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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sandscript

Notes to news to newsworthiness: Sen. Graham's notebooks

Notebooks are a vital apparel accessory for some of us in the news business.

I learned a long time ago that keeping every scratch of a pen in a notebook makes life much, much easier - no hunting for scraps of paper with that important phone number on it, no digging through stacks of paper for a name that was scribbled on a margin, no digging through a pile of business cards for somebody's e-mail address - just put it all down in a notebook.

The ones I use are long and narrow, fit in a back pocket of a pair of pants and have a spiral binding at the top. I number them sequentially by year, and in the last few years I've been throwing out the ones from about three years back. I go through about 25 such notebooks annually.

A newspaper colleague has a devoted system in which he indexes his notebooks on the first few pages. The indexes are copied and logged in a loose-leaf binder, so he can go back through the index to find the notes from a particular day or year. The practice always made sense to me, but I've always been too lazy to implement it and, quite frankly, it struck me as being a little anal-retentive.

Which brings up U.S. Sen. Bob Graham - perhaps Vice President? - and his infamous notebooks.

My friend Shirish Date has devoted a chapter in his new biography of Graham to the senator's penchant for note-taking. Graham, as you probably know, has been chronicling his days for the past 26 years in small notebooks, a habit that made the national media during his recent aborted presidential bid.

The media, it seemed, thought that listing what he had for breakfast or how long it took him to get to work every day was, well, weird. And this is from people who take notes for a living.

Date writes in his new book about Graham, "Quiet Passion," that the notebook scribbling started when Graham started another of his trademark schemes as a long-shot gubernatorial candidate. He planned to write a book about his "workdays" - the occasional day he would spend working with the people doing all manner of jobs - and wanted to get the facts right.

Graham started taking notes. The habit stuck, and he was never able to kick the Jones.

The senator uses notebooks originally purchased from Eckerd. When he heard that the manufacturer was going to discontinue the line, he bought up all the remaining stock.

As Date puts it, in a bit of Graham-esque detail, "For the record, here are the basic notebook facts:

"Each notebook has 80 pages. Each white page is ruled with 16 faint blue lines, which are spaces half a hair less than one-quarter inch apart.

"The pages and both front and back covers are exactly three inches wide and five inches long. Pages and cardboard covers are rounded off at each bottom corner with a half-inch radius, and each page and cover has at the top 12 small, oval holes, through which a wire spiral binds the notebook together. Each oval hole is one-eighth-inch wide and five-thirty-seconds of an inch long. The wire spiral, it should be noted, adds one-quarter inch to the notebook, producing an overall length of five and a quarter inches.

"This gives each notebook overall dimensions of three inches wide, five-and-one-quarter inches long, and 19-64ths of an inch thick, with a weight of 1.8 ounces."

Date also added a footnote to his notebook description.

"The weight was measured using the electronic scale at the United States Post Office at the northeast corner of College Avenue and Bronough Street in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday, July 27, 2003. The National Weather Service at the Tallahassee Regional Airport at the hour of the weighing showed a relative humidity of 93 percent. However, the Post Office interior was air-conditioned, resulting in a significantly lower humidity. The Post Office does not have installed a hygrometer in the publicly accessible area on weekends, so it could not be determined what the interior humidity was. Nor could it be determined what effect this lowered humidity had on the measured weight - presumably, the notebook weight would have been slightly higher outside, as notepaper is slightly hydrophilic."

So now you know, probably more than you wanted to, about Sen. Graham and his notebooks.

By the way, Shirish will be signing copies of "Quiet Passion" at 6 p.m. Saturday at Circle Books, 478 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands Circle.

Oops
Ran into an old journalist buddy over the weekend at a beachfront watering hole/hotel. He works for a newspaper in the Tampa Bay area, and brought some house guests out to spend an afternoon lolling around the pool, sipping cool adult beverages.

After the usual lament that none of us seems to have enough time to spend any of it at the beach these days, he mentioned that he had another familiar lament - a whole slew of house guests were descending on him in the next few weeks.

One visitor, he said, was a reporter from London who works mostly as an investigative reporter covering scandals, something that is probably more than a full-time job in England considering the nature of tabloids there. The Brit also does some travel writing and, since his newspaper has a daily circulation of better than 8 million, what he says in the way of places to go and things to do gets some serious attention.

In fact, he mentioned the Colony Resort on Longboat Key in one of his travel pieces, and the tennis resort saw 175 people charter a plane to come visit from London a while back.

Just then my buddy's friends came up and said that management had just evicted them from the pool deck since they weren't staying at the hotel. "Policy" was the word that was used. You can drink at the bar, just don't use any amenities that don't produce money for management.

"Oh, well," my friend said as they packed up and left. "I guess I won't be bringing my London writer-friend out here."

Oops.

Sandscript factoid
Bob Graham's brother, Philip, went to Harvard Law School thanks to some string-pulling by Sen. Claude Pepper. While there, Philip met and later married Katharine Meyer, whose father was the publisher of the Washington Post. Philip committed suicide in 1963; Katharine took over as publisher and guided the paper through the whole Watergate mess.

As Shirish Date points out in his book, "Quiet Passion," "Which means, when you think about it, that but for Claude Pepper, the Washington Post probably wouldn't have had the stature in 1973 to have broken the Watergate scandal. On the other hand, without Pepper, Philip Graham would not have been in a position to persuade Jack and Bobby Kennedy to put Lyndon Johnson on the 1960 presidential ticket, which probably would have meant that Richard Nixon would have become president that year, which would have meant there wouldn't have been a Watergate break-in in 1972. So never mind."

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