Tag: field notes

When A Notebook Falls Apart

Recently I wrote about how I like my notebooks battered and ink-stained. I really do. But sometimes, a notebook can get so battered that it begins to fall apart. We spent the long Labor Day weekend at the beach, and while there, the current Field Notes notebook I carried began to come apart at the seams. Below you can see where the cover started to split from the rest of the notebook.

What happens when a notebook comes apart like this? What do I do? It depends on how much of the notebook I have filled. If the notebook still has a lot of blank pages in it, I will repair the notebook with some Scotch tape and continue to use it. If, however, there are only a few blank pages left, I do what any regular notebook user would do, I retire the current notebook and pull out the backup.

I always carry a backup notebook, for just this reason. (Also, because I never know when I will end up filling the one I am carrying.) I don’t mean to say that I have two notebooks on my person at all times, but in my backpack, which goes on trips with me, I carry a spare. In this case, when we returned to our hotel room, I put the damaged notebook (which had about 4 blank pages left) into my backpack and pulled out the spare:

In this case, the spare happened to be one of the new Field Notes Trailhead editions, and this was the first time I’d used one. (I selected the Adirondack trail since I live on the east coast.) This served me well for the rest of our time at the beach. In a way, I think it was something of a lucky break (no pun intended): scanning the first four pages of the new notebooks, I find that I jotted down 9 blog post ideas. Was it the notebook, or my time off at the beach that produced so many ideas in such a short span?

When I returned home, I went through the usual routine of closing out a notebook. First, I repaired the notebook with Scotch tape, a low-tech solution that works fine, considering that now that the notebook in question is no longer a “working” notebook, but a reference document. You can kind of see where I taped it in the images below.

Next, I updated my Index to my Field Notes notebooks. This is just a simple index of notebook number, which I write on the back of a new notebook (see the image above right, for example), and the dates that the notebook spans.

One “feature” I’ve added to my index is that I’ve noted which notebooks I’ve filled during the pandemic. My thought was that when I was much older, or the kids were older, it might be interesting to go back and remind ourselves what life was like during the pandemic. I’m looking forward to drawing the second horizontal blue line that will represent the practical end to the pandemic. It can’t come too soon.

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Battered and Ink-Stained

Sometimes it is hard to remember what I have written here and what I haven’t. Yesterday, for instance, my friend Mike asked how I carry around my notebook and pen. In my reply, I joked that my answer deserved a post of its own. Then I got to thinking it wasn’t really a joke. I could write a post about what I carry around in my pockets every day. I could write about the annoyances of having to pull all of that stuff out, clown-car style, each time I pass through a security checkpoint. I could tell of the amused looks I get when I pull things out of every pocket on my person. I even came up with a perfect title: What’s In Your Pocket.

But you’re ahead of me already. As I am wont to do these days, I did a quick search of the blog for the term “pocket” and almost immediately found a 2016 post titled–wait for it–“What’s in Your Pocket?” in which I wrote about what I carry around in my pockets, the annoyances about having to pull it all out at security check points, the amusing looks, etc., etc.

Instead, I decided I should stick to Mike’s question–and his comment. Mike asked:

how do you carry your notebook and writing implement? As one with ink stains in places they don’t want and who detests rumpled corners and bent pages, I’m always on the hunt for the best way to, well, carry.

Believe it or not, I’ve been asked this question frequently, perhaps because I’ve written about my Field Notes notebooks frequently. The answer is that I carry the notebook in my back left pocket. I’ve been keeping it there for the better part of seven years now. On the rare instances when I discover it isn’t there, I get that unsettled feeling one gets when one realizes keys or phone is missing. Along with the notebook, I slip two pens into the same pocket, one black, and one blue ink Pilot G-2 0.7.

I think Mike might have been looking for a better answer than “in my back pocket along with my pens.” He was looking for a way to protect both this clothes and the integrity of his notebook from the destructive forces a pocket can apply to page corners, covers, and the like. But to me, this is part of the beauty of using a notebook in the first place. I want my notebook to be well-used. It should look battered and ink-stained. I think of that scene from Raider’s of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones pulls out his field notebook and with pencil between teeth, begins flipping pages. His is the notebook of an active field archeologist. My notebooks, battered though they are, reflect how much I use them.

I pulled a random stack of my used notebooks from the shelf and spread them out to illustrate just how battered they get over the course of their lives in the confines of my back pocket. Fanned across the top are a random collection. Below them is my current notebook, about two-thirds of the way filled.

A random collection of my well-used notebooks.

To see just how well-worn these notebooks get, here are some close, more detailed shots. In the first two images, you can see how battered the notebooks get. I love this about them. They start out almost pristine, and there is nothing quite like starting a new notebook. But as I use them, it shows. The third image shows some extremes, as in where I have to take the cover of the notebook so that it stays on.

My pockets get ink-stained as well. Not huge stains of ink, but small, black and blue stains where the points of the pens touch the fabric when they are exposed. This is the cost of doing business. This is like Indiana Jones’s dusty hat and outfit showing the rigors of his labor. Kelly and the kids have come to accept these ink stains and no one else asks about them, although I’d be happy to explain them if they did.

This is probably a long answer than what Mike was looking for, and maybe not the answer he was looking for either. If there are readers out there who, like Mike, prefer to keep their notebooks wrinkle-free and clothes ink-free while carrying around your notebook, please drop your suggestions for how you do this in the comments. And meanwhile, if you are looking for some more good stuff to read, you can check out Mike’s blog.

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The Importance of Writing It Down

My morning routine was a little out of whack yesterday. On Saturday, we made a long day trip to Lancaster, PA, about a 2-1/2 hour drive north. We spent the day at an amusement park for the Littlest Miss’s birthday. We left the house at 8 am on Saturday and were home just before 10 pm Saturday night. It was 300 miles of driving and 7 hours on my feet at the park. I was tired. So I slept in later than normal, and didn’t head out for my morning walk until 7:30 am, an hour and a half later than usual.

When routines go sideways, that’s when things get missed. I left my Field Notes notebook and pens back at the house. I realized this on my walk. I was listening to Episode 528 of the Tim Ferriss Podcast, listing to Tim interview Jimmy Wales. Something was said and I pulled out my notebook to write it down–and my notebook wasn’t there!

So rare is it that I am without my notebook that the feeling I had was the same feeling I get when I feel for my keys and suddenly realize they are not in my pocket. It is that sinking, uh-oh feeling. It latest for a millisecond but it was there. I was annoyed that I’d forgotten my notebook. I pulled out my phone and emailed myself the note I was going to take and continued walked.

My walks are often punctuated with stops like these. Something I am listening to will trigger a thought, or I’ll get an idea for a blog post, or remember something that I have to do later in the day. Over the years, I’ve trained myself to always stop what I am doing and write down the thought. If there is even a question of whether or not it is worth writing down, I err on the side of caution. I have never regretted jotting a note in my notebook, but I have often regretted not writing down some idea that popped into my head, thinking I’ll remember it later. I never remember it later. Often, this means stopping half a dozen times on a morning walk to jot notes. This is true at any time of the day or night. If I wake up in the dark with an idea, I’ll grab my notebook, which is always on the nightstand beside me, and jot the note. Sometimes I’ll turn on the light, other times I’ll do my best in the dark.

My Field Notes notebooks are filled with things that would otherwise have disappeared from my short term memory forever. They are the way I remember things for later. Thus, the importance of writing it down. Sometimes, I feel silly. When meeting new people, I am terrible with names. I’ve tried the trick of saying the person’s name and that never seems to work for me. What I do instead, is casually pull out my notebook and jot down the names as soon as I can. That helps immensely. But people sometimes look at me funny when I pull out a notebook. I’ve gotten over it. I’ve had to, if I want to remember these things.

When I go to the store to get, say, milk, and ask Kelly if there is anything else we need, if she gives me more than 2 things, I write them down. At the amusement park yesterday, I jotted a list of all of the rides we went on, so that I could write in more detail about them later. Just seeing the list helps to trigger memories of the events.

The page from my notebook, describing the rides we went on Saturday.
The page from my notebook, describing the rides we went on Saturday.

Being without my Field Notes notebook was much more uncomfortable than those rare occasions when I forget to take my phone with me. Being able to write things down in the moment helps me continue with my day, and come back to those things later, when I am ready. Whenever I hear myself saying, “I’ll remember this,” alarm bells go off in my head and I’ll write it down. The worst come when those alarm bells go off while driving. Then, I’ll lean on Kelly, and ask her to jot something down for me.

Stephen King has said he doesn’t write down ideas because the good ones will keep coming back and the bad ones will disappear. I see value in that, but jotting down notes and ideas, for me, is quick and easy, and takes up little space in a notebook. So why not write them down, even if I never come back to it?

It reminds me of that old piloting adage: I’d rather be down here wishing I was up there, than up there wishing I was down here. When it comes to writing notes, I’d rather write it down and never use it, than not write it down and lose it forever.

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The First Page of a New Notebook

Packing for our recent road trip vacation, I grabbed a blank Field Notes notebook and tossed it into my backpack. I had only halfway filled my current Field Notes notebook, but I tend to jot down a lot more random stuff on the road than when I am at home and I don’t want to be without a spare.

There is something so pleasant about a new notebook. It is pristine, clean. By the time I fill a notebook, it looks well-worn, and I like that look. But there is something so appealing about a brand new notebook. I put it in the same category as freshly mown lawns, and new haircuts.

Flipping through a bunch of my old Field Notes notebooks, I noticed a trend: the first page of the notebook is always much neater than the pages that follow. I’d never noticed this before, but it’s true. It is as if I want to maintain the pristine quality of the pages by writing as neatly as I can on that first page. After the first page, things go rapidly downhill. Especially when I am on trips–in the field, so to speak. I often jot things down while I am walking, which is not an easy task.

messy page from field notes notebook
A messy page from my current notebook, with scribblings from our time at Niagara Falls

This phenomenon seems to hold true regardless of the type of notebook I am using. When I start a new Moleskine Art Collection notebook for my journal, I love the clean look of the notebook, and always write extra-neatly on that first page. The phenomenon carries through to the Leuchtterm 1917 notebooks that I have as well. (I keep my master reading list in one of these notebooks, and this is the one exception to the above rule: all the pages in this notebook are usually neat.)

In the past, I’ve mentioned how the final pages of a notebook are often blank. I suspect this is in part because I am eagerly awaiting the new notebook, and the chance to write neatly, at least on one page. Indeed, just knowing that I have a blank notebook sitting in my backpack is a temptation. But it is one that I try to live with stoically. After all, I’d rather have a blank notebook waiting to be used than no notebook at all.

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Trailhead: My Newest Field Notes Addition

As part of my Field Notes annual subscription, I get a quarterly shipment of the newest Field Notes notebooks. Yesterday’s mail brought their 51st quarterly edition, “Trailhead.” This edition’s theme, as you might guess from the title, are the great trails of the United States. Each 3-pack of notebooks comes with a different trail printed on the back, and facts about the trail on the inside back flap of the notebook.

My new Field Notes "Trailhead" notebooks
My new Field Notes “Trailhead” notebooks

These editions contain lined pages. I prefer squares or dotted squares, but I like that these pages are an off-white. As with most of the subscription packs, this one came with an extra goodie: a Field Notes “Blaze Your Trail” patch.

Field Notes Blaze Your Trail patch

This quarterly shipment is the 17th consecutive quarterly shipment I’ve received from Field Notes since I began subscribing back in 2016. I began my subscription with their 34th quarterly edition and the Trailhead edition marks Field Notes 51st quarterly edition. Despite having filled more than 30 notebooks at this point, I still have more coming in than I can fill at any moment. I have a section of shelf in my office dedicated to a wide variety of fresh notebooks to choose from once I fill one up:

My collection of Field Notes notebooks ready for use when I need a fresh one.
My collection of Field Notes notebooks ready for use when I need a fresh one.

I have a tendency to use whatever the latest notebook is as the next notebook, so chances are good I’ll pull out one of the Trailhead notebooks when I finish with my current notebook–which happens to be a United States of Letterpress edition.

It’s fun to occasionally go back and flip through the old notebooks. There is all kinds interesting stuff in them, like when I had to locate the name of a beer I liked. I recently began an experiment of scanning in the old notebooks to make them easier to search no matter where I was. I scanned in one as an experiment. Now I have to go back and scan in the other 29 that I have already filled. I’ll get to that eventually. Filling a notebook is much more fun than scanning one.

It occurred to me that while I know of friends and a few other people online who have told me that they also use Field Notes notebooks, I’ve never run into anyone at the grocery store, or a conference, or anywhere else I can think of that has a Field Notes notebook in their pocket, and is pulling out the notebook frequently enough for me to notice that they are using one two. I see people with Yankees hats all the time. How come I don’t see more people with Field Notes notebooks (or any notebook) for that matter, jotting things down? Does everyone use their phone for this stuff these day? I still find taking notes on my phone way too cumbersome and time-consuming.

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The Weekly Playbook #4: Finishing a Notebook: Transcribe or Scan?

For an overview of this series, see the debut post on my morning routine.

Background

I am rarely without a Field Notes notebook in my back pocket. Several times a day, I pull out my notebook to jot something down: an idea for a post; notes from a podcast; the names of people I meet; items to pick up at the grocery store; the name of the server in the restaurant we ate at; funny lines I hear at a gathering. I do this so that I can remember these things later. Some of them find their way into posts I write, some into stories. Other things are more ephemeral, but even a server’s name in a restaurant can be useful if I am searching for a character name in a story.

I’ve filled more than 30 of these notebooks since 2015. They sit in a nice row on a shelf in my office. Occasionally I go back to them, to look for something, like when I was searching for a particular brand of beer recently. The problem is, I only have access to them when I am sitting here in my office. It would be nice to have access to them no matter where I was.

my 30 completed field notes notebooks with an index notebook on top
My 30 completed Field Notes notebooks, with an index notebook on top.

This weekly playbook is a kind of experiment. I began with the idea that I wanted to be able to access these notes anywhere. I had two ideas:

  1. Transcribe the notebooks into Obsidian, where my other notes live, or
  2. Scan them into Evernote

I decide to try both in order to see what worked better for me. The playbook section below has the procedures I followed for each. In each case, I used my most recently completed notebook, book #30. I’ll describe my findings in the commentary.

Playbook

Transcribing notebook into Obsidian

  1. Create a Field Notes folder in Obsidian
  2. Create a new note called “Book 30 – March to June 2021.
  3. Begin typing in the notes using the following guidelines:
    • Make each “day” a header in the notes
    • If my handwriting is unintelligible, put question marks and move on.
    • Wherever I have a dividing line in my notebook, include a divider in the notes file
    • Use only one file per notebook

Scanning notebook into Evernote

  1. Create a Field Notes notebook in Evernote.
  2. Using the Scannable app by Evernote, scan in all 48 pages of my notebook #30, including the cover and inside cover.
  3. Once scanned, put the note in the Field Notes notebook
  4. Title the note “Book 30 – March to June 2021”
  5. Set the create date of the note to March 1, 2021
transcribed notebook page in obsidian
A transcribed notebook page in Obsidian
scanned notebook page in evernote
A scanned notebook page in Evernote

Commentary

It probably took me an hour to transcribe the first 15 pages of the Field Notes notebook into Obsidian. After an hour I stopped. It is easy enough to estimate that a full notebook would take me a little over 3 hours to transcribe.

On the other hand, it took about 15 minutes to scan the entire notebook into Evernote using the Scannable app. (I think Evernote’s Scannable app does a slightly better job at scanning than the regular iOS app does.)

For me, the Evernote scan is the better over all option. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It is quick enough to make it worthwhile. Investing 15 minutes to have the contents of the notebook available to me anywhere is a worthwhile investment of time. 3 hours is a little much. I am not likely to invest 3 hours, but 15 minutes is no big deal.
  2. The notebook really is available anywhere. The screenshot above is from my phone. I can flip through the pages just as I can with any PDF.
  3. Scanning preserves everything in my notes, include occasional sketches and diagrams that I make.
  4. Evernote uses its AI to attempt to make the PDF searchable. It is supposed to be able to recognize handwriting. I made several attempt, but I think my handwriting is too messy. Still, for people with very neat writing, the notebook is searchable. I keep the notes in their own notebook in Evernote for this reason: when I want to search for something in a Field Notes notebook, I can limit the search to notes in the Field Notes notebook so that I don’t get results from other sources.

There are a few cons to using Evernote over Obsidian:

  1. The notebook is not as searchable as it would be if I transcribed it into Obsidian. I could probably find things faster in Obsidian.
  2. My notes would be in plain text format and could be manipulated like any plain text.
  3. I could do more dynamic linking of my notes to other notes using Obsidian. (You can link to other notes in Evernote, but there is no practical way to do this in scanned documents.)

Another consideration is that I want to get my entire backlog of notebooks in a format that I can access anywhere. Transcribing 30 notebooks into Obsidian would be an investment of nearly 100 hours of my time. Scanning 30 notebooks into Evernote is an investment of 7-1/2 hours. From a practical standpoint, this is a no-brainer.

Then, too, since the notes already exist, they fit into the model of using Evernote for curation and collection, and using Obsidian for creation.

Remember, my goal at the outset was to be able to access the notebooks from anywhere. My goal wasn’t to make them as searchable as they could be. I’m fine flipping through a PDF to find what I am looking for. It usually doesn’t take very long, so it seems like the investment in time to manually transcribe all of my notes would be overkill.

Going forward, when I finish a notebook, I’ll follow the procedures for scanning that notebook into Evernote.

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Writing My Wrongs

Mistakes are great teachers. That is a hard thing to understand as a twelve year-old when the pressure of society makes you strive for perfection. I’ve tried to explain this to the Little Man, my own twelve-year old. It’s perfectly acceptable to make mistakes. That’s how we learn. The trick is to take the time to learn from our mistakes instead of just ignoring them. Make a mistake on a math problem? Look at it and figure out why? Was it careless arithmetic? A lack of understand the problem? Figure out what cause the mistake so that you can identify it the next time you see it. Of course, this is easier said than done.

One way that I try to do this is by writing down the mistakes I make–at least those that I become aware of. I call this “writing my wrongs.” When I notice that I’ve messed up some how, I’ll pull out my Field Notes notebook and jot down my mistake. I don’t always say exactly what I did wrong. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize that jotting down a corrective action, if one is available, is more valuable for my future self. A simple example comes from yesterday. I moved the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. Later in the evening, Kelly said me to, “I appreciate you switching the laundry, but for future reference, the girls bathing suits don’t go in the dryer. It makes them shrink.” What I wrote in my notebook was, “Don’t put girls’ swimsuits in dryer.”

Writing down my mistakes does three things for me.

  1. It is an acknowledgement that I’ve messed up somehow.
  2. It provides an accessible list of things that I can work on improving
  3. The very act of writing it down helps me remember it the next time I’m in a similar situation.

The list occasionally serves another purpose: when I get a little too full of myself, I can always flip through my notebooks and see the great variety of ways that I mess up all the time.

The breadth of my mistakes is impressive. It can be something like putting the swimsuits in the dryer. Or it can be something like, “Next time, take the GW Bridge lower level to avoid that crush after the toll booth.”

Acknowledging my mistakes is important because that is one way in which I learn from them. You can’t learn if you can’t acknowledge them. Sometimes, ego gets in the way and I don’t want to admit to others that I made a mistake. These days, I try to admit my mistakes freely if only to show my kids that mistakes are an important way we learn. But even on those times when I am loathe to admit my mistakes to others, I still jot them down in my notebook so I admit them to myself.

I don’t have a particular routine for reviewing these mistakes. Sometimes I may not revisit one because writing it down fixes it in my mind. But I come across them when flipping through my notebooks, and I use that to judge if I have managed to improve. Sometimes I have, and other times, I haven’t. Still, there is something comforting to me about noticing my mistakes and writing them down. I feel like a squirrel storing acorns away for the coming winter. There are always things that I can improve, big or small, always nuts left behind in the nest that act as teachers instead of serving as food.

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Searching for Beer in a Stack of Notebooks

This morning after dropping off some mail at the post office, I happened to step into a local grocery store. I forgot what an amazingly wide variety of beer they sold. Once in the store, I remembered that a local beer that I really enjoyed once on tap at a restaurant, I was able to find later in this store. The problem was, I could no longer remember the name of the beer because I was so long ago.

There are 3 long aisles of beer in the store, and I tried perusing the labels to see if it managed to shake free the cobwebs that had gathered in the halls of my memory, but no luck. It occurred to me that my brother-in-law would enjoy this beer, and since I’ll be seeing him this weekend, I could pick some up. If only I could remember the name. I headed home empty-handed and dejected.

On the way home, I remembered writing down the name of the beer in one of my Field Notes notebooks. I’ve filled 30 of these notebooks since 2015, but I kept them all, and they are neatly stacked in my office. I couldn’t remember the timing, however, so I decided to start in the middle, then go the beginning, then the end, and work my way in from each side. I found nothing in Notebook 15. So I moved onto Notebook 1. I found the name of the beer on page 8 of Notebook 1, right after a quote I’d jotted down from The Newsroom.

Performing this search, which looking maying 15 minutes, made me realize 2 things:

  1. There’s a lot of good stuff in those old notebooks.
  2. It’s really difficult to find it.

And thus an idea for a “Field Notes Playbook” was born. The gist of the playbook is that upon completing a Field Notes notebook, I take some time to transfer the notes into Obsidian so that they are searchable at my finger tips.

I mention this because beginning this Friday, I plan to start a new column here on the blog titled, “The Weekly Playbook.” I’ve tried to find ways to be more productive in everything I do. One of the ways I do this, is when I find something that works, I make a playbook for it. Typically, this is a note that describes the steps I need to go through. The thing about playbooks is that they are event-driven and so I try to keep the playbook in mind in the context of the event in question. Over time, I’ve developed dozens of these playbooks, and I thought it would be fun, and possibly informative, to share them with you all on a weekly basis.

If you like my Going Paperless series, then I imagine you might enjoy The Weekly Playbook. In many ways the Going Paperless posts were playbooks, whose focus centered around a single tool: Evernote. Some of the playbooks I use today are related tools: writing tools, email, notebooks, etc. Others, are completely unrelated to technology and are things that I do to be as efficient as I can with my time. You can look forward to the new series beginning on Friday.

Today marks the end of the first half of 2021. When I started 2021, I had a goal of putting more energy into the blog, which I had neglected for most of last year. To that end, I think I’ve been successful. Between January 1 and today, I’ve written 195 posts totaling 115,000 words, and I haven’t missed a single day. Tomorrow, the second half of the year begins I’ve got a few small changes I’ll be announcing, all good, I think. Tomorrow, I’ll also tell you about Project Sunrise, which I’ve already hinted at, but which formally begins on July 1, which I like to think of as my creative new year. Stay tuned for that as well.

Oh, and the beer that I was trying find. It’s called Local Species by Blue Mountain Brewery. Alas, I don’t think they make it anymore. It was a great, one of those beers aged in Bourbon barrels. That’s okay, though. I headed back to that grocery store and found another barrel-aged beer, this one called Wooded Reserve by New Realm Brewery. I picked up a couple of bottles for the weekend.

Two bottles of New Realm Wooded Reserve barrel aged brown ale.

My Latest Field Notes Notebook

I filled up my 30th Field Notes notebook since 2015 this evening. From the stacks of empty notebook, I chose one of their recent United States of Letterpress editions as my next one.

Field Notes United States of Letterpress edition notebook.

I love starting a new notebook. When I get to the last few pages of the old notebook, I find myself looking for reasons to fill up those pages. Sometimes, I look for an excuse to leave them blank. That is what I did today. My excuse for not filling the last two pages was that the cover was beginning to separate from the binding. Notebook #30 had served me well, and was just plain worn out.

That’s how I feel now, and with my new notebook freshly enlisted, I am heading off to bed to catch up on sleep.

Field Notes 2021 Work Station Calendar

Two weeks ago, I lamented how I missed ordering the 2021 Field Notes work station calendar, until it was too late, and they were all gone. Over on Facebook, my friend Kevin pointed out that a Canadian stationary store, Noteworthy, had them in stock. I ordered one immediately (I was sure I’d be too late), and the calendar arrived today.

My 2021 Field Notes work station calendar

I can now rest easy. I am set for an entire year (well, 363 days at this point.)

Catching Up on To-Do Lists

Today, in a pique of nostalgia, I found myself flipping through the 24 Field Notes notebooks that I have filled up since 2015. I’ve had this feeling lately of an accumulated mass of things I have not yet crossed off my various to-do lists.

The first unchecked (or in this case, un-crossed-out) item on the list is from June 2015. It simply reads: “Checkbook on stairs.” That’s okay, though, because even half a decade later I remember exactly what this scribble meant. It meant that I’d left the checkbook on the stairs so that when I headed up to the office, I’d see it and put it back in the drawer. The problem is, we have since sold those stairs, and for that matter, the office at the top of them. I imagine all of the checks that once resided comfortably within that checkbook are now comfortably deposited in other people’s bank accounts.

Here is an item. It says “Code bloopers” which is code to me to write a post about the bloopers one makes when writing code. This particular item remains unchecked 5 years later because I never wrote such a post. I was never able to figure out how to convey they hysterical humor one can find in the absence of a semi-colon, and the hours of hair-pulling havoc that ensue because of said missing semi-colon.

(Much later, I thought it might be amusing to take a look at some of the more outlandish Git commits I have made over the years, but I don’t think I ever put that idea on a to-do list.)

Here’s a note to myself from the summer of 2015 as it appears on the page it iswritten:

In case you can’t read my handwriting, it says “Condoms prevent unwanted minivans.” I saw this on a bumper sticker and thought it was amusing. It may have been intended as a subtle to-do item, but clearly it is not crossed out. In a rather remarkable coincidence, about a year after I scribbled this note, we bought a minivan. We thought the extra room might make our frequent road trips a little easier, what with the baby that came along around the same time.

Ah-ha! Here is one I can cross off. Sometime in August 2016 (before I was dating each page of my Field Notes notebook) is this incomplete task: “Sandman.” It is a reminder that I should obtain and read that Sandman graphic novel that Neil Gaiman created. As it happens, I ordered and received a copy of said graphic novel a few weeks ago. Looking at the list of books currently ahead of it on my to-be-read list, I imagine I’ll get to it sometime in the next 8-10 years. But I obtained it, and that is enough to warrant crossing it off the list.

Quite a few of the incomplete to-do list items in these notebooks appear to be blog post ideas that I never wrote, either because I lost interest, or thought the ideas were not good enough (I have some standards). Here are a few of them:

  • Science fiction’s growing pains (I think this has been done plenty of times by better writers than I).
  • My Wikipedia References – a post illustrating that while I don’t have an entry in Wikipedia, I am quoted in it several times.
  • Simplicity in Technology – I can only thing this was me running away with my imagination since nothing in technology is as simple as it seems.

It occurs to me that some of these notes are not to-do items, but things I jotted down that the kids said that I found amusing. For instance:

  • Referring to her handwriting, the Little Miss said, “I have good penguinship.”
  • Referring to silent reading, the Little Miss said she was “reading in my brain.”
  • Referring to her baby sister in the bathtub, the Little Miss said, “Will she look ugly if she gets her hair wet?”

I could never remember how many bags of mulch I bought each spring to put down in various places around our house. Well, to refresh my memory, on July 1, 2017, I wrote down how many bags of mulch I needed: 16 bags. Too bad I didn’t write down which notebook and on what date I wrote that particular note, making it perhaps, a little easier to find.

There is an unchecked note to myself to take notes on paper. It seems rather meta to add such an item to my to-do list, but as I have been doing this for years, it seems safe to cross off now.

Here is an interesting item: “Clean up house for cleaners.” After several months without our cleaners, they returned today, and boy was I glad they did. After they left, the house looked great. It smelled clean. The kids rushed inside and immediately took everything that had been put away and spread it across the floor where it belongs. It provided a small sense of normalcy in these anxious times.

One of the to-do items in book 11 is a number: 17,162. There is no context for it and I no longer have any idea what it meant. I’m crossing it off. There is a note reminding myself to read more John McPhee–I think I am nearly caught up on that one.

I don’t know why, but whenever I jot down someone’s name–a waiter, a tour guide–I always put their name in quotes: “Josh”, “Evelyn”, “Kyra”, “Jess.”

There ‘s a note from May 11, 20119 that the “first soloist was off key” but I don’t remember what soloist I was referring to, and I don’t know how I could have gotten them on-key after the fact. On the same day is a note to read David McCullough’s speeches, which I did do, and simply forgot to cross off the item.

On 5/14/19 the main to-do item that day is to sell our house and buy a new one. That, being taken care of, can be crossed off and marked as completed.

Flipping through the most recent pages of my most recent Field Notes notebook are the following items:

  • “Asking for it, wasn’t he?” — there to remind me of the punchline of a funny joke.
  • “Uncle Buck/John Hughes” — there to remind me to watch Uncle Buck, which I hadn’t seen in years until shortly after writing down that little to-do item.
  • “Post on catching-up on to-do items” — and with that, I think I’m call caught up!

How’s your to-do list looking?