Off Topic: The Odd Hobby of Running

Though I often find it difficult to explain this blog (and the hobby of collecting pens in general) to people, running as a hobby can be much harder to explain. With pens, I usually say that I’m drawn to the art and design element, or I’ll just gift a nice gel pen to anyone who expresses curiosity – that works most of the time. But trying to explain my hobby of running to non-runners, well, a lot of the time they just don’t “get it.”

Running at least has the advantage of being a very common activity. Nobody really looks down on it or thinks that it’s crazy or weird, but a lot of people see it as something grueling at best or, at worst, grueling and boring. Most wonder, if you’re not just trying to burn a few extra calories, why would you choose to run all the time?

I’ve found that the easiest answer is to just shrug and say, “I think it’s fun.” But if I’m making an effort, I’ll say something like, “running is the opposite of eating an entire tray of brownies.” The point is, gorging yourself on a big dessert is really pleasurable in the moment, but it’ll leave you feeling sluggish, bloated, and probably ashamed of your gluttony. Conversely, running can sometimes be miserable in the moment, but you’ll feel energized and happier later on.

Though, honestly, that’s still just a partial explanation.

There are times when I’m just happy to be outside in the fresh air, especially on a sunny day but even sometimes on a rainy or cold day. There’s also the famous “runner’s high,” though I think it’s greatly exaggerated. More than that, I love the feeling of setting goals, running longer and faster, and being surprised at how much progress is possible.

Over the past year, I’ve really gotten into the sport. I’ve been running lots of 5Ks and Half-Marathons, slowly getting faster, gaining endurance, and chipping away at my personal records. I’m not quick enough to be competitive, but I’m still excited to see what I can do. And I’ll find out this fall when I’ll be running my first marathon – the New York City Marathon. It might sound odd to a lot of people, but I’m very much looking forward to running those 26.2 miles.

If you’re at all interested in picking up running as a hobby, I’d strongly encourage signing up for a 5K race/fun run this summer. There are many to choose from, and it shouldn’t be difficult to find a local event. There are also lots of great “Couch to 5K” training plans for free on the web if you aren’t sure how to start.

Yes, it’ll probably be grueling and boring at first. But if you stick with it, you too may get to that point where you’re looking forward to your next run and maybe even discover that running isn’t such an odd hobby after all.

Notes on 2015 Nixon Field Notes

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Many Field Notes fans are familiar with the special edition Nixon notebooks from 2016. It was a good collaboration, and those summery notebooks remain popular. However, all but forgotten are these notebooks that Nixon released a year earlier, in 2015. Although 2015 was a peak year for Field Notes collectors, the 2015 Nixon notebooks just never seemed to be highly sought after.

Each pack contains three notebooks. The first is a turquoise/gray book, which is far and away the most eye-catching one in the pack, though it contains plain inner-paper. The second is a dark brown book with ruled paper. And the third book looks very similar to the standard grid-ruled, Kraft Field Notes notebook, though it has dark-brown printing on the inner cover. These notebooks use 100# cover stock, 50# paper, and light-brown ink for the ruling.

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The 2015 Nixon Field Notes books have long been sold out, but I don’t personally consider it too much of a loss. I find the books a little to plain, to be honest. But if anyone ever decides to release 3-pack of those turquoise books, it’d be an easy impulse purchase for me (just as long as it’s made with graph paper).

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Additional Notes

  • The 2015 and 2016 Nixon Field Notes share the same “practical applications” list. A little boring, I know.
  • Back in 2011, there was a different special edition of Field Notes that used turquoise covers (with a company called Tattly). But besides being long sold-out, I’m pretty sure they had blank inner paper too.
  • Did I mention that the 2016 Field Notes are still in stock?

Retro Talk: The Ice-O-Metric Tornado

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There may be no summertime dessert more iconic than the Bomb Pop  – or, depending on your ice-cream truck guy, maybe it’s the Firecracker Popsicle. Either way, if you live in the United States, this dessert will probably conjure up memories of picnics, parks, and purple tongues. So maybe its no accident that this new Retro 51 Tornado, the Ice-O-Metric, was released in the dead of winter, when I find myself most nostalgic for memories of warm weather.

The Ice-O-Metric design – an 8-bit depiction of the above-mentioned dessert – was created by Michael Jacobs, who wrote a fascinating blog post that details its inception and evolution (a worthwhile read for any aspiring graphic designers). Originally, the design was sold on a t-shirt, but it eventually made it to the Tornado via Brad Dowdy, who sells it on the Pen Addict website.

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Aside from the red, white, and blue ice pops wrapped diagonally along the barrel, there is a matching disc atop the twist mechanism, and, as a bonus gimmick, the pen also glows in the dark.  It’s a great design, and an excellent sophomore Tornado release from The Pen Addict – the first being a more basic orange model.

I’d say, get your hands on it if you can. It’s a limited edition of 600 pieces, and there’s apparently a risk that they’ll be run over by delivery trucks.

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Looking Ahead to 2018

There’s no doubt about it, 2017 has been a weird year in ways big and small. There were tons of divisive political stories, of course, and a solar eclipse that briefly brought everyone back together. Apple also released a cool new iPhone that is way too expensive, and the new Star Wars movie turned out to be quite polarizing. As I said, a weird year, but at least things here at the Pens and Junk blog have been good & steady.

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This last year, I managed to publish thirty-three new posts, and the site subsequently saw a modest 11.4% uptick in traffic. Not too bad.

My pick for 2017 Pen of the Year is a tough one, however. Retro 51’s Bioworkz Tornado and Hex-o-Matic both get honorable mentions, but, ultimately, the emerald-green Squire Experiment by Baron Fig takes my top slot. It’s a bright and beautiful pen, and it’s no surprise that it sold out immediately.

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In 2018, the blog will march on. I’ve never liked making New Year’s resolutions, so I thought I’d try a list of goals instead. So, here’s some of what I’ll hopefully accomplish on Pens and Junk this year:

  1. I need to fix all the times I misspelled stationery as “stationary.” That one should be simple.
  2. Finish my Nib Novice Series. I’m so close to being done.
  3. Do a minor site redesign. It’s time.
  4. Do something for charity. I have a couple ideas, though suggestions are always welcome.
  5. Write more book reviews, two or three off-topic posts, and create some index pages to help with organization. That seems straight-forward enough.

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And as always, I don’t want to forget about all the non-pen stuff to look forward to in 2018:

I’m pretty excited about that Han Solo movie (though I will tempter my expectations), as well as a new Avengers movie.  And of course there will be more – too much! – good TV to watch, the new seasons of Jessica Jones and Westworld in particular. I also still have to figure out who I’m rooting for in the 2018 World Cup and which Winter Olympics events to follow (maybe curling?).

And will this be the year George R.R. Martin finally releases the next book in the Game of Thrones (i.e. A Song of Ice and Fire) series? Probably not. But let’s not let that put a damper on our year.

I hope everyone has a wonderful 2018!

Notes on Carhartt Field Notes

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Field Notes and Carhartt are a lot alike; Both companies are headquartered in the Midwest. Both companies appeal strongly to the blue-collar and the hipster demographics. And both companies exude pride that their products are manufactured in the U.S.A. It was only a matter of time before the notebook company and the apparel company got together to create a custom set of Field Notes pocket notebooks.

Each pack contains three 3.5” x 5.5” notebooks, and each has its own theme. There’s the orange book for hunting, the green book for camping, and the blue book for fishing.  The covers feature a slick two-tone version of the Carhartt logo (a zoomed-in curlicue “C”), and the back cover tells a short history of the Carhartt company, as well as some general tips for using Field Notes notebooks.

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These notebooks use 100# cover stock and 60# white inner-paper with a brown, lined ruling. In concept, these books seem very similar to the Campfire Edition, though the Carhartt Field Notes seem much simpler overall. And, honestly, I prefer this simpler look. It’s a clean cover design, yet it still pops, and the graphics on the back feel very 1950s retro.

As long as you’re okay using lined paper – I know, I wish they used graph paper too – I definitely recommend grabbing a pack. Most of the time these Field Notes editions are long sold out by the time I write about them, but luckily, these Carhartt books are still available on their website. It’s like a Christmas mini-miracle.

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Additional Notes

  • Each of the three notebooks have (mostly) their own themed “practical applications” list. From the camping book, my favorite is, “06. Sasquatch Composite Sketch.” From the hunting book, my favorite is, “25. Wild Boar Attack Formations.” And from the fishing book, my favorite is, “02. Old Fishermanisms.”
  • Carhartt used to make old-school “field notes” notebooks, apparently.
  • You know who likes lined ruling? Leadfast does. Check out the review of Carhartt Field Notes over there.