Chronos Made My Dumb Watch Dumber

After becoming somewhat attached to notifications on my Apple Watch, I missed them when wearing my automatic watch.

In order to make my beloved analog watch a little smarter, I bought a Chronos. The Chronos attaches to the back of any watch and adds “smart” features like step counting and notifications. This sounded like a great idea.

What I found was that using the Chronos made my dumb watch dumber.

When wearing the Apple Watch, whenever I feel a little tap on my wrist I just glance at the Watch and see the notification details. When wearing the automatic watch with the Chronos attached, I’d get a tap on my wrist and reflexively glance at my watch and see… the time. In order to actually check the notification, I still needed to take out my phone. This was frustrating and not useful.

I like to wear my automatic watch when going out at night. Recently, I grabbed the watch on my way out and realized I hadn’t charged the Chronos. That was the end of it. The whole point of an automatic watch is that it takes no batteries and never needs a charge. I’m not interested in remembering to charge a watch that should never need charging.

I removed the Chronos and my nice, manual, automatic watch went back to its normal task of telling the time and making me happy.

Darkroom Underground Magazine

Tim Layton:

Whether you are a traditionalist like myself or a hybrid photographer, The Darkroom Underground publishes a balance of technical and creative articles in every issue along with featured photographers and some of their best artwork

I’ve subscribed. Film-focused photography resources are becoming less rare. This is a good thing.

Why I Still Read Printed Newspapers

Here’s a quick list of reasons I still read printed newspapers.

  • Reading a newspaper is a distinct, deliberate effort to catch up on the news
  • I find the act of reading a printed newspaper to be relaxing, even when the content is terrifying
  • Ads are unintrusive and do not track me
  • No video or shitty slideshows
  • Headlines and ledes are on front page, with the longer version just a page turn away
  • No irrelevant and annoying clickbait to lead me astray
  • It’s possible to completely finish the news, put down the paper, and go on with my day.

Dear News Media: Create News For People Who Have Never Read A Newspaper

Media Center Lab:

OK, look: Breaking away from old conventions is hard. I get it. But it doesn’t make sense to force the norms of 50 years ago onto people whose parents weren’t even born then.

Adapting a newspaper for the modern web isn’t good enough for people who never read newspapers in the first place. We deserve something new

“Deserve”, really? I think what you meant is “want”.

I understand the overall sentiment, but…

This kind of layout is what we’d expect from a newspaper. But something created for a young and sophisticated audience needs better design, better visual hierarchy and more color. We grew up in the age of iPod ads, and for us, design matters.

Of course only the young are sophisticated enough to know and understand that design matters.

Here’s a tip. If you want to get the most out of the news, read real, printed newspapers. Really, it solves many of the problems described in the article.

Leica: To M-D or not to M-D? - Adam Singer

Adam Singer - 35mmc:

The new Leica M-A puts you squarely at the cutting edge of 60-year-old technology, as to all intents it’s the same camera as the 1954 Leica M3, but 60 years of constant technical development, has given the M-A a slightly more cluttered viewfinder and a marginally less precise rangefinder.

It’s completely irrational to want an M-A, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I mean just look at it. How could you not want one?

Leica M-A

The Revenge of Analog (Book)

The Revenge of Analog

If ever a book was meant for me, “The Revenge of Analog“ is it.

David Sax dives into the ongoing resurgence of analog: film photography, paper notebooks, vinyl records, even education. I believe all of these things matter, and that their continued (and growing) use is for the better.

Sax perhaps sprinkles everything with a bit of unnecessary hyperbole, but he’s obviously excited about the same things I am, so I’ll forgive the excess.

“The Revenge of Analog” is a fun and informative read for anyone even remotely interested in the life or “real things”

Three Notebooks

I have taken to carrying three notebooks. Here’s how (or better, when) I use them.

Before it happens

I use a Hobonichi Techo Planner for scheduling and planning. It’s loaded with calendars and dated pages.

Hobonichi Techo

The Hobonichi is a wonderful, easy-to-carry planner that uses Tomoe River paper; my favorite. I record all event-based information in one. On each day’s page I write a list of things relevant to that day. I sometimes include a small sketch representing the day.

While it’s happening

I use a Field Notes notebook to jot things down while I’m away from a desk.

Field Notes

The Field Notes notebook fits in my pocket, so I always have it with me. With it, I can quickly capture things any time.

After it happens

I use a Leuchtturm1917 notebook to record notes and keep lists. It’s a modified Bullet Journal.


The Leuchtturm is great for longer-form notes and lists. It’s my bullet journal and where I collect things captured in the Field Notes notebook once I’m back at my desk.

My notebook configuration changes regularly, but I like where things are now.

PhotoMemo Photographer's Memo Book

PhotoMemo book

I’ve gotten lazy when it comes to recording information about film rolls. This, combined with my infatuation with notebooks, led me to PhotoMemo Photographer’s Memo Book at Shoot Film Co. After reading this review at 35mmc I’ve ordered a couple of the notebooks to try. Maybe I’ll get better at logging things or maybe I’ll just end up with a few more unused notebooks. Either way, I’m happy to support the effort.

Vinyl or Stream

I’m reconsidering my attachment to “owning” digital copies of music. Thinking now that music is only necessary in Vinyl form. Anything not worth the price or not available on vinyl can just be streamed.

Dictation using Apple Watch vs Sony Microcassette

I carry a microcassette recorder in my car so that I can dictate quick notes while driving, with minimal fuss. I’ve tried replacing it with using Siri or other methods on my phone, but nothing is as quick and easy as the little cassette recorder. See this earlier post for details.

Today I discovered an iOS app that attempts to make voice recording as easy as possible. It’s called Just Press Record and I’m finding it very promising. It comes with an Apple Watch app and can be used as a complication. This means that with a single tap on my watch, I can begin recording and then have the audio and transcription automatically synced to my phone (via iCloud).

One thing I’d like to see added to Just Press Record is an option to automatically save each recording. I’d rather not need to tap the Save button each time and just deal with deleting unwanted recordings later, while not driving. The fewer taps the better for my use case.

Still, the Sony allows for dictation using one hand and without needing to take my eyes off the road, so it remains to be seen whether using the watch can replace it in the long run.

David Rees is winding down his pencil sharpening service

David Rees started an Artisanal Pencil Sharpening service and kept a mostly straight face about it the entire time. The execution was brilliant. Of course I bought one:

My artisanally-sharpened pencil from David Rees

My artisanally-sharpened pencil from David Rees

He wrote a book on the subject: “How to Sharpen Pencils


Chapter 11 of “How to Sharpen Pencils” includes an in-depth discussion on mechanical pencils, which is included here in its entirety:

Mechanical pencils are bullshit.

The book is filled with terrific and useful information about pencil sharpening. I recommended his service to all my friends. I can only assume each and every one of them purchased his or her own pencil.

So it was with surprise and what I can only describe as horror that I read the following tweet:

I see that he’s changed the price of newly-sharpened pencils from $40 to $500, which could be why he says “effectively done”. The good news is that you could still get one. At least for now.

A professionally-sharpened pencil isn’t just a tool, it’s an investment.

Making library miscellaneousness awesome

David Weinberger on the Sitterwerk Art Library:

That the shelves have no persistent order doesn’t mean they have no order. Rather, works are reshelved by users in the clusters the users have created for their research. All the items have RFID tags in them, and the shelves are automatically scanned so that the library can always tell users where items are located.

As a result, if you look up a particular item, you will see it surrounded by works that some other user thought were related to it in some way. This creates a richer browsing experience because it is shaped and reshaped by how its community of users sees the items’ inter-relationships.

I love everything about this.

Stagnant and dull, can digital books ever replace print?

Craig Mod:

Where will those explorations happen? I don’t know. But I do know that print has endured and continues to endure for good reason. Our relationships to our most meaningful books are long and textured. And until we can trust our digital reading platforms, until the value propositions of digital are made clearer, until the notes and data we produce within them is more accessible and malleable, physical books will remain at the core of our working libraries for a long time coming.

Craig Mod has gone from being a long-time avid Kindle user back to reading physical books. His essay captures the nearly identical evolution I’ve gone through with physical vs Kindle books. I haven’t bought a book on the Kindle in a long time. I don’t love them, and more importantly, I don’t trust them. I’m not willing to trade trust for convenience.

Bulletin Boards

Bulletin board index card

Part of my bulletin board

I love bulletin boards. Nothing is more versatile than a bulletin board with a hand full of push-pins.

A bulletin board will hold mundane things like a self-referential index card. It will also hold the most precious things, like a photo of my dad next to the first car I remember him driving.

And everything in between. All right there in front of me, all the time.



Pencils are the SnapChat of writing instruments.

Five Year Journal

Levenger 5-Year Journal

I just finished my first 5-Year Journal from Levenger and I can’t recommend it enough.

The idea is to write a short sentence or two each day. The journal is laid out so that each page contains five entries, one per day for each of the five years. It’s great seeing what I wrote on any given day in prior years. It’s easy to spot things that have changed over time. Better yet, it’s easy to spot the things that haven’t.

I bought four of them and now have three left. That’s 15 more years of small daily records. Priceless.

Siri vs the Sony Microcassette Recorder

I’ve carried an old-school microcassette recorder in my car for years. There is no better way to quickly record a note to myself while driving. The little Sony BM-575 is perfect for the task. I just grab it, slide the button, talk, and release the button when finished. I can do it without taking my eyes off the road. It’s simple and quick, and the batteries last forever. Once a week I rewind the tape to 000 on the counter, transcribe whatever notes are relevant from the recordings, and reset the counter.

should be able to use Siri on my phone or Watch for this, but it’s never worked as well as my little recorder. The process when using the iPhone looks like this:

  1. Press and hold the home button and wait for Siri to activate
  2. Say “Take a note” and wait for Siri to say “Ok, what would you like the note to say” or whatever. (I would prefer saying “Take a voice memo” but Siri then just launches the Voice Memo app, which requires me to push yet another button to begin recording. Too much hassle.
  3. Speak what I want the note to say and wait for Siri to create the note and say “Got it.”
  4. Press the home button to go back to whatever the phone was doing

Dictating using the iPhone while driving is awkward and fidgety compared to using the recorder. Maybe the iPhone 6S will improve things. It would be nice to retire the little Sony, but only if using the iPhone is an improvement. So far that hasn’t been the case.

My Ideal Workstation


I sometimes imagine living in a world where I sit alone at a big old wooden desk and do my work using only a telephone, address book, adding machine, paper calendar, notebook, and a nice pen. That would be my ideal workstation.

In this distraction-free world of simple tools, I lean back in my leather chair and think for a while before typing a letter that will reach its recipient in a day or two. Maybe three. In the meantime I schedule things, make a few phone calls, jot things down, and push pins into the giant wall map.

As crazy as it sounds, I believe I could be more productive in this fictive environment, but I fear I’ll never have the opportunity to prove it. Digital tools keep getting in my way.

The convenience of digital is very compelling. I find myself drifting toward digital tools more than I like. The Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Sonos, and the rest of them all work together and drag me kicking and screaming away from my beloved notebooks and folders and pens.

I’ll keep fighting for the analog lifestyle that I prefer, and hopefully find a balance that works.

Hobonichi Cousin 2016

For the past three years I’ve used the highly-regarded Hobonichi Techo planner. It’s a great little planner, but perhaps _too_ little.

My notebook binder of choice in recent months has been a Roterfaden and it’s quickly become a favorite. It’s the perfect (A5) size, built wonderfully, and the clip mechanism is clever and useful. In it I’ve kept an Apica Premium C.D. notebook and the combination is great. I’d been carrying my little Techo separately, which worked but wasn’t ideal.

Then I discovered the “Cousin” version of the Hobonichi. The Cousin is A5 and just as awesome as the littler Techo. The only problem is that it doesn’t come in an edition that’s been translated to English. I decided to try one anyway. I bought the Spring 2015 version and love it.

Roterfaden And Hobonichi Techo A5 Cousin

Everything is in Japanese but that’s fine since I’ve learned to recognize the symbols for each day. Not a problem. The Cousin fits perfectly in the Roterfaden. I love the combination and have ordered the 2016 Cousin.

Sony TC-378

Sony TC-378

You just knew I was going to end up with a reel-to-reel deck some day. Or as I like to call it, reel-to-real.

Many of the GRAMC{.} films include a separate audio track on 14-inch magnetic tape. I had no way to play the audio so I bought the above Sony TC-378 from a local record store. It’s probably overkill but it’s pretty cool.

The TC-378 was manufactured in 1976. From what I gather it’s a pretty decent unit with many spare parts still available if it needs service.

First attempt using New55's R3 Monobath Developer


That didn’t go well.

This was my first time using the R3 Monobath Developer from New55. Other people have great results with it but I’ve obviously done something wrong.

The image above is a scanned 4×5 negative (HP5+) shot using an ancient Crown Graphic. Many things can fail when shooting large format film that I’m certainly not ready to blame the developer. I’ve never seen this sort of ghosting effect before so it’ll be fun tracking down what went wrong.

Another thing I learned is that I’m finally going to need an exhaust fan in the darkroom. The R3 contains ammonia and phew it’s strong. Probably not good for me to stand there for six minutes in the dark just breathing it all in.

I love the idea of a monobath developer, especially for large format so I’m going to keep trying.

Vinyl isn't the future of music. This chart proves it


But one thing’s for certain: even if the market stabilizes completely, vinyl is never going to be the dominant way consumers listen to music

Why would anyone write something like that? Really, vinyl isn’t going to be dominant? First off, no shit. No sane person would suggest the contrary. Second, that’s not the point of vinyl.

A briefcase containing the chronicles of an affair between a man and his secretary

Álvaro Serrano on A briefcase containing the chronicles of an affair between a man and his secretary:

Next time somebody complains to you about how social networks and the Internet are destroying privacy and marriages, just point them towards this article.

(Via Analog Senses)

I’m not sure I’d compare an affair exposed by material found after 30 years of being stored in a briefcase to broken security or privacy issues on social media, but I am fascinated by the degree to which Günter documented the thing.

I write in one (paper) journal or another nearly every day, and while I’m not having an affair or doing anything illegal, I know it’s likely someone will read them someday. I’m a little careful because of it. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much. I’ll just toss them in a briefcase and let the archivists have their fun at my expense later.

Movie Club Transfers

When my grandfather left me the entire Grand Rapids Amateur Movie Club library I promised I would work to preserve them and some day transfer them to digital. As you can see, there are quite a few films, in both 8, Super 8, and 16mm formats.

Cabinet containing most of the GRAMC films

Cabinet containing most of the GRAMC films

A few years ago I made my first attempt at transferring them using movie mode on a digital camera pointing at a projection screen. This worked in that it created a digital version of the films but the quality was of course terrible.

I then tried a local company which did conversions. The quality was somewhat better but it took them too long and the cost was too high. I could send them out to something like ScanCafe which does a great job. The trouble with that is I don’t believe they return the films on the original spools, which is a requirement. They are cheaper, but transferring everything would still be expensive. Besides, I kind of want to handle everything myself. These films are important to me.

While researching Telecine options I ran into the Retro-8 frame-by-frame scanner from MovieStuff. I’ve decided that this is the way to go. I have a unit ordered and should have it in 60 days or so.

Retro-8 by MovieStuff

Retro-8 by MovieStuff

The plan is to get everything transferred and resell the unit. The problem with that plan is that if it works well I won’t want to sell it, even when all of my films have been transferred. I will probably want to transfer films for other folks who are in the same situation as me. Preservation of family and other histories is important and this is something that could help. Yes, I’m rationalizing a purchase, but my intentions are good!

Skilcraft U.S. Government pens

20140921 DSCF0343

There are so many glowing reviews of the Skilcraft pens that I had to try them. They’ve been around forever and have a great story. A box of 12 costs $15, so the risk was pretty low.

My experience is that they’re pretty lousy pens. For a buck apiece I shouldn’t expect much, but they feel terrible in hand and the few that I’ve actually tried using have skipped regularly. They’re not supposed to do that. I’ll never know if they write in the rain or not because I’m not willing to go that far. Outside of nostalgia I can’t think of any reason to recommend them.

Deciding which new phone I want


If you think deciding which new iPhone to buy is tough, imagine how I feel! The 500? Slimline? Touch Tone or Rotary? It’s impossible to choose!

Mailing a letter

I pull the chair up to my desk and prepare to write another letter. She likes to receive letters and I like to send them.

I choose an appropriate stationery and just the right pen; this time a nice Pelikan fountain pen with dark green ink. I write, slowly and deliberately. I want to say the right things. Also, my penmanship is terrible. But it’s mine. I’m careful to finish before reaching the bottom of the page, so there’s still room to sign it.

“Love, Jack” it says.

I fold the page carefully and insert it into a matching envelope. I write her address on the envelope, even more carefully, as I want the post office to get it right. I affix the perfect stamp; something cute, but not too cute. Satisfied, I seal the envelope and walk it to the end of the driveway. I put the letter into the mailbox, leaning it against the side, just so. And finally, I flip up the little flag so the mailman knows there’s something waiting.

I walk contentedly back to the house and smile. It’s on its way.

Technology Failures this Weekend

People wonder why I like old, simple, manual, mostly analog devices and tools. This weekend served as a pretty good reminder of why I sometimes hate technology.

Bluetooth Headphones

I have a rather expensive pair of Bluetooth earbuds so I can listen to audio books while I ride my bike. I bought them so I could ride without worrying about tangled cables or the buds falling out. I charged them up (which is required before every ride because battery life is pretty bad) and drove to the bike trail. The headphones wouldn’t pair. They were paired yesterday, but suddenly nothing. I tried for 20 minutes and gave up.


After failing to pair my headphones, I noticed that the battery meter on the iPhone said 29% even though I’d charged it overnight and it was only 10:00am. I shrugged, fired up Runkeeper, killed all other apps, and took off for my ride. 20 minutes later the battery was dead. This happens pretty regularly and is maddening.


I wanted to try using the Remote app on the iPhone instead of Apple’s horrible aluminum remote. Somehow I ended up unable to control the AppleTV with either the phone or the remote. Required a reset and some time on Google to find a fix.


I’ve been using DEVONthink for years. One thing they still don’t have nailed is sync. There are all sorts of configurable sync options but I’ve not found one that works consistently. If I didn’t hate using Evernote I’d switch back to it just for its flawless sync. After an hour of fidgeting I’ve gotten things working again, but sheesh.


My iMac has been getting worse and worse. Very slow, very flakey. I’m almost positive it’s a hardware problem but Apple had it overnight and found nothing. A reboot takes up to 20 minutes before things are usable. Half the time only some of the startup items actually start. Time for something new I think.


Sonos on my phone wouldn’t connect to any of the speakers so I couldn’t control my music. I tried updating to the latest 5.1 version via the desktop app but after it downloads I get a message saying that there was a problem with the update and to “please try downloading the update again”. Maybe later.

I think may just put on a record and read a book.

How Fountain Pens are Made

Discriminating writers still consider the fountain pen the ultimate writing instrument.

Fountain pens are fun to use and, for some of us, to collect. I’m left-handed, which makes using a fountain pen challenging. It’s worth it.

Here’s how quality fountain pens are made.


Olympia SM9

Olympia SM3 and SM9

Olympia SM3 and SM9

I saw an Olympia SM9 on Craigslist and couldn’t resist. It’s not especially pretty, but it seems to work really well. Rather than writing about it using a computer, I thought I should put the typewriter to use.

Olympia SM9 Sample

Writing Stuff on Index Cards

When I type something on my computer it can be easily filed forever into a giant hierarchy of files and notes. When I write something on an index card it gets in my way until I deal with it.

That sounds like a disadvantage of index cards and it is — but only if you have the wrong goal. My goal is not to find the easiest possible way to write things and file them. The the goal is to remember what I’m writing so that I can use it later. This is why I stick with index cards, notebooks, and Post-It notes. Their pain-in-the-assness is their greatest benefit.

Using Paper

I don’t use paper because I’m “nostalgic” for it. I use paper because I prefer it.

I use paper for as many things as I can. Notes, lists, tasks, everything that makes sense. I even tried a paper and folder based project management system for a while. I loved the idea, but it turned out to be less than ideal. I also really want to use a paper calendar, but the iPhone is better for that sort of thing. Dangit. It’s not for lack of trying, though.

Paper is slow, unsearchable, immutable, sloppy, prone to loss, and it kills trees. You know the list. It’s also better in almost every way that I find valuable. For example, slow is good. I know, all luddites make that argument, but the slow physicality of writing something down makes it “stick” for me. So again, slow is good.

Paper is immutable. This happens to be one of its best features. If I write something down, it stays there. On the other hand, whenever I type something into OmniFocus or nvALT or whatever I tend to change my mind a week later and move everything to Asana or VoodooPad or OneNote or whatever. For all the fancy ways I have to take notes, I can’t find shit half the time. You may do things differently, but for me, ink on paper sticks and remains useful forever.

Paper is sloppy. Yes it is, and that messiness helps me find things. I can look for something and find it based on ink color, bleed, flourish, stains, location on page, etc. This is a good thing. I love sloppy.

Paper is unsearchable. Well, I can’t argue with that, although I’m pretty good at finding things I’ve written down (see above). Mileage varies.

I wouldn’t try to convince anyone that paper is inherently better for everything, but I still prefer it, and if that means a few extra trees have to go, so be it.

Paper system for 2014

Even though my productivity system has inched toward digital tools, my love of paper notebooks for capture and planning has not waned. I have a thing for notebooks and pens. This year, I’m going to continue using a Hobonichi paper planner along with a trusty Field Notes notebook in my back pocket. The Hobonichi has just the right combination of size, paper quality, and usability. And Field Notes are great for jotting things down on the go.

This means that both the Moleskine and Midori Traveler’s Notebook are to be relegated to the unused pile. For now.

You'll need a nice pen

My last post about this year’s “paper system” neglected to mention which pen(s) I use. Most people don’t care about pens, but I do.

Assorted writing instruments and notebooks

Assorted writing instruments and notebooks

For me, the right pen to use depends upon what and where I’m writing. There are three “modes” in which I write things down. Each requires a different pen. Ok, “requires” might be a bit ridiculous, but still.

Jotting things down while out and about

If someone at the local pub mentions a great book they just read, I whip out my trusty Field Notes notebook, which is always at the ready in my back pocket. Also at the ready is the Poquito Stylus from Montverde. It’s so tiny I barely know it’s in my pocket. I’m still looking for something better, though. I prefer this to the usual Fisher Space Pen because the Space Pen requires two hands to operate. Removing and posting a cap is not something I want to be doing while trying to capture something quickly. Seen above with the Field Notes notebook.

Planning, scheduling, and taking notes

For nearly all writing tasks, I prefer the Montblanc Meisterstück rollerball. I’ve had mine for 15 years or so and it’s still my favorite. It’s beautiful. I love the way it writes, it feels great to the touch, and fits my hand perfectly. It’s the perfect pen. Seen above with the 2013 Hobonichi planner.

Journaling and letter writing

For “serious” writing, nothing beats a nice fountain pen. I’ve tried dozens of them and found I prefer the Pelican pens. The one I use is a Souverän Black-Blue M 400. I fill it with one of any number of fun inks. Writing with a fountain pen is a tactile and visual pleasure. Shown above with the 6″x9″ Epica Leather Journal.

Some things never change

I posted this photo in April 2007.


Just took this one today.

People make fun of me for changing my “system” all the time but the reality is I only take temporary detours. Analog always wins in the end.

Is that a pencil?!

Midori Brass Pencil

My daughter happened to be with me when I needed to write something in my notebook. I pulled out my handy Midori Brass Bullet Pencil and wrote my note. Looking up, satisfied, I saw her staring at my hand with her mouth hanging open.

“Is that a pencil?” she asked, as if she’d just seen one for the first time.

“Yes, of course, why?” I replied.

She just shook her head dismissively and walked out of the room.

At The Olympia

Back at the Olympia tonight. It's on nights like this — nights involving at least 2 glasses of wine — that I become convinced I'm better off away from computers of any kind. Away from people, both online and off. Another glass of wine and a bit of whine and I'm all set.

THWACK! go the keys. Pounding out letter after letter, one after another, forming (in time) several sentences – sentences much like this one.

Then it goes quiet again.

My New Olympia SM-3 Typewriter

The more I write using a typewriter, the more I enjoy writing. It’s not that the words come out any better, but it is a lot more fun making them. 

I now own three typewriters, which I suppose officially makes me a collector. The latest, shown above, is a 1958 Olympia SM-3. Beautiful, isn’t it? The SM series by Olympia is usually described as great for actually typing. Seems like a good feature, and I have to agree. What pushed me over the edge to buy this one was the video (below) of Woody Allen describing how every word he’s ever written was on his SM-3 and he still uses it daily. That’s a pretty good endorsement in my book.