teaching machines

Little Notebooks

October 5, 2019 by . Filed under public.

The best days are the days in which I write in a little notebook. The things I write are myriad: 20 drafts of a haiku, big goals for a project, a TODO list for the day, an outline for a lecture, a draft of a talk, a humorous thought, a record of a dream, an idea that will revolutionize my teaching (next semester), the names of people I meet, a sketch of a diagram or interface, a mathematical function that I’m trying to work out, and a lesson learned after a hard day of coding.

I’ve carried a little notebook around with me since 2007. At the time I was working on some molecular visualization software for the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory (not NASA), and I wanted to reflect away from the computer on the graphics algorithms I was learning. I went to Staples and found these portable thought collectors:

Twenty-eight have been filled since that time. I lost one in 2008, which devastated me. I’m pretty sure I left it in a restroom, but custodian Jerry hadn’t seen any sign of it.

Paper anchors my thoughts and keeps me accountable. Handwritten thoughts circulate longer than typed ones. I’m grateful for these little notebooks.


  1. IAWTP. I carry a little notebook with me all the time, even on walks and into the movie theater and definitely to dinner out. I admire your consistency… I’ve used dozens of brands and shapes over the years, usually whatever’s handy.

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