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Dear Readers,

My blog has been ad-free for most of its life. It's been a great creative outlet. However, with two small children running around, I haven't had much time to write for the last three years. But this site still gets a thousand visitors or so per month. My ink reviews are still useful to a lot of people, so, to offset the cost of hosting the site, I've added ads to the right hand side of the page.

The ads are far enough down the page not to be intrusive, I hope. They're served up by Google AdSense, so I don't have a hand in selecting what appears. Hopefully, they're tailored to you, based upon the reams of personal data the great internet gods have compiled on your interests.

If you do use an ad blocker, consider whitelisting this site so that I get the revenue from your ad impressions. If that seems like too much trouble, I won't mind. I'm not looking to buy a boat from the ad revenue, just to offset the costs of the domain and the hosting.

Hopefully I can sneak in a review or two here or there in the near future.

Best,
Dave

Ink Review: Noodler's Ink Berning Red

Noodler's Berning Red

Noodler's Berning Red

It’s an immutable karmic law that, when an ink producer creates a new color specifically to mock a presidential candidate, one then must use said ink to write the candidate’s campaign slogan, regardless of how one actually feels about said candidate. In this case, Nathan Tardiff, the man behind the curtain of Noodler’s Ink, created Berning Red in honor of Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist senator from Vermont, and one of the two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination. The tagline for the ink is “a red for lefties that dries fast.” Because Sanders is a socialist, he’s a lefty on the American political spectrum, and left-handed writers need a quick drying ink - get it? Also red, because red is equated with socialism, as evidenced by the Soviet-propogada-inspired label.

Politics aside, Berning Red is quite a good ink. It’s a bright, candy-apple red - it doesn’t lean purple or brown, and no magenta is in sight. It’s a quintessential red that’s easy to read on the page. It has a moderate level of saturation, fading a little in the really broad strokes of a calligraphy pen, but producing a crisp, bold line with low levels of shading when used with a fine nib. It’s easy to write with, having a moderate level of flow and producing no sensation of scratchiness on most paper.

After I was done testing it, it cleaned up easily, flushing quickly from the converter and feed. It did not stain. Berning Red is also an extremely cost-effective ink. Noodler's standard line of ink is the best value on the market - the 3 oz bottles run roughly $12.50, which works out to a cost of $0.14 per milliliter - the lowest of any ink I’m aware of.

Paper Dry Time
Copier 1 second
Bagasse 5 seconds
Rhodia 5 seconds
Midori MD 15 seconds
Carson XL 10 seconds
Leuchtturm 10 seconds

So how does the quick-drying claim stand up? Well, it dries faster than a lot of Noodler’s ink, though not so quickly as I’d have imagined for an ink specifically designed to be fast-drying. Overall, it was dry to the touch and smudge free in less than 15 seconds, with cheap office-grade copier paper being the fastest and Midori MD paper the slowest of those I tested.

It is generally well-behaved across each of the paper types I tested, though it has an increased tendency to show-though on absorbent papers, and to bleed through when used with a really wet nib, like the Pilot Parallel pens. It’s not something you’re likely to encounter if you’re using good quality paper in a fine-nib pen, but it is something to keep in mind.

Noodler's Berning Red water test

Noodler's Berning Red water test

Berning Red held up surprisingly well in the water resistance test, in which I simulate three scenarios: something wet gets dragged across the page, droplets of water fall onto the page and get blotted up, and the paper gets soaked. It smeared easily enough when I ran a wet finger across the page, which resulted in a lovely red smudge - so it is not suitable for painting over with washes or watercolors. However, it didn't completely lift from the page when I blotted it, nor when I soaked it under the faucet, which means that your work won’t be completely obliterated if you do happen to get it wet by accident.

Noodler's Berning Red bottle

Noodler's Berning Red bottle

Noodler’s 3 oz glass bottles are, in and of themselves, utilitarian. They’re stock bottles ordered in bulk in order to keep the cost of production down. It’s the labels that are always interesting, even if they occasionally make you shake your head in bewilderment. Berning Red is certainly one of those cases. The Soviet-style design with hammer and sickle, and Bernie Sanders’ smiling face plastered on it is…fascinating. One cannot deny that it is eye catching. Whether you display the bottle proudly on top of your desk or stuff it in a drawer is likely to be driven more by your politics and sense of irony than by your aesthetic sensibilities.

Berning Red is a great ink. I’m very happy with having had the chance to test it. While it doesn’t displace Diamine Red Dragon as my current favorite red ink, its good behavior, ease of reading, and cost effectiveness make it a go-to choice when I’m in the mood for a vibrant red ink.

This bottle of Noodler’s Ink Berning Red was graciously provided by Pen Boutique.

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from Canson’s XL line. All lines, broad and thin, were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. 

The Power of Intentional Change

Change can be scary. The path between point A and B never seems to be a straight line. It is filled with twists and turns, false starts and false stops, missteps and side steps. It always seems to take longer than you’ve anticipated, and you may not even recognize the destination once you’ve arrived. Sometimes, you may start your journey without knowing where you’re going, and in today’s fast-paced world, just keeping track of where you’ve been can be a challenge.

Faced with the seeming difficulty of change, many people abandon their efforts and resign themselves to the status quo. Businesses spend all of their resources on incremental improvements that don’t drive growth. People sit in front of the TV instead of learning a new skill. Relationships languish because neither partner knows where to start making a difference.

Fortunately, desired, sustainable change doesn’t have to be scary. Intentional Change Theory, developed by Professor Richard Boyatzis at Case Western Reserve University, provides a framework for understanding how change works. Once you understand the process, you can harness its power, reduce uncertainty, and make change work for you.

The Five Discoveries

According to Intentional Change Theory, desired, sustainable change occurs when five steps are completed in a specific order. As we’ve already discussed, most people encounter change as a chaotic, discontinuous process, so when they finally complete each step, often by happenstance, it is usually accompanied by a feeling of epiphany or discovery. Therefore we call these five steps the five discoveries.

However, once you become aware of the process of Intentional Change, and are mindful about applying it, you’ll find that the process will feel controlled and continuous. There is still discovery to be had, but each step will feel like a natural progression from the last.

Ideal Self – discovering the Ideal Self answers the question, “Who do I want to be?” This sounds like an intuitive place to start the process of change, but people often start by looking at where they are now and then asking where they can go. Taking that approach may seem practical, but it is ultimately self-limiting. It is critical to keep an open mind when discovering your Ideal Self.

Worse, some people jump right into action, figuring that doing something is usually better than doing nothing. Unfortunately, all that energy ends up wasted if you’re not moving in the direction that you really want to go.

Real Self – discovering the Real Self requires taking an objective look at yourself to assess which strengths you can build on to achieve your Ideal Self and where you have gaps that you’ll need to bridge. By starting with the Ideal Self, this step in the process will be aspirational, instead of critical. You’ll be moving toward the future instead of being trapped in the past.

Learning Agenda – the third discovery is the development of a concrete set of steps to move you from your Real Self to your Ideal Self. You’ll take the gap analysis and strengths assessment from your discovery of the Real Self and use that to create a plan. Once you have that plan, then it’s time to take action, which brings us to the fourth discovery.

Practice – when we talk about Practice, we mean practicing until mastery. The old adage that amateurs practice until they get it right while professionals practice until they can't get it wrong is the key to sustaining your desired change. The change you seek needs to become intuitive, or else you’re likely to return to old habits when times get tough.

Resonant Relationships – the last discovery is the development of supportive relationships. Change doesn't have to be scary, but it is rarely easy. Resonant relationships will help you to completeeach step of the process as well as to move from one discovery to the next. They can provide an editorial voice when preparing your Learning Agenda, a critical eye when discovering your Real Self, positive energy when discovering your Ideal Self, and emotional support when Practice gets hard.

It’s important to keep in mind that this process is iterative. You should expect to envision your Ideal Self, assess your Real Self, develop a Learning Agenda, and Practice over and over again as you make progress toward your desired change.

Multiple Levels

So far, we’ve talked about Intentional Change using the language of the individual, but the theory applies at all levels of human interaction, from the very intimate to the global stage. From a leadership perspective, we most commonly apply Intentional Change at the following four levels:

Individual – that’s you.

Dyad – two people involved in a sociologically significant relationship: romantic partners, parent and child, manager and employer, business partners, mentor and mentee, and so on. A dyad can apply Intentional Change to the relationship itself – making it stronger or deeper, for example, or to the focus of the relationship: a business, a family, etc…

Where does a dyad find resonant relationships? Business partners might find them out in the larger business community – perhaps as part of a local organization. Romantic partners may rely on family and friends. Managers and employees can look to the rest of their team or to fellow leaders in the organization. Resonant relationships are out there, but we aren’t used to thinking about them in the same way we think about them at an individual level.

Team – a team is a group of people working collaboratively toward a common work product. Teams can use Intentional Change to work on their own team structure and dynamics or to chart the course of their work.

Organization – a team of teams. A business, church, non-profit, or community organization can apply Intentional Change in the same way. The logistics get a bit trickier, with far more cats to herd, but the process remains the same.

By harnessing the power of Intentional Change Theory, you, your team, or your organization can tackle desired change, make it last, and make the process itself positive for everyone involved. Change is scary, but Intentional Change doesn’t have to be.

Midori (Traveler's Company) Traveler's Notebook

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The Traveler’s Notebook is a revered product in the pen and paper community. All the cool kids have one, but for a long time, I wondered what the fuss was about; I was perfectly happy with my Midori MD notebooks and Rhoda notepads. Then, about six months ago, as I was getting to the end of a notebook and deciding what to buy next, I had a bit of an existential crisis. I realized that, each time I finished a notebook, I would put it on the shelf and start over. There was no sense of continuity from one notebook to the next - no set of memories to carry with me. One of the great things about fountain pens is that they aren’t disposable, generally speaking - they become a familiar tool that becomes part of your life, and I wanted the same from a notebook.

The logical choice was the Traveler’s Notebook, so I took the plunge. I looked online, blinked a couple of times at the UD$60 price tag, and then placed the order. The TN comes in two sizes: Regular and Passport, and two colors: brown and black. A camel version will be joining the lineup later this year, and Midori also occasionally releases special editions in different colors - there was a blue version available in 2015. I settled on the Regular brown version.

When you buy a Traveler’s Notebook and open the box, you might be slightly underwhelmed. I spent US$60 for a piece of leather and an elastic band, you might think? It's a very nice piece of leather, but $60 nice? Then, though, you start using it and it starts to develop character, and you start ordering refills and accessories to make that notebook your notebook, and you realize that you haven't spent $60 on a piece of leather. No - you bought an extensible tool that became an indespensible part of your life.

The key to the Traveler’s Notebook is its refillable and customizable nature. Out of the box, it is a blank slate: outside, it’s a piece of rough-cut leather, an elastic band, and a tin clasp. Inside, it is filled with a slim, blank notebook made with Midori MD paper. The only indication that the notebook is made by Midori is a small embossed logo on the back of the journal.

As I mentioned, it’s a very nice blank slate, but the lack of adornment or features is one of the reasons that it provoked the “Huh...” reaction that I had. That design is intentional though - it is intended to be customized. The elastic band can be replaced with a band of different color or threaded with charms, baubles, and beads. Dozens of accessories can be added: pen holders, brass clips, pocket stickers, and zippered cases among them; and almost as many different types of refills are available: lined, unlined, grid, diary, sketchbook, and on and on.

Depending on your sensibilities, the number of options can be overwhelming or empowering. After spending a few months with mine, I’ve found it to be the latter - I love my Traveler’s Notebook, and understand why it has the following that it does. 

Inside front cover.

Inside front cover.

Inside back cover - you can see that the elastic band that stretches around the middle is secured inside the back.

Inside back cover - you can see that the elastic band that stretches around the middle is secured inside the back.

The tin clasp lies at the top of the spine. It fastens the elastic band that holds the refills inside the notebook as well as securing the bookmark.

The tin clasp lies at the top of the spine. It fastens the elastic band that holds the refills inside the notebook as well as securing the bookmark.

The back of the notebook. Here you can see the elastic band that holds the notebook closed emerging from the center of the back cover.

The back of the notebook. Here you can see the elastic band that holds the notebook closed emerging from the center of the back cover.

The only trace of branding on the notebook is this very modest embossment on the lower left corner of the back cover.

The only trace of branding on the notebook is this very modest embossment on the lower left corner of the back cover.

An additional aspect of customization for the Traveler’s Notebook is the ability to add more than one refill at the same time - it can comfortably hold up to three with the addition of a rubber band accessory. If you’re a note-taker and a visual artist, you might choose to have both a lined notebook and a sketchbook. Or you might have a grid notebook, some craft paper, and a planner. In my case, I have the 013 Light Paper Notebook - a version of the 003 Blank Notebook, but with thinner paper and more pages - for note taking and doodling, and the 005 Diary, for my daily journaling.

Two refills side by side. The 013 Light Paper Notebook is on the left and the 005 Diary is on the right.

Two refills side by side. The 013 Light Paper Notebook is on the left and the 005 Diary is on the right.

A closer look at the 013 Light Paper notebook.

A closer look at the 013 Light Paper notebook.

Beyond being a notebook, the Traveler’s Notebook can also function as an organizing solution. One of my first purchases was the 020 Kraft File Folder. The front pocket has been perfect for keeping receipts from business trips - it is called the Traveler's Notebook for a reason - and the back pocket holds sheets of each of the types of paper I use for ink reviews so that I always have them handy. 

The inside front pocket of the 020 Kraft File Folder stuffed receipts. This photo was taken mid-flight.

The inside front pocket of the 020 Kraft File Folder stuffed receipts. This photo was taken mid-flight.

The back of the 020 Kraft File Folder with my paper samples for testing ink.

The back of the 020 Kraft File Folder with my paper samples for testing ink.

A sample of the many available refills.

A sample of the many available refills.

Once you begin exploring, you'll find a range of refills and accessories manufactured by Midori, but you'll also find them manufactured by third parties. Beyond accessories, though, you can even find the notebook itself manufactured by others in a wide range of colors and materials. Leather, vinyl, bright colors, patterns, even two-toned covers are available. They may have exactly the same size, shape, and set of features, or they be wider, taller, thicker, and come with two or three elastic bands to allow you to carry more refills at once. One could conceivably end up with a Traveler’s Notebook manufactured entirely by third parties, without a single component manufactured by Midori.

One other potential point of confusion is that I am writing this review in the midst of Midori rebranding itself as “Traveler’s Company,” so you may see the Traveler’s Notebook referred to as manufactured by either of those two company names depending on when and where you’re shopping.

The Midori (Traveler’s Company) Traveler's Notebook, refills, and accessories are available from many fine retailers, including: