A love letter to Rhodia notepads

I worked at Borders before they went out of business. A few years later, I worked at Barnes & Noble for a while. One of the noticeable differences between them for me was the quality of the notebooks section.

Barnes and Noble has a very consistent collection of quality notebooks at a great range. Within a bit of wiggle room, you can generally go into a Barnes and Noble and find the notebook you're looking for, if you know it's one that Barnes and Noble carries.

Borders had a somewhat more chaotic notebooks and stationary section. It often had an assortment of unexpected or unusual things -- things that felt rare. They may not have been, but finding something cool in that section felt like a treasure. Especially since the more obscure products were rarely re-stocked.

The Rhodia notepad was one of those things. A yellow lined one. It was discounted -- it wasn't too expensive, but I would never have been able to bring myself to pay full price for it. Paying more than five dollars for a notepad felt ridiculous, plus I was broke, and I used to have a lot of anxiety about taking risks on spending money for things I might turn out to not like.

It was amazing. The paper was smooth and sturdy, it took ink and pencil lead exceptionally well, and the perforations were better than any I'd ever seen before. They're really, genuinely reliable. I have a real problem with accidentally tearing sheets of paper in half trying to remove them from notepads. I never had that problem with that notebook.

I don't use up whole notebooks often, but I used up that one. Then, it was gone: I didn't really do online shopping then, at the time I probably didn't even have a debit card. And I didn't have free money. I would have switched over completely to Rhodia notebooks, but it wasn't within my power to do so.

Lately, I've been listening to the podcast The Pen Addict. They talk about paper a lot, and they mentioned Rhodia notebooks in a few episodes. And I immediately went to Amazon and bought one.

I got a plain white notepad, and it has been pretty close to the only paper I've been using since. I've been finding excuses to write stuff so I can use it. It's fantastic.

I downloaded and printed some line and grid guide sheets from The Well-Appointed Desk -- you can put them under the top sheet of a blank notebook and the lines show through -- and those worked out so well that I decided to make my own, structured around my note-taking style. I'll blog about those tomorrow.

(Disclosure: Product links are Amazon Affiliate Links.)

More software I wish existed: a tiny spreadsheet

I have dozens of untitled spreadsheets in my Google Drive. Occasionally I go through and delete a bunch of them, but they still pile up.

The reason for that is that, most of the time, if I need to do some kind of calculation, it's manipulating several variables within the same equation. That's really inconvenient to do with a calculator, but really easy with a spreadsheet.

So I have these files, that contain, like, a 5x5 section of sparsely occupied cells, with no labels or context, because I knew what I was calculating at the time, and I have no need to preserve any of them.

What I wish I had was a little browser popup or app that just gave me a 5x5 spreadsheet, the way an in-browser calculator works. Something that keeps track of contents while I'm using it, but dumps them when I hit the 'clear' button. (It'd also be great if it could hover over the page I'm drawing reference numbers from.)

I just tried to find one, and I couldn't find anything that wasn't more inconvenient than creating a new Google spreadsheet. (One app looked like it was exactly what I wanted, but then I downloaded it and it turned out the "app" was a hyperlink to a website with an embedded spreadsheet tool.)

Does anybody know an app like I've described? Or, alternately, can anyone make one? Windows or Chrome compatible, please :)

General updates

I spent all day working on projects that I'm not ready to make announcements about (apart from what I've already said) so I don't have much to talk about. So, now seems like a good time to update anyone who's interested in the state of things going on in my life.

No one at Adobe has returned my email about making life management software. I can't remember whether I brought that up here.

Faith and I are getting ready to double down on effort to finish the Observer Employee Handbook, so that it doesn't fall between the cracks while we work on the magazine.

This blog's URL finished transferring -- my squarespace blog is now accessible at txwatson.com. Y'all probably noticed that by now.