Tag Archives: notebooks

4 Years of Field Notes

If you have seen me in the last four years, then you know that I am rarely without a Field Notes notebook in my back pocket. I can no longer recall exactly how I discovered these wonderful notebooks, but they have changed my life. A few days ago, I turned to the first Field Notes notebook I ever used, and saw that I started it on June 24, 2015–just about four years ago. In that time, I have become a subscriber to their quarterly notebook list, collected probably around 100 of their notebooks, and filled nineteen of them. These volumes sit on a shelf by my desk where I keep all of my important reference volumes.

My Field Notes volumes

One volume (not among the nineteen) I used as a simple index of the others. Looking at that one, you can see that it took me a while to fill those volumes at first. I filled five of them in 2016, five in 2017, and five in 2018. I’ve filled three so far in the first half of 2019, but that number is going up more rapidly these days as the way that I used these notebook has evolved.

My Field Notes index

When I started, these notebooks served as a kind of short term memory for me. I’d jot down things so that I wouldn’t forget them later. Flipping through the first volume, for instance, I see ideas for blog posts, scribbles from visits to the dentist, and bumper stickers I found amusing (“Condoms prevent unwanted minivans.”) There are some things that I no longer know what they are for. Numbers like 27.975. I think it was for some code I was writing because there’s a reference to a GitHub repo. There’s a surprising amount of math worked out longhand in the pages.

In those early volumes, I rarely dated anything, other than the date I started and finished the volume. It wasn’t until volume 7 (12/20/2016 – 3/18/2017) that I regularly started dating the pages. By then, I’d become more accustomed to pulling out my notebook without feeling embarrassed. Not only are there restaurant names, there are server names (so that I don’t forget). I even occasionally write down what I plan to order.

There are lists of all kinds, including lists of books that I plan to read so that I don’t forget. I don’t always get to the books right away, but I do eventually. Some pages have notes from meetings (before I started using Composition Books for that purpose), more math being worked out, and fairly detailed notes from historic sites we visit. (I am the one on the guided tours, scribbling in my notebook as we move through the 300 year old house.)

The two most recent notebooks have taken yet another step forward in their evolutionary development. I filled these much faster–within about a month, or a rate of 12 notebooks a year. With these, I start each day scribbling the date on the next blank page. Then, my day gets logged as it happens, and the various random lists, math, memory aids is right there among it all. A typical day now fills 2 pages. This has been a great aid for helping me with more detailed journal entries at the end of the day. Since I have been logging what I eat again, that finds its way into the mix. Here’s what today’s entry looks like, so far:

A page from 6/16/2019

I always have a Field Notes notebook in my pocket, along with two pens, one black, and one blue. On rare occasions when I have set it aside, I feel the way I do when I’ve left my wallet at home. I love the variety of the notebooks, and the themes that the folks at Field Notes come up with. Right now, I’m carrying around one of their Mile Marker editions.

Friends and family have grown used to me pulling out these notebooks to jot things down. They only make fun of me a little. But when they want to know something about what happened a few days earlier, I occasionally here them turn to Kelly and say, “Ask Jamie, he’ll know. He probably wrote it in his notebook.”

And I probably did.

Who Needs a Scale?

Life goes on, even amidst the chaos of moving. Back in April I gave up caffeine. On May 28, I started a diet in an effort to lose weight again. For this effort, I followed the same plan that worked so well for me the first time I tried to lose weight: I limited myself to 1,600 calories a day. I took lessons I’ve learned from my first (and second) attempts at this and it seemed to be working, but I couldn’t be sure. That’s because of the move.

The fancy digital scale I’d bought a while back was packed away. I had not other means of measuring my weight to see if the diet was, in fact, working. Over the weekend, while unpacking some boxes, I located the scale–and the batteries were dead. The AAA batteries we had were packed away in other box, and I had no idea where that box was located, so off I went to the store for some AAA batteries.

But the batteries (and the scale, for that matter) failed me. Something within the scale’s digital mechanism had given up the ghost. No matter how many fresh AAA batteries I tried, the scale would not work. I decided I had to get another scale. I further decided that this one would be purely mechanical.

In the meantime, life went on. We unpacked. I worked. We attended soccer games, and end-of-year school picnics. Each time I ate or drank something, I diligently wrote it down in one of the Field Notes notebooks I carry around with me. I felt like I was making progress, but I couldn’t know for sure, not without a scale to tell me one way or the other.

Then I had to go into the office for a training session. I mostly work from home these days, but I headed into the office. As I passed through the office toward the desk I’d reserved, someone I hadn’t seen in a while, said hello, and then, tilted their head, raised and eye brow, and said, “Did you lose weight?”

A sample size of one is no indication that the diet is working, not in absence of physical measurement. But when I arrived at the training session, the person leading the training, who I also hadn’t seen in a while also asked me if I’d lost weight.

Two people, in completely separate circumstances, asking me if I lost weight was promising, especially in absence of a scale. I started to hope for three, but didn’t want to press my luck.

This did get me thinking that perhaps I don’t need a scale after all. Perhaps the best way to know if my diet is working is not to worry so much about the daily measurements. Instead, I’ll just occasionally visit with people I don’t see on a regular basis, and wait for some comment. The frequency of such comments are probably just as good as any scale’s measurement might provide. And more rewarding, too.