The Travelers Notebook

So, I do not mean to sound Jerry Seinfeld here, but is this thing The Midori Traveler’s Notebook, or is it The Traveler’s notebook, which happens to be have notebooks made by Midori?

    

    I have been using the Lihit Labs A5 cover, before this.  I have been talking myself out of getting this system for over a year now, but with an impending trip to New York coming up I was basically obligated to get it.  I mean, we will be traveling, and this is the Traveler’s Notebook, it just would not have made sense otherwise, right?  

    I am not going to list paperweight, dimensions, materials, everyone else does that and, if you have made it to this point, I am betting you can read, and all that information can be found here.  Really, I cannot do reviews of a lot of things, I have tried it, and I realized my problem was the technical standpoint, I am no good with it.  My area is the emotional realm, the personal, the…this isn’t true either.  My area is the inconsequential and unnecessary.  

    The Midori (as I will henceforth call it), is not simply a notebook, it is a system.  When you order it, it will show up in a cloth bag, which is in a box, and that is in plastic.  If you are OCD, you will love it.  I did not even want to open it.  It was neat and orderly, it was something you find in a clean room ( I have never found a clean room) and it just had a wonderful symmetry to it.  It is like buying a new shirt, you dont want to take it out of the plastic and remove the pins, you know it will never go back.  

     When you do open it, after you have enjoyed the packaging, you will find inside the bag the cover and a plain notebook.  I have not used the plain as I enjoy lined and grid paper.  The way this works is it has a main band attached through the leather and this…lug?   

    If you use just the notebook it comes with, you can just put the band on the staple page (dead middle) and walk away.  If you use more than that, you will need to order some of the hand elastic bands.  

    I placed the lined notebook in the picture so that you could see how they package things.  It is beautiful, it even has a nice little number on it.  Anyhow, the elastic bands, you use these to stick multiple objects into the system.  You place one around the front cover of one notebook and the back of the other and voila!  Me?  I have four things in mine so far, with a fifth probably on the way.  This is my lay out.  

    So I have a zipper pocket, a file folder, a daily planner, and a notebook.  The zipper pocket and the file folder are placed under the main band as the anchors, and then I put a notebook on either side of the file folder and placed an elastic band around the covers and the kraft file, BAM!  Amazing notebook.  

    Why does this appeal to me?  I think this requires a trip back in time.  

     That is my journal from high school and partly just after.  If you see the stuff sticking out of it, you will see that it is chocked full of souvenirs.  It has tickets, flower petals, movie stubs, a drink ticket after an ABI party in Germany, a drawing I stole out of a bathroom stall of Hitler using a toilet brush on himself, all kinds of stuff.  If you are still reading this then you know what is going on here.  The people who read this kind of stuff, you, they know notebooks.  The best way to describe this is, the way outsiders would,  I like to stuff my notebooks full of crap.  

    The travelers notebook facilitates this!  You do not have to break the spine of a book, and you do not have to depend on the back pocket like in a Moleskine, because while the back pocket is cool, it is only good for me to get the stuff back, I need it to be put in with the page that it goes with.  The notebooks for this thing are small, so they will be used quick, probably before I bust the spine.  That is not the best part.  The best part is that they make accessories for it, like double sided stickers for mementos, or, and this is the best, STICKER POCKETS!!!!!!!.  The sticker pockets are stickers applied to a page that put a pocket on it, and I do not know if they are purposefully this size, but it is the perfect size for Fuji Instax photos! Which I love to stick in a journal.  They used to be such a process, but no longer!  The stickers and pockets come on a sheet that is, of course, sized to the Midori books so they fit in your accessories pockets!!! The OCD is just being stroked sensually!  

    Everything fits together, and I love it.  I have not even gotten around to the actual paper.  Do not buy this if you hate ghosting (where you can see what is written on the other side of the page.  I have used both fountain pen, and regular pen, pencils of all sorts, and they work great, unless you hate ghosting.  Let’s go down the line of what I love and how I use it.

Daily planner:

  • It has room for two months, with a 31 slot index before each one.
  • Each page is numbered, so you can use it as the day of the month or a page number
  • A slot to check off which day of the week it is.
  • One page, one day. 
  • This leads to the notebook

Notebook:

  • I enjoy the paper quality
  • There is enough room to throw a date on it and use it like a journal i I need more space than is allotted by the daily planner
  • Because they are paired up with the daily planner, I do not feel the need to number the pages or conserve, it is simply an extensions, so paste all photos!
  • Did I mention the price isn’t bad once you are just buying the notebooks?

Zipper pocket:

  • I currently use it for stamps, envelopes, basic stationary…despite there not being any tear out stationary…I’ll fix that
  • I plan to put an eraser or two, which was basically impossible with he Lihit cover 
  • I could put a pocket notebook in the front pocket, but the back would be better.  
  • The back pocket is not a zipper, but it is an open faced pocket, two actually one on either side.  I store the stickers and sticker pockets in it.  I will leave one open in which I will place things I pick up until I get home and can put them in the notebook, temporary storage.

Kraft File:

  • Two sides, pockets on the inside, one per page, that allow you to store things you may need through out the day.  Each one also has a smaller slot for things like business cards.  
  • I plan on using it to hold our items for our trip, plane tickets, show tickets, schedules, reservations.  It is kind of the official type of pocket.  The formal pocket.  


   This may become my go to system.  I will come back with an update after New York.  

    The parts I plan on ordering are some pan am stickers which will go in the pockets, so that my travel writing it kitche, a pen holder, a book mark/stencil, and a weekly planner.  I feel the need for a weekly spot.  This system could really fill the gap for those who need a bullet journal, but hate the idea of drawing their own planner pages, like me.  This is officially part of my EDC.  It comes with one leather page marker in it, and I made one out of a thing my kids made me for Father’s Day, but I think you could put more leather cord into the lug.  

    I will tell you my favorite part.  When you are finished for the day, you put the second elastic, which is tied in the back, around it to keep it closed, and you throw it down on the table, it hits with a heavy satisfying thud of a notebook that speaks of someone who is well travelled and worldly.  When you hear this thing hit the table, you know people know you are interesting because of your heavy leather notebook.

5/5 

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

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The Cold War: A New History,By John Lewis Gaddis

**REVIEW AFTER THIS LONG INTRO AND PICTURES**

This blog entry will be my first post in quite a while as I let all extra things drop off during a school semester.  As you can tell from my earlier posts, I enjoy book reviews, and since I had to do one for school this semester, I will post that here.  The book was The Cold War: A New History, By John Lewis Gaddis.  Gaddis is, in my opinion, the historian of the Cold War currently and this book should be required reading for anyone entering the modern American history or Cold War history fields.


My copy, as you will see has seen a little time in service.  I bought it for an assignment, we were told to pick a book dealing with the topics at hand; the class was U.S. history 1945 to present, and themes were plentiful, but the professor also had a list available for us.  I am a Cold War junkie, and at the top of the Cold War pile sat this gem.  Our second son was born during this semester, and the professors were all very understanding and accommodating, thank you Framingham State University.  However, you cannot stop all work for two weeks and still come out on top, so this book was my reading material while in the hospital.  Whether it is due to being an excellent work on my favorite topic, or because it is now sentimental, it will be found on my shelf.

 

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.

 

In The Cold War: A New History, John Lewis Gaddis has created a concise history of the Cold War for a new generation of readers, synthesizing the already available work on the Cold War into a cohesive volume, incorporating updated and newly available information, arguing the need for the Cold War and the outcome of it, becoming an introduction to the subject, and expertly organized thematically to best cover the major events and themes of the Cold War.

John Lewis Gaddis intended for the title of this monograph to serve as the statement of purpose, in that it was a to be literal new work on the subject. He did not intend to reargue the entire history of the Cold War; he has already argued more than once over the course of his career; rather he was motivated to create a concise and updated account of the Cold War. His hope would be that this work could serve as an introduction to some, an overview of the subject of the Cold War at a basic level to new readers. This edition is what it should be, weighing in at 266 pages not including notes it is a detailed, but brief introduction to the cold war that will not intimidate the new reader. With many college students being people who have no memory of the Cold War an edition written with the new generation in mind was appropriate, even necessary. Gaddis is well informed as to the needs of students studying the Cold War as he is one of the professors who specialize in teaching it.

Gaddis does not intend for this work to replace any of the existing work on the Cold War, or to disagree even with any of these works. The author believes this monograph has a place at the front of the reading line about the Cold War, and could serve as the gateway to more challenging and in-depth texts once the reader has a grasp or interest in the topic. Gaddis himself being the author of several of the books that retain relevance in the academic classroom allows him to see the need for a brief and cohesive narrative. He openly informs the reader, and other historians, he has no intention of arguing against their works, in fact, he cites the established works of other historians often, as well as his own work.[1] This drives home the point that new readers should not look for this work to occupy a particular niche, and should feel open to using it as a basis for their Cold War knowledge at the beginning of their academic career, and can appeal to the casual reader for the same purpose of creating a firm foundation of knowledge on the general subject of the Cold War. Gaddis himself believes that the topic covers such a long timeline and took place in enough varied locations, with their own political arenas and motivations that a book could be written from any angle that you can imagine, even from the viewpoint of the smallest third world participant, and it would be relevant and occupy a prominent place within the narrative. This work represents the extraordinary challenge of creating a meaningful summary longer than an encyclopedia entry under the heading “Cold War.”

One of the reasons the author gives for having written this is the simple and justifiable release of new information from the archives of the former Soviet Union and the Chinese during the Cold War period. New data must be taken into account, to ignore such resources would be academically negligent. However, the sheer amount of new information available can be compared to money flooding a market and causing inflation. The volume made available is Akin to that which has been previously written in that it can be intimidating to attempt to digest. Gaddis has applied the seasoned judgment of an expert when selectively incorporating this information into his current and concise volume. This is clearly seen when he deftly includes official Soviet Missile counts during the Eisenhower years; not overwhelming the reader, but transforming the speculative argument that Khrushchev boasted about their power into a quantifiable piece of fact.[2]

This new evidence held in context with the work previously accomplished by historians, Gaddis included makes for a subtle, but compelling argument. Gaddis combines primary sources that are placed well within context. Rather than Reagan or Khrushchev being quoted on events that are similar to the instance being described, Gaddis has provided—when possible—the thoughts of the figure on events specifically. It is very convincing to have evidence pulled from a radio address Ronald Reagan gave, or even better Khrushchev’s thoughts on the bluster shown in regards to Soviet missile capabilities. Memoirs looking back—like those of Khrushchev and George Keenan—combined with evidence recorded at the time show the professional historian at work, giving insight into the minds of leaders during the Cold War, and where we are fortunate enough to have it, a look at what they thought of those same events looking back. It is wise to remember however that Gaddis wishes you to celebrate the United States victory in this conflict and will be using the words of Soviet memoirs to cast a light that makes it appear they accepted this outcome in the end.[3] Gaddis is fair when he quotes, as he balances his optimism with evidence against United States actions, such as pointing out (despite the argument) George Keenan’s regret in hindsight of the CIA black operations conducted during the Cold War.[4]

The reader should exercise a note of caution when reading this review. The idea of Gaddis not replacing or rearguing his work or the work of others may give the false impression that this work contains no argument at all. This is untrue, and if the reader is not careful, they may miss it entirely and absorb it as presupposed fact. The argument being made is the idea that the Cold War was inevitable and having occurred the world was made a better place. The world being better for the Cold War is contingent upon whom the author believes to have won it: the United States and her allies. Part of what makes this book such an easy read is that it is celebratory of the Cold War’s outcome, the argued victory of the United States. For many the idea of American victory is not an arguable point, the dissolution of the Soviet Union is a matter of historical fact. However, academics even beginning students understand the idea of objectivity, and Gaddis’s boldly un-objective argument may be perceived as biased by some studied readers, reducing the credibility of the entire work. It should not be the case that the work is impugned by this argument, but it is not unthinkable, and one could not blame anyone who described it as biased.[5]

Gaddis believes there is no way to create a single, simple chronological narrative of the Cold War, and has chosen to organize this work thematically. However, the work flows smoothly enough that the reader almost believes there is a chronological order at work. The author believes in attempting to only be thematic or chronological would fail to encompass the magnitude of the Cold War properly. With this in mind chapters are thematic, moving chronologically, but with some overlap between them. While this sounds like it is more complicated than needed, the idea came off well and made for a surprisingly easy read. Chapter one will set the stage for the Cold War, immediately following World War II, not merely the events, but why each side had fought the Second World War as well and how this contributed to their Cold War stance. Moving forward Gaddis will address conflicts between the first and second worlds while showing the factor everyone knows about the Cold War—the threat of atomic and nuclear war—and will explain not just how close we came, but why nuclear war never came. Having established the Soviet Union as a credible enemy, the reader must be shown when we feared them enough to be concerned, particularly in the context of such an optimistic outlook on America by the author. Superpowers having been explained Gaddis chooses chapter four to explain why these great powers had difficulties controlling their “allies” in the third world, which created some of the messiest conflicts of the age. This moves rather logically and quickly as each theme is explicitly addressed within the proper context and time frame.

Whether you are someone with mild curiosity, a seasoned Cold Warrior, or a student breaking ground on the subject for the first class, this book is a must have. Allow yourself to read it once easily and caught up in the celebratory tone it sets, and then look back a second time for a critical review. Whether you agree with Gaddis’s argument or not, this books should prove invaluable for the information it contains. The concise nature, updated information, and hindsight took in the fourteen years between the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the publication of this work, as well as it’s ability to be an entrance to weightier volumes on the Cold War make it indispensable.

[1] Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005, XI

[2] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[3] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[4] Gaddis, Cold War, 164.

[5] Greenstein, Fred I. “The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis.” Political Science Quarterly 121, no. 2 (2006): 321-322.

Brandon Bledsoe, “Hrolf The Ganger”

The El Casco M-430

Today I joined the erasable podcast community on Facebook.  I began sharing some pictures of Liam and I getting my kit ready for the start of the coming semester.  A member excitedly commented on one of my photos that he had never seen an El Casco in the wild before.  What he was referring to is my El Casco M-430 Desktop Double Burr Handcrank Pencil Sharpener.


Why are they so rare you may ask? The ballpark retail price is around 500$.  That’s a steep price for a pencil sharpener.  Why would anyone engage in this? It is either the best or the cult status of it has everyone convinced it is the best.  I’m going with it is the best.  I learned things I needed to know about my pencils from this pencil sharpener.  Let us start with the beginning of how I learned of them to the end point of owning one.

First I read about it in the book How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees.  I won’t go hunt for the exact quote but Rees described it as one of the three things he owned that cost more than 500$, the other two being his house and car.  This is paraphrasing, hunt the quote if you wish.  He sang this sharpeners praises.  I immediately looked them up and then stopped looking at them.  The price tag was more than I was willing to go in for no matter my great love of pencils.


I started to consistently watch them on eBay and read and Re read the point of the whole thing (pun fully intended) which is that it is the best, it has a window that allows you to watch the pencil being sharpened, it creates a flat and consistent thickness writing point on your pencil, comes with four point settings, suctions to the table, has a telescoping opening for the pencil that will fit just about anything you can feed it and a file on the shavings drawer for customizing those flat points if you must.

 Fast forward some.  It’s on my bucket list to at least try one, one day.  I tell my friends about them as if they are the dream car I will one day but when I’m rich.  I often recieve an “oh geez” from my friend Sarah at school.  My wife went to look at getting one for me for Christmas this year, she saw the price tag and laughed and signed me up for the last big run of the CW Pencil Enterprises pencil of the month club instead, which in my opinion was the better choice, not to impune the El Casco.

I had developed a habit of scanning eBay for them every so often.

  1. There were never many of them, mane three or four at any given time.
  2. They were either perfect or beaten to death, none that were just well loved.
  3. They all started with an opening bid of at least 150$, usually 250$.
  4. They all sold and it was always close to 400$ even for the ones a car had ran over.

Then I came across the one that I have.  Opening bid? 45$.  This can’t be right.  The seller has only 15 feedback, the sharpener was a littler dirty, description read and I quote “good condition” the window appeared scratched beyond repair, and the seller would not respond to any emails about it.  I watched t anyways.  The day came.  I threw a bid in.  One guy bid one time to test the waters.  That was it no more at all, I didn’t even have to fight for it.  In the end I gambled a total of 57$.  I was shocked that I had won.  So imagine my surprise when it arrived in perfect working order and cleaned up with a little windex.  That’s right a fully functioning El Casco M-430 for 57$.  Now for the review.

It weighs 3lbs, you could brain someone with it.  The window is cool, but you can barely ever see the pencils, still cool but you just get a full view of the burrs turning.


There is some pencil on the middle left, that’s about what you see.  The telescoping opening is pretty sweet, I don’t even hold the pencil most of the time.


The suction base works surprisingly well.  It has a lever that you flip over and you can feel it secure to the table as you push the lever down.  Sometimes I have to work to get the sharpener off the table and it leave no damage.


In general the sharpening experience is beyond amazing.  It does what you expect in a perfect world.  It doesn’t continue to eat the pencil like some of the newer ones do, so no wasted pencil, and as you crank it gradually becomes smoother until it feels like you are doing nothing at all.  The best however is the point settings.

It has four.  They vary in graphite exposure length and thickness.  To change them you pull the spring held wheel, rotate the pin into the slot of the pictured point you wish to achieve and that’s it, let go of the wheel.  I will show all four choices.  I am starting with four unsharpened Ticonderoga 2 HB pencils.

Point 1.


Point 2.


Point 3.


Point 4.

As you can see they become progressively shorter and thicker.  Note the flattened points.  This is one of the signatures of this machine.  I have a three hole magnesium hand sharpener that creates something similar.  This is a writing point.  I did not like it at first. Here is what I have learned by putting pencils through the torture test of me learning cursive (a later post).  These points do not break when you put them on the paper where the tip is thin.  These points are thick and strong, less total breaks period, not just less wonky points from where the end crumbled.  These points are not tapered for the most part, so while they start out thicker than a regular point they will remain the same consistent thickness throughout usage, gone are the days of your pencil gradually fattening and destroying your writing style.  Point one is my favorite.  If you feel you must there is a file on the shavings drawer.  It is not a fine grad file and has a learning curve, prepare to experiment.  I have been won over by these points.


No mocking my penmanship, but that point did that for almost three pages.  I am in love with this machine.  Altogether I sharpened 55 pencils with it today.  46 for school, 4 for this review, and 5 because why not.  The metal crank handle will leave you the makings of a callouse if you are marathoning like that.


I do not know what else to say that I haven’t said and I hope this helps your love of this machine or satisfies some of the craving.  If you wish to see one in person stop by CW Pencil Enterprises and observe through the glass the glory that is El Casco.  Enjoy and thank you for reading.

Hrolf the Ganger

Tarken By: James Luceno ** Book Review **

 With the new Star Wars movie on the way a question quickly arose.  Since the movie is taking place after the original trilogy, what happens to all of the books and such that were written about that time period?  Well to the great anger of many, and my personal joy the answer was simple.  None of those books count any more.  Not even a little bit.  Unceremoniously booted out of the canon.  This makes me happy.  There are a ton of those books, and given that a lot of them came out when I was in elementary school or before, it simplifies my life to have a whole new canon that also reflect the newer movies.  Here is your canon now as I understand it.  All the movies, the clone wars, the Star Wars comics currently being published by Marvel (awesome if you wanted to know), Rebels, and when I started this there were four novels.  It is about one of those novels that I am here to review now.

Tarken is a story set before the events of Episode IV: A new hope.  It centers around a time when the Death Star (not yet named) is being constructed under the supervision of Moff Tarken.  James Luceno has done a splendid job of fleshing out the life of Wilhuff Tarken.  Taken bought the big chicken dinner at the end of Episode IV, so he has always been one of those great characters that there was just not enough of.  Taken crops back up in Clone Wars here and there, but with this novel we finally get the full dose of Moff We were hoping for.  If you account for the fact that he spends the book running around with Darth Vader, well to an Imperial fan thats just plain awesome.  As with all of the Star Wars novels (new ones) I’ve gotten through so far the story is really just filler.  The entire book is an excuse to tell Tarken’s life story and allow you to see it applied to a filler story.  I am more than a little ok with this.  Whoever Tarken applies the Imperial justice too is fine by me really, it is the history I am after.

Final words:  in no way does this book disappoint, Easy A+ for me.

Hrolf The Ganger

**Note** with school and such keeping tabs on my time, I listened to this on audio book from audible.  The Narrator Euan Morton was great.

The Billion Dollar Spy, By David E. Hoffman. **Book Review**

 This blog is called Books Brass and the Bear for a reason.  If you have seen the pictures of (or been inside of my home) you will know that, well…books.  All the books.  Books by the ton.  BOOKS.  There is obviously not a bear in my house, thats just my rather high opinion of myself (I’ve come to terms with it.)  Heaven help you when we get to the part of brass…

Anyhow lets talk books again.  Books.  I am sorry I just enjoy saying the word at this point.   BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKSSSSSSSSSSSS….

Here is your actual review.  Now that I am sitting here, it occurs to me that I am uncertain of how to write a general book review without giving it all away or just saying here read this.

While perusing the local Barnes and Noble history section recently I encountered this.  Here are a couple of facts about me.  I love first edition hard backs, my wallet is not as crazed about them.  It prefers to wait for a soft back, to buy used on eBay, or try a particularly shady book out with a free credit generated monthly by my audible account.  This book did not meet the criteria of “save money and do not take me home right this moment.”  This book was ripped from the shelf and taken home and I was not disappointed.

The book centers around Adolf Tolkachev, and the time he spent as a spy for the United States during the cold war in The Soviet Union.  This book was extremely well researched and not only covers the events described (and holy wow they have pictures) but does a marvelous job of setting the context for what it took to be a spy or an American intelligence operative inside of The Soviet Union.  There is not a single loose detail in this book and it was hands down one of the most satisfying reads I have had in a while.  Satisfying like a ham and cheese sandwich with a cup of coffee is supposed to be.  I do not want to give it away, but I will say that if you enjoy Tom Clancy, you will love this, and it is non fiction.  I will also say that this book should leave you believing the world to be a little less bright for the loss of some of the people in it and the contributions made for the fight against the red menace.  It details not just how Tolkachev turned and what he did, but his motivations, the lengths he went to, his great love for his family, with tidbits thrown in about actual spy gear, and the fact that every American combat aviator who ever had to fly against a piece of Soviet designed air power, owes their respect, and their lives to Adolf Tolkachev.

The Bear’s rating on this book, A+.

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