Thursday, January 28, 2010

Doane Paper Idea Journal Review

I've been a fan of Doane Paper products since I first purchased some of their writing pads about a year ago. I love the grid+lines layout and the high-quality paper they use. I keep a healthy inventory of both sizes of writing pads as well as their fine Utility Notebooks. Now Doane has tempted me once more with the release of their Idea Journals. Like their writing pads, they are available in two sizes - a letter size version and a smaller, 5.25 x 6.875 version (their measurements). I opted for the larger Idea Journal which cost $10.95. The smaller version is $8.95.

Spiral notebooks have never been my favorite medium for writing. Most tend to be flimsy with thin cardboard covers and poor quality paper. Having said that, the Idea Journal is to your typical spiral notebook what a Land Rover is to a Yugo. The Idea Journal is very substantial, with a sturdy wire binding ("Rugged Wire-O Binding" - no, really!) and thick 80 point chipboard covers. I like the utilitarian gray with the black lettering on the front. It seems to say, "I'm a serious workhorse of a journal. You want pretty? Ha! Run along before I take your lunch money." Okay, maybe that's a bit over the top, but seriously - this thing is a chunk! And I mean that in a good way - these covers won't curl and tear unless you assault it with a chainsaw. But enough about its tough facade, what of the paper?

Oh yes, this Idea Journal is chock full of grid+line goodness! Wall to wall, so to speak. No wasted space on these sheets and the grid+line pattern is front and back (Thanks, Chad!) unlike earlier releases of the Doane Paper Writing Pads. The clever aspect of the grid+line system is that the horizontal lines are bold at appropriate intervals to make writing very easy - the vertical lines are less bold, yet the grid pattern is easily apparent. In other words, this is a very versatile paper - great for writing, drawing, doodling, planning, etc. In the large Idea Journal you get 100 sheets (200 pages) of 60 lb. brite white paper. You can put a LOT in this journal!

I tried out a variety of inks on the paper with excellent results. Even my medium nib Pilot Varsity (which tends to lay down ink like a fire hose) wrote smoothly with no feathering and no bleed-through. In fact, nothing I tried bled through the 60 lb. stock. Oh sure, if I went wild with a heavy Sharpie marker, I might get a slight amount of seepage, but for most purposes this is excellent paper.

If you have followed my blog, you know I generally use a Moleskine or Quo Vadis Habana for my "serious" journaling. So, how do I plan to use my Idea Journal? Glad you asked! I intend to fill this bad boy up with all kind of random stuff - drawings, doodles, ideas, quotes, and give it a workout with some of the most radical ink I can lay my coffee-stained fingers on. Bwahahahahaha! *Deep breath* Sorry - caffeine overload. Seriously, this is a great experimental notebook to try all sorts of pens, markers, etc. I'm looking forward to using it and I think you would like it too.

I see that DP has added a "Flap Jotter" to their lineup. Must resist the urge to . . . Oh, who am I kidding? Daddy needs another notepad.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen Review

Perusing the JetPens website for pens I really don't need, I came across the Platinum Preppy line of fountain pens. I was intrigued by their low cost (only $3 each!) and the variety of colors available. Since one of my goals this year is to use a variety of pen/ink combinations in my Quo Vadis Habana journal, I figured this would be a good purchase.

(Okay, for the sake of full disclosure, I bought several pens and a bottle of Noodler's Ink, but those are stories for another post.)

My package arrived quickly and soon I was holding my new Platinum Preppy pen in hand. It is constructed of clear plastic (40% recycled materials) with a translucent green cap/clip and green stainless steel medium nib. A prominent "05" on the end of the cap identifies the medium nib. The pen is also available with a 0.3 fine point nib. It came with a single cartridge of green ink which I quickly plugged in.

The pen primed quickly and I was pleasantly surprised by the flow of the ink. I usually prefer fine and extra fine nibs but the medium nib on the preppy provided a nice, even flow without being overly-heavy. I did find that it takes a bit of pressure to provide an even flow - more so than with other inexpensive pens - but it was not difficult in finding that happy point where the ink flowed and the pen glided without scratching. The green ink was a nice surprise - just a tad less brilliant than emerald, but a very pleasing shade nonetheless. I hope you can make it out in my less than stellar Blackberry phone picture above.

The Preppy is about the same size as a Lamy Safari, though not of the same quality build. Still, it compares favorably to the Safari (one of my favorite pens), though it lacks a converter option. (UPDATE: Cheryl at Writer's Bloc informed me that a converter for the Preppy is, in fact, available. You can order one from Writer's Bloc here.) Comparing price points, though, the Preppy is a great value. I rate it above a Pilot Varsity disposable in terms of writing quality. It is similar to the Pilot Plumix in terms of price, writing quality and construction, though with more traditional lines and a clip. Perhaps someone creative could come up with a hack to make an eyedropper pen from a Preppy. Any takers?

I really can't find much to criticize about the Preppy. Sure, the clip seems kind of flimsy and it's definitely a light-weight, but again - it's only $3! I paid more for the converter for my Safari!

With seven color options and two nib choices, The Platinum Preppy is a great choice for a starter fountain pen. For that matter, with a $3 price tag and the fun color choices, it's a great economy pen for anyone who likes to write. Refills are available (2 cartridges for $1.50). A converter will run you about $6.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Congratulations to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide!

It's been a long wait, but the Crimson Tide of Alabama won college football's national championship for the 2009 season with a hard-fought 37-21 victory over the Texas Longhorns. The last national championship for the Tide came in 1992 under Coach Gene Stallings. Congratulations to Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama football team for a remarkable season: 14-0 record, a first ever (for Alabama) Heisman Trophy awarded to Mark Ingram, and a signature victory over Florida in the SEC Championship game.

I would be remiss if I did not note that Texas showed a tremendous amount of grit and determination after quarterback Colt McCoy left the game early following an injury to his arm. They played Bama tough, closing the gap to three points in the fourth quarter until Alabama slammed the door with two touchdowns in the closing minutes. Colt McCoy showed a great deal of class and character in his remarks at the end of the game. This young man is a committed Christian and demonstrated poise and grace, despite his injury and disappointment over the loss.

Both teams have much for which to be proud. But the night belonged to Alabama. Congratulations and Roll Tide!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Journal I'm Using for 2010 - Quo Vadis Habana

After several years of using Moleskine journals, I decided to make a change for 2010. I'm now using a large Quo Vadis Habana lined journal.

Why the change?

It's not that I became displeased with the Moleskines. I've used them for several years and they work great for me. But I wanted to branch out and try some different fountain pen and ink combinations and, frankly, Moleskine paper is not always FP friendly. I've experienced a good bit of feathering and some bleed-through, particularly with some of the freer-flowing inks I've tried.

The Quo Vadis Habana uses some wonderful "Clairfontaine" paper which is acid-free and pH neutral. The bright, white paper has thus far has accepted whatever ink I've thrown at it without a smudge, smear or feather. The overall quality of the journal is very good - I particularly like the leather-like cover, which seems a step above the cover on the Moleskine. Currently, my favorite pen/ink combination is Private Reserve's "Orange Crush" in a red Lamy Safari. The color is a bit more subdued than the Orange Crush soda I remember drinking, but it is a nice color all the same - a warm, orange-brown that flows easily and shows up well on the pages of the Habana. The ink dries quickly, too.

The Habana is constructed in similar fashion to the Moleskine with a vertical elastic band and black cover. It easily lays flat when open without any ominous cracking of the spine or binding. The large version contains 80 sheets of lined paper with rounded corners. It also contains a pocket on the back cover, but I found it to be of poorer quality to the Moleskine - more of a "me-too" afterthought. It is the one aspect of the notebook that was not well executed. The pocket is glued to the back cover (crooked in my case) and is not as sturdy as the pocket in the Moleskine. I think Quo Vadis should have just left it off. It also lacks a ribbon marker, which seems an odd omission for such a notebook.

I still have a good supply of Moleskines and will continue to use them. But for my primary 2010 journal, I have to say I'm quite pleased with my Quo Vadis Habana. I look forward to adding entries to it each day of this new year.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

2010 is finally here! Don't you just love that new-year smell? It's clean - like a freshly opened journal, waiting to be filled with slices of life and adventure.

Though I'm not one for New Year resolutions, I do hope to improve in a few areas:
1. Be more diligent in keeping a written journal. I did pretty well in 2009, but I hope to be more consistent in making daily entries.
2. Read more outside my normal areas of interest. I tend to be a sucker for action/adventure novels as well as theology books. I plan to read more biographies this year.
3. Post more entries in my blogs. Maybe two different blogs was a bit much to take on, but it seems to work for me. Hopefully, I will be more consistent in posting to both.

A wise man once said, "making resolutions for the future without reflecting on the past is senseless." Hopefully, I've done a fair job of evaluating what I've done in the past year as I press on into 2010. Time will tell.

Here's wishing you your best year yet!