User review: Tom Hall on the Journal 21

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IT lawyer, fountain pen aficionado, and guest blogger Tom Hall recently took the Journal 21 for a test drive. Here are his thoughts…

“Let me check my calendar.”

The first time I uttered those words, I knew I was no longer young and carefree, with my every moment under my sole control. On the other hand, it meant that I was out of school and gainfully employed. In another moment I realized that I did not HAVE a calendar. Thus I joined professionals worldwide in the Quest for the Perfect Planner.

For a long time I used a simple, pocket-sized planner. It was all I needed to navigate from meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting during the work day. More than once it kept me from arriving at the office on a holiday.

Then along came pocket sized, electronic planners. Like most guys, I’m a sucker for gadgets, and this one came with a built in rationalization: it made coordinating my schedule with my secretary far easier. I used it quite happily for several years, until I was asked to give a deposition in a contract dispute. The opposing attorney asked where I had been on a given day, several years earlier. Thanks to the electronic gadget, I was able to tell him. Unhappily, he decided to explore my schedule for that day in detail, and then did the same for every day for the week before and after. Needless to say, I no longer carry around such extensive records of my days.

As time moved forward, the maker of my favorite electronic gadget fell on hard times. They revised their products to keep pace with competition, raised their prices and eliminated the features I valued. When my gadgets wore out, I discovered that there were no adequate successors available. I was, apparently, obsolete. Somewhat bemused, I rejoined the Quest.

About this time, Karen put out a call for volunteers willing to test Exacompta planners. Her timing was exquisite. I had strayed from the True Path, and was attempting, with little success and much frustration, to sync the calendar on my cell phone with an on line service. My brother said it best: “Isn’t pencil and paper faster, easier and more reliable?”

I asked for a Journal 21 in the daily format, offering one page per day. While it will not fit into a shirt-pocket, my memory is not what it once was. I need to write down far, far more than I once did. It is an impressive product. Indeed, it has replaced my Mignon as my day in/day out companion.

What I like about it.

The cover is synthetic, and proud of it. It is lightly textured, with a slight rubbery feeling. It is not, and does not pretend to be, leather.
The pages are large, laid-out well and easy to read. No more reaching for my magnifying glass just to read the date at the top of the page.
Clairefontaine paper is exceptional, and exceptionally smooth. Writing on it with a wet fountain pen or a soft pencil is a joy. The paper is somewhat thin (doubtless to keep the thickness of the book within reasonable limits) but bleed-through is minimal.
The Semi-Annual planner pages just inside the front and back covers should be useful project planning tools. (Unless you are a professional project planner, in which case you’ll probably need a more “heavy duty” tool.)

Quibbles “ albeit small ones.

I prefer a ribbon page marker to the perforated, tear-off corners of the current product.
The list of Major World Holidays has me confused. I thought Boxing Day was a holiday in the United Kingdom, not the Netherlands.
I prefer rigid covers, as I often find myself trying to record appointments or tasks when no desk is available.
Fountain pen ink appears to dry very slowly on the pages. Closing the book too soon can result in some blotting and smearing. However, this may be a function of the very wet nib on my big Parker.
The last few pages are laid out as an address book. I have a separate address book and would prefer a “Notes” format; perhaps with perforations for easy tear-out.

Have I succeeded in the Quest? Have I found the Perfect Planner? Perhaps. It is certainly a well made product that meets my needs and suits my tastes. If you are Questing, it is well worth your consideration.

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