Continuing the theme of “vintage pencils are awesome” today I’m using the Eberhard Faber Colorbrite red violet 2154 (which proudly notes that it’s both “woodclinched” and made in the USA). I counted 5 different fonts on this pencil, not including the 2154.
The fonts are my favourite thing on this pencil, although the end cap is elegant too and the colour is really unique and vibrant.
Go have fun with some pencils and listen to the birds for a while. They sing some hope into these dark times.
I’m using my pens to cheer me up a little, as we get ready for even more serious movement restrictions, and as the political and economical situation here go haywire. This was written using a Pelikan M805 Ocean Swirl with a fine nib and Sailor Peacock ink. The lighting situation at my desk doesn’t do this ink justice – it’s beautiful.
I managed to squeeze in a 4k run this morning. As I avoided people, I couldn’t run further than that, but I’m glad that I did. The weather is perfect for runs right now, and I really miss my running, but today’s run looks to be the last I’ll be able to go on for a while. I usually run along the waterfront, but so does everyone else, so I ran in parallel streets. This is a temporary goodbye to the sea, and I hope that it’s not a long one:
Stay healthy and safe, and look for the little things and little moments to keep you happy.
Near the end of one year and the beginning of another various articles and podcasts about New Year resolutions start popping up. They either give tips on how to make resolutions, debunk resolutions in favour of something else, and almost all of them try to sell you something.
This post is about how I create yearly goals (i.e. resolutions), using things that I already have, in a way that has worked for me since 2015.
I wrote about the way I do “New Years Resolutions” in the past. I call them that because I like the non-business ring of “resolution” over the “business-jargon” sounding goal. My “resolutions” are, however, S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. I manage them using the least used notebook that I had lying around (a Baron Fig Confidant), and whichever pen I have at hand. They aren’t made for instagram, rather I use my plain ugly handwriting, and what marking are on the page are there because they’re useful. Over the past five years I’ve attained about 90% of what I set out to achieve, with even an annus horribilis like 2018 not putting me too much off track. My goals are tiered, much like Kickstarter stretch goals, with most goals having a fairly easily attainable first tier, just in case life decides to kick me in a tender place.
I’m going to go over this year’s goals, and last year’s goals (apart from a few that I’ve censored for privacy’s sake). I know that February is usually the month when people give up on their resolutions. I hope that this post will help and inspire people to give yearly goals or resolutions a chance.
Above you can see my 2020 resolutions. A lot of them are things that appear in almost every year. The professional goals are all new (I didn’t manage my professional goals with my personal goals until this year, and even now only a small part of my professional goals are here).
Every goal at this point only has the basic, first tier goals set beside it. The first three goals for example, all reading related, will eventually have stretch goals. They’re interesting to note here because back in 2016 I only had one reading goal: read 24 books. Once I got back into the habit of reading, I started to challenge myself with longer and more challenging books. These are all my base reading goals. I usually stretch them to around 50 books a year.
Why don’t I start with 50 books then? Because the point of these goals is to build myself up for success. The basic goals are the “even if I have a horrible year I should be able to reach these” goals. They are there to remind me that there’s a tomorrow, and something I can and should do about that tomorrow, even if a family member is hospitalized (or worse). The stretch goals are then built in small increments, reaching to my my final goal for the year.
Why don’t I write my stretch goals down from the start? Because the point is to keep myself focused on the next small step. That’s why things are broken down to the smallest increment that makes sense: one book, 10k, one month.
There’s a reason for each goal on this spread. I won’t go into each one specifically, but they all fall into the following general categories:
Write more (my writing goals are censored, because if I publish them, I won’t do them. I know myself well enough by now).
Use the stuff I own.
Challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.
Social goals (partly censored).
Health goals (running, cross-training, bloodwork, dentist visits).
Professional goals (partial list).
Everything has to fit in on a two page spread, or I lose track of things. That’s why I spill over to other pages in the same notebook to track some of the details of my goals:
Here are my 2019 resolutions. A pink check mark means that the basic goal is finished. You can see the increments things grow by (my stretch goals):
You may have noticed that the “fill triggers” goal isn’t filled up at all. This is the “relevant” part of the S.M.A.R.T. goals. I used the trigger system from Marshal Goldsmith’s “Triggers” book for a few months in 2018, and I decided at the beginning of 2019 to not continue with it. It was a conscious decision, and so I just ignored that goal.
Here are my 2019 “spill” pages, just to get an idea of how the whole thing works together:
Here are pencils, fountain pens, notebooks and races tracking:
And my largest tracking list, books:
The Baron Fig Confidant that holds this list has a bright cover and sits right in front of me, on my desk, at all times. I set up my goals that at every day or two I crack the notebook open and update the lists. Once there, I scan everything and check if there’s something that I can do to get it done. The point is to have this list on the top of my mind as much as possible, or else I’ll just forget about it, or it becomes something that I avoid checking out.
This is a system that supports me every day, giving my goals and aspirations much needed structure. I hope that this will help you build a personal system of this kind for yourself.
On the last Friday of my recent trip to London I stumbled upon the most magical place in West End (Harry Potter play included): The Phoenix Garden.
I’ve never felt more like Mary from “The Secret Garden” in my life: right behind the Phoenix theatre, in the last place you’d ever expect, is a beautiful community garden. At first I thought it was a private garden, one of the many gardens around central London that are accessible only to residents or others lucky enough to have their keys. I was taking a shortcut from Charing Cross Road to Shaftesbury Avenue when I saw the wall around the place, and inside glimpses of the planting. I was about to pass by when I noticed that there was someone sitting with their carry on luggage on a bench.
“That’s not right for a keyed garden,” I thought to myself, and went to investigate. I met a duo of lovely ladies at the entrance, volunteers that told me a little about the place and told me to go exploring. It was love at first sight.
The Phoenix Garden is a community garden, run by volunteers and funded by charitable donations (I donated and I urge you to both visit them and donate to them). It was founded on a parking lot, which itself was founded on a WWII bomb site, so talk about challenging growing conditions! Rubble, rubble everywhere and not a bit of earth. It’s also a very small plot, only 1/3 of an acre, which gets very little rainfall. The volunteers managed to create a sustainable green oasis that feels much larger than it is, requires no watering, and is a haven to wildlife. Sitting there, a minute from the bustling Charing Cross Road and you’ll encounter birds, squirrels, bees, and even frogs within moments of sitting on one of the garden benches.
The garden feels larger because it has been cleverly planned: there are winding paths, tall plants that screen you from the rest of the garden and provide privacy, little hills and deep valleys. It’s a miracle of planting and construction.
The planting is quite varied and suitable for dry and relatively warm conditions (a bonus of being a city garden), so there’s a lot to look at beyond the wildlife.
It’s also a wonderful place to just sit in and decompress and unwind. You can’t help but smile looking around you, taking it all in. Take some time off your next West End visit and go say hello to its secret garden.
I have too many pencils which I don’t take the time to use. Inspired by this episode of the Pen Addict podcast I decided to literally do a random draw: I randomly drew a pencil from the pile, and then I randomly drew something with it. Today’s pencil: the General’s Pacific 365 #2.
It’s a classic looking #2 (or HB) pencil, with for some reason three or four fonts on the barrel, depending how you count the numerals. It’s made in the USA, out of California incense cedar, and has a little red thing on the top that looks like an eraser, but trust me, I wouldn’t try to use it as one.
The green foil imprint quality is not great, with the “Pacific” imprint chipping the pencil’s coating. The coating itself is pretty thinly layered, but the core is perfectly centred and sharpens like a charm.
You can see the available shades that the General’s Pacific is capable of producing in the closeup of the sea turtle above. If you’re looking for a #2 writing pencil that could do for a quick sketch in a pinch, the Pacific ought to do the job. It doesn’t smudge and holds a point very well.
I erased a word between the “S” and the “LATIONSHIPS” on the left side of the closeup above. It erased out pretty well, even though the writing was dark and done with some pressure.
The phone above shows you the maximum darkness I was able to produce with the General’s Pacific. It’s not bad, considering that this is clearly not a pencil made for drawing, but one made primarily for writing.
If you’re buying from CW Pencils and are looking to add a workhorse cedar pencil with a fondness for fonts to your order, the General’s Pacific is a pretty good choice.