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Over the past few months I've found myself becoming more and more a creature of notebooks, even though I've been using them as a student for virtually my entire life. At any given time I am likely to have between one and three notebooks either on my person or close enough to get at in less than a minute. Those good looking, well bound blank books at Barnes and Noble are too expensive, so I use spiral bound notebooks with "college rule" lines and cheap fragile white pages. They hold ideas, terms to research further, lecture notes, doodles, and other flavors of writing that need to be kept track of, my own or otherwise.

Smallest and closest to me is the 5 by 7 inch notebook with MEMO printed on the front. If only given a brief glance it would seem to be filled with nonsense, the gibberish which is my first language. On closer inspection, each cluster of lines (with only four and a half inches to write, most entries take at least two lines) has just enough text to bring one certain thought back to mind. That's how it's used, not as a warehouse for fully fledged writing and research, but for jotting down words, terms, and phrases for later exploration -- nodeshells for my mind, if you will.

Next up in size is the ever-popular 8.5 by 11. Too small to take lecture notes in, they're used to envelop larger groups of words than the MEMO book could take painlessly. A few paragraphs of scientific journal article for later reference, half of a poem, pieces of conversation rescued from memory, transcribed lyrics, the second chapter of a short story. Good words, words that want to be learned or polished or completed. Naturally non-linear symbols, forced linear by the constraint of the pages.

Finally, there's the heavy, impressive 9 by 11.5. Much fewer of my own words here than in the others, instead the words of teachers and textbooks, left to learn further at a later date. These notebooks are almost attacked by text, besieged by ballpoint. Notes taken both from the beginning forward and from the end back, alternating pages with alternating classes, I burn through one of these every semester. In the margins a stream of consciousness of noises and pictures and shapes -- light on days when the instructor is interesting, heavy enough to almost blacken the margin when the class is boring. When they're full, they're pregnant with knowledge, ripe with twelve or fifteen credit hours of regents-certified education packed on to lined paper.

I know it's been a worthwhile day when there's new ink in all three.

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