect Season” Edition. Limited to 1 of 1. Hope you aren’t an Iowa State fan. I’ll also toss in a Pitch Black notebook and a couple of pencils or pens for good measure. Congrats.

I’ll have my thoughts on the Candy Tooth edition in a couple of days … but considering I traded them without trying a one, you can probably guess what my thoughts are.



In other subscription news …


This picture is not a hint on the new edition. Right.

It seems that the next installment of my Field Notes subscription are on their way to me. With that in mind, here are my fearless and bold predictions on what these notebooks will be:

1) They will have a cover.

2) They will have 48 pages.

3) They will have three staples.

4) They will have lines of some sort on the pages.

5) Once they are announced, half the Field Nuts community will rejoice. The other half will wail and gnash their teeth.

How do you think I’ll do? Do you have any fearless predictions on the new Field Notes edition? Leave them in the comment below and I’ll pick a random one to send a unique, one of a kind, Field Notes notebook. Winner announced next Saturday (anyone can comment, but I can only ship to US Addresses – sorry!)

Another Subscription?!

Earlier today, Write Notebooks announced their plans to roll out a new membership. Now, I’m not bashing Write Notebooks. I haven’t used them but I know that the Erasable guys speak highly of them. I’m sure they are right fine notebooks. And I’m all for special editions, like the gang over at Field Notes HQ and the crew at Palomino has with their Volumes editions, but I have to wonder if we’re reaching the limit.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept and convenience, but I also know I end up spending more than I normally do. Take Field Notes, for example. I thought the recent Snowblind edition was neat, but I don’t know that I would have purchased a single pack, let alone two. And if the Blackwings are the same core with a different wrap, I really don’t know that I’ll continue that subscription.

Now, the flip side to all of this is that I really like how they are pushing the envelope on a lot of these products. I love the concept of the Blackwing 1138’s and the Field Notes Two Rivers edition. The subscription model puts the pressure on the creatives to continually innovate to create new things – a good thing even if every edition isn’t my cup of tea. The creative streak would probably lag without the pressure to come up with something new.

So, I don’t know if I will subscribe, but I don’t know that I won’t either. I wish Write Notebooks success in their endeavor. Competition is good. But I may have to sit this one out.

First Impressions – Retro 51 Tornado Marlin

IMG_20160220_140954812I fully recognize that I haven’t blogged much here in February. It’s been a little crazy including my wrapping up the requirements for my ministry credentials with my denomination. After I survived my oral interview (which wasn’t too bad, they were really nice, and didn’t want to stump me, mostly…). When I got home that night, my wife shared that she had purchased a new necklace to celebrate her diet going well. I smiled and she sighed. “Yes,” she said, “You can buy a new pen to celebrate.” And who am I to argue?!

So, for the better part of a week, I shopped. And I shopped. And … I shopped. Finally, I decided that I would like my first fountain / rollerball set. I zeroed in on my first Retro 51 Tornado and went with a matching set in their Marlin Acrylic finish.


Now, this isn’t a full review as I’ve had the pen for less than 12 hours in hand, but let’s just say that I’m in love. I really like the way the pen sits in my hand. While I don’t care for the color, the Schmidt refill is smooth as butter. And the color…let’s just say, wow. I showed it to my wife and she said, “Now that is pretty.” I agree. It is just gorgeous – I don’t think the pictures do it justice.

I IMG_20160220_140936523never considered a Retro 51 Tornado before. But after this, I have a feeling I will be picking up a few more. Next up is to try and hack some of my other refills to fit the pen. But even if that doesn’t work, I really like this pen.

But what about you? Have you picked up a Tornado before? Or, what do you think of the finish of this pen? Leave a comment below!


Handwriting is better for learning?

I ran across this article from Business Insider from a couple of years ago that tells us handwriting is better for learning because it forces your brain to engage with the material. Normally, I’d jump up and down, shout “YES!” and say that this is proof that you need to write everything down. Like Field Notes says, “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

But, the more I think about it, the issue isn’t handwriting versus typing. The issue is critical thinking and teaching students how to study. I tell people all the time when I went to Seminary I didn’t learn everything about theology any more than someone who goes to medical school learns everything about the human body. What I learned is a method and a way to approach my given subject matter that helps me do what is expected of me. I learned to slow down and interact with the material to gain a better understanding – and this skill has helped me in much of life.

This is an issue I have with much of education. As Derek Webb says in his song A New Law:

Don’t teach me about politics and Government
Just tell me who to vote for
Don’t teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music

The issue isn’t handwriting. The issue is slowing down. Yes, pen(cil) and paper force you to do that. They eliminate distractions. And they are just cool. But let’s get to the real issue and remind everyone that life isn’t a sprint but a marathon. It takes time to develop thoughts. It’s time worth taking regardless of if it is on a computer, typewriter, quill, fountain pen or a pencil. The issue isn’t the medium; it’s teaching the critical thinking skills necessary to interact with the materials.

Your Friendly Local Pen Store

Back when I first started out with fountain pens, I needed a lot of help. And I do mean a lot. Thankfully, there was an option just down the street. At the local shopping mall there was a pen store that was able to help. Quill and Nib was where I purchased my first bottle of ink, my first Lamy Safari and my first Rhodia paper.

A few years ago, however, they moved out of the mall and into a historic shopping district here in Central Iowa known as Valley Junction. And, to be honest, I just don’t get to that part of town very often any more. Earlier this week, I found myself driving through town earlier than I anticipated and thought, “Hey, Quill and Nib is just five minutes that way. Maybe I should stop.” So I did.

IMG_20160126_144804018I walked into their new store and quickly struck up a conversation with Peter, the sales associate who was working that day. As I poked around, I noticed that they had expanded from beyond just pens into pencils as well and I quickly snatched up the last two boxes they had of the Blackwing 211’s.

IMG_20160126_144824264The store is well stocked and reasonably priced. While I was there, a young man looking for calligraphy supplies came in. Although they did not have the items on hand, Pete asked him for a list and said the owner would do his very best to get the items in stock. I love that kind of service. Likewise, when another gentleman came in looking for a rollerball refill, not only did Pete find the right one, but made sure it fit and that the customer was happy with the way it wrote. I can’t speak highly enough of the customer service they provided.

IMG_20160126_145114147_HDRNot only do they sell the brands you expect like Conklin, Visconti, Pilot, Lamy and Retro 51 to name a few, but the owner of the store, Rob, is a pen turner and offers his custom work for sale as well. These are gorgeous pens and reasonably priced from what I can tell – although still a bit rich for my blood personally. Still, I loved the bolt action pen that had a gearshifter for the knock mechanism. Very cool. I wonder if he can do one in Dale Jr. colors?

Overall, I spent way too much time (and money!) yesterday but I had a great time chatting with Pete and other customers about something I love so much. I plan to go back to Quill and Nib soon and if you are ever in Des Moines, Iowa, I encourage you to go and take a look. Well worth your time for a visit.