Monday, January 30, 2012

Moleskine :: Planner Wallet Journal Version 2.0

I am now on my second Moleskine since I developed my planner/wallet/journal system. You can find previous write-ups here:

My Moleskine Planner/Journal/Wallet Setup and Hacks
Book Darts! A Follow-up from the cpo Moleskine Customization Method -- And a Review

I made a few small revisions since my original setup, and I thought I would share the evolution with you.  I simplified the system a bit, mostly by consolidation.

First off...I still really like the setup.  I have carried it daily as a wallet, and really like it. I like having my journal and notes with me at all times. Of course, because I have it handy, I tend to use it...often. This first Moleskine lasted me a little over 3 weeks. I do have a lot going on in my life at the moment, so I may be using it more than I may once things settle down. I'll be satisfied if it gets to about one book per month. The good thing about refreshing books often, is that it forces me to "clean out my wallet". I end up with random stuff like receipts, business cards, and other papers that collect in the back pocket.  These things begin to take up more and more space...and its good to thin it out when I change books.

I found that my system provides for very little wasted space.  I did have a few blank pages, but not because of my method.  Rather, I am very close to filling it up (just a few empty pages left) and I would rather swap now when it is convenient. If I held out, I could maybe get a couple more days, but then I'd have to transition in the middle of a very busy week.  Moving to the blank journal was better for me now, even if it costs me a few blank pages.

I jotted some notes on things that I wanted to modify for the next go round.  You can see them here:

As you can see, some things are obvious, and others require some explanation.

The first thing I want to mention is that I considered trying another book besides Moleskine.  I am a fountain pen user, and there is a little show through...not much...but it's there.  You can see a little in the photo above...from the page behind it.  I was looking at other books that are known to be more fountain pen friendly, but I ended up back with Moleskine.  The Rhodia books have covers that are too thick.  The Ecosytem looked good, but I like the grid style, and the grids on the ecosystem were very prominent...dark ink.  I liked the more subtle grid of the Moleskine, especially for writing.

I did swap to a soft cover Moleskine, and I think I will like it better.  It is the same as the hard cover, only just slightly thinner without the hard cover.

Back to my list...I ditched the pen loop. I didn't need it, and it was just something else hanging off the journal. It was a cool idea, but I found that I rarely stored the pen with the book - likely because I carry it as a wallet.

I originally had a section for work, home, and church.  What I found in practical use was that it was sometimes challenging to figure out what sections were best to put what in.  My home and church life are it made sense to just make it one section. The other thing was that even sometimes work stuff is "journal-able" but doesn't belong in the "work" section with my other notes. So really, it now has two sections.  A personal section for all journaling, and a work section for notes (reference) related to work.  I also, of course, have the calendary (daily) and random sections.  Here is a photo of the new book, and the old book.  You can see how the indexing worked in the old book as I filled it up.

With this new book, I decided to move the to-do sections to the front of each major section.  Personal to-do items are in the beginning of the personal section, and work to-do items are in the beginning of the work section.

I put random at the end again, but this time decided to run it backwards...It's just random notes and lists.  The moleskine 2.0 list I showed you above is an example of something I put in random.

I also changed my identifiers.  Previously, for each page, I put the label at the top, but I found it took up valuable space.  I still like looking at the page and being able to tell immediately what section it is, so I switched to using a simple letter identifier at the bottom left corner, on the opposite page of the page numbers.  I am using "m" for personal (me) and "w" for business (work).  It's essentially a quick squiggle one way or another, which is why I used m and w.  It's quick, and takes up little space:

Of course, I am going to use "r" for random, and the daily section is a calendar, so it needs no label...but I put "d" in the index anyway.

I still totally love the Book Darts.  The change I made here was just in my implementation.  Instead of putting the dart on the next available page, its 2 pages ahead.  That way when I get to writing, I don't find myself writing on the page with the dart...requiring a move in the middle.   It was just better for me.

The last thing I did was implement consistency in dating.  I still documented the date for each day's entries, but it was random. I decided on a consistent dating delimiter.  It just looks like this:

------------------ 1-30 ----------------------

That way when I am looking for something from a specific date, I can look for lines across the page, and identify the date associated with those entries.

So far...I am much happier with this system than I ever was with any pre-printed organizing system. This is 90% journal, 5% task list, and 5% calendar. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Craigslist Scam :: Identify and Avoid :: Here's How

I recently listed an item for sale on Craigslist and was contacted by a scammer.  Normally I would just ignore such things, but my curiosity (and boredom) got the best of me today.  I was really curious what the angle was going to be -- hoping it may be something new and interesting.  I was expecting too much. It was the same 'ol scam as usual.

Realizing that I was about due for a blog entry, I figured this would be a good topic.

Here are some ways to identify a scam email.  This doesn't just apply to craigslist ads, but any similar email from a variety of sources for a variety of reasons.  This just happened to be something I got today as a result of a Craigslist ad.  Fifteen years ago, the same thing was happening from newspaper ads, just a little less techified (yes, I just made that word up).

So anyway, I received an email from Craigslist that had the following text:
"Do you still have the above subject still available for sale thanks"
First red flag:  That's a very generic email about a specific item. Normally, when people are interested in something you have for sale, they tend to be a little more verbose. Mostly. Maybe not always.  Another oddity was the lack of punctuation. 

Second red flag: The sender email address didn't match the name on the email account.  That was the big tip-off.  It's such a simple thing, but it's often the case and is easy to spot.

Depending on how you read your email, you may see the user's email address presented to you by default.  In this case, the message said it was from steve howell via  When I hover over the name, however, I get a little popup window that shows me the email address associated with that sender. In this case, it was

Hmmm.... steve howell at

Normally, this is all you will need to disposition this email as scam/fraud/spam.  In fact, at the bottom of the email from craigslist, they provide a link to report it.  It will say "If this email is a scam or spam please flag it now,"and will give you a hyperlink.   When you report it, you will see this:

That's it. Your job is done. Pat yourself on the back for being the super sleuth you are, and also for being a good netizen (I did not make that word up).

As I said, I was a little bored and curious, so I replied with a simple, "It is."

A few hours later I got the actual scam email.  Here it is:

"I would be really glad to get it asap, i'm not going to be around to come look at it before the purchase but the price and condition is good with me but i'm so busy for now and this is because we are running around to set up a band and studio as well and we will need this asap.Am offering extra $30 to the asking price.
 My payment will be made by bank check  or cashier check which will be delivered to you as soon as i get your details. My shipper will come for the pick up as soon as payment is certified by your bank. Also I will be adding an excess to the payment that will be sent to you which you will assist me in sending the the balance to my  shipper for their service charge.I really need this, quite important and urgent. I will be more than glad if it can be sold to me. Email me back with a Name, Address and your phone# for the check, write back soon. Regards."

Now we get to learn the scam.  If you made it this far, either because you missed the red flags I mentioned above, or those flags didn't exist for you, then here are some things that stand out about this message.

First and foremost...we have another email address issue. This response from "steve howell" came from a different email address than I originally replied to.  This time it was from steve howell at

 We have yet another poorly worded and punctuation-lacking email.  This one tells us the set up.  Here's how it works:

  1. They prey on the fact that you really want to sell your item, and know you may take a risk or go against your better judgment if it means a chance for success.
  2. They impart a sense of urgency, which puts you in a rush position, where you are less likely to fully consider the circumstances.
  3. They always agree to purchase your item sight-unseen, for a myriad of reasons.
  4. They sweeten the pot a bit by offering to give you more than you are asking.
  5. They offer payment by cashier or bank check. 
  6. They have a "shipper" who will pick up the item.
  7. And here is the part where they make money.  They need you to help them pay for the shipper, so they send you extra money, and then they will have you forward that off to someone else.  It's of no cost to you, because the check they send you is for more than enough to cover the price of your item PLUS a little extra for your trouble PLUS the shipping fees. 

So what's the big deal?  What's the harm in this?  You sell your item, make a little extra money, and help a fellow human being out in a crunch.  It's not a bad deal, is it?

Well, not unless the cashier's check or bank check is fraudulent.  It will be.  Trust me. 

This is how the scam works...everything I mentioned above falls into place nicely.  You get check, you deposit it. You then do your part and send off the "shipping fees" to the shipper.  It might be a few hundred bucks or more -- but it was covered by the check.  Well, a few weeks after your money is long sent, the bank will contact you to tell you that the check you deposited was fraudulent.  Guess what?  That "shipping money" is now YOUR money, and you lost it. That's the scam in a nutshell. 

The more expensive the item you are trying to sell, the more likelihood you will get a similar email. The higher dollar or bigger items justify higher "shipping costs" so they can take you for more money at once before you have time to realize what just happened. 

What's the best way to protect yourself?

Reading this hopefully helped.  Above that, follow Craigslist's Published Safety Tips:

You can sidestep would-be scammers by following these common-sense rules:
  • DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON - follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts on craigslist.
  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service - anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
  • CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification"
  • NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
  • DO NOT RENT HOUSING WITHOUT SEEING THE INTERIOR, OR PURCHASE EXPENSIVE ITEMS SIGHT-UNSEEN - in all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item does not exist.
At, they also have some examples of similar scams and contact information to report if you are a victim of such.

Stay Alert. Be Safe.


I received another spam email this week.  I figured I would just add the new information to the end of this post since I realize that many of you are landing here from google searches for the email addresses and names of spammers who are contacting you.  Hopefully adding them in here will help you make a quick decision on whether your "buyer" is legit or not.  Keep in mind, I'm not *TRYING* to get them to contact me...I just have stuff for sale, and they are trying to take advantage of that.

The latest email was from
with a reply-to email of

The text of the message was simply:
Do still have it available for sale?

Do you think this message fits the suspicious criteria I named above?  Absolutely!

UPDATE: (Again)

Got yet another email today:

from: mich <>
reply-to: mich <>

Still available? please send me more pictures of it so that i can make my decision of purchase thanks Clifford...

Mich?  Clifford?  Ugh.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Blast From the Past: 2007 Les Paul Elitist Complete Re-Wire

This is a revival of an older write-up I put together back in May of 2009 for a guitar forum on the Internet.  I did it as an instructional piece, and broke out the step-by-step process of re-wiring my 2007 Epiphone Elitist Les Paul Standard Plus.  If you are not familiar with this particular guitar, it is very collectible and becoming more and more rare by the day. This guitar, which was made in Japan, is well known for its amazing build quality and tone -- and many argue it was better built than the American version manufactured by Gibson.  In fact, I was looking for a Gibson Les Paul when I found this one, but I couldn't find a Gibson anywhere that felt as nice as this one.  It plays like butter! The only thing that wasn't super awesome about it was the electronics that came from the factory.  It is common to re-wire them with "Made in USA" electronic components to get the most out of this amazing Les Paul. 

I was thinking about this guitar lately because I am wondering if I should attempt to sell it.  It's been sitting un-played, in its case, for a very long time now...over a year or more.  If you know me personally, you have probably heard the story that goes along with this guitar.  It was a great surprise/shock/terror to my wife when I bought it from a Craigslist ad while on a business trip. It's a great party story! ; P

Not very long after I wrote this article on my complete re-do of the electronics, I found an American Standard Stratocaster which is now my regular guitar. I love the Elitist, and realize it rises in value each day I own it...but I still wonder if I should sell it.  My wife would love that! It's my "backup guitar" but I haven't needed my backup...ever.

So here it is...nearly a direct reproduction of my 2009 write-up.  Pardon the poor wasn't a focus of this effort, and I was using a little point and shoot with flash. Ugh.  These pictures make me cry -- because today they would look much different!'s a moment in time, and I cherish them for that!

========== LP Complete Re-Wire [Steps] [Pictures] 05-01-2009, 11:23 PM ==========

  • RS Guitarworks Modern Wiring Kit
  • Neck Pickup: Dimarzio Air Norton (Zebra)
  • Bridge Pickup: Dimarzio Super Distortion (Zebra)
  • Neck Tone Pot controls coil tapping via push/pull
  • Bridge Tone Pot controls out of phase select via push/pull

First, let me say that if you are expecting tips from a pro...that's not me! This is my first time to mess with anything inside my guitar. I am posting this so others who are considering tackling the job can see that it is indeed doable, and also hopefully provide some direction and pictures that may help others. I can't say this is perfect, since frankly I have nothing to compare it to. I am proud of my work, and the guitar mission accomplished.

Thanks to those on this forum who gave me lots of threads to research, and especially thanks to hillbilly for setting me up with the RS kit! I am a believer in giving back to people who give to me. I have lurked on this site long enough, and couldn't have done this job without your I think it only makes sense that I share back so others can take something away from this experience.

Here is how it went down. Enjoy!

1. Pulled off all four factory pot caps from guitar using the "plastic grocery bag" method.

2. Created a template for wiring using a cardboard packing box top. Pressed the box against the installed pots to indent the cardboard. Drilled out these locations for securing the new pots for wiring.

3. Next, I wired pots up after attaching them to the template. I used a combination of the provided wiring diagram from RS, the diagram from Dimarzio, and some forum posts (to look at pictures). Honestly, it seemed overwhelming at first. But using the resources, I was eventually able to get it to "click" in my brain what all was going on. This is one of the primary reasons I chose to do this myself. I really wanted to learn what was going on under the hood, and wiring your own from scratch is a pretty good way of achieving this goal.

Here is the starting point, and as you can tell, I also measured the pots for resistance values (mostly as a learning experience).

Here is the final wire-up, at least pretty much all I could do outside the guitar. NOTE: I realized after taking this picture that I was missing one more wire, connecting the bottom tone (bridge) to the bottom volume. This was part of the confusing part of taking a diagram for the wiring kit and combining it with another diagram for the phase switch. I was thinking the hot lead that I ran from the switch took the place of the standard bottom lug to bottom lug connection. I was wrong, and didn't realize it until after the build. The result of the missing wire: No tone control for the the bridge. Nothing detrimental...and adding the wire after the fact solved the issue. It was a little challenging to wire it after everything was in place...but careful manipulation of the pointed tip pencil soldering iron yielded successful results without screwing up anything else that was in place.

4. Next, I removed all the existing electronics/pups from the guitar.

Here she is sans wiring:

This is also a good time to poke around.

5. Next, I wired up the 3-way pickup selector switch. I measured what length I needed to wire it to the input jack first, then split the leftover in half for the pot connections. (Thanks for the tip on that, hillbilly!)

Here it is in its home.

6. The next thing I had to do before installing the pots was to drill out holes. The factory pots were smaller than the new pots (standard) so I had to bore the hole out to 3/8". I used the recommendation to use a drill and run it in reverse (from the top side). This worked like a charm. The difference in size is subtle. Here is a pic with two drilled and two factory sized. Can you tell which is which?

Here is all four finished.

7. Next, I wired up and installed the input jack- connecting it to the 3-way switch.

Here is the control cavity...waiting for pots. I used shrink tube for the input jack wire that was exposed to the control cavity. The black tape on the other wire tells me that it's for the Neck volume pot so I didn't wire it backwards since I used the same wire for all three switch runs.

8. Finally, I get to install the pots!

I also made sure the knob ends looked even on the front, using washers to compensate when necessary to control the depth. And, of course, I added my new pointer washers before screwing them in.

10. Now for the pickups. I started with the neck, wired it in, then moved to the bridge. Here is the final control cavity condition. I went ahead and wired both pickups to coil-split with the neck tone push-pull. I then have the bridge wired for reverse phase. NOTE: Also still missing the bridge tone-volume connection. I completed the task..but didn't get the picture of the updated view. This is, however, reflected in the wiring diagram posted below.

11. I took it for a "test drive" before buttoning everything down. I left the strings on, so that if I had any issues to fight I wouldn't waste a new set of strings. The strings weren't a problem, and are actually still on the guitar after the job was complete. All the functions seemed to work as expected, the sound is good and loud, no buzzing, static, etc. (Except it seems I missed the fact that there was no bridge tone control - I was so excited to play with everything else! Ironically, the stock tone controls really didn't seem to do anything, so I guess I was used to hearing little change with adjustment. Now, however, the ENTIRE TONE of the guitar changes with a roll off of the tone! Wow! So that's what those knobs are supposed to do!)

I eventually added the bridge tone-volume connection, and then slapped the new knobs on...and here it is:

Not bad for a half hour of work, eh? Ha! Yeah right! I don't know how long it took me...but defintely several hours from start to finish. I took my time, and went slow and steady. Of course I wasn't able to work on it continously, so it probably drug out longer than it should have.

Here is my wiring diagram:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Baby Logan Newborn Portrait Session

I just did a fun newborn portrait session with Baby Logan. What a great time!  I can't decide what photos I like it will be a bit before I get everything sorted out and processed. In the meantime, however, here's a teaser photo:

Baby Logan Feet, with Mom.

Who doesn't enjoy photography of babies?! It's just so amazing! They are such tiny people!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tattered Cover Bookstore in Highlands Ranch

I mentioned Tattered Cover in my previous post about Book Darts, and I always get lots of great feedback about that Denver-based book store.  I thought would share a photo I took of the Highlands Ranch store earlier this summer.

Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch, Colorado

For you photography geeks, this is a 10 second exposure at F/8 and ISO 200.

Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

I was listening to a photography podcast that I enjoy (The Grid Live) and they were discussing this book:  Who Moved My Cheese.  The discussion surrounded the challenge that professional photographers are having with their businesses because of the proliferation of DSLRs in the general consumer space. I won't go into that here...

I try and read this book every few years, but I realized I haven't read it in a while. I went down to the office and grabbed it off the bookshelf.  I think it's time to give it another read.  I have a lot going on in my life right now...and it seems my cheese is constantly moving. 

Of course, another one of my favorites is "The One Minute Manager" so I imagine I'll end up wanting to read that one again next! I can start putting all those Book Darts to use.  : )

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Darts! A Follow-up from the cpo Moleskine Customization Method -- And a Review

You might recall from my previous post on how I set up my Moleskine planner/journal/wallet that I was originally planning on using Book Darts for my organization.  If you missed that one, or you enjoyed it so much you wanted to read it again, you can find it here.  Anyway, I ended up buying some magnetic book marks that were still pretty cool, but I really wanted to try the Book Darts. Well, boys and girls, I found my chance. I found them at a local Denver book store named Tattered Cover, so I picked up a tin of 50. The price wasn't bad at around $8 and no shipping to mess with.  I really like Tattered Cover. You can find a photo I took of the Highlands Ranch, Colorado store at:

So, you can count this as an amendment to my original post but also as a quick review of the Book Darts.

First. Man.  These are awesome!  Now that I have them in hand (and in book) I don't know how I was able to settle for the i-clips that I ended up instead. These things are super thin, super light, and hold to the page with a grip that simply amazes me.

As you can see in this photo I originally shared, the i-clips add a little bulk to the Moleskine.

Now, however, take a look at my Pocket Moleskine with the Book Darts!
Can you even see the Book Darts!?

I lost a little bulk by switching to the book darts, but the end result is still where I want to be. I have a section marker that helps me quickly get to where I want to me.  Granted, I did lose the colors, and the thick item to quickly grab, but the Book Darts still make getting around very easy.

So some of you are this point are still confused by what a Book Dart is, exactly. I was unsure too, which is why I am spending a little time giving you some detail and photos.  Let's take a look.

Book Dart tin
Bottom of Book Dart tin

To quote essentially what the picture above says:

Book Darts are a bookmark for exactly where you stopped, and a linemarker for discoveries you want to find easily.  They are archivally correct.  A safe alternative to paperclips, underlining, and highlighting.  Will not stain.  Don't let kids eat them, and they are made in the USA.

This things are hardly thicker than the paper they clip to!  Here is how they compare against the i-clips I was formerly using:

Book Dart vs i-clip

 Not only was having a thinner solution better for bulk, there is also the matter of the actual real estate taken on the page.  As I mentioned in my other post, I use the marker to point to a writable page for each section.  What that means is that I end up writing on that page, and then the marker gets in the way, so I have to move it around. The Book Dart takes up much less room on the page.  I am using them upside down (blunt side up rather than the arrow side up) to give me even more room as depicted below.

Book Dart vs i-clip

 Here is what the Book Dart was designed to look like (arrow on page you are marking).  You can see that it still doesn't take up a lot of room, but the blunt end is almost a non-issue on the page that I am writing on.

Both sides of a Book Dart.

While these are a great addition to my Moleskine....I am very excited to use them elsewhere. Heck, I just bought a tin of 50, so I have plenty.  I can think of many spots to mark in my Bible already.  Even with a typical reading plan, I am in 4 books each day, plus wherever my Pastor happens to be teaching from, plus whatever personal study I am doing, plus wherever I am scribing at the time (you can learn more about that from  The options are endless.

I am still amazed at the magical combination of small, light, and snug-fitting these Book Darts are.  I am very impressed.

And because Book Darts is a sponsor of this blog...

Well... Okay. The truth is that they are not a sponsor.  They don't even know I exist.  But, I like em anyway. And so will you.


[BACK ONLINE] MyDomain[dot]com DNS Issues Breaking Email

EDIT:  Apparently the issue is resolved.  I appear to be getting email again.

If your suddenly unable to receive email and your senders are getting bounces that look like this:

Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 unrouteable address (state 14).

...Then you might check to see who is hosting your domain name. If it's MyDomain[.]com, you are in good company.  There are many of us experiencing an outage right now due to a corrupt/malicious/broken zone file.

It is my understanding that the hosting company is aware of the issue and is working on a resolution.  In my case, there is a fancy new MX record that happens to have a priority of 0 that I suspect is causing the issue (m1[dot]dnsix[dot]com). I originally suspected Google Hosting Services (sorry Google) but I think I have cleared them through investigation as all fingers are now pointing to MyDomain.

In the just ain't happening.  Ugh.

Google Search is rolling out "Search, plus Your World"

From Google's website:

Search, plus Your World

Your photos, your friends, your stuff…

Search has always brought you information from across the web. Now, search gets better by including photos, posts, and more from you and your friends. When signed in with Google+, you’ll find personal results and profiles of people you know or follow. You can even expand your world by discovering people related to your search.

How it works

You have to be signed in to a Google Account new window to get all of the features of personal results. Here's how Google personalizes your results when you're signed in:
  1. Google products: Search for publicly and privately shared content visible to you, like your Google+ (and Picasa) photos and Google+ posts from your friends.
  2. Social Search: Discover relevant images and pages shared by people in your Google+ circles and by suggested connections.
  3. Web History: Get customized results based on your past search activity on Google, such as searches you've done or results you've clicked. Learn more about Web History
  4. Profiles in search: When you search for a friend's name, you might see a link to the relevant Google+ profile in the list of autocomplete predictions. With personal results, you’re more likely to see your friend John's profile than some John you’ve never met.

So now, not only will you get ranked results from the entire Internet, but you will also begin getting customized results that include people in your Google Plus circles, and based on your previous activity.

And finally, if privacy is the word you are thinking right now...

Your personal results

Your personal results are unique to you. This means that your private content and any content privately shared with you will not appear in the search results of others, unless this content has also been shared with them.

Here is a great video to show off this new feature.

What I love about blogging on the Internet

It's fascinating to me that I can write an article, such as the one from last week about how I personally organize my Moleskine planner/journal/wallet, and I can nearly instantly reach an international audience.  I can communicate with people in places that I will never have an opportunity to visit, and people can communicate with me from places so far away -- that to travel any further means you are actually getting closer. (That's a little brain teaser, if you can figure out what I mean : )

In just the last week, I've seen visitors from the following countries (not in any order):

United States
United Kingdom
Czech Republic
New Zealand

Sorry, that's just cool.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Moleskine Planner/Journal/Wallet Setup and Hacks

The cpo Method of Moleskine Organization

My Everyday Carry Moleskine :: It's my planner.  It's my journal.   It's my wallet.

EDIT:  I have since updated my tabbing method to use Book Darts instead of the i-clips you see pictured above.  EVERYTHING else in this write-up is still valid and in use today.  Read this...then go check out why I am using Book Darts instead of i-clips now:  I've got lots of photos for you there too!
EDIT;  I am on my second Moleskine notebook, and I have made a few minor revisions to the system after several weeks of use.  This post is still very valid, but when you are done with this...make sure you read about Book Darts, and then go see the latest revision:

Much like the rest of the world...the turn of a new year is the time I find myself most concerned with organization, planning, task completion, and fun new projects.  In additional to the usual desires to become better organized each year, I also made a resolution to keep a journal.  In preparation for this, I went out and picked up a Moleskine-like notebook from a local office supply store (not the one you see here). I started journaling (sp?) with it right away.  Also, as usual, I was kicking off the new year with a fresh daily planner.  It was about the same size (perhaps a little bigger) than the 5x8 notebook I was carrying around.  I won't go into why I prefer manual record keeping even though I also carry an iPhone (personal) and a Blackberry (business).  I just prefer it.  It works for me.

So anyway...I found myself trying to lug around a daily planner and a journal, along with my usual items such as a wallet, and a couple of mobile devices. I was happy...but I wasn't really happy.  I wanted to be MORE happy. After a little research I ended up with a system that I think will work well for me.  I saw several Moleskine "hacks" that I really liked, and it gave me some ideas. I combined information from several other blogs and Moleskine-lover websites and built what I think to be the perfect system for me: and it combines the planner and journal features, and also serves as a minimalist wallet.  Now when I have my Moleskine, I have everything I need for most situations, including credit and gas card, identification, and insurance and a little cash tucked in the back cover pocket.

Here is a close-up view of the i-clips magnetic page markers and the Leuchtturm1917 Pen Loop.

So, lets' get on with how I set up my Moleskine.  You may set yours up differently, but that's the great thing about this sort of project -- it's as individual as the people toting them around.

My Moleskine of choice was the Pocket sized squared (grid) notebook.  I liked the grid paper because I feel free to use it in various ways. It's simple to write sideways or draw or box or whatever.

I glued a few things into my book, as you will see in the pictures a 2012 calendar and my Bible reading plan.  A glue stick is the perfect way to accomplish gluing items into your book.

I glued a year calendar into the front cardboard (on the other side of the owner and reward info page).

On the very front inside cover, I glued the current month's Bible reading plan.

I then numbered my pages...every other one...starting with 1 and labeling all of the odd pages. You can label them all if you want...but it's not necessary. If I can find page 125, I know that 124 is the one right before it. ; ) The key to my organization is to not think of this journal as something I start in the beginning of the book and fill up from left to right until I am out of room. That is how I used to keep a notebook. This is more of a multi-sectioned, yet expandable, concept. I saw lots of discussion about the GTD (Getting Things Done) strategies...and I don't know anything about that...but some of the ideas I implemented in my book came from folks who used a GTD-like system for organization.

The next thing I did was work out what sections I wanted in my book, and how many pages to devote to those sections.  It's just a guess for now, but I won't waste space if one section grows faster than another...I'll just expand the growing sections into unused areas of other sections.  It's much like the way your computer handles files on your hard drive and organizes where to find them with an index.

My index, labeled @index, is at the very front. Page 0. The very next page is labeled as page 1, and starts my @todo section where I will keep track of actions and tasks.  I devoted 7 pages to this section (remember -- it can go beyond 7 at any time, but I had to start somewhere). As you can see in the picture below, I later decided I wanted separate @todo sections for personal items and work items, so I subdivided that section.  My work actions start on page 4.

So as you can see, as I was thinking about what I wanted to keep in my book, tasking and actions was one of the items.  Here is a breakdown of everything I decided to keep track of:
  • @todo
    • 7 pages
    • tracks actions and things I need to accomplish.  
    • uses common methods for tracking status in boxes (Covey, GTD, etc)
  • @daily
    • 16 pages
    • this is the calendar to track appointments, by week (photo below)
    • it uses two pages per week with a section for each day
    • there is a separate section for overflow appointments for any day
    • I have allotted 8 weeks for this journal, but not sure how much I will really use
  • @work
    • 50 pages
    • this is for work-related notes and journal entries
  • @home
    • 50 pages
    • this is my personal journal area...for whatever I want 
  • @church
    • 50 pages
    • this is for church-related notes, revelations, scriptures, whatever
  • @random
    • whatever number of pages are left... 10-12
    • this is for random items, like lists or other notes that may not fit nicely into another section (jotting down phone numbers or addresses, etc)

The first real text I have is the index which tells me where each section is found. The I start the @todo section.

I use the two-page per week calendar hack to track appointments for the week.

After I got the Moleskine organized the way I wanted, I considered how I wanted to mark the sections.  I saw lots of people who use sticky notes or other paper markers...and that is certainly the cheap and easy route.  I originally thought I might like to use Book Darts and I set out to find some of those.  I didn't find any, but while I was at Barnes&Nobles looking for them, I ran across i-clips.  [Remember, I found Book Darts and am now using them:] These are little magnetic paper markers.  They basically clip around a page magnetically.  They are easy to move around, and because they have a little heft to them, they provide good tactile feedback when trying to find a section.  They do take up a little space, however, and add slightly to the thickness of the book.  Go back up to the second image from the top of this page, and you will see what I mean.

The i-clips I bought were the "Punctuation" version. I really didn't care what was on them, as long as they weren't too ugly.  ; )  The good news is that while one side of these has punctuation marks (in the form of ? @ & and !) the other side has an arrow.  That's pretty cool.  Like I said though, I am not concerned with what is on them, because I use the color and location to find where i want to go.  I know the order of my sections, so from the top down, I can hit the major sections of @work, @home, @church, and @random pretty quickly.

So far, I like them.  I will still check out Book Darts if I happen to run across them, though.

As you can see, I use the page markers to quickly find the writable space for any section.
I typically only need 2-3 credit cards and my Driver's License most of the time.  I tend to carry around a bunch more in my wallet than I actually use on a daily it is about an inch thick.  Taking those necessary items out of my wallet and moving them to my Moleskine allows me to use it as a wallet as well. And since it fits in my back works perfect.  I still have a wallet that I keep all of my random junk in...but I don't carry it around with me all the time. When I know I'll need it, I'll grab it.

I built my card holder from instructions I found here:

It was pretty simple. I just used a thick card-stock type photo envelope I found laying around in my office.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

On the very back cardboard sheet, I glued a makeshift credit card and driver's license holder. You can also see the pen loop.

The last thing I wanted to share with you was the pen loop I found.  It was a total impulse buy from The Container Store...but I thought I would give it a try.  It's works nicely, and is pretty simple. There are tons of "hack" instructions to do something similar with tape.  I just happened across this and bought it.  The elastic is good and tight. In fact, it was a little challenging at first to use with my LAMY Safari Fountain Pen, which happens to be my writing utensil of choice.  The LAMY is very thick and it doesn't slip easily into the elastic as a normal pen with a pointed section might.  In fact, after I bought it, I thought I wasted my money. just a few days, the elastic is starting to loosen up a bit, and I found an easy way to get the pen in there (stretching the elastic by pulling on it as I fit the end of the pen into it).  It's getting easier, so I may keep it around a bit.

A couple of thoughts on placement.  I didn't just stick it in the middle of the Moleskine, but rather lined the pen up and placed it on the pen to figure out where I wanted to put it. If I just put it in the middle, the pen cap might be in the way of getting the pen even with the top and bottom of the Moleskine.  I didn't measure, but it looks like the Pen Loop may be just a smidge below the center line on the back cover. Not much though.  But when I slide the pen in, and slip it all the way to where the cap touches the loop, the pen is perfectly centered.

Given all of the trouble I had getting the pen in and out at first, I was almost wondering if it might not have been smarter to put the pen loop higher up the that the loop would go around the cap rather than the barrel of the pen. That way I could just leave the cap connected to the book, and pull the pen out of the cap to use. I'm still considering that...but as I use it, the loop is breaking in nicely.

These were the items I bought (impulse buys!) i-clips from Barnes & Noble and the Pen Loop from The Container Store.

So that's pretty much it.  Oh! Wait!  I need to tell you how I plan to make sure that I don't waste space if one section fills up before the other.  Metadata and indexing.   Like I mentioned earlier, it's a lot like how your computer keeps track of data on a hard drive.

Let's say I fill up the personal @todo section right away.  That's pretty realistic, since it's only 3 pages.  One option would be to find the next spot in the journal that has a few contiguous empty pages. I wouldn't want to do it at the work section of @todo, because there isn't much room there to begin with.  It's likely that I'll find it somewhere in the @work section.

I'll just allocate a few more pages (4 perhaps) in the middle of the @work section for more @todo items.  I'll note the page numbers that I allocated and then add that to the @index.

The new @index for @todo might look like this:
  • @todo  (personal) 1-3, 40-43
  • @todo (work) 4-7
Now when I look at my index, I can tell that pages 1-3 has the beginning of my @todo items and then it is continued on pages 40-43.

I'll also add some metadata within the section to let me know where to go next, by putting something like "--> 40" at the end of page 3.  If I am reading through the list, I'll know it continues on page 40.  At the beginning of page 40, I'll put "<-- 3" to let me know that this is a continuation of page 3 information.  See?  Simple really.

Now what do I do if my @work journal reaches the end of page 39 now that 40 is used for the @todo list?  Same thing.  I know that 44 is blank (since I only allocated pages 40-43 for the @todo continuation) so I will use "--> 44" at the end of page 39, and "<--39" at the beginning of page 44.  I'll update the @index to reflect the changes, at it's back to business.  I essentially just skip the few pages that has something else on it, and keep going.
  • @work 24-39, 44-
I wouldn't put an end number on the @work section, because I want to make sure that space can be used for whatever I need later should that be the case. If @work fills up really fast, I might allocate some pages at the end of @personal and keep going.  

Additionally, I plan to use metadata for journal entries whenever it makes sense. Just like I continue pages, I may point a specific entry to another page that has a related entry...if I am continuing the thought.  Time will tell how much I use that "feature".

Oh, and the back pocket...a few things like my insurance card, receipts I need, a little cash, etc.

Well, I hope you found something useful in here. I probably gave this much more thought than anyone should give to using a pocket-sized notebook, but that's how I roll. ; )

Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on anything. Enjoy!

Manufacturer links to the products described on this page:

Moleskine Pocket Squared Notebook
LAMY Safari Fountain Pen
i-clips Magnetic Page Markers
Leuchtturm1917 Pen Loop

Much of the information I used to develop my system came from some of the following references (that I could remember, anyway).  Either way, if you are interested in such a things...there is tons of great reading here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Firing up the Blog Again...

Everything before this point was imported from an old blog I had set up a couple of years ago (and basically abandoned).

I wanted to start blogging more, so set this new blog up and associated it with my domain. The important was okay from the old stuff...but it may look a little funky.  I apologize for this.