As a forecaster, I gravitate towards things that don’t fit—an offhand comment by an expert that is surprising, an event that seems out of the norm, or an artifact that grabs my attention. Because such items by definition don’t fit into a category, I capture them in an old-fashioned bound journal along with ideas, essay fragments and the odd observation. It is a habit that began during my undergraduate summers doing fieldwork in southern Mexico, and has continued ever since. I also carry a pocket camera (a real one, not a crummy smart phone camera), a couple of Levenger’s marvelous notecards, and a tiny digital audio recorder.
Now, given the nature of my work, it may seem surprising that my journal isn’t electronic. But I use paper because, for the time-being at least, it is superior to digital media. It is faster to open and jot a note in than on my iPhone, iPad, or laptop. It is more flexible—I can easily mix sketches and text and even paste-in other objects. And I will still be able to read my notes long after my digital files have rotted away into a cloud of random electrons. As it is, I carry enough electronics on my person to get nervous in lightning storms, but at least for the foreseeable future, I will also carry — and count on — paper and a good pen.