Embassy, by Sam Drake


This is a direct continuation of yesterday's Digression, and I suggest you read it first if you're the kind of person that prefers to read serial content in order. If you're the kind of person that doesn't like to be told what to do, then I suggest (but do not tell) that you enjoy these posts in any order strikes your fancy. If you prefer less digressions in your Digressions, then I apologize for the previous digression. Onward!


I use two kinds of notebooks in daily rotation, with one getting the brunt of it. I, at various times, have tried to live my entire life out of one productivity space, whether that's one particular notebook, one particular digital tool, one particular device, but I find that my brain doesn't accommodate that kind of thing very easily. With work, I've pared it down to two.

Baron Fig Confidant Notebook – Flagship Size

You may or may not have heard of Baron Fig if you live in the analog productivity space. I became a customer of theirs a long time ago, when they were just tinkering with the idea of putting out their notebooks in a dark charcoal color, so I've seen the company at various stages and been more or less entranced with the whole branding message. For those unfamiliar, Baron Fig bills itself much more as an “ideas” company for “creatives” that just happens to sell, as their main driver, blank notebooks and accessories to go with those notebooks. If you try to take them seriously as a serious stationery company, you'll probably be disappointed when all their creative energy seems to go in to publishing books written by the owner about the “laws of creativity” or a guided journal collaboration with Netflix. If you want No Bullshit Serious Notebook people, I suggest working with Leuchtterm, Rhodia, Kokuyo or Midori (I guess, Midori dabbles a bit in this with their Travelers Company products). If you can understand Baron Fig as more of a design house that attacks the analog productivity space from a design angle, first graphic/visual design and then product/practicality design, their products might have more traction with you. Incidentally, as one of those “Design is a Human Right” people, the idea of an object that is both beautiful and useful is quite appealing to me.

The Baron Fig Confidant is their first and still most popular hardcover notebook. I have always worked in dot grid in the past, though with all the writing I've been doing, I might switch to ruled on the next one. They come in several cover colors these days, but they all have a signature yellow ribbon bookmark and have a paper that's quite balanced for pencil, ballpoint, roller and fountain pen use. I don't recommend it for mixed media, but it leans towards toothy, rather than smooth, so a blank one may work for you as a pencil and pen sketchbook. The size is very close to A5, but just slightly shorter and wider. This has the frustrating effect of making the notebook a proprietary format, breaking accessory intercompatibility with the wider A5 universe. I have a hard time telling the difference when going back and forth between A5s I have in my desk and this one. Maybe being more squarish helps some people, I think it's a wash.

It's entirely possible one day I'll drift away from the Baron Fig ecosystem, but for now the attractive and useful nature of their stuff continues to speak to me. So for now, I stay.

Field Notes Pocket Notebook

Because they're all so different, and often so beautiful, I move from cover and page format all around without too much of a problem. I've used Field Notes notebooks as my pocket notebook of choice for years and years, but only when I use a pocket notebook. I don't always in every season. I've used them in the past as meal and habit trackers, short journals, etc but today I use one purely for to-dos, which happened when I fell out of love with bullet journaling and split my to-dos and my journals into two different books. Speaking of....

A Note on Bullet Journaling

I had high hopes for Bullet Journaling, seeing as how the author has wicked bad ADHD, like me, and I tried to stick to one off and on for years. I think the problem I may have run in to is that it always felt like there just wasn't enough life for me to organize with a tool like that, it felt like it was overbuilt for my boring and often mundane daily schedule, even though I always appreciated the organization when I was on it. If you ever see me move in to a self-employed role (a use case where I think the system would be completely bomber) or start to juggle more than one workplace, I think I would return to the system and try much much harder to get it to stick. As it stands now, my A5s that I carry around get the Daily Journal job, a habit I started during the delivery of my first child to tame my anxiety just a little bit, and one I always benefit from in very tangible ways.


This is always my favorite part of a gear review. Like the rest of this particular blog, we're restricting this to analog productivity gear that is in active daily rotation for me, not all the stuff I've used, owned, or may bring out of retirement in the future.

Baron Fig Guardian Pro Notebook Case

Remember when I lamented that Baron Fig breaks compatibility with the wider A5 universe with their just barely different notebook format? I'd love to put this case in to permanent rotation with all kinds of notebooks filling it, but that's not gonna fly for the Apple-of-Notebooks people. That said, I do enjoy using and owning it, even though I don't recommend you spend the $50ish that it costs unless you know you're sticking with Baron Fig as a main supplier for your needs. There are a lot of A5 compatible covers out there, and it might be worth checking out that option with something like Midori's MD line of A5s. I don't really use the pockets on this guy a ton, but if I was more of a scrapper I might. My To-do lives in the pockets of this cover when it's not in my pocket so I know where to find it.

These Little Pencil Point Protectors

I use these on all my pencils when they go out in the wild. Be sure to get the right kind; the ones made in Denmark are sized for European pencils (thinner) while the ones made by Kutsawa et al in Japan are made for Japanese pencils (thicker). I've successfully crimped the Japanese ones to work with European pencils in the past, but it looks ugly and frankly they're cheap enough to just buy both if you can find the European ones in your locality. Availability has been spotty, and the places I got them have since closed up shop (RIP CW Pencils). If you use Blackwing pencils, those are Japanese width, and if you use American pencils (Why??) then those are closer to European profile.

Carl CP-30 Pencil Sharpener

This one is discontinued but Carl still makes great pencil sharpeners, and I wouldn't be surprised if the mechanism is the same. The nice part about them is they grip and hold the pencil, automatically feeding it in to the sharpening blades, and it automatically stops when the pencil is sharp. Very nice long point profile, not so sharp it breaks the first time you use it. Universal recommendation.

Book Darts

Necessary innovation if you're actively bullet journaling and need to switch back and forth between pages often. Also great for when multiple people use the same book and need to track their place. I use them in my To-Do to mark the current page quickly.


You all may get another Digression tomorrow, since today and tomorrow are work days, but I want to get the page on the Ministry of Reconciliation up soon, Sunday at the latest. Looking forward to talking about it!

This post is part of #100DaysToOffload, a challenge to blog a hundred days in a year hosted by Kev Quirk . This is post #4.

#Stationery #Pens #Pencils #Analog #Productivity #Digressions

Ok, so I said that my next blog post would be on the Ministry of Reconciliation, but I've gotten myself involved with a big furniture remix on my day off. I hate to ruin my daily streak on my third day of blogging, ever, so I thought I'd throw up a quick rundown of my analog (or pen and paper) setup that I use to keep my writing and my life organized. If I was a big time professional blogger, I'd include semi-professionally photographed pictures of each individual item for you to fawn over, but since I'm writing this post in lieu of spending all day on a blog post, we'll have to make do with links and verbal descriptions. Also, no affiliate links! Remember, I'm not a big time professional blogger. If you got something out of this blog, you can do me a favor and just share it with someone else. First stop, writing instruments!

Writing Instruments

I am not a fundamentalist when it comes to choosing a writing instrument, I go through phases of using woodcase pencils, ballpoint pents and fountain pens more or less than before, and I'm almost always using them all during different points of the day. I'll start with the category I'm the hottest on right this moment and work my way down from there.

Fountain Pens

My brother was a big fountain pen guy a while ago, but I only recently got in to them, mostly because of (unfounded) fear of the maintenance required. I'll confirm what the pen addicts have been saying for a long time; since fountain pen ink is all water based and water soluble, the maintenance is very straightforward and generally consists of running water through the mechanism until it is clear. Some accessories make this a bulletproof no-brainer, but accessories are later. I currently own two fountain pens, one I like and one I'm very disappointed in and will not mention.

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen – Fine Nib

So the Lamy Safari is a very common recommendation for people looking at their first, or maybe their second, fountain pen. I find it quite attractive and it works quite well for the $30 price tag. Unless you have very large and open handwriting, I recommend either the fine or the extra fine nib. If your handwriting is even a little compact, hard recommend on the extra fine. European nibs aren't as fine as the Japanese ones, and I kind of wish I had gotten the Extra Fine for myself, though I manage fine with the Fine. Uses a proprietary ink cartridge, but the converter is super easy to get and that should let you use any bottled ink you want.

Ballpoint and Rollerball Pens

So, I don't care for most rollerball pens, they don't tend to flatter my handwriting for whatever reason. They don't have the line variation a fountain pen will, but they'll also lay ink when I drag the tip lightly when a ballpoint or pencil won't. That said, when a company (like Lamy) will make a whole line of similar instruments (like the Safari line), they'll make a fountain pen, a rollerball pen, a ballpoint pen, and a mechanical pencil maybe, and I typically prefer the rollerball body than the ballpoint, which is often a retractable or clicky pen. Check out the Lamy Safari Line on their website and you'll see what I mean.

Retro 51 Hex-o-Matic

A total and complete bro of a bombproof pen, The Hex-o-Matic ballpoint lives in my vest at work and has never failed me, even when I washed it and blew up an ink cartridge in it. I was worried about Fountain Pen maintenance, I SHOULD have been worried about ballpoint maintenance! Nightmare to clean up, even with an ultrasonic cleaner, and while I managed to get it 80% clean on the inside, I also accidentally took half the finish with it. Don't run your ultrasonic cleaner for too long at a time, kids. Anyways, it looks like hell (the cool kind) and still performs like a champ, and it takes de-facto standard Parker style refills, so you should go get one right now. Tell em I sent you, and don't explain who I am when they don't know who you're talking about.

Lamy Safari Rollerball

This was the first Safari line pen I got, because I loved the color and it was a limited edition. Not a ton to say other than I like it, the grip is not great for super long writing sessions with my big hands, for whatever reason, and that it'll live in my pocket on days, like today, where I don't have a bag with me but need a pen for to-do lists. Housework days, quick errand days. One thing to know, like the fountain pen, the rollerball technically uses a proprietary cartridge which i don't think is that great. It's ok, just not great. Turns out, though, if you put a spacer in the back of the barrel, it'll accept standard euro style refills, including my favorite Uni Jetstream refills. So I glued a little spacer back in the back and now it runs like a champ for me. Recommended mod, from me.

Woodcase Pencils

I'm not an anti-mechanical pencil fundamentalist, I just think they're soulless and uncanny and just a little weird. I use woodcase pencils. A lot of different kinds. Here are the three you're most likely to find on me or in my bag at any particular time.

Baron Fig Archer

Ok so the Baron Fig Archer Is not necessarily my favorite pencil, but it makes the trip with me, often, because it's quite light, quite attractive/neutral, and writes pretty darn well in most circumstances. The product is a bit of a red-headed stepchild for BF, they seem much more interested in $50 pens and guided journals, so I don't know exactly how long this product will be available, but it's a reliable and attractive option and I'd grab a dozen if you're already on the site for a notebook or something.

Tombow 2558 Pencil – HB

Ok so the Tombow 2558 is the apotheosis of the yellow school pencil. It has a glossy marigold lacquer, super good enough eraser on the end, wonderful writing lead, and often at $12-15 a dozen. Go get some. Kickass pencil, especially for school/uni work.

Mistubishi 9852EW – HB

Just as good as the Tombow, in an attractive Satin Lacquered Natural Finish. I typically get these on Amazon but I couldn't bring myself to link to them. It's been tough since Caroline Weaver and CW Pencils folded up. I miss them.


There's a lot more to say on notebooks and accessories, but this post is dangerously long as-is so I'll have to save that for my next Digression. I'll see you (hopefully) tomorrow!

Part 2 of this Digression

This post is part of #100DaysToOffload, a challenge to blog a hundred days in a year hosted by Kev Quirk. This is post #3.

#Stationery #Pens #Pencils #Analog #Productivity #Digressions